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The Clubhouse of Dr. Caligari

Ask Rotoman: March 29, 2006
 by Rotoman

Send your toughest fantasy questions to Rotoman.

ROTOMAN'S TOP 10: Preseason Fantasy All Stars
NL: C-Josh Willingham, 1B-Albert Pujols, 2B-Chase Utley, SS-Rafael Furcal, 3B-David Wright, OF-Bobby Abreu, Juan Pierre, Jason Bay, SP-Pedro Martinez, Jake Peavy, Chris Carpenter, Roy Oswalt, Dontrelle Willis, Closer-Billy Wagner, Chad Cordero

AL: C-Victor Martinez, 1B-Mark Teixeira, 2B-Chone Figgins, SS-Michael Young, 3B-Alex Rodriguez, OF-Carl Crawford, Vladimir Guerrero, Ichiro Susuki, SP-Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, Mark Buehrle, Bartolo Colon, Randy Johnson, RP-Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan



I'm looking to fill my Utility/Extra Outfield position in a 5X5 mixed roto league. I have Rocco Baldelli right now, but Curtis Granderson is also available. My question is, who would you take, the guy who has proven himself but is coming back from a year off because of injury, or the unproven but possible superstar this year? Granderson's potential sounds like it has no ceiling.

"Raise High the Roof Beams"

Dear Raise High:

Rocco Baldelli turns 25 in September. He missed all of 2005 because of knee and elbow injuries and the surgeries to correct them (including Tommy John surgery last summer), and while he's healthy enough to work out and DH (and sign a bounteous multi-year contract recently) he has yet to play the field in a Spring Training game. Which is why he's unlikely to start the season with the Devil Rays.

Baldelli signed a six-year contract with the Devil Rays in November, a deal that could be worth more than $30 million dollars, so presumably the team is confident that Rocco's physical problems will be overcome. That said, persistent hamstring problems this spring have him way behind schedule.

Curtis Granderson was the Tigers' No. 1 prospect going into 2005, and after hitting .288 with 15 homers and 22 stolen bases in Triple-A he was promoted to the big club for good (one assumes) in mid-August, when Rondell White went on the (surprise) DL.

Granderson impressed in the big leagues last summer, had a hot Dominican Winter League campaign, and came into camp this year as the favorite for the Tigers' center field job. He's done nothing to undermine the notion that he's going to be a Major League regular, hitting .389 with five homers in 54 AB this spring. There are some even talking about him becoming a star. Granderson, by the way, is six months older than Baldelli, having turned 25 on March 16.

Regular readers know that I put a lot of stock in the age of promotion. While there can be extenuating circumstances, in most cases players get promoted when they're really ready for the big leagues, and the younger the promotion the greater the likelihood that they'll have a long and productive career. Baldelli debuted when he was 22 in 2003 -- a year Granderson spent confirming for scouts that his future was as a part-timer -- and despite missing a whole year to the injuries, he's got 1249 career plate appearances to Granderson's 202.

But oh, those injuries. Baldelli missed 2005 because of knee surgery, which kept him out at the beginning of the year, but then he hurt his elbow while rehabbing the knee, eventually having Tommy John surgery. This spring, he's missed time because of the flu, a bad hammy, and concern that he's not ready to throw full-out. The Devil Rays manager, Joe Maddon, says that he's close. We'll see.

So, we have a quandary. Baldelli's pedigree is much stronger, but his health is weaker. Granderson is hot, but he didn't look to be a star until late in the game, which makes me a little suspicious about how high his ceiling is.

Baldelli's most valuable attribute is his speed, which helps him on the basepaths and on defense, but he's battling a bad hamstring and rehabbing his elbow, which undermines both talents.

Granderson showed great ability to identify strikes and balls in the Minors, and this spring has walked more than he struck out. He also stole quite a few bases in the Minors, though he's not so quick his success in that department in the Majors can be taken for granted.

If the AB were guaranteed to be equal I'd take Baldelli, because despite his free swinging ways he's shown he can play and be productive in the Major Leagues. Granderson hasn't yet shown anything more than that he's ready to be given an extended shot. But there is some dark shadow hovering over Baldelli and there's some good chance his star-crossed body is going to slow him down for a while longer. So if I were you I'd switch to Granderson.




A question about rookie third basemen: Who do you think will have the most fantasy value in 2006, Ryan Zimmerman or Edwin Encarnacion?

