Before we get to today's blog topic, I'd like to share some good news. Today was my second day co-hosting the Baseball Today podcast with Peter Pascarelli. I've always been a baseball fan first and fantasy baseball player second, believing it just doesn't work nearly as well the other way around. I play many fantasy sports, but the ones I like the best are naturally the sports I like the most, baseball, football and basketball. My Best Ball Challenge skills, for example, are lacking a bit. Anyway, everyone knows about the very successful Fantasy Focus podcast, with my esteemed colleagues Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz, and I've been fortunate to fill in on that show a few times. Now you can hear myself and Pascarelli talk about the great game of baseball Monday through Friday, with the news of the day, special guests (on Friday, we had Rockies manager Clint Hurdle) and e-mails. Check out ESPN PodCenter for the Fantasy Focus and Baseball Today.
Three players managed to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in 2007. It's not so easy, you know. David Wright did it. So did Jimmy Rollins and Brandon Phillips. Hanley Ramirez missed by one home run, and rookie Chris Young by three stolen bases. It was a special season, really, since Alfonso Soriano was the only player to reach this hallowed mark in either 2005 or 2006, and the only one to come all that close.
When I'm drafting or bidding on players, I do pay special attention to those who possess this power and speed combination, but expecting 30/30 is asking for a lot. It's not common. I look for players who can get to 20/20, and for years my test case on undervalued players who do this was Mike Cameron. Nobody ever seemed to give him his due, and he'd be treated like a third or fourth outfielder, mainly because he wasn't hitting for average. Players get noticed when they make a run for 30/30, but 20/20, eh, it tends to go overlooked. Cameron has gone 20/20 five times, and just missed in three other seasons.
And I say he's going to get there again in 2008.
It's not a problem to get those big boppers who hit for tons of power, and then find your stolen bases with a Chone Figgins or Juan Pierre type. There are plenty of stolen bases out there, it seems this year more than most. I'm not a big fan of the one-dimensional stolen base types. I want power. I want every player to hit for power, really. In a recent auction I targeted the 20/20 types, and landed Bobby Abreu and Carlos Beltran. I tried to get Corey Hart, but man, that Matthew Berry isn't lying when he says he loves him. Excuse me, he hearts him, whatever that means. Who wouldn't heart Hart? It's so much easier to fill your power and speed needs with players who thrive at both.
Hart is going 20/20. So are Abreu and Cameron, but not Beltran. In fact, here are 17 players who will reach this plateau in 2008. And a few others who won't. For the record, 14 players reached 20/20 in 2007, but only seven did it in 2006 and five in 2005.
I wanted to make everything neat and say 20 players will go 20/20 in 2008, but even wearing my optimistic hat, I couldn't get to 20. I did get to 17, though. Here they are, in order of likelihood. A few names will surprise you.
1. Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: I'd worry more about his hamstrings than being hamstrung by Lou Piniella. He's going to run, and I give him the best chance of reaching 30/30, whether he hits first, second or after the conventional power hitters. Prediction: 35 homers, 32 steals.
2. David Wright, 3B, Mets: His 30/30 campaign didn't get him the NL MVP, but it would have, had the Mets not blown a huge September lead. I don't think Wright will run quite as much, but the Mets need him to drive in more runs. Still, 20 steals are easily attainable. Prediction: 34 homers, 23 steals.
3. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins: The recent news that he won't run as much has fantasy owners with the No. 2 overall pick panicking, and looking to avoid him. Focus on the fact he nearly went 30/50. I think he will run a bit less, but that's because it's so tough to steal that many bases year after year. Even if you're not yet 25. Prediction: 25 homers, 45 steals.
4. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: Still think the power isn't real? It is. I don't think he hits for any more power than this, but the defending NL MVP is going to run, score and be a worthy top-10 pick. I rank him No. 6 overall, and admit I'm tempted to take him over Jose Reyes, who shouldn't reach 15 home runs. Prediction: 25 homers, 38 steals.
5. Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians: An interesting player to analyze, because he has speed and power, but more of the former than the latter. I'd hit him third in the order, personally. I don't think he'll run enough to get 30 steals. Prediction: 28 homers, 22 steals.
6. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: Well, he's not a leadoff hitter. Just because one steals bases doesn't mean they should lead off. I think the bases he's stolen are more likely to continue than the home runs he hits. But he's relatively safe at this point. Prediction: 24 homers, 28 steals.
7. Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks: I was at a fantasy draft party in Las Vegas last month and former third baseman Matt Williams, now a part owner of the Diamondbacks, said Young is going to develop even more power. He called him a special player. Like Phillips, he's not a leadoff hitter, but like the Reds, Arizona doesn't have many options. As Young learns the strike zone better he'll hit for more power, and probably run less. And I do think he can hit above .250 this season. His trends through his rookie season show this. Prediction: 31 homers, 26 steals.
