HOUSTON - JUNE 06: Pitcher Wilton Lopez #59 of the Houston Astros throws in the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Minute Maid Park on June 6, 2010 in Houston, Texas. Houston won 6-3. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Seven years on I'm still angry with Mark Teixeira. Angry that he had to break out the moment I'd given up on him. For the life of me I can't remember what I got in return, possibly Al Leiter and a handful of magic beans.
After taking a bit of a gamble picking him for the 2004 season I instantly got twitchy feet, dithered for a few weeks and pulled the plug on him when his batting average was hovering around the Mendoza Line, and after he had missed a couple of weeks in April due to injury. Maybe it was not that much a gamble, as BA had the first baseman ranked as the #1 prospect coming into his rookie season in 2003, and he finished fifth in the ROY voting.
He instantly rebounded after I dropped him, posting a decent .892 OPS in June, but a 1.129 OPS in July. Still, it is time to move on and try and put this particular fantasy baseball trauma behind me. When Allphilla threw the gauntlet in my face for 2011, I was eager to pick it up and answer the challenge, so we and a few others will be dueling it out this season and giving you the low-down. My baseball knowledge is not as encyclopaedic as it was about three years ago, but I'm determined to beat him into submission.
Needing sleep desperately earlier this week, I turned to ESPN's draft kit, which turned out to be better than a concrete pillow. Trudging through name after name and somehow vainly trying to get a draft order can be mind numbing, but on your opening approach to a fantasy draft you should try not to be too flash, go with the consistent performers and try not to take anyone too high who might have experienced a career spike in 2010. I'm looking at Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez specifically when I say this.
Apart from picking the obvious players at the top, Albert Pujols and the like, it is the middle rounds where things get interesting.
The Astros are not a bad place to start when you go bargain hunting in the draft. With Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt gone, Houston do not have any more marquee names, and Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn will be the two highest Astros' taken, Pence for his four consistent years, Bourn because he has led the NL in steals for the last two years with 61 and 52.
Wandy Rodriguez will also be up there after his well documented strong finish to last season, and if he stays healthy, has a feel for his curveball and continues to follow the Arnsberg plan, he could be in the Cy Young top 5 come the end of the season.
The others? Brett Myers dodgy spring, 18 earned runs in 18 innings pitched, will put a lot off, and there is a possibility he will not replicate his 2010 performance. J.A. Happ and Bud Norris might surprise a few people, and Norris in particular is a good sleeper candidate.
Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace, the Astros' Bash Brothers, should get decent amount of attention in the middle rounds, especially after Wallace's gaudy spring, leading the spring RBI tally with 18, which goes nicely with his .373 BA.
The notion I was most intrigued by was the fact that Wilton Lopez might pick up closing duties at some point in 2011. This might not be as crazy as it sounds, since he is now the notional successor to Brandon Lyon, if Lyon gets injured, or gets traded mid-season.
Advanced statistics are great for analysing the game, but my general advice would be to remember that leagues are based on normal statistics: HR, RBI, SB, BA etc. Sabermetrics should be used throughout the season to get a general feel of how well a player is actually performing. Say if a pitchers' ERA and FIP are wildly apart, then it might be reasonable to assume that it is just a matter of time before they start to converge. It is not always the case, as we see with guys like Matt Cain, who constantly out-pitch their peripherals, but it does work as a general rule of thumb.
Overall, just follow your gut at this stage and hope you get lucky. That is what I'll be doing on Sunday when the draft rolls around.
Some of you might say, hey wait, you haven't mentioned Carlos Lee? Just throw the guy a darned retirement party already.