Oh fantasy sports… how do I loathe the….

So if you are like me your fantasy football seasons been over for a long time and you’ve had an opportunity to decompress and admit that drafting Doug Martin 8th overall (With Jammal Charles on the board) was a mistake.  You’re no longer blaming Bill Belichick for not playing Steven Ridley (Oh and you drafted him with Matt Forte still on the board too) and you’ve come to realize that you made some shitty picks in fantasy football this year.  My goal today is to keep you from making some of those same mistakes with your fantasy baseball team.  At this point I am not going to go into great detail about top sleepers and busts for the 2014 baseball season (I won’t do this any time before my fantasy baseball draft in late March) What I will do is  provide a little insight for the Baltimore homer.  The point of today’s post is to  break down which Orioles you should and shouldn’t draft along with what their draft value may be.  I’ve chosen the Orioles who are most likely to be drafted in 10-12 team leagues; I may come back to this later and add a few 16 team fringe players or sleepers who may go un-drafted but only time will tell……Enjoy!

Chris Davis:  We can go on all day talking about the positives of Chris Davis; how can you not love the left-handed thumper in the middle of the potent Orioles line up.  A lefty with a short right field but power to hit the ball out all over the ballpark.  The negatives on Chris, he doesn’t walk a lot, doesn’t steal bases, strikes out a bunch and defensively ranks behind a few guys who could go early in the first round.  But hey.. let’s not kid ourselves this guy is a stud and if he can come anywhere close to his 2013 production of 50+ home runs and 100+ Extra base hits he is a sure-fire first round pick in the middle of that round.  Don’t jump on him first overall and realistically he should probably be the 3rd first baseman off the board (remember I am not talking non-orioles until after my draft) but if you can get him anywhere from 5th to 8th overall you have a great player on your team.

Adam Jones:  Adam Jones is another fantastic player in the middle of that Baltimore line up; he’s a true 5 tool phenom who has proven to be a consistent performer over the past few years.  Despite his great speed Adam’s value in fantasy is hurt by the fact that he doesn’t steal a lot of bases (Hitting in the middle of the powerful line up don’t expect that to change) and the man refuses to take a walk.  His defense also hurts him, despite many experts opinions that Adam is a very good center fielder defensive, defensive metrics do not favor him.  Still his great power and base running instincts make him a solid fantasy player.  Expect Adam to be among the league leaders in home runs, doubles, RBI, and runs scored; having that kind of value in the early to mid second round would be fantastic.  My warning on Adam is to not jump too early; many O’s fans (myself included) love this guy and may be willing to consider him a late first round pick.  With the depth of outfielders in the league this may be too early to jump for AJ considering who else may still be on the board.

Manny Machado:  Coming off of a stellar sophomore campaign you could expect Manny Machado’s fantasy stock to soar in 2014….. nope…..not the case.  Off season knee surgery combined with a late season slump has ranked as MLB.com’s 14th best third baseman despite leading the league in doubles in 2013.  Questions for Manny going into 2014 include; when will he be back in the line up?  Will we get the Manny Machado that hit .310 the first half of the season or the Manny Machado that hit .240 the second half?  Coming off injury will Manny have the ability to build the muscle necessary to turn some of those doubles into home runs?  Will his range as shown in defensive metrics be the same after knee surgery?  These questions for me are enough to say avoid Manny in Baltimore homer leagues.  Some Orioles fans will draft him way too early and leave you with a more productive third baseman 3 rounds later.  If Manny falls to the 9th/10th round or later feel free to snag him and hope for the best.  I love Manny the player and the future of Manny Machado’s career… but I don’t love Manny Machado the 2014 fantasy baseball player.