"You Can Call Me Zimmy"

Dear Zimmy:

The first player from the 2005 June draft to be promoted to the Majors, Zimmerman hit nearly .400 in September, with a .971 OPS (and no home runs). He has hit seven homers this spring, which could mean a little or nothing at all. Suffice it to say that playing in a park that was below average as a homer park, the Nationals hope that Zimmerman plays the good defense he's known for, and gets on base enough not to hurt them this year.

Speaking of home runs, the Reds' Edwin Encarnacion is second in baseball this spring among third basemen, with six. During his callup last summer, Encarnacion hit nine homers (in 231 PA), though his .232 batting average pales besides Zimmerman's. He is not Zimmy's match in the field either. Though rated with good hands and a strong arm, he made a lot of errors while with the Reds last year, despite showing excellent range.

In this case we're looking at two young players with developing skills. Zimmerman will turn 22 in September, Encarnacion turned 23 in January. Give the career advantage to RZ, but there have to be questions about his ability to hit for power just yet, and he is simply not a base stealer.

EE on the other hand has more experience, plays in a hitter's park, stole nine bases last year between the Minors and Majors, and already has nine career homers. Zimmerman may have the higher ceiling, but for this year I think you have to give this one to Encarnacion.



Dear Rotoman:

We are about to do our draft for a 5x5 year and immediately after the draft someone always sneaks away with a sly two-position eligible player like (in our league last year) Chris Shelton at catcher. Who are the players this year that are not valuable say as outfielders but as scarce second basemen or catchers can give you an edge? (We have a five-game last year in the Majors or Minors rule).

"Secret Weapons"

Dear Secret:

Your five-game eligibility rule, Secret, opens things up in a big way, but even in leagues with the more traditional 20 games played the previous year in order to qualify, knowing which players qualify at multiple positions can be a big help in the endgame.

To compile these lists I looked at guys who had 15 or more games played at first base or outfield who also qualified at catcher, second, short or third. The number after each player's name indicates how many games played last year in the Majors or Minors. I didn't consider the Minor League games played for hitters who qualified at a Major League position.

The list focuses on the players who might contribute this year who are more likely to be overlooked. It isn't an exhaustive list.


Ryan Garko (59 Minors) is learning to play first base, but this year he qualifies as a catcher when he gets called up to Cleveland. The Indians signed Eduardo Perez to platoon with Ben Broussard against lefties, so Garko will start the year in Triple-A. When Perez gets hurt, Garko will get to hit in the big leagues. And he can hit.

Robert Fick (28 Majors) hasn't hit much the last few years, and his numbers last year in San Diego weren't even acceptable for a second catcher. Plus, Washington isn't a great place to hit. Still, if you're desperate, he once upon a time had a couple of good years, and he qualifies.


Damian Jackson (35-2B, 26-SS, 8-3B Majors) is the quintessential utility player, filling in where needed. He's never hit for average, but he can run and has just enough pop to help, plus he'll take a walk. His spring got off to a slow start because of a medical condition, but he seems to have that under control now.

Eric Bruntlett (28-2B, 10-22, 8-3B Majors) is a mini version of Damian Jackson, only he hasn't gotten the Major League opportunities Jackson has. He hits lefties with a little power, runs well and gets on base. Even if a Houston player gets hurt he probably won't get a big bump in playing time, but to the extent he plays he should be a fantasy plus.

Marlon Anderson (20-2B) started out as a second baseman, but last year he had 45 games at first base and the outfield. He joins Damian Jackson on the punchless but versatile Nationals, where he's expected to fill in as needed. He was somewhat productive last year, but if he ends up playing first base for you your team is in trouble.

Chris Burke (18-2B) is a second baseman who got his shot last year in the outfield. He didn't hit as much as the Astros hoped he would, and this year will be the backup second baseman behind the aging Craig Biggio rather than the starting left fielder. His bat could surprise, however, if he ends up getting some at bats.

Michael Cuddyer (11-2B, 95-3B) is expected to play the outfield this year, and everyone knows he played third base last year in his disappointing first full season, but he also got some time in at second base, which in some leagues relieves a little of the disappointment. He may have been overrated last year, but he also was hurt in the second half and tried to play through it. He could be a nice surprise.


Andy Phillips (29-3B) played first base in the Majors during his trial, but split time between there and third base in Triple-A. He's no prospect, and an aging power hitter just now getting his first real shot at the big leagues as he approaches 30. But with better defensive chops than Jason Giambi, Phillips could squeeze out a surprising number of at-bats and home runs.

