Ryan Braun hit his first two home runs off Kyle Kendrick — you know, that Kendrick sure sticks out for a sore thumb — and then Braun emancipated a third ball off Lincoln. Three homers a mere two days after saying he was not able to swing normally is quite the 180. It’s like when Mickey Rourke is one of the best actors — in movies like Diner and Angel Heart — only to have a string of flops, terrible plastic surgery and then he reemerges in The Wrestler. Or Travolta’s career is in the toilet after Saturday Night Fever, dealing with whispers about his bedroom predilections and then he does Pulp Fiction. Doing The McConaughey while McConaughey was still ruining his career. A few years later, Mickey Rourke has another string of flops and his face still scares small children; Travolta does Battlefield Earth and now whispers about his religion have joined the other whispers. (Be forewarned, McConaughey.) So, will Braun now reemerge as the top hitter in the game and hold his Pulp Fiction/Wrestler renaissance or will his thumb continue to haunt him while he commits to Wild Hogs II: Where The Wild Hogs Are? All I know is he was complaining about his thumb a full nine months after he first hurt it, so it doesn’t seem likely to disappear that fast. His value may be even higher now, but I’d still be concerned. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

They say baseball is 90 percent mental. So it don’t matter if you got 95-plus mph juice like Zach Wheeler or Taijuan Walker or He-Man-esque skills at the plate like Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout. If we open up your head and find a pile of rocks or all sorts of Milton Bradleycrazy or some actual problems, it could really screw up your season.

Just ask Yovani Gallardo. The derailment of his 2013 season began in November of 2012, when his mom died. Then came his much-publicized booze-cruise in April 2013, when he was charged with a DUI for driving around Milwaukee at three times the legal limit. Then he missed a chunk of the year with a hamstring injury.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Catcher-rye-full

Get it?

Time to finally hang up the fantasy football helmet, slip into my official Steve Balboni athletic supporter and get ready for some of the base and the balls talk. This nipple hardening February morning finds your humble-but-nonetheless-handsome Guru loading the van up with scouting reports, clean turbans, eye black and my Jenny Dell inflatable doll for that long, lonely road trip to Fort Myers to prepare for spring training. As we cross the days off the calendar until we dive into some actual fake baseball drafting, it’s time to dig out the ol’ jammer crammer machine (available on Adam&Eve.com) and dig through this year’s jams and crams by position for the 2014 fantasy baseball season.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

