John Fitzgerald is an independent film/TV producer. In 2007, he followed former Mets 2B Wally Backman and his minor league team for the TV show, "Playing for Peanuts." Click here for DVD ordering information NOTE: $5 from each sale goes to maintenance costs of MetsToday.com
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2009 Fantasy Projections: Third Base

Third base is the first position in the infield where the Mets clearly have the best player in the National League (for fantasy baseball purposes). I have nothing remotely witty to add to that, so let’s get to the rankings…

Third Base Rankings – National League

  1. David Wright (.315-35-140) – With Reyes stealing more bases this season, Wright will put up a career high in RBI. And if not, he’s still going to be the top producing 3B in the NL.
  2. Chipper Jones (.320-25-100) – If he is healthy all season, Jones will challenge Wright’s numbers, but I expect him to miss 20-40 games. Get him at a good value if you can – I’ve seen him drop in alot of drafts. If you get him, be sure to get a solid backup who can fill in when Jones punches out.
  3. Aramis Ramirez (.290-30-100) – This guy is nothing if not consistent. He is also severely overvalued and undervalued depending on the league and the draft. Target him at $20 and grab him lower if you can.
  4. Garrett Atkins (.280-20-100) – Declining numbers over the past three years are a red flag. A .260 road average last season is another red flag. A possible trade to free up the 3B position for Ian Stewart is another possible red flag… Let Atkins pass.
  5. Ryan Zimmerman (.290-20-90) – It’s hard to predict where Zimmerman’s numbers will go. He’s been hurt and hitting in the black hole that is the Nationals lineup. I expect the Nats to be slightly better offensively and if Zimmerman is healthy, he should get back on track. I rate him only slightly lower than Atkins because there he has less of a track record. But he is also only 24 years old, so keep that in mind if you’re in a keeper league.

Sleeper – Edwin Encarnacion (.260-30-100) – I like the Cincinnati lineup and Encarnacion has a ton of potential. He may never realize his full potential, but he should approach 30 HR and have a modest gain in BA. Grab him under $12 if you can.

Third Base Rankings – National League NL EAST

  1. David Wright – see above
  2. Chipper Jones – see above
  3. Ryan Zimmerman – see above
  4. Jorge Cantu – (.275-25-90) The Marlins have already sent down 1B Gaby Sanchez, which frees up 1B for Cantu (like I predicted here). Although he’s going to be playing 1B, Cantu also ranks as one of the top 3B candidates in the NL East, for fantasy purposes. Don’t expect an improvement on last year’s fantasy numbers, but grab him cheap and use his multi-position eligibility to your advantage.
  5. Pedro Feliz (.250-17-65) Feliz was a disappointment last season and it looks like he will remain in a quasi-platoon with Greg Dobbs this season. The one thing Feliz has going for him – besides his power – is his glove. If he gets enough ABs, he could reach 20 HR, but Feliz is a crapshoot unless he gets catcher eligibility. I don’t believe that has happened for a couple of years…

Sleeper Emilio Bonafacio (.230-0-35) – For reasons I don’t quite understand, Bonafacio is slated to be the Marlins third baseman on Opening Day. He probably won’t hit and he may not start for long, but Bonafacio can run. I’ve seen him nearly beat out routine grounders to shortstop… I have to assume he has the green light whenever he’s on base and I also have to assume that he’s going to run whenever he can just to stay in the lineup. I’ll go out on a limb and say Bonafacio steals 40-50 bases this season, regardless of playing time. The important thing is that he stays on the big league roster – and that’s not guaranteed.

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2009 Fantasy Projections: Shortstop

“Shortstop” is the name of a greasy spoon diner right under the last stop of 1/9 train in Riverdale – whatever you order, keep it greasy and order seconds. Cheese fries are highly recommended, if I remember correctly.

