On March 31, Young Jeezy lyrics no longer resonated with me quite like the old school rhymes of the Notorious B.I.G. "Whippersnapper" suddenly became an acceptable word to describe Cameron Maybin. Buying property in Florida grew into a more attractive proposition. And $15 bottles of Cabernet replaced cheap cans of Natural Light in my liquor cabinet.
Yep, the Noise turned the big 3-0.
A future filled with prostate exams, Viagra prescriptions and Keith Hernandez-endorsed Just for Men hair coloring kits definitely is something to look forward to.
Although the average life expectancy for an American male is 77.5, being 30 feels like a forked-road age. To the right are sprightly feelings of invincibility, irresponsibility and vitality. To the left are colonoscopies, commitments and long-term contracts with the San Francisco Giants.
For many major leaguers, 30, too, is a crossroads age. Some players, like Curt Schilling, statistically ripened at age 30, while others, like Shawn Green, fell into an abyss of wretchedness and despair, never again recapturing the lumber prowess of their 20s.
To sort out who will and who won't age gracefully, here is the projected path a few prominent 30-year-olds may take this year:
Will not experience a mid-career crisis …
Kerry Wood, ChC, RP
Outlook: Against the Brew-Ha-Has on opening day, Wood channeled his inner Joe Borowski surrendering three earned runs, two hits, one walk and a HBP in one abominable inning. Millions of owners surely had knee-jerk reactions to Wood's meltdown, but it will take several implosions before Lou Piniella changes the ninth-inning guard. Wood's velocity was electric this spring, registering triple-digits on the gun in his final tune-up. Once he harnesses his control and rediscovers his confidence, he will be a top-15 closer in mixed leagues.
Travis Hafner, Cle, 1B/DH
Outlook: Called the "Pronkinator" by his mother, Hafner will rebound with a vengeance this year after a forgettable 2007 season. In '07, his homers declined 42.8 percent and his batting average plummeted 42 points from his breakout '06 campaign. Batting third in a loaded Cleveland lineup, Pronk got off to a respectable start going 1-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI double versus the Chicago White Sox on opening day. His power totals likely peaked in '06, but 30-35 homers, 100-110 RBI and a .280-plus batting average resurgence is in the cards for Project Donkey.
Ty Wigginton, Hou, 1B/2B/3B
Outlook: Wigginton, more versatile than a kitchen Cuisinart, arguably is the most underappreciated infielder in fantasy. The sixth hitter in a Houston lineup brimming with table-setters, Wigs should thrive as a 20-25 home run, 75-85 RBI middle infielder. Recall that last season he was one of only five second basemen to smack 22 or more moonshots. Given his position flexibility and power punch he is a very resourceful player in all 10-plus team mixed formats.
Heath Bell, SD, RP
Outlook: There could soon be a new "Hells Bells" tolling in San Diego. The rotund setup man may have the tubby appearance of David Wells, but he undeniably is one of fantasy's premiere middle relievers. Using his dazzling mid-90s fastball, Bell punched out 102 batters and compiled a 2.02 ERA and microscopic 0.96 WHIP in 93.2 innings of work last year. Bell had an abysmal spring (9.00 ERA in 5 IP), but given his dynamite groundball rates (58.8 GB% in '07), superb velocity and friendly ballpark environment, he again will be an elite middle reliever. Downward-trending dinosaur Trevor Hoffman already has one foot trapped in the tar pit, blowing a save on Apr. 2. It's only a matter of time before Bell becomes the new Pads closer.
Andruw Jones, LAD, OF
Outlook: Jones, coming off his worst season since 1997, is hoping to provide 36 million reasons why the Dodgers' investment in him was smart. Jones' power numbers have eroded in three straight seasons, but his revamped mechanics at the plate should help alleviate his pull-happy ways. If he can dramatically improve his line-drive percentage ('07: 17.2%) and cut back on flyballs (43.9%), he has a reasonable chance of hitting .265. With a tremendous lineup surrounding him, Jones easily could post numbers close to his 2002 campaign (.264 BA, 35 HRs, 94 RBI, 91 Rs). If your team has plenty of batting average support, chasing Jones while his value is deflated would be a sage move.
