Friday, April 19, 2013

National League MVP Predictions (4/21)

1. Bryce Harper

Harper has not disappointed to start off the 2013 season. After finishing with 13 HR in the final two months of last season, he has picked up right where he left off, connecting on 5 HR through his first 14 games. With a full slate of games on tap for 2013, I see Harper vastly improving in every major hitting category. Another factor that works in Harper's favor is his charisma both on and off the field. He always puts forth tremendous effort, and is a clear leader in the clubhouse. That in and of itself is an extraordinary accomplishment. For a player to come into the league and command the respect of coaches and veterans alike in his rookie season the way Harper did, is almost unheard of. One factor that will play largely into whether he ultimately wins the award is whether the Nationals can duplicate their success from a season ago.

      2013 Projections:   .300 average, 38 HR, 105 RBI, 110 Runs, 18 SB

2. Justin Upton

There's no player in the game on a hotter streak than Upton right now. Upton has 8 HR through his teams first 14 games, and has the Braves sitting at an MLB best 12-2. Upton has flashed MVP ability before in his career, but has dealt with inconsistent play at times. This will be the season he breaks out as a true superstar. The scariest part about the start to Upton's season is that while he has been on fire, Jason Heyward and Upton's older brother B.J. have been slumping. Just imagine the numbers younger Upton can put up once the offense truly catches fire. If Upton can stay consistent and keep the Braves atop the N.L. East, there's no reason to believe he can't win this award.

      2013 Projections:   .290 average, 34 HR, 100 RBI, 110 Runs, 20 SB

3. Clayton Kershaw

Over the last three seasons, there has been no better pitcher in the MLB than Kershaw (other than possibly Justin Verlander). If Verlander can pull off an MVP award like he did in 2011, then why not Kershaw? Kershaw hasn't seen the consistently high win totals in his career, thanks to a less than great Dodgers team in the past. The 2013 Dodgers are a different story though. Their lineup includes the likes of Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier. Easily the best offensive talent Kerhsaw has had at his disposal at any point in his career. I expect the added offensive talent to add to Kershaws win total, with him possibly reaching the 21 wins he put up in 2011.

      2013 Projections:   20-6 record, 235 IP, 250 K, 60 BB, 2.25 ERA, 1.02 WHIP

Dark Horse Pick:  Madison Bumgarner

Call me crazy for saying this, but I believe Bumgarner can match Kershaw in nearly every major category this season. I see Kershaw winning out in terms of strikeouts, but Bumgarner making up for it with a league leading 22 wins. The only thing that could hold Bumgarner back is that his offense doesn't have the potential to quite as explosive as the lineup Kershaw is gifted with. The giants are however a scrappy team with last years MVP winner Posey leading the way, so anything is possible.

      2013 Projections:   22-5 record, 230 IP, 230 K, 55 BB, 2.35 ERA, 1.05 WHIP

American League MVP Predictions (4/21)

1. Mike Trout

Trout put up such an amazing rookie season, that he had people in the sports world clamoring for him to win the MVP award as a rookie. The most incredible part of his six first place votes, was that the guy who won MVP and got the other 22 first place votes had just won the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. That speaks volumes to the type of season Trout put up. In my opinion, it was the greatest rookie season in history. From his hitting statistics to his fielding ability (robbing HRs like it's no big deal), he is the complete package. His speed/power

      2013 Projections:   .315 average, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 115 Runs, 40 SB

2. Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury is in a contract year, and he has John Farrell as his manager. Those two things equal a potentially HUGE season for Ellsbury in 2013. Farrell stole 254 bases between 2011 & 2012 while with the Blue Jays, which was good for 4th best in the A.L. With Farrell in town, Ellsbury could steal close to the 70 bases he did back in 2009 (assuming he stays healthy). Don't forget that Ellsbury has had an MVP caliber season already in his career in 2011 when he finished second to Justin Verlander. I'm expecting a line similar his 2011 stats, except with less power output and more stolen bases to make up for it.

