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2012 Draft Prep: Names to know for Draft Day

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Some of you reading this column may know me from my random role in the novel Fantasyland. Others might know me from my days at ESPN, or The Wall Street Journal.

There's a select group who fondly remember me as "the calm one" from MLB Network's Fantasy 411 earthquake video last season (check it out). Still, plenty may remember me from the short-lived web series, The A--hole Who Listed Off Fancy Places He's Worked In A Fantasy Sports Column.

But if you've ever played against me in a draft or auction, you probably know me as, "that guy who refuses to use a laptop."

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I'm a list guy. I love my research, and I love making lists. Every March, I have a notebook and I'll scribble notes like a madman in it. This year's notebook has everything from "Sean Burroughs/Steve Pearce on MIN" to "OLIVER PEREZ in Seattle." But it's not just non-roster invitee, blast-from-the-past types. Notes like "A-Rod going late" and something as simple as "Hanley" with an up arrow next to him dot the pages as well.

Eventually, I take the crazy scribbles and whittle them down to a smaller list. Maybe 20 or 30 players who I simply really like -- there's no set number or rhyme or reason to it. Last year's list included Jered Weaver, Curtis Granderson, J.J. Hardy and Brandon League. Just to show that the list isn't without its flaws, I should note that it also included Brandon Wood and Julio Borbon. Still, it had more hits than misses, and sticking to my guns eventually led to success in plenty of leagues. Sometimes it's as simple as "I like this dude;" other times, there might be some statistical hiccup that people are overlooking (or, conversely, I'm obsessing over). Regardless, it's part of the reason why I still use paper in my drafts -- I need to be scribbling. And the strategy has worked so far. Plus, scribbling on a laptop just isn't cost-effective.

The beauty of the scribbles, however, is that they can be easily transcribed to share with the masses, including the legions of laptop users. So, as a way to mark my first column here at CBSSports.com, I give you a randomly-selected group of players from my list. They're not quite sleepers and not exactly value deals. Just a bunch of players I'll go the extra mile for to get on my team in 2012 ...

Mark Buehrle, SP, Marlins: A lot of people are pointing to Buehrle's move to the National League -- and, in turn, a friendlier park -- as his strongest asset, but they're overlooking the best part about him: his consistency. For his career, Buehrle has a 3.83 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. He hasn't pitched fewer than 201 innings, or made fewer than 30 starts, since 2000. Let that sink in -- Bill Clinton was still President when Buehrle pitched less than 200 innings in a season. He'll come cheap in auction leagues and go late in drafts and is essentially a guarantee to get those solid numbers over the course of 200-plus innings, creating a rotation anchor that allows owners to take some gambles on other, less-steady players.

Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers: His average dropped 44 points from 2010 to 2011, which got him slapped with the "disappointment" label. But he more than doubled his home run output and will likely reap the benefits of Prince Fielder and Delmon Young being added to an already-potent lineup behind him. My new colleague, Al Melchior, agrees with me on Jackson, though his reasons are a little more abstract.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs: All this debate about whether or not he'll start at first base seems a little disingenuous to me. Rizzo hit a miserable .141 in 128 at-bats last year, but he managed an absurdly-high eight doubles in that span (over a full season with that rate, he'd challenge for the league lead) and his .281 OBP almost doubled his average. The most telling sign that he'll likely get the nod at first? Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, who drafted Rizzo as part of the Red Sox front office in 2007, traded for Rizzo under three months into their reign as President and GM, respectively, of the Cubs. Even if he starts in Triple-A, Rizzo will likely be up soon and make an impact in Wrigley's smaller confines.

Ricky Romero, SP, Blue Jays: The former first-round pick finished 2011 with 15 wins, a 1.14 WHIP, and a 2.92 ERA. He's progressively gotten better with every full season. Jered Weaver and Felix Hernandez took a very similar route before their breakout seasons.

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Erik Bedard, SP, Pirates: Bedard quietly threw together a really solid season in 2011 before his trade to Boston. He's good for about a strikeout per inning and his low WHIP is seriously overlooked. Injury history aside, Bedard has two major things going for him: a move to the DH-less National League and the opportunity to work with Ray Searage, who is one of the game's best pitching coaches (Pittsburgh's team ERA dropped from 5.00 in 2010 to 4.04 in 2011 when he took over).

Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins: He's going at No. 22 overall in drafts, according to our current Average Draft Position data on CBSSports.com. That's embarrassing. For drafters. I wouldn't hesitate to take him in the top eight. If I'm sitting in the No. 7 spot in my draft, I might even consider taking him there (although it looks like I can get him on the way back). Ozzie Guillen shouting in one ear, the influence of Eduardo Perez in the other, and he was playing hurt in 2011. Plus, he'll be eligible at both shortstop and third base about a week into the season in most leagues. Are we forgetting the arguments we had the last two years about him being the overall No. 1 pick? One bad, injury-affected year, and he's dropped 21 slots?

Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays: The "change of scenery" argument had holes poked in it after a sub-par run in Toronto last year, but Rasmus is more of the player we saw in 2010 than the one we saw in 2011. I like where he's going in drafts, and I wouldn't be afraid to snag him 20 picks earlier.

Mike Leake, SP, Reds: I have him all in CAPS in both my scribbles and my final list. I'll probably triple-highlight him on my draft sheets. I'm a believer. He posted a 1.17 WHIP last year, his second year in the majors. I wouldn't be surprised if the strikeout rate came up a little bit from 2010 and 2011, with the pitch counts not being such a huge problem any longer.