This top 20 1st basemen for 2014 fantasy baseball goes to about forty-six. Last year, I said the first base position is going through a transition. Pujols isn’t what he used to be; Howard, Te(i)x and Konerko are washed up; guys like Chris Davis, Hosmer and Trumbo were on the way up. Right, right and yup. The position is still deep in that transition. We’ll come out of the other side this year with a good idea of where we stand. If Pujols continues to fall, if the washed up ones are completely done and if the up-and-comers are still on the move. Hey, that sounds like a commencement speech from a school for porn. Okay, let’s get into it because I can’t count to twenty and this list goes on forever. As always, for each player there’s my projections and where I see tiers starting and ending. There’s the position eligibility chart for 2014 fantasy baseball, and all the 2014 fantasy baseball rankings are under that linkie-ma-whosie. Anyway, here’s the top 20 1st basemen for 2014 fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I just went over the top 10 for 2014 fantasy baseball and the top 20 for 2014 fantasy baseball. Most of you know how I feel about catchers. If you draft a catcher any time before the first 100 picks, you don’t know how I feel about catchers. Let me freshen up your cocktail with a splash of insight. I don’t draft top catchers in one catcher leagues. I Reggie Roby them. Last year, Napoli was the top ranked catcher at the end of year. He was the 11th best 1st baseman. The best catcher can’t spray aerosol deodorant on the top guy for another position. Everyone was crazy about Buster Posey last year (everyone except me). Buster Posey did about as much as Kendrys Morales. Lowercase yay. In the top five catchers last year were Lucroy, V-Mart, Rosario and Molina. One guy was drafted in the top 100, and that was barely. No one should draft a top catcher because there are no top catchers. They’re all hot garbage with a side order of stank. Catchers are unreliable to stay healthy; the job is grueling and takes its toll on offensive stats. There’s not much difference between, say, the tenth best catcher and nothingness. Jarrod Saltymochachino, Jason Castro and Salvador Perez were the 8th, 9th and 10th best catchers last year. All of them were on waivers in shallower leagues as late as July. Only the depth of 2nd basemen is worst, and I say punt them too. Yes, I am saying punt the positions that are most scarce. Finally, a reason that is new to this current crop of catchers — they’re actually deep in mediocrity. You can draft the fifth best catcher or the 12th best and they’re tomato-tomato said with a different emphasis. Because I ignore the top catchers doesn’t mean I’m starting the top 20 catcher list at number twenty-one; some of you might want to know the top catchers. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them draft Devin Mesoraco. In two catcher leagues, catchers are a little more valuable, but I’d still prefer to avoid them. You can see other top 20 lists for 2014 fantasy baseball under 2014 fantasy baseball rankings. Listed along with these catchers are my 2014 projections for each player and where the tiers begin and end. Anyway, here’s the top 20 catchers for 2014 fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Maybe it’s the rush of the holiday season with two kids or the fact that some major cash is flowing in free agency, but I feel like this year’s offseason is just whizzing by. This will be the last sort of “stat review” for SAGNOF before I head into the territory of value plays for steals in 2014. This post will lay out some of the best and worst catchers in terms of their caught stealing percentages (CS%). Keep in mind that pitchers have a lot to do with holding baserunners as well, and you can find my previous post on the best and worst pitchers against the stolen base here at Razzball. A quick note on the catcher tables – I sorted them by qualified and non-qualified catchers. “Qualified” catchers played more than 1/2 of their team’s games, while “non-qualified” catchers played less than that. Catchers who split times between two teams, like Kurt Suzuki, also end up on the “non-qualified” list. The league average caught stealing percentage in 2013 was 28%, and that hasn’t really changed much over the last 3 years (27% in 2012, 28% in 2011). Last but not least, consider that playing time situations can fluctuate with free agent signings and trades, creating new opportunities for previously non-qualified catchers as the offseason transactions continue. Green columns indicate guys that are easy to run against, and red columns designate the toughest to run against:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Michael Wacha was within an out of a no-hitter yesterday when Zimmerman hit a bouncer to shortstop, which he barely beat out. Ryan Zimmerman doesn’t want the world to see joy. He’s a joy killer. Every time some 14-year-old writes jk jk jk. They’re not abbreviating ‘just kidding,’ they’re really talking about Ryan Zimmerman joy killing. For a moment, I was on board with The Joy Killer because I don’t need Wacha getting hyped up anymore than necessary for next year. You hear Wacha I’m talking about? You like Wacha I’m working with? Wacha you say to that? Okay, I want to stop replacing what with Wacha, but I can’t. Wacha can I do?! There is gonna be an insane amount of young pitchers next year that I’ll be eyeing, and Wacha is yet another one. In 64 2/3 IP this year, he had a 9+ K/9, 2.61 xFIP and a 2.64 BB/9. Yes, please, come again. I could see this 22-year-old giving you a Shelby Miller-type season next year, maybe even, dare I say it, Matt Harvey. That’s Wacha I’m talking about! Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The Pirates are in it to win it, y’all! Maybe too aggressive. Okay, the Pirates are in it to make it seem like they’re in it to win it, y’all! Yeah, that’s probably a closer approximation. If we’re sitting here in October and saying the Pirates couldn’t have won the World Series without the help of Marlon Byrd, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle and pay for my monkey nephew to go to college, which is a lot of money. Luckily, I think they can win it with or without Byrd, as a Nikki Dinki-hosted show would say. Thankfully, none of this matters for fantasy, so why are we even talking about it? I don’t know, clunky expository question! Byrd will likely prop up the bottom of the Pirates lineup when he plays and prop himself onto the mascot’s shoulder on off days. Byrd gains a tad bit of value with this move since the Mess offense was nothing to write home about unless you were locked up abroad and ran out of things to write on postcards, and ‘Hitters Are Better Outside Of Metco’ is a bumper sticker I don’t own, but endorse. Also, going to the Pittsburgh Bucs is John Buck. Buck will change his New York nickname of “Midnight Cowboy” to “Swash,” and steal some looks behind the plate from Martin. Going the other way is Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later. Unless that player is Andrew McCutchen, there’s not a whole lot to talk about on the Mets receiving end. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

No worries, fantasy owners: Alejandro De Aza may not speak Swahili*, but this past month his numbers have been music to fantasy owners’ ears. With a .350/.418/.567 line in July, a strikeout rate that has decreased every month of this season, and already reaching a career high in home runs, there are many reasons for optimism. Yes, he struggled early on this season, but he seems to be rounding into form with an approach that attempts to hit for more power. And why not? After all, he plays in a park where Adam Dunn bunted for a home run** last year. I, for one (unless I can speak for more than one?), am embracing the slightly more homer-friendly De Aza. If he continues to steal bases, then he will add to the scarcity of players who steal bases, but don’t destroy your OPS (you know who you are). For the rest of the season, I believe that he will be able to maintain his current .278/.336/.444 line, which represents a slight dip in OBP with a nice bump in slugging. Anyway, here are some other guys I’m dreaming about in OPS leagues:

Please, blog, may I have some more?