As you may have guessed, the title of this column was borrowed from the revolutionary book series entitled “Eat This, Not That!” or ETNT. The books compare seemingly similar foods and, in each case, reveals the one that’s healthier (eat this) than the other (not that). This simplistic approach has allowed ETNT to become wildly popular. In fact, ETNT has already helped over six million people believe they can lose weight by eating thin crust pizza and French fries with sea salt. Recently, the ETNT franchise has expanded to include titles such as “Cook This, Not That,” “Drink This, Not That,” and the controversial “Smoke This, Not That!” Still, something is missing. Nutrition is important, but what does it have to do with baseball? (Not even through the first paragraph and I’m already quoting Pablo Sandoval). ETNT has done a nice job with respect to diet, but it’s undoubtedly dropped the ball when it comes to fantasy baseball. So, without further ado, here’s “Draft Him, Not Him!” for 2011.
Draft Him – Ryan Braun. I continue to see Braun fall to the early second round and it’s a mistake. Last year, he “disappointed” with 25 home runs, but the rest of his numbers held up nicely. Braun hit over .300 with over 100 RBIs and 100 runs. He also threw in 14 steals, ranking him as the 13th best fantasy player under standard scoring systems. If that’s a bad season, any improvement would have him back it the middle of the first round. More importantly, it means his baseline production is basically that of an early second rounder. With such a limited downside, Braun is the poster boy for those who subscribe to the saying, “You can’t win your league in the round one; you can only lose it.” It takes a lot late-round “hits” to make up for a first round “miss” and the odds of Braun truly being a disappointment are as long as any player in baseball.
Not Him – Carlos Gonzalez. CarGo was fantasy baseball’s most valuable player last year. You could argue that he was fortunate based on his .384 BABIP, but that would be nitpicking. Even with normal “luck,” Gonzalez is still capable of having another great season in 2011. So why is he in the “Not Him” section? Because of all the players being drafted in Round 1, he’s the most likely to lay a proverbial egg. This doesn’t mean I expect Gonzalez to have a bad year, just that it wouldn’t shock me. How will he handle success? Will he be able to cut down on his strikeouts? Will pitchers adjust? How will he respond? Round 1 is for reliability, not question marks. Gonzalez had a great year, but it was one year. Let someone else wager on a repeat. The smart bet is not to gamble in the first round.
Draft Him – Matt Holliday. Should you miss out on Ryan Braun in the first round, you’ll likely get another chance in Round 2. Well, almost. Holliday is a consistently productive outfielder who contributes in every category and has a limited downside. He’s basically Braun without the 45 home run upside. In Round 2, that’s more than okay. Let your opponents chase upside this early. They’ll be doing you a favor. The winning strategy is to gamble late and play it safe in the first few rounds. With that in mind, Holliday’s track record certainly fits the bill. Over the last five years, he’s averaged 30 home runs, never hit below .310, and never drove in fewer than 100 runs. There aren’t many safer.
Not Him – Ryan Howard. Howard stole eight bases in 2009. Last year? Just one. What the hell happened? I’m not sure, but it’s tough to simply dismiss an 87.5% drop in any category. Okay, I might be burying the lead here. Besides, even if Howard’s wheels come back, I still can’t draft him this early. Why? Like most base-stealing corner infielders, Howard used to quietly pitch in with around 45–50 home runs. Last year, that number dropped to 31. Considering the depth at first base this year, he would likely have to increase his home run total by 10 to justify a second round selection. Considering his age (over 30), his body type (big), and his contract (bigger), I’m betting Howard’s power numbers won’t increase at all. Fortunately, the real decline is still a couple of years away. For 2011, he’s still a useful player, just not an elite one.
Drew is a born Yankees fan who, not surprisingly, doesn’t particularly care for the Red Sox or Mets. He does, however, have a soft spot in his heart for most small market franchises. He gets an uneasy feeling every time the Yankees overpay for latest big name, and fears they may someday begin to acquire whole teams. Drew has been playing both fantasy baseball and football for 10 years. You can catch up with Drew in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name Case Ace.
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