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Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Cockcroft: Brett Anderson becomes ace

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

"There's always next year," they say. Well, next year is here. We surveyed ESPN's fantasy staff to find out a bit about what they think is in store for fantasy owners in 2010.

Reality Check

ESPN Fantasy Sports

Your fondest sports wish for 2010 is:
Legends Suite seats for the New York Yankees raising the championship banner on Opening Day.

Why will this happen/not happen?
They were $2,625 face value in 2009, and if I was going to spend that much money, surely I'd have already spent it on my "fondest sports wish" from last year -- actual old Yankee Stadium seats.

Any sport, who is your biggest sleeper pick for 2010?
Brett Anderson. What's not to like? Big-time ground-baller? A 50.9-percent ratio on batted balls -- check. Strong finish to rookie season? A 3.03 ERA in his final 16 starts -- check. Good strikeout rate? A 7.70 strikeouts-per-nine ratio in 2009 (and 8.73 in those 16 starts) -- check. Pitcher-friendly home ballpark? Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum -- check.

Any sport, which player do you fear will let you down, but you feel compelled to keep drafting him anyway?
Josh Hamilton. I'm a sucker, but I think this is understandable, because few people doubt his raw talent. It's his ability to stay healthy that's in question, and when it comes to injuries, so often they're just a gut call.

Which player has let you down one too many times and is now "dead to you?"
I might have a hard time ever trusting Derek Lowe again after I dealt a fifth-round draft pick for him in a long-time keeper league of mine hoping for back-to-back championships (I won in 2008). At the time of the deal, he had a 4.08 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 25 starts. After it? Nine starts, 6.65 ERA, 1.88 WHIP.

Let's talk Football

Who will be ...

... The first quarterback drafted in fantasy football leagues? Drew Brees.
... The first running back? Chris Johnson. Come draft day I doubt there'll even be an argument against him being the No. 1 pick overall.
... The first wide receiver? Andre Johnson.
... The first rookie? C.J. Spiller.
... The NFL MVP? Drew Brees.
... The fantasy football MVP (most value for draft position)? Knowshon Moreno.
... Fantasy football's leading scorer. Chris Johnson.

The Name Game ...
Which player would you rather draft in 2010?

Frank Gore or Ray Rice? Frank Gore, but I tend to be biased towards the player with the AFC West on his schedule.
Terrell Owens or LaDainian Tomlinson? Isn't this kind of like the questions you and your friends posed each other as kids when you'd pit two terrible things against each other in a "Which would you rather" scenario? "Can I choose death" was a preferred response, though I seem to recall that being an unacceptable answer, so I'll go Tomlinson, if only because he's apparently still capable of handling goal-line chores. Hey, maybe he's going to adapt to the kind of late-career role Jerome Bettis did. I wouldn't be stunned if it happened.
DeSean Jackson or Brandon Marshall? DeSean Jackson.
Vernon Davis or Antonio Gates? Antonio Gates. If there's anything I like more than the AFC West on a team's schedule, it's the NFC West.
Jay Cutler or Kyle Orton? Kyle Orton, though this would probably change if Brandon Marshall escapes Denver.
Fred Jackson or Jonathan Stewart? Jonathan Stewart, even though John Fox will be back in Carolina in 2010.
Knowshon Moreno or Beanie Wells? Knowshon Moreno.
Shonn Greene or LeSean McCoy? Shonn Greene.
Miles Austin or Roddy White? Roddy White.
Steve Smith or Steve Smith? Roddy White. I mean, Steve Smith, of course. (And for a serious answer, the one on the New York Giants.)

Playing with Numbers:
Predict the 2010 stat.

Tom Brady's passing touchdowns: 26.
Michael Vick's total touchdowns: 16.
Adrian Peterson's total yards: 1,852.
Chris Johnson's total yards: 2,245.
Terrell Owens touchdowns: 6.
Brett Favre games played: 16. He'll probably still be playing in the "Futurama" world of 3000, as a head in a jar attached to a robot body. Of course, he'll have threatened retirement no fewer than 500 times by then.
Kurt Warner games played: 10.
Matt Forte's average draft position: 35.7.

Play Ball!

Who will be ...

... The second player taken in fantasy leagues? Hanley Ramirez.
... The first starting pitcher? Tim Lincecum.
... The first closer? Jonathan Broxton.
... The second catcher? Victor Martinez.
... The AL MVP? Mark Teixeira.
... The NL MVP? Albert Pujols is an obvious choice and my pick, but I know "out-on-a-limb" candidates are the fun ones you really want to read. So for a dark-horse candidate, I'll nominate Justin Upton.
... The AL Cy Young? Felix Hernandez.
... The NL Cy Young? As with Pujols, I believe Tim Lincecum will again be the NL's best pitcher, but how about Tommy Hanson as a dark-horse?
... The AL Rookie of the Year? Brian Matusz.
... The NL Rookie of the Year? Jason Heyward. I typically caution against overhyping rookies, but this kid is a special talent. He could come up on Memorial Day and still do enough damage to take home this award.
... The fantasy baseball MVP (most value for draft position)? Jay Bruce.
... The highest-rated player on Player Rater? Albert Pujols.

