However, this year might mark Year One of the WTF Era. A whole bunch of fun youngsters have finally come of age, and if a few things break right, this team could hit the board for the first time. In related news, Sisyphus's burden has been changed from a boulder to a snowball.
Right now, this squad is really only passable. Lance Berkman is argument-proof, but everyone else is either coming off of an iffy year (like Troy Tulowitski and Ricky Weeks), or hasn't quite put it all together yet (Edwin Encarnacion and, well, Ricky Weeks). However, once Baltimore burns enough service time off of Matt Wieters, the WTF IFers will get interesting in a hurry. Fake catcher Pablo Sandoval will hold down the fort in the meantime. There's reason to like most of these guys. We like Encarnacion in particular, as he should get a chance to hit in higher in the order with Dunn and Griffey gone.
Should we say it? Yeah, I guess we should. How you feel about this OF depends in large part on how you feel about Baseball Prospectus. Although there's pretty broad agreement that BJ Upton and Jay Bruce are top-tier outfielders, not as many publications would put Jason Werth in that same tier. But BP loves Werth. BP's love could be justified. On the other hand, it could be based on Werth's sister having dealt out handies to the BP staff. We here are skeptical. That said, Werth's speed + OBP mix is rare in modern OFs, most of whom adopt the chinese takeout model of choosing only two options from the run/hit/walk menu.
We also think Torii Hunter sucks, though he also consistently proves us wrong. So it's fair to ask what we actually know here.
Good, but shallow. We like Josh Beckett for a rebound this year now that he's healthy, and everyone in the league thought latter-day Jimmy Piersall clone Zach Greinke was too good to be available in the draft. They're backed up by the still-improving Scott Kazmir, and the likely never-to-improve John Maine. The only other starters in view are perennial PECOTA darling Javi Vazquez, who has perfected the art of getting the absolute minimum value out of his peripheral stats, and Andrew Miller, who as a young Marlin starter, is due for Tommy John surgery any time now.
The pen is better, with K-Rod and Joakim Soria as good 1-2 as anyone in the league besides the Papelbon-Nathan duo that aNaL RaNSom NoTEs has managed to assemble. Brandon Lyon was a fun 3rd option until the recent news that Fernando Rodney would start the year as closer for Detroit; now, Rodney is just another Pat Neshek. Behind these guys are a random Marlin and minor leaguer Chris Perez.
The upshot is that while the staff is pretty solid as presently constituted, they have nowhere else to go but the waiver wire if any of their starters are hurt or ineffective. Given that nearly every staff, whether fantasy- or reality-based, encounters performance and injury issues over the course of the year, WTF should expect to start patching and bailing early on this year.
PECOTA absolutely loves this team, in part because of its own subjective optimism about guys like Werth and Tulowitsky, and in part because of its objective admiration for the enviable health record of almost everyone on the roster. Real teams sometimes teams win just by keeping waiver fodder off the roster. To the extent that a fantasy team can win the same way, WTF is in with a great chance. We're a little more skeptical, though even we have to admit that the roster here looks talented and durable enough to make trouble.