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September 23, 11:00 AM ET
Chat with Tristan H. Cockcroft

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:01 AM)

Good morning everyone! Still fantasy baseball season, and a lot of league championships up for grabs, but I do recognize a lot of fantasy football questions right now. Tell you what -- I'll tackle them both for you today noticing the volume of football. Let's get rolling...

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:02 AM)

One thing I ask, for the baseball question askers: Please write BASEBALL! (with the exclamation point) to begin your question. Just a heck of a lot easier to search for your questions, and you do get top priority today. And by the way, if you're sneaky and do that and ask football instead, be forewarned, you risk getting your question ignored. (Yeah, I can hit the ignore button, nyah! Haha)

Todd (MA)

I'm looking to add a spot starter today, and have narrowed my decision to Norris and VandenHurk. Who do you prefer?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:04 AM)

Has it come to this, Todd? Really? OK, mamma said that thing about being nice, so I guess I can say "home starts" for both of them. But they're versus the Cardinals and Phillies, respectively, so, bleagh. If I must pick -- and my advice is avoid both -- I probably go Norris, if only because I think there's a hint of risk that Albert Pujols rests Wednesday (day-to-day, he is) and he has a better chance at beating John Smoltz than Vanden Hurk does Cole Hamels.

Greg (STILL IN IT!)

Tristan, I need some wins and WHIP to lock it up! Thoughts on Gaudin and Homer Bailey as 2-start guys? Also, any chance I get 2 out of Verlander, Harden, or Kershaw?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:07 AM)

Well, let's look. I wouldn't count on Bailey being a two-start guy; Johnny Cueto is currently lined up as that, but I'll have more info on that in the Forecaster on Friday. Chad Gaudin hosts the Royals and pitches at the Rays; I guess there are worse bets but I just don't trust the guy. He'll be below my cut line in the Forecaster, I'm sure, though maybe not among the "no thanks" guys. Verlander: No way, unless the Tigers are in jeopardy of blowing the division. He's needed for Game 1 of the Division Series, so no two-start for him if the Tigers can help it. Harden: Too nicked up to take that chance. I bet he gets one more start. Kershaw: Nope. Pitching Sunday. He wouldn't be on schedule.

Grant (Chicago)

Is Alex Avila worth a low cost pick up in a deep keeper?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:09 AM)

I suppose he is, because at this rate he might get a long look for the job in the spring. That said, I do wonder whether he's ready defensively to handle the everyday catching chores at this level. It'd have to be a cheap price. Like a buck in an AL-only, and you can keep a huge number of players.

Keith (Danbury CT)

In the finals, saves is a dead heat. Would you pick up Thornton or Dotel?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:10 AM)

Octavio Dotel, though I tend to gravitate to the right-hander given the choice. Lefties like Matt Thornton tend to get the situational saves only, so for instance Thornton would be my pick in games against the Twins (Mauer!).

Ryan (Chattanooga)

Will Jeremy Hellickson be in the majors next year? What does his future look like?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:12 AM)

I'd be shocked if he doesn't pitch at least part of 2010 in the majors. Hellickson has always struck me as more of a No. 3/4 big-league starter than a future ace, but coming off this kind of season with the success he has had at the upper levels, I think he'll have some sleeper appeal next year. That said, I believe he'll be one of those pitchers who has his workload monitored down the stretch next year, whether he's in the majors or minors at the time.

Jon (Evanston, IL)

Have you ever considered Yoga classes? Who would you rather have on your bench, James Davis or Rashard Mendenhall?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:13 AM)

Nope. Wife takes them, just doesn't seem like my thing. And I'd go Mendenhall here, though that's mostly from the angles of stronger overall offense and higher probability of goal-line touches.

