Saturday, March 20, 2010
In about two weeks, the Major League Baseball season will be underway. For now, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, are gearing up for another season of fantasy baseball. This time of year, many people will be out of or soon to be out of the NCAA tournament brackets, and their attention will almost certainly turn to our national past time.
With that said, I have some suggestions that may be valuable for success in your particular league this year. First, depending on your league setup, always be on top of trades, roster battles and free agent signings. These transactions could effect the performance of a certain player.
For example, if a player who plays in a home run hitters ballpark, and they are traded to a pitchers park, don't expect their projected numbers to stay the same. You must factor things like that into the equation. A further example of this, last season, I was able to pick up Ryan Franklin before he was named the Cardinals closer, due to bad outings by his competitors. He helped me win my league.
Second, always look for cheaper or less known options. For example, instead of trying to get Evan Longoria, who everyone is looking at, try picking up someone like Matt Kemp or Juan Rivera. They can be very productive sleeper picks.
Finally, as the season progresses, keep in touch with other league members to build a trust. Perhaps you can offer a trade that is of interest to another member and beneficial to you. A personal example of this, I was able to trade for Mark Teixeira by giving up Brian Fuentes who had some inconsistencies.
These keys may help you dominate, but remember, timing is everything in both life and fantasy baseball. You have to know when to pull the trigger. For example, last season, when Manny Ramirez was suspended, he was released. I waited until one week until his reinstatement to pick him up and kept him on my bench until he was activated. He produced well for me. He's Manny, of course he did. With drafting coming up soon, let us list my picks for the 10 overall best fantasy hitters and 10 best starting pitchers.
Can't miss hitters:
1. Albert Pujols -(2009) 300+ hitter, 47 hrs, 135 rbi's and future first ballot hall of famer.
2.Alex Rodriguez -(2009) 30 hrs, 100 rbi's without a full year, will be home run king someday.
3.Hanley Ramirez -(2009) 24 hr's, 106 rbi's, an outstanding all-star, getting even better.
4.Mark Teixeira -(2009) 39 hr's, 122 rbi's, adjusting well to life in the big city.
5.Adrain Gonzalez -(2009) 40 hr's, 99 rbi's in a pitchers park. If traded, he'll be even better.
6.Dustin Pedroia -(2009) 185 hits, former MVP had a down year, should bounce back.
7.Joe Mauer -(2009) 365 avg, 28 hr's, 96 rbi's in a dome, could bat 400 someday.
8.Ryan Howard -(2009) 45 hr's, 141 rbi's, in a hitter's park, continues big numbers despite k's.
9.Derek Jeter -(2009) 212 hits, 334 avg, 30 steals, the captain keeps it up this year too.
10.Chase Utley -(2009) 31 hr's, 93 rbi's, uses all parts of small park, perennial MVP candidate.
Honorable mention hitters and why: David Wright -can he bounce back from power outage?, Matt Holliday -can a full year in St Louis help him shake the playoff snafu?, Ichiro Suzuki -how much will Figgans help him and who will lead off?, Evan Longoria -he is the real deal, but can be streaky, Prince Fielder -can he keep up the numbers and stay healthy?
Can't miss starting pitchers:
1.Tim Lincecum -(2009) 15-7, 2.48 era,261 k's, weak division helps win Cy, but he's good.
2.Johan Santana -(2009) 13-9, 3.13 era, 146 k's, healthy and has a chip on his shoulder.
3.Roy Halladay -(2009) 17-10, 2.79 era, 208 k's, will give up more hr's and higher era in Philly.
4.C.C. Sabathia -(2009) 19-8, 197 k's, 3.37 era, the Yankees ace is just getting started.
5.Justin Verlander -(2009) 19-9, 269 k's, 3.45 era, he is an ace and a healthy one too.
6.Chris Carpenter -(2009) 17-4, 2.24 era, 144 k's. He is a dominant pitcher for a good offense.
7.Felix Hernandez -(2009) 19-5, 217 k's, 2.49 era, King Felix is finally coming into his own.
8.Josh Beckett -(2009) 17-6, 191k's, 3.86 era. He will get back to form this year in era.
9.Josh Johnson -(2009) 15-5, 3.23 era, 191 k's, he is only getting better for a good, young team.
10.Carlos Zambrano -(2009) 152 k's, only 9-7 due to injuries, but should be on the mend.
Honorable mention for starters and why: Zack, Greinke -can he repeat his 2009?, Adam Wainwright -can he repeat?, Randy Wolf -a solid starter no matter where he is, Clayton Kershaw -will he continue his success this early in his career?, Dan Haren -can he continue to succeed?
Can't miss closers:
1.Mariano Rivera -(2009) 44 sv, 1.76 era, 72 k's, he is the league's closer.
2.Jonathan Papelbon -(2009) 38 sv, 76 k's, 1.85 era. He is a fantasy lock for the Sox.
3.Francisco Rodriguez -(2009) 35 sv, 70 k's. Over worked and hurt. Better bullpen will help.
4.Brian Fuentes -(2009) 48 sv, 46 k's, is consistent and made Anaheim forget K-Rod
5.Heath Bell -(2009) 42 sv, 79 k's, he has the attitude you want, will be traded. to better team.
Honorable mention for closers and why: Francisco Cordero -he is as steady and would be in the top five if offense helped him, Brad Lidge -he is a big game pitcher but can blow a few little ones, Billy Wagner -change of scenery will boost his numbers, Ryan Franklin -is he a one hit wonder?, Trevor Hoffman -how much is in the tank for the all time saves leader?
These are all can't miss players at various positions, based on fantasy results. These are quite a few more I could've added, but they are either in the next wave of talent, or may struggle this year to be consistent for different reasons. This is part one. Part two, I will discuss players to avoid or pick up later. Finally, part three, will be the sleeper picks and rookies to watch. I hope this helps someone. In the words of Al Davis, "just win baby".
Friday, March 19, 2010
Every season brings hope . For the New York Mets, like most every team, it also brings the spark of new players and new blood in the club house and on the field. The Mets have several young players still competing for key positions at this juncture of the spring training festivities.