Olmedo Saenz (17-3B) was second on the Dodgers in RBI last year, which isn't saying a lot, but isn't saying a little either. He won't get nearly the playing time this year if things work out the way the team hopes, but he's always been able to scorch lefties. In some leagues he qualifies at 3B, too, and with the fragile Nomar Garciaparra ahead of him at first, things may not go the way the Dodgers' hope.

So there you have it, the cream of the multi-positional sleepers. I didn't include Ryan Freel or Chone Figgins because you know about those guys, and skipped over guys like Chris Gomez and Hector Luna, who are unlikely to do much to help a fantasy team even if they do. Here's to hoping it's you who is able to unveil a secret weapon at draft's end.

Me? I'm looking at Ryan Garko.




Who are your best sleepers?

"Dr. Caligari"

Dear Doctor:

Sleepers are players who are overlooked for some reason. While the statistical definition of a sleeper will vary widely depending on what sort of league you play in, any player who you feel sneaky picking up has to be considered a sleeper. So, consider the list of multi-positional players above an introduction to this highly selective list of players who may well surprise this year.

American League


Gerald Laird (Texas) is behind Rod Barajas, who emerged as a solid enough regular in the second half last year. Laird shined in Oklahoma and would do a good job if he got a shot. It's probably going to take a Barajas injury to win him substantial playing time, but as a second roto catcher he has upside.

Adam Melhuse (Oakland) didn't play much last year behind iron man Jason Kendall, but in the past he's shown decent power and patience. The A's say he's going to play more in order to give Kendall a chance to stay fresh.


Travis Lee (Tampa Bay) has won the first base job, and while he's mostly known as a bust, he's also the sort of older player with a history of failure you can pick off cheap in the endgame (in AL Only leagues) and hope to get league-average numbers out of.

Matt Stairs (Kansas City) is old and hurt too much to get excited about, but he still has a powerful bat when he's able to get out there. And he shouldn't cost much at all.


D'Angelo Jimenez (Texas) lost out to Ian Kinsler for the starting job in Texas, and given his history holding onto jobs in a much traveled career it wouldn't be a surprise if he moved on this week. But all the numbers say the guy can help a team with his bat, so I'm going to keep putting him on this list until he proves me right, or retires.

Dustin Pedroia (Boston) was a longshot to get a shot with the Red Sox, and after they signed Mark Loretta he seems relegated to the Minors for this year. But Loretta isn't always the most healthy player, and SS Alex Gonzalez doesn't figure to wow anyone. Pedroia is coming, sometime. THIRD BASE

Antonio Perez (Oakland) came over in the deal that landed the A's Milton Bradley, and while he's slated to be a utilityman, with any playing time at all he should hit for average, hit some homers and steal some bases.

Aaron Boone (Cleveland) could qualify as a sleeper in mixed leagues. After a woeful start last year he finished strong in the second half, and is continuing to rake in Spring Training. He's always been delicate, but tough, and productive if not quite a star. A good fantasy pick up if he's cheap.


Esteban German (KC) has never gotten a fair chance to play in the big leagues, but he's shown in the Minors that he can run and get on base. Defense is his problem, but even with Tony Graffanino in the mix German could get enough at bats to help in deep leagues. He stole 43 bases in 49 attempts in Triple-A last year.


Reggie Sanders (KC) has been doing this so long, entering the season with low expectations, that it's easy to forget how often he's exceeded them. He's not going to the Series with the Royals this year, of that we can be sure.

Joey Gathright (Tampa Bay) is a speed guy coming off a hot spring, so he may not look like a sleeper, exactly, but the threat that he'll be sat down when Rocco Baldelli is ready to play the field is real. If Gathright is discounted (in leagues where a trade to the NL won't hurt you) he's a worthy risk. His talents are that valuable.

Brian Anderson (Chicago) is a lesser-heralded prospect who is flying under the radar but has a job. After a slow start in Spring Training he's been hitting, and while he doesn't have the power or speed to be a big impact roto player, if he's cheap he could be very helpful without making much of an impression.

Nick Markakis (Baltimore) is the opposite of Anderson, a guy without an apparent job who has been knocking the cover off the ball, playing good defense in right field and making it hard to send him down to Triple-A. Even if he goes, he'll be back.


Paul Byrd (Cleveland), the poor-man's Greg Maddux, moves to a team with a helpful ballpark, plenty of offense, and an efficient defense. He doesn't wow anyone, but when he's been healthy since he matured he's been a very effective pitcher. If your league mates aren't wow-ed by him, jump quickly.

