Baseball Preseason Picks

Baseball Preseason Picks

What is the baseball preseason picks about? In promoting the inaugural season of in 2003, we promised an article on the topic, “Who will be this year’s Jarrod Washburn (a cheap pitcher who racks up the wins)?”


We had some success with that, for the three pitchers as baseball preseason picks, I suggested as the answer all reached career highs in wins. Jason Schmidt merely led the National League in winning percentage, ERA, WHIP, shutouts and opponents’ batting average. Randy Wolf won 16 games, and Matt Clement posted 14 victories. All three had WHIP ratios below the National League average.

baseball preseason picks

Breakout players

For breakout preseason picks, breakout players are an important subject. Thus was born the pitching counterpart to Fantasy Baseball Scout’s Derrek Lee Award for the breakout player of the year. Using the same indices as a year ago, one player stood out from all the rest by putting checks in all but one of the boxes on my checklist. And he even gets half a check-in that one box. Before I tell you who he is, and why I have a slight reservation about him, here’s that checklist:

X Good team

He plays for a contender. Washburn’s 2002 Angels won the World Series, and Clement, Schmidt, and Wolf were with teams that were in our near last year’s playoffs.

X Injury history

He was on the disabled list, quite likely on a minor league rehab assignment, last year. That was true of Washburn, Schmidt, and Wolf.


He’s no older than 30. Schmidt barely squeezed in under the limit; Clement was 28, Washburn 27 and Wolf 26.

X Size

He’s neither a shrimp nor a giant. Schmidt, at 6’5”, went a little against that rule, but he weighs just 205. Washburn and his other clones were all between 6’0” and 6’3”.

X Stats

He’s in the top one-fourth of his league in strikeout/walk ratio and in opponents’ batting average.

X Success

He hasn’t won more than 13 games in a major league season, and most likely not in any year as a professional.

Pitchers performance

Last season, 27 pitchers won between 11 and 13 games in the majors, qualifying them for the first cut in this search.

The pitcher who survived all the cuts plays for a team that has won two consecutive division titles and has a good chance at a third. He’s 25 or 26 years old, depending on whether you add a year for his being born outside the United States. He’s 6’0” tall and weighs 195 pounds. He was way up the list in both K/W ratio and opponents’ average. He won 12 games last year, one less than the professional high he established between Triple-A and the majors in 2002.

baseball preseason picks

His injury

His injury? Well, that’s the dicey part. He wasn’t on the DL last season, but he did have elbow surgery during the off-season. And that surgery thus far has taken away his best pitch. His name is Johan Santana, and he’s a lefty for the Minnesota Twins. He’s working diligently to get back the changeup that is devastating in combination with his mid-90s fastball and hard slider.

Physical shape

Other things that matter when it comes to baseball preseason picks is the physical shape. If Santana can’t make it physically this year, here are some others who fell short in no more than two categories. Yankees RHP Javier Vazquez already has had a 16-win season, but he and the Cubs’ RHP Carlos Zambrano both pitch for contenders. Vazquez hasn’t been hurt as a major leaguer, but Zambrano, who doesn’t have enough power to have a high K/W ratio, was on the DL in 2002. They each won 13 games last season.

Other winners

Among the 12-game winners, Blue Jays LHP Ted Lilly also was disabled during 2002, but his team is a marginal contender. Another team that could contend because it’s in a weak division is San Diego, and its Jarrod Washburn candidate is RHP Jake Peavy. He has a 13-win season in the minors to his credit but hasn’t been on the disabled list. Devil Rays RHP Victor Zambrano hasn’t been injured either, but his team still is far from contending, and the lack of a power pitch seems to be a common trait among Zambranos from Venezuela.

Scouting Guide

Scouting Guide

In our first three years, the most frequently asked FAQ about our exclusive online Scouting Guide was “Where is it?” The Scouting Guide is not one big printed document, as one of the preseason books or magazines you have seen, and quite possibly consulted.