Take, for example, Ruben Tejada. He is trying out for a roster spot for the middle infield. He would not even be in the position to do so, if not for notable injuries. He is very young in baseball terms, 20, to be in the big show, but certain events have transpired that have helped him be in such a position.
I think of Fernando Martinez, who's only 21. He has been crushing the ball, in Florida. He also has a history of not playing a full season in the minors, due to various injuries. Let's say that happens again, is he really ready for the majors? We all get impressed by power displays, but impression takes away our ability to reason.
We all say 'he's ready'. Why? Because he can hit home runs against guys who have no chance of making their respective teams or major league pitchers still working out the bugs? Let him prove himself healthy in the minors before we end up with another Beltran situation.
I also feel compelled to mention Jonathan Niese. He is 23. He has good stuff and may very well win the fifth starter's job over Takahashi, Nieve or Figgy. However, does he have the experience to be relied on consistentlyas a starter?
Probably not. That's why he'd be a fifth starter and not a third starter. But if he fails, he will be picked apart mercilessly, and that shows on Omar Minaya for picking him and Jerry Manuel for bringing him up. He could do well and make them look like geniuses, that's what we're all hoping. But he hasn't pitched a full season in the majors, there could be some bumps.
Another player I think of, and most certainly the most talked about player in this spring, possibly in all of baseball, not just New York, is Jennry Mejia. Mejia is the 'next'. Pick your comparion. He's been linked to every name in baseball history seemingly. He is supposed to be the 'next Rivera or the next Doc'. He's, also only 20 years old and has only been pitching at any level for five years.
That's the definition of inexperience. That track record might make you a starter in the NBA or the NHL, but not in the majors. Major League baseball is all about matchups and knowing situations. Experience. Which is something minor leaguers learn to a point, that they carry over into the bigs.
I have said several times that they shouldn't rush him. I believe, that Jerry Manuel will, in fact, rush him up to the show. He may be wonderful. He may not. The Red Sox hitters, the other day, weren't impressed with him as Jerry and all of us have been. Perhaps, they make a little sense. Remember, this is the time of year that the pitchers are supposed to have an advantage and the hitters are just starting to catch up.
Maybe we'll see that adjustment, maybe we'll have to wait until the season is under way to see the NL east adjust to him. Maybe. no one will. No one has seemed to adjust too well to Johan in the NL east, have they? The point is, Omar Minaya and his crack team of 'baseball people', including scouts, hand picked these kids. If they fail this year in roles they were given due to injuries, then, Omar has failed to a point.
Although, I realize it wouldn't be entirely his fault. Manuel has something to do with it as does the injury bug. Omar picked these players for the farm a system and to come up at some point. Manuel decides if he wants them now or later. Therefore, Manuel will rush some of these kids for fear of otherwise having a bad season and resulting in his termination.
By doing this, these youngsters could excel in the opportunities or fail. If they excel, then the organization has found its future now. If they fail, they may still be the future, but Omar and Manuel will be the past.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
We are currently on part 5 of a 6 part series of NY Fan in South Jersey's NFL Mock Draft. Thus far, the draft as I see it is shaping out like this. I will remind everyone as I did in part 1, that no one, not even the so called 'experts' know for sure who is going where for certain. With that said,
#32 Saints-Sean Lee (LB)
#31 Colts-Dan Williams (DT)
#30 Vikings-Patrick Robinson (CB)
#29 Jets-Taylor Mays (FS)
#28 Chargers-Joe Haden (CB)
#27 Cowboys-Earl Thomas (FS)
#26 Cardinals - Sergio Kindle (LB)
#25 Ravens - Cam Thomas (DT)
#24 Eagles - Brandon Graham (DE)
#23 Packers - Carlos Dunlap (DE)
#22 Patriots - Arrelius Benn (WR)
#21 Bengals - Golden Tate (WR)
#20 Texans - C.J. Spiller (RB)
#19 Falcons - Bruce Campbell (OT)
#18 Steelers - Maurkice Pouncey (C)
#17 49ers - Vladimir Ducasse (OT)
#16 Titans - Jared Odrick (DT).
#15 New York Giants -Rolando McClain (MLB)
#14 Seahawks - Mike Iupati (OG).
#13 49ers - Derrick Morgan (DE).
#12 Dolphins - Anthony Davis (OT).
#11 Broncos - Eric Berry (FS).
So that brings us up to seed and into the top ten. Here we go, folks.
# 10 Jacksonville Jaguars, OT Trent Williams (Oklahoma). After losing five of their last six games last year to finish 7-9, the Jaguars need to reevaluate. They also need to rebuild. They are explosive on offense with Jones-Drew running the ball and a deep receiver group. The options that David Garrard has at his disposal are impressive.
They needed to revamp the pass rush, and they did by possibly making the biggest signing so far this off season, in Aaron Kampman. He will automatically upgrade their defense and create pressure for the opposition thereby helping the secondary. They will be improved by his presence, but they will add depth in the later rounds for that secondary.
Their most glaring need now, is on the offensive line. At this point in the draft, many options will out there for them. They need the best available player for their specific needs. That is an offensive lineman that can help their line get back to the type of smash mouth football Jack Del Rio likes to play.
Trent Williams fits that description. He has quick feet and good size (6'4", 305 lbs), and is very agile. He is thick and can use his body well to anchor that line and benefit the running back. However, he can be slow off the snap at times, causing him to appear lethargic and hurting his pass protection.
He could train on this and work it out. If so, he could truly be that anchor. This may be Del Rio's last year if he doesn't make the playoffs, but winning has to start in the trenches and with a depleting line, Williams is a good place to start the rebuild.
# 9 Buffalo Bills, OLB Sean Weatherspoon (Missouri). The Bills finished the season with a 6'10 record last season. They struggled to gain any consistent play from the offensive side of the ball. They only averaged 157 yards passing last season. This is not the pick to take a QB, however. The only two first round potential QB's are going to be gone by this pick. They can go that way in round three or even later.
