Today we have the kind of question I love to see as well as the most popular fantasy question of 2010—I can't tell you how many e-mails I received where the central query focused on this particular duo over the past few weeks. Let's jump right in to the last mailbag of the offseason—a welcome sight for those who, like me, are getting antsy waiting for Opening Day.
Question for a mailbag: For the first time in my 12 years of roto ball, I was drawn for the first pick in our snake draft. Of course I took King Albert.
I'm from Minnesota, and the next day I was offered the following trade: Joe Mauer, Kendry Morales, and CC Sabathia for Albert. I took the deal, after a ton of agonizing. My previous C was Posada, my previous fifth starter was Webb. Am I an idiot? —P.B.
I'm of the mind that every player has a price at which he should be traded—whether that's in real life or fantasy. There comes a point where you are taking in so much value for a player that it makes sense to deal them, and you may have hit that level. Joe Mauer is not Albert Pujols—he's not even close, really—but he is a five-star level player at a position that barely scraped together a four-star tier. Jorge Posada was great in 2009, but given that he's aging and sure to regress in 2010, upgrading to Mauer is a pretty huge step up. PECOTA has Posada at .281/.359/.494 for his weighted mean forecast and .290/.375/.524 for his 70th percentile. His weighted mean is more like it, but even his 50th percentile looks like a possibility given his age (.268/.351/.462). Mauer's weighted mean is .328/.420/.513—he'll be able to match Posada in RBI and R at that output while blowing the Yankee backstops batting average away. When you consider that Mauer's 70th and 90th percentiles also look like realistic possibilities (shades of 2009 with a bit less power) then you see why Mauer is a significant step up. Brandon Webb, even when he's at his best, is not CC Sabathia. Considering the questions surrounding his health and his ability to bounce back to form in 2010, having Sabathia—and as your fifth starter!—is huge. The best part about this is that you can now flip Posada and Webb during the season to fill another need.
Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball, both real and fake, but he plays at the deepest position in the league. You can't replace him 1:1 with anyone in the majors at any position, but it's much easier to compensate for dealing Pujols than say, Hanley Ramirez, given the depth at the position. Kendry Morales is by no means a replacement for Pujols, but he won't hurt you in average, will drive in plenty of runs, and should come close to, or surpass, 30 homers. In order to make this deal a total coup instead of two upgrades and a downgrade, you will need to swap the Posada/Webb combo to shore up elsewhere.
It's very tough to upgrade at the margins in fantasy baseball, because every time you add someone you have to subtract someone from the equation. Turning Pujols into three upgrades should offset his loss, assuming you can turn Posada/Webb into something you can use, and it also spreads the talent around your roster a bit more. I probably like this deal more in head-to-head than in roto, but you are by no means "an idiot" for pulling the trigger here.
I am in a keeper league and I have a choice between Strasburg and Heyward. Who should I pick? —J.S.
The question of the month! You have two major talents—we're talking potentially generational talents here—and you have the choice of either. That's a good position to be in, but based on my inbox the past few weeks, it is not a unique one. I'm very excited about Stephen Strasburg—here's a guy with a scouting report that blows anyone you can name away, and he's never thrown a pitch in the major leagues. He has fantastic stuff, and should be able to succeed at the major league level almost immediately (though whether he's an ace right out of the gate is something to be seen). Jason Heyward hit .337/.410/.592 during his Double-A debut last season—that's impressive without any other context, but he was 19 years old. Think about that for a moment—people have been excited about Austin Jackson's potential, and he is three years older and with less of a resume from his time in the minors than Heyward. The Braves right fielder is projected to hit .280/.349/.477 this year, which is excellent for a rookie (doubley so for one that is 20 years old) but what should make the hearts of Braves fans speed up are his upper level forecasts: Heyward's 90th percentile has him hitting .300/.375/.554. Do I expect that in 2010? Of course not—he hasn't registered an at-bat in the majors yet, and expecting him to be one of the best hitters in the league from the start is just asking for disappointment. But here's the thing—like Justin Upton in Arizona, you can see it happening very soon, and at an early age. That makes him a good player to have in 2010, but a potentially amazing one to have around in 2011 and beyond.
As for Strasburg, I have one glaring issue. Calling it an issue may actually be overstating it, but since the point of this is to pick one or the other, nits must be picked. Strasburg is a pitcher—I'm not comfortable keeping too many pitchers on my roster, given their inherent injury risk. Strasburg may be one of those guys, like Tim Lincecum or Zack Greinke, who is worth holding onto year in and year out, but we don't know that yet—throw in the fact that your other choice is Heyward, and you see why keeping a pitcher is a risky investment. It would be a shame if Strasburg went all Mark Prior on us in the near future, but as with any pitchers, it's a distinct possibility his arm goes kaboom at any time. I would be comfortable picking Strasburg if the other choice was not Jason Heyward—I love the idea of keeping a young, potentially fantastic talent like this from the start—but when you give me a guy who can give Justin Upton a run for his money with the bat as the other choice, then that comfort disappears.