“Shortstop” is also where the NL East is dominating the positional rankings in fantasy baseball:

Shortstop Rankings – National League

  1. Hanley Ramirez (.300-30-110) – Ramirez moves down to the third spot in the lineup this year, so expect more RBIs and a small drop in his SB – I’m thinking he steals 20-25. There’s a reason he is rated #1 by most fantasy baseball magazines and websites.
  2. Jose Reyes (.300-18-70) – Reyes will put up his usual numbers – Solid average, power and RBI numbers for a guy that will steal a ton of bases. And I do expect him to steal a TON of bases when the Mets start to hit a rough patch early in the season. Forget what you’ve heard about Jerry Manuel’s “jazz beat” – Reyes will run until his legs fall off this season or the Mets will fall apart. Thank God he isn’t batting third…
  3. Jimmy Rollins (.280-15-65) – Rollins is an excellent barometer with which to gauge the collective temperment of your draft/auction. He puts up power numbers comparable to Reyes and he should steal about 15 more bases than Ramirez, yet he isn’t quite up to their overall levels of production… If you are in an auction league, you may get him for less than $35 if Reyes/Ramirez are still on the table. But watch out, once the big guys are gone, the price for Rollins could skyrocket close to $40. Don’t overpay, but get him closer to $30 if you can.
  4. JJ Hardy (.275-20-85) – I’m starting to think people overvalue Hardy because they are lumping him in with Ryan Braun and Corey Hart – how many people at your draft have actually seen a Brewers game? Could they tell the difference between Hart, Hardy and Braun? Hardy will post decent numbers, but he isn’t a top tier talent at SS and he is wildly streaky. Get him cheap if you can, but don’t bid on him if he approaches $20. There are plenty of solid AL shortstops that come cheaper and there are better values in the NL.
  5. Stephen Drew (.208-18-65) – Get him if he’s cheap, avoid him if he’s too expensive. Rinse. Repeat.

Sleeper – Rafael Furcal (.280-10-50) – If Furcal plays a full season and he is completely healthy, he is almost as productive as Jose Reyes. Don’t expect him to be healthy all season, but watch him post .300-15-65 with 50 SB and 110 runs scored if he is.

Shortstop Rankings – NL East

  1. Hanley Ramirez (see above)
  2. Jose Reyes (see above)
  3. Jimmy Rollins (see above)
  4. Yunel Escobar (.290-12-65) – You can’t build a fantasy team around Escobar, but you can definitely get him at a fair price and spend your money (or your higher draft picks) on top talent at other positions. If you’re lucky, he may swipe 10 bases.
  5. Cristian Guzman (.285-8-50) – Proceed with caution. This guy is on the Nationals for a reason – he’s just not that productive. Don’t expect him to post another .300-season and don’t expect many SB. He’ll bug the hell out of you with a two-out bloop single late in a tie game against the Mets, but being a gadfly doesn’t translate to fantasy value. Spend no more than $3 on him in an auction and don’t bother with him in shallow mixed leagues.

Sleeper – No one. If Ramirez, Reyes or Rollins get injured, their replacements won’t make a noticeable impact unless they are acquired by via trade.

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2009 Fantasy Projections: Second Base

When last we met, I was telling you that Albert Pujols was the best NL first baseman and you weren’t surprised. But you were probably surprised that I think two of the top 5 first basemen in the NL East aren’t even first basemen. Moving along…

Second Base Rankings – National League

  1. Chase Utley .345-20-95 – It’s a given that Utley’s off-season hip surgery will cut down his SB totals. But if Utley is healthy – and he appears to be – the only other side effect of his surgery MIGHT be that he shortens up his stroke and uses his hands more (think Wade Boggs). I can’t see that leading to anything but an inverse relationship between BA and HR. In other words, I expect a higher BA and lower HR totals, or no change at all. So if he plays all season, you’re safe.
  2. Brandon Phillips .275-25-80 – Solid pop, solid speed, nice ballpark for a power hitter and I like the Reds to surprise people this year with a wildcard run.
  3. Dan Uggla .260-28-95 – My favorite player on this list. He helped me win a 5×5 mixed league last year and he is tough as nails. He will be overvalued this year, so don’t get sucked in… But don’t expect his BA to drop back into the .230-zone. This guy is a capable, albeit flawed, hitter. If you need the HR/RBI, you’ll get it from Uggla.
  4. Kelly Johnson .290-15-75 – I’m not sure what the ceiling will be on Johnson’s offensive output, but his BA has increased each of the past three years and he has decent pop in his bat. That’s enough for #4.
  5. Kazuo Matsui .285-5-35 – You may not know it, but the Astros were eliminated from the NL Central Race AND the NL Wildcard yesterday. Seriously. Look for Kaz to notch 30+ SB and a decent BA with absolutely no pressure on him.