The offensive line is another large need as they are getting older and thinner. It is a deep class in that regard, so they can take a lineman in round two. They have a pressing need to replace Terrell Owens and get a play maker, but this isn't a good draft to find that many of those. They may take a receiver here.
This pick should address another pressing need. They have a thin and aging linebacker corps. They drafted Posluszny last season, but still have need there under new head coach Chan Gailey's defensive scheme. The LB group is not that deep to wait for round three or more so they must take the best player available.
That is Weatherspoon. He has outstanding instincts and is quick to read and diagnose plays. He has the speed to react (4.5 40 yd dash) and the technique to be a good tackler at the next level. His only downside, is his propensity to stay hung up on blocks at times. He struggles to maneuver freely through linemen.
The Bills have enough veteran LB's to help coach him along to improve this. His upside far outweighs his downside. He could be a good fit in a defense that needs to get younger to improve and in a draft that isn't deep enough to wait for the picks to come to them.
# 8 Oakland Raiders, OT Russell Okung (Oklahoma State). The Raiders finished an abysmal 5-11. They had struggles on every faze of the team. They over spent for defensive help last season, but not for offensive help.
They have a young group of QB's. The problem is they are thin up front to protect them JaMarcus Russell has not progressed due to lack of blocking. Charlie Frye can't be the QB they hoped unless they can block for him. The backfield is young and decent, but they too, need blocking. Enter Okung.
A 6'6" 3oo lbs lineman is just what Dr Al Davis ordered. He has long arms and good balance to go with his great upper body strength. His only downside, is trouble against smaller speed rushers. They have a tendency to get around him and wreak havoc in the backfield. He can work on this. It is merely a matter of technique, not physical prowess.
He can be the blind side protector that they have needed for years going back to drafting the unheralded Robert Gallery. Okung has played big games and could be used to the atmosphere that the NFL provides to a rookie. He would be a great fit for them.
# 7 Cleveland Browns, WR Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State). The poor Browns. They stumbled to a 5-11 record last year and showed no signs of life down the stretch. They have a surprise emergence at running back in Jerome Harrison, who they must resign.
They signed Jake Delhomme and traded for Seneca Wallace, while cutting ties with both Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn. They added Scott Fujita to help the defense, but they still need that big game receiver. Although they drafted two receivers just last year in Massaquoi and Robiskie, neither have developed thus far as the go to guy.
They need a burner. The best receiver to fit that mold, in this draft, is Dez Bryant. He runs a 4.4 dash and has the size (6'2") to get up and bring down the jump ball. He has strong hands and runs precise routes. He is a specimen. His athletic abilities will make up for his only clear downside. He has a learning disability that may make it a struggle to fully absorb an NFL playbook.
It could take time and patience to properly prepare him for the next level in this respect, but his skills and instincts will make him stand out immediately. Whoever the Cleveland QB will be, he will be thankful for Bryant.
# 6 Seattle Seahawks DE Jason Pierre-Paul (South Florida). This is the first pick of two the Seahawks have in the first round of this years draft. I have them taking a offensive lineman in the second pick of this very round. In the opening pick, they will have almost the entire draft board in front of them. Their needs are deep.
They traded away, backup QB Wallace, if Hasselbeck goes down, they need the depth. Later rounds will still have good options for them to take at that position. They need a running back, which I think new coach Pete Carroll will take in round two by picking up his former back from USC, McKnight.
Here, they need to add a pass rush. This is a deeper field in this class, but the very best available ones will be gone even by the next time they pick just eight picks later. A player like Pierre-Paul is rare in this draft, they have to take him here.
He is instinctive and fast enough (4.6 dash) to be a force in the NFL. He has the size (6'5") to match up to offensive linemen in the league and may be versatile enough to adjust to linebacker in the right type of defense. He would be paired with Patrick Kerney who could teach him the finer points of pass rushing which would make him a monster at this level.
His only bad points are strength and technique. Both are certainly fixable. The weight room can help one, while Kerney and the coaches can help the other. He could arguably be the best end pass rusher in the draft and due to need can drop to this spot. Seattle would be foolish to go any other way if he's available here.
That will bring us to the first five overall picks of the draft. I will reveal them in the final part of this series. For those who are keeping track, there are still a few interesting names available. The last part will take a look at the worst teams in the league including the St Louis Rams who have the #1 overall pick. Who will it be? Check back to find out.
As the mock draft continues, another look back is necessary in order to let all the readers get caught up. So far, I have it looking like this: #32 Saints-Sean Lee (LB), #31 Colts-Dan Williams (DT), #30 Vikings-Patrick Robinson (CB), #29 Jets-Taylor Mays (FS), #28 Chargers-Joe Haden (CB) and #27 Cowboys-Earl Thomas (FS), #26 Cardinals - Sergio Kindle (LB), #25 Ravens - Cam Thomas (DT), #24 Eagles - Brandon Graham (DE), #23 Packers - Carlos Dunlap (DE), #22 Patriots - Arrelius Benn (WR), #21 Bengals - Golden Tate (WR). # 20 Texans - C.J. Spiller (RB), # 19 Falcons - Bruce Campbell (OT)# 18 Steelers - Maurkice Pouncey (C) # 17 49ers - Vladimir Ducasse (OT) and finally, # 16 Titans - Jared Odrick (DT).
That brings us to my team. The New York Giants. I am not an over passionate fan that is unable to think clearly about his team. I have given this much thought, based on needs and availability. With that said and without further ado, my next five picks.
# 15 New York Giants, MLB-Rolando McClain (Alabama). The Giants, similar to the Titans, had a tale of two seasons. There were possibly the hottest team in the league for the first five weeks, only to be debated by Indy, New Orleans and the cross town rival Jets. They started an impressive 5-0 against a weak schedule. The only true test in that span came versus the division rival Cowboys in a nationally televised, new stadium opener in Dallas.
Then, they fell apart trying their best to regain the pass rush that made them so fierce and the running attack that made them brutal to face in the winter months. The highlights of the season were provided by the wide receiver core and the improved, more mature play of franchise quarterback, Eli Manning. The team stumbled to an 8-8 finish, missing the playoffs for only the first time since Manning became the full season starter.
