High Fives: Spring flings

Yahoo! Sports Staff
Brandon Funston
Matt Buser
Brad Evans
Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball '08 is live, and the Yahoo! Sports fantasy experts already have plenty of opinions to offer about the upcoming season.

Topics include: spring curiosities, players to take or leave, young guns and the best names in the game.

5 players you'll be keeping the closest tabs on this spring
Brandon Says: Andy Says: Brad Says:
  1. Francisco Liriano – Remember that rookie with the highest K/9 rate among starters (10.7) in '06? He's back …
  2. Gary Sheffield – Early '08 ADP value would indicate he has the plague. If shoulder checks out in spring, I'll be an eager buyer.
  3. Pedro Martinez – He's an X-factor: great offensive support and contract year, but also old and diminishing health. Hopefully spring gives us a hint as to whether he can carry over his strong Sept. return from '07.
  4. Adam Jones – Eric Davis look-a-like has adapted quickly at every level of development. He's ready …
  5. Jason Kubel – I've been waiting for his breakout to come. Now healthy, '08 lined up nicely for takeoff
  1. Kerry Wood – He might reinvent himself as an overpowering closer, or he might keep walking people and hurting himself.
  2. Tony Pena – The winner of the Brandon Lyon-Tony Pena battle gets to be the D'backs closer, and a 19th round pick in fantasy drafts.
  3. Carlos Quentin – If he was really only trying to beat out a player who had a .636 OPS last season (Jerry Owens), this wouldn't be so interesting. But there are battles at 2B, 3B, LF and CF in Chicago, with as many as nine players fighting for those spots. And a bat-(expletive) crazy manager gets to pick the winners.
  4. Jay Bruce – If the 2007 Minor League Player of the Year has a massive spring, would the Reds really bury him behind Ryan Freel (and that precocious Farney) and Norris Hopper? Really?
  5. Felix Pie – He struggled terribly in winter league ball, and he hit .217/.271/.333 for the Cubs in '07. Still, he's their centerfielder. There was probably a time when Pie was enough of a trade chip to land Brian Roberts, but evidently not now.
  1. Francisco Liriano – Outrageously undervalued in early drafts (124.3 ADP), he's been throwing uninhibited since November; could be steal of drafts with stellar spring
  2. Scott Hairston – Legitimate 23-27 homer power if he can fend off Chase Headley for LF starting job
  3. Cubs Closer – Howry, Wood, Marmol – Piniella typically likes to lean on a single closer – spring training winner destined to rack 30 saves
  4. Joba Chamberlain – Ambiguous role should become clearer in spring training – triple-digit heat, plus curve and tons of run support could make him top 25 starter
  5. B.J. Ryan – Nine months removed from Tommy John, Jays management will unshackle Ryan in spring training – bottom basement bargain (230.9 ADP)
5 players you'll be hyping this spring
Brandon Says: Andy Says: Brad Says:
  1. Howie Kendrick – I helped fuel the hype machine last season. Blame a couple broken fingers for a breakout season lost. I'm filling up the tank for another ride on the bandwagon. …
  2. Rafael Soriano – Career .203 BAA and 1+ K/IP … it's about time he had a closer gig heading into the season.
  3. Michael Cuddyer – Thumb/back injuries in '07 cloud his .284/24/109/102 efforts from '06. At 28, primed for a nice bounce-back.
  4. Edwin Encarnacion – Coming off strong second-half in '07, nice home park and only 25
  5. Ryan Zimmerman – Career OPS 100 points lower at home. Good riddance, RFK!
  1. Francisco Liriano – Of all the starters being drafted outside the top 100, Liriano has the best chance to move into the overall top 20 in 2009.
  2. Corey Hart – He went 86-24-81-23-.295 in only 140 games in '07. Hart could easily be a top 10 fantasy outfielder in '08, yet in mocks he's going in Round 6.
