Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Miguel Cabrera: Fat or phat?

I'm not seeing a lot of love for Miguel Cabrera this year for some reason. In the mock draft podcast we did last week, he fell out of the top 10 and all the way to 16th (average draft position in ESPN leagues: 11). And in a buddy of mine's draft the other day, Cabrera fell to him at the 17th overall pick. Seventeenth!

No doubt a lot of the bad feelings stem from last year's embarrassing binge drinking/domestic dispute episode that coincided with the Tigers coming up short in heated pennant chase. Combine that with Cabrera's oft-mentioned struggles with his weight (listed at 6-foot-4, 240 this year), and I believe that's causing some trepidation among fantasy drafters.

But Miggy has since undergone alcohol counseling and says he's given up drinking and already feels healthier. He's been incredibly durable over his career, never having played fewer than 157 games in a season since becoming a full-timer. And his numbers ... oh, those numbers.

Cabrera's averaged 33 homers and 117 RBIs a season since breaking into the league in 2003. He's a career .311 hitter. His career OPS is .925. He hit .324 last year, his highest average in three years. And he's only 26 years old! Check out his career stats compared to some other ballplayers through age 26 and notice a few of the names: Ken Griffey, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle ...

Sure, there are a few knocks against Cabrera, and not just over his fitness level. The Tigers lineup, while good on paper, hasn't quite been durable or fearsome. And he'd be more valuable if he had stayed at 3B, a shallower position, than switching to 1B. But ultimately, the pros outweigh (pun intended) the cons, and Cabrera belongs in the top 10 or just below it in 2010.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The power of the podcast

Want some advice for your fantasy draft but too lazy to read? The Herald's mock draft podcast may be just what you're looking for.

Four Herald staff members. One microphone. The top 20 fantasy players for 2010. Consider it the "books on tape" version of my Top 50 rankings, with a few twists and a healthy debate about who belongs where.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Jump on Jason Heyward

It's easy to get caught up in the hype about fantasy baseball prospects. Matt Wieters was supposed to be the second coming of Yogi Berra last year, and while his rookie season was solid, particularly in the second half, he didn't quite revolutionize the catching position.

Sometimes it's best to use caution when trying to project stats for rookies or build your fantasy team around them. But sometimes there are prospects that are simply too enticing to ignore.

Jason Heyward is one of those prospects.

Heyward, Baseball America's minor league player of the year in 2009 and top prospect for this season, has been tearing up the Grapefruit League (.366/.500/.537). He's been turning heads with his power - his 6-foot-4, 245-pound frame doesn't hurt, either - to the point the Braves have considered adding special nets at their spring park to protect the parked cars from getting smashed by his monster home run shots.

Heyward's forced his way into an Opening Day starting spot in right field for Atlanta - not bad for a 20-year-old. And the Braves have a pretty good track record of knowing when a top prospect is ready for the big show - remember Andruw Jones at age 19 and Chipper Jones at 21?

Sure, Heyward doesn't have much minor league seasoning under his belt, only having been in the Braves' system since 2007. But his career .899 OPS on the farm is a great sign, and the rave reviews and Opening Day roster spot are too good to ignore. I'd be more than happy to have Heyward as my fourth or fifth outfielder this year.

- Photo by The Associated Press

New Face, New Place: Curtis Granderson, Yankees

OK, OK, Curtis Granderson can't hit left-handers - or, at least he couldn't in 2009 (.183 vs. LHP). But other than that, there's not much to dislike about the guy this year.

Granderson's move from Detroit to New York seems like a perfect match of his left-handed power and the new Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch. Some have attributed his steady decline in batting average (.249 in 2009, down from .280 in 2008 and .302 in 2007) to Granderson trying to swing for the fences - which would explain his 49-percent flyball rate and career high 30 homers last year. But for fantasy purposes, I say swing away!

It's unclear where Granderson will be slotted in the Yankees' lineup - he could bat second ahead of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, but the optimum spot for his fantasy fortunes would be somewhere around sixth or seventh, where he is free to race around the basepaths. Granderson could easily be a 20-steal, 30-homer OF this year, and if he can raise that average he'll be a steal in the middle rounds.

- Photo by The Associated Press

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Bradenton kid on your fantasy team?

How'd you like to have a Bradenton kid on your fantasy baseball team?

