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May 26, 2011

Fantasy Focus

Checking the Leaderboards

by Marc Normandin

With nearly two months of the 2011 season behind us, let's take a look at which players are leading the pack at their respective positions, and whether or not we can expect those starts to develop into trends, or if we should be selling high before the bottom falls out.

We'll use CBS player rankings here to determine the leader at each spot. Those are based on standard mixed rankings with 5x5 scoring and 12 teams, so no need to worry about curveballs from some funky league format I may play in.

Catcher: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (#150)
The backstop position has been pathetic in 2011—not that you couldn't figure that out by seeing Molina atop it, and at just #150 overall—thanks to injuries to Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez, slow starts by Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, and Brian McCann, and… okay, there aren't any other good catchers. You can see how Molina would slip in, given those conditions.

Posey, Santana, and McCann won't hit poorly forever, though, and Molina, for all his Molinaness, won't hit .320 and slug nearly .500 all season. Or, at least, betting on such an event would be foolhardy, given his career numbers in both (.271 and .367, similar to his .286 and .372 marks from the last three seasons). There is no harm in holding on to the hardest working Molina in show business for the duration of the year, but if you can ship him off somewhere to an owner who will overpay for the rights to the #150 ranked player in fantasy, by all means do so.

Last year, when I wrote a similar article to this, Miguel Olivo was the lone backstop in the top 100 players. He hit .193/.225/.313 in the second half—despite playing in Colorado—and finished well off that pace. It's a long season, and I would bet on a lot of other odd things happening before I put money on Yadier being King Backstop come October.

First Base: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox (#22)
I ranked Gonzalez as a five-star first baseman heading into the year, and my lone hesitation was whether or not his shoulder would be ready when the year opened, or if it the off-season surgery's effects would linger and hinder his production for a short time. Given that he is the top-ranked player with first base eligibility less than two months in, it's safe to say that his shoulder is feeling peachy.

In fact, here is what I wrote about him back in February:

In Boston's stacked lineup, out of Petco, and healthy, Gonzalez should rank ahead of everyone except Pujols at first. Problem is, we're not entirely sure when his shoulder will be 100 percent—it could be Opening Day, or it could take a month for the Sox new first baseman to get into the swing of things. I would be very surprised if Gonzalez didn't obliterate his forecast here, though.

Given Pujols' start, it may turn out the only thing I was wrong about in regards to Gonzalez was the "except Pujols" part. If you've enjoyed your Adrian Gonzalez thus far, then you'll be a happy customer the rest of the year, too.

Second Base: Michael Young, Texas Rangers (#43)
Young has ridiculous value right now, as he is eligible at positions that haven't even been invented yet. He is, in essence, a utility infielder that gets to play home games in Arlington, and he is currently destroying his weighted-mean PECOTA forecast by hitting .339/.381/.483. Now, his 90th percentile was .313/.366/.459, so we can't wave off his early-season performance entirely, but you can expect him to cool off, if just a little bit. He may not be worth moving, though, as he has eligibility at second, third, and even first base right now—in leagues with daily moves, someone this good with this kind of flexibility can win you a league if you have a matching set of movable pieces to go with him.

Third Base: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (#6)
Bautista has hit .275/.396/.651 since September of 2009, a stretch of roughly 1,000 plate appearances that includes 83 homers and 135 extra-base hits total. Yes, he is hitting better at home (.299/.423/.748) than on the road, but are you going to complain about a .255/.372/.567 road line when it comes attached to that giant point-scoring caveat known as the Rogers Centre? Unless your league counts park effects, you should care about this as much as you care about Carlos Gonzalez doing better in Coors when it comes to fantasy (read: not at all).

There is no reason to think Bautista won't continue to mash and remain atop the hot corner rankings.

Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians (#21)
Cabrera is hitting well this year, with a .312/.371/.548 showing. He has already set a career-high in homers with 10, beating his previous high of six, and looks to be back on the kind of doubles pace he had in 2009. His career has been very up-and-down, though, and this worries me. He is a perfect sell-high candidate, given his position and the fact that PECOTA's 90th percentile performance had him with a 787 OPS, but, given he is a shortstop, it wouldn't hurt you if he ended up performing at "just" that level the rest of the year, either. Weigh your options, and see if he can pull in more than he is worth in reality via trade.

