For the Love of the Game is a movie about Billy Chapel, a soon to be retired baseball legend who might be throwing the last game of his career (Kelly Preston never looked better by the way). Given that today is Valentine's Day it seemed appropriate to lead this article off with the title I chose. Further, since it is V-Day, I'm going to do something I rarely do – I'm going to try my hardest to think, write and be positive (the curmudgeon in me often ends up being my default, but I'm trying to hold the demons at bay – at least for today). So in honor of this official/unofficial holiday of love, here are some things that The Oracle loves.
I loved listening to the LABR Mixed League Draft on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio Tuesday night (my show, The Drive, is on Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT, and I'm now hosting a Sunday show by my lonesome as well from 7-10 PM EDT). Here is a quick review of some of the picks I loved from the 15 team mixed leaguer (I'm in the AL LABR draft set for the first weekend in March).
* I loved the Joey Votto pick at #20 overall. People are sleeping on Votto this year far too much.
* I loved the push the limits work of Lawr Michaels and Todd Zola who threw caution to the wind and did something “experts” rarely do – they went pitching bonkers early. Not only did they take six pitchers in their firs t13 picks, but the took two closers as their first two options on the bump. Looking at their arms, I like what they did a lot: Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Kris Medlen, James Shields, Doug Fister, Drew Smyly and Tony Cingrani. Also love the Corey Kluber selection in the 16th round. For more on Kluber keep reading.
* I loved the outfield love that Tim Heaney of KFFL offered at the top as his first three picks were all potential 20/20 outfielders: Carlos Gonzalez, Alex Rios and Shin-Soo Choo.
I love my family. Awww, how cute.
I love how much a guy like James Shields is overlooked (check out his Player Profile). I might end up with him on all of my teams this season if folks continue to undervalue him.
I love Corey Kluber as a potential breakout star (I know I mentioned him above, but I wanted to expand on my brief mention of the Indians' hurler). Kluber didn't reach 150 innings last season which will help to keep his value depressed in many leagues, but here is what I see. I see an 8.31 K/9 mark that makes me excited. I then move on to see a mere 2.02 BB/9 mark leading to an uber-impressive 4.12 K/BB ratio. You pitch very well when you have a number like that. Moving on to his ground ball rate I see a 45.5 percent mark which led to a 1.60 GB/FB ratio last season. Grounders, strikeouts and few free passes equates to lots of success.
I love how people are overvaluing Yasiel Puig. OK this one is cheating cause I don't really love Puig. Had to get a mention in here though of the big piece I just wrote on the Dodgers' outfielder.
I love B.J. Upton as a total shot in the dark addition this season. I know that saying a rebound is coming takes no guts since he was putrid last season (.184-9-26-30-12), but I think there are a few reasons for hope. (1) He's talented. He cannot possibly be that bad again, The amazing part is that he was as bad as he was last season and that the Braves stuck by him for the most part still allowing him to accrue 446 plate appearances. Just two years ago, that's 2012 folks, B.J. was two homers away from going 30/30. Moreover, He was also two RBIs and one run scored from popping an 80/80 season as well. (2) He's skilled in the same way that Carlos Gomez is, even if no one believes that. Let's compare the average effort of the duo the past three years: Upton (.229-20-62-64-26) and Gomez (.264-17-49-63-31). I know you are going to say that Gomez is ascending and Upton crashing which is fair, but I think it's still informative to point out the numbers which are much closer than you would have guessed, as well as the fact that their skills align in a very similar matter. (3) He's cheap. Upton is a 20/20 talent there is no question of that. Is he going to go 20/20 this season? He was so bad last season that it's impossible for me to answer that question in the affirmative if I'm being honest. Still, a guy who is a year removed from being two bombs short of 30/30, who is only 29 years old, can have a spot on my fantasy team any day as my 4th outfielder.
Looking for a couple of late round bullpen arms to target? I love the following fellas: Kevin Siegrist, Jake McGee, Sean Doolittle and Cody Allen.
And the negative... you knew it was coming eventually, didn't you?
A couple of guys that I feel are currently being overvalued: Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish, Jean Segura, Matt Carpenter, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Anthony Rizzo, Jurickson Profar and Xander Bogaerts. I'm not saying any of these guys will be failures, I'm merely pointing out that I believe many might need to reassess how they rank the players.
For all my thoughts on Player Rankings for 2014 pick up a copy of The 2014 Draft Guide. It's hot as all get out. Two hundred pages long is the Guide, and there literally articles in there on just about anything you could think of. There are also over 600 players ranked for mixed, AL and NL leagues. The best part might be that the rankings are literally updated on a daily basis so you will always have the most up to date player information at your fingertips.
By Ray Flowers