      2013 Projections:   .320 average, 22 HR, 100 RBI, 125 Runs, 65 SB

3. Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera has been tearing up the league with ease ever since his arrival. In fact, there has been no more consistent force in the league since 2004. The guy is a virtual lock for a .310 average, 30+ HR, 110+ RBI, and 100+ runs scored every season. Throw in his Triple Crown and MVP award from last season, and you may have the most feared hitter in the game today. His start to 2013 has been right on track with his production over the last 9 seasons, and I'd expect nothing else. The only thing holding Cabrera back in my mind from winning back-to-back MVP awards, is that he raised the bar so high last season, that nothing can match up to it. Add in the fact that the Tigers have the A.L. MVP from the past two seasons, and I don't see them taking it for a third straight year.

      2013 Projections:   .335 average, 34 HR, 125 RBI, 110 Runs, 3 SB

Dark Horse Pick: Ian Kinsler

This pick for me is mainly due to my belief for the continued success of the Rangers, despite the loss of Josh Hamilton . Kinsler has been a good, and at times great player. His issue throughout his career separating him from being a truly great player has always been his inconsistency. The Rangers loss of Hamilton will hurt, but I see it as a positive for Kinsler, who I believe will take on more of a leader role as a result. I'm predicting Kinsler to have his best season as a pro, and to lead the Rangers to the playoffs with a Wildcard berth.

      2013 Projections:   .290 average, 30 HR, 85 RBI, 110 Runs, 30 SB

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Great Expectations: Top 5 Prospects to Watch Out For

In 2013 & Beyond

1. Wil Myers

The Rays scored themselves one of the best prospects in the game when they traded James Shields and Wade Davis in exchange for Myers last season. It was a brilliant move on their part. They traded from an area of strength & depth (pitching) and scored a player who put up 37 HR with 109 RBI last season in the minors. Offense was a major issue for the Rays last season, as they finished with 175 HR and a .240 average as a team, good for fourth and fifth in the A.L. East, respectively. That leads me to believe a promotion to the big leagues is likely to happen sooner rather than later for Myers, unless the Rays can hold off until June 1st (to prevent his arbitration clock from ticking). When Myers does arrive, I'm expecting him to make an impact similar to that of Bryce Harper from last season.  

2. Oscar Tavreras

Myers may have edged Taveras in several hitting categories last season, but in terms of pure hitting prospects, there is no one better than Taveras in the minors. Taveras natural hitting ability has been compared to that of Vladimir Guerrero, which I'm guessing is a welcomed comparison for any hitter. Much like Guerrero, Taveras has an aggressive approach at the plate, with a violent swing. The part of his game that makes him truly special is his ability to connect on almost any ball thrown his way. In fact, if it weren't for the Cardinals depth in the outfield, Taveras would already be raking at the major league level.

3. Jurickson Profar

Profar is the type of player that may not grade out as the top prospect in any one area, but when you put everything together, there is no prospect that has the ability to match his potential. I wouldn't be surprised to see Profar making the All Star team annually, and competing for MVP awards in his prime. Playing in Texas only improves the outlook for Profar's offensive output, as we have seen what that ballpark can do for a player. I wouldn't bank solely on the Texas ballpark for Profar's outlook, as there have been trade rumors for awhile now. With Elvis Andrus manning SS and inked to a long term deal, there might not be room in Texas for Profar. Regardless of where he ends up playing, expect big things.

4. Dylan Bundy

Bundy is considered one of the best high school pitchers in draft history. He has overpowering stuff, and command well beyond his years. The most incredible part of Bundy's 2012 season is that he went all the way from Low-A to Baltimore (albeit for 2 games). I wouldn't expect Bundy to be promoted until June 1st at the earliest, and once he is promoted, he will be handled gently (especially with the recent injury news). Bundy is currently dealing with some right elbow and forearm tightness, but is expected to begin a throwing regime soon. There's no reason to rush him back and risk further injury, especially since Baltimore will likely have him on an innings limit throughout the 2013 season. 