Brandon (Alabama)

Prior to last week's game, a trade was proposed in our league. Jacobs and a 2011 1st round pick for Hightower. The entire league was outraged and voted against it. Even the other trade partner described the trade as indefensible. The trade was vetoed. Now, the GM giving up Jacobs and a 1st rounder is blaming the rest of the league for his recent close loss. Advice to him?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:15 AM)

He has a point. A very valid point. I also have a very valid point: One week does not define the impact of a trade. That both of these points resonate to the levels they do underscores how liberal I am in allowing deals to go through. Hightower is actually a pretty decent fantasy running back, no matter how so-so he is in the real game. Those catches sure help. Brandon Jacobs is off to a slow start. I wouldn't make that deal, mostly because the pick is just unnecessary, but I'd have a hard time trying to keep a team from trying to improve itself if it believed it was improving itself.

Joshua (Beautifule Northern Michigan)

Mike Sims-Walker as the no. 2 receiver in Jacksonvile: Flash in the pan, third year breakout, or chili today and hot tamale?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:17 AM)

Uh, a little bit of each? I think I accurately described my feelings on Sims-Walker in my "Instant Replay" from Sunday (ah, shameless plugs), but I'll take the shot on a guy with his kind of upside in an offense that's going to have to throw more often than expected playing from behind. Health is the greater downside with him. If he avoids injuries I see no reason he's not the consistent No. 2, and at least a matchups play for fantasy.

Jennifer (St Pete)

BASEBALL!!! As of now, Justin is clearly the better keeper of the Uptons, correct? Something seems not right with BJ...

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:17 AM)

Uh ... yes. So much more offensive potential.

Keith (CHAMPIONSHIP)

BASEBALL! Do you believe in Wade Davis tonight? J.A. Happ in his return manana?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:19 AM)

I do, surprisingly. Davis looked shaky in his first couple big-league outings but his last one (at least if memory serves that good outing was his last start) was impressive, and he'll face the Mariners in a home game. Rays have a decent home-field advantage, I'd roll the dice in a deeper league. As for Happ, a tad more iffy. Health questions, road start, versus the Brewers who have some lumber. Think NL-only, not shallow mixed.

Jake (VA Beach)

BASEBALL and football: might as well try both right? Would you drop someone like Mornaeu in a keeper league if you need a fill in since he's not on the DL? Or just try to win with one player short? Also, Jacobs and Megatron for Rice and Holmes - fair deal?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:21 AM)

That really depends on your team's current circumstances. If cutting a certain keeper like Justin Morneau is the only way to get a replacement and not doing it would almost certainly cost you a championship, then I think you have to consider it, hard as it may be. I would not, under any circumstances, drop a player like Morneau to chase for second or third place. Title-chasing, period, and call it <i>the</i> very last resort. But I don't speak in definitives when we're talking championships and situations like this. You have to be open to <i>anything</i> to win a league title. Period. I'm doing some crazy things myself with my teams in the hunt. Things I need to do.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:21 AM)

Speaking to the trade, I'd say that's too much, you're selling low. Calvin Johnson is going to be a top-10 wide receiver. <i>Going</i> to. (I just feel like making promises today, I guess.) And I still trust Brandon Jacobs more than Ray Rice.

Mike (Syracuse)

Congrats on the kid Tristan, boy or girl?, Man Portis looks real old so far this year and the way they run it there in Washington makes me think he might not have the speed to get outside much anymore do i look to trade him already and if so who would be a good target?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:24 AM)

Thanks Mike, and a girl. So one of each for me: One boy, one girl, and the boy at 2 1/2 already recognizes football and the Yankees. It's paradise. As for Clinton Portis, you'll notice I didn't speak a glowing word about him all preseason. Heck, I might have spoken <i>a</i> word about him in the preseason, and when I don't, that usually tells you a lot. I agree with you, he looks a step slower than usual. I don't think the Redskins' playcalling problems are what's slowing him; I think <i>he</i> is what's slowing him. Doubt you can get a lot for him in trade, but if you can get anything resembling a No. 2 running back, I'd make the deal. Heck, maybe Brandon Jacobs' owners -- all the panicky ones from the sound of questions in this chat so far -- might take you up on a straight-up offer! (I'd do that in a New York minute.)

