With fantasy baseball guides all over the place on newsstands, I find myself drawn against my better judgement to pick them up more often than not. I can't help it. Good or bad, I find myself thumbing through them from now until well into the season ...
So, since I'm going to be wasting my money on these things, I thought I would try to rank them for the more discerning consumers. Of course, the kind folks at the Cafe are really all you need, but here are some thoughts on five guides that are out. I'm sure I'll pick up one or two more. I think I have a problem ...
Sporting News Fantasy Baseball Owners Manual 2008
On the cover: Alex Rodriguez, Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez
Rankings/profiles: Top 300, Mixed/AL/NL rankings by position, 700+ player profiles with past three years' stats (no minor league stats) and 2008 projections. Profiles presented alphabetically. Overall, very level-headed rankings. You won't shock the world with amazing sleeper picks, but you won't draft many busts, either. (B+)
Extras: An amazing array. A half-dozen articles, all pretty interesting, ballpark effect breakdowns, Top 50 prospect rankings and profiles, stat leaders over the past three years, mock draft with commentary, team profiles with projected lineups and rotations. Just a ton of great stuff. (A)
Design: Clean, professional and easy to read. Full-color and glossy throughout. Only drawback: Names on player profiles could be larger. They don't really pop out like you want them to. (B+)
Most ridiculous item: Not really any. They know their stuff. Although the fact that Johan Santana dropped to 24th in the experts mock (to the team with A-Rod) made me cringe.
Overall grade: (A) Always a solid publication with a wealth of information. They go to press way too early to make things like lineup projections very accurate, but there is a lot of great content in a great package.
Fanball.com's 2008 Guide to Winning Fantasy Baseball
On the cover: Alex Rodriguez
Rankings/profiles: Top 200, Top 100 AL/NL, Mixed/AL/NL rankings by position, 600 player profiles with past three years' stats (no minor league stats) and 2008 projections. Profiles presented by position in ranking order, which can make finding a specific player a pain. The overall rankings tend to overvalue starting pitching quite a bit. (B-)
Extras: Standard array of articles on sleepers, busts, prospects, etc., mock draft, Average Draft Position (ADP) Top 250 from Mock Draft Central. Positional rankings include personal Top 10 lists from each of eight members of the Fanball staff and 2007 leaders in key categories at each position, handy for roto players looking to address a certain category. (B-)
Design: Articles are white text on color, which makes them tough to read. Full-color and glossy throughout. Player profiles look great with player names in large reverse type to make them easy to see at a glance. They also feature small photos with the Top 20 profiles at each position, which is a nice touch. (B)
Most ridiculous item: Do we really need an injury report article in a publication that prints in January? That's why God invented the Internet.
Overall grade: (B-) I'm not big on their Web site, but this is a pretty nice publication. They have some good ideas I wish the better publications would learn from.
Fantasy Baseball Guide 2008 Professional Edition
On the cover: Alex Rodriguez
Rankings/profiles: Mixed rankings by position, 1,500 player profiles with past three years, including Minor League stats, and 2008 projections. Profiles presented alphabetically. Obviously, the high number of profiles is a strength, making this guide better for looking up an under-the-radar waiver pickup than for draft prep. Still, no AL/NL rankings and no overall Top 100 is disappointing. (C+)
Extras: Articles from winners of six experts leagues offer surprisingly little strategy advice. They seem to focus more on bragging on which lucky sleeper picks pan out. Standard, unranked prospects article. The 15-team mock draft might be helpful for those in larger leagues, but it is spread over three pages, requiring you to flip back and forth to try to follow it. Dumb idea. (D)
Design: Bare bones and not very professional. Non-glossy paper and mostly black-and-white. Player profiles are simple and fairly easy to read, but the look is nothing to write home about. (C-)
Most ridiculous item: All the experts talking about how they won their league is really just as boring as you telling us how you won yours.
Overall grade: (C-) It benefits from usually being the first on newsstands, and fantasy baseball hungry folks like myself just can't resist. It only earns its keep through the number of profiles and the fact that some of the experts providing "picks and pans" in the profile section actually know what they're doing.
Fantasy Sports (FW Publications)
On the cover: Alex Rodriguez with inset photos of Justin Upton and the 2007 NFBC champion (yes, there is a fantasy baseball manager on the cover)
Rankings/profiles: Top 250, Mixed/AL/NL rankings by position, 575 player profiles with past three years' stats (no minor league stats), three-year averages and 2008 projections (which are kind of buried at the end of the player profile blurb). Profiles presented by position in ranking order, which can make finding a specific player a pain. Pretty good rankings, especially the Top 250. They know not to overvalue pitching, closers, speed or position scarcity. (B+)
Extras: Three mock drafts: experts, NFBC (15-team) and an experts auction, all with brief analysis on each pick. Top 25 rookies and a lot of analysis on the minors, including a full article on the Arizona Fall League. They don't have a lot of extras, but they do things that no one else does. (B)
Design: Articles are nothing special, but the player profiles have a great, clean presentation that emphasizes the player name. I wish they were presented alphabetically instead of by position, but this is the best job on profiles yet. Non-glossy and mostly black-and-white. (B)
Most ridiculous item: The National Fantasy Baseball Championship article and accompanying photos of pasty white guys holding oversized checks.
Overall grade: (B) Great value for the cost. If you aren't going to make your own rankings (and you should), these would probably land you a better team than most. Plus a ton of info on who you need to know in the minors, which is great for those of us in deep leagues.
2008 Major League Baseball Yearbook & Fantasy Guide
On the cover: Alex Rodriguez with David Ortiz, Jake Peavy and Grady Sizemore
Rankings/profiles: Top 400, Mixed/AL/NL rankings by position, 800+ player profiles with past three years' stats (including minor league stats and 2007 All-Star break splits) and 2008 projections for 1,000+ players. Profiles presented alphabetically. Some gutsy projections, but the rankings skew ridiculously toward closers and speed, and they don't really match the projections. They project a monster 37-121-137-.323 line for Miguel Cabrera ... and then rank him 27th overall. I don't think they understand what wins fantasy leagues. (D+)
Extras: Not much. A couple of articles, including a solid prospects article, ranking the Top 20 in the AL and NL for 2008 and Top 10 for 2009. Position rankings include grades for players in each major roto category, although projections give you the same info. Projected league leaders is a nice touch.
Design: Nice looking and easy to read. Non-glossy and black-and-white with blue highlights throughout. Great presentation of the profiles and stats. (B+)
Most ridiculous item: Where to start? Starting with Joe Nathan at fourth overall, they have nine closers in their Top 20. Follow their rankings and you will draft Todd Jones before Prince Fielder ... and you will lose your league in the process.
Overall grade: (C-) I've been a big fan of this guide in the past, but it has jumped the proverbial shark. They've eliminated some features I liked (prospect rankings with position rankings, four to five years of past stats). Overpriced and full of absurd projections and rankings.
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