As the seminal prog band Emerson, Lake and Laura Palmer once sang: “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, we’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside.” (The song went on for 45 minutes before ‘Yes’ came out and kicked their ass.) Opening day is here and the Razzball Lounge is open for bid’ness. Have a seat, grab a cold one and a pickled egg, and don’t get hypnotized by my bedazzled turban my fantasy freaks. Here in the lounge we dedicated, often celebrated, and usually acquitted (we have a great legal team) Razzballin’ scribes gather every opening day to bicker and banter, indulge and imbibe and moan and marvel at our fantasy teams and Grey’s magnificent ‘stache. On this last lazy Sunday (before things get serious) we find Sky in a dark corner slowing rocking back and forth muttering his mantra of “Tulo, Tanaka, Trumbo” over and over. Bellying up to the bar is podcasting paladin Nick Capozzi, clad only in his Expos throwback demanding another Labatts, showing off pics of his rolling Razzball ride and asking no one in particular, “Get your 32in32in32 tickets yet, eh?” Dropping quarters in the jukebox we find Jay Wrong demonstrating his “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” interpretative dance – “Will you love me forever?” *bottle smashes above head* Stumbling out of the ladies room is the one and only Tehol Beddict casually zipping up his skinny jeans and introducing his new lady friend, “Guys, I’d like to introduce you to my cousin. Ain’t she pretty?” And here at the pool table is your humble-but-nonetheless handsome Guru putting the finishing touches on my 27 rosters. *closes eye, takes aim, sinks eight ball off two rails, drops shot glass into pint, downs boilermaker, lights cigar, sets turban on fire* With the drinks starting to flow let’s run though the jams and crams at each position for Week 1 of the 2014 fantasy baseball season. We’re not talking Miggy, Trout or Goldy here, we’re looking at players owned in less than 50% of most leagues that could help grab you an early lead on your way to fantasy glory. Good luck this season, it’s time to jam it or cram it.
Jam or Cram: Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets
2013 Stats: 31 G, 4 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, .202 AV.
Availability: 90% Yahoo, 98% ESPN
2014 $$$ Value: $2
The Gist: Cue the upside theme song. Whaddaya mean there’s no upside theme song? d’Arnaud is currently buried in the rankings – 27th in ESPN, 24TH for the YAHOO!s. Doesn’t make sense to your turban clad friend here. There’s no competition for him and the job is all d’Arnaud’s for the sinking or the swimming. Ranked as the No. 6 prospect in all of baseball last season, the Mets backstop has double-digit power and .300ish average potential – if he can stay healthy.
Key Stat: d’Arnaud has only played 100 games twice in his 7-year pro career.
Jam it or Cram it: Ok, ok, the kid looked overwhelmed last season, but it was a relatively small sample – just 112 PA.However, the minor league numbers are impressive – 69 home runs, 309 RBI and a .347 average. d’Arnaud is a roll of the dice, but if you waited on catcher and currently own the likes of Miguel Montero, Russell Martin or Carlos Ruiz, why not take a gamble on a guy that will finish *bold prediction* as the NL Rookie of the Year this season. JAM
Jam or Cram: Justin Morneau, 1B, Colorado Rockies
2013 Stats: 62 R, 17 HR, 77 RBI, 0 SB, .259 AV.
Availability: 50% Yahoo, 75% ESPN
2014 $$$ Value: $2
The Gist: Post-concussion Morneau has been a sorrowful thing to watch – slow to the ball, power sapped and always asking where his car keys are. In about 1500 AB’s he’s only hit 40 homers and .250. However, a full season at Coors Field could be the perfect headache medicine – see Michael Cuddyer.
Key Stat: Morneau hasn’t hit more than 20 home runs since 2009.