I'm not talking about drafting your Little League son with your final pick as a gag. Chris Perez, a Holmes Beach native and Pendleton School grad, is a 100-percent legit fantasy pick this year. Perez is the front-runner to be the Cleveland Indians' closer on Opening Day this year, as my colleague John Lembo reports.

Regular Indians closer Kerry Wood has never been the picture of health, and now he's set to miss up to 6-8 weeks with a strained shoulder muscle. That created an opening for Perez, a hard-throwing 25-year-old the Indians picked up from St. Louis last year, presumably as their closer of the future. That future is now, and if Perez takes to the closer's role, he might make Wood obsolete. I was already considering our local boy as a fantasy sleeper this year as Wood's set-up man, but now he's a must-have.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

No Nathan in 2010

The list of elite fantasy closers got a little shorter with the news that the Twins' Joe Nathan will miss 2010 with a bum elbow.

There are very few guys (Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon) you can draft as your closer, pencil in 40 saves and not even worry about it. Nathan was one of those guys. In fact, he led the big leagues in saves (264) since 2004 - it doesn't get more consistent than that.

But now Nathan's done, and who knows if he'll ever be effective again. The Twins could turn to Jon Rauch (26 career saves) or one of their other fine set-up men with little or no closing experience. There's also been talk of a potential deal for Padres closer Heath Bell, but for the time being, Rauch is probably the best bet if you're already stuck with Nathan or just speculating for saves.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Inside the Top 50

A few random insights into my Top 50 players list:

Albert Pujols is the consensus No. 1 fantasy pick in almost every rankings, including mine. But I went with Alex Rodriguez at No. 2 over Hanley Ramirez because I think A-Rod still has at least another year of elite production and could rival Pujols' offensive numbers. If you look at what Rodriguez did last year despite the missed games with a hip injury and the fallout from his steroid admission, you could easily make a case this will be a special year for him.

But I'd still be thrilled to build my team around Han-Ram at shortstop, even though his steals totals have been in decline.

Just a personal preference, but I don't like taking pitchers in the first round, which is why Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum are just outside the top 10. And surprise - I like Halladay this year in the NL just slightly more than fantasy favorite Lincecum.

Evan Longoria edges David Wright as my top third baseman. I just can't put Wright's awful 2009 out of my mind, even though he says this year will be different.

Adrian Gonzalez is a tad higher on my list than some others I've seen. That's in the hopes that he gets traded somewhere this season - Boston, perhaps? He'd have hit 50 HRs or more last year if he didn't play home games in Petco Park.

I'm a little down on Ichiro Suzuki this year. Last season's leg troubles and declining SB/runs totals scare me a little.

I have similar concerns about Brian Roberts, who's stolen base numbers have dropped from 50 to 40 to 30 in the past three seasons and who's still recovering from a herniated disk that's kept him out of spring training games so far. But with 2B being such a shallow position he might be a risk I'm willing to take.

Jonathan Broxton is the only closer who cracks the top-50. And I'd still probably avoid taking him (or any closer) that high.

B.J. Upton rounds out the list in the hopes he'll have a bounce-back year at the plate. He could be a steal.

Fantasy Baseball 2010: Top 50

One man's thoughts on the top 50 fantasy players for 2010:

1. Albert Pujols
2. Alex Rodriguez
3. Hanley Ramirez
4. Ryan Braun
5. Chase Utley
6. Matt Kemp
7. Prince Fielder
8. Mark Teixeira
9. Carl Crawford
10. Miguel Cabrera
11. Roy Halladay
12. Tim Lincecum
13. Ryan Howard
14. Joe Mauer
15. Evan Longoria
16. Justin Upton
17. Troy Tulowitzki
18. Felix Hernandez
19. David Wright
20. Jacoby Ellsbury
21. Zack Greinke
22. Ian Kinsler
23. Matt Holliday
24. CC Sabathia
25. Jimmy Rollins
26. Adrian Gonzalez
27. Mark Reynolds
28. Ichiro Suzuki
29. Derek Jeter
30. Grady Sizemore
31. Robinson Cano
32. Dustin Pedroia
33. Dan Haren
34. Jon Lester
35. Pablo Sandoval
36. Joey Votto
37. Justin Morneau
38. Ryan Zimmerman
39. Brandon Phillips
40. Jayson Werth
41. Adam Wainwright
42. Brian McCann
43. Kevin Youkilis
44. Cliff Lee
45. Brian Roberts
46. Jonathan Broxton
47. Victor Martinez
48. Justin Verlander
49. Adam Lind
50. B.J. Upton

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

LT2 a Jet: What it means for you

Looks like LaDainian Tomlinson's not done yet.

