In our community, we have a very active and enthusiastic sports interest group. Headed up by a retired New York City schoolteacher, who is also the world's biggest Giants fan, we've been fortunate enough to have visits from Fergie Jenkins, Josh Hamilton, Matt Williams, Hall of Fame Baseball Executive Roland Hemond and dozens of other sports luminaries. Each Spring, as our homage to Spring Training and the new baseball season, we host a baseball panel discussion on a particular topic. In the past, we've reviewed the "Golden Age of Baseball" (the 50's and 60's), debated the Hall of Fame, previewed the upcoming season and rated the top ten players at each position. This time, we utilized a column from bleacherreport.com about the 50 greatest teams of all time. Our goal was to come up with the top ten and after deciding to hone in on the post-WWII timeframe, the members of the panel voted to establish the list...
10T) 1995 Braves
10T) 1984 Tigers
9) 1957 Braves
8) 1954 Indians
7) 1970 Orioles
6) 1955 Dodgers
5) 1953 Yankees
4) 1954 Giants
3) 1961 Yankees
2) 1998 Yankees
1) 1976 Reds
Last week, in front of an overflow audience, each of the five panelists reviewed two teams on the list, added their own take on the choices and welcomed questions from the audience. 10th place and 2nd place were my responsibility and here is what I had to say...
To provide some background on our presentation tonight, the source material was an article penned by baseball writer Joel Reuter about a year ago that rated the 50 greatest teams in MLB history.
At our preliminary meeting, the panel decided to eliminate the 20+ teams from before World War II because we knew that if there was anyone in the audience who actually watched baseball in the 1920's and 1930's, they'd be too tired to argue with us. Then, of course, due to our usual arrogant attitude, we decided that instead of using the author's ratings, we would vote to determine the top ten teams on the list. Naturally, the results left us with one team that wasn't even in the top 50, another team that didn't even win the World Series and the omission of the 2004 Boston Red Sox. But, as a reminder, you get what you pay for.
All kidding aside, this is what makes baseball so great. Every fan has their own opinion about teams, players, awards and Hall of Fame voting.
So, to start the process, we'll first review the two teams that tied for 10th place in our poll. As always, my analysis will include some advanced metrics that highlight the excellence of these rosters.
1995 Atlanta Braves
> 90-54 (11-3 postseason, won the World Series vs. the Indians)
> One of the most consistent teams of the era, they won 14 straight division titles from 1991 to 2005 but this was their only World Series Championship.
> Run Differential = +105
> Team ERA = 3.44 (123 ERA+)
> Team BA/OBP/SLG = .250/.326/.409 (91 OPS+)
> Pitching was the key with three Hall of Famers (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz) in the rotation. Maddux won his 4th consecutive Cy Young Award in what may have been his greatest season...19-2 with a 1.63 ERA and a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 9.7, which was the best in baseball. Glavine was 16-7, Smoltz was 12-7 and Closer Mark Wohlers had 7 Wins and 25 Saves.
> Another positive factor was their Hall of Fame Manager, whose calm demeanor and outgoing sense of humor created the right atmosphere. Of course, Bobby Cox could afford to be happy because he was usually in the clubhouse enjoying the post-game meal by the 7th inning after being thrown out of the game.
1984 Detroit Tigers
> 104-58 (7-1 postseason, won World Series vs. Padres)
> This team started the season 35-5 and never looked back.
> Run Differential = +186
> Team ERA = 3.49 (113 ERA+)
> Team BA/OBP/SLG = .271/342/.432 (114 OPS+)
> Led the AL in scoring with a balanced lineup that included a 6.7 WAR season from Shortstop Alan Trammell, 27 homers and 29 stolen bases from Kirk Gibson, 33 homers and 98 RBI from Lance Parrish and solid contributions from Lou Whitaker and Chet Lemon.
> Jack Morris was 19-11 and the ace of the staff but Dan Petry had a comparable year at 18-8 while Milt Wilcox added 17 Wins. Closer Willie Hernandez had 9 Wins, 32 Saves and a 1.92 ERA...he won both the Cy Young Award and the MVP.
> As with the Braves, this club had a Hall of Fame Manager in Sparky Anderson.