  3. B.J. Upton – Everyone projects the batting average to decline, but that's not why Upton's so valuable. This is a 23-year-old with 20 HR/50 SB potential, and he qualifies at 2B. He shouldn't fall to Round 3.
  4. Nick Swisher – The move to HR-friendly Sox Park could result in a season like '06: 106 R, 35 HR, 95 RBI, .254/.372/.493. He's much more valuable in OBP/OPS leagues.
  5. Dustin McGowan – Here's his second half last season: 7 W, 98 IP, 87 K, 3.67 ERA, 1.14 WHIP. Those of us who eschew starting pitchers in the first four rounds will be all over McGowan.
  1. Kevin Kouzmanoff – 275.9 ADP spurred by frigid '07 start, but Special K hit .310 BA, 17 HR, 65 RBI after May 14
  2. Ryan Garko – Full-time duty and likely spot at cleanup should catapult 27 year-old into .290 BA, 25-30 HR, 90+ RBI range
  3. Rafael Soriano – This year's Jose Valverde in terms of draft value (154.8 ADP); mid-90s fastball, and amazing control will lead to 35-plus saves
  4. Rich Hill – My man-passions for Hill will never subside, especially when he's still disrespected (ADP 119.9) – cuts HR/9 closer to 1.00, watch out
  5. Jeremy Hermida – Numbers will elevate after spectacular second half – .340 BA, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 37 R, .401 OBP; ADP of 169.2 screams steal
5 players you'll be disparaging this spring
Brandon Says: Andy Says: Brad Says:
  1. Jeremy Hermida – His 25/25 talents are always touted this time of year, then the season starts and he doesn't run, but does get hurt. And I'm not even going to get into how anemic that Marlins offense is likely to be …
  2. Brad Hawpe – Hit 41 points higher w/ RISP (.315) in '07 than his career clip (.274).
  3. James Loney – Talented, to be sure, but his power is more Casey Kotchman than Adrian Gonzalez
  4. Aaron Rowand – 27 HRs in '07 nice, but he'll be lucky to hit 20 in '08 after move to AT&T
  5. Fausto Carmona – Great sinker, but out-of-nowhere '07 (19 W, 3.06 ERA) tough to pay for given low K numbers and 10th-lowest BABIP among starters last season.
  1. Andruw Jones – The last time Jones' batting average touched .270, at any point in any season, was August 20, 2006. If he can't hit 35-40 HR, he's a liability.
  2. Eric Byrnes – I don't dislike the player, really, just the ADP (50.4). He's going well ahead of Chris Young, Corey Hart and Hunter Pence, three players I prefer.
  3. Russell Martin – Again, this is a terrific player with a scary ADP (30.2). That's outrageously early for a catcher who doesn't project to be great in any fantasy category. You can get Jarrod Saltalamacchia 110 picks later, or Geovany Soto 135 picks later.
  4. Michael Young – Notice a theme? It's not that I dislike Young. It's just that he's not significantly better that shortstops going 50 picks later.
  5. Kosuke Fukudome – He's the anti-Soriano, basically. Fukudome should be extremely valuable in real-life, but not so much in fantasy terms.
  1. Victor Martinez/Russell Martin – They're elite producers at their position, but ADP near 30 not worth bypassing Rios, A. Ramirez, Granderson or Mags for.
