Ah, the sophomore slump. One of baseball’s oldest traditions, up there with pitchers hopping over the baseline and not saying the words “perfect game” after 5 innings of no baserunners. I used these two particular examples because they’re both pretty irrational, or at least they should be. I mean, really, what’s the difference if you say those two words mid-no hitter, right?
If you answered “WRONG,” you’re allowed to continue reading this article.
The sophomore slump may or may not exist, and by “it may or may not exist” I mean “it does not exist.” I took a glance at the ROY’s since 2003, comparing their award-winning numbers to their second acts, and wouldn’t you know it, some got worse but some got better, and others got MUCH better.
The slumps of Angel Berroa and Dontrelle Willis were not as dramatic however as the meteoric rises of Ryan Howard and Dustin Pedroia (ROY and MVP in consecutive years). Of course now that these players have logged a few more seasons we know why they slumped… they weren’t very good. But at the time, expectations were high for their futures (Berroa was a key KC cog in that 83 win abberation of 2003, and Dontrizzle won 14 games for the World Champion Fish).
So how are we gonna separate the Bobby Crosbys from the Jason Bays from this past season? Simple, you’re going to read everything I say and follow it word for word. Why listen to me? What kind of credentials do I have? How about… I’m on the Internet. You think just any schmuck can write on the Internet? I had to work long and hard for this.
So let’s scout the talent, starting with the trophy winners from last season, Evan Longoria and Geovany Soto. Both were heavy hitters in 2008: .270 BA, 20+ HR, 80+ RBI, 65+ runs. Not too shabby for less than 600 plate appearances. In the typical 5×5 12 team league, you’re not going to be seeing either player past the fifth round, as Longo is probably the third best at third base (behind the two New Yorkers) and Soto ranks among the top 5 behind the plate (Mauer, McCann, Martin and Martinez make up the rest of the mmm, mmm good).
Relative to the rest of the catchers pool, Soto’s numbers should be better across the board, minus the stolen bases. Longoria’s BA, R, and SB should be around the average production of the top 12′er at his position, though his HR total could claim the top spot of the 5 spots this season (he’d most likely need to slug 40 to pass A-Rod and D-Wright).
The mock drafts I’ve seen so far have Longoria going in the late 2nd early 3rd rounds, while Soto falls to the 5th and 6th rounds. Though I’m a bigger Longo fan than most Queens NY residents (I have his #3 Rays jersey in my closet), this seems odd to me. I think it has more to do with the depth of acceptable catchers and large number of catcher sleepers (Wieters, Iannetta, Clement, Shoppach, Sandoval if he’s eligible) this season. The drop off at 3B after Longoria isn’t too too steep if you can nab Aramis Ramirez or Kevin Youkilis, but miss out on them and you’re almost automatically taking a chance: hoping that Chipper or Hank Blalock stays healthy, or that Alex Gordon or Ryan Zimmerman reach their potential.
So you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t: overdraft Longoria and you’ll have to spend one or two later picks to round up your batting average totals, but if you miss out on the Dirtbag, you’ll just have to overdraft Youk or A-Ram soon afterwards anyway. If Longoria is around after 20 picks have been made, he’s probably the best player at any position available, so grab him quickly. I think Soto is a good choice anywhere from late 4th round to end of the 5th, though the M&Ms should be half gone before you do so.
More bats are sure to shine this year, with some at bargain basement rounds. I spotted this personal ad today:
- SWM in Cincinnati, seeking fantasy owners in the middle rounds. Middle of the lineup hitter, .280 average with 20-30 homeruns.
- Turn-ons: extra base hits, hitting righties.
- Turn-offs: clogging up the bases.
Ladies, meet Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. The latter became a household name for two weeks this summer with his propensity for hitting the ball really hard and far. The former was born in Canada. Let’s not hold it against him though, at least in respect to grabbing this semi-sleeper. Votto’s numbers compare favorably with high round picks such as David Ortiz and Justin Morneau, yet his name will appear in the draft about two rounds later. Bruce will win the SB battle with Votto, but the other categories favor JV. Don’t make the mistake of drafting someone like Derrek Lee or Carlos Delgado based on their histories; take Votto and his future, which is now, in rounds 5-7. Bruce should be fine around the 8th round.
So we’ve got the sluggers, let’s push out some throwers. And by push out, I mean push these 2008ers out of sight, out of mind, and out of your draft queues. Several of the pitchers who garnered rookie of the year votes in 2008 (besides Edinson Volquez who was, in fact, NOT a rookie in 2008… don’t get me started on the senility/retardation of some of the BBWAA) are control artists: Jair Jurrjens, Armando Galarraga, and Nick Blackburn all registered more than 10 wins in their rookie season with low to medium strikeout rates. Jurrjens is a late round pick and should be used to fill out a staff, not lead it. If you’re considering either of the other two, you’re probably a fan of either the AL Central or pitching to contact. Expect a backslide from all three.
Pull out your Magic 8 Ball to see what to expect from Joba Chamberlain. I’d like to help there, but his injury history makes it difficult to value him properly. He’s going to aid your ERA/WHIP totals at the very least, and if he stays in the starting rotation all season, the wins and strikeouts will come in bunches.
If I need a 2008 rookie, I’ll try on Oakland’s Joey Devine, thank you very much. Yes, his teammate and fellow 08 freshman Brad Ziegler grabbed more attention with his 39 inning scoreless streak to begin his career, but Devine ended up with the better numbers. An 0.59 ERA? I mean… really??? 23 hits in almost 46 innings? 19 more K’s than the big Zeeg in 14 fewer innings? I don’t think there’s a closer controversy here. Despite no history in the role, Devine should prove himself to be a formidable closer this season. Let those other schmucks take proven closers Trevor Hoffman and Huston Street; you’ll just scoop up the talented ones after that.
Anyone can make the leap from good to great. In my sophomore year of high school, I made the honor roll. How good I was in school can be debated I suppose, but how good your fantasy team will perform depends on your penchant for projections. Take the proven commodities too, but don’t be afraid to sniff out the superstars to be named later. RD signing off.
P.S. Apologies for not rhyming every second sentence, as is the style of this blog. It’s way tougher than it seems…