LT2's landing in New York with the Jets is probably the best possible destination for the aging runner's fantasy value. He'll line up behind a veteran offensive line that could be the league's best at run-blocking (Gang Green led the league in team rushing in 2009). And he'll have a young buck in the backfied (Shonn Greene) who can do the heavy lifting but still isn't proven enough to totally wipe Tomlinson out of the picture. (It's also a disappointment for those who, like me, envisioned Greene as a big-time sleeper as a No. 1 back next year, but that's another story).

Tomlinson's no longer a No. 1 back, that much is certain. But as a change-of-pace guy who gets to touch the ball in the red zone, he could rack up quite a few TDs. Last year's numbers (700 yards, 12 TDs) are probably his absolute ceiling in 2010, but that still makes him an intriguing No. 2 fantasy RB and a defnite No. 3.

Let's not close the book on Tomlinson's career yet.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pujols for Howard? In reality?

How's this for a blockbuster: Albert Pujols for Ryan Howard?

This kind of deal gets made all the time in fantasy circles. It's a fairly even swap of slugging first basemen: Howard probably has a little more homer potential, while Pujols is a more even contributor across the board. You'll often see a trade like this get made because one guy is a Phillies or Cardinals fan and really wants his favorite player on his squad.

But could the players ever get swapped for one another in real life? Maybe, according to a report by ESPN, although it seems unlikely. I imagine most major league clubs often take stock of their rosters and try to imagine what it would take for another team to pry away a superstar like Howard - and that's exactly what the Phillies were doing with this hypothetical deal. Of course, they seemingly didn't intend for this hypothetical deal to become public - GM Ruben Amaro called the report "lies," "ridiculous," and "irresponsible." So there.

Pujols-for-Howard? Not happening in the real world. Definitely possible in a league near you - and that's what makes fantasy so great.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New Face, New Place: Adrian Beltre, Red Sox

When you think of Adrian Beltre, what comes to mind? For me, it's when the Seattle Mariners signed him to one of the worst contracts ever (5 years, $64 million) in 2005. At the time, Beltre was coming off a fantastic '04 with the Dodgers (.334, 48 homers, 128 RBIs, 104 runs, .388 OBP), but those were numbers he's never even come close to, before or since. It may have been the ultimate "contract year" performance and has to raise more than a few eyebrows as it came at the tail end of the Steroid Era.

It's a shame, because if you throw 2005 out, Beltre's still had a solid 12-year career, and he's always been a fine fielder at third base. The post-2005 disappointments tend to taint his fantasy reputation, but with the move to Boston, Beltre should be a bit under the radar at a fairly weak position. He should have some success as a right-handed hitter at Fenway Park (call it the Green Monster effect) and could be rejuvenated, much like the man he's replacing at third, Mike Lowell, was a few years ago. Assuming Beltre's fully recovered from last summer's testicle injury (sorry, fellas!), he could be a nice sleeper when you're filling out the back end of your roster.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Face, New Place: Roy Halladay, Phillies

Just when you thought Roy Halladay couldn't get any more valuable ...

Halladay's numbers the past eight years have been out-of-this world, and they came with the Blue Jays in the AL East. Now he's in the NL with the Phillies. No DH. Pitcher batting ninth. Better offense backing him up. Tough park, yes. But also consider:

g Halladay's new home, Citizens Bank Park, was 16th in home runs allowed in 2009. Right behind it at No. 17? Rogers Centre in Toronto.

g The general rule of thumb is to shave at least a half a run off a pitcher's ERA when he moves from the AL to the NL. Halladay's ERAs the past two seasons? 2.79 and 2.78.

g Halladay's career ERA against the NL in interleague play: 2.65.

g He won 17 games last year. On a team that won 75 games.

In other words, there's a whole lot to like about Halladay in 2010. I have zero concerns about his age or durability at this point. I think he'll be out to prove he's baseball's best pitcher as he strives for the first playoff appearance of his career. And I think he could outperform Tim Lincecum as fantasy's top pitcher this year.