Jam it or Cram it: If you got confused at the end of your scotch-fueled draft and picked up Todd Helton I could see taking a chance on a Morneau resurrection. Just keep in mind it’s not 2006 anymore. In a deep league I could see jamming, but if you drafted like the rest of us Razzballers you already own Paul Goldschmidt, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols or Joey Votto. CRAM
Jam or Cram: Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
2013 Stats: 32 G, 6 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 3 SB, .153 AV.
Availability: 75% Yahoo, 80% ESPN
2014 $$$ Value: $1
The Gist: Grey went over his Wong fantasy on Friday and it’s already been nominated for a fantasy Pulitzer and an AVN Award. Gotta agree with the mustachioed maestro here, there’s a lot right about Wong. Last season at Triple-A Memphis he slashed .303/.369/.466 in over 450 appearances with 20 steals in 21 attempts.
Key Stat: Wong hit 375/.434/.646 this spring.
Jam it or Cram it: The Cards No. 1 pick just three years ago has won the second base job after an impressive spring. The kid has 10-15 home run, 25-30 steal potential. Counting on Neil Walker or Anthony Rendon? Crying over your Jurickson Profar? Grab your Wong and give it a JAM. How kinky.
Jam or Cram: Grady Sizemore, Boston Red Sox
2013 Stats: Did not play.
Availability: 67% Yahoo, 78% ESPN
2014 $$$ Value: $0
The Gist: Despite not playing an inning of baseball since 2011, the Red Sox have penciled Grady in as Jacoby Ellsbury’s replacement in centerfield and shipped Jackie Bradley Jr. off to the sunny shores of Pawtucket. In 12 games this spring, Sizemore hit .333 with a homer, a couple of RBI, six runs scored and finally looks healthy after 426 surgeries, a complete blood transfusion and a Tijuana liver transplant.
Key Stat: Averaged 27 homers, 29 stolen bases from 2005-08 and is one of nine players with 100 home runs, 100 steals and a BB% of 10 or better over the past decade.
Jam it or Cram it: I’ll confess: I have a Tony Conigliaro candle lit for Grady fantasizing about a 30/30 season. You know I’m a dreamer with a heart of gold – and one day I will only communicate in Motley Crue lyrics. Best case scenario: Sizemore wins Comeback Player of the Year. Worst case scenario: Grady trips on Mike Napoli’s beard and his spleen explodes. Guys named Grady always work out in Beantown. CRAM
Jam or Cram: Dillon Gee, New York Mets
2013 Stats: 12 W, 3.62 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 142 K
Availability: 59% Yahoo, 55% ESPN
2014 $$$ Value: $2
The Gist: Gee could very well be the only healthy (it’s poetry) arm on the Mets this season not named Zack Wheeler. Matt Harvey saw Dr. Death, Jonathon Niese is dealing with his own elbow problems and Bartolo Colon is 105 years old. Gee had his best season a year ago going 12-11 with a 3.62 ERA and 142 strikeouts – a career high. His 2.74 ERA (just behind Yu Darvish and Matt Latos) in the second half may be signs of things to come.
Key Stat: Finished the spring with a 1.08 ERA over 18 2/3 innings this spring and will start the opener.
Jam it or Cram it: The decline in strikeout rate last year is troublesome as is the career 10.4% HR/FB ratio, but we’re not looking for Gee to carry our staff. We’re just looking for a filinski until Kershaw, Darvish or Cole Hamels comes back. Gee gets two starts this week and have to like the strikeout potential in the early going against the Nationals and the Reds. JAM
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Miami Marlins: Salty was a top 6 catcher a year ago in Boston, but will now find himself hypnotized by that sculpture thingy in Miami. CRAM
Mike Olt, CI, Chicago Cubs: The once highly touted Olt hit .200 last year amid “vision” problems. Apparently, he couldn’t visualize what getting on first base looked like. Keep an eye on him for now. CRAM
Kelly Johnson, MI, New York Yankees: Johnson was top 8 in home runs among second baseman last season and has third base/outfield eligibility. I like my bench bats like my ladies – flexible. JAM
Rajai Davis, OF, Detroit Tigers: Davis missed a week with a bad hammy. Not a good sign for SAGNOF! lovers. CRAM
Follow The Guru and his dirty turban on Twitter @TheGuruGS for fantasy ballin’ wisdom and scotch-fueled selfies.