1998 New York Yankees
> Only my loyalty to our sports group allows me to say anything positive about the Yankees, but this team ranked 2nd in our polling.
> This was the second of four titles the Bronx Bombers won from 1996-2000 under Manager Joe Torre and it was the winningest team in he storied history of the franchise.
> 114-48 (11-2 in the postseason, won World Series vs. the Padres)
> Run Differential = +309
> Team ERA = 3.86 (116 ERA+)
> Team BA/OBP/SLG = .288/.364/.460 (116 OPS+)
> The offense was incredible, led by Derek Jeter's 7.5 WAR season that included 19 home runs, 84 RBI and 30 stolen bases. Other big campaigns belonged to Bernie Williams (26/97/15), Tino Martinez (28/123), Paul O'Neill (24/116/15) and Scott Brosius (19/98/11).
Following our presentation, the audience added a very spirited Q&A session with lots of great input. One fan put it best by saying that even though his favorite team (the '73 Athletics) didn't make the top ten, he couldn't really debate the issue because it was an impossible task to decide who they could replace on our list. Now, we'll have to come up with next year's topic...hope you can join us.
If you're even an occasional reader of this column, you know that the Old Duck is a 30-year veteran of Rotisserie Style Auction Keeper Leagues. With over 25 championships in about 70 drafts, it is what I relish and look forward to each year. However, once a year, the dreaded Snake Draft enters my life for one very good reason. The young man who hosts the league (on ESPN.com) is like a son to me and if he asked me to join a Camel Race Fantasy League hosted by Al Jazeera, I'd probably say yes.
Even though I know a beautiful girl who once had a pet Boa constrictor named "Julius Squeezer", I hate snakes...both in person and of the Fantasy variety. To me, having 10 or 15 or 20 players go off the board without the opportunity to bid just penalizes me for doing solid research. And, if one of the Roto combatants forgets to show up online, you can bet the "auto-draft" spot will be right in front of me.
This time of year, if you follow Fantasy Baseball at all, it is impossible to avoid Snake Draft advice. It comes at you from everywhere...newspapers, websites, magazines, XM Radio and friends. The number of strategies are mind-boggling and include...
> Memorizing the average draft position (ADP) of every player in the universe.
> The "Don't take pitchers early" philosophy.
> The "Take Clayton Kershaw now" philosophy.
> The "Don't take closers until later" philosophy.
> Prioritizing position scarcity.
> Getting 50 HR's and 50 SB's from your first two picks (50/50 Plan).
> Getting 75 HR's and 75 SB's from your first three picks (75/75 Plan).
> Picking two stud starting pitchers early, also known as the "Dual Aces" plan.
In order to avoid having my brain explode, I've used none of those strategies and still managed a championship and two 2nd place finishes in the short history of the league. In 2013, my team even managed to finish 4th after taking Ryan Braun and Jose Reyes in the first two rounds, but in 2014, the Ducks 9th place finish was assured early when we chose Joey Votto in Round 2 (injured), Alex Rios in Round 3 (4 HR's?) and Matt Cain as our first pitcher in Round 5 (injured). Part of the past success is from my fairly good knowledge of the player pool, as I'm boning up for NL-only and AL-only drafts that take place in late March and early April. Logically, however, it seems that the overall approach of the last 30 years still works and it is a mindset of "balance." So, while the Long Island Ducks (we all incorporate the name of a minor league team) do have a tendency to wait on pitching, it is more about balancing the roster to leave flexibility as the draft progresses. Ideally, after ten rounds, the roster should include at least one player at each position (C, 1B, 3B, 2B, SS, OF, SP and Closer) along with a 2nd OF and 2nd SP. After that foundation is established, looking for value is the priority. If you've already read columns from multiple sources about the players they drafted, this might be a cure for insomnia. With that disclaimer, my hope is that the strategies and player choices will be of value to you in your upcoming draft.
The only other strategy comments would be...1) the logic of not taking starting pitching early has been reinforced by the fact that I got to witness the only inning that Yu Darvish will pitch in 2015 and 2) "reaching" for players that have potential upside instead of sticking with boring veterans.