Jason (Ellicott City, MD)

Which is harder to manage: fantasy football, baseball, or basketball?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:27 AM)

Being honest with you, Jason, I've never played more than one fantasy basketball league in any given season, and the ones I have were weekly leagues and I made my moves precisely once a week, on deadline day. So I can't accurately answer regarding that sport. The other two? Baseball is worlds harder, especially if it's a daily league. Longer season, more games to analyze and boy, that daily game in the Baseball Challenge. Wow. It takes time -- I actually have an alert system on my laptop to remind me to set my lineup every night at 10!

James (Texas)

hey tristan, Giants recievers real enough to drop burleson and let go of holt?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:28 AM)

More so Nate Burleson than Torry Holt, not that I see a lot of upside in either one. And the more I think about it, the more I think I agree with Eric Karabell's assessment that Steve Smith is the better Giant to sign. More receptions, which is a heads-up to those of you in PPR leagues.

Justin (FL)

TC! Please pick one to drop. Santana Moss or Eddie Royal?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:29 AM)

Bleagh! Ewwwwwww ... I'll take a crab juice. (Sure feels like a decision that warrants a similar reaction, stinky as those two have been so far.) Sigh. I'm still on the Royal bandwagon more of these two. But I'm a sucker for that guy, at least in terms of evaluating their raw talent.

Brian (Austin)

Would you give up Kevin Smith if it could net you Brian Westbrook? I know Westy is hurt and hasn't lit up the scoreboard yet, btu one would think he will be valuable later, no?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:30 AM)

No. But you'll find that I am difficult to sell on a 30-year-old running back with a history of health issues coming off a lot of injury questions due to his ankle the entire past calendar year, pretty much.

Brody (MN)

BASEBALL!! Keeper questions: Do you think Flowers or Santana start at catcher for their respective teams next season? Also, do you think LaPorta can keep the first base job on lock down next year? Thanks!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:32 AM)

Very interesting question, Brody. We've tackled the Tyler Flowers question in a past chat, I mentioned that I find it hard to imagine A.J. Pierzynski stepping aside. I do think Carlos Santana can and should get a very long look for the Indians' job in the spring. Now, understand he's 23 and was only in Double-A this year, so I think he'll have to earn it with a phenomenal spring. Long learning curve, a lot of young catchers face at this level. But I do think he'll play at least half of 2010 in Cleveland. Special talent -- was easily my No. 3 catching prospect entering this year, behind Wieters and Posey.

Bubba J (Chicago)

BASEBALL!!!Hey Tristan, Maholm or Brett Anderson for the next 10 days? Is Pettite worth keeping for one more start? McCutchen, Swisher, Drew, please pick one, thanks. DT

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:35 AM)

Yeesh, neither? Paul Maholm gets the Dodgers and Cubs, Anderson the Rangers and Angels. Let's say Maholm, if only because I trust the NL guy with all else being mostly equal. Andy Pettitte, sure, I think he pitched well enough be worth keeping around. And I'd go Nick Swisher, given the choice.

Mike (Syracuse)

Baseball... So not to toot my own horn but I remained in 1st place all year pretty much behind a very imposing rotation, but due to injuries (Santana) and now teams limiting their Pitchers Innings (Gallardo) My Competitive advantage is gone, should I Start the Streaming or do i risk losing Quality innings by doing so?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:36 AM)

Depends where you're at, what kind of risk you have at losing your pitching leads. I've seen many a successful team just go strong on ratio-helping middle relievers to ride out a season. It's what, 12 more days? Not hard to mix and match.

Jonny (Cedar Falls, IA)

BASEBALL! Would you keep Ellsbury or Tulowitzki for next year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:37 AM)

I might be the world's biggest Jacoby Ellsbury fan among people who, um, don't like the Red Sox very much, but even with that in mind there's no chance I'm keeping him over Troy Tulowitzki. Too valuable accounting for the depth of his position.