Photo by The Associated Press

The great keeper debate

My primary baseball league the past few years has been one run by some of my newsroom cohorts. It's a 10-team keeper league with a regular snake draft, and it's pretty competitive (I've finished in the bottom half the past two years, much to everyone else's delight).

With the deadline for keepers rapidly approaching - each team must designate 5 players they'll "keep" from last year's squad - I thought I'd take you through my thought process.

Luckily it wasn't a very tough decision, but that's because my team last year just wasn't that talented. While some of my competitors had as many as 10 or more players they could legitimately make a case for keeping, I narrowed my list down to seven.

But first, some guys who didn't make the cut: Dan Uggla, Elvis Andrus, Alex Rios, Franklin Gutierrez, Alcides Escobar, Nolan Reimold, Scott Kazmir, Ricky Nolasco, Rick Porcello, Joba Chamberlain. All useful players, but not really keeper material in this format. We've never really had a "long-term" focus in this league; the way I see it, our keepers should more or less represent the top 50 (5 keepers a team, 10 teams) fantasy players. None of those guys qualify.

Next, the no-brainers: Ryan Howard, Jacoby Ellsbury, Felix Hernandez. Howard is a top-10 talent and my big thumper. I've come to love Ellsbury, one of the few players capable of single-handedly keeping you afloat in steals while not killing you in other categories. And King Felix is, in my mind, a potential top-5 starter this year.

Now, the tough decisions. I've got two keeper spots left for four players: Ryan Zimmerman, Jason Bay, Josh Beckett, Matt Wieters.

Wieters is obviously a great long-term keeper, as he has a real chance to develop into one of the game's top 2 catchers (along with Joe Mauer). But is he top-2 this year? Is he a top-50 player this year? I think not. Keeping Wieters will put me at a disadvantage. Sorry Matt.

How about Zimmerman? Last year's numbers (.292/33/106) were great, and third base is fairly weak this year. A slight improvement (far from impossible for a 25-year-old) and he could surpass contemporaries Evan Longoria and David Wright and finish behind only Alex Rodriguez among fantasy second baseman. I'm keeping him.

So that leaves Beckett and Bay for one spot. Beckett can be a top-15 pitcher this year if all goes well. Bay can be a top-15 OF. In a perfect world, I'd have a more sure thing to choose from, but these guys are the best I've got. I don't foresee a lot of pitchers being kept this year, which should leave the redraft pretty flush with them. Outfielders capable of 30 homers and 30 steals? Not so much. Bay it is.

So there you have it. Ryan Howard, Felix Hernandez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Zimmerman, Jason Bay. Let's go get em, guys.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

SARASOTA - In just a few short years the Tampa Bay Rays have gone from major league afterthoughts to serious contenders. They've catapulted themselves past established AL East powers like the Blue Jays and Orioles - who I watched the Rays beat 8-3 on Tuesday at Ed Smith Stadium - to give the Red Sox and Yankees a run for their money.

A big part of that success has been the talent - specifically the young, homegrown variety - the fanchise has amassed. And all that talent makes Tampa Bay's roster extremely appealing to fantasy owners. Let's have a closer look, shall we?

BREAKOUT PLAYER: Starter Matt Garza is penciled in as the Rays' No. 2 starter behind James Shields, but he may have the best pure stuff on the staff. Though his W-L record (8-12) and ERA (3.92) were disappointments after a stellar 2008 season, keep in mind it was really only his second full season in the big leagues, and he struck out 189 batters in 203 innings. With a little luck and a little more maturity on the mound, the 26-year-old could be in line for a fine season.

BUYER BEWARE: Jason Bartlett had an outstanding 2009, but you have to be a tad skeptical about a player who added nearly 200 points to his OPS from the previous season, raised his batting average 30 points and almost tripled his previous career high in homers (from 5 to 14). I'm not suggesting there's anything fishy going on; I'm just saying we might have seen a once-in-a-career season out of the 29-year-old SS, who's going to cost you a lot more this draft day than he ever has.