Left Field: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (#6)
If you traded Jose Bautista and didn't get a ridiculous return on the deal, now is the time to be sad. I'm not even sure cute pictures of kittens can help you recover from that, since the kittens probably hate you for trading Bautista, anyways.

Center Field: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (#7)
Kemp has risen from the ashes of 2010 and may end up with the most productive season of his career because of it. Whether it is the new coaching staff around him, bad luck from 2010 vanishing, or a newfound focus isn't really the point—Kemp, by hitting .315/.396/.547 with 13 steals already, is simply doing what we all thought he was capable of before 2010 occurred. He hit .303/.351/.483 from 2007-2009, and doesn't turn 27 until the season is nearly complete—this is Matt Kemp, so if you had faith in his return back on draft day, you are being rewarded for it.

Right Field: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (#6)
It's crazy and also awesome that, if Bautista qualified at first, he would be the #1 ranked player at every position referred to as a corner spot.

Starting Pitcher: Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels (#1)
Pitcher rankings tend to smooth out as the year goes on, as ERAs start to level out and people like Kyle Lohse are removed from the top 10 players in fantasy. Haren doesn't have to worry about this as much—sure, he won't finish the year with a 1.84 ERA, but he posted a 2.87 mark with the Angels last year and is one of the top pitchers in the majors. That he walks almost no one—his 1.5 rate this year seems amazing until you notice his career rate is 2.0 per nine—helps, as it keeps his WHIP down, and he has been a quality source of strikeouts since 2008.

He may not finish the year on top, but unless you are going to get something absolutely ridiculous on the offensive end for him, there is no reason to sell.

Relief Pitcher: Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets (#24)
Alexi Ogando is the actual winner here, but that is kind of cheating, as he has been a starter who just happens to qualify as a reliever. Will Francisco Rodriguez be here in this spot at year's end? There is no way to know for sure—relievers are incredibly volatile, after all—but given that his success will result in the Mets seeing his $17.5 million vesting option activated, and that the Mets seem to have horrific luck, chances are good he will continue to excel if for no other reason than to add to the Mets' misery.

***

It's been six years, nearly as many books, hundreds and hundreds of articles, and weeks of my life spent in chats with you folks, but today I am saying goodbye to Baseball Prospectus. I want to thank Will Carroll for convincing me to try to get hired at BP all those years ago, former editor John Erhardt for deciding to bring me aboard to write for Prospectus Notebook, Christina Kahrl for teaching me many of my first writing lessons during her years in charge of the good ship BP, Kevin Goldstein for his faith in me to get fantasy coverage up and running at BP like never before, and Steven Goldman for his role as mentor that he won't escape, despite my exit from this website. And, of course, you, dear reader, as none of this would have been possible without your persistent clicking of my articles over the last half-decade.

Leaving isn't the same thing as going away, though; I'll still be on the Internet writing about baseball—even more than I already do, if you can believe that—but you will hear about exactly where and in what capacity very soon. If you want to see me drop cryptic hints and eventually let you know where you can find my work, you can follow me on Twitter (@marc_normandin). Just know that I'm not going away; whether that news is comforting or disconcerting, I leave to you.

I'm leaving many colleagues behind who are also my friends, but because of that, I know you and Prospectus remain in more than capable hands. I won't name them all here for fear of forgetting someone, but you know who you are. Or, at least, you should. I've sent enough signals over the years.

32 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

John Geer
(44)

Damn! You will be missed here, Marc. Good luck.

May 26, 2011 02:38 AM
rating: 10
 
Keith7971

good luck in all future endeavors and as a fan, i thank you for helping me better understand the game and discern things that may have slipped through the cracks were it not for you and the amazing bp staff.

May 26, 2011 02:55 AM
rating: 2
 
R.A.Wagman

Marc - thanks for writing about fantasy in a way that didn't always seem like it was about fantasy. You wrote about baseball and you wrote (write) about it well. Best of luck.