They still have the balance on offense to be explosive. The running attack can be fierce again if Brandon Jacobs can find his aggressive style again. The receivers will have another full off season to work with Manning, which can only help with timing and effectiveness.
Although the offensive line is getting older, the more pressing problems are on the defensive side of the ball. Their inability to generate a consistent pass rush hurt their already injury weakened secondary and linebacker crew. The Giants addressed the secondary in the early hours of free agency by adding Antrel Rolle. He is a playoff experienced, big play capable safety from the Cardinals. When paired with a healthy Kenny Phillips, should give them a potent duo, however, the secondary can't cover against the leagues better receivers if the front line isn't hurrying the opposition. That's where the pass rush comes in.
I believe the new defensive coordinator will be more aggressive in his play calling and therefore more blitzes. That will allow the front line to bring more pressure in the trenches. They need a linebacker to come through on blitzes and read the offensive formations. The experience that they lost in Antonio Pierce, will be difficult to replace, and will take time, but McClain is a great start.
McClain was a defensive leader on an elite team with Alabama. He may be the best linebacker overall, out of one of the deepest groups in the draft, and definitely the best among the middle linebackers. He is has good size (6'4", 260 lbs) and strength. He is very athletic and has the intangibles that you look for in a top round pick. He isn't as fast of a player (4.7 dash) as some others available, but he makes up for it with his instincts and awareness.
He doesn't have much experience in coverage because of his primary role as a rusher in their defensive system at Bama, however, this could be changed with time and film study. If he can be mentored by a veteran in that defense or a free agent addition, he could become a Pro Bowl type force in that defense.
# 14 Seattle Seahawks, OG Mike Iupati (Idaho). The Seahawks have some needs. They finished an abysmal 5-11 in a weak division that they helped to make weak. They have a fragile quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck, who when healthy, is a solid leader. They have added Nate Burlson to compliment the receiver core that is led by T.J. Houshmandzadeh. They can be a good passing team if Hasselbeck is healthy.
The running game has just as many questions. With a combination of Julius Jones and Justin Forsett, they rushed for over 1,200 yards, but neither one was a 1,000 yard rusher alone. There is an identity factor, in this squad. There is a leadership factor as well. Without knowing who will be the consistent starter, they can't establish a running game and therefore establish balance to help the passing game.
The teams needs help on the other side of the ball too, they need a pass rusher and a safety. They have two first round draft picks this year, a rarity for NFL teams, and they will use the first pick to address one of those defensive needs. They also have a more pressing need than the running game and they will use their second pick to address it. An offensive lineman. The line is getting older as the the depth is getting thinner.
They are in need of a strong guard. That is Iupati in a nutshell. He is strong and has the size to be a productive anchor lineman (6'5", 325 lbs) at either Guard or Tackle for years to come. He carries his weight well and uses his techniques and strength to create good running lanes. He has had a poor showing at the Senior Bowl and shoulder surgery in his not so distant past. If he can over come these obstacles, he will be a rock in Seattle in the mold of Walter Jones.
# 13 San Francisco 49ers, DE Derrick Morgan (Georgia Tech). As previously mentioned in an earlier post, the 49ers have two picks, like the Seahawks. This is their first. I already went over their season and their 8-8 record. They are young and energetic. I mentioned that already, what I didn't mention much of, was there need at the helm and their need for a WR after losing Arnaz Battle to the Steelers. Although, they have a need for that, I don't believe they will take that. The WR group is deep enough to get a good receiver with upside and potential in the later rounds.
I believe they will add a quarterback, but by the time they pick at # 13, the best couple of QB's will be gone. They could take a gamble on another more questionable one in the next round. There will be a few available by their next pick, Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow or a Tony Pike are just to name a few and under the right offense, could be successful there. Because of other needs, they will pick someone to help that aggressive defense lead by Patrick Willis.
Enter Derrick Morgan. He is 6'4" and runs a 4.7 dash. He makes up for average speed with good technique and an even better motor. He's strong and instinctive, he is a perfect compliment to Willis roaming around behind him and occasionally blitzing around him.
He has one major flaw, he doesn't possess that explosive burst needed to get to the opposition just a step ahead what is needed. He is a good tackler, but lack of speed makes him arrive too late to tackle a more explosive running back. This can be helped if he is taught better angles and some other maneuvers to use in the trenches. Who better to teach that than Mike Singletary.
# 12 Miami Dolphins, OT Anthony Davis (Rutgers). The Dolphins had a 7-9 record. Don't let the record fool you, they were in the the hunt for a playoff spot until the final week, despite having many holes. Most of those holes were on the defensive side where they dropped to 22nd overall. They need a pass rusher, a linebacker and players for the secondary.
These are all needs that can be addressed through free agency and later rounds. They already made a major splash with the signing of Karlos Dansby to sure up the LB core. They have a need at the D-line as Ferguson is aging and getting over injury, but that is something that could be addressed later, even next season as Dansby will help the pass rush.
The secondary can be helped later in this draft as can the need at receiver. They may not be able to resign Ronnie Brown, but Ricky Williams still has enough left to get them through another year. Time will tell, but regardless, they need help on the offensive line to open the holes for the running game and the young franchise QB Chad Henne.
Due to needs from other teams, the Dolphins will have many options to choose at this pick. The Bill Parcells effect on the war room, will probably help Sparano decide to sure up the trenches. Anthony Davis is a good candidate for them. He has plenty of size (6'5", 325 lbs) and strength for the line.
His good center of gravity and technique in run blocking will benefit whoever is carrying the ball. His only true downfall, is character. He had multiple suspensions in college and a questionable work ethic. If he can find his way and some maturity, he could be a major contributor for them.
# 11 Denver Broncos, FS Eric Berry (Tennessee). The Denver Broncos had an interesting 2009. They finished 8-8 after losing eight out of their last ten. They have a several needs, like all of the teams in the first half of the draft.