Kevin (New York)

Need a runningback. Should I pick-up Mccoy, Mendenhall,or Choice?Thanks

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:38 AM)

Pick up LeSean McCoy if available, because I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him starting this week, and the Eagles do face a favorable matchup.

Joe (Princeton, New Jersey)

FOOTBALL NOW!!!!!!!! What are your feelings on Housh. I am going to try and trade him off I think....or will he be a solid WR2...I have Megatron at number1

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:39 AM)

Depends on your scoring system. If it's not a PPR league, I have been and continue to be skeptical he'll be a top-10 receiver. Top 20? Hmmm, I could see it, but he might bore you all along the way en route to that final ranking. So I agree, I probably would trade him.

Ernie (PA)

BASEBALL! Would you keep Bret Anderson or Neftali Felez as a free keeper for next season

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:40 AM)

Feliz, and I realize I am taking a chance that he's still a reliever come 2010. I just happen to think, lightning stuff he has, Feliz is the Rangers' closer by the All-Star break (and probably sooner) if that's where he begins next season.

Steve (Hartford(CT))

Would you drop Wells for McCoy?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:40 AM)

Sure. Beanie has a fumbling problem and I live in the now if the long-term values aren't skewed.

Joe (MA)

Whats the chances Palmer has a decent game against Pitt?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:42 AM)

What were the chances Carson Palmer would have a decent game against the Packers? I have to call them similar, and probably under 50/50. I'm not leaping to start Palmer, let's put it that way, but if I'm facing a choice of him or another quarterback with less talent (let's say Matt Cassel), I'm going with the guy coming off the impressive upset.

Zachary (Burlington, IA)

If you had Brees as a starter and Aaron Rodgers on your bench, what RB caliber class would be of equal value for Rodgers? I am "stuck" with McFadden, Bush, and F. Jones as only RB's. Please advise...

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:44 AM)

Gut instinct says top tier, but I do recognize that Rodgers was generally like a fourth or fifth round pick in most drafts, and the caliber running back who went around then was something like a Darren McFadden or worse. I probably wouldn't accept a guy with less value than that; how about Kevin Smith? Just throwing the first name that pops into my head.

Xander (Manayunk)

Portis or Ryan Grant this weekend? Both have very good matchups.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:45 AM)

On paper, sure Clinton Portis does. Grant is off to the hotter start -- not as close a call as you think.

Greg (Alexandria)

Wes Welker, how bad is his injury, will he comeback from it this week? I've got Housh and R.Rice, was thinking of trading for Welker and Kevin Smith (DET). Which side are you on?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:47 AM)

OK, let me get my horse and a blunt object as I say this: Boy are the Patriots frustrating with how they're not forthcoming with injury information. (Shocking!) I cannot possibly answer that for you. Only Welker himself, Patriots doctors and Bill Belichick can. Sorry to break it to you, but the little information we have says there's little reason to think Wes Welker can't at least duplicate T.J. Houshmandzadeh's remaining output, even if he sits Week 3. And the running backs, I'll take Smith over Rice in a heartbeat. So yes, I'd be on Welker's side, risk and all.

Chad (City of Champions)

Fred Jackson: Overhyped against Saints?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:48 AM)

If only because his offensive line is already dealing with some injury issues. Outside of that I see little reason not to rank him a strong No. 2. And for the record, I don't think Marshawn Lynch is any automatic to take the vast majority of the carries from him when he's activated.

Charles Swartz (Zimbobwae)

Tom Brady for Brandon Marshall and Mike Bell... who's the winner winner chicken dinner here

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:49 AM)

The team who gets Brady and then also the team who gets Brady, and by the way, the team who gets Brady? Seriously, mulligan for Brady in Week 2. Period. Silly that people are doubting him to the level they are.

Oh Yeah (Thats My Name)

Matt Ryan or Trent Edwards? Fearing what BB has in store for Matty Ice...

