Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Season Preview: Paging Dr. Rumack

In most fantasy leagues, you build through the draft.  While this maxim is pretty self-evident, it's nowhere more evident than in teams that have struggled for a couple of years, because usually it's easy to see that because of bad luck, bad player selection, or some combination of both, those teams haven't had much success in the early rounds of the draft, and thus, haven't gotten top-shelf talent, which is almost impossible to mine in the later rounds.

Today's case in point is Paging Dr. Rumack.  Now the owner is one of my favorites in the league--he's quick to respond to trade talk, doesn't beat around the bush, has a good sense of humor, and knows his baseball.  But it's been a rough go of it for this team since their stellar performance in 2008, when they finished second with an insane 98 points.  And the reason for this probably comes back to the draft.  Here's how they've fared early on in the past:

2009: Having dealt away their first two picks, their first four picks are a collection of mostly ancient outfielders in Magglio Ordonez, Andre Ethier, Johnny Damon and Raul Ibanez, and they manage to make Chien-Ming Wang the second pitcher they take.  Their best pick comes in the 14th round, when they select future prospect Buster Posey.

2010: Courtesy of the 3rd pick, they receive purported star David Wright, who promptly moves to Citi Field and turns into a pumpkin for fantasy purposes.  While taking Matt Cain at #14 was an excellent move, taking AJ Burnett in the 3rd round was not.  Their most productive pick after Cain was probably Paul Konerko, who they snare in the 16th round.

2011: It's not precisely clear how or why this happened, but this team had no picks until the 3rd round, having dealt their first two picks--and Wright--to Corey for a haul that yielded Carl Crawford and Roy Halladay.  Their first three picks end up being used on Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Stephen Drew's surgeon.  Their best pick was probably Eric Hosmer in the 10th round.

This analysis isn't trying to pick on Andrew, it's just to show how a fantasy owner we all know is good ends up in the weeds for a few years.  With that in mind, Andrew started off this year taking Felix Hernandez, Jimmy Rollins and Adam Jones.  Are they going to lead him to a good result, or will we look back and say that the highlight was Dayan Viceido in the 17th round?


The infield has a chance to be top-notch, but it does embrace a fair amount of risk and general dice-tossing.  Ian Kinsler needs no introduction at 2B and my opinion on Rollins as an underrated fantasy shortstop have already been made clear.  The other three spots consist of an old guy (Konerko) a young guy (Brett Lawrie) and a rehabbing guy (Posey).  If all pick up roughly where they left off while playing last year before their season ended or their ligaments were shredded, this portends to be a strong unit.  And this is a must, because there is little in the way of backups on the roster.


If the scoring categories for fantasy baseball were Athleticism, Raw Talent, Handsomeness, Adulation by Kevin Goldstein and Hype, this team's outfield would rival the late 1990s Albert Belle-Kenny Lofton-Manny Ramirez troika for the best outfield in history.  Sadly, we are constrained to measure the players on inherently imperfect (though precise) categories like OBP and runs scored.  And by those metrics, while these guys may produce a lot, they may also be all hat and no cattle.  Desmond Jennings took the league by storm when he was finally called up last year but cooled off measurably (and probably necessarily) once September rolled around.  Nobody would be surprised if he became pre-Sox Carl Crawford 2.0, but he's still a player with 250 ABs.  Adam Jones has been supposed to break out forever and still hasn't, and can't be expected to knock in too many runs on an execrable Orioles team.  Jay Bruce is another guy who's been on everyone's Next Superstar list for years, and while his raw numbers from 2011 indicate that he doesn't stink, it's worth nothing that 38% of his home runs came in a 4-week stretch in May against shitty pitching. 

Now I will say that if you're going to have an outfield that doesn't have a ton of stars, this is the way to go.  There is not a lot of fun in gathering up an outfield of Corey Hart, Shane Victorino, and Andre Ethier and knowing with great certainty where you're going to end up.  There's a non-zero chance that Andrew has accumulated three stars here that will be the center of a championship contender.  All of these guys are fun to watch.  And all might completely shit the bed and give him last-place production.  But since this game is in no small part for fun, if you're going to watch your fantasy players play, you may as well pick fun, young guys with a world of potential.

Starting Pitching

In a word, excellent.  My humble co-author correctly noted that Ironhead's pitching was good, and I've already opined on the quality of WTF's staff.  Dr. Leslie Nielsen has raised that another level with a staff where Matt Cain is the third starter behind Cy Young candidates--nay, possible favorites--Cliff Lee and King Felix.  4th and 5th starters Jamie Garcia and Wandy Rodriguez are excellent players for those slots in the rotation, especially if they're used judiciously.  Even Brandon McCarthy and Bull Black Nova strike me as reasonable gambles.  Also a fun rotation to watch.

Relief Pitching

The less said the better.  They have Cleveland's best reliever.  Unfortunately, that's all they have.


There are enough depth issues in the outfield that we have some questions and the complete punt on saves is troublesome.  But this is a fun roster that at absolute worst has Cliff Lee to deal off in June.  And it might be good enough to warrant buying, not selling, at the trade deadline.  To me, their fate depends on the first 8 weeks of the season; if the outfielders get hot and make this team competitive, they'll be buyers and in contention for a piece.  If they start slow, be prepared for 35 emails offering you Paul Konerko.

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