The team is lead by Kyle Orton, who has steadily shown that he came play at this level, despite the experts' opinions when he was drafted. They recently traded for Brady Quinn, whicj is an odd move. Perhaps they are just trying to prepare in case Orton gets injured or faulters at some point. The starting QB, though will be Orton.
This does send a bad message to the team as far as leadership and may make a rift between the players as their offensive identity is now being questioned. The QB is the offensive identity, this may be a move that hurts them in the long run if they're not careful.
They may not hold on to Brandon Marshall, the dynamic wide receiver with a bad reputation. They have a few other options in case of his departure. They could take this pick to replace him, and they might, but I feel they have bigger needs right now. They bolstered their defensive line with experienced free agents like Justin Bannan and Jarvis Green. They have a need at cornerback, but it is a deep group that can be tapped into in the later rounds.
For now, they need to address the other part of the secondary, the safeties. Eric Berry is the best safety in the draft. He has plenty of speed (4.4 dash) and great instincts to become a playmaker at the next level. If he goes here, he would have maybe one the best mentors at the position in Brian Dawkins.
Berry has a big hit capability and excellent coverage skills. He comes from a college team that plays big games and so the experience should help him make the proper adjustments. The only downside to him that I can tell, is an over-aggressiveness which can lead to missed tackles and a higher propensity for injuries.
If he can be taught to use that passion and his intelligence properly combined, he could become a dominant and feared player in the NFL, who's very presence cuts the field in half and shuts down options for opposing QB's to go to.
That takes us to the top ten. The final two parts will consist of the picks everyone has an opinion on. There are no standouts this year as in years past. There isn't that athlete that teams say is a 'must have overall #1'. Because of that, the top few picks may be up for grabs in a trade to the right buyer. It will be interesting to figure out and even more so watching it unfold. The first twenty two picks are full of questions, but even more the point of this all is discussion. Let that discussion continue. Until next time, folks.
The New York Mets are currently down in Port St. Lucie, Florida deciding exactly who will travel back to Queens to start the season. There are a few questions already answered. For example, will Josh Thole be with them? No.
He was sent down to AAA already with Dickey. All of you fans that were holding out hope that the knuckleballer could bring a Tim Wakefield type performance to Citi, now is the time to give that up. Josh Thole is no doubt the future, but not the present.
In an attempt to help answer the questions remaining, this is my prediction for the roster that will remain when the smoke clears. We already know that Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes will not be with the club for at least the first month and possibly longer. Although Beltran's rehab is going well and he expects to be ready sooner, don't any of you expect it. This franchise will not clear him to play until they know for certain that he will not reaggravate anything.
The same applies to Reyes and not only his thyroid concern, but his legs now that he has ceased all baseball related activities. He will need time after he adjusts to a new lifestyle, to get back into shape. With these things in mind, let's move forward. The everyday lineup as I see it.
At first Daniel Murphy, who makes Mike Jacobs obsolete, despite the power and experience advantages, because he bats left like Jacobs. I actually ran this past Mets beat writer, Marty Noble, who concurred, that it will be Murphy. The franchise loves him and with good reason. He will get the job, although I believe they should keep both, they won't. The back up will again be Tatis, who can play multiple positions including third to spell David Wright for a game here and there.
At second, Luis Castillo, unfortunately. He is not sure handed and not exceptional with a bat, but gets the job done. He has had a rumor filled off season, but remains with the club, despite it all. He will be backed up by Ruben Tejada. Tejada is capable of playing both infield positions and is only going to probably make the big club because of Reyes' injury. If not for that, he never would have had a chance.
I expect Frank Catalanotto to be on the depth chart somewhere here also. His versatility to play several positions will keep him in Queens, despite his bat. I expect Alex Cora to be the starting short stop on opening day. It's a far cry from the spark plug that is Jose, but he will fill in nicely. He will also remain with the team, later on as Reyes comes back and Tejada is sent down to make room.
Do we really have to talk about third base options? David Wright. No brainer. He has Tatis to back him up, but I already mentioned him at first because he will see much more action there. The catchers will be Rod Barajas starting and Blanco backing him up.
In the outfield, I see the team carrying five players until Beltran returns then dropping two of them down. I see the obvious ones, of course. Jason Bay, and Jeff Franceour. I also see Angel Pagan being the starter on opening day in Beltran place, and moving to the bench when he comes back. The other two, Gary Matthews Jr. and Fernando Martinez.
When Beltran comes back, though, Martinez goes down and I think Matthews does too, but many will disagree with me there. I think the last everyday roster spot goes to Nick Evans. I think his power and energy brings something special to this team that Manuel will be looking for. It's his time to stay. That's a look at the everyday players you'll probably see in early April.
The heart and soul of the New York Mets, like any other team, is their pitching. There are actually more questions for the opening day roster here than anywhere else. But, this is how I believe it will shake out.
For the pitchers, I'd like to take a different approach. I would like to start with the bullpen. Much has been written about this pen, and even more will be in the next few weeks as the last remaining free agents finally choose their homes. But this pen is the strength of the club, if healthy and properly used.
First and foremost, the closer, Frankie Rodriguez. I love him because we have the name first name. He is dominant and he is full of stamina. He is almost always effective and stable. The only times he was under question last season really came with questions of overuse. That has more to do with managing than him. He will be solid.
The main question then, is who will set him up? It was supposed to be the weak armed one, Kelvim Escobar. Forget it. He'll be lucky if he can ever throw a ball to knock down bottles at a carnival game. He is done, the rest of the stories he has coming out centered around his comments, are only an attempt to save face for both him and the franchise.
The setup man should be Ryota Igarashi, but it won't be. He has enough experience and enough stuff to bridge the gap. Unless, of course that the team ends up overpaying for Beimel, which I believe I predicted a few weeks ago would happen. Keep watching, it will. If not the Mets, then someone will.
The team will end up unfortunately going with Jennry Mejia. His stuff is electric and he is the closer or dominant starter of the future. He is the Mets' answer to Jaba, but he needs time to be seasoned. He has only been pitching for five years at any level.
