March 5, 2003

Fantasy Mailbag

Remember a little while ago when I asked people to send me fantasy baseball questions? Apparently you guys listen to me, because I got a ton of them. Way too many to possibly answer on this site.

So, what I decided to do was pick a few to answer here and then just answer the rest via email, which I've already done. I had a lot of fun answering all of these and, if there is enough interest, I could possibly make "Fantasy Mailbag" into a bi-weekly column or something. If you've got more questions about anything fantasy baseball related (or anything baseball related), send them along. The number I get will determine if I do this again or not.

Okay, here way go...

Fantasy Baseball Mailbag:

(Where I answer your emails, even if you weren't in black lingerie when you sent them)

Our first question comes to us from Kumiko, who asks:

I'm in a standard Yahoo 5x5 roto non-keeper league (12 teams, 20 rounds) - and according to their pre-rankings, they have Kris Benson at #387, Karim Garcia at #471, and Miguel Olivio at #809. As far as I know, both Benson and Garcia are much better than where Yahoo places them. How early would you draft them, or am I forgetting something that lessens their value? As for Olivio, a catcher that steals!? Is he too risky to take as my #1 catcher?

I took this question for 3 reasons:

1) Kumiko is one of my rare female readers. I asked them all to email me last week and they did; according to my calculations we have 9 total, which is pretty cool.

2) This is the type of question I was thinking of when I asked for questions. Is player X better than player Z, and that sort of thing.

3) Miguel Olivo interests me personally because he is a member of the hated (by me) Chicago White Sox.

First of all, for those of you unfamilar, a "standard 5x5 roto" league means that the league uses the following stats:

For hitters:

Batting Average

Runs Scored

Runs Batted In

Home Runs

Stolen Bases

For pitchers:





WHIP (Walks + Hits, divided by Innings Pitched)

Okay, now that we have that out of the way...

The 3 players in question are Kris Benson, Karim Garcia and Miguel Olivo.

Kris Benson is the most well-known player of the 3. He is a former #1 overall pick, back in 1996.

Here are his career stats:

Year      IP      ERA      W      L     SO/9

1999 197 4.07 11 14 6.36
2000 218 3.85 10 12 7.61
2002 130 4.70 9 6 5.46

The first thing you probably noticed is that there is no "2001" line. That's because Benson missed the entire 2001 season after having "reconstructive elbow surgery," which is better known as "Tommy John surgery." He missed much of the first half of the 2002 season as well, while he rehabbed the injury in the minors. Missing that much time is not uncommon for someone that underwent that surgery and, in fact, Benson's recovery time was very fast compared to many other "Tommy John" guys.

After missing over a year of action, Benson came back to make his first start on May 13th, where he got absolutely lit up by Arizona (9 runs - 7 earned - in 3 2/3 innings). He bounced back a week later in his second start and pitched 7 innings while allowing only 1 run. Then he struggled in his next 6 starts and, after 8 starts, Benson had a 7.79 ERA and things were looking pretty bad.

The #1 thing that most seriously injured pitchers need is time. Time to heal, time to work themselves back into shape, time to regain their control - just time. It took Benson about 3 months into the 2002 season, but he finally started coming around at the end of June.

He posted a 4.55 ERA in 28 July innings, then a 3.72 ERA in August and ended the season very strong, going 3-0 with a 3.15 ERA in September. Obviously, a 4.55 - 3.72 - 3.15 progression in ERA for the last 3 months is a great thing to see from a pitcher coming back from a major injury.

So what is the outlook for Kris Benson is 2003?

Well, I wouldn't bet on him being completely back to the pitcher he was in 1999/2000, but I would guess he'd be pretty close. At the end of the 2000 season he had the look of a guy developing into a true "ace." He was 25 years old and was coming off of a season in which he pitched 218 innings, struck out 184 batters and had a 119 ERA+, which is very good.

He is definitely, without a doubt, better than the 387th best player in a fantasy league draft, which is where Yahoo apparently ranks him. I would peg him for about 170-180 innings and an ERA around 3.75-4.00 this season, and that is probably fairly conservative He'll get quite a few strikeouts, but his win total might not be very good because of the Pittsburgh offense.

Definitely worth grabbing as your #4 or #5 starter in a 12 team league. That would make him around the 45th-60th best SP, which sounds about right. If you're looking for a good late round sleeper or "breakout" candidate, he's your guy. I just looked at's starting pitcher rankings for their fantasy baseball game and they don't have him in the top 100, so I bet he's available late in an awful lot of leagues.

Karim Garcia is a guy I'm not so sure about. He got into 53 games at the end of the year with Cleveland last season and hit very well, smacking 16 homers and posting a .574 slugging %. The year before, he got 45 ABs with the Indians and slugged .711!