Updated sections

Instead, the Scouting Guide consists of living, breathing, ever-changing, ever-improving, ever-updated sections of this web site. Think of it as your private stash of information for your draft or auction. Only you and your fellow subscribers have access to that information. You don’t need the key to a safe-deposit box to open it, but merely a subscription.

scouting guide

Fantasy Baseball subscriber

Where is it? If you’re a Fantasy Baseball Scout subscriber, it’s all around you – and will be even more so as we progress closer toward Opening Day – and Draft Day. Look behind that door marked “Deep Depth Charts.” The Scouting Guide is there in our exclusive DEEP Depth Charts. Over there, where it says, “Player Profiles”? It’s there too. You’ll see also up-to-the-minute updates and additions to those Scouting Reports. “Articles.” “Email Archives.” “Projections.” “Rankings.” All are part of the Scouting Guide. You can look around and use whatever parts of it you think can help you. And all of it should be of some use to someone, if not everyone who comes here.

To help you use and understand the Scouting Guide, here’s an explanation of some terms.


The player’s age as of April 1, 2006.


These are periodic how-to articles and occasionally our interviews with players. These are designed to help you prepare for your draft or auction and to manage your team during the season.

DEEP Depth Charts

These are our exclusive depth charts listing on one page all the key players in each organization. We think of them as Depth, Even Extra Players.

Email Archive

These are the FREE Daily Emails sent out during spring training along with the Emails that will be sent to subscribers at least five times a week from April 11 through the end of the regular season, and periodically from then, the full-season subscriptions expire in December.


The primary position at which the player qualifies for a league requiring 10 games for eligibility. If you don’t see a player – Frank Thomas, for example – at the position where you expect to see him, you can check in several ways.

  1. Locate the player by name. Type in his last name, and a page would open up including all players on the site with that last name. Then you could click on Frank Thomas or Charles Thomas.
  2. By Team: You’d find The Big Hurt in the list of Athletics on the site.
  3. By Position: You’d currently find him under DH (because he didn’t play even one game at first base in the majors last season). If he plays 10 games at first in the majors this season, Frank Thomas would be listed at 1B, as well as by name and with his team.

More than one position?

If a player qualifies at more than one position, he would be listed at his primary position, with his alternate positions also listed with his name and in his scouting report. For example, right now you would find Craig Wilson with the outfielders, but with a notation that he’s also eligible at 1B. Our Scouting Reports usually note a player’s availability and eligibility at other positions, even for leagues that have position requirements of as many as 20 games or as few as one game.

scouting guide

Scouting reports

Each player’s Scouting Report provides written information about the kind of player he is, past-year statistics and 2006 Projections for players of interest to fantasy baseball owners.

Profile updates

These include the most current information about players, available both by clicking a link after hitting the “Scouting Reports” button on the home page and by finding the player’s Scouting Report as described under “POSITION.”


Included are the categories used in most 5X5 leagues, along with AB, IP and the other most commonly used statistics in more exotic scoring systems. The $ values listed are for standard 12-team, 4X4, AL-only or NL-only Rotisserie® Leagues. We also will have a recommended round for selecting players in a 15-team, 5X5, a mixed league with 29-man active and reserve rosters. There will be additional values posted on the site for 4X4 mixed, 5X5 AL-only and 5X5 NL-only leagues, and some guidelines for points and head-to-head leagues.


These are lists of where players rank at their positions and overall within their league.

All-start board

This is our exclusive way for you to customize Projections to your fantasy league’s scoring system.

Why Mike Hampton Will Still Suck

Why Mike Hampton Will Still Suck

You’ve heard the spin about how the Braves got a steal when they traded for Mike Hampton and will have to pay little of his grossly inflated salary for the next few years.  Well, stop listening. By the time Hampton’s big numbers really start kicking into Atlanta’s payroll, he’ll be likely to have moved on to another job – most likely one where he’s not pitching in the major leagues.

Poor seasons

Part of the spin is that his two poor seasons were sole because he was in that pitching house of horrors at Coors Field. But there’s plenty of evidence that says his problems went far beyond that.  In 2002, Hampton was the major league pitcher who most damaged his fantasy teams’ statistics. Not only did he pitch badly, but he pitched a lot. He took the ball every five days until a foot injury sidelined him in September, but was in the showers before completing any of those games.

mike hampton

Darryl Kile

The parallel most often drawn is with the late Darryl Kile. He won 19 games the year before signing with Colorado, went 21-30 with the Rockies, then won 20 the year after his escape. Another is to Tom Glavine, a soft-tossing lefty like Hampton, whose average of a 17-9 record and 3.24 ERA over the last four seasons is similar to Hampton’s 16-8, 3.30 in his four seasons before signing with the Rockies.  But, for the Kile comparison, look closely at the far-right columns in the chart below.