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:50 AM)

I'm fearing it a little bit too, but in terms of raw talent these guys aren't close, it's Ryan all the way. And while Edwards has the appeal of garbage-time throws against the Saints, I don't really like to make rash decisions under the assumption of garbage-time contributions. I feel a tad safer with Ryan.

Chet (Philly)

Josh Morgan was a preseason darling, but so far all I've seen from him is a nasty block on one of those Gore romps. Is he worth keeping around over hot starters Knox or Manningham?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:51 AM)

Nope. Not over either one.

Andrew (Miami)

BASEBALL! Keep 8: I'm set on Fielder, Cabrera, Phillips, Rollins, Lester--Need to pick 3 of these 4 for my final keepers: Ethier, Werth, Bay, Hamels (12 team 5x5 h2h league)

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:52 AM)

The first thing I wonder is, where does Jason Bay play next year? If it's a less attractive spot, I think he gets the axe. Otherwise, I probably let Cole Hamels go.

Joe (Richmond)

Steve Slaton will get better, right guys? Right? Guys???

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:54 AM)

I can't remember whether I snuck in a comment about Slaton into my "Instant Replay" -- understand my process with that is that I write several dozen notes throughout the course of watching the games all day and then pick out some of the more interesting ones for the actual column. What I did write down about him, if memory serves here, was that the schedule was stacked against him, so spare him a little his slow start. That said, I do think the Chris Brown goal-line vulturing threat is real, and bears watching. Slaton's not going to be top five, and by all rights he might be challenged to go top 10.

Ryan (Buckhead)

Rank in a PPR league... Hester, Driver, Washington.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:55 AM)

I need to know which "Washington" that is to accurately answer this, but in a PPR league I admit I feel all warm and cozy with Donald Driver.

Brandon Jacobs (I'm NOT in the ENDZONE!!!)

YIKES!!! I'm off to a horrible start. Do you see my numbers improving or am I going to be a huge bust this year? Would you play Thomas Jones over me this weekend?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:57 AM)

Opponents are just stacking the box against you and forcing Eli Manning to beat them, Brandon, don't worry. And Eli did you a huge favor this past week by stepping up and proving that's a losing strategy. It'll even out, and remember, Jacobs is among the strongest goal-line backs in the game. I'll play him, sure. Not a chance in a-certain-very-warm-place I'd use Jones over him.

Chase (Oklahoma)

Schaub or Warner rest of way. I'm having a hard time staying off of the Schaub kook-aid!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:58 AM)

Good question, Chase. Similar types, risk/reward types. Both have elite weapons. Matt Schaub has the age advantage and less of a concern with his backup unseating him at any point. At this point he gets my thumbs up of these two.

Ryan (Buckhead)

Bell or LJ at RB2 this weekend?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:59 AM)

I don't think there's any chance that Mike Bell plays this weekend. But that's just my personal opinion. For the record, it's an identical opinion to mine on Pierre Thomas entering Week 1. So very similar.

Shane (Edison, NJ)

Which 2 would you prefer on your bench: S.Morris, Sims-Walker, Johnny Knox, Muhammed?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:00 PM)

I go with hot hands and upside, especially early in the season when trends are beginning to settle themselves. Sims-Walker and Knox are turning into key cogs in their respective offenses. There's your answer. That said, I do think Muhsin Muhammad deserves more credit than he gets, as he's a serviceable PPR league type. Might yet outperform Knox the rest of the way in those formats.

Justin (NJ)

BASEBALL!! Tristan do you think Juan Pierre will see some PT over the last week of the season??

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:02 PM)

If the Dodgers clinch early, sure, I could see a four-man even outfield rotation in order to keep the lot fresh. I have Pierre active in one of my most important leagues hoping for some cheap steals, so I'm standing very much behind my words here.

