Thursday, March 8, 2 p.m. ET

Fantasy Baseball Forecast

Chris Liss
Managing Editor,
Thursday, March 8, 2007; 2:00 PM

Who should you avoid in the first round of your fantasy baseball draft, and who will be a steal by round 13? Rotowire managing editor Chris Liss offers his analysis on the upcoming season.

Liss was online Thursday, March 8 at 2 p.m. to answer your draft prep questions.

A transcript follows


Chris Liss: Okay, let's get started - hope everyone's doing well.


Cooperstown, USA: Chase Utley -- is he a better pick than Ryan Howard in the first round due to the lack of overall strength at second? Or is Howard such a powerful hitter that he needs to be grabbed if both are available?

Chris Liss: It's close between Utley and Howard -- I'd probably go Howard because Utley played in 162 games last year and had a ton of plate appearances to put up those great stats. He's not a huge power hitter or speed guy, so either or both are liable to regress this season. Scarcity matters, but you don't want to overplay it.


Jefferson City, Mo.: I'm in an eight team H2H league with a snake draft. I have the seventh overall pick and was curious about your strategy for picking in this position. I'm leaning towards Utley with position scarcity, but should I be looking elsewhere? I really like Utley because he offers the type of power that many of the other positions offer but at a weak position. I'm just curious about other thoughts for picking in this position in this type of league. Thanks.

Chris Liss: Again, I'm not high on Utley when you compare him to players like Carl Crawford (who turns 25, slugged close to .500 last year, and you know he'll steal 40-plus bags). I like to consider position scarcity -- but only to a point. I'd take Crawford or Beltran over Utley.


Rockville, Md.: what are your thoughts on the dollar values of Iwamura and Igawa in an AL only league?

Chris Liss: In the AL LABR "expert" league (stands for League of Alternative Baseball Reality), I got Iwamura for $15, and I believe Igawa went for $9. I think those are fair values -- Igawa has a lot of upside with all the run support he figures to get, but pitchers are always more risky. Temper expectations for Iwamura's power, but if he steals 7 or 8 bags, that's nice extra value.


Keeper leagues: Hi, Chris -- how would you rank Smoltz, Halladay and Dice-K in a keeper league? It's a tough one because of Smoltz's age, Halladay's recent injury history and Dice-K's lack of experience against MLB lineups. And what's your take on the prospects Bailey, Lincecum, Hochevar, Pelfrey and Humber? Are any of them going to be worth owning this year?

Chris Liss: I'd rank them Halladay (known quantity, injuries were off of comebackers, not arm problems), Matsuzaka (terrific numbers in Japan, should get run support), then Smoltz -- great, but 40 this year.

I think Pelfrey has the best chance of that bunch -- great home park, and a very shaky rotation ahead of him.


Arlington, Va.: Who would you take No. 1 overall in a H2H league?

Chris Liss: Pujols, without thinking twice. He's not only a monster, but he's the most reliable player in the game -- something that matters a lot when you're pick No. 1 overall. You can't afford to screw that pick up.


Pitching: Given the dearth of reliable starting pitching, where would you take Johan Santana? Is he a top 8 pick?

Chris Liss: Absolutely -- I've seen him go as high as No. 2. And in truth, if you could just take Santana's numbers from last year, and not have to deal with the risk that he doesn't repeat them, I'd take him No. 1, ahead of Pujols. But pitchers are more risky, and so I'd say Santana should go No. 3 or 4.


Looking for speed: It seems like stolen bases are such a scarce commodity in most leagues, and that totals for individual players can vary widely from year to year. Beyond the obvious candidates (Carl Crawford, Ichiro) who would you look at for stolen bases?

Chris Liss: Well, a few guys you might be able to get late are: Chris Burke -- starting CF in Hou. Nook Logan is a terrible real life offensive player, but if he wins the job in WAS, he could steal 40. Alex Sanchez, same thing in Florida. Dave Roberts is more reliable because he's got a job, but he'll be more expensive. Those are just a few.


Kenora, Ontario, Canada:

Which should be the top five positions filled immediately?

Chris Liss: There's no right answer to that. I like to take the best player available as much as possible, with an eye on positional scarcity and the drop off at each position as the draft/auction goes on as a tiebreaker. But don't lock yourself into thinking there's one order it has to be done in.


Bethesda, Md.: So I picked up Jeff Kent in the sixth round of my roto league. My boyfriend insists this is a great pick and that he's still a stud, but I'm not convinced. Thoughts?

Chris Liss: It depends what kind of league (NL only or mixed) and how many teams. On its face, it strikes me as a reach -- Kent is old, and he's in a pitcher's park. In a mixed league, I think you'll regret it. In an NL-only league, it could pan out if Kent stays healthy and doesn't decline, but I don't see much chance for a profit in round 6. I hope your boyfriend is good at other things besides fantasy baseball advice!


