As with football, snakes are players whose value can be expected to fall significantly in the early part of the season, from what it will be before the season starts. And ladders are players who will rise from their initial ranks early on.
SNAKE- My 2011 BUST OF THE YEAR goes to Jose Bautista. Listen to this. Before last year, Bautista never had more than 16 HR (2006) or 63 RBI (2007) or 75 runs scored (2007). In 2010, Bautista notched 54 HR, 124 RBI, and 109 runs scored. He also stole nine bases, which is more than he stole 2005-08 combined. I’m not buying.
SNAKE- Mike Napoli- There are lots of catchers in Los Angeles and Mike Scioscia has made it clear he likes Jeff Mathis’ glove behind the plate.
SNAKE- Derek Jeter- He had one of his worst offensive seasons of his career last year, and I dont see any particular reason other than natural deterioration.
SNAKE- Ichiro Suzuki- Career low in runs scored, career low in total bases, his average dropped 37 points from 2009. He also had career lows in home runs and triples, and he notched one more than his career low in RBI. Yes, he will steal bases and bat for average, but this isn’t the four category star you’re used to. He is getting old and the legs are the next thing to go.
SNAKE- Carl Crawford- His biggest fantasy tool is stealing bases. But he’s batting leadoff in front of Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Adrian Gonzalez, and David Ortiz. You don’t want a runner thrown out ahead of those guys. I expect Crawford’s steals to dip from a career in the 50s, possibly as low as the mid-to-high 30s. And assuming he’s still only hitting 12-15 HR, I can find better use for the first round draft pick it will take to get him.
SNAKE- Jorge Posada- With Russel Martin signed, and Jesus Montero waiting in the wings as the team’s future, Posada will see more and more time off.
SNAKE- Cliff Lee- We saw how poorly he pitched against bad teams last year. After arriving in Texas on July 13, Lee gave up six runs to Baltimore in July, eight runs to Baltimore and seven to Kansas City in August. In seven August starts, he allowed four or more runs in six of them. In other words, he pitched like he didn’t care too much against bad teams. Now he’s in a division with Washington, Florida and New York, who all finished below .500 last year. I’m not saying he won’t be good, but I wonder if he will be great.
LADDER- My 2011 SLEEPER OF THE YEAR is Wandy Rodriguez- He had a 2.11 ERA and 9.7 K/9 after the All-Star break. Don’t be surprised to see him around 2.50, 9+ K/9 and 15 wins at the end of the year.
LADDER- James Loney- He won’t be a stud, but .285, 20, and 100 are not out of reach. He has career highes of 15 HR and 90 RBI but will be relied on for some run production in a thin Dodgers lineup.
LADDER- Ian Kinsler- If he can stay healthy, this guy is a power/speed combo who had 31 HR and 31 SB in 2009 and could reach 30/30 IF he stays healthy.
LADDER- Aramis Ramirez- Ramirez missed 38 games last year and still managed 25 HR and 83 RBI. 35 and 100 are not impossible expectations.
LADDER- Elvis Andrus- With Jimmy Rollins and Derek Jeter aging, there is room at the top of the shortstop rankings for another young gun. Andrus looks primed to take the leap.
LADDER- Jacoby Ellsbury- Ellsbury never got right after the rib injury that essentially ended his 2010, but he is in a stacked lineup, and should be back around the top of the league in steals and runs scored. He’s a career .291 hitter. He led the league in steals in 2008 and 09, and he has an excellent chance to do that again. He will also probably be batting ninth, which means he will be on base when Crawford comes up and that means lots of hit-and-run and lots of time in scoring position for the big boppers.
LADDER- Brett Anderson- Another burgeoning star, Anderson was injured for much of 2010, but has devastating stuff that scouts have drooled over since he was drafted. We might see him reach his potential in 2011.
LADDER- Aroldis Chapman- As I said before, I expect him to be the team’s closer by August. The team says he will not see the rotation but will stay in the bullpen, but if the right combination of injuries strike… I’d want to own him on that day.
LADDER- Andrew Bailey- Another undervalued reliever who I think could lead the league in saves if the A’s give him enough chances.
LADDER- Grady Sizemore- He averaged 25 home runs and 25.6 steals between 2005-2009. Injuries cost him his 2010 season, but this guy could still be a 25/25 guy when healthy.
Yes, this is an extremely early look at the season, but those are some names that I would be keeping an eye on, if I were you. Check back later for updates as the season approaches.