Will be spokesmen for Oops I Crapped My Pants by year's end …
Juan Pierre, LAD, OF
Outlook: After a horrendous spring in which he hit .188 and posted an atrocious .287 OBP, Pierre, somewhat surprisingly, was reduced to a backup role, losing the left field job to upstart Andre Ethier. In order to keep his outfield fresh throughout the season, Torre will get Pierre some 350 to 400 at-bats, but that's not enough work to justify keeping the speed-exclusive vet on any 12-team mixed league roster. Frankly, Pierre is about as valuable as bench burners Rajai Davis and Nyjer Morgan. Unless a major injury fells Ethier, Andruw Jones or Matt Kemp, set Pierre's steals cap at 30.
Aaron Rowand, SF, OF
Outlook: Awarded a very lucrative contract after a career season in Philadelphia last year, Rowand is due for a massive letdown. His spike in flyball percentage ('07: 37.5) and improved plate discipline ('06 BB%: 4.3, '07: 7.1) greatly attributed to his career-best .309 BA, 27 HRs and 105 runs last season. However, compared to the hitter friendly Citizens Bank Park, AT&T is a cavernous black hole that will severely hinder Rowand's power totals. More concerning, the scrappy center fielder was penciled into the RBI unkind sixth spot on opening day. Given the decrepit state of the Giants offense, Rowand's RBI and runs scored production definitely will suffer if he remains in that position. He'll slap a serviceable batting average in range of .280 to .290, but a significant decline in runs, RBIs and HRs is in the forecast.
Joe Crede, ChW, 3B
Outlook: Crede, the bane of Josh Fields' existence, is an outdated regular who will be lucky to finish the season with half of his '06 output (.283 BA, 30 HRs, 94 RBI. 76 Rs). On the roster only because GM Kenny Williams couldn't unload his pricey $5.1 million roster in spring training, Crede is one of fantasy's weakest third basemen. He merely is keeping the seat warm for the more offensively potent Fields. Slotted into the eighth spot in Ozzie Guillen's opening day lineup, Crede proved why his value is limited to AL-only leagues and super deep mixed formats, going 0-for-4 while stranding four runners. If you desperately are seeking hot corner help, Jorge Cantu, Akinori Iwamura and Casey Blake are upgrades over Crede. And before you bombard my inbox with emails, yes, I'm still very bitter about Fields' demotion.
Roy Oswalt, Hou, SP
Outlook: Oswalt isn't the flamethrowing bazooka he used to be. Although still crafty, his decaying K/9 rates over the past three seasons have transformed him from top-of-the-rotation mainstay to upper-tiered No. 3. Yes, he likely will notch 14 to 17 wins again and post a stellar ERA in range of 3.20 to 3.50, but, with ERA likely being the lone exception, his end-season achievements will be very comparable to Colorado's Jeff Francis. Oswalt is a terrific fantasy commodity, but his previous accomplishments have inflated his value. Recently swapped in one-for-one deals for Billy Wagner, Chone Figgins, Torii Hunter and Curtis Granderson in Y! Plus Leagues, it would be a heady move to place the Houston hurler on the trade block now before people realize he's slightly overrated.
Barry Zito, SF, SP
Outlook: Amazingly, still owned in 91.2 percent of Y! leagues, Zito is a soul-destroying fantasy disgrace. If you're a masochist, by all means, continue to believe Zito will rediscover his A's magic. Evident in his opening day five-inning, four-earned run debacle versus the Dodgers, the once-prized southpaw still is a fantasy abomination who will obliterate your team's ERA and WHIP totals. Given his longball vulnerability (1.10 HR/9 in '07), questionable control (3.80 BB/9 in '07), sinking K/9 rates ('06: 6.15, '07: 5.99) and lack of adequate run support, he's useless in mixed leagues. Widely available starters Edinson Volquez, Brian Bannister and Ryan Dempster are more sensible solutions.