Washington, D.C.: I've had lots of people ask me who my top 5 fantasy picks would be. My answer:







Chris Liss: That's defensible in a points league, and it's not entirely crazy in a roto one, but I'd rather have Carl Crawford, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana or Alfonso Soriano than some of those guys in a roto one where stolen bases matter a lot.


Washington, D.C.: I had a choice at 3B of David Wright and Miguel Cabrera. I went with Wright. Did I make the correct (that would have been too easy to say wright) choice?

Chris Liss: It's 50/50 - Wright runs more, so that's good. Cabrera is a tiny bit safer bet for average, and Wright fell off in the second half last year. Still, you can't go wrong there, and I'd probably go Wright as well. No pun intended.


Washington, D.C.: In my first fantasy draft this season I went REAL young with a mix of veteran talent. 12-team league, rotisserie.

What do you make of my chances with young guys like:

Stephen Drew

David Wright

Connor Jackson

Joe Mauer

Freddy Sanchez

Nick Markakis

Erik Bedard (my no. 3)

All playing central roles on my team?? Did I go too far on the side of "potential" or am I ahead of the curve ignoring older oft-injured guys?

Chris Liss: It all depends when you got these guys, and what you passed up to get them.

Mauer, Wright and Bedard have major upside. Jackson, Drew and Sanchez are fine, but they don't run or hit for a ton of power . Drew has good power for a SS, but I'd be surprise if he hit more than 20 HRs in his first full season. Markakis has some power upside, but again, doesn't run.


Washington, D.C.: Call me crazy, but I keep telling people that while Soriano will have a fine year in Chicago, I just don't think he is the Top 5 player that most people believe he is. Top 10 sure, but I'd much rather have Ryan Howard or even Manny still before taking Soriano.

I think he'll struggle massively in centerfield and it will eventually mess with his head at the plate resulting in a career high in strikeouts from pressing too much.

My guess on his numbers: .280/30/95 with 30 SBs. Good - but not Top 5

Chris Liss: You and I see eye to eye here. There are four issues with Soriano:

(1) Massive 8-year deal - money is no longer a motivator

(2) new position, as you point out

(3) doesn't qualify at 2B - reduces value

(4) coming off career highs in walks, HRs and two off career high in steals - expect regression to the mean

And I'll add a fifth: last year, no one was high on Soriano given his home/road splits in Texas. The herd went one way, and he was cheap. This year, everyone's on him. The herd is usually wrong. He'll be fine as you say, but probably disappointed based on what you have to pay to get him.


N.Y.: What type of season can we expect from Barry Zito, in a different league and a different ballpark?

Chris Liss: Zito walks too many guys, gives up too many fly balls, and doesn't strike out as many batters as I'd like. He was also helped out in Oakland by all the foul ground -- lots of extra outs. Still, in the NL, in Pac Bell (or SBC, or whatever the hell it's called these days), those flies might stay in the park, too. Solid but not spectacular -- probably in line with last season, with 25 more Ks because he faces the pitcher instead of the DH.


Washington, D.C.: After Santana and Halladay, who are the next three AL starters, not considering strikeouts? How much of a gap between those two and the rest, in auction dollars?

Chris Liss: The biggest gap is between Santana and Halladay -- after that it's much closer. Halladay, Jeremy Bonderman, Felix Hernandez, maybe Matsuzaka, John Lackey, Scott Kazmir -- all in the mix. If A.J. Burnett can stay healthy, I like him a lot as well. Big 'if' though.


Springfield, Va.: In a standard 5X5 league, do you favor pitching or hitting in the first five rounds of drafting?

Chris Liss: Typically, the leagues I've won, I've gone hitting until it pains me. Pitching is so volatile year to year that you're more likely to get serviceable guys late, and your top starters are more likely to let you down. Three years ago, I went 10 straight hitters in a 15-team mixed league, and nabbed Ben Sheets in round 11 as my ace. I won the league because Sheets broke out and was a top-5 P. So I'd wait on pitching unless someone too good to pass up falls into your lap.


Chevy Chase, D.C.: As a long-time subscriber to Fantastics Fantasy Baseball service, I would be interested in your assessment of their product vis a vis Rotowire's draft guide.

Chris Liss: Sorry, don't know much about them -- my colleagues probably do, but I'm so busy working on RW that I don't pay attention to too many other sites other than maybe Baseball HQ which has some good stuff, too. Incidentally, all of you can get a free 1-week trial on RW -- -- no credit card necessary -- don't have to cancel it or any of that crap. If you don't subscribe, your trial just lapses harmlessly. Strongly recommend it -- projections for every player, updated news and analysis 24/7 -- very good stuff.


Rockville, Md.: Of the top closers-in-waiting (Zumaya, Broxton, Wheeler, Capps), who is most likely to grab the role and when?

