I don't think I could have planned my 2008 team-by-team baseball preview any better if I had actually taken the time to plan it out on a calendar.
The first game of the season will be played between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics in Japan on March 25. Yes, that's right, there's exactly 30 days left before the game. Between now and then, I will break down each team in the major leagues and give you some key information to think about as we head into the 2008 season.
Beginning today, look for one preview per day until March 24. The most logical way to do this is alphabetically, so I'll start today with the Arizona Diamondbacks. I'll wrap things up with the hometown Orioles. For each team, I'll list the key additions and key losses. Also, I'll share my predictions for the top fantasy performers on each team and the hidden gems.
I'd like to mention the same number of players from each team, but let's face it -- some teams don't have as many talented players as others. Therefore, some teams will have multiple players under each category, while others will only have one player listed. If you don't think there are enough players listed for a particular team, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com and let me know which players I should have listed. Also, don't hesitate to let me know if you have any other kind of feedback.
2007 record: 90-72 (1st in NL West)
Key additions: RHP Dan Haren, UTIL Chris Burke, RHP Chad Qualls
Key losses: RHP Jose Valverde, OF Carlos Quentin, RHP Livan Hernandez
Most valuable fantasy performers:
1. Brandon Webb, RHP – Webb should be the top player chosen from the Diamondbacks in your fantasy draft. The 28-year-old starter went 18-10 with a 3.01 ERA last season. He finished fourth in the National League with 194 strikeouts. Webb won the Cy Young Award in 2006 and finished as the runner-up for the award last year.
2. Dan Haren, RHP – The Diamondbacks will rely heavily on pitching as they attempt to defend their NL West title this season. Haren, who was acquired in an offseason trade from the Oakland Athletics, won 15 games last year and struck out 192 hitters. His 3.07 ERA was third in the American League in 2007. Haren started 34 games in each of the last three seasons, so he's a very durable option in your fantasy rotation.
3. Eric Byrnes, LF – The former Orioles outfielder hit .286 with 21 home runs and 83 RBIs last season for Arizona. He also finished fourth in the NL with 50 stolen bases. This year, I'd expect him to hit around .280 with 20-25 home runs and 75-80 RBIs. He won't steal as many bases this season, but 30-35 stolen bases are likely.
4. Chris Young, CF – Last season, Young showed that he has the power and speed to be a superstar in the major leagues. Unfortunately, he needs to show that he can hit for average as well. He hit 32 home runs and had 27 stolen bases in 2007, but only hit .237 and struck out 141 times in 148 games. In 491 career games in the minor leagues, Young had a .266 batting average. If he can come close to that number this season and replicate his totals in home runs and stolen bases, then he'll be very helpful to your team.
1. Mark Reynolds, 3B – As a rookie last season, Reynolds hit .279 with 17 home runs and 62 RBIs in 111 games after being called up from the minor leagues in May. This year, Reynolds will look to capitalize on his starting role and become a top-flight fantasy performer. Keep an eye on him when you are selecting a third baseman because he could turn out to be the steal of your league's draft.
2. Stephen Drew, SS – The younger brother of Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew was impressive in 59 games in 2006 with a .316 batting average and 27 runs scored. However, Drew took a step back last season when his average dropped to .238. In two seasons in the minor leagues, Drew hit .299, so there's a good chance that his batting average will improve this season. He'll also hit between 10-15 home runs and pick up 55-65 RBIs. If you need that extra offensive boost, then Drew might be worth the gamble.
3. Justin Upton, RF – The top pick in the 2005 MLB Draft played in 43 games last season and hit .221 with two home runs and 11 RBIs. The 20-year-old Upton is projected to start in right field for the Diamondbacks this season, so he will be given plenty of chances to succeed. In 216 games in the minor leagues, Upton hit .289 with 30 home runs and 136 RBIs. He'll eventually be a fantasy stud, but it might not happen this season. If you want to draft him and stash him on your bench, then you could be rewarded later.