That said, as good as his last 250 Major League at bats have been, they're still only 250 at bats. He has a total of 961 career ABs in the Majors and is a .238/.277/.434 hitter, which is pretty bad - and that is taking into account the good 250 ABs with Clevelend recently.

However, Garcia's lack of walks (he's a hacking machine) isn't going to matter in fantasy baseball, so what we are really looking at is his homers and batting average. Karim Garcia definitely has power, but I would say that his 21 HRs in his last 250 MLB at bats is quite a bit over his head.

In 379 Triple-A at bats last season (before he joined the Indians) Garcia hit only 15 homers. He did post a .301 batting average though.

In 2001, also in AAA, Garcia hit only .264, but smacked 31 homers in 462 at bats.

From what I've read, the Indians are planning on playing him a lot in 2003 and he should be able to get 400+ at bats with a rebuilding club. I'd say he's a good bet for a .275 batting average and 20-25 homers in 2003, which isn't bad for a 4th or 5th outfielder on a fantasy team. I wouldn't count on him to be a one of the stars for your team though.

Miguel Olivo is the most intriguing of the 3 players Kumiko asked about, in my mind, because he will likely play a big role in the Twins/White Sox battle this year. I really like Olivo. He was on my final list of candidates when I wrote my "Top 50 Prospects" article for Baseball Primer a little while ago, but didn't make the final cut.

Here are his stats for the last 2 seasons:

Year     LVL      AB      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR     2B     3B     SB

2001 AA 316 .259 .347 .472 14 23 1 6
2002 AA 359 .306 .381 .479 6 24 10 29

I imagine a lot of fantasy players see those 29 steals last year and start drooling, just like Kumiko. As she said, "A catcher that steals!?"

While Olivo does have very good speed "for a catcher," I really wouldn't count on him being a major force on the bases in the big leagues. If you look at his numbers, he only stole 6 bags in 2001 and even his 29 steals last year came at the expense of 13 times being caught stealing.

Another thing I noticed looking at his stats from 2001 and 2002 is that most of his homers from 2001 seemed to turn into triples last year. I suppose that's not so uncommon. A lot of times a player's doubles and homers will fluctuate back and forth, simply because hitting a ball 10 feet further or 10 feet shorter isn't a huge difference, but can change a homer into a double and vice versa. With Olivo, he smacked a lot of those balls that just barely missed being homers, but he didn't settle for doubles and used his speed to rack up 10 triples, a very impressive total for anyone, let alone a catcher.

If Miguel Olivo gets the job as Chicago's #1 catcher I would expect him to hit .265-.275 with 5-10 homers and 8-10 steals. For people in a keeper league, he'd be a good guy to grab up because he's young, Chicago seems to think highly of him and he's got some pretty good offensive skills.

To answer Kumiko's question: Olivo would be a risky guy to count on as your #1 catcher this year, but I think it's more likely than not that he'll get significant playing time for the White Sox this year and I don't think he'll embarass himself.

To recap:

Kris Benson - Grab him up late in the draft; he's a good sleeper and potential breakout candidate.

Karim Garcia - Not a bad late round pick, but I wouldn't count on him to be more than a 4th or 5th OF on your fantasy team.

Miguel Olivo - Risky as a #1 catcher, but has a chance to play a lot of and will hit a little. The risk is probably worth it.

Our next question comes to us from Graham, who asks:

I'm in a AL only Scoresheet ( fantasy baseball league. Our upcoming spring draft is approaching, and I have a pitching query.

I've protected the following pitchers:

D.Lowe, B.Colon, J.Washburn, T.Wakefield (and A.Rhodes as a reliever).

I will be looking to draft a good #5 and #6 starting pitcher in the draft. I won't be picking until #9 and #19 overall.

Here are a quick list of the available (unprotected) pitchers that I am considering drafting with one (or both) picks:

Jose Contreras (I don't expect him to make it to the 9th pick)

John Stephens (young but soft tosser)

Andy Pettitte (solid but injury prone)

Erik Hiljus (in the rotation?)

David Wells (old and fat)

Colby Lewis (rotation?)

Joaquin Benoit (rotation?)

Ryan Rupe (rotation?)

Jake Westbrook (rotation?)

Andy VanHekken (fluke?)

Runelvys Hernandez (KC)

Doug Davis (rotation?)

Ryan Franklin (rotation?)

Nate Cornejo (Detroit and not great numbers)

John Halama (rotation?)

Jamie Moyer (REALLY old)

My initial reaction is to go after Pettitte/Moyer/Wells and get some "guaranteed" innings.

But Stephens, VanHekken and Halama intrigue me because of their chance for "breaking out".

Another train of thought is to use the first 2 rounds to draft hitting because my front four are so good.