Here are this week's flames, lames and stars of video games:
11 at-bats, .273 BA, 3 R, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB, 1:1 K:BB
Constantly nicked in his career, the round-faced Johnson is healthy, revitalized and on the brink of becoming a mixed league starting lineup staple. Sidelined for all of '07 from a broken leg he suffered at the end of '06, Johnson proved he heals as slow as a three-toed sloth moves. However, after recording a .308 BA in 52 spring at-bats, the slimmer, sleeker Johnson leapfrogged Dmitri Young on the Nationals' first base depth-chart. When at full-strength, the 29-year-old cleanup hitter has performed marvelously, indicative of his .290 BA, 23 HRs, 77 RBI, 100 Rs, 10 SBs '06 season. Given his laser-guided eye (18.0 BB% in '06), fantastic low-80s contact rates and 22-27 home run potential, Johnson could reap an exceptional profit this season. Owners in 12-team mixed leagues must grab the Washington Monument off waivers immediately. As long as he staves off the injury imp, he'll easily outperform corner pillars Carlos Delgado, Paul Konerko and Mike Lowell.
9 at-bats, .444 BA, 2 Rs, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, 1:1 K:BB
Diminutive, tenacious and scrappy, McLouth reminds me of another Keystone State leadoff man, Lenny Dykstra, minus the pending lawsuits, juice accusations and hot investment tips. The 26-year-old Buccos leadoff man is a gap-to-gap hitter with growing power and blazing speed. This spring, McLouth nailed down the starting centerfield job over Nyjer Morgan by slapping a .288 BA with two homers, eight RBI and four steals. His teammates have glowed about his breakout potential and based on his spectacular 12 homers and 16 steals in 217 at-bats after the All-Star break last season, their prognostications will probably be right. McLouth, who went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBI against the Braves on opening day, is someone who should be coveted in all 12-team mixed leagues. Given his eagle eye (10.6 BB% in '07), developing power and tremendous speed, he could be a top-30 outfielder this season.
4 at-bats, .750 BA, 1 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB, 0:0 K:BB
Junior Gwynn probably couldn't massacre a stacked-high plate of Wendy's Baconators quite like his Pops, but he certainly inherited dad's once burgeoning speed gene. Gwynn is a fabulous contact hitter who generates plenty of line-drives (20.3 career LD%) with his sweet lefty stroke. He also possesses a keen eye, compiling an 8.3 BB% in 123 at-bats last season. With 23 games remaining on Mike Cameron's suspension, Gwynn, who will yield at-bats to Gabe Kapler versus southpaws, will be a serviceable source of steals and runs in April hitting second in the Brewers' robust lineup. Fantasy followers searching for a one-month steals sparkplug in NL-only and 14-team and deeper mixed-leagues should scour the wire for Gwynn.
6 at-bats, .500 BA, 3 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, 2:2 K:BB
The long, lean and limber Gutierrez is a complete Major League player whose statistical balance labels him a productive fifth outfielder in 12-team mixed leagues. Equipped with lightning quick hands, plentiful pop and speedy wheels, the 25-year-old former Dodgers top prospect is an unheralded 20-15 candidate this season. In 271 at-bats with Cleveland last season, Gutierrez crushed a homer once in every 20.8 at-bats and notched a HR/FB% (16.0) that ranked higher than Alfonso Soriano. Strikeouts (28.4 K% in '07) and susceptibilities against righties (.232 BA vs. RHP in '07) have stymied his development, but 500 at-bats and an average above .275 are attainable if he can exude improved patience at the dish. Since he'll likely bat eighth consistently, the Venezuelan product's RBI and runs totals will be marginal. However, given his prolific power and speed contributions, he's definitely worth a roster spot in all 12-team leagues.
