Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I came. I saw. I drafted.
I survived the 2012 office fantasy draft (wouldn't that be a good bumper sticker?).
Today, the professor (no, not the guy from the AND1 Mixtapes) is handing out grades. Here is a full preseason report card for my fantasy team. Let's see if I make the honor roll.
Catcher: Brian McCann; First Base: Eric Hosmer; Second Base: Dan Uggla; Shortstop: Jose Reyes; Third Base: Michael Young; Corner Infielder: Paul Konerko; Middle Infielder: Brandon Phillips; Utility: David Ortiz.
There really is no weak link here. Hosmer, McCann and Young were three of my five keepers (Ellsbury and Bumgarner were the others), so I had half of my infield in place before draft day. I grabbed two of the better hitting offensive second basemen in the game by snatching up Uggla (36 HRs, 82 RBIs) and Phillips (.300, 18 HRs, 82 RBIs) and Reyes (.337, 39 SBs) should be a steal for $20. I've seen him go for around $30 in other leagues.
Other than Mike Napoli, you're not going to find a more reliable fantasy catcher than McCann (key word being "reliable." Who knows if Joe Mauer will stay healthy this year).
Konerko and Young are both hugely underrated. Young quietly had a monster year for Texas in 2011 (.338, 106 RBIs). The Rangers' stacked lineup should provide Young with plenty of RBI opportunities and his position flexibility (eligible at first, second and third) is another plus.
Meanwhile, Konerko might be the least-talked about superstar in baseball. Aside from batting average, Konerko's stats from last year (.300, 31 HRs, 105 RBIs) were remarkably similar to Miguel Cabrera's (.344, 30 HRs, 105 RBIs). Except Cabrera costs you $35 in most leagues while I got Konerko for $14. And with Konerko, there is no risk of getting hit in the face by a ground ball. It's amazing that people continue to overlook this guy year after year. More Konerko for me, I guess.
Hosmer's name may not carry the same weight as an Albert Pujols or an Adrian Gonzalez, but that's only because the year is 2012. By 2014, this guy will be a first-rounder ... and the Royals will be in the playoffs. You heard it here first.
People forget about Ortiz because he is only eligible at utility, but he has had a tremendous revival these past two seasons (.284, 61 HRs, 198 RBIs combined) and he hits in the middle of a deadly lineup in Boston. He is definitely a 100-RBI threat.
Infield Final Grade: A-
Jacoby Ellsbury, Cameron Maybin, Michael Morse, Ichiro Suzuki, Jayson Werth.
Many are skeptical of Ellsbury's newfound power and it's understandable. He hit 32 homers in 2011 after collecting just 20 dingers in the previous four seasons combined. But even if Ellsbury's home runs start to disappear, you know you're still getting a .300 average and 40 steals.
Morse is the opposite of Ellsbury in that respect. Fantasy experts are forecasting more homers for Morse in 2012 but a lower batting average. Either way, he's a bargain at $15.
My league uses OPS instead of batting average, which makes Ichiro and Maybin a bit of a liability. Hitting out of the three-hole should improve Ichiro's RBI total (he drove in just 47 runs last season). Maybin is still the leadoff man in San Diego, so his production should be about the same (40 RBIs, .716 OPS in 2011). Both players have elite speed, so they can offset their power deficiency by dominating in steals (Maybin and Ichiro each had 40 steals in 2011).
Werth is the real wild card in this bunch. I'm hoping for the 2010 Werth (.296, 27 HRs, 85 RBIs). If 2011 Werth comes knocking at the door (.232, 20 HRs, 58 RBIs), I'm in trouble.
Final Outfield Grade: B
Clay Buchholz, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Garza, Jeremy Hellickson, Ricky Romero.
If this team has an Achilles heel, it's starting pitching. I waited for pitching, and it shows.
There is certainly potential here: Garza and Bumgarner are no slouches and Buchholz has been excellent in the past. But what my staff lacks is an anchor, a C.C. Sabathia or a Felix Hernandez type whom I can count on for massive fantasy production every fifth day in case some of my other experiments don't work out.
The closest thing my staff has to an ace is Bumgarner (3.21 ERA, 191 Ks last year), and he is only third on San Francisco's depth chart. That's a little deceiving, though, because the 22-year-old would be a No. 1 starter on most teams. He just happens to play on the same club as Tim Lincecum (2.74 ERA, 220 Ks) and Matt Cain (2.88 ERA, 179 Ks). A healthy Buster Posey hitting in the middle of the Giants' batting order should increase Bumgarner's win total from 13 last season to somewhere in the 16 to 17 range in 2012.
Ricky Romero was an All-Star last season (15-11, 2.92 ERA), but I've always had trust issues with Blue Jays pitchers (I'm looking at you, Brandon Morrow).
My feelings toward Garza are about the same. If he makes it to 15 wins with the Chicago Cubs, that would be a small miracle.
I've loved Hellickson since he was in Triple-A, but the consensus is that he walks too many guys (72 walks last year), doesn't get guys to whiff as often as he should (just 117 punchouts in 189 innings) and that he has constantly been bailed out by Tampa Bay's incredible defense (the Rays' .988 team fielding percentage was the best in MLB last season).
Maybe some of that is true, but I don't think you go 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA by accident, especially when most of those stats were compiled while pitching against the absurdly good AL East.
Buchholz was brilliant in 2010, (17-7, 2.33 ERA), but he has a long history of injuries and I don?t think anybody knows quite what to make of Boston's pitching after "Beergate' last season.
Final Starting Pitching Grade: B-
Heath Bell, Joel Hanrahan, Craig Kimbrel, Joe Nathan.
My team will own the ninth inning. Look at this murderer's row of closers.
Kimbrel, Bell and Hanrahan each had 40-plus saves a year ago. Only five other closers in baseball were able to accomplish that feat (Jose Valverde, John Axford, J.J. Putz, Mariano Rivera and Drew Storen) in 2011.
Expect Nathan to join Kimbrel, Bell and Hanrahan in the 40 saves club this season. Nathan should have a ton of save chances pitching for Texas (96 wins a year ago) and now that he is more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, he should be back to his dominant self again in 2012.
Final Relief Pitching Grade: A
This team has its flaws, but all in all, this is a pretty balanced squad with very few weaknesses. Konerko, Morse, Ortiz and Uggla all provide decent power, and I was able to draft them without overpaying for a megastar like Matt Kemp or Jose Bautista. The starting pitching is a little shaky, but my dominance in stolen bases and saves should make up for that minor shortcoming.
Team Final Grade: B+
Plus, they'll have great coaching. Anybody know where I can get a good deal on a trophy engraving? It's OK, you can get back to me. I won't need it until October.