ETC: Carl Crawford (top) is a top-10 talent, even if there's a decent chance he gets traded elsewhere by season's end. If that happens, minor league speedster Desmond Jennings instantly becomes a must-own. ... A lot people are down on B.J. Upton, whose stats fell for a second straight year last season after a stellar 2007. But I believe there's still hope for the 25-year-old, who was still recovering from shoulder surgery last year, to be an across-the-board contributor. ... keep an eye on IF/OF Sean Rodriguez, who's tearing it up so far this spring after being acquired in the Scott Kazmir deal and pushing for playing time. ... Evan Longoria is the second-best fantasy 3B in the game behind Alex Rodriguez, plain and simple. ... Carlos Pena is another Ray who could end up getting dealt by year's end, but don't let that scare you away. Can you say contract year? ... The versatile Ben Zobrist demands your attention after an awesome 2009 that came out of nowhere. He's a lot more comfortable this year, as the Herald's John Lembo reports, knowing the Rays will find ways to get him in their lineup, whether it's at second base or in right field. But I do have hesitation when it comes to a player who hit 27 homers in one season at age 28 after a total of 23 in more than 1,300 career minor league at bats. ... I've already spelled out how much I like new closer Rafael Soriano this year ... Want strikeouts? Get No. 3 starter David Price. Want an even cheaper source of strikeouts? Get No. 4 Jeff Niemann (above). Want a late-round sleeper with a ton of upside? Get Wade Davis.

Monday, March 8, 2010

New Face, New Place: Rafael Soriano, Rays

If the Tampa Bay Rays had one glaring weakness in 2009, it was at closer , where no one in manager Joe Maddon's "amorphous" bullpen really rose to the occasion in the ninth inning.

Consider that problem addressed with this offseason's addition of lightning-armed Rafael Soriano, last seen closing out games for the Atlanta Braves in '09. The right-hander notched a career-high 27 saves (in 31 chances) last season but became expendable when the Braves signed graybeards Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito.

Soriano can be dominant when he's not injured (Tommy John surgery in 2004, elbow tendinitis in 2008). The 30-year-old boasted a 12.13 K/9 mark last year and was second among major league relievers in strikeouts (102). The closer's job is pretty much all his in Tampa Bay, and with the Rays projected to win upward of 90 games this year, there should be plenty of save chances coming Soriano's way. He'll be a bit under the radar but could easily finish as a top-10 fantasy closer in 2010, provided he adjusts to American League hitters.

Photo by The Associated Press

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Bold move by Baltimore

The Baltimore Ravens pride themselves on being a tough, physical bunch.

They've also lacked a playmaking wide receiver for what seems like a decade.

That's why their trade for WR Anquan Boldin makes a whole lot of sense.

Boldin is one tough cookie (see video - he had to have his jaw wired shut after that hit but was back on the field in 4 weeks) and a tremendous playmaker, evidenced by his five 1,000-yard seasons in his seven-year pro career.

The move to the Ravens from Arizona's wide-open offensive attack won't change Boldin's fantasy value much - he's still a dependable No. 2 WR. But his change of address - along with Baltimore's signing of deep threat/manslaughterer Donte' Stallworth - makes Joe Flacco a legit fantasy QB.

As for Arizona, there's probably more double-coverages headed Larry Fitzgerald's way and a potential for former No. 3 WR Steve Breaston to step up - assuming they can find someone to play quarterback.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Face, New Place: Ben Sheets, A's

When the penny-pinching Oakland A's commit $10 million to a starting pitcher, you better take notice.

That's why Ben Sheets is such an intriguing sleeper for 2010. The 31-year-old right-hander and four-time All-Star with the Milwaukee Brewers instantly becomes Oakland's most experienced and highest-paid pitchers. Obviously he's a huge injury risk, as he's just about a year removed from elbow surgery that sidelined him all of 2009. In fact, Sheets hasn't logged 200 innings since 2004 - the same year he struck out 264 batters. But clearly the A's liked what they saw from Sheets in order to commit that much money to the veteran, making him their second-highest-paid player behind Eric Chavez.

There's a decent chance Sheets could go out and blow his arm out in April and never be heard from again. There's also a chance he could be an All-Star-caliber player you can get on the cheap. If you can nab him as your fourth fantasy starter and have some trustworthy arms ahead of him on your depth chart, I say he's well worth the gamble.

Photo by The Associated Press

New Face, New Place: Cliff Lee, Mariners

Normally a pitcher who's moving from the NL to the AL is due for a little bit of a downgrade. That's just something that comes with the tougher, DH-included lineups of the Junior Circuit.