12 at-bats, .250 BA, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, 4:1 K:BB
Only in the primitive moments of April would a No. 5 hitter with abundant pop be so widely available. A former Arizona Diamondbacks Minor League Player of the Year, Hairston has always possessed the skills and pedigree to be a perennial 25-plus home run thumper. However, untimely injuries and prolonged big league slumps have stunted his baseball growth. Finally in a position to accumulate 400-plus at-bats, Hairston must continue to exude plate patience and channel the player that posted a .471 batting average, three homers and eight RBI in early August last year. With Jim Edmonds nursing a strained calf, Hairston has manned centerfield effectively. At the dish, he's already blasted two mammoth home runs. If he doesn't trim significant points of his 24.3 K% in 644 career at-bats, he'll likely register an appalling batting average in range of .260. But because of his lumber upside and prime peak age (27), he's equally as valuable as Josh Willingham or Chris Duncan with 450-plus at-bats. Those in 14-team and deeper mixed leagues in the market for a prodigious stick, should seek out Hairston immediately.
3 at-bats, .333 BA, 0 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB, 0:0 K:BB
Dusty Baker is consistent at one thing: ruining young talent. Benched in favor of Scott Hatteberg on opening day, the richly talented Canadian native is officially involved in a timeshare. After a horrific spring in which he recorded an awful .206 BA and just four extra-base hits in 63 at-bats, the youngster's value is limited to NL-only and keeper leagues. Last season in 496 at-bats at Triple-A Louisville, Votto racked a .294 BA with 22 bleacher shots, 92 RBI and 17 stolen bases. With his pinpoint accurate eye (12.4 BB% at Louisville in '07) and ability to lift the ball naturally (46.4 FB% in 84 Reds at-bats last year), eventually he'll tilt the scales of the platoon in his favor. However, don't expect a 25-15 season just yet. Because he plays at an overloaded position and will likely accumulate 400 or so at-bats, he's bench material until Hatteberg is injured, traded or dethroned. Keeper league owners looking to invest minimally in a future stud should pitch an offer now.
7 at-bats, .286 BA, 1 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB, 2:0 K:BB
Unlike his NFL namesake, Baltimore's "Pacman" probably isn't a connoisseur of clothing minimalists, but he sure can make it rain. Acquired in the Erik Bedard deal in early February, the gifted centerfielder is a darkhorse 20-20 candidate this season. But batting eighth in a sleepy Orioles lineup means Jones, as his player photo suggests (see left), will likely post slumberous RBI and runs totals if he remains in that position. A spectacular athlete, the former elite Mariners prospect has the physical tools to be an upper-tier outfielder, but with a 32.5 K% in 146 career at-bats, he's still very green. On Apr. 2, Jones collected two hits, including his first RBI and stolen base of the season. If he can boost his OBP totals and post reputable numbers over the next couple of weeks, it will be difficult for Dave Trembley to keep the 22-year-old slotted behind Ramon Hernandez and Luke Scott. Keeper leaguers may want to cast a line for Jones' services before his stock skyrockets.
2.0 IP, 9.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 4 K, 0 W, 1 SV
Sidelined for the next 15 days with what doctors frightfully call costochondritis, J.J.'s April contributions are almost Ka-Putz. The condition is a mild inflammation of the cartilage that connects to the sternum. Typically, the pain subsides after 7-14 days, but can linger. Kaz Sasaki suffered a similar injury in 2003 and was shelved for five weeks, but he was also felled by three broken ribs after tripping up the stairs while carrying luggage. A popular early round selection (ADP: 52.6), Putz's injury once again supports the claim that you should never chase saves in the talent rich rounds of your draft. Brawny lumberjacks Nick Markakis, Carlos Pena and Travis Hafner were available at the same time in a majority of mixed league drafts. After part-time crime novelist Miguel Batsita slammed the door on Texas to record his first save since 2005, John McLaren noted that the Mariners will install the dreaded "bullpen by committee" until Putz returns. Because Mark Lowe's fastball is the best in the Mariners pen, he's the most likely candidate to notch the most ninth-inning action. Lowe was unavailable on Apr. 2 after pitching in consecutive games on Mar. 31 and Apr. 1. If you're desperately seeking a saves solution, Batista, who was an adventurous stopper for Toronto back in '05, and Lowe, are worth a roster spot in 12-team mixed leagues.