Al Coholic (Milwaukee)

Baseball -- who's the better keeper: Yovani Gallardo or Scott Feldman?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:03 PM)

Feldman deserves a lot of credit for his remarkable performance this season, but I've noted before on these pages that I think he's due for a regression in 2010, accounting for his fly-ball tendencies as well as his mediocre strikeout rate. This isn't even a close call to me.

Mike (IN)

BASEBALL!! What's up Tristan? Can you please rank these pitchers in a points only league for next year? Johan, Felix, Haren, Hanson and Carpenter. Thanks!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:05 PM)

I have a hard time not putting Johan Santana atop this list. The ballpark probably won't change and I firmly believe, right now, that he'll be healthy. So let's go in the precise order that you listed them. And I'm only down on Chris Carpenter relative to the others because he stands practically zero chance at a 30-start season in 2010 (he's not even on pace for that many this year).

Chet (Philly)

Kyle Orton is projecting more points than Matt Ryan this week. I don't think I could start Orton over Ryan, but I was curious as to the reasoning ....

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:07 PM)

Projections take a number of factors into account: Player's recent performance and historical performance, opponent's defense's recent and historical performance, home or road game, personnel's level of health. We run the numbers through our computers and have to spit out a definitive stat -- it's the writeups that help offer you some wiggle room (things like "there's upside from here" hint at that). Just because a guy is projected higher doesn't mean that he's <i>going</i> to do it. It's just a guide, one that says "the statistical probability says this is the most likely outcome." And I think you and I both know that football is hardly a game based primarily on the numbers. They can change awfully rapidly, so I agree, I wouldn't sit Ryan for Orton either.

Jeff (OHIO)

BASEBALL! Where do you see Grady Sizemore being drafted next year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:08 PM)

Probably third-round-ish. Will depend on how healthy he looks once camps open. Still in his prime and among the best 30/30 candidates in the game, so while he's no longer a first-rounder, not like he's way off his former status.

David (New Orleans)

What are your thoughts on Justin Forsett?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:09 PM)

If you're in a deep enough league that stashing a sleeper future starter (think a five-week span of encouraging growth gets him to that status) makes sense for you, then I think he's worth picking up. I've got a couple leagues where this is a useful strategy, but understand, no way you're using him this week. Not close to a consideration. I'll leave it to you to decide whether digging this deep is worth it -- it's often not in standard ESPN leagues.

Jason (West Bend, WI)

FOOTBALL! Garrard or Eli this week?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:10 PM)

I absolutely love Eli Manning's matchup this week. It practically has me giddy. One of the few weeks all year I bet I say that.

Ryan (NYC)

Jennings projected at 6 pts????

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:11 PM)

Hey, he had zero in Week 2. Again, recent performance was one of the factors I listed. I have a hard time believing many people will sit Greg Jennings -- I wouldn't -- but we're helping emphasize that there is a little bit of risk in using him.

Ed (NY)

Tristan, If Barber is out Monday, would you play Felix Jones over Slaton vs Jacksonville? Thanks

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:13 PM)

I just want to point out that I want no part of Marion Barber in a Monday night game, not with his injury questions. I'd need definitive word he'll play before I'd take that risk, especially since he has a perfectly adequate stand-in in Felix Jones. The problem: We might not <i>get</i> definitive word before Steve Slaton's kickoff. And if we don't, can't do it, I can't sit him for a clouded backfield picture.

kl (philly)

wouldn't you start any QB if they were facing the bucs?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:15 PM)

Just about, with the possible exception of it being a sketchy passer on a decent enough offense playing a home game, where running out the clock would be a huge part of the game plan. So, like, if Chad Pennington was facing the Buccaneers in a home game. Hmmm -- that happens in Week 10!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:16 PM)

OK, time to wrap things up for the day, lunch calls! Thank you for all of your questions, and sorry if I didn't get to yours -- understand there are thousands that come within the hour so it's impossible to tackle 'em all, much as I would like to. To note: Next week we will be turning the Wednesday morning chat all football, so please do stop back then! I'm expecting another action-packed chat. Good luck to you in Week 3...