But will it be the case for Cliff Lee?

Lee was phenomenal last year as a late-season acquisition by the Phillies, leading them all the way to the World Series. Now he's a little ticked that the Phils decided to get rid of him this offseason, trading him to the Mariners and acquiring Roy Halladay in his place.

Lee pitched to a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts for Philly and was even better in their hitter-friendly home stadium, Citizens Bank Park, posting a 2.52 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in five starts. And now he's moving back to the AL, where he spent his entire career with the Indians prior to last summer's deal and won a Cy Young in 2008. His new team's offense won't be nearly as good as the slugging Phillies (Seattle was one of the league's worst offensive teams in 2009), but he'll have a stellar defense behind him and the benefit of pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

I expect Lee to be every bit as good in Seattle as he's been the past couple seasons. He's easily a top 10 fantasy pitcher in 2010.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Prospect watch: Jennings, Alvarez and more

Really want to get ahead of the competition in your 2010 baseball league? Familiarize yourself with Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list, released last week.

Some of the guys I'll be targeting this year:

1. Jason Heyward, OF, Braves: The 20-year-old has steamrolled his way through the minors and should be an early season call-up if he doesn't make the Braves' big league club outright this spring. This story should give you some sense of his raw power.

6. Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays: He was 52-for-59 in steals last year in the minors and will be a fixture of Tampa Bay's outfield for years to come. That kind of speed is hard to find in the majors, which is why you'll want Jennings on your bench whenever he makes it to the big leagues.

8. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates: He smashed 27 HRs in the minors last year, and although he's got to cut down his strikeouts, he'll be breathing down Andy LaRoche's neck for playing time in 2010.

9. Neftali Feliz, RHP, Rangers: Hopefully you saw what the fireballer did last year in a bullpen cameo in the majors (1.74 ERA, 11.32 strikeouts per nine innings in 20 relief appearances), and that was before he developed what scouts are calling a great changeup. Whether he's a starter or reliever this year, he's someone to grab.

22. Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Reds: A lefty who throws 100 mph? Sign me up. The Cuban import is a big unknown, but he's the kind of talent you take a flier on.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's on for Shonn

Another day, another 30-something running back gets released.

This time it's Thomas Jones who'll be filing for unemployment, with the Jets set to cut the 31-year-old tailback.

The news comes just days after veterans LaDainian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook were cut by their respective clubs. Jones was more productive than either of those guys in 2009, running for 1,402 yards and 14 TDs, both career highs. And now he's looking for work.

But Jones' loss is Shonn Greene's gain. Greene served as Jones' backup in his rookie season and ran well, posting 504 yards (5.0 a carry) and 2 TDs and adding another 169 yards and a TD in two playoff games. Now he's in line to be the featured back behind an excellent offensive line that helped Gang Green lead the league in rushing in 2009. Yes, Greene will have some competition from the fiesty Leon Washington, who's set to return from a broken leg. But the NFL sophomore could put together a breakout season and deserves strong consideration as a fantasy No. 2 next year.

Monday, March 1, 2010

New Face, New Place: Johnny Damon, Tigers

Johnny Damon's reward for a surprisingly stellar 2009 season and a memorable postseason was a one-year, $8 million deal with the Detroit Tigers this offseason.

Damon can thank agent Scott Boras for overplaying his hand and getting his client such a disappointing deal (they had sought at least two years and upwards of $15 million per year, preferably with the Yankees - whoops!) But on the bright side, at least Damon can grow out his Jesus beard again.

So what can we expect from Damon in Detroit? Certainly not the 24 homers he mashed last year, which tied a career high - 17 of those puppies came thanks to the jet stream in the new Yankee Stadium. His power numbers will likely diminish, but the tradeoff could be an uptick in steals, as Damon will probably bat leadoff or second behind former Yankee farmhand Austin Jackson, who could be the Tigers' starting center fielder. Detroit may ask Damon to run the way he used to before last year - he had three straight seasons of 25+ steals before last year's 12. Damon won't be batting ahead of Mark Teixeira/Alex Rodriguez anymore, but he's still got on-base skills and should have more opportunities to swipe bags.

Put it all together and Damon is still a valuable third or fourth fantasy outfielder. Just don't expect those homers.