Fantasy Baseball – Who’s on Second?

It’s Monday again and time for Fantasy Baseball CCO style…don’t forget to catch up on the news from the weekend(scroll down). Also remember to check back for updates….if they happen….you will be able to read them here!!

This week’s topic: Who’s on Second?

For the Cubs? I have no idea….
If you, or any member of your family knows the answer to this question, please let me know, thanks. Until I am told otherwise, I believe Todd Walker is the Cubs 2B, or as Ron Santo likes to say, “second base man” with the odd emphasis on man, treating the word as if it is really two words. Good ol’ Ronny….

So how do our Cubbies compare in the world of Fantasy baseball at the position that Ryne Sandberg made famous? To answer our question, we need to look at some numbers for 2005. In Fantasy baseball, you want to get a good balance, in most leagues, of power, batting average, and speed. I thought we could look at the top 5 in each category, and then look at the overall picture.

Who hits all the HRs around here?
For good HR hitting 2B, you find these are the studs; Alfonso Soriano/Nationals/36, Jeff Kent/Dodgers/29, Jorge Cantu/DevilRays/28, Chase Utley/Phillies/28, and Craig Biggio/Houston/26. Soriano is a consistent stud in this category, as well as Kent, so no surprises there. Jorge Cantu was in his first full season as a pro last year, and he hit a whopping 117 RBIs as well….we will have to see if this guy will have a sophomore slump, or if he is the real deal. I don’t know much about Chase Utley, but he appears to have also been in his first full season, and also had a monster year. Wow….looks like some organizations actually know how to get position players from their farm systems to be productive….what a concept! *Utley and Cantu would both be good picks for your Fantasy teams this year, especially in a draft situation, as many of the other teams you are playing against may not be aware of how good they did last year. Most people will focus on Kent and Soriano, so you can get these guys lower in the draft, and focus your top picks on other positions. I wanted to point out that I was surprised to see Biggio in the top 5….was anyone else? I always think of him as a SB guy, not a HR hitter, but when I checked into 2004, he hit 24 HRs that year, so it wasn’t necessarily a fluke. He is getting older, though, and I would stay away from him in a Fantasy league if other choices are available.

Which players hit for the highest batting average at 2B?
Due to injuries, and wanting to include Todd Walker in these totals, I picked the guys that were obvious starters and all had over 400 at-bats, except for Walker, who finished with 397 at-bats. Placido Polanco/Tigers/.331, Mark Ellis/A’s/.316, Brian Roberts/Orioles/.313, Todd Walker/Cubs/.305, Luis Castillo/Twins/.301. Polanco started the year with the Phillies, but they didn’t miss him much, due to Utley’s good year. Ellis was hurt a portion of the year, but I adopted the A’s as my American League team to root for, as I had a lot of their pitchers on my fantasy team, and all indications are that Oakland is high on this guy, but his 2004 numbers were mediocre, so I would be careful jumping on his bandwagon just yet. Many of you may remember the incredible start Brian Roberts had for Baltimore last year, and then he was injured, and his play cooled off when he returned. It is hard to know if he “pulled a Corey Patterson” with a really good 1/2 of a year, or if that is him coming into his own as a complete player. Roberts has a lot of speed, so he should be high on your list during draft time. I will give more of my thoughts on Walker a bit later. I think Castillo is the prototypical #2 hitter in the lineup, and that is a job he has done well for the Marlins the past few years. I wish the Cubs would have somehow acquired both Pierre and Castillo, but then again, if I was the Cubs GM, we would have gone to the World Series in ’03, ’04, and ’05, even if it meant having a budget of $300 million to do it. Hey….I would gladly have cancelled my Sun-Times subscription and started buying the Tribune to make up the extra cash.

