Ben Ice takes the crystal ball down from the shelf and dusts off new predictions for the upcoming fantasy season.
I started doing my Big Fat Claims a few years ago after getting tired of watching other experts ride the fences.
It seemed to me no one was willing to stick his neck out and make a call, instead preferring to say something inane like "James Shields had a breakout year in 2007 and could elevate his game to become the staff ace this year.
But be careful—after pitching a career high 215 innings, he could start breaking down and become a fantasy risk." Dude, please, grow a set will ya?
Taking a stance is what we all do come draft day, so why not put our reputation on the line? That's what it's all about anyway, right? I've been told before that I'm one of those shoot first, then point kinda guys, so why not roll with it? Voila, The Big Fat Claim was born.
If this doesn't die in a bath of flames and outrage I'll post more from some of the other great writers on RotoExperts.
This year I'm going to roll against conventional wisdom and start out with a guy who's going way to early in the drafts for my taste.
Big Fat Claim No. 1 - Matt Holliday will finish the year barely in the Top 15 outfielders.
Sacrilege you say?
Away from Coors Field, Holliday is a .280 hitter. Last year, with his table setters forgetting the silverware, he had one of his worst years ever.
In fact, his only saving grace was the 28 stolen bases he scored for you, which balanced out a lackluster season marred by time on the DL and subpar power numbers.
This year he'll play for Oakland in a ballpark that supresses offense, thanks partly to the 16-foot fences in the power alleys and the largest foul territory in baseball. If you think that won't be a factor, consider this.
Who is going to be his protection in the lineup? Eric Chavez? Ryan Sweeney? Jason Giambi? And you can guarantee his stolen base totals will drop.
The Athletics stole only 88 bases last year. To put that into perspective, Willy Taveras stole 68 by himself. They don't have the offense and they don't run the bases like the Rockies.
I know, I've seen arguments that say the A's will steal more with Holliday around, but I don't buy it. I also know that hitters tend to do better at home, which is why I expect Holliday to hit around .300 this year.
But with a poorer cast of players around him and little protection in the lineup, his numbers will suffer.
Holliday is currently being drafted early in the second round. He won't be there by the time I'd take him at value late in the fourth or early in the fifth. If you disagree, I hope you are in one of my money leagues this year.
Big Fat Claim No. 2 - Even in a time share, Mike Fontenot will be fantasy relevant in most leagues, and a gem in your NL-Only league.
No, I am not sitting in a room with Michael Phelps, hitting on a bong. Lou Piniella has already stated that Fontenot and Aaron Miles will platoon at second base, with Fontenot spelling Aramis Ramirez from time to time at third.
Miles may be penciled in as the starter, but he lacks the power shown by Fontenot, and Piniella wants to get both 400 at bats this year.
Fontenot will easily out-produce Miles, and I am predicting he'll take over at second, leaving Miles as a super-sub.
Consider this. Last year, in 247 at bats with the Cubs, Fontenot stroked nine home runs, drove in 40 and scored 42 times while compiling a .305 batting average.
His major league line of 479 ABs, 12 HRs, 69 RBI, 78 R, 7 SBs and a .290 BA is consistent with his production last year, and I expect him to be right around those numbers by season's end.
For a guy you could probably grab in the 20th round, that's a steal by any comparison, and a gold mine considering how thin the middle infield spot is this year.
Big Fat Claim No. 3 - Contrary to popular opinion, Nelson Cruz will not be the breakout player that our own Jeff Andriesse says he'll be.
I've heard all the rationalizations about Cruz. Yes, he smoked the ball in 28 days at the big league level.
Any player can hit good for a month, it's what he does for six months that you have to consider.
Yes, he crushed the ball in the Pacific Coast League, but that's a hitter's league. Yes, he dominated in the Dominican League, but Pablo Ozuna led the same league in 2007 with a .396 batting average.
The only stats that have value are those at the major league level.
Cruz has power, there is no doubt, and he certainly did make some improvements in his plate judgement, but again, we are talking about a small sample size.
I can see him knocking 25 out of the park, with 70 RBI and a .265 batting average. That will make him valuable if you pick him late in the draft, but that isn't likely to happen since he seems to be the sexy beast in the outfield this year.
Even Brad Evans from Yahoo! Sports has admitted having a huge man-crush on Cruz, and as much as I respect Brad, I'm afraid he'll be eating his words once the season is over. Let someone else reach for Cruz.
You'll get equal numbers from Cody Ross with the Marlins and you'll scoop him up considerably later in the draft.
Big Fat Claim No. 4 - Tim Lincecum not only won't return second-round value, he'll likely spend some time on the DL this year.
I know, now I've stepped in it haven't I? Anyone who has followed Lincecum knows he is a special player, and I don't mean he wears a helmet on the school bus. Lincecum throws some of the nastiest pitches and strikes out batters like a sumo eats rice...in mass quantities.
He also went deep into the game too many times this year, and the Giants are going to have to manage his pitch count better, something they aren't likely to do with a bullpen in disarray.
At 5'11" and 160 pounds soaking wet, Lincecum is an injury waiting to happen. He's thus far proven the critics wrong, surviving his violent throwing motion, but the human body can only take so much punishment before it punishes you back.
If that doesn't make you have a second thought, consider that he walked away with the Cy Young last year. It will be very hard for him to repeat that success, especially on a team that will be lucky to win half its games.
Pitchers are just too inconsistent, and you'll be hard-pressed to get the value necessary taking him late in the second or early in the third. With a MockDraftCentral ADP of 24.97, you'll not likely see him later in the draft.
Big Fat Claim No. 5 - The New York Yankees will finish in third place again this year.
Yeah, I can already feel the love from the legions of Yankee faithful, but a fat wallet doesn't make a championship team. Boston has built a dynasty by spending when necessary, but for the most part growing their own talent.
That patience has paid off, as you look up and down their roster and see players like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester sprinkled throughout the lineup. Can you imagine what they'd be like if they didn't let Hanley Ramirez get away?
The Yankees have Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain. Advantage Red Sox, and it isn't even close. The Yankees blew their wad on Mark Teixeira, A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia to plug gigantic holes on their pitching staff and lineup.
Boston spent conservatively, bringing in veteran pitchers John Smoltz, Takashi Saito and Brad Penny to augment a loaded rotation and bullpen.
The thing is, unlike previous years, the real battle is no longer between the Red Sox and the Yankees.
Small-market team Tampa Bay rolled in last year with their paltry $43 million payroll and a farm system rich from a decade of losing. The Rays tweaked their roster with veterans and stole the American League pennant out from under the two legendary franchises.
They did it with one of the best defenses in baseball and a young pitching staff that will only get better. Home-grown prospects like James Shields, Evan Longoria, David Price, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Andy Sonnanstine are the core of a franchise on the rise.
The bullpen is better with key additions, and the lineup got stronger with the addition of Pat Burrell.
Considering that the Rays did it last year with several of their top young stars injured for good parts of the season and spare parts like Willy Aybar, Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske, just imagine what they can do if Crawford and Upton play full seasons.
Ben Ice is the Managing Partner of RotoExperts.com. E-mail Ben at email@example.com
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