We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere.Â To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2009 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team.Â We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2009 Blue Jays Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Drunk Jays Fans.
1) There may be no player more consistently frustrating in fantasy baseball as Vernon Wells.Â He was awesome in 2003 and 2006.Â Will he continue the ‘every third year’ pattern in 2009 or just be frustrating again?
If I were a betting man– and I am– I’d bet that Vernon’s 2009 will be his most outstanding year since ’06. Not that it will be difficult, but he was actually quite good when healthy last year (121 OPS+), and ’07 was really a write-off because he was playing with a cyst in his shoulder that completely threw off his swing. Plus, the Jays have been written off even earlier this year than usual, so maybe there’s reason to believe he won’t struggle under the weight of his ridiculous contract. Of course, I wouldn’t be shocked if he was brutal again, but I do expect to see Good Vernon this year.
2) Alex Rios is one of those power/speed guys that gets fantasy baseball players all tingly.Â He upped his SBs last year (from 17 to 32) but fell back in HRs (from 24 to 15).Â Is he just a 6’5″ Carl Crawford or can he follow in the 25/25 footsteps of illustrious Blue Jays like Raul Mondesi, Jose Cruz. Jr, and Shawn Green?
The belief seems to be that Cito Gaston and crew really helped Rios improve when they arrived last year, and the hope is that his progress will carry over into 2009. I’m leery of giving too much credit to hitting coaches, and it feels more than a little bit ridiculous to still be thinking of Rios as a developing player, but the splits are encouraging: .285/.337/.401 with 4 HR and 23 SB in the first half .299/.336/.540 with 11 HR and 9 SB in the second. I expect to see a Rios more like the latter in ’09, so getting to 25 SBs might actually be the more difficult proposition. Likely he falls just short of both– but if he do that and add in 47 doubles again, I’m not going to complain.
3) Dustin McGowan has been called the ‘next Roy Halladay’ but his 2008 was more like the ‘next Juan Guzman’.Â Can he live up to the Halladay comparisons in 2009?
Having watched Halladay pitch all these years, and hearing all of the stories about his focus and his drive and his work ethic, I think it’s extraordinarily unfair to label any young pitcher the ‘next Roy Halladay’. Roy is simply not human. McGowan has outstanding pure stuff, but it’s been a long process for him, and the shoulder injury that will keep him out until May is another big setback (he had Tommy John in 2004). Unfortunately, 2009 is not going to be the year he makes Jays fans stop worrying about Halladay’s contract nearing an end, and I expect more growing pains. So I guess for now I have to say he looks more like the next Juan Guzman– but if you look only at Guzman’s six best seasons, that’s really not so bad (just please don’t look at the other four– I wish I never had to).
4) What Blue Jay will be the biggest fantasy baseball surprise in 2009?
Aaron Hill shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, because he showed what he can do in 2007, but he’s definitely a sleeper candidate in most formats– especially since his numbers before the concussion last year weren’t great. He’ll definitely be closer to his 2007 numbers. But if I really want to be a pie in the sky optimist, I’d say Scott Rolen. I’m sure plenty of fantasy players have been burned on being optimistic about a Rolen resurgence before, but the word here is that he completely reworked his swing last year, lessening the load on his bum shoulder. The sample size is small, but if you look at his numbers after he came back off the DL for good last August (.298/.350/.532 with 4 HR and 8 doubles in 27 games), it makes you at least a little bit hopeful if you’re a Jays fan. I figure he’s worth a flier– no, seriously.
5) From the perspective of an occasionally sober Yankee fan, JP Ricciardi seems like a giant douchebag (see Adam Dunn Radio Serenade, BJ Ryan’s Spinjury) who has sucked more milk from the Moneyball teet than even Billy Beane or Michael Lewis.Â Can you share the Drunk Jays fan perspective on this guy?Â Do you find yourself longing for Pat Gillick?
Actually, we tend to go against the grain on a lot of things, because we find that the prevailing opinion among most Jays fans is almost always retarded. Nobody is thrilled with the way that the Ricciardi era has gone, but we acknowledge that the reasons run deeper than just what Ricciardi has done. Right now, we have much bigger issues with ownership, which is a telecommunications company worth tens of billions and much safer than most companies from the economic downturn, who insist on crying poor at a time when they could dig change from their couch cushions and get some outstanding value on the free agent market. As for JP, we may be biased because he’s fun as hell to write about, but generally we’ll defend him, or at least try to find some kind of reasoning behind the decisions he makes. That is, unless it’s as flagrantly stupid as the Dunn comments. Guy does come off like a dick, but he goes on the radio every week and takes calls from fans, which he completely gets bonus points for, and the big thing, it seems, is being willing to accept that 99% of what he says is spin, and the other 1% is probably spin. It’s easy to get down on him for the lack of success, but he’s built an excellent group of pitchers, and in the last couple of years if more than just a couple of hitters could have actually managed to play to their potential, things would seem quite different.