J.J. Hardy:  It started in Baltimore; it might as well continue here.  In the late 1970’s and into the 1980’s short stops needed to be small, athletic, quick.  That athleticism was needed to cover the range, precision, and consistency that a team needed from a short stop.  Then came a man name Cal Ripken Jr. to revolutionize the position; Cal was tall, big, strong, and he could… GASP… hit home runs.  JJ Hardy comes from that same mold, one of only a handful of power hitting short stops in the majors and if you’re in a Fantasy league that isn’t full of Baltimore homers he might be your steal of the draft.  JJ doesn’t steal bases like many of his short stop counterparts but he sure can tear the cover off of the ball and he hits in a ballpark where power is most certainly encouraged.  Not to mention his defensive metrics are phenomenal and he will be hitting toward the bottom of a line up that consists of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado.  All of this bodes well for a guy who MLB.com has ranked as the 15th best fantasy short stop.  If you can get 25-30 home runs from your 14th-16th round utility player consider that is most certainly a steal.

Matt Wieters:  The Orioles are still trying to figure out what the value of Matt Wieters the baseball player is but I can tell you what the value of Matt Wieters the fantasy baseball player is…. and it’s not a lot.  Wieters biggest strengths don’t really play that well in fantasy baseball; he is a great defender behind the plate, works well with a young pitching staff, and throws out base stealers at a fantastic rate.  Even with this considered Matt’s defense does not make up for his .235/.287/.417 line in 2013.  Helpful hint for fantasy baseball novices out there… if you are picking up a guy for his power and ability to hit the long ball…. don’t take a guy whose OPS barely cracked .700.  Not to even mention his lack of speed, we hear a lot of guys turning singles to doubles and going first to third… Matt is one of those rare players who can turn a double into a single with his speed.  What concerns me the most about Wieters is the fact that he has regressed essentially every year since coming into the league and posting a .288/.340/.412 line in 2009.  Wieters does have some good qualities, his 20 plus home runs stick out, he played in 148 games last year, his RBI total in the line up should be good, and he did hit 12 sac flies last year (however, based on his 3 in 2012 and 1 in 2011 I wouldn’t expect that trend to continue).  If you are looking for a late round back up catcher in 12 or 14 team leagues there is some upside to Matt but otherwise I would stay away.

Chris Tillman:  Chris is a popular guy in Baltimore right now and her certainly deserves the recognition after a breakout 2013 campaign in which he posted 16 wins along with a strong 3.71 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.  Sabrematricians will point out the flaws in grading pitchers on stats like wins, ERA, and saves and in many cases they are right but looking over the whole body of work I like Chris Tillman in baseball; both fantasy and real.  Chris is a durable, tough, gritty ball player who can dominate when he has his best stuff but can also fight his way through a ball game when he does not.  This can help your fantasy team when Chris starts a game slow giving up a few runs early but is able to battle his way back to pitch 6-7 innings and record a few extra K’s.  He doesn’t get an astronomical amount of strike outs and he will give up some home runs but for a fly ball pitcher in the AL East pitching home games at Camden Yards a 3.71 ERA with that 1.22 WHIP is pretty strong.  I expect Chris to continue to improve on his 2013 numbers and while he is not an “Ace” or on the level of many of the number one pitchers in this league he is a solid mid to late round pick up who can provide your team a lot of value off the bench.

Tommy Hunter:  Tommy Hunter is an interesting fantasy case depending on how late in the off-season your league drafts.  If the Orioles sign a closer between now and your draft I think Hunter is un-draftable in 10-14 team leagues and maybe a fringe reliever in 16 team leagues.  Obviously a veteran closer in camp would take the opportunity for 35-45 saves away from Tommy and his metrics alone without the save opportunities are not enough to carry him on your team.  However, until we see Fernando Rodney wearing Black and Orange in Sarasota I say give him a late round shot.  The top closers will go long before Tommy comes off the board and this team still looks set up to play in a lot of close games with Hunter the favorite to win the closer role.  His strike out rates are solid but nothing special and he struggles with left-handed hitters but I think anyone who closes for this team will have some opportunity to stockpile some saves and will in-turn have some value as a late round stash.

That’s all for now; if I feel like it I might break down a few Orioles sleepers, guys who you can grab in the final round or some un-drafted Orioles with value.  Stay tuned!

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