This is a 15-team mixed league with 22-man rosters (1 Catcher) and three reserve picks. The random order one hour prior to the draft gave the Ducks the 4th pick, which was fine with me because the roster would be guaranteed an elite hitter. As we work our way through the results, you'll see the ADP (Average Draft Position) for each player as a point of reference. The ADP rankings are as of the date of the draft (3/15).
Round 1, Pick 4 - Paul Goldschmidt, 1B (ADP 5)
Predictably, Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen went 1 and 2 and then Miguel Cabrera was chosen at #3. That left a number of good choices and I went with "Goldy", who looks healthy this spring and offers a five-category contribution.
Round 2, Pick 27 - Ian Desmond, SS (ADP 26)
His teammate Anthony Rendon was my target here, but he went off the board two picks earlier. However, it's nice to get a power-speed guy at a scarce position. These first two picks project for 54 HR's and 38 SB's.
Round 3, Pick 34 - George Springer, OF (ADP 45)
The first of many "reaches", it's difficult to tell how he'll do over a full season, but the power-speed combination is alluring. The site's projection is 31 HR's and 16 SB's, so the first three picks equate to 85 HR's and 54 SB's
Round 4, Pick 57 - James Shields, SP (ADP 81)
Seems like a reach when looking at the ADP, but this is one of those Snake moments we all dread. Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez went 6th and 7th in the 1st round, then Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner and Chris Sale went in Round 2. Round 3 eliminated Stephen Strasburg, Corey Kluber, David Price and Johnny Cueto. When Jordan Zimmermann, Jon Lester and Cole Hamels went ahead of me in Round 4, there was no choice but to take the best available starter left on the board. The Ducks next pick was at #64, but Shields would have been gone because Jeff Samardzija, Adam Wainwright and Gio Gonzalez all were taken in the next six picks.
Round 5, Pick 64 - Brian Dozier, 2B (ADP 62)
Another power-speed contributor at a scarce position. The first four hitters now project for 106 HR's and 73 SB's.
Round 6, Pick 87 - Pablo Sandoval, 3B (ADP 121)
Needed a 3B to fill the infield spots and I rated him much higher than the ADP. Adrian Beltre, Josh Donaldson, Kris Bryant, Evan Longoria, Kyle Seager, Todd Frazier, Nolan Arenado and Carlos Santana were all gone at this point.
Round 7, Pick 94 - Yadier Molina, C (ADP 129)
Even though it's a one-catcher format, the Ducks wanted to lock in a reliable backstop.
Round 8, Pick 117 - Alex Wood, SP (ADP 98)
It was time to add a second starting pitcher and this young guy has some upside even on a mediocre Braves team.
Round 9, Pick 124 - Dellin Betances, RP (ADP 94)
Round 10, Pick 147 - Josh Harrison, OF (ADP 116)
It's doubtful he can replicate last year's success but double-digit HR's and SB's with 3B eligibility makes this a decent selection.
At this point, the original strategy was in place...the Ducks had a C, 1B, 3B, 2B, SS, 2 OF, 2 SP and 1 Closer. Now it's about value and reading the nuances of a particular draft.
Round 11, Pick 154 - Drew Storen, RP (ADP 132)
Closers were getting scarce at this point and you need to have at least two who have a secure hold on the job.
Round 12, Pick 177 - Jose Fernandez, SP (ADP 178)
The ADP is about right, but this is a gamble because he may not pitch until June. The key is finding at least one starting pitcher in the end game to plug in for the start of the season.
Round 13, Pick 184 - Steven Souza, OF (ADP 252)
An obvious reach, but sometimes you have to roll the dice on young players.
Round 14, Pick 207 - Carl Crawford, OF (ADP 254)
Don't like this pick, but as Steve McQueen's character in "The Magnificent Seven" once said, "Seemed like a good idea at the time."
Round 15, Pick 214 - Shelby Miller, SP (ADP 258)
In one of my keeper leagues, I traded him during the off-season, so why did I take him here? Not sure, but it could have just as easily been Kyle Lohse, Mike Fiers or Brandon McCarthy in this spot, and is any one of them significantly better than the others?