Who is faster than a speeding bullet….or at least knows how to steal a base or two?
So I am watching the Colts vs Chargers game right now, and the Colts are down 10-0, and it is already the 2nd Quarter….think that will be the final score? Nah, me neither.
Just as quickly as Manning/James/Harrison can put together a touchdown drive, these five 2B lead the league in 2005 swiping bases; Chone Figgins/Angels/62, Jose Reyes/Mets/60, Julio Lugo/DevilRays/39, Ryan Freel/Reds/36, Alfonso Soriano/Nationals/30. Ok, it needs to be noted that Figgins, Lugo, and Freel all “qualified” at multiple positions last year, in Fantasy baseball. So while they may or may not have played most of their games at 2B, you were allowed to use them as the 2B on your team, either because that was their original position at the start of the year, or they played at multiple positions often throughout the year. You may have noticed that the Tampa Bay DevilRays have Cantu ranking high in the HR category at 2B as well as Lugo ranking high in the SB category at 2B. It seems like Tampa Bay has some decent players, so why do they suck so bad? Probably because I can’t think of anyone who pitches for them off the top of my head. I was at a couple of White Sox games the previous years (don’t shoot me, or stop reading….my wife worked for a guy that had seats right behind the dugout….the dugout top makes a nice place to put your hotdogs and drinks) and both times we happened to see the Angels. I remember Figgins just absolutely flying around the bases, and he was on base quite a few times it seemed. I am not sure what his main position will be this year, but if he still qualifies in your league as a 2B, he would be a good choice for you, especially if you are looking for more speed out of your team. Reyes could be a budding young star for the Mets, and should be a fixture for them for years to come.

Ok….so who do I want on my Fantasy team at 2B?
There were 3 categories, with 5 players each, and only 1 player appeared in the top five in two categories… Soriano. Not a huge surprise here, but if Soriano is available to you, pick him above everyone else! Who else is great, or above average, at multiple categories at 2B? Jeff Kent is a good bet every year for good numbers in the RBIs, HRs, and BA, categories, although he is supposed to be a jerk, so it is hard to root for him. Figgins has averaged .292 in his career, and his SB total went up almost 30 last year alone, so he may only continue to get better, just don’t expect him to become a HR hitter. Atlanta has a great 2B, in my opinion, in Marcus Giles. I would certainly want him on the Cubs, and he isn’t bad in fantasy leagues either, as he has above average results in SB and HR (usually expect 15-20 in each category) and he knows how to take out an opposing ace pitcher on the basepaths if needed, as evidenced by his collision with Prior a couple of years ago. Brian Roberts is a bit of a wildcard, as I don’t know if that was a fluke season, or a sign of things to come, but he has some pop in his bat, can hit for a good avg, and has above average speed. Utley and Cantu are possibly true up-and-coming stars, so I would either gamble on them now, or if they aren’t picked up, try and keep them on your bench or get them off the waiver wire down the road. Those players are my favorite picks at the 2B position.

What about Todd Walker, and the current rumor favorite, Julio Lugo?
Lugo had a career year last year. I am sorry to disappoint all you fans who think Lugo can somehow turn around the Cubs, but aside from some SBs, he isn’t an upgrade over Walker, except maybe defensively. Lugo is a career .276 hitter, and prior to last year, he had never had over 581 at-bats in a year, had never had more than 22 SBs, and had never batted over .285. Honestly, everything about the guy tells me that it really was a career year. Is he a decent player? Absolutely. He would be an upgrade over, say, Alex Gonzalez (either one).

Walker is a bit overrated, in my opinion, but a decent hitter for sure. But he doesn’t hit a lot of HRs, and he has no speed. Also, he is known to be a defensive liability. So why did we let Gruds go again? I never figured that one out either. He has never hit over 17 HRs in his career, and aside from a weird ’98 and ’99 (when he stole 19 and 18 bases respectively) he has no SBs to speak of. Walker does have a career .290 average, and he looks like a baseball player, which is why I think fans glorify him a bit.