1.0 IP, 27.00 ERA, 4.00 WHIP, 1 K, 1 W, 0 S
Gagne, whose scruffy Van Dyke is a blend of James A. Garfield and Captain Barbossa, was K-Fuk'd in Wrigley on opening day. The disheveled-looking closer, who complained of foggy goggles, yielded three earned runs, including a whistling line-drive home run to Cubs import Kosuke Fukudome, in his first save opportunity of the year. Many tabbed Gagne, for good reason, as an untrustworthy source of saves entering the season. After having elbow surgery in 2006, the velocity on his fastball declined, leading to a dramatic K/9 decline from 14.85 in '05 to 8.83 last season. Control was also a prominent concern last year as Gagne posted a 3.63 BB/9 in 52 combined innings with Texas and Boston. David Riske successfully finished off the Cubs in the 10th on Monday, making him an imperative Gagne handcuff in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues. If the 32 year-old French Canadian implodes a couple of more times this month, Riske (0.16 percent owned), and possibly fireballer Derrick Turnbow (0.94 percent), could compete for ninth-inning duties.
6 at-bats, .167 BA, 0 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB, 1:0 K:BB
After hitting in the eighth spot on Apr. 1, Godzilla went from giant atomic-breathing monster to minute worm-eating newt. Owners who invested an eighth-round pick (ADP: 88.0) on the newly married slugger could be in store for a season of disappointment if Joe Girardi regularly slots him near the bottom of the order. The Japanese juggernaut has launched at least 23 homers, knocked in 100 runs and crossed the plate 100 times in three consecutive seasons. That streak could be in jeopardy batting in an unfavorable position. Since Matsui is on the downside of the statistical mountain at 34, it might be wise to advertise his services given his current situation. In recent one-for-one Y! Plus league swaps he's commanded the likes of Rich Hill, Curtis Granderson, Jose Valverde and Travis Hafner.
Don't know what FB% means? Check out our sabermetric glossary.
Y!RNK - Overall player ranking in Yahoo! leagues
Y!% - Percentage owned in Yahoo! leagues
*All stats listed are for games played through Apr. 2
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Joe Borowski? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?
Mr. Evans I will cordially ask you to please stop printing such utter idiocy in your Notable Noise column. No, I'm not speaking about your predictions, recommendations, and/or your flames and lames. I'm talking about clowns like Mark from Dallas who made the last edition of Notable Noise. I find reading your advice to be very entertaining. Who wants to read a dry, mundane article about fantasy sabermetrics? Keep the humor rolling. And my advice for Mark in Dallas is simply this: If you don't like it, don't read it. What's the old saying? There's only two things that come from Texas.– Phil, Jamestown, N.Y.
Noise: I think the old Texas saying Phil was referring to is, "Steers and academically challenged Presidents that make you want to drink beer." Or is it "Steers and former starters turned closers that will drive you to tears?"
Congrats Mr. Evans! You continue to not only be clueless in football but also baseball! You have the brains of John Rocker, and the looks of John Valentin. Butler will not win a batting title in the next 5 years, and on top of that will not hit 300 once. For starters, there are candidates like Ichiro, Dustin Pedroia, and now Miguel Cabrera, all capable of 330 or better, and the fact that butler has not proven himself yet. Great, he hit .387 in spring training, really impressive. NOT! Now you can watch as your fantasy team goes down the drain, as Butler hits his weight. –Steve, Lynnfield, Mass.
Considering how portly Butler is, hitting his weight isn't as bad as it sounds. However, claiming that Butler will "not hit .300 once" over the next five years proves that you're an obtuse SAWKS fan who doesn't possess an innate sense for talent. You're absolutely correct in your assertion that a high spring batting average doesn't mean squat. But the "Big Donkey" roped a .331 BA in 477 Double-A at-bats in '06 and impressively registered a .292 average in 329 at-bats with the senior club last year. Given his smooth mechanics and grade-A talent, he'll challenge the AL's elite hitters for a batting title very soon. Oh, and if he doesn't hit higher than your boy Pedroia this season, I'll wear a Boston Red Sox women's swimsuit while wading in a tank brimming with Sam Adams Summer Ale.