Round 16, Pick 237 - Yasmany Tomas, OF (ADP 160)
Round 17, Pick 244 - Tyler Clippard, RP (ADP 241)
Even if Sean Doolittle is healthy, this guy will get some chances. The A's aren't paying him $9 Million to pitch in low leverage situations.
Round 18, Pick 267 - Chase Headley, 3B (ADP 268)
Alex Rodriguez was taken with the next pick...cue the "Twilight Zone" theme music.
Round 19, Pick 274 - Wily Peralta, SP (ADP 265)
A 17-game winner seems pretty good in this spot.
Round 20, Pick 297 - Kyle Hendricks, SP (ADP 288)
My analysis is that his rookie season wasn't just smoke and mirrors. We'll find out quickly.
Round 21, Pick 304 - Jung-ho Kang, SS (ADP 268)
Another flyer here, but a potential power-hitting middle infielder is intriguing.
Round 22, Pick 327 - Brandon Crawford, SS (ADP 302)
This is actually the Utility spot on the roster...also known as Kang insurance.
Round 23, Pick 334 - James Loney, 1B (ADP 332)
The first of three reserve spots, he's an everyday player who hit .290 last season.
Round 24, Pick 357 - Tony Cingrani, SP (ADP 320)
This was supposed to be the replacement for Fernandez, but less than 24 hours later, the Reds sent him to the bullpen. This will be the first drop on the roster.
Round 25, Pick 364 - Juan Lagares, OF (ADP 355)
Projected to hit lead-off for the Mets, 15-20 SB's could come in handy.
How does the team look? At first glance, the offense looks decent and could accumulate 55 points or more. On the pitching side, there's definite weakness in Wins and K's and the roster only has about 30 pitching points based on projections. 85 points would be middle-of-the-pack based on last year's standings, so the squad isn't great but it isn't lousy.
The really good news is that I don't have to do this for another year. Best of luck in your draft.
As the Old Duck bounces back and forth between fantasy baseball and baseball card collecting, the parallels are interesting and instructive. In both cases, young players are purchased on the cheap with hope that their talent will emerge and an immense profit will be reaped. In one "dynasty" type keeper league, Miguel Cabrera was chosen in the Spring of 2003 when he was still at Double-A and he remained a loyal member of my squad for over a decade. Of course, if this smart owner had also purchased a cache of Cabrera autographed cards from the 2000 Topps Traded set, this column would emanate from a beach in Maui. So, what do collectors think, as opposed to the fantasy player who is currently scrolling through multiple top-100 lists from prospect experts?
The baseball card product that caters most toward prospects is Bowman Chrome (produced by Topps). Each year, they dig deep into the minor leagues and not only offer base cards, but also autographed versions. For these autograph examples, we'll consider players who still have "rookie status" and were included in the 2012, 2013 or 2014 set. The value range is from the March 2015 Beckett price guide.
2012 Bowman Chrome
1) Jorge Soler, Cubs OF...$50-$120. This youngster had over a .900 OPS in 89 major league AB's in 2014 and is a cornerstone of the Cubbies youth movement.
2) Joey Gallo, Rangers 3B...$40-$100. Jumped into the upper echelon of prospects with 42 minor league HR's at two stops in 2014.
3) Addison Russell, Cubs SS...$40-$100. Added to Chicago's embarrassment of riches last season when the A's went "all in." 12 HR's in 194 AB's in the Southern League shows the potential of this 21-year-old.
4) Corey Seager, Dodgers SS...$30-$80. Hit .349 with 20 HR's in the Minors last season. Slotted at Triple-A in '15 and then Rollins and Uribe are gone in '16.
5) Albert Almora, Cubs OF...$20-$50. Yes, another Cubbie! This one might not be as close as some of the others, but he's only 20 and got to Double-A last year.
2013 Bowman Chrome
1) Byron Buxton, Twins OF...$125-$250. Near the top of most lists, he lost most of 2014 to injury but is still only 21.
2) Carlos Correa, Astros SS...$60-$150. The #1 pick in the 2012 Draft, he's 20 years old and hit .325 in the California League last season.
3) Austin Meadows, Pirates OF...$40-$100. To highlight the Bucs depth, he might only be their 4th best prospect. At age 19, he hit .322 in the Sally League. Was the #9 pick in the 2013 Draft.