8. B.J. Upton, 2B/OF, Rays: I've written about this a number of times, that I believe everything about his 2007 season was legit. Unlike Cincy's Phillips, for example, Upton does take walks. He's expected to hit third or fourth for Tampa, and will threaten 30/30 in his career. So will his younger brother, but not this season. Prediction: 29 homers, 24 steals.
9. Corey Hart, OF, Brewers: He's protecting Prince Fielder in the lineup this season, which is a good thing. Lots of men, large men in Prince's case, will be on base. Hart's not only going 20/20, he's knocking in 100 runs as well. Prediction: 26 homers, 20 steals.
10. Eric Byrnes, OF, Diamondbacks: Let me make it clear right off the bat, he's not stealing 50 bases again. Now that's quite a feat. I don't see why he would, since his contract situation is settled. Also, for those who just assume he's a 20/20 player, note he hit only seven home runs after the All-Star break last season. He did steal 33 bases in 34 attempts, though. Wow. Prediction: 24 homers, 34 steals.
11. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees: This is far from assured, you know. Two seasons ago A-Rod stole only 15 bases, but I prefer to look at his trend with the Yankees. He's averaged 22 steals in pinstripes. The power, of course, is a lock. Prediction: 47 homers, 21 steals.
12. Bobby Abreu, OF, Yankees: I think all three Yankees outfielders are candidates for 20/20, really. Johnny Damon went 24/25 in 2006, but I don't think he has enough pop to do that again. Melky Cabrera is better than people think, but is a few years away from developing that much power. Abreu has a total of 31 home runs the past two seasons, that's it. Then again, this is a contract year, and he's not Andruw Jones. Abreu came to camp bulked up, and motivated. A big season is ahead. Prediction: 25 homers, 27 steals.
13. Corey Patterson, OF, Reds: Hear me out. Dusty Baker obviously loves him, and why not? Patterson went 24/32 for Baker in 2004, so the power potential is there in a better hitter's park. I'm not so concerned about Patterson's drop in power last season in Baltimore. Left-handed hitters tend to hit for power in Cincy. Look what Felipe Lopez did hitting from the left side in 2005, and since. Patterson's got the job in center field and will lead off. He'll keep the job. Jay Bruce is a corner outfielder, and he'll get his chance, but not at Patterson's expense. Hey, I believe. And it's not such a stretch. Prediction: 22 homers, 34 steals.
14. Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers: I don't see him ever hitting .300, not the way he strikes out, but then again, B.J. Upton did it. Weeks has power, and nobody has ever questioned the speed. Look at his extra-base hits a season ago, and he missed nearly a third of the season. Prediction: 20 homers, 30 steals.
15. Nate McLouth, OF, Pirates: Anyone can tell you who's done 20/20 in the past, right? McLouth has the center field job, beating out raw Nyjer Morgan, and now he just needs to keep it. The 13 home runs he smacked in 329 at-bats last season do seem to come from nowhere, based on his minor league rates, but I'm calling him a late-bloomer, and a breakout player. Prediction: 21 homers, 32 steals.
16. Alex Rios, OF, Blue Jays: I'm not sure why the Jays were considering trading this guy in the offseason, because he recently turned 27, and really good things are ahead. The Jays want to sign him to a long-term extension. Rios has stolen no fewer than 14 bases in his four seasons, and now it's time for him to do what Jason Bay did in 2005. Except we expect it. Prediction: 30 homers, 20 steals.
17. Mike Cameron, OF, Brewers: Missing most of April isn't going to make this easy, but Cameron has gone 20/20 before despite missing a good portion of games. In 2004 with the Mets, he went 30/22 in 140 contests. In his first year with the Padres he went 22/25. Remember, Cameron's suspension likely cost him a multi-year contract. This year he goes for the deal. Plus, to go 20/20 in five months isn't impossible. It's four homers and steals per month. Prediction: 20 homers, 22 steals.
So, as you might have noticed, a few of the players you might expect to go 20/20 didn't make my list. Ever so briefly...
Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets: He had surgery on both knees. I see him missing more than the 20 games he seems to every season, and running less. He's not stealing more than 15 bases.
Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: I have a feeling he'll miss more than a week of April, and struggle upon return. A good year is coming, but not more than 20 homers.
Ryan Braun, 3B, Brewers: Thanks for the 15 steals as a rookie, but I don't see that number rising. In a Carlos Lee sort of way, he'll differentiate himself to fantasy owners with double digits each season.
Jose Reyes, SS, Mets: Take 12 homers and be happy with that.
Carl Crawford, OF, Rays: Reyes hit one more homer than Crawford last year.
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers: Solid player reached 20/20 already, but I take the under on the steals moving forward. The power will rise.
Gary Sheffield, DH, Tigers: Not this year. Those were his most steals since 1998. He turns 40 this season.
Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: Missed 20/20 by two steals. This year he misses it by 10 steals.
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: The ability is there, but can we see one full season first, please? I'll say 22/15.
Did I miss someone you think will go 20/20? Let me know.