Jason Bay and Adam Loewen, OF, Mets: This may be the last chance many owners give Bay, but with the fences moved in at CitiField, there's at least an argument beyond, "he hit 36 homers three years ago," for liking him. Loewen, meanwhile, is an intriguing play. In really deep leagues, the former pitcher could find some value. It's entirely possible he could play his way into a starting job, beating out Scott Hairston and Lucas Duda. Loewen could be a cheap source of some power, speed, and average.

Josh Fields, 3B, Dodgers: He'll probably start 2012 in the minor leagues, but the former White Sox prospect is worth keeping an eye on, as he has been destroying the ball in spring training for the Dodgers and has just Juan Uribe blocking his path to completing the feel-good story. Even though it's not likely, this has all the makings of one of those situations where Fields grabs the job out of camp and puts together a really solid season out of nowhere.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Pablo Sandoval likely to receive qualifying offer from Giants
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:44 pm ET) The Giants are expected to extend the qualifying offer of $15.3 million to potential free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval, sources have told CBSSports.com MLB Insider Jon Heyman.

The two sides broke off contract talks in spring training. The team claimed its unwillingness to sign Sandoval for more than three years while he was seeking a nine-figure contract, per Heyman.

Several teams appear interested in Sandoval, including the Red Sox and Yankees, both of whom are seeking major upgrades at that position, as well as the Marlins.

Sandoval rebounded from a .171 start to the season to bat .279 with 16 home runs. He owns a .333 postseason batting average and is again thriving in that role in 2014.


Red Sox LHP Craig Breslow feels destined for free agency
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:27 pm ET) Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow is pessimistic about the team picking up his $4 million option for 2015 after a poor season.

The left-hander pitched 54 1/3 innings in 60 games for Boston and compiled a disturbing 5.96 ERA. He believes that last statistic will preclude the Sox from moving forward with him and will result in free agency.

"If you were to strictly look at 2014 with blinders without what had happened previously and what you might expect going forward, $4 million is probably a hefty price tag," he told WEEI.com. "But I think if (you) look at the body of work from 2008-13, you can better appreciate the pitcher I've been and the pitcher I will (be)."

Breslow, who yielded five runs without retiring a batter in his last appearance, performed well in the title season of 2013, compiling a 1.81 ERA in 61 games.


Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum (back) headed for MRI
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:04 pm ET) Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum, who left Game 2 of the World Series due to back tightness, will undergo an MRI Thursday, sources connected to the team told CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Twins' Chris Colabello set for MRI, X-rays on injured thumb
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:20 am ET) Twins first baseman/outfielder Chris Colabello is scheduled to undergo an MRI and X-rays this week on his ailing right thumb, according to the Pioneer Press. Colabello said he still feels numbness and tingling in his right thumb as a result of getting jammed on a pitch during an April 23 game against the Rays, according to the Worcester Telegram.

Tigers expected to keep Joakim Soria
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:32 am ET) The Tigers are expected to exercise their option on pitcher Joakim Soria, according to MLB.com.

Soria has a $7 million club option for next season. The team will need to make a decision on the option shortly after the end of the World Series. While general manager Dave Dombrowski said the final decision hasn't been made yet, he hinted at the club picking up Soria's contract. "It's a situation where we look at him as being an important acquisition toward this [coming] year also," Soria said. 

Soria posted a 3.25 ERA over 44 1/3 innings split between Texas and Detroit. 


Giants will know more about Tim Lincecum Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) The Giants will have more information on pitcher Tim Lincecum Thursday, according to Bleacher Report.

Lincecum left after his back tightened up in the eighth inning. The club expects him to be OK, but will have a better idea about the severity of his injury Thursday. Lincecum was able to pitch 1 2/3 innings before departing. 


Royals' Lorenzo Cain won't stop hitting
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain continued to assault baseballs Wednesday against the Giants.

Cain has been on a tear during the postseason, and that didn't stop Wednesday. After doubling in his first at-bat, Cain would come around to score the team's first run of the night. He would later single to lead off the sixth inning, and would come around to score again later in the frame. Cain finished 2 for 4, with two runs scored and no RBI. 


Royals' Omar Infante comes up big Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Royals infielder Omar Infante came up big Wednesday against the Giants.

Infante wasted no time getting to work, doubling in his first at-bat. He would come around to score during the frame, giving the Royals a 2-1 lead. Infante would strike again in the bottom of the sixth. With a man on base, Infante belted a 98 mph fastball out to left for the two-run shot. He finished 2 for 3, with two runs scored and two RBI. 


Royals' Billy Butler drives in two Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Royals designated hitter Billy Butler drove in two runs Wednesday against the Giants.

Butler struck in his first at-bat. With men on first and second, Butler managed to tie the game on a single to the left fielder. He would find himself in the exact same situation in the sixth inning, and responded in the same fashion. Butler again singled in a run on a hit to left field. He would finish 2 for 3, with no runs scored and two RBI. 


Royals' Yordano Ventura gives up two runs Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura allowed two runs Wednesday against the Giants.

Ventura gave up two runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out two and did not issue any walks during the outing. Ventura got himself into trouble immediately. To lead off the game, Gregor Blanco deposited a 98 mph fastball out to right for a solo home run. Ventura would settle in over the next two innings before giving up another run in the fourth. With a man on second, Ventura allowed an RBI double against Brandon Belt. Ventura would pitch into the sixth inning, but was pulled after giving up two singles. He threw 87 pitches during the outing and did not factor into the decision.


 
 
 
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