We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2011 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2011 Rays Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Jason Collette from Dock of the Rays.
1) Since 98% of the people who play fantasy baseball are guys, you would think everyone would love a solid B.J. Yet, fantasy baseballers (<– my Mom’s term) always seem to underrate the fickleness (<–my term) of batting average and tend to stay away from B.J. Upton, even with his 20 homer power and 40 steal speed. Yet, Part II: The Return of Yet, no matter how fickle average may be, Upton can’t seem to get his average over .250. Or can he? Please help convince our readers that Upton can hit .270 again one of these years.
Can he? Sure. Will he? Only if he stops that downward slide in his K% that has gone from 25% to 27% to 31% over the past three seasons. If you listen to Upton talk about himself, he stresses about how mechanical he looks at the plate these days and I have to agree – he does look like a mechanical windmill. He did close strong over the final two months with 25 extra base hits and a .255 batting average but his K% over the final four months was 24%, 33%, 34%, and 34%. He and Carl Crawford were the only two players in baseball last season that had at least 40 steals and 60 extra base and they join an exclusive club of just 51 members over the past sixty seasons. The scary part? Upton’s .237 average last season was the lowest average by 22 points of any member in the 60/40 club trailing Bobby Bonds who did the feat in both 1969 and 1972.
Ever since his shoulder surgery, he has not been the same type of hitter at the plate. He shows flashes of the 2007 monster but then goes into horrendous slumps that bring out the boo birds at home. Upton just needs to join the Rex Grossman fan club and say, “F it, I’m going deep.” When he isn’t so mental at the plate, his talents seep out of every pore.
2) Jeremy Hellickson’s in the rotation, right? So what can we expect of him in 2011? Here’s my Hellickson fantasy for reference.
The 5th spot is his but it would not surprise me to see him leapfrog Niemann during this season. He’s 23 but he pitches with the moxie of a 33 year old as he has three major league pitches with his fastball, curve, and change and he can throw all three for strikes at any point in the count. There were a few times last season when he doubled up on change-ups to veterans and even tripled up at times. He does not get himself in trouble but he did show last season he was better out of the wind-up than he was in the stretch and gave up a few long balls. He reminds me a lot of James Shields when he first came up in that regard but Shields only had two pitches and his change-up was something he only used (and still uses) when he is ahead in the count. Hellickson, on the other hand, will throw any pitch at any time, and most of the time it will be where he wanted it to be.
3) I loved David Price last year. Unfortunately, Price and I are going separate ways this year. I’m worried about regression. Are you?
Absolutely worried – the gap between his ERA and FIP does it for me. His 79% LOB will regress but I think his low BABIP is for real because Niemann, Davis, and Garza were all close to that as well thanks to the great defense the Rays play. I have no explanation why Shields’ BABIP was nearly 60 points higher than the other starting pitchers on the staff outside of the fact batters were really teeing off on his fastball last season. Price worked deep into a lot of his own starts but that superior bullpen helped him close out some of those starts last year and he nearly got that 20th win. That superior bullpen is gone so he is going to have more of those runners he leaves on in later innings come in unless Farnsworth, Peralta, and Russell all have the same type of career seasons as the group did last year. If that happens, Friedman is the anti-christ and has made a deal with the devil.
4) James Shields is the opposite of Price. Didn’t like him last year and now I feel like we can get a bounce back. Agree, disagree or no longer reading and having your nephew type up responses?
He is his own worst enemy. It amazes me that a guy with his K/9, low BB/9, and excellent K/BB get pounded someone dating Ike Turner but that was Shields for most of 2010. I never thought he got comfortable throwing to John Jaso and it showed when you look at the cERA’s on the staff as his results were much better throwing to Shoppach and Navarro. Shields has got to mix his stuff up because he has become too predictable. He throws fastballs and cutters to set up his putaway change-up and goes to cutters and fastballs when he is behind the count that get blasted. He has a great curve when you watch him throw it and see the pitch f/x data but he is stubborn about using it. He needs to not be so afraid of doubling up on pitches or putting someone on base. Walking someone 3-0 or 3-1 is better than putting a fastball over the plate that guys were routinely putting off and over the wall last season.
5) Rays saves over/unders for 2011: Farnsworth 20 saves, McGee 15 saves, Waitress at local area Hooter’s 5 saves.
Nobody gets 20 saves. Peralta and Farnsworth both get double-digit saves and McGee has the job by September to finish out the season.