5. Xander Bogaerts

Bogaerts continues to impress at every stop he has made in the minors. The issue with Bogaerts is whether he will remain at shortstop. With Stephen Drew in town on a one year contract, and Jose Iglesias as his backup, there is a logjam at SS for the Red Sox in 2013. That leads me to believe that it will be hard for Bogaerts to get any action in the big leagues this year, with a debut in 2014 being more realistic. Regardless of his promotion date, Bogaerts has all the tools necessary to be a fixture in the Sox lineup over the next decade. He has the potential to be a .300 hitter with 30 HR which is great production at any position.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Outfield Fantasy Rundown

TOP 50

1. Mike Trout
2. Matt Kemp
3. Ryan Braun
4. Bryce Harper

For many, Trout has nowhere to go but down. I disagree. Two things are working in Trout's favor for his sophomore season that were missing in his rookie campaign-- the knowledge acquired from his rookie season, and the addition of Josh Hamilton. The Angels lineup is stacked more so than in 2012, and as a result I'm expecting Trout to build on his historic rookie season. Expect him to finish among the top in stolen bases and lead the league in runs scored.

Harper is an exciting player to watch and one of those players you love to root for. As I mentioned in a previous article (Harper vs. Trout), I would take Harper if I were starting a team today (fantasy or reality). His power potential is unparalleled, outside of possibly Giancarlo Stanton. I see Harper challenging for the NL MVP and finishing among the top five overall players in fantasy by season's end.

5. Andrew McCutchen
6. Carlos Gonzalez
7. Justin Upton

McCutchen is an intriguing player for the 2013 season and beyond. I see his power numbers continuing to grow, as they have every season. I wouldn't be surprised to see McCutchen put up a 35 HR - 35 SB season at all. He is a true superstar in the making, and is a large part of why I believe the Pirates will make the playoffs this season. He's a player I'd love to have on my team (fantasy or reality).

Upton has been on a tear to start the season with a .340 avg and 8 HR through the first 13 games of the season. It seems Upton is taking full advantage of his fresh start in Atlanta, as he has the team off to a  league best 12-1 start. Clearly he has to slow down in terms of the power numbers, but with the lineup around him, expect him to have his best season yet in the pros.

8. Jacoby Ellsbury
9. Josh Hamilton
10. Giancarlo Stanton
12. Yoenis Cespedes
13. Jason Heyward
14. Adam Jones
15. Jose Bautista

We've seen what Ellsbury is capable of doing when healthy over a full season (2011). The guy finished second in the MVP balloting for the season in 2011, hitting for a .321 avg, with 32 HR, 105 RBI, 119 Runs and 39 SB. This being a contract year, I see Ellsbury putting up a similar line. I'd say to expect less HR (around 25), but he will make up for it by swiping 50+ bases. I'm predicting Ellsbury to finish second in the MVP race for a second time in his career.

Hamilton is a hard player to rank for me. He is a great hitter in a great lineup, but I'm not sure how he will take to playing in L.A. I don't know if he has the mentality to be able to succeed, especially with the added pressure of such high expectations. A big contract comes with big expectations, and I'm not sure he can live up to those expectations. With that being said, I still see him putting up 30 HR and 100 RBI. Just don't expect him to go on the tear he had in the first half of last season.

Stanton can thank his team (the Marlins) for his low rank. His #9 rank may not seem low to some people, but this guy has top 3 potential in any other lineup (except maybe the Astros). Stanton has the potential to compete for the MVP award consistently year-in-and-year-out if he can is surrounded by the necessary talent. Myself being a Stanton owner, I'm praying for a trade out of Miami. I think despite his team, he will still put up 35 HR and 90 RBI.

Adam Jones had been a good player in his career up until last year. Last year, he finally took the leap into stardom territory. Jones hasn't disappointed to start off the 2012 season. He has a hit in every game except one and is sporting a .400 avg, 11 RBI and 13 Runs scored through the first 13 games. I'd expect him to build off of his strong 2012 season, and surpass nearly every category.

16. Jay Bruce
17. Adrian Gonzalez
18. Alex Rios
19. Matt Holliday
20. B.J. Upton

Bruce is a power hitter. Plain and simple, he will get you 35 HR and close to 100 RBI every season. The issue with Bruce is he is a .256 career hitter, who I believe has about reached his ceiling. I wouldn't expect to see any big changes in terms of his overall hitting line from what he put up in 2012.