The media and the 'baseball people' love him, though and Manuel is enamored with him, so he will probably go to Queens. I actually hope I'm wrong on that, because I would hate to see this team rush another great talent.
The specialists are Pedro Feliciano out of the pen against lefties, especially those with P's on their shirts. If Mejia doesn't stay, then Sean Green will be the arm against the righties out of the pen, otherwise, it will be Igarashi in this spot. The long relievers will be Bobby Parnell and Nelson 'Figgy' Figueroa.
The starters are a little more harder to predict. We all know who is first, after all the media nickname for these guys is Santana and the four rainouts. Johan Santana is the ace of this staff and has been from day one. That is undisputed and with good reason, he is better when he's hurt than any of these guys when they are healthy.
The next four are shaky at best. We know that the next three are Mike Pelfrey (if he's sane), John Maine (if he's 'into it') and Oliver Perez (dear God why). The last spot has been hotly contested between a few players. Hisanori Takahashi, Jonathan Niese and Fernando Nieve.
It will be Niese. His youth and stuff gives him an excitement that the Mets are looking for right now. Nieve will go back to the minors waiting for the inevitable injury as will Takahashi. The only way Takahashi stays, would be if the teams goes with him instead of Figgy and I'm not sure Jerry wants to give up Figgy's experience, so probably not.
I hope I'm wrong about a few of these, as I have my favorites like any other fan, but I'm probably really close on this. The only ones I believe hold the biggest questions, are the backups for second and outfield. I think the rest really will all depend on free agency and the production of the remaining players. Let the debate begin.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Today is St. Patrick's Day. It is a day in our country to wish good fortune and celebrate. For most people, it is another reason to drink and party, but in Ireland, it is a reverent holiday. It is much like what Easter is for millions of Americans, it is a day to worship, pray and be with loved ones.
This day celebrates a man who used his intelligence and skills to rid Ireland of an epidemic, snakes, as legend has it. By leading the snakes away from the country side with his instrument, he used both skill and a little luck. This is where some scholars say the phrase 'the luck of the Irish' comes from.
As a Mets fan, this day means one thing to me. Green Mets Jerseys. Every year, on this day, the New York Mets sport a green alternate jersey in the hope, perhaps of not only remembering and honoring the holiday, but to summon some of that luck as well. It certainly hasn't been working lately. From hamstring tears and thyroids to flu symptoms and everything in between.
This franchise has seemed almost cursed from the moment that Carlos Beltran struck out looking in game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Some of the misfortune has certainly been by their own hand.One could argue that the show boating and arrogance on the field led to the 2007 debacle. However, is there anyone else to blame for last season besides the baseball gods? I can't see how there is.
This season is merely looking like an extension of last season thus far, concerning injuries. But if this organization is indeed cursed, right now, from where did this curse originate? Where exactly has this misfortune spawned from? It is my firmly held belief, that it's karma. In other words, you get what you give.
This franchise for years has been known as the 'bad guys who won'. As a result of that karma, perhaps, it could be said that the current state of the franchise is the 'not too bad guys that can't stay healthy enough to win'. That's a big difference. How then can that be changed?
I propose a radical idea, not too much unlike Pedro Cerrano wanting to sacrifice a live chicken and settling for KFC in Major League. I think it starts at the top. The Wilpons, Minaya, the 'baseball people' and all the rest, need to stop spending so foolheartily, and actually use their money wisely. Don't spend money on pitchers that have 'weak arms'.
Don't spend money on backup players to backups. Don't even spend it another pitcher that played in Washington or Atlanta. Instead, why not use the resources you currently have, to properly evaluate players and find the best all around options, not the bargain store knockoff options.
Use the staff you currently have to actually perform a physical or diagnose an illness properly, instead of sending a contagious player back to camp. Utilize the people you have to do their jobs correctly and hold them accountable for mistakes. If in the real world, the doctors made the mistakes in a hospital that they made on K-Rod, they'd been sued for malpractice a long time ago.
However, it's okay to do it in Queens and Florida, because it's the Mets and after all, no one is ever held accountable until the seats are empty, then the managers get fired. The new slogan in the club house should be "accountability plus teamwork equals success". Luck is nothing more than a byproduct of hard work. There is a fine line between luck and preparation. That line for the Mets gets wider every day. Happy St Patrick's Day.
The NFL had debated for a week over which team would be the one to open the new stadium in the Meadowlands. The debate was heated due to the fact that both teams share the stadium and have done so since the Jets moved there in 1980.
For three decades now, both teams have had another team take over their home turf every other week. The sibling rivalry has escalated over the years to the point that both teams compete over revenue and fans have had to compete with each other over season tickets and even souvenir seats from the old stadium.
Now, the NFL has come up with a unique decision. The two teams rarely ever play on the same weekend at home. The opening weekend of the new stadium will be one of those rare occasions. The NFL has declared that the hotter team will get the spotlight. The New York Jets will get a Monday night game on National television, after an improbable playoff run that culminated in the team closing out the old stadium named after their in town rival in a playoff game. The Jets are on the rise and most certainly deserve the attention that has been heaped onto them.
While the New York Giants will be getting a slightly different deal on that weekend. They get to open up the stadium as the first professional football game played in the inaugural season. That gives them the chance to say they were first, while the Jets can say they were the first to be in the National spotlight. Both teams win. The NFL has done a good job compromising on a touchy issue. They deserve credit for this.
It should make most every fan happy, although there is always the naysayer who will look down on this. The argument will only be based on their passion for their team and not on reason. This is a fair compromise. The Giants, who were there first and had the stadiums named after them with their storied history, open it up. The Jets, with their upstart, young group who captured the New York fans base and the hearts of many fans across the country last season, can continue to ride that wave of momentum. It's a win-win.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Spring training is a time to answer questions. It is a time to clean up your own backyard and take care of your own business. It is not a time to raise more questions. That is exactly what the New York Mets seem to be doing this spring training.
