Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Yo, Johan! How good will you be in '08?

Hey, I thought I read somewhere a while back that Johan Santana was going to be pitching for the Yankees or Red Sox in 2008, no doubt about it. That there was no way the Mets had the goods to swipe Santana away from the Twins, especially since they weren't willing to give away Jose Reyes in a deal.

Guess you can't believe everything you read.

After a couple months of stalled trade talks, back-and-forth proposals and a few of Hank Steinbrenner's bold proclamations, the Mets suddenly emerged as the front-runner, then reached a tentative deal Tuesday to acquire the left-handed ace.

The real stunner isn't so much that the Mets got Santana, but how they got him. While the Yanks and Sox were tossing around well-known names like Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury - widely considered future big-league stars - the Mets were able to send a so-so package of prospects Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra to Minnesota in exchange for the two-time Cy Young winner. While they are four of the Mets' top seven prospects, none of them projects to be much of a fantasy impact player in 2008.

If it's impact you're looking for, though, Santana's the guy. As if the dude wasn't already the top fantasy pitcher in the game, he now moves to the light-hitting National League (In his 16 interleague starts the past four seasons, he's 10-3 with a 2.16 ERA and has held NL hitters to a 1.84 average). He'll pitch next year at Shea Stadium, a pitcher's park where he sports a career 0.60 ERA. And the Mets own what could be the NL's most potent offense, which is an upgrade from what Santana had with the Twins.

My preliminary fantasy rankings for 2008 put Santana at the sixth overall spot - behind Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez and David Wright - and that was with Santana still pitching for the Twins and coming off what some might call a "down" year in 2007. I'm almost tempted to move Santana up to fifth overall - he's definitely the first pitcher that should be taken off the board and may be even more valuable than he already was, if you can believe it. It'd be an upset if he doesn't with another Cy Young in '08.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Don't forget about Liriano

You remember Francisco Liriano, right? If you played fantasy baseball in 2006, how could you not?

Liriano was a rookie phenom for the Minnesota Twins that year, going 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA. But an elbow injury and Tommy John surgery sidelined him all of last season, robbing fantasy owners of one of the best young lefties the game has produced in a decade.

Now, here's the good news: Liriano is back, and tells he feels fine and will be ready to go in 2008. He's more than a year removed from his surgery, typically the benchmark for recovery, and the Tommy John recovery rate is now said to be around 90 percent or so.

Will he have the same dominating repertoire of pitches? Will his fastball still reach 97 mph? Will he be ready for a spot in the Twins' major league rotation on Opening Day (Lord knows they need him, especially if Johan Santana does get traded) or will he begin the year in Triple-A? We'll be watching Liriano closely in spring training, and you should do the same. A healthy Liriano should probably be among the top 25 pitchers drafted this year and has the potential to be a fantasy top 10.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Thinking twice about LT

Just the other day I touted LaDainian Tomlinson as next year's top overall fantasy draft pick. But today, I'm not so sure.

LT's "performance" in Sunday's AFC Championship - two carries, five yards, and a whole lot of sitting on the bench - is troublesome. We knew going into the game Tomlinson's knee wasn't quite 100 percent. But he said he felt good, it wasn't a serious ailment, and his name wasn't even on Friday's injury report. And then, just minutes into the game, the knee supposedly gets reinjured, and he's planted on the sidelines for the remainder of the game.

Do you think the Chargers could have used Tomlinson later in the game, even if he was playing at 75 percent? Or 50 percent? It turns out LT won't even need offseason surgery - which really makes you start to question the guy's guts when you see his quarterback, Philip Rivers, played with an ACL that's "totally gone" and when you see players such as Terrell Owens and Plaxico Burress suiting up and playing through pain in the playoffs.

At first I was worried about Tomlinson's fantasy future because of the knee, but now I'm just concerned about his mental state and his standing in the eyes of his teammates and coaches. Not saying he's not a first-round pick - or even the first overall pick - but it does open the door for a little doubt. I've never sprained my MCL, nor am I even sure where' it's located, and by all accounts LT is one of the NFL's good guys and a team player. But I'm just saying this whole incident is a little fishy and might make me pause for a second before drafting him next year.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

An early football top 10

Never too early to start thinking about next season, right?

Here's a peek at the top 10 names on my football board for 2008. Remember, all predictions are subject to change, but here's how I've got them slotted right now:

1. LaDainian Tomlinson: Even in a "down" year, he led the league in rushing. Not too shabby.

2. Brian Westbrook: Versatile little guy never disappoints but always seems to get disrespected on draft day. Not by me, though.

3. Adrian Peterson: Rookie put to rest injury/timeshare worries with an awesome year. Late-season tailspin is a concern, but upside is too good to ignore.

4. Joseph Addai: A workhorse back with young legs and a nose for the end zone? I'll take it.

5. Tom Brady: Amazing '07 pushes him way up the draft board, and with good reason. But I'd bet the Pats reassess their running game this offseason, meaning Brady's numbers will dip slightly.

6. Steven Jackson: Here's hoping the Rams improve their offensive line in '08. Maybe then Jackson will have the kind of season he was supposed to this year.

7. Peyton Manning: Old reliable gets slotted behind Brady for the first time. But he's still as steady as they come.

8. Frank Gore: With Mike Martz taking over the 49ers' offense, a healthy Gore could approach Marshall Faulk territory if everything falls into place.

9. Randy Moss: He's found a comfort zone with Brady and the Pats. Twenty-three TDs will be hard to touch, but he'll try.

10. Tony Romo: I don't think he'll be going on vacation anytime soon. Big things will be expected in Big D next year.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hello, fantasy fans

Welcome to the Herald's fantasy sports blog!

Some of you may have read my weekly fantasy columns in the pages of our paper. Most of you may be wondering who the heck I am and why I qualify as a "fantasy expert."

First of all, I hate that term. I don't really believe there is such a thing as a fantasy expert, since success in fantasy depends as much on simple luck as it does sports knowledge. No, the best "experts" are just regular fantasy players who know the game, love the game, make informed, educated guesses and can clearly convey them to the public. And hopefully, that describes me.

It's a bit slow right now in the fantasy universe, unless you're into fantasy hoops, which I'm afraid I'm not (I tried it once, built my team around Joel Przybilla, finished last, and that was that). But for serious fantasy geeks like myself there's always something to talk about: baseball's hot stove, spring training, the upcoming NFL Draft. I'll be covering it all, and I hope you'll join me.