  2. Aaron Rowand – With old codgers surrounding him and move to pitcher's park, numbers headed for freefall
  3. Takashi Saito – .213 BABIP a season ago, 38 year-old body and Jonathan Broxton over his shoulder points to acute decline
  4. Starters before pick 100 – Post century mark picks Hill, Lincecum, Liriano, Vazquez, Shields, Myers, Cain, and Billingsley, all capable of fantasy dominance
  5. Closers before pick 120 – Turnover at closer more common than Bob Wickman at a Long John Silver’s, Ryan, Wilson, Soria, Borowski, Pena, Jones, Gagne mid-to-late round 30-save producers
5 rookies that will make a fantasy impact in '08
Brandon Says: Andy Says: Brad Says:
  1. Evan Longoria – Has bat skills to be AL ROY as long as he can avoid the Alex Gordon "can't-miss" curse
  2. Joba Chamberlain – 100 mph fastball and nasty curve won't stay in relief for long
  3. Clay Buchholz – Proved he belonged last year, and 5+ runs of support almost a guarantee in Boston
  4. Geovany Soto – Confidence spike and weight loss in '07 lands him in top 10 territory at Catcher position for '08
  5. Jacoby Ellsbury – Could do what Pedroia did as a rookie in this lineup, but with 25-30 more SBs
  1. Justin Upton – Let's just turn this over to Bob Melvin, as quoted by the D'backs website: "Justin's got a chance to be a star, and from Day 1, he has to have an opportunity to play every day."
  2. Evan Longoria – The 22-year-old has 44 home runs in 733 career minor league at bats, and he's hit .304/.388/.546. He should be drafted at 3B in public leagues.
  3. Colby Rasmus – There's an obvious opportunity for the 21-year-old to replace Jim Edmonds in centerfield. He was spectacular at Double-A in '07: 472 AB, 37 2B, 29 HR, 18 SB, .275/.381/.551.
  4. Joey Votto – In the past two seasons in the high minors, Votto has 44 HR and 40 SB. He also posted a .908 OPS in 24 games for the Reds in '07.
  5. Clay Buchholz/Joba Chamberlain – It really doesn't seem right to consider one without the other. They're very close in terms of projected fantasy value. Both are potential aces, and run support will never be an issue.
  1. Jay Bruce – Juggernaut Jay will rocket up fantasy depth charts this spring given all-around upside – .275 BA, 20 HR, 75 RBI, 70 R, 10 SB with 450 at-bats
  2. Clay Buchholz – Pinpoint command, mid-90s heater, abundant run support – Cool Clay oozing with potential
  3. Evan Longoria – Desperate man-wife wants to enter season as starter, but management may institute a Ryan Braun-like approach – .290 BA, 15-20 HR achievable with 350+ at-bats
  4. Max Scherzer – Scherzer is the shizzle – 9.6 K/9 in 90.2 IP between High-A and Double-A last year
  5. Jayson Nix – Thankfully didn't inherit incompetent genes unlike brother Laynce – .292 BA, 11 HR, 58 RBI, 80 R, 24 SB in 439 at-bats Colorado Springs in '07
5 best "baseball" names among current active players
Brandon Says: Andy Says: Brad Says:
  1. Coco Crisp – An obvious choice, but it's truly an all-time great name
  2. Homer Bailey – Sounds like the love child of Roy Hobbs and Bump Bailey
  3. J.J. Putz – Having that last name must have made him tougher growing up – like the boy named Sue
  4. Chase Utley – Name has a timeless Rogers Hornsby, Honus Wagner feel to it
  5. Boof Bonser – MLB has seen five Biff's, but there's been only one Boof
  1. Reggie Abercrombie – There should always be a "Reggie."
  2. Nook Logan – And a "Nook."
  3. Eli Iorg – And, of course, an Iorg.
  4. Val Pascucci – Doesn't this sound like a name from the '54 Dodgers, not the '04 Expos?
  5. Wily Mo Pena – It's like he was invented for Major League II, but then someone said, "No, this is too good. He needs to be a real player."
  1. Kosuke Fukudome – The potential for completely inappropriate nicknames is endless
  2. Matt Capps – Future "Capps in dat ass" career in hip hop would make him millions
  3. Brad Hennessey – Could accompany Capps on stage as a lyric reinforcer
  4. Masahide Kobayashi – Drunken White Sox fans will spout hot dog-related derision in his general direction
  5. Coco Crisp – Endorsement deal to be Captain Crunch's sidekick inevitable