Using this preview: Some players will be spotlighted and there will be some knee-jerk rankings of each teams lineup, rotation and bullpen. Team previews, born from a desire to design a better cheat sheet, will start with the American League East and finish in the National League West. More previews here.
American League West
- Stud: Felix Hernandez, SP — Other than his record — c’mon Ms — King Felix is a stud. He racks up some strikeouts while pitching 200 innings and keeping his ERA down (career 3,80).
- Bust: Ichiro Suzuki, OF — Okay, Ichiro’s awesome at what he does. However, to get him in a draft you’ll have to pick him where five-tool fantasy players are available.
- Sleeper: Jose Lopez, 2B — This one’s an easy pick. Lopez’s numbers in 2008 foretell a player who’ll hit 20-25 homers, drive in 85 runs, score 85 runs and add a .290 batting average.
- Prospect to watch: Brandon Morrow, SP — As a reliever last year, Morrow struck out 75 and only walked 34 in 64 innings. This year he’s listed as the No. 3 starter in the rotation. If he can put those kinds of numbers together with 200 innings he’ll be drafted in the first three rounds next year.
- Wild Card: Russell Branyan, 1B — I had Erik Bedard here, because his performance last year was pathetic, I think he could bounce back and become a stud again, giving this team three stud pitchers. However, Branyan has been impressive so far this spring, and in part-time duty last year he hit 12 homers, drove in 20 runs and scored 24 times in only 132 at-bats. He’s the full-time first baseman this year. Again, it’s an inexact science, but multiply his numbers by four to get a starter’s 520 at-bats and he could produce 40 homers, 80 RBIs, 90 runs. His batting average is bad, but you’re not going to pay much for him either.
- Starter you may not know but should: Kenji Johjima, C — Johjima’s on here merely to point to the fact that Jeff Clement qualifies as catcher. Johjima’s a catcher and not a hitter. Clement is such a highly touted prospect that the team is giving him at-bats at first base and he’ll probably steal some appearances from DH Ken Griffey Jr.
C — A lot of Mariners are going to be picked in the mid to late rounds of your draft, and several of them will turn out to be excellent fantasy performers this year, including: Ichiro, Lopez, Clement, Griffey, Branyana nd Adrian Beltre.
B — King Felix, Bedard and Brandon Morrow could make for an outstanding top three. After them is Carlos Silva, who’s literally thrown almost 1,100 innings in his career, and Ryan Rowland-Smith, who produced a low ERA last year and could bloom into a strikeout pitcher, but debuted in 2007 with little fanfare.
D — Mark Lowe is listed at the top of their bullpen depth chart on www.mlb.com. Is there really anything more to discuss?