(my protected position players are Posada, Olerud, N.Johnson, Jos.Valentin, Hinske, Stewart, Edmonds (protected crossover), with Cash, J.Rivera, J.Werth, B.Traber as rookies)

Any suggestions?

This is a fun question, because I always like to have a group of players to "pick" from. My favorite thing to do in a trade negotiation for one of my teams is to say, "Can you gimme a list of the guys you'd be willing to give up and I'll just pick the one I like?"

Graham is right that his front 4 of Lowe, Colon, Washburn and Wakefield is very solid, especially for an AL-only league.

However, I just read that Washburn fell during a spring training drill, separated his shoulder and is expected to miss 7-10 days. The injured shoulder is his left one, so this is definitely an injury worth being worried about. Also, Lowe pitched a lot of innings last year, so he's a slight injury/decline risk too.

Plus, I have a Bartolo Colon voodoo doll that I've been beating the crap out of since he got traded to Chicago, so he's definitely in line for a serious injury, possibly some sort of incident where he gets a large needle stabbed into his arm.

Of the guys Graham listed, here are the ones I like the most (in no particular order) as #5/#6 starters for the 2003 season:

Jose Contreras

Andy Pettitte

David Wells

John Halama

Jamie Moyer

Most of the other guys he listed don't strike me as good bets to get a lot of innings in the rotation this year and the ones that will see a lot of time (Hernandez, Van Hekken, Cornejo and possibly Doug Davis) aren't guys I would count on to be in my fantasy rotation this year.

Moyer is really old, like Graham said, but he's been pretty damn good and very durable for the last 5 years or so. He had a very bad 2000 season (154 IP with a 5.49 ERA), but he surrounded that with 2 good years prior and 2 good years after.

Over the last 2 seasons he has pitched 210 and 231 innings with ERAs of 3.43 and 3.32. He turned 40 in November, so he's obviously a big risk to just flat out stop pitching well, but he's been very good, so I'd be willing to take a chance on him this year and hope he doesn't fall off a cliff until a 2004.

Andy Pettitte is younger (30), but he's had more injury problems than Moyer and he pitched only 135 innings last year. However, prior to 2002 he had pitched 190+ innings every year since 1996. I think he'll bounce back in 2003 and pitch 180-200 innings with an ERA right around 4.00.

Jose Contreras is a pretty big risk, particularly with the way he's been smacked around in spring training so far. He is also not a sure thing (by any stretch) to even be in the rotation for the Yankees this year. Plus, Graham said he'd probably be gone by the time he got to pick anyway.

So, my rankings of those guys would be this:

1) Andy Pettitte

2) Jamie Moyer

And then...

If you want to use the early picks on hitting and try for a pitcher a little later in the draft, I think John Halama would be a great pick. I think he'll be in the Oakland rotation this year and he could definitely pitch 160+ innings with an ERA around 4.00.

And David Wells, despite being "old and fat" like Graham said, would be a good guy to pick up a little later in the draft too.

Our last question comes to us from Michael, who asks:

On my Scoresheet team I have Kevin Millar, Erubiel Durazo, and Rafael Palmeiro. It'll probably be a couple weeks into the season before Millar will qualify at first again, but basically, I've got 3 first basemen who are more than servicable. Considering playing time with Millar, injury with Durazo, and age with Palmeiro, does it seem like a good idea to trade Palmeiro (he's the one I can get the most value for) and plattoon Millar and Durazo at first?

If you play in a league that doesn't use the DH, then I would absolutely trade Rafael Palmeiro if you can get equal value for him. Kevin Millar and Erubiel Durazo is certainly enough "first base" to have on one roster.

Durazo will get 500+ ABs this year with the A's and I think Millar will play semi-everyday too. Palmeiro is a great player, but he's getting up there in age and Durazo and Millar can certainly put up similar (and possibly superior) numbers, particularly as a platoon.

If you need a DH in your league, that changes everything. Although, I still might deal Palmeiro, but then you'd need to pick up another decent 1B/DH type, just in case Millar or Durazo went down with an injury.

So yes, deal Palmeiro if it's a non-DH league or if it is a DH league and you can get something you really like for him.

Okay, that's it for this week's "Fantasy Mailbag." If you have any questions you'd like me to try to answer, fantasy-related or otherwise, feel free to send me an email.


Cristian Ruzich (aka "The Cub Reporter") recently got back from the vacation I am supposed to be on! He was in Arizona (Maryvale to be exact) to see the Cubs play. My uncle and I went to Arizona 4 times (I think). 3 spring trainings and once for the Arizona Fall League. All the trips were the best times of my life. Good weather, good food, good company and OUTDOOR BASEBALL!

So check check out Cristian's report on his trip. He took a bunch of pictures and even got Andy MacPhail (The Cubs GM) to pose with a piece of paper that had his blog address on it!

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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