Title No. 3

25 02 2010

I’m entering Year No. 4 of the ESPN fantasy baseball league I participate in with 11 friends. Well, it’s more like six friends, three friends of friends (whom I’ve never met) and two more who have become friends through the Internet since Day 1, when they answered the commissioner’s advertisement to participate in our league. And my six friends are a scattered bunch. One is a childhood buddy from Los Angeles. I met the other five at Montana State in Bozeman, Mont., although one of them lives in Rapid City, S.D. and the other in SLUT…oh sorry, Salt Lake City, Utah.

My team, Colonel Coker, claimed the league title the first two years but fell short last year in the semis, ultimately losing to my rival. It’s not a competitive league on the scale of Tout Wars, but it certainly stays on my mind all day, every day of baseball season. And now that we had to choose our five keepers for the new season, I’m already thinking of how to shape my squad.

My five…

C Brian McCann — He, Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez are the only catchers I’d keep in our format, a 12-team, 5 x 5 with OPS instead of AVG. They’re the only backstops who produce stats like a corner infielder, which is why they are such a relief to have on the roster. The pickings at catcher are notoriously slim, which means employing a catcher of his offensive talent is like eliminating your credit card debt — it’s one less burden on your mind.

1B Mark Teixeira — He’s a Colonel Coker Original in that he’s been on my team since our league’s first draft. There’s no safer pick in baseball outside of Albert Pujols. Here’s his line since his rookie season (games played / AVG / OPS / HR / RBI):

  • 2003 – 146 / .259 / .811 / 26 / 84
  • 2004 – 145 / .281 / .929 / 38 / 112
  • 2005 – 162 / .301 / .953 / 43 / 144
  • 2006 – 162 / .282 / .886 / 33 / 110
  • 2007 – 132 / .306 / .963 / 30 /105
  • 2008 – 157 / .308 / .962 / 33 / 121
  • 2009 – 156 / .292 / ..948 / 39 /122

1B Ryan Howard — He takes on more value in our league since we track OPS and not AVG. Considering he’s recorded at least 45 home runs and 136 RBIs every year for the last four seasons, he’s virtually the most untouchable player in our league. Not even the great Albert Pujols has come close to matching his production in those two categories the last four seasons. Only Prince Fielder has challenged those numbers.

3B David Wright — He’s my wild card. I know the McCann/Teixeira/Howard triumvirate are going to bring it. If Wright can dial down his contact hitting and regain his power swing, then my team has an awesome Core Four, as the Yankees call their Jeter/Mo/Posada/Pettitte quartet. Wright also adds the dimension of speed. I think Wright is back for a huge year in ’10.

OF Jay Bruce — I struggled with this choice. I briefly considered Jason Heyward before I decided that I couldn’t risk building my team’s foundation with a rookie who may not play in the bigs until June.

I kept Brian Roberts last year because of position scarcity at second base, but Roberts attempted 13 fewer steals at age 31 last season and he’s already battling a herniated disc in his lower back this spring. That’s not good news. If this league took into account total bases or rewarded points for each hit, then I might reason that Roberts’ doubles prowess (he’s exceeded 50 each of the past two seasons) would warrant a keeper selection.

That left me with a choice between Bruce and Nick Markakis. Given that it’s an OPS league, I went with the guy who displays more power and who is four years younger. At 26, Markakis might start developing his power. At 22, Bruce already has it.

It’s very possible that I have five 30-homer guys from my keepers, although McCann and Wright could each fall 5-10 short. All five are great candidates for 100-plus RBIs while Wright gives me 20-plus steals and Bruce 10-15. And all five should record an OPS north of 900, perhaps close to 1.000 if one or two of them can manage a career year or something close to it.

Now is time for me to get all nerdy and prepare for the draft by starting my Google Doc spreadsheet for our league’s available players. Nerds we are, us fantasy baseball enthusiasts.




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