4) Cord Sandberg, Phillies OF...$30-$60. Not even in the Phillies top ten, this 20-year-old still gets love from collectors. He hit .235 in half a season at Low A.
5) Lucas Giolito, Nationals P...$20-$50. There's no room in the Nat's rotation at the moment, but this 20-year-old was 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA in the Sally League.
6) Clint Frazier, Indians OF...$20-$50. The first high school hitter taken in the 2013 Draft, he's also 20 and hit 13 HR's in the Midwest League last season.
7) Aaron Judge, Yankees OF...$20-$50. At 6'7" 230 lbs., he looks like Giancarlo Stanton and hit 17 HR's in the Minors last year before showing impressive power in the Arizona Fall League. And, there's a plethora of Yankee fans.
8) J.P Crawford, Phillies SS...$15-$40. Jimmy Rollins is gone and this guy isn't far away at age 20. At two minor league stops last year, he had 11 HR's, 24 SB's and a .285 BA.
9) Tyler Glasnow, Pirates P...$15-$40. At age 21, this 6'8" right-hander was 12-5 with a 1.74 ERA in the Florida State League.
2014 Bowman Chrome
1) Kris Bryant, Cubs 3B...$125-$250. Even without a major league at-bat, this phenom has everyone's attention. Card collectors are hoping the Cubbies don't go cheap and start him at Triple-A to save money down the road.
2) Alex Jackson, Mariners OF...$50-$120. Only 19 with a handful of professional games, this youngster was the #6 pick in the 2014 Draft.
3) Kyle Schwarber, Cubs C...$50-$120. May not stay at Catcher, but his bat will play anywhere. His pro debut at three levels equaled 18 HR's and a .344 BA in 262 AB's.
4) Julio Urias, Dodgers P...$30-$80. Just turned 18 in August and made 20 starts last season in the California League. The results included a 2.36 ERA and an opponent BA of .194.
5) Nick Gordon, Twins SS...$20-$50. Dee's brother was the #5 pick last June and this 19-year-old is already on the fast track to Minneapolis.
6) Tyler Kolek, Marlins P...$20-$50. The second player taken in the '14 Draft, this 6'5" right-hander consistently throws 100 mph.
20+ players to watch...and collect.
As Hedley Lamarr (or maybe Chase Headley) once said, "My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives." So, with Spring Training upon us, and with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy:
> If you were paying attention in December and clearly know that Andrew Heaney has a great sense of humor, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you get more excited about Evan Longoria than Eva Longoria, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know that Marc Rzepczynski's nickname is "Scrabble", you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If your elbow was fine but you decided to have Tommy John Surgery just to see how long the rehab takes, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you see an elderly woman with bad hips walking through the grocery store and it causes you to think of Matt Kemp, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If your neighbor brags about his 4x4 and you reply by saying you prefer 5x5, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know that Al Alburquerque is not from New Mexico, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know it's d'Arnaud and not D'Arnaud, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If Cam Bedrosian's father was once the closer on your team, you just might be a veteran Fantasy player.
> If someone inquires about Archie Bradley's marital status and you wonder if his wife's name might be Veronica, you just might be a Senior Citizen Fantasy player.
> If you're walking through the woods when someone yells "Snake" and you yell back "I prefer Auction", you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you chase Anderson, Headley and Utley at the draft table, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know what Alex Guerrero and Evander Holyfield have in common, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If someone refers to a girl as a "Keeper" and you ask if she qualifies at more than one position, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think Antonio Bastardo's nickname should be "Inglourious", you just might a Tarantino-style Fantasy player.
> If the team names "Okrent Fenokees", "Sklar Gazers", "Cary Nations" and "Pollet Burros" are familiar to you, you just might be a long-time Fantasy player.