Joel Pineiro (Seattle) can pitch, but elbow and shoulder problems last year cost him velocity and made him very erratic. He's not out of the woods health-wise, but the velocity is back a good bit this spring. Another guy to grab if he goes cheaply.

Francisco Liriano (Minnesota) is the best pitching prospect in the AL, but he's starting the year in the bullpen. That's the perfect situation to grab a youngster who looks like he might be ready now.

Jason Johnson (Cleveland) had a great first half last year. He has some durability issues, but given his modest history he'll be cheap. If he's stronger he could break through.

Rafael Soriano (Seattle) is the closer in waiting behind the aching legs and arm of Everyday Eddie Guardado. He's a year and a half on from Tommy John surgery. Guardado's hobbling along to the finish, and could either break or be traded. There is some chance that J.J. Putz could get saves if Guardado went down.



Brian McCann (Atlanta) was impressive last summer and so the Braves moved Johnny Estrada and made way. For some reason McCann is riding under the radar, perhaps due to a slow start this camp, with the rookie-loving fantasy players flocking to Josh Willingham. That can be your gain.

Miguel Olivo (Florida) responded after being traded to San Diego last season, and put up some gaudy numbers. Now he's backing up the defensively marginal Willingham, who will also see time at first base and the outfield. Olivo's going to go as a second catcher, but he could play like a first one.


Tony Clark (Arizona) is being shunted aside by the arrival of Conor Jackson after a massive season. When healthy Clark has proved he's still a prodigious slugger. Expect the Diamondbacks to find him enough at bats to make him a worthwhile corner infielder for cheap.


Mark Bellhorn (San Diego) has lost out to Josh Barfield as the Padres' second baseman, but he can still be a powerful hitter and on-base machine who will go for pennies (perhaps rightfully so) in an auction.

Jose Castillo (Pittsburgh) is just 25 this year, his third in the big leagues. He had 11 homers in 370 AB last year, and is on the way to developing more. He has contact problems, which along with his unimpressive team may obscure his obvious talents.


Jose Bautista (Pittsburgh) had a huge spring, is known for his defense, and is backed up behind Joe Randa. He also spent time at second base and in the outfield this spring, with Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy trying to find a way to keep him in the Majors. He hit 25 homers in Double-A last year, is bound to either be cheap or a good reserve pick.

Wes Helms (Florida) as he approaches 30 is the mature center of a team of rookies and Miguel Cabrera. No one really expects Mike Jacobs to fail or struggle, but if he does Helms will step in and get things moving. He's a long-shot but exactly the sort of playing-ugly guy who can prove the most surprising.


Adam Everett (Houston) was so no-hit good-field that it's hard to believe he now has offensive value. He's had back pain this spring, so don't go looking here for a hero, but if your team can absorb his bad batting average he may run enough and hit enough home runs to make a difference.

Cesar Izturis (Los Angeles) is on the DL and won't be back until the All Star break following Tommy John surgery. That will make him cheap, and without an obvious place to play following the Dodgers' off-season moves. He earned $25 in 2004, which means that if he can run he could be fun.


Shane Victorino (Philadelphia) is having a good spring, and will be the Phillies' fourth outfielder this year, backing up all three positions at once. He's not outstanding at anything but he hits for power and runs well, which makes him a good roto prospect.

Alex Sanchez (Cincinnati) just signed with the Reds, a team that seems to be collecting Major League refuse Emma Lazarus style. The speedy slap-hitting Sanchez would appear to have to beat Tony Womack out to hold onto a roster spot, so you know it's doable.

Ryan Church's (Washington) demotion oddly makes him one of the league's better sleepers. It's hard to imagine a team so thin in talent not figuring out how to make use of his.


Ramon Ortiz (Washington) has a reputation so bad that you may be able to get someone to pay you to roster him. The reason to have hope is because he's moving from one of the easiest parks to hit in to one of the hardest. He's been pounded this spring, so be respectful of the danger that lurks here.

Chuck James (Atlanta) roared through the Minors last year and after a solid enough spring enters the season in the Braves bullpen. He's first in line if someone gets hurt or is ineffectual, and his poise and stuff have been so impressive it's hard not to root for him.

Brandon Backe (Houston) has looked great in the playoffs, but not in the regular season, but you have to figure he's learning as he goes along. He's not an ace, but in a world of low expectations the prospect of a third starter on a good team growing into a Major League regular at age 28 seems about right. A flyer.

Bobby Howry (Chicago) was paid a lot of money by the Cubs for a setup guy. Presumably, when Ryan Dempster struggles, Howry will earn that dough.

Until next time,

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