Manager Jerry Manuel was recently asked who would be batting in the middle of the order on opening day. According to Marty Noble of MLB.com, Manuel said that it will be Wright, Bay and Daniel Murphy, respectively. I understand both the question and its answer. What I do not understand entirely, is why Murphy? I like Murphy, I think he is capable of being a good hitter.
I don't think however that the team is giving enough consideration to a possible better option at the position. Mike Jacobs. Jacobs isn't the hitter for average that Murphy is, but Murphy isn't the power hitter that Jacobs is. Jacobs has more experience at the major league level and understands the National League a little better than he is being given credit for.
Because of other options, I don't believe he will be with the team, and this was confirmed by Mr Noble when I questioned him about it on the Mets site. He may only make the roster if Manuel wants his power off the bench and a DH for interleague play, but isn't that really just wasting a player of his talent. Both players are talented, that may not be debated. What can be debated is whether or not Murphy is ready for the challenge of everyday.
He took over last season only in a platoon situation after the everyday first baseman, Carlos Delgado, went down. He did well, but he was still platooning. He had an advantage in that respect over being an everyday player. He was only in during favorable match ups. An everyday player faces match ups that both favor and work against him on a regular basis. Ask David Wright or Jason Bay about facing pitchers they don't know or have had trouble against.
Murphy had a luxury last season by mostly having quality at bats against pitchers and in situations where he couldn't fail too badly. He may struggle this year as an everyday man because he is not used to it. Placing him in the heart of the order puts even more expectation on him and when he struggles, his confidence may as well.
I suggest, putting in Jacobs instead, because of his experience, and bringing Murphy in later innings and off the bench or DHing. It may not be the most welcomed idea, but it may be beneficial for both of them in the long run. Murphy gets the chance in both higher and lower pressured situations to face tougher opportunities.
Jacobs gets to hit during the meat of the game in the meat of the order. Both will get a boost of confidence, Jacobs will sign elsewhere next year based on a bounce back season, and Murphy will be ready this time next year be the everyday player that is expected of him this year.
The other player I wish the touch on, is Jason Bay. A very interesting article came out regarding him. Apparently, other MLB executives were polled on their opinions of the worst off season moves, and Bay was on it. He was the biggest splash in the free agent market for the team this year. He was also an expensive splash.
I'm not entirely sure why the rest of the league views this as a bad move. It fills two major needs for the team. It provides a veteran presence in the club house and off the field, for example, he has already helped the culture of the team inside the club house by example. That's what a good veteran should do, lead by example.
I believe he has already helped to change this team's culture in just a few months. He has at the very least taught them to be open to the media, despite how you're feeling. Would Maine have said what he did about not being "into it" without Bay's example. Perhaps, but knowing how tight lipped these guys have been, maybe not.
The second thing he offers, is a consistent leader in the lineup. Although, his power numbers may take a bit of a hit this year, he will still be a feared hitter in the lineup and that behind Wright, will get better pitches for Wright and better numbers too. Those are important intangibles that he was signed for. With that in mind, I believe he was worth it, but only time will really tell.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
I would like to introduce a segment to my blog. This series will be called 'Mets Warp'. Think of it as a time warp back into Mets history. We all have our equivalent of rainy day activities. The type of thing you do when there is nothing else to do. That's what this is all about.
Sure I could write aimlessly about the terrible pitching for the Mets. I could talk about thyroids and pink eyes. I could talk about weak arms and A.D.D., but I'm not going to today. I want to stay on a positive note today. There's no special reason, just only that I want to.
I could write about the young players emerging or the touching shoeshine story of Mejia that by now everyone and their brother is aware of. I don't feel like it. I could even go on and on about Rex Ryan's stomach surgery, another L.T. in New York and a coin toss deciding who opens up new Giants stadium. I'm not. I'm in a reminiscing mood today. It is with that reflective mood in mind, that I was surfing the web the other day and noticed some interesting anniversaries in Mets history coming up on March 16.
First, and probably the least important of the three, is that day in 2006. On March 16, 2006, Oliver Perez, yes that same one that has every mental prognosis imaginable, help pitch Mexico to an upset win. It took place against Roger Clemens (insert boos here) and team U.S.A. during the World Baseball Classic Inaugural event. I would like to send a hearty congratulations to Ollie and kindly ask him to remember that pitching performance as a testament that he can actually do well from time to time.
Next, on that day in 2006, the Mets network was born. Welcome SNY. Where have you been all of our lives? As the title of my blog would indicate, I don't live in the immediate New York region and so therefore, unfortunately, I don't get SNY. But, I know of its significance to the franchise and its importance to the fan base.
It is a pivotal part of the fan culture as it keeps you close to the team you love so deeply. It gives you wonderful coverage and informative documentaries that take you back to the best times of our lives. They are truly a key element to the Mets and the Mets fan's lives.
Lastly, I would like to be somber reflective. On this day, March 16, 1961, New York State approved a bond issue for construction of a 55,000 seat stadium over the world's fair site in Queens, NY. We all know what that was (all together class) Shea Stadium. Also known as the run down home of the New York Mets for decades that every fan in their right mind would give an arm to have back now.
The memories, the ambiance. It was home. Someday, Citi Field may be considered our home, but not by me today. Today I am remembering the greatest birthday of my life. Today, I am remembering when I saw my name in lights in front of 50, 000 other people and a message from my team wishing me a wonderful day.
Today I am remembering the wonderful aromas of hot dogs, peanuts and ice cream helmet sundaes. I am remembering what made me a fan. I am remembering driving up and going around the bend and just shortly after the underpass, there it was. In all of its splendid glory. The most beautiful shade of blue I've ever or will ever see. The neon glow figures on the walls. The flags flying, the crowds cheering. The camaraderie.
It was all a feeling of unity and belonging. I knew that I was with my family. I knew I was home. So, to you, my home, I offer this message from the bottom of my bleeding blue and orange heart. Happy anniversary Shea and goodbye. We love you still.
We will begin part three of the mock draft, where we started part two, in recapping mode.So far, the picks the way I'm predicting, will go like this. Remember as I said in the very beginning, this is not an exact science. There are people who get paid to do this and they still don't get them all right.