> If the quote "Loe is High" makes sense to you, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think the best thing about the Super Bowl is that it's the last football game of the season, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you declined an invitation to go on a road-trip with Jayson Werth, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you're sure that Buddy Carlyle isn't the name of a Las Vegas lounge singer, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you've ever used the word "Eh" in a conversation with Tim McLeod, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you watch a movie that stars Ben Kingsley and you're motivated to check Trace Wood's Long Gandhi website, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think the Mayo Clinic is where Jonathan spends the off-season looking at minor-league video, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think "Black Magic Woman" is only a song by the wrong Carlos Santana, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you are aware that during the off-season, Marlins GM Dan Jennings traded Marlins Pitcher Dan Jennings to the White Sox, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If your podiatrist diagnoses you with a callous and it causes you to wonder if Jim has finished the top 100 prospect list yet, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you've signed a petition to have Bill James' countenance added to Mt. Rushmore, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you went to farmersonly.com to look for a scouting report on Buck Farmer, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If the term "Pleskoff Prospect Pipeline" is meaningful to you, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you realize that Wily Peralta's name is not pronounced the same as Wile E. Coyote's name, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you see graffiti that says "Jesus Is The Answer" and you wonder if the question is, "Who Is Matty and Felipe's Brother?", you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think that Jesus Montero should replace Dan Marino in those NutriSystem commercials, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you're hoping to play the part of Larry Schechter in the movie version of his book, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you believe that Wilin, Welington, Dioner and Yasmani are all spelled correctly, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you're secure in the fact that Vinnie Pestano never worked at the "Bada Bing", you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If the song "Ventura Highway" makes you wonder if Yordano is really an ace, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you've applied for one of the new Visas to Cuba, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you are secure in the fact that Lord Zola is not a character created by J.R.R. Tolkien, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If your girlfriend's name is Betty Jo but you've started calling her Melvin, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If your employer uses a company called ADP to process payroll and your paycheck causes you to wonder if you can get a quality closer in the top 60, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If it is clear to you that Ryan Lavarnway should never sign any rental agreement on an apartment longer than 30 days, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you meet someone whose child is named Jurickson and you don't consider it unusual, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If a Spring Training report indicating that a player added "seven pounds of muscle" during the off-season brings back memories of that long December weekend when you added seven pounds of fat, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know more about Bubba Starling than you do about Clarice Starling, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think that Kevin Quackenbush should pitch for the Long Island Ducks, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know that brothers Cesar and Maicer Izturis were born only eight months apart, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know that Rougned Odor has a ball-playing brother who is also named Rougned Odor, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know that Starlin, Alcides, Adeiny and Asdrubal are all spelled correctly, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know how to spell Oberholtzer, Foltynewicz, Tropeano, Scheppers, Tepesch, Pierzynski, Nieuwenhuis and Szczur, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If a conversation with Jason Collette would be more interesting than one with Toni Collette, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If someone invites you to see "Kung Fu Panda" and you ask if the second half of the double bill is "The Green Monster", you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know that the Cecchini Brothers are not characters in a mob movie, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you believe that "Rotoman" may soon become a comic book Superhero, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think that James Shields left a few bucks on the table in exchange for an ocean view, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know that Conor spells it "Gillaspie" and Cole spells it "Gillespie", you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you wonder why the Mexican restaurants in Kansas City don't serve Moose Tacos, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If it occurs to you that Juan Carlos is a much more exotic name than Leo, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think that meeting Billy Beane would be more exciting than meeting Brad Pitt, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If Ron Shandler has replaced John Grisham as your favorite author, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If it ever crossed your mind that Julio Iglesias might follow Jose Iglesias to Motown, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you've changed your name from Mike to Giancarlo, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If the song "Camptown Ladies" makes you think of Lucas Duda, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If someone tells you they live on Huston St. and you immediately think about Saves, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know that the word "Norichika" means "Ground Ball" in Japanese, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If your wife isn't concerned about you visiting Asian websites because she knows you're scouting prospects, you are obviously a Fantasy player.
> If you don't believe that Jon Lester is worth $155 Million, but you're sure he's worth at least $20, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know that Yovani, Aroldis, Ubaldo, Jhoulys, Odrisamer and Anibal are all spelled correctly, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you use the names Asche and Maikel in the same sentence, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know that Dane, Eury, Jorge and Rubby are all named De La Rosa, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know more quotes from Dylan Bundy than from Al Bundy, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If the total bill every time you shop at Costco is $260, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If Kyle Drabek's dad was once on your Roto team, you just might be a veteran Fantasy player.