With all of the great 2B in this league, it appears the Cubs are stuck with a mediocre one in Walker right now, or the option that they are teasing the fans with….an equally mediocre player in Lugo.

Time for a rant, folks!
Boy oh boy…. sure is quiet on the Cubs front, isn’t it? I am not a Cubs basher by any means, but I sure don’t get this offseason so far.
We have unloaded a lot of money the last two years, in Clement, Sosa, Nomar, Alex Gonzalez, Farnsworth (although we replaced him with pricey middle relievers this offseason), etc….so we have $$$$$ to spend, and we haven’t spent a thing practically.

The Cubs make more money than ever, yet the budget is, oddly, shrinking. The joke is on the Cubs fans right now, especially when it comes to big names, like Tejada. If the Cubs wanted Tejada so bad, they should have gotten him a few years ago, when he was a free agent. But they claimed they had a SS (the mighty A-Gon!) and Tejada was too pricey.

They just don’t get premier free agents or big name players in trades. Can you think of any, besides Nomar? Rick Sutcliffe was a big trade, and Andre Dawson was a big signing, but neither were expected to have the kinds of years that they did, which makes them big moves only in hindsight. The Cubs are known for getting middle of the road guys, and hoping that they get lightning in a bottle. Think Ron Cey. They did, indeed, get lighting with Aramis Ramirez, and with D. Lee. They didn’t get a return in their investment in Nomar, due solely to injuries, unfortunately. Couldn’t they have spent $6 million to put Nomar in the outfield? If Nomar is good enough for the Dodgers, he should have been for the Cubs as well. Not only is he a great player to root for, and a great hitter, but he had a real charisma about him that was fun to watch. We paid Burnitz about $5 million last year, didn’t we? Wouldn’t Nomar be worth a $1 million more than Burnitz (sorry, “Burnie” fans, if I am offending you)?!?!

But that is the Cubs. There are no pitchers left in free agency, except for Millwood, who would be a good #3 pitcher, but they won’t pay for him. I don’t think they will part with their beloved farm system players to get Zito, so we are stuck with the immortal Jerome Williams and Glendon Rusch to fill in the starting roles behind Prior, Zambrano, and the 50 yr old Maddux.

What about the Cubs track record says they should prize their farm system so much? Prior was not a product of the Cubs farm system….he was polished in college and ready to go. Zambrano and Dontrelle Willis are the only two I can think of. The great Cubs farm system has churned out such greats as; Hee Sop Choi, Bobby Hill, Jason DuBois, Juan Cruz, Kyle (I can kick and tackle) Farnsworth, Wuertz, Wellemeyer, Mitre, and every single 3B prospect since Santo. But yet, we are told, “Pie is untouchable” because he may be ready next year. I don’t know about you, but I am fed up waiting for next year. Besides, just because of Pie, we have to have crap in the Outfield this year, then? That makes no sense. I don’t personally blame Hendry, and most GMs aren’t to blame, except for the truly incompetent ones. Most GMs are hamstrung by the financial guys, whether it be MacPhail or the Trib bosses….it seems something has kept Hendry from spending zilch on free agents this year, and I don’t count money on middle relievers as anything to get excited about (see: LaTroy Hawkins, and Mike Remlinger for example of high-priced middle relievers who were the “best” at what they did). But Hendry does have to shoulder some blame, as Billy Beane of the A’s, Kenny Williams of the dreaded White Sox, and even the GM of the Marlins (in ’03) have been able to put a better level of talent on the field the past few years, with less money in the budget. Somewhere, Steve Bartman is buying a new Sony Walkman, because he can’t stand to hear the radio news reports of what his Cubbies have been doing, or not doing, this off-season, so far. If I were you, Steve, I wouldn’t even put the batteries in yet….keep your eyes peeled to the CCO every morning for the latest news, and hopefully the news will be getting better soon. Paging Mr Hendry….I need another starting pitcher, a 2B or SS, and a RF….ASAP!!!!

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