Chris Liss: Of those four, probably Wheeler -- since Lidge was shaky last year and could be on a shorter leash. Zumaya might be the best of the 4, but he's the least likely because Fernando Rodney is also in that mix. Capps, too, is pretty likely because Torres isn't established in the role. I'd actually put Capps ahead of Wheeler. Then Broxton, then Zumaya.


Rockville, Md.: I've done well taking unheralded 2B/SS types in the late rounds of drafts -- Clint Barmes in 2005 and Ian Kinsler in 2006. Who should it be in 2007?

Chris Liss: I like Chris Burke -- qualifies at 2B, will play center. I also like Jose Lopez - 1000 career at-bats, just about the point at which a lot of hitters break out. Orlando Hudson is rock solid -- a little pop, a little speed, and he won't ever lose his job because of his defense. Kaz Matsui in COL also worth a look.


Washington, D.C.: In my 12-team, 4x4 AL roto keeper league, there is Santana, and then virtually no other quality starters available. Dice-K and Pettite as new to the AL are available, probably Beckett and Buerhle get released, then realistically it is Westbrook and Rogers. In that context, with Wang at $7, should I just keep Schilling at $24 and say, "I've got two good starters for $31"?

Chris Liss: Schilling went for $21 in LABR this year, and with keeper inflation, I think $24 is a good price for him in your league. I assume Matsuzaka would go for more than that, though if you think he wouldn't, I'd rather have him than Schilling. But yes, I'd probably keep Schilling since you won't know about Dice-K's price until it's too late.


Bowie, Md.: Hey Chris, thanks for the chat. I wanted to ask about that dreaded slot of drafting last in the first round (especially in a live draft). The two picks in a row can be nice though. I think you have to go hitter, then pitcher (or vice versa) to make sure you get at least a decent one of each. What do you think? And what pitchers and hitters would be available for 10th and 11th picks in the draft worth taking?

Chris Liss: It all depends on how your draft goes, so it's kind of silly to predict who will be available. But I would absolutely not go with one hitter and one pitcher automatically -- in fact, given this year's crop, I'd almost certainly end up going two hitters unless Johan Santana miraculously dropped to me. If you get David Wright and Carlos Beltran, or something like that, you should be fine.


Charlottesville, Va.: How do you think Derrick Lee will do this season? Is he worthy of a first round draft choice?

Chris Liss: I think Lee is worth a late first round choice (11 or 12). His wrist is 100 percent healthy, and he'll steal 15-20 bags -- a huge bonus from a first baseman. My colleague, Jeff Erickson, got him for $31 in NL LABR, and I thought that was a steal.


Washington, D.C.: Any word on how Arizona closer Jose Valverde is looking so far?? I drafted him as my second closer with BJ Ryan because I figure Arizona is gonna roll over the West and he'll have plenty of save opportunities this year, but he did have a very high ERA last year. Will Valverde become an elite closer this year on a VERY good team?

Chris Liss: He's been off due to the birth of his first child, but he's still the closer, and his strikeout rate gives him a chance to succeed. The fly balls and walks are an issue though, especially in that park.


Gaithersburg, Md.: In my standard roto league I have Frank Thomas. Since he is DH only eligible, would Adrian Beltre be a better option? My third baseman is Miguel Cabrera.

Chris Liss: It's close -- Thomas is a much better hitter in real life, but Beltre will run a little and is more durable. And doesn't clog your UT. I'd probably still go Thomas, though.


Charlottesville, Va.: Which Nationals could have a solid fantasy season other than Zimmerman (a former Wahoo)?

Chris Liss: Felipe Lopez could have a good fantasy season -- he stole 45 bags or so last year, and that's worth a lot from the SS spot. Austin Kearns and Chris Snelling have potential, so does Termel Sledge (side note: in the RotoWire Staff league, the team that owned Sledge was named "Terminal Sludge".).


Washington, D.C.: Anibal Sanchez -- A beast this year? Is Florida going to be good enough to make it worth taking him as my fourth starter?

Chris Liss: Here's the RotoWire outlook for Sanchez, which sums it up well:

Sanchez spent half the year putting up solid numbers at Double-A before getting called up to the majors and setting the world on fire, including a no-hitter in his 13th career start. His fastball/change-up combo proved utterly baffling to big league hitters, resulting in a batting average allowed of just .217. His walk rate rose and his strikeout rate dropped after his promotion though, so if that hit rate proves to be unsustainable he's likely in for some regression in 2007. Still, he'll be just 23 and has just scratched the surface of his talent. He could just as easily surprise once again.

Florida won't give him a ton of run support, but with Cabrera, Hermida developing, Mike Jacobs, Ramirez/Uggla, it won't be as bad as say, the Nationals - I'd use him as my No. 4.

In any event, thanks for chatting - again, you can get a free week at - well worth it and risk-free.

Take care,



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