> If the song "Whip It" comes on the radio and you think about a pitcher's ratio, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If the names Leonys, Taijuan, Kolten, Rymer and Xander are familiar to you, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If your only link to opera is that you once saw Alfredo Figaro pitch, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think Steve Moyer has better velocity than Jamie Moyer, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think the movie "Ender's Game" is a documentary about Inciarte's rookie season with the D'Backs, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know that Stolmy, Josmil, Mauricio, Yorvit and Koyie are all spelled correctly, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If your Zen Master plays a guitar, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know that Yuniesky spells it "Betancourt" and Christian spells it "Bethancourt", you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you are in possession of the MRI on Masahiro Tanaka's elbow, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you absolutely hate it when managers decide to give their closers some work in non-save situations, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you drive all the way to Las Vegas in March to see Greg Ambrosius, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you bruise your knuckles and immediately think about R.A. Dickey, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think Brett Gardner could be related to Steve Gardner, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know that Brian Kenny is the smartest guy on MLB Network, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> On a related note, if Harold Reynolds drives you bonkers, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think Perry is a better Capt. Hook than Christopher Walken, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think "Classical Gas" is only a song by the wrong Mason Williams, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you are perfectly clear on the fact that "Saltalamacchia" is not tonight's special at that upscale Italian restaurant, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you actually know the starting lineup of the Houston Astros, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If the hotel you book for your family vacation this summer must have wireless access, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you have zero interest in the members of the Rockies starting rotation, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you go to a seafood restaurant and can't bring yourself to order the (Mike) Trout, (Tim) Salmon, (Kevin) Bass, (Mike) Carp, Catfish (Hunter) or (Bobby) Sturgeon, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you book a flight to Honolulu and it makes you wonder if Shane Victorino is really a 4th outfielder, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think that Doug Dennis is funnier than most stand-up comics on HBO, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If a politician brings up the topic of inflation and you wonder why he isn't also concerned with position scarcity, you just might be a keeper-league Fantasy player.
> If Brian Feldman has ever been your auctioneer, you just might be an expert-level Fantasy player.
> If you have zero interest in middle relievers, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you suffer a personal injury and call Rick Wilton for a diagnoses, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think that Tyler Flowers could be related to Ray Flowers, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think that the term "Elvis Has Left the Building" means the Rangers Shortstop hit a home run, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If your kid's history homework includes a lesson about the Wright Brothers and it makes you wonder how much the Mets 3B will go for at the table, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If Jeff Erickson is your favorite radio personality, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you meet someone named Roberto but keep calling him Fausto, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you believe that Jhonny Peralta's productive first season with the Cardinals caused Brian Walton to change his name to "Bhrian", you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think that Bartolo Colon is related to Andre the Giant, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know the true identities of Car-Go, Lo-Mo, K-Rod, J-Roll, J-Up and V-Mart, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you've ever tried to buy something with "Patton Dollars", you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If someone sneezes and it causes you to think about the Rangers lead-off hitter bouncing back from injury, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If someone uses the term "Wise Guy" and you think of Gene McCaffrey instead of Joe Pesci, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you know why Trea Turner is listed as a top prospect in two different organizations, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If Jeff Winick represented you in salary arbitration, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> If you think a "Sale Price" is getting Chris for less than $20, you just might be a Fantasy player.
> And, finally, if Draft Day is your favorite day of the year, you have become a true Fantasy player.
On our last visit, the Old Duck pondered some of the American League questions that need to be answered in the next 4-6 weeks. This time, we'll soar above the National League training facilities and try to determine what we need to know to increase our baseball IQ for the purposes of fantasy or reality in 2015.
> Atlanta Braves - "Can 2017 arrive soon enough?"
It becomes very clear that this franchise is focused on the opening of their new ballpark in 2017 when you realize that their clean-up hitter on opening day could be Jonny Gomes and only one member of their projected rotation is over 24. The next two seasons could be ugly.
> Miami Marlins - "Did the Stanton contract commit the owner to achieving success?"