Rios doesn't get the credit he deserves in fantasy circles. I'll be the first to admit that I overlooked him again in fantasy drafts this season, letting him slip too far. After having arguably the best season of his career in 2012, he has started of 2013 in the same fashion. Rios is hitting for a .352 avg, with 4 HR and 3 SB's through the first 14 games of the season. I see him finishing the season with a .300 avg and 25 HR - 25 SB. If you can trade for him, I would.

21. Carl Crawford
22. Allen Craig
23. Starling Marte
24. Desmond Jennings
25. Alex Gordon
26. Ben Zobrist

I listed Crawford on my off-season top value picks list, and so far he hasn't disappointed. Through 14 games, Crawford is hitting .392, with 1 HR, 12 runs scored and 2 SB's. In the current Dodgers lineup, Crawford will finish among the league leaders in runs scored and will offer good stolen base production.

Starling Marte is another name I preached about all off-season. I think Marte with McCutchen will be huge parts of why the Pirates will make the playoffs this season. Marte has started off hot to his 2013 campaign, and I'd expect him to finish with a .300 avg, 20 HR and 30+ SB's.

27. Austin Jackson
28. Michael Bourn
29. Shin-Soo Choo
30. Carlos Gomez
31. Carlos Beltran

My bold statement for Jackson is that he will lead the league in runs scored. How could be not in a lineup featuring Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez? Jackson saw a decrease in his stolen bases last season, but I'd say that is more of an outlier than a trend. Expect a .300 avg, with 15 HR, 130 Runs, and 25 SB.

32. Chris Davis
33. Mark Trumbo
34. Nelson Cruz
35. Josh Willingham
36. Shane Victorino
37. Hunter Pence

Chris Davis started off the season by hitting a HR in his first four games. His power numbers have cooled off a bit, but he is still hitting for a .349 avg., and has 19 RBI through his first 13 games. I'm a fan of the hot start, but I'd expect Davis to cool off a bit. I expect Davis to finish the season with a .275 avg, 35 HR and 90 RBI.

38. Curtis Granderson*
39. Andre Ethier
40. Nick Markakis
41. Norichika Aoki

Curtis Granderson can be a very frustrating player to own. He will put up huge numbers as evidenced by 2011 & 2012, but he has the potential to kill your team's average on a weekly basis as he showed last season (.232 avg). If you're drafting Granderson, you need to be patient while he returns from injury and learn to take the good with the bad.

42. Ichiro Suzuki
43. Torii Hunter
44. Angel Pagan
45. Melky Cabrera
46. Jayson Werth
47. Wil Myers
48. Ben Revere
49. Dexter Fowler
50. Michael Morse

I keep expecting Torii Hunter to slow down, and he keeps proving me wrong. Surrounded by a star studded lineup, I think Hunter can produce a similar line to what he put up last season.

Wil Myers is my number one prospect to watch out for in 2013 and beyond. The Rays always seem to be ahead of the curb in terms of acquiring prospects, and running their farm system. Myers could have close to a Bryce Harper type impact upon his call-up, except I wouldn't expect the pure power numbers right out of the gate.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Top 5 Busts for 2013 Fantasy Football

1. Matt Ryan (QB)

Let me start by saying this... Ryan will have a very good fantasy season in 2013. However, he will not be a top 7 QB, and shouldn't be drafted as one. He put up big stats in 2012, finishing with 4719 yards and 32 TD's. I'd expect a line closer to his 2011 season when he put up 4,177 yards and 29 TD's. He has the weapons in Roddy White and Julio Jones, but I see Steven Jackson's arrival and Tony Gonzalez's age as two concerning factors. Gonzalez proved last season he still is a beast, but can he repeat his last season? My answer is no, he can't.

2. Arian Foster (RB)

Foster has been a workhorse over the last 3 seasons. Over the last three seasons, he has had 393 touches (2010), 331 in 13 games (2011), and 391 touches (2012). Over that span, he has seen his YPC reduce from 4.9 in 2010 to 4.1 in 2012. I believe he's been over-worked, and an injury isn't far off. Throw in the fact that Foster has Ben Tate backing him up, with Tate's career YPC at 5.1, and I see a drastic decline in production for 2013.