Sleepers (Tie) – I like Felipe Lopez¬† (.275-10-65) and Ian Stewart (.275-15-75). Lopez should be running more this season – possibly enough for 25 SB. Stewart has multi-position eligibility and he should see significant time between 1B, 2B and 3B with Colorado’s lineup struggling through nagging injuries already.

Second Base Rankings – NL East

Three of the top five second basemen in the NL are also in the NL East. It makes you wonder who is manning 2B out in the NL West. Is Robbie Thompson still playing?

  1. Chase Utley – see above
  2. Dan Uggla – see above
  3. Kelly Johnson – see above
  4. Luis Castillo .285-3-35 – He’s not as bad as last year’s numbers but he’s still not as good as Omar needs him to be. His average won’t hurt you, but his power numbers will do nothing for you. If he is healthy enough to steal 20 bases and score 100 runs, he’s worth a few bucks in NL-only leagues.
  5. Anderson Hernandez (Yikes-Zero-Not Much) – Hernandez batted .194 in AAA last season. Look for Ronnie Belliard to take over shortly…

Sleeper Ronnie Belliard (.270-12-70) – He’s getting older and he’s never been much of an offensive threat, but he’s on the Nationals and playing behind Anderson Hernandez. I feel confident enough to say he will get at least 400 AB. Grab him cheap in NL-only leagues, if you can.

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2009 Fantasy Projections – First Base

Kingman was doing dual position eligibility before it was fashionable

Kingman was doing dual position eligibility before it was fashionable

My name is John and I regret nothing… Except for that last burrito.

When last we met, I was telling you that Ramon Castro was worth a buck and Ronny Paulino might be working in a car wash by mid-August. Only time will tell…

First Base Rankings

If you’re not getting Pujols, try to grab Gonzalez on the cheap. I think you’ll be overpaying for Howard, Berkman and Fielder, in most cases. Let me explain…

Albert Pujols (.320-35-120) – One of the few positions where there is no doubt about who is the best offensive player.

Ryan Howard (.250-40-120) – His BA leaves alot to be desired, but I think it may be higher. You can’t argue with his HR/RBI totals.

Adrian Gonzalez (.300-30-100) – The most underrated of this bunch. His HR/RBI totals have increased each of the past 3 seasons and he has hit around .279 or above in each of those years. If he brings his Petco numbers up (only .269 last season), he could challenge Howard for the #2 spot.

Lance Berkman (.310-25-95) – I’ve been waiting for Berkman to fall off for a couple of years – his HR totals have fallen three consecutive years but he’s still a solid pick. Houston’s lineup could hold down his RBI totals

Prince Fielder (.275-28-100) – People are still drafting Fielder with hopes that he will return to the 50 HR slugger he was in 2007. I think those numbers will prove to be a statistical outlier. You can count on Fielder for something in the .280-30-100 ballpark for years to come. In future drafts, he may be a steal at those numbers, but not this season.

Sleeper – James Loney (.310-18-100) – I absolutely love watching Loney hit. I’m not sure if he’ll ever be more than a 20HR guy, but he drives the ball well into the gaps and he is only 24. The Dodgers lineup could provide plenty of RBI opportunities, depending on Manny’s willingness to play and Torre’s willingness to put Loney into the #5 hole. If it all comes together for him, this could be his breakout season.

NL East

A much better crop of players than we saw in the NL East catcher rankings… However, two of my top five guys will start the season at different positions.

Ryan Howard (.250-40-120) – See above

Adam Dunn (.240-40-100) – I expect him to gain 1B eligibility in most leagues at some point. If you need another 1B to cover for him, take a shot on a guy like James Loney or even Nick Johnson.

