Let's just get the obvious out of the way now, and state that Kissing Suzy Kolber's Rex Grossman confession was the greatest thing posted on the web last year. Well, ok, maybe behind this. But still, tremendous. And it takes a tremendous man to try to turn his squad into the Fantasy Cumslingers. Without further ado, let's look at the Commish's squad.
History: While he's been nothing but stellar as the impresario of our league, the Benevolent and Lovely Commissioner has come up a bit short in the standings, still showing 0fer in the money category. Last year's results sadly were not atypical; a strong-looking draft that yielded a boatload of injuries and sank under the morass into 11th place. Still, a slew of swift actions have put them back into the realm of contention this year; they started the year with extra picks from Evil Empire & President Skroob, and leveraged them (along with 2008's first rounder) into Texieria, Cabrera, Tejada and Chris Young. Too bad none of them pitch. Regardless, this is definitely a big year for the Grossmans.
Infield: A.J Pierzynski (C); Mark Texieria (1B); Dan Uggla (2B); Miguel Cabrera (3B); Miguel Tejada (SS). Well then, we're a bit all over the place here, but mostly with good stuff. Trading for Cabrera and making him an alternative +2 guy was a very, very wise move, and one that's going to be even more curious come 2008 when both he & Halladay are up for extensions. No matter. The troika of T-Rex, Tejada & Cabrera should combine for about 90 dingers, a helluva total to get from your infield, and that's while posting extraordinary OBP's and RBI's. Pierzynski seems ensconced in the role of Catcher That Won't Destroy My Categories, which is admirable, if in effect just shrinking your starting lineup from 9 to 8 guys. Uggla is curious---is he the next Rafael Furcal or the next Carlos Febles? My money's on the latter, but CW says he ends up somewhere in the middle.....Adam Kennedy on the cream & clear, maybe?
Outfield/DH: Carlos Beltran, Carlos Lee, Chris Young, Willy Taveras. Beltran needs no introduction, and Lee is a perfect 2nd fantasy outfielder: not good enough to carry a team on his own, but a great building block. Also it's good for the Grossmans that he'll be exiting his 1-keeper spot phase promptly when he hits 300 pounds and becomes Kevin McReynolds. Much more intriguing are the kids Young & Taveras in the remainder spots; Taveras is good for one thing only, steals, but there's the question of whether he'll get as many chances in Colorado. Young should be good, but then again, couldn't we have said that about Jeremy Hermida last year?
Bench: Jeremy Hermida (OF); Nick Johnson (DL); Orlando Cabrera (SS); Melvin Mora (3B). Hey, speaking of Jeremy Hermida! He's about the only positive to draw from this bench, which will expand by two when Johnson gets put in the hospital and Mora gets cut for not being any good. Cabrera is roughly the definition of fantasy replacement level, but with Tejada being the iron horse that he is, I can't see him getting much PT, and he has zero trade value. Hermida aside, this bench is a weak spot for this squad.
Starting Pitching: Roy Halladay; Jeremy Bonderman; Dan Haren; John Patterson; Derek Lowe; Jeff Francis; Gustavo Chacin. The Gator Gals have pretty much built a staff by the book: 1 Ace + 2 young kids + 2 injury cases + 1 Vet + 1 flyer from Colorado = Staff. Result? Well, assuming Halladay doesn't have another freak injury this year and Bonderman & Haren continue to churn out 400 above-average innings, this is a very solid staff.
Relief Pitching: Chris Ray; Akinori Otsuka; Adam Wainwright. No really, that's it. And consider that Wainwright's slotted for the 4th spot in the Cardinals rotation and Otsuka has to worry about Eric Greg Gagne in the bullpen with him, not to mention the fact that ALers are about to catch up to him as quickly as NLers did in '05. Chris Ray is the sole bright light to look at here in terms of relief, and if he's your panacea, you need a new plan. If this area isn't improved, this is a 2nd division team for sure.
Breakout Candidate: Is this the year that Jeremy Bonderman turns into the stud we expect? Geniuses like Shandler and Benson have been saying that forever, and he's got some Sheets-circa-2003 karma going for him. He remains a second tier starter till proven otherwise, but this is his big chance. On this team, he's the difference between 6th place and 2nd place in wins.
On the Wrong Side of the Hill: Well, Melvin Mora might define this category. Shall we stick with real players? Tejada, while probably still in his prime, is also probably heading in the wrong direction after too many B-12 injections and being surrounded by a hideous lineup. When he sees that BJ Surhoff and David Newhan are on the May 1 lineup card, I gotta think he'll be pissed he didn't get traded to Anaheim last year.
X-Factor: The wiseguys would obviously say Hermida, but he's almost window-dressing on this roster with that outfield, and seems to be trade bait for a closer. The real X-factor is getting a bonafide 4th pitcher off this team, and of these stooges, I think Francis has the most upside. If the Gator Gals are trying to ride Derek Lowe's melanoma to glory, they're gonna fall short, but if Francis steps up and becomes a humidor-induced ace, the staff goes from Solid to Serious.
Verdict: The offense is a smartly constructed roster, with some big names, big talents, and coverage in all five categories. The relievers are nothing shy of a disaster, but there's always trade bait. The real question's going to come down to what precisely Haren, Patterson & Co. have to offer this year; it's unlikely they're going to have deflated ERAs, but trying to ride 55 points of offense + wins + strikeouts to the top ain't crazy. This looks like a contender, though with some holes that keep it from favoritism.