3. James Jones (WR)

The loss of Greg Jennings should lead to added opportunities, but there are still too many mouths to feed (Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley). I think he can have a solid season... don't expect the 14 TD's to become a habit though. My projection is for Jones to finish with 65 receptions, 850 yards and 5 TD's. Not sure if this will classify him in your bust category, but I can see him being drafted WAY too early when draft season rolls around.

4.  Reggie Wayne (WR)

As much as this pains me to admit (as a Colts fan), I don't see Wayne being able to produce stats similar to what he put up last season. At 34 years old, and turning 35 during the upcoming season, a decline is bound to happen. The Colts are also loaded with young talent at WR and TE, only adding to the chance of a drop in production. I'm not saying not to draft Wayne. Just don't draft him as your WR1 because he won't produce like one. If you can grab him as your second or third WR, then go for it. My projection is for Wayne to finish with 75 receptions, 950-1000 yards and 4 TD's.

5. Tony Gonzalez (TE)

As I mentioned in the Matt Ryan segment above, I don't see Gonzalez being able to repeat his success of last season. At 37, I think it is finally time we see a decline in his fantasy production. I'd expect him to put up a season similar to his 2010 line. Gonzalez will finish with 65-70 receptions, 700 yards and 4-5 TD's. He will still be a TE1, but more of a borderline starter as opposed to top five at the position.

To clarify, by "bust", I am simply referring to the fact that the above players won't live up to their high draft status.

Top 5 Sleepers for 2013 Fantasy Football

1. Ryan Tannehill (QB)

Tannehill goes into his sophomore season with a vastly improved supporting cast. The additions of Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller will be a boon to his fantasy value. Throw in the on-field chemistry between Tannehill and Brian Hartline and I could see him throwing for 3,800 yards, 25 TD's and 12 INT's. Of course I wouldn't target Tannheill as my starter, but he is a backup with starter potential. I also see Lamar Miller having a big season, lessening the presser Tannehill will see from defenses. Tannehill might make his way onto a few of my rosters for the 2013 fantasy season.
--Plus, anyone with a wife this attractive (Lauren Tannehill shown below) has to have some skill, right?

2. Daryl Richardson (RB)

Steven Jackson's departure has left the door wide open for Daryl Richardson, who was able to produce on limited touches as a rookie. I believe the Rams will look internally to replace Jackson. That leaves Richardson or Isaiah Pead as the two options to be Jackson's successor. Pead is still raw and I don't see him being able to handle a workhorse role, whereas I can see Richardson toting it around 16-20 times per game.  One potential downside to Richardsons fantasy value is the questionable talent surrounding him on the Rams offense. Their offense will once again be a question mark, but Richardson should be one of the few bright spots.

3. Lamar Miller (RB)

By the time drafts roll around, I don't see Miller being classified as a sleeper. With Reggie Bush's departure, Miller has a clear shot at the feature back role. I don't see him being a true workhorse with Daniel Thomas in town and because of his smaller size, but we have seen what he is able to do with limited touches. The more Miller produces, the more touches I see him getting. In all honesty, does anyone in the world (even Dolphins coaching/management) see Daniel Thomas as a starting RB in the NFL? I certainly don't!

4. Kendall Wright (WR)

Wright flashed potential in his rookie season, finishing with 64 receptions for 626 yards and 4 TD's. Those stats shouldn't blow anyone away, but he dealt with injuries and inconsistency at the QB position throughout the season. I don't see that being as much of an issue in his second year. As your WR3, Wright could have weeks where he performs as a WR2, and he can be had for relatively cheap. Expect 75-80 receptions 950 yards and 6-7 TD's. Wright gets a small bump in PPR leagues.

5. Rob Housler (TE)

This upcoming season will be Housler's third in the league. It will be his first season with a (somewhat) capable QB. I'm not saying Carson Palmer is the answer for the Cardinals because quite frankly he isn't, but he clearly loves his TE if you look at last years stats. I'd expect Housler to put up numbers close to what Brandon Myers put up in 2012. Look for between 65-70 receptions, 750-800 yards and 4-5 TD's. If you are waiting on a TE until the last rounds, this guy could end up being a real steal. Arians has spoken about how he sees Housler as a big WR, which is welcomed news to fantasy owners ears.

* To clarify, by "sleeper", I am saying I believe these players will out-perform their draft status.