Evans, I just want to thank you and your colleagues at Yahoo for ruining fantasy sports. I had a sweet little gig going for years, where I would do some research, take late round fliers on great players that no one had heard of, and win leagues. This year, same strategy, then, a month before the draft, you guys start talking up Longoria. Three days before the draft, you guys talk about Yunel Escobar. Now, you're talking about Eugenio Velez and Alexei Ramirez. Thanks a lot. I guess you're just doing your job, but you're ruining fantasy sports entirely. Can you do me just ONE favor? If David Price's elbow ends up being ok, when he gets added to the Yahoo player list, please don't write an article about it while everyone else has a chance to get their waiver claim in. Seriously, you're killing me. – Steve, Chicago
Noise: Since we're collectively "ruining fantasy sports" I guess we are to virtual sports as mock Steve Phillips news conferences are to baseball journalism, huh? Sure we could scratch the surface and churn out longwinded declarations that Alex Rodriguez is the best player to own this season, but what's the point? Sean Salisbury and Chris Mortensen already have cornered the obvious fantasy advice market. Providing, interesting, insightful and meaningful fantasy opinion is kind of what the job requires.
As for the scrumptious David Price, he's someone who will be mentioned endlessly in this space throughout the season. Whether you're a callow fantasy player who is unfamiliar with Price or if you're someone in Steve's league with a higher waiver priority, pay close attention. Once he gets his shot, possibly by September, the American League's No. 1 pitching prospect will be a fantasy sensation. Blessed with a lethal arsenal that includes a lively 92-95 mph fastball, off-the-table slider and a plus change, Price will be a strikeout machine when he reaches the Big Show. He is expected to join Single-A Vero Beach by the end of the month.
What is the procedure for people being added to the Yahoo! player pool? It seems like it is almost a random assignment based on the whims or someone or opinions on who is going to make the team. For example, Longoria/Rasmus/ Bruce are all in without having had an at-bat, but pitchers like Cueto are not. What gives?– Matt, Chicago
Noise: Many devoted Yahoo! players probably think the people in charge of player pool assignments look like this. But in reality, we're a hard-working team who has made a concerted effort to be more consistent with player additions this year. Longoria, Rasmus and Bruce were available because they made the initial overall rankings cut. Unfortunately, guys like Johnny Cueto and Alexei Ramirez, who were barely blips on the radar when the list was compiled in January, didn't make the original cut. Deciding not to force Cueto/Ramirez through the system manually, we delayed their availability until rosters were finalized on March 29.
Instead of throwing players into the free agent pool at random times this season, premiere prospects (e.g. Clayton Kershaw) won't be added until they are officially promoted to the bigs. We will advertise the availability of bigger names throughout the season in our columns and in the Y! Fantasy Blog once they enter the system.
Oh, and if you haven't already noticed, Ramirez clears waivers on Apr. 3 and Cueto Apr. 4. Personally, if I had a high wavier priority, I would hold onto it for Kershaw. Eventually, he'll baffle hitters with his wicked 12-to-6 curve probably sometime in June.
My friend and I have a side bet. I have Rich Harden and he has Kerry Wood. The bet is twofold. The first bet is who will get the first BASEBALL related injury. The second bet is who will be on the DL first. Any thoughts on who will win?– Kris, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Noise: If a sprained cerebral cortex counts as a baseball related injury, your friend has already won. If not, then Rich Harden will suffer an eye injury when Manny Ramirez's Rastafarian mop brazenly charges the mound and beats him senseless.
In all seriousness, because Harden has spent more time on the DL in his six-year career than 22-year-old teammate Daric Barton has spent days on this planet, I'd say your odds of winning the bet are significantly enhanced.