What the chart shows

What they show is that Kile always was a much better strikeout pitcher than Hampton. Not only that but accompanying Kile’s post-Coors Field success was a significant improvement in control, even over his big years in Houston. Kile dropped from a 2.26 strikeout/walk ratio in 1996 to 1.06 three years later, then shot up to 3.31 after escaping Colorado.

Mike Hampton

At similar stages, Hampton had ratios of 1.75 and 0.81. If he can jump to about 2.5 in 2003, he would have a chance for a rebound similar to Kile’s.  How could he do that? Well, we’re told because he’ll be working with Leo Mazzone, a pitching coach who has a Master of Mechanics degree.  Mazzone’s first move was to change Hampton’s arm angle. Sure, The Rocking Man has had success resurrecting pitchers such as Mike Remlinger, Chris Hammond and Darren Holmes in small doses. But, really, what mechanical adjustments did Mazzone have to make with Glavine and Greg Maddux?

Offense scoring

Also, in Atlanta, with question marks at both corners of the infield, Mike Hampton won’t have as good an offense scoring runs for him. He won’t even have himself, for all 10 of his career home runs came while he played for the Rockies.  Even when Hampton was getting off to a 9-2 start with Colorado in 2001, I advised fantasy owners to trade him. And (patting myself on the back) he went 5-11 the remainder of the year. After the All-Star break, he was 5-8 with a 7.46 ERA.

mike hampton

Mike Hampton’s record

The most alarming thing about Hampton’s record with the Rockies was that he pitched even worse on the road than he was at Colorado. His 2002 splits were 4-3, 5.68 ERA at Coors Field and 3-12, 6.44 on the road. His road record was similar to Kile’s 3-10, 5.89 away records in 1999.  It could have been that Hampton was putting so much effort into keeping the ball down in home games that he let up when he was away from there.  The groundball pitcher had a 2.12 ratio of groundouts to fly balls at home, and 1.34 on the road. In addition, he gave up a .286 batting average and seven homers at Coors Field, and .329 and 17 taters elsewhere.  If Coors Field was such a difficult place to pitch, how did Jason Jennings go 16-8 and win the Rookie of the Year Award?


Another problem with using the Kile comparison is that they are different types of pitchers. Kile threw harder. His effectiveness allegedly was hurt most because the thin mile-high air flattened out his curve, and trying harder to make it break kept it from being sharp even on the road. Hampton’s repertoire is filled with what a guy I once knew had up to the ceiling in his car: a lot of junk. He’s a nibbler who will need to regain the confidence to be able to throw strikes.  I don’t wish Hampton any ill. He’s a tough competitor who just could work his way through his troubles. But I don’t want him on my fantasy team much more than I did last year. Any fantasy owner who bids on Hampton assuming a year like Kile’s 2000 season will be sorely disappointed.

Tips for Winning Fantasy Baseball Leagues

Tips for Winning Fantasy Baseball Leagues

Winning fantasy baseball, might not be as easy as it looks. One of the most difficult things about providing the information on this web site is not knowing the skill levels of you, our readers. From the Emails and message-board requests I have received, it seems as if most of you are way past the “What does WHIP mean?” or “What’s 4X4?” stage.

For all levels

However, I have to try to bridge gaps between any reader’s knowledge and what it will take for him to be winning fantasy baseball. So bear with me if some of what I say is too elementary, or too advanced for you. And if at any time you don’t understand something you read on this site, or if I’m going too slowly or too fast for me, let me know through those same Emails and message boards.

OK, now here we go with 10 tried-and-true tips for you to remember and to help you win.