May 26, 2011 04:11 AM
rating: 7
 
Greg Pizzo

Wow, there continues to be lots of turnover here at BP...

May 26, 2011 04:59 AM
rating: 4
 
Shaun P.
(676)

Marc, all the best to you. You did an amazing job with the fantasy coverage and my fantasy teams are forever grateful. I'll miss reading you here but am looking forward to seeing where you go!

Sheesh, I just realized - book events in Boston won't be the same without you. Come join the rest of us in the seats next year, would you? We'll save you a spot.

May 26, 2011 05:56 AM
rating: 2
 
hessshaun

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! Why? I had to get on twitter to follow Will, so now onto you. I always enjoyed what you did here and will continue to do so via twitter. I was planning on giving you slack for not taking the next in line in the Bautista positions.

May 26, 2011 05:57 AM
rating: 1
 
tmangell

best of luck, Marc! I'll miss the gaming advice, too!

May 26, 2011 07:24 AM
rating: 0
 
kddean

Good luck to you Marc.

On a sidenote, why when authors leave, is it reported as an aside in an article?
Why can't the powers that be make an announcement and let us, the subscribers, know what's going on?
Will anything change with fantasy coverage? Will it be diminished? Did management find it to not be worth it? What?

May 26, 2011 07:26 AM
rating: 3
 
MichavdB

Was thinking the same thing. It seems to have almost evolved into a game, where the person leaving tries to bury it as deeply into an article as they possibly can.

May 26, 2011 07:48 AM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

It was hinted at in the subtext of the article on the main page.

May 26, 2011 07:57 AM
rating: 0
 
kddean

A hint is appropriate/sufficient?

May 26, 2011 09:13 AM
rating: 0
 
MichavdB

Good luck in your future endeavors Marc.

May 26, 2011 07:47 AM
rating: 1
 
jrbdmb

While I understand that some turnover is a necessary thing (and perhaps even a good thing) at BP, I am becoming alarmed at the number of fine contributors here who have left in 2011.

What's going on, BP?

May 26, 2011 08:09 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

To all who have written about this, we will have a comment later today or first thing tomorrow. We're not going to let the departure of a contributor as important as Marc go unremarked.

May 26, 2011 08:39 AM
 
Jay Taylor

I have to say, even though I've enjoyed a lot of the new writers, it is a little bit worrisome that almost all the long-time BP-ers are leaving.

May 26, 2011 10:06 AM
rating: 1
 
Edwincnelson

:(

May 26, 2011 08:27 AM
rating: 1
 
batts40

Sad to see you go, Marc.

May 26, 2011 08:33 AM
rating: 0
 
matty24

I'm also concerned with the amount of turnover. Not just the amount but also the quality of contributors. Not liking this....

Good luck Marc

May 26, 2011 08:42 AM
rating: 1
 
beerd90210

Y'all need a little more faith . Bp writers have gone on to greener pastures for years which is always followed by moaning and claims that almost reach the point of 'you should have consulted with me before accepting this resignation- that's what my $40 buys'. Bp has consistently proven itself able to replace its departed writers with solid replacements and this year in particular they've added additional writers and areas of analysis/reportage
In fact it's likely the fact that bp writers can and do go on to bigger things that keeps fresh talent coming in the door. Marc will be missed but I'm comfortable as a subscriber since the beginning that his shoes will be filled capably.

May 26, 2011 10:04 AM
rating: 6
 
kddean

To be clear about my own comment, it's not about that they need to "consult(ed) with me". It's about these announcement's being inserted into articles.
This always leads to lots of questions, hand-wringing, etc. Wouldn't it be more efficient to just have an editor's note giving some further information at the same time? Or before?

Not "later today or first thing tomorrow". I'm not threatening to never subscribe again or anything. These announcements take the form of federal government proclamations, "just trust us". Ok, how about some info then?

May 26, 2011 11:01 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Hamrahi
BP staff

Steven will have a more appropriate tribute to Marc later, but I want everyone, especially Marc, to know that we wish him the absolute best in his new endeavor. Sometimes opportunities come along that people can't pass up, and this happens to be one of them. If you could see our internal email stream, you know we all still love Marc and wish him the best.

