AL East: Building an Offensive Offense
For some fans, the American League East is a treacherous place. When baseball’s biggest super powers all swing their bats in the same division, it’s hard to gain any ground when you’re the little guy.
Yes, I’m talking to you Baltimore.
But, thanks to our overactive sports imaginations and a little something called fantasy baseball, we can build our own big league monopoly, so let’s mine the AL East and construct a divisional behemoth that will strike fear into the hearts of fake teams everywhere.
Catcher: Matt Wieters
I’m traveling to Baltimore for a backstop, drafting Matt Wieters to don my team’s mask and puffy mitt. There was a lot of rookie excitement surrounding his call up to the majors in 2009, and in 96 games, he clocked in with 102 hits, 9 home runs and 43 RBIs.
However, when he took up the sophomore reigns in 2010, Wieters could not quite deliver in the same way, finishing out the year with 111 hits, 11 home runs and 55 RBIs in 130 games.
Still, I can’t help but like his upside, especially after tormenting pitchers in the minor league, and at a ripe 24 years old, this fruit has a lot juice left in him.
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez
As deep as any position in baseball, first base is a display of ball-mashing brawn across the majors, but if I’m forced to pick within the AL East only, I’m drafting a power hitter whose true gigawatt potential has been stifled by the confines of PETCO Park for most of his career.
Moving to Boston and the hitter-friendly Fenway, Adrian Gonzalez should easily see his value skyrocket in 2011, especially with speedsters Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury on the base paths in front of him, trucking their way to home plate and driving up his RBI totals.
Expect a big year from Gonzo, and I’m not talking about the Muppet!
Second Base: Robinson Cano
The youthful spark in an otherwise aging offense, Robinson Cano came into his own in 2010, putting up career numbers in both home runs and RBIs.
With plenty of big bats surrounding him in the Yanks line-up, expect Cano to knock in plenty while being plenty knocked in at the same time.
When it comes to fantasy, he’s going to help you in plenty of offensive categories, and much like he did in 2010, he’s going to do it quietly, making him the Trojan horse with growing horsepower, as evidenced by his 29 dingers a year ago.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter
Not a whole lot to choose from here, as is the case in most of the majors, but unlike Brian Cashman (as heard in a recent interview), I like the idea of Derek Jeter playing shortstop for my team. While he’s riding an obvious downward trajectory based on his numbers the last few years, I’m not quite ready to stick a fork in him just yet.
Yes, he’s not going to give you his 2006 stat line, but he’s better than what he delivered on in 2010. And if age is a worry, take a look at the NBA this year, where graying superstars are putting up career numbers, proving that the show is not over until it is… well, over.
Third Base: Kevin Youkilis
A relatively weak position in most of the league, third base is flourishing in the AL East thanks to corner guys like A-Rod and Evan Longoria. Still, even with those early-round-choices to pick from, I can’t help but like my team’s chances a whole lot better with the Greek God of Walks on my side.
Yes, at first base, Kevin Youkilis would not have been my first choice, but now that he’s headed back to his original position at third, I’m putting him on the roster and plugging him into my lineup where I’m confident he’ll put up a similar stat line as he did in 2009, only with a slightly better upswing.
Expect Youk to knock in 100 RBIs, cross home plate a 100 times himself and launch 28 home runs out of Fenway. And expect him to sweat while doing it!
Left: Carl Crawford
A new team. A new city. Same top tier player.
I’m taking Carl Crawford in left and all of the multi-category potential he brings to a team. Nuff said!
Center: B.J. Upton
Center offers some speed in the AL East, and while Ellsbury has a better shot at not hurting me in average, I am not yet convinced that B.J. Upton is as average a player as he has shown us the last couple of seasons.
Hitting a dismal .237 in 2010, he still managed to score 89 runs. If Upton can reintroduce himself to his swing, he could be the cream of the crop, and being a gambling man, that’s a bet I’m willing to take.
Right: Nick Markakis
Not a huge fan of my right field options, but I can never quite shake how much Nick Markakis has hurt me in my fantasy exploits.
Although he only hit 12 home runs last year, I swear all 12 of them were hit against my team, leaving this fantasy GM to believe that it might be better to just make amends with Markakis and draft him myself.
DH: Manny Being Manny
He’s creepy and he’s kooky, mysterious and spooky and while he has been a non-topic for the last two years, putting Manny Ramirez into a full time DH spot could help to return one of the sweetest swings to top form, at least until its owner has a mental meltdown around the All-Star break.
Nevertheless, I like Manny being Manny when he’s swinging a bat. At the very least, he’ll provide us with a few laughs, and if the stars align, a hundred or so RBIs as well.