1. Fantasy baseball is not real baseball

Therefore, a player’s value in winning fantasy baseball is not the same as his value in the major leagues. For example, Barry Bonds’ walks – or Rickey Henderson’s in his heyday – are important in a major league lineup but have no value whatsoever in a fantasy league that doesn’t count runs or on-base percentage or points for walks.

2. There are lots of ways to play

The differences that separate those ways can be very subtle – or not subtle at all. I equate winning fantasy baseball with writing — where there are many ways to get points across, but great differences between writing advertising copy, an objective news article, a sermon, and a legal brief, for just some examples. Also, keep in mind that there are a lot of apps available. has some great reviews of Fantasy Baseball apps.

In formulating a plan for your own league, bear in mind the differences between Rotisserie ® leagues and head-to-head play, 4X4 and 5X5 and more exotic combinations that make up the myriad ways to play fantasy baseball.

3. Position scarcity and relative value

These concepts mean that some positions have far fewer good players than others, making the few good players relatively more valuable. This scarcity is reflected in the dollar-value difference between a player and others at his position.


For example, let’s say an outfielder and a catcher each have a projected dollar value of $15. If the next four outfielders each have a value of $14, but the next-highest catcher is at $12, clearly the $15 catcher has a higher relative value than the $15 outfielder.


You’d want to take the $15 catcher so you’d get $3 more worth of production than the next-best catcher. Chances are one of the $14 outfielders would be available next time around, so you’d have $2 more value (15+14=29) than if you’d taken the $15 outfielder and been fortunate enough to get the $12 catcher (15+12=27).

4. Statistical scarcity

It’s obvious that pitchers will have far more strikeouts than wins. Less obvious is that there will be fewer saves than wins. As long as your league gives equal weight to each of those three pitching categories, each win will have greater value than each strikeout, and each save will have even greater value. That’s why top closers are so valuable in most fantasy leagues.

5. Age

Studies have shown that more players have their peak, or career, years at age 27 than at any other. Not all players, of course, but you’ll find the vast majority of players peak between the ages of 25 and 29. That doesn’t mean that you want to fill your roster with 27-year-olds. But it does mean that you don’t want a roster full of players in their 30s, or even those aged 22 and 23.

6. Rookies

That brings me to my next point. As a general rule, the best rookies are last year’s rookies. Trying to get an edge, fantasy players eagerly await news of the year’s top first-year major leaguers. The problem is that the best prospects don’t always perform at, or even near, their peak performance. After all, they’re not usually close to 27 years old – and if they are that old without significant major league experience, they’re probably not going to be in the show very long anyway.

More interest

The effect of the heightened interest in rookies – and you’ve heard the names this year of Victor Martinez, Miguel Olivo, Brandon Phillips, Rocco Baldelli, John Patterson, etc. – is that the demand drives up their prices in auctions or causes them to be drafted sooner than they should be. That makes it even more difficult to perform up to the level the eager owners expect.

Failed rookies

If you’ve played fantasy ball for any length of time, you know there are certain players you wouldn’t choose again because they’ve burned you once. That’s the effect “failed” rookies have in the next year’s draft. Their price goes down, so they’re usually available in their second year at less than the value they produce. That’s the time to step in.

winning fantasy baseball

7. Second-half statistics

If you have an interest in a player who played well for half of the previous season, and not so well during the other half, it’s best to take a strong second-half performer. That’s the part of last season closest to this season, and the player’s improvement could indicate ongoing maturation or a new pitch or batting approach that will result in a continued high-performance level.

8. Avoid weaknesses

It isn’t necessary to have the top total in every category – or even in any category at all – to win a league title. But if you have the lowest total in any category, you’re probably not going to be able to win. The impact of having just one point in a category is very difficult to overcome. That’s why blowing off one category to concentrate on others usually is a losing strategy.

9. Follow the money

This applies to auction leagues. If yours is a keeper league, where some players are kept from year to year, you need to know going in that just as many players aren’t available, a certain amount of salary-cap money also isn’t available. Winning fantasy baseball requires you to follow where the money goes. Keep track of each other owner’s available money and player needs. That can help you maximize your own salary-cap money and beat your opponents to better players.

10. Final tip

The final tip, of course, is to keep following the advice you’ll see at And for you higher rollers, we’ll have additional, advanced tips for members at Join now.