So, with that said, #32 Saints-Sean Lee (LB), #31 Colts-Dan Williams (DT), #30 Vikings-Patrick Robinson (CB), #29 Jets-Taylor Mays (FS), #28 Chargers-Joe Haden (CB) and #27 Cowboys-Earl Thomas (FS), #26 Cardinals - Sergio Kindle (LB), #25 Ravens - Cam Thomas (DT), #24 Eagles - Brandon Graham (DE), #23 Packers - Carlos Dunlap (DE), #22 Patriots - Arrelius Benn (WR), and #21 Bengals - Golden Tate (WR).
Now moving onward to # 20 Houston Texans, RB - C.J. Spiller (Clemson). The Texans were on the cusp of the first playoff berth in franchise history, last season. If only the Bengals beat the Jets in the last week. The Texans are young and talented on both sides of the ball.
They have a deep passing attack that boasts multiple weapons including Andre Johnson, one of the premier receivers in the league. They need a balanced offense, however. Steve Slaton has been tremendous, but has shown inconsistencies last season and is now under question as to whether he can handle the full load. He would benefit from a one, two punch like many of the teams in the league are developing.
The Texans take Spiller for that reason and one other. He is the only running back worth taking in the first round. He has tremendous speed (4.35 dash) and vision. He is strong enough to kick through arm tackles and quick footed enough to make tacklers miss. He could excel in the right offense. This could be just that. His solid catching abilities make him a perfect candidate for an elite back someday. His only downside, is questionable durability. That is why he is a smart choice with a team like Houston, who already has a Steve Slaton in their stables.
# 19 Atlanta Falcons, OT - Bruce Campbell (Maryland). The Falcons honestly are in a transition period. They have an identity crisis. They were a good running team some games and a good passing team other games. They were much closer to the playoffs than some may give them credit for.
If not for a crushing injury to franchise QB Matt Ryan, they may have been playing in January. This teams has a few holes. Most notably, is at cornerback, despite adding Dunta Robinson in the off season from Houston. However, I believe that they go another direction. They take a offensive lineman. For a few reasons.
First, I believe that there is a deep class at the cornerback position, so there will be corners available at their pick in round two. It is not so deep at lineman. They will have a decision to make at this pick, the best corner will still be available in Haden, and a few good linemen will be left too. I believe they will be remembering last season, when they and their fan base collectively prayed that Ryan's injury wasn't long term. They will panic themselves into insuring better protection for the franchise player.
Because of the depth at one position and the memory of last year combined with lack of depth at the other position, they take Campbell. The Falcons, however, are the one team that can turn my mock draft on its ear by taking Haden. That would cause a chain of events where San Diego takes Patrick Robinson and the Vikings take someone projected for the late first round to early second round, like a Perrish Cox.
I hope that doesn't happen. If they don't, Campbell is just what they need to become that anchor on the front line. He has the size (6'6") and the arm reach to be that blindside protector. He is still mechanically raw, but with some work, he could be the answer to keeping the franchise upright.
# 18 Pittsburgh Steelers, C - Maurkice Pouncey (Florida). The Steelers are one year removed from glory. There is a new champion and that has to be burning inside of them. The fire will be back in that defense along with the health. The offense is steady now both in the air and on the ground. They have the experience to get back to where they are used to be, in contention.
Injuries were the biggest reason they missed out on the playoffs last year. They will use this advantageous draft position to get younger in a vital area. Offensive line, mainly center. Their line is aging and deteriorating and could use a shot in the arm from some fresh blood. That is what Pouncey brings.
He was a starter from freshman year on a top tier football team. He understands winning and intensity. He could be easily regarded as the best overall center in the draft. He is certainly the only one worthy of a first or second round pick in an extremely weak group. He possesses good size (6'4") and good awareness. He had fared well against the elite pass rushers in this draft. The Steelers would most definitely benefit from him up front.
# 17 San Francisco 49ers, OT - Vladimir Ducasse (Massachusetts). The 49ers were sink or swim last season. They won some games, they should've lost and let some others get away from them. They are young and hungry, though. They are beginnings to mimic their fiery coach Mike Singletary, who was known for intensity.
He has lit a fire under them and they are changed. They are young and talented, sporting tremendous upside. This is their second of two picks in round one. I believe they will address the defense first, but I'll get to that later, in part 4. For now, I believe the defensive minded coach takes offense.
Having played defense for so long, he understands that games are won in the trenches, so that is where he will build after taking a force for his defense. Ducasse, however, could be considered a force on offense. He is 6'4", 326lbs and is strong. What's more, he knows how to use his thickness. He is an anchor.
That is what they need for an aging Frank Gore and a younger quarterback that they will surely add in this draft. That's not a hint for the first pick, just an observation of a need that they must address. If they can plug all of those holes, they could be a dynasty again very soon, especially in such a weak and rebuilding division.
# 16 Tennessee Titans, DT - Jared Odrick (Penn State). The Titans were two teams last year. They were favored by some to go to the super bowl on the strength of the season before. They started an abysmal 0-6, but rebounded well enough to be a respectable 8-8. They have a few holes now after the free agency has hit them as well.
The loss of Kyle Vanden Bosch is difficult and must be addressed. They have other needs, but his is one that can be filled early and well. Jared Odrick is a good choice here for a few reasons. First, the need to not only replace Vanden Bosch, but to get younger. Second, he has good potential and little downside. He is flexible and good in pursuit. His size (6'5") will help him, but he needs to learn to play with a lower center of gravity. His technique, also, needs work, but both of those issues can be resolved. Overall, he could be the future as the present is leaving.
That concludes part 3 of my 6 part mock draft series. I invite you to keep reading for the next segment that includes such teams as the Jaguars and Dolphins. Also, the 49ers first pick and the Seahawks second pick of the first round. The next one will include as well the New York Football Giants! My team. I am biased though, and I may ruffle some feathers, but I'm fair and I can't wait to share my thoughts on the G-Men and the rest. So until the next time.