One of the greatest challenges we face at BP is retaining the fantastic talent we have. We're a small business, and when professional teams, ESPN, or some other larger entity come calling, we often can't compete with the opportunities those places provide.

We're extremely proud of our alumni and are quite flattered that other organizations within the industry seek out our personnel to upgrade their rosters. We just wish they wouldn't do it so often!

Seriously though, we wish Marc all the success in the world and hope to announce a few new highly qualified additions to our staff over the next few days.

May 26, 2011 12:22 PM
 
Ragnhild

I've subscribed to BP a long time and have no idea who Joe Hamrahi is..."we at BP"? What does that even mean?

May 26, 2011 17:34 PM
rating: -3
 
BP staff member Joe Hamrahi
BP staff

I'm sorry you don't know who I am, but not all of us operate in the spotlight. There are a number of us who have to run the business and operational side of things and rarely appear on these pages. That being said, I have published top prospect compilations, posted about the Royals and my scout school experience, set up guest chats with the likes of AJ Hinch and Paul DePodesta, and written about and organized many of the events we take part in including the current Royals and Rays games that are on sale now.

I have known Marc for a long time, before either of us joined BP, and felt it was important to wish him well while letting readers know how we view things from the other side. That's all.

May 26, 2011 18:27 PM
 
hessshaun

Since I can't plus you, here it is.

Rating: 1 (+/-)

May 27, 2011 08:55 AM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

Thank you everyone for the kind words. It's all very much appreciated. And if you're missing out on the game advice, there is always Twitter and email!

May 26, 2011 12:50 PM
rating: 0
 
jrbdmb

And I'd like to repeat the thought that you were able to take fantasy news and present it in a way that was interesting even if I had no vested interest in those players. Thanks for making me a bigger baseball fan.

May 27, 2011 06:24 AM
rating: 0
 
ChicagoOriole

I really like what you have done here Marc. You have set a high standard for those who follow you to live up to.

May 26, 2011 13:37 PM
rating: 1
 
DanDaMan

Just reading this now that I'm home from work. Wow, I feel like I was just dumped unexpectedly by my girlfriend! Just didn't see hit coming. Marc's articles were always the first thing I read since Will left. Love your work Marc and appreciate all the fantasy advice. Sure hope BP has some plans to fill the tremendous void.
Dan

May 26, 2011 19:46 PM
rating: 1
 
Matt Kory

I've been reading Marc's work since his time at Beyond the Boxscore. I've been a BP subscriber for as long as I've been a reader of Marc's work and I intend to keep doing both long into the future. I'll just have to reset my bookmarks after Marc reappears. Best of luck Marc and thanks for all the great work here at BP.

May 27, 2011 10:14 AM
rating: 0
 
FrankL

Wow, it's going to be difficult to find a writer with an equal VoRW (Value Over Replacement Writer). I hope the BP staff is up to the matter or has mastered cloning technology.
Gonna miss you, Marc.

May 27, 2011 18:15 PM
rating: 0
 
Worthing

Others have said it, I'll say it too. The talent drain at BP, and I understand the economics, so it is what it is, just fucking sucks. Sure we can go read them all elsewhere, but it's so damn much work to follow everyone.

If commentary on Marc's departure has been done and I just can't find it (I've looked), then my apologies for what's about to follow.

Why does Goldman say "we will have a comment later today or first thing tomorrow" and then it doesn't happen? Isn't tomorrow today now?

Not the same situation as Carroll, but the same thing happened then, "we'll comment later" and there never was anything.

Either say it, or say we won't/can't comment. But the "we'll comment later" and then you don't...well, it just reminds me of when I tell my 5-year-old the same thing and then never do. It's my bad parenting; it's your bad running a business. It's off-putting to say the least.

May 27, 2011 20:34 PM
rating: 2
 
kddean

I agree, if you're legally not able to comment, then just say that.

But to not say anything after saying that you would, is bad form.

May 28, 2011 13:21 PM
rating: 0
 
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