We're still six weeks away from the teeth of draft season but Fantasy Baseball prep is a 12-month pursuit these days; let's melt some snow and get some baseball talk going. We'll be visiting all 30 MLB clubs over the next three weeks – two teams a day, Monday through Friday – and opening up arguments on the most intriguing fantasy questions we can find. Today you're getting the most natural of rivals – the Yankees below, the Red Sox over here – and we've tried to create a theme with each of the 15 pairings. Time to start filling the ark.
The story of Jeter's off-season has been well-documented. His batting average collapsed by 64 points (fueled by a ground-ball spike and a line-drive drop) and he lost eight homers and 95 slugging-percentage points, worrisome numbers from someone in their age-36 year. But despite those flaws Jeter remained a fantasy asset; just showing up and being part of the best offense in the majors has its advantages. Jeter led all shortstops in runs scored (by a mile), he had useful numbers in the other counting stats, and even his disappointing .270 average wasn't that bad – only nine shortstops (among league qualifiers) were ahead of him.
I think it's a good time to buy Jeter. He's plenty motivated to remove the memory of last year's dip, and we need to remember that career regression does not always happen in a linear fashion. Jeter doesn't belong in the first tier of the position entering draft season (Hanley Ramirez(notes), Troy Tulowitzki(notes), Jose Reyes(notes)), but he's got a reasonable chance to match, or outperform, any other shortstop on the board.
Grandy is currently the No. 63 player overall according to Mock Draft Central's early returns, a shockingly high number when you consider the profile of the player. Granderson has been a batting-average problem for two years running (.247, .249), and while he's certainly got the ability to steal a base, he's not dominant in that area (44 bags over the last three seasons). He struggled against left-handed pitching in 2010 (.234/.292/.354), something that's always been a problem for him. Grandy apologists will point to his power-filled second half (17 homers, .523 slugging) and are willing to buy into the mechanical tweaks he made at the plate in August, but I'm worried that the steals aren't bettable and the problem against lefties isn't going away.
The former Dodger was a fantasy flop over the last two years, and the dots seemed to connect: a ridiculous workload in 2007 and 2008 (thanks Joe Torre) appeared to be the cause. Martin offers a different theory, claiming that unspecified "distractions" held him back in Los Angeles. Martin might not realize that the scrutiny in New York far exceeds the attention you get in LA, but perhaps switching coasts will help him repair his career. I'm skeptical on this case entering 2011, but I'll try to stay open minded.
Do we want to invest in this starting rotation?
CC Sabathia(notes) is a consistent rock at the front of the rotation and Phil Hughes(notes) is coming off a respectable year, though he had a 5.15 ERA after June 8. After that, it's a bunch of lottery tickets: A.J. Burnett(notes) just had the worst season of his career; Andy Pettitte(notes) hasn't made a decision on 2011 yet; Ivan Nova(notes) is unproven; Sergio Mitre(notes) is a journeyman at best. Working at Yankee Stadium half of the time is no picnic; the new stadium in The Bronx provided a heavy push for runs scored and home runs last season. (To be fair, it wasn't a scoring bonanza here in 2009, though the ball still flew out of the yard with ease.) The Yankees were stung by the resolution of the Cliff Lee(notes) chase, but you get the idea they'll make a move or two in-season to address this ordinary (for them) starting group. Burnett should be on your watch list in March; if he can get back to 2009 levels (207 innings, 195 strikeouts, 4.04 ERA) he'll be useful to us.
Is it possible to find someone underrated in New York?
Perhaps so – Nick Swisher(notes) comes to mind. Swisher is coming off a handy four-category season (.288-91-29-89) but the early mockers have't fallen in love with him; his current ADP is a modest 191, behind names like Magglio Ordonez(notes), Raul Ibanez(notes) and Adam Jones(notes). Just a few picks ahead of Swisher is Brett Gardner(notes), who had a sneaky 47 steals and 97 runs scored in 2010. If you can lock in on those prices, I like your chances at making a profit.
Those are just a few of the stories from the roto city that never sleeps. What 2011 Yankee themes are on your mind, gamer?