Carlos Delgado (.260-30-100) – People were calling for Delgado to be cut in May 2008. By the end of the year, he was on fire. He’s still got some pop, but he’s old and he has lost batspeed. He could end up outperforming Ryan Howard or falling out of the top 5 in the NL East… I think his HR/RBI numbers will be fine, somewhere between ’07 and ’08. Get him if he falls on draft day.

Jorge Cantu (.275-25-90) – Another guy who should wind up playing 1B before too long. I’m not sold on him repeating last season’s numbers – and those numbers don’t make him a good choice at 1B, but if you get him late he could end up being a nice reserve player with dual position eligibility.

Sleeper: Nick Johnson (.280-10-65) – If Johnson stays healthy (unlikely), he could have a nice season, but he’s hardly worth considering in anything other than a deep NL-only league. He plays the game the right way and that should count for something, but it doesn’t. Oh well.

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2009 Fantasy Projections – Catcher

Gary Carter: He won't get injured and his BA won't hurt your team

Hi. My name is John. I enjoy eating pizza and yelling at parked cars.

Joe asked me to step in here and write something, so here goes… I’m going to rank the top 5 players at each position in the NL and the top 5 in the NL East. These offensive rankings are both for the season and for fantasy baseball – because that’s just how I roll.

Today’s position is catcher. Here goes:

National League Catchers

Catchers… Always a crapshoot and usually a big disappointment if you draft them too high. My strategy is to draft Gary Carter and live in a nostalgic fantasy world while everyone else’s catchers are on the DL or batting .220 due to sprained fingers and bad knees. When in doubt, think about ’86. Bring on the rankings:

  1. Brian McCann (.295-22-95) – If he stays healthy, the numbers could be even better.
  2. Russell Martin (.290-15-75) – Solid hitter without much power. If Torre doesn’t run him, his overall value could drop significantly in mixed leagues, but he has been durable and should drop no lower than the #2 catcher in the NL.
  3. Ryan Doumit (.310-18-75) – This guy can flat out hit but he’s an injury risk.
  4. Chris Iannetta (.260-20-85) – A decent prospect who finally came through last season. He should continue to improve and you can’t really go wrong with a catcher who calls Coors Field home.
  5. Ivan Rodriguez (.275-14-60) – I don’t believe in Geovany Soto (yet) and I’m willing to bet Pudge has enough in the gas tank for one more decent season. It looks like he may be hitting second, which could improve SB totals (he had 10 last year). Steroids or not, the guy knows how to play the game and he could be one of a few bright spots in Houston this season, until he is traded.

Sleeper: Keep an eye on Pablo Sandoval. He has an undisciplined approach at the plate, but he should get ABs and he should have or attain 1B/3B/C eligibility in most fantasy leagues.

National League East Catchers

After Brian McCann, things fall off sharply. If you take any other NL East catchers in your fantasy draft, you should probably just forget about your team, because you’re in serious trouble. There’s always fantasy NASCAR…

  1. Brian McCann (.295-22-95) – If he stays healthy, the numbers could be even better.
  2. John Baker (.250-12-65) – I like Baker’s approach at the plate and he may benefit from hitting in a decent lineup (if Florida’s lineup doesn’t regress). Get him cheap and hope for the best.
  3. Jesus Flores (.240-12-65) – Flores may be overrated because his name isn’t Paul LoDuca. I like him if he comes cheap.
  4. Ramon Castro (.250-7-35) – I can’t put Brian Schneider on this list. I just can’t. At least Castro has some upside – I could see him posting line of a .260-10-60 if he gets the chance to play everyday for extended time. If you’re in a deep NL-only league, Castro for $1 might pay dividends. Or not. Hey, it’s only a buck.
  5. Carlos Ruiz (.240-6-40) – Eh. I think Ruiz loses his job by mid-season, if Ronny Paulino shows up to play. If not, the Phillies could trade for a competent catcher (Ivan Rodriguez?).

Sleeper: Keep an eye on Ronny Paulino. He could be out of baseball and working in a car wash by mid-August, but he could also be hitting .270-8-55 by then too.

UPDATE: 3/26/09 – I have updated Ramon Castro’s projection. Thanks to Isuzudude for pointing out my projection was incorrect based on probable playing time.

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