Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Season Preview: Dickey Centre
The Dickey Center for International Understanding. Named after the college's president for a quarter of a century, the Dickey Center purportedly strives to achieve "an understanding of the world’s troubles and a commitment to do something about them" and seeks to create "global citizens." Given that the Center is run by Daniel Benjamin, a U.S. Ambassador-at-Large and a former adviser to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we can only assume that the team name is a quite elaborate poke at the arch-Republican owner of Spreading Santorum.
To more pertinent matters, last year's team engaged in a controversial gambit by dealing away the two first rounders in his possession for the troika of Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Roy Halladay, causing much consternation as most of the other teams thought he bought the title. In either a showing of everyone's naivete or backlash by the baseball gods for his hubris, his team never really got on track and limped along to finish a pedestrian 8th, finishing closer to 12th than 4th, let alone the title. The team tried to make up for losing the 5th pick in the draft by engaging in all sorts of machinations that gave them an extra pick in each of rounds 2-6 and played the Few But Studs keeper gambit, holding on to Kemp and 4 other stars. How did this all shake out at the end of the day?
The left side of the infield is set for the year with studs Starlin Castro and David Wright set up to be top-tier players at their respective positions. While Castro did take a step back last year, especially in OBP, it's worth remembering that he's still too young to rent a car and looks ripe for improvement this year. Wright is one of the rare 5-category contributors in baseball, and he played for a baseball team that actually had a payroll department, may have been the MVP last year.
The balance of the infield is a little dicier but not lacking in upside. I like Ike Davis to hit 30+ home runs again this year but don't love him to do much better in the OBP department, and it will be tough for him to knock in a lot of runners when the Mets' lineup after him and Wright contains at most two other players with major league talent. Sal Perez was a nice pickup at the catcher spot but is still unproven. I've already expressed my lack of love for Martin Prado in the draft post, but him and Emilio Bonafacio should provide league-average production at the second base, which will be a sinkhole for many other teams.
What's nice about the entire infield is there is a bit of a balance of power, runs and speed here. If Davis, Castro and Perez can all improve on their 2012 OBPs, this should be one of the better units in baseball.
For DH, the team has elected to go with David Ortiz and Melky Cabrera, perhaps believing that Major League Baseball has suspending PED testing for 2013 or that masking agents have gotten much better in the offseason. A bold position to take.
As deep as the hitting is, the starters leave a lot to be desired. Justin Verlander is obviously the best pitcher in baseball, but then it gets a lot dicier. I love Matt Harvey -- why does this, or any team for that matter, have three Mets? -- but he remains a rookie pitcher for a below-.500 team. Andrew Cashner is probably the next most talented thrower on this roster but can't stay healthy. Jeff Samardjza is Gio Gonzalez with 60% of the results. And for reasons unclear, the squad has TWO starters from the execrable Baltimore staff present. There's a chance that Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz could blossom into actually useful players, but it's infinitely more likely that they are just placeholders until Dylan Bundy reaches his the drinking age. Relying on most of these guys for more than 75 innings is a recipe for trouble.
An initial note: perhaps I didn't do enough research this year, but I cannot recall there being worse options for closers than this year. Closers seem to have become in fantasy baseball what running backs have become in fantasy football: unreliable, sharing with too many other options, and quickly yanked for other alternatives. In football this is annoying but easily remedied because you can usually figure out who the handcuff running back is. In baseball, it makes it a bit tougher to chase saves because most managers are unpredictable morons and you have no idea when they're going to pull the hook on your fireman and what they'll do next.
So with that in mind...this is not a bad bullpen. The two best relievers are probably Sergio Santos and Sean Doolittle, but it speaks volumes about AL managers that neither is actually closing. I constantly get Kenley and Casey Jansen confused; Corey has made everyone's life a little easier by getting both. I'm a little suspect of Kaiser Wilhelmsen, who looks like the kind of pitcher that might turn into a pumpkin this year, but there's a chance for 120+ saves on this roster, which would put them in the top three of the league.
The biggest flaws on what's a solid team are its lack of depth on offense -- there's literally nobody to back up most of these guys -- and its horrendous starting pitching. Depth can be made up during the season by keeping an active finger on the waiver wire. But the offense is probably one of the three best in the league and that alone should keep it respectable into the summer. How they leverage their chips into actual starting pitching will determine whether this squad can compete for money or will finish in the middle of the pack.