The Name Game ...
Which player would you rather draft in 2010?

Hanley Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez? Hanley Ramirez. He's eight years younger, simple as that.
Tim Lincecum or Zack Greinke? Tim Lincecum.
Roy Halladay or Chris Carpenter? Roy Halladay. They might be dead even on a per-start basis, but I'll take Halladay's 33 to Carpenter's probable 20-25.
Ryan Braun or Matt Kemp? Ryan Braun.
Yovani Gallardo or Josh Johnson? Yovani Gallardo.
Prince Fielder or Ryan Howard? Prince Fielder. Hey Milwaukee Brewers: When you ship me that jersey, make it a size 48, please.
Adam Lind or Josh Hamilton? Josh Hamilton. I'm a sucker, remember?
Aaron Hill or Ben Zobrist? Aaron Hill.
Evan Longoria or Mark Teixeira? Mark Teixeira.
Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Broxton? Mariano Rivera.

Playing with Numbers:
Predict the 2010 stat.

Roy Halladay wins: 19.
Cliff Lee wins: 16.
Mark Reynolds home runs and batting average: 34 and .258.
Joe Mauer's batting average and home runs: .338 and 24.
Chone Figgins and Ichiro Suzuki's stolen bases: 38 and 27.
Matt Capps saves: 18 ... and not the final Nationals save of 2010, which will be recorded by Drew Storen.
Javier Vazquez wins, ERA and WHIP: 17 (career high!), 3.68 and 1.19. Those are only regular-season projections, of course!

Stephen Strasburg's wins, ERA and WHIP: 7, 3.82 and 1.29.

Grady Sizemore's HR/SB: 24 and 29.

Alfonso Soriano's average draft position: 73.6.

Mad Gabs

Fill in the blanks to formulate 10 predictions for 2010. Do not limit yourself to football or baseball

In 2010, LeBron James will win an NBA title for the city of Cleveland, then leave for "greener" pastures in New York.
There is no way that the Minnesota Twins' new home ballpark, Target Field, will make it through that inaugural nine-game home stand April 12-22 without a postponement, probably due to snow. Heck, there might be three "snowouts," so if Joe Mauer sits out April again, who's going to care? Another prediction: Target Field is more hitter-friendly than the Metrodome, thanks to less foul territory and smaller dimensions in left, left-center and center field.
• Shonn Greene will be this year's Jamaal Charles. As in, meaningless first eight games, spectacular final eight, so if you draft him, you'd darned well better be a patient person.
If the 2009-10 New Jersey Devils cannot win the Stanley Cup, then Martin Brodeur has already hoisted the coveted trophy for the final time. One strong point in their favor: The "thorn-in-their-sides" Carolina Hurricanes rank dead last in the Eastern Conference, so someone else will have to unkindly bump them from the playoffs this year (if anyone does).
• Kurt Warner will be the next big sports star to retire, then change his mind 10 days later. It's all the rage these days.
There will be 13 players that strike out 200-plus batters, a group that in 2010 will welcome Ubaldo Jimenez and Clayton Kershaw ...
... but only one player that wins 20 games. Seriously, I'm going to have to continue to campaign to drop wins from Rotisserie baseball until I'm blue in the face, aren't I? It's such a meaningless category and no longer has any business having this much weight in our game.
Matthew Berry will officially overtake Ashton Kutcher in the race for most Twitter followers, after which point he'll be inducted into the Twitter Hall of Fame, then transformed into an electrical impulse and injected directly into the Internet in an effort to provide even more instantaneous fantasy football advice.
This is the year that I finally crack the 600-follower plateau on Twitter, thereby getting to within 150,000 followers of Matthew Berry. I am totally going to catch up with that guy, I can just feel it!
2010 will forever be remembered as the year Norv Turner finally won a Super Bowl (as a head coach, mind you; he did win back-to-back titles as an offensive coordinator in 1992-93).

Have we missed anything?

What question do you wish you had been asked on this survey?
What will be the date of Stephen Strasburg's major league debut?

And the answer is?
Saturday, June 5, 2010, versus the Cincinnati Reds. I expect the Nationals to do the traditional "wait until June" strategy in an attempt to avoid his being a super-two arbitration player, and he'll almost assuredly make his debut in a weekend start at home.

What question are you glad you weren't asked?
Will Derek Jeter be wearing a different uniform come Jan. 1, 2011 (he's a free agent after this season)?

Sucker! Now you have to answer.
No -- but only because if he leaves the Yankees, he'll wait until after New Year's! Ha, skated around that question, the answer to which I truly dread. Seriously though, it's a lose-lose situation. Either he departs and the Yankees are vilified for letting it happen (unlikely), or they'll cave and wind up overpaying him sometime next January (probable).