Florida fans have been fooled by Jeffrey Loria before but this squad looks like it can contend for a Wild Card spot. With the additions of Dee Gordon and Mike Morse, there isn't really a hole in the lineup and a healthy Mat Latos could front a decent rotation.
> New York Mets - "Can the young pitching mature before the lineup gets old?"
> Philadelphia Phillies - "How will the GM perform in his walk year?"
Ruben Amaro Jr. created a sink-hole with bad contracts and now he's challenged to re-build the team. Jimmy Rollins is gone but Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee still remain. It's a reasonable assumption that they'll all be gone before 2016.
> Washington Nationals - "Is spending $11 Million to keep a 15-game winner in the bullpen the best allocation of resources?"
With the addition of Max Scherzer, the budget busting includes Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister making $23M while Tanner Roark is the 6th starter. They will be the best regular-season team, but winning in the post-season will be the key.
> Chicago Cubs - "When was the last time multiple prospects matured at the same time?"
Joe Maddon and Jon Lester are great additions, but can Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant all be positive contributors this season? On the flip side, was the Dexter Fowler acquisition really necessary?
> Cincinnati Reds - "What year are they playing for?"
It seems like this franchise can't decide if they're going to rebuild or try to contend. Waiting until June to make that decision might not be the best idea. Two members of the rotation are gone, Johnny Cueto is in his walk year, Joey Votto and Homer Bailey are coming off injuries and Brandon Phillips is in decline. At least they added Marlon Byrd.
> Milwaukee Brewers - "Did last season's early success give them a false sense of security?"
The Brew Crew fell apart down the stretch in 2014 and they really don't look like they've improved the team. Jimmy Nelson replaces Yovani Gallardo and Adam Lind replaces Mark Reynolds. Is that an upgrade over last year's 82-win team?
> Pittsburgh Pirates - "Has the atmosphere changed for good?"
Back-to-back solid seasons has created a new feeling for the Bucs. Clint Hurdle is a hero and despite losing Russell Martin, the lineup looks solid with everyone under the age of 30. The real question is about the rotation counting on 38-year-old A.J. Burnett and re-tread Vance Worley.
> St. Louis Cardinals - "Is there a more consistent franchise in baseball?"
> Arizona Diamondbacks - "Can this team actually be worse than last year?"
The Snakes won 64 games in 2014 and trotted out a Triple-A lineup in September. For all the off-season moves by the new front office, Vegas has their over/under for 2015 at 71 1/2. Even if Yasmany Tomas is more like Jose Abreu than Dayan Viciedo, if he can't play third base, it puts young outfield talent on the bench. And their starting rotation features Josh Collmenter starting on opening night against Madison Bumgarner.
> Colorado Rockies - "New leadership, but is it the same team?"
After 20+ years and three playoff appearances, nothing seems to change in Denver. The team will hit, especially if Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are healthy, but the pitching can't compete in the high altitude. The fact that they signed Kyle Kendrick to be in their rotation tells you everything you need to know about the readiness of pitchers in their system.
> Los Angeles Dodgers - "We only won 94 games last season, let's blow it up and start over?"
When an organization of any kind hires new leadership, you can't expect them to keep the status quo. Otherwise, they can't justify their position. The outcome is Jimmy Rollins for Hanley Ramirez, Howie Kendrick for Dee Gordon, Joc Pederson for Matt Kemp and nobody to replace Kenley Jansen for the first month of the season. If only Clayton Kershaw hadn't hung that breaking ball to Matt Adams in the playoffs.
> San Diego Padres - "Bold moves and an exciting new team, but can they catch the ball?"
Even more fans will show up this season at the ballpark by the shore and the lineup is downright scary with Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and Wil Myers hitting the ball. James Shields fronts the rotation, so the team looks solid. However, let's watch the defense as there are no gold glove contenders is this lineup.
> San Francisco Giants - "Will positive intangibles keep them in the hunt?"
When a team wins three World Series Championships in five years, the usual analysis goes out the window. While the team didn't make any significant moves in the off-season, they're still an organization that is smart and savvy.
Here's hoping you get the chance to visit at least one Spring Training ballpark this time around. If it happens to be in Surprise, Arizona, come say hello. The Quacker will be in Section 102 right on the railing.