Friday, March 30, 2012

Season Preview: Westish Harpooners

For the second straight year, my worthy co-blogger has gone with a team name that is completely lost on me.  I have never watched Community, and thus, More Fish For Kunta meant absolutely nothing to me.  I have also never read The Art of Fielding, so while I know it's referring to Henry Skrimshander's team in the book, that's about all I can contribute.  Coupling that with Teddy's frequent use of French on this blog--a language I do not speak--and I'm starting to wonder if my partner is simply trying to thumb his nose at my ignorance at different elements of high- middlebrow- and low-culture.

Looking at his roster for this year, I also wonder if he thinks we're all ignorant, because on its face, this is an oddly constructed team.  Let's break it down.


Starting off with possibly the best player in baseball, Troy Tulowitzki, generally is a good first step, but unfortunately, the roster then morphs to a giant enigma.  Joe Mauer might be a top-shelf catcher, but combined for a whopping 12 home runs over the last two years.  Even if he had hit them all last year, 12 dingers would have put Mauer in a 4-way tie at 18th among catchers, behind fantasy luminaries John Buck and Rod Barajas.  Hopefully for Teddy, Mauer rebounds to get on base a lot, because he can't steal, won't have anyone to knock in, and there isn't a single member of the Twins that can be relied on to knock him in.

Elsewhere, Teddy looks to run some combination of Kung Fu Panda, Ryan Zimmerman, and Paul Goldschmidt at the corners, which seems mildly productive if not explosive.  I can only hope the Mike Aviles start at second base is a hedge until Allen Craig proves to be healthy, because he of the career .318 OBP threatens to undo all the good that Mauer can add to the roster.


This is a bit better than the infield, if not exactly at the elite level.  Carlos Gonzalez's 2011 didn't match the greatness of his 2010, but that strikes me as a consolidation year, I like him to go 30/30 this year with a nice OBP.  The issue is that after CarGo, we start to hit guys with large OBP issues.  There's no question that Drew Stubbs will help in the counting categories, but he strikes out--literally--in nearly 30% of his plate appearances and hasn't cracked a .330 OBP since college.  BJ Upton is playing for a contract, which may help, but still isn't going to exceed a .350 OBP unless he gets hit by 40 pitches.  Which leaves the venerable Josh Willingham as the team's "saving grace" in the OBP department.  However, the last two seasons evidenced that Willingham is either going to help you in OBP or help you in power but not in both.  Unless he pulls it all together at age 33--somewhat unlikely--he's a placeholder and not an answer.

Starting Pitching

Cole Hamels and Jon Lester make a good top of the rotation.  I especially like the former, who's in a contract year, is one of two good free agents for 2012 (with Matt Cain), and now knows that the LA Dodgers are going to be spending a trillion dollars in the free agent market next year.  That's incentive to pitch well.  Lester has been about as reliable as starters come over the last few seasons from a fantasy perspective, so unless he winds up in Bobby V's doghouse, this team has 450-475 top shelf innings to rely on.

After that, we get to the Mega Millions tickets.  I like Mike Minor long-term, but am concerned that Teddy has him two years too soon.  (As a former owner of Clayton Kershaw, I empathize with the paradox of taking pitching talent too early in their career.)  Colby Lewis is fine, but if Feliz and Ugando pitch well, may be out of a job.  Edwin Jackson is a good flyer on an improving Nationals team.  And then there's Ryan Dempster.  It's good to have you back where you belong, Ryan.

Relief Pitching

Papelbon and Street are two ensconced closers, and Daniel Bard may close for Boston when it's all said and done this year.  Elsewhere, Tyler Clippard and Sergio Romo are solid citizens that stand to get good vulture wins and saves.  I'm just impressed that Sir Theodore took Clippard after this ringing endorsement from 2010:
I do, however, bow to any number of people in my admiration of Tyler Clippard. I’ll even go so far as to say that he will get almost NO wins operating as the fireman for a calamitous NatsTown squad.


In years where the talent was a bit more concentrated in a few teams--like, say, last year--this squad would have the looks of a contender for the show slot, as it has a fair number of productive players and lacks any true crapshows, besides Mike Aviles.  But as we've seen so far this year, talent is a bit more spread out across the league.  At least one team beyond the obvious favorites is going to contend with unforeseen explosive seasons from young players or bounceback candidates.  Here, those candidates are Mauer, Zimmerman, Goldschmidt and Upton.  And I think they'll need at least three of those guys to have All-Star seasons to compete.  Since that strikes me as unlikely--especially with one already on the disabled list--this looks like a team that will probably be selling come Father's Day.


Teddy said...

The OBP problem is why I went after Mauer--if he puts up his usual OBP AND stays on the field, I can carry all of these power/speed hackers on my corners. If not, I will be in legit trouble.

El Angelo said...

That was my assumption; the problem, from my perspective, is that I think Mauer isn't what he was 3 years ago.