THE FRANCHISE PLAYERS: Alex Rodriguez $54, Miguel Cabrera $46.
All I can say to both of these bids is "wow". A-Rod earned $53 in 4x4 last year, but "only" $45 in 5x5, even with his incredible 54/156/24/143/.314 line. I understand why you'd pay a couple of extra bucks to get stats as opposed to profits from your best players, but this bid is crazy. Cabrera's bid is even more baffling. If you translate Cabrera's 2007 N.L. line into Alex Patton's 2007 A.L. 5x5 formula, Cabrera's a $28 earner. Just for fun, I took A-Rod's 2007 minus the steals and gave Cabrera a .350 batting average and still only wound up with a $43 5x5 player. Paying more than $40 for a non-five category player in 5x5 is a losing strategy.
THE SECOND-TIER VETERANS: Chone Figgins $29, Adrian Beltre $25, Mike Lowell $19.
Only when the top two players at a position go for a combined $100 can a $29 player be considered "second-tier". After a brutal 15-for-94 start, Figgins put up his best year yet, hitting an amazing .330 and stealing 41 bases in only 493 plate appearances. Figgins should be good for a 50-60 SB year if healthy. He adapted his game last year and started slashing base hits and hitting more ground balls, which could mean the 8-9 HR seasons he put up in the past are gone. Since we pay Figgins for the speed, we'll live with that. 2004 looks like an aberration, but Beltre has now put up two solid seasons for the Mariners with a little sneaky 10-15 SB speed thrown in for good measure. Safeco somewhat suppresses Beltre's power numbers, so I wouldn't expect a late 20s power spike, but I wouldn't have a problem going to $20-22 for him. Lowell should still be solid, but I'd expect the RBI opportunities to drop and his batting average to slip to the .285-.295 range he put up in 2004 and 2006. $19 is fair, but don't expect a bargain here at that price.
NEWCOMERS AND SOPHOMORES: Alex Gordon $20, Evan Longoria $15, Josh Fields $14.
I'm hopeful that Gordon will build on his solid Post All-Star numbers (9 HR, 32 RBI, .264 BA in 250 AB) and earn closer to $17, but I think $20 might be a bit of a reach, particularly because he's not going to steal more than the 14 bags he stole last year. This price makes more sense for a keeper league. Speaking of which, Longoria at $15 is tied to all kinds of risk in an early February auction. I don't buy the fact that he's not ready for the majors due to a so-so .269 BA in a mere 104 Triple-A AB, but it sounds more and more like the Rays are going to send him there anyway and bring him up in May or June. Fields has a lower ceiling than either Gordon or Longoria but, unlike both of them, he's already proven he can hit 20+ HR at the major league level. There's always the risk Joe Crede doesn't get traded and Fields starts out the year back on the bench or in Triple-A, but that sounds more like the White Sox playing poker than any real kind of possibility.
INJURY HISTORIES: Hank Blalock $19, Eric Chavez $16, Scott Rolen $14.
$19 seems like a risky bid for Blalock, but he finally looked like he was living up to his early career potential before rib and shoulder surgery ended his year prematurely. Watch him to see if he's healthy in Spring Training, but Blalock might go back to $20s earnings if he's healthy. Chavez was one of the more panned picks in the auction last Tuesday. I could see why: he's missed time due to injuries the last three years, and his production when he's been on the field has regressed from 2005-2007. He could bounce back, of course, but seems like a poor bet with so many other decent 3B out there. Rolen is similar to Chavez in that he was a poor producer even when he was on the field last year. Granted, the injuries might have affected the performance. But Rolen always seems to be banged up with one thing or another and he's three years older than Chavez. At $14, this isn't a terrible risk, but it's a risk nonetheless.
BARGAIN BIN VETERANS: Akinori Iwamura $11, Casey Blake $10, Melvin Mora $7.
Iwamura hit 96 HR in his last three years in Japan, so there are a few who are hopeful that he might increase his power numbers in the U.S. But he tailed off badly in the second half, particularly in the power department, and even had more trouble stealing bases Post All-Star. This isn't to say that I believe Iwamura is a pumpkin, but I think $15 is probably the best case scenario for him in terms of earnings. I'm a sucker for players like Blake and Mora, and I grabbed Mora for my Sportsline team. Blake has faded badly Post All-Star each of the last two years, but has earned $15 both years in 5x5. He's a better player in Roto than in real life, but will still turn a slight profit unless he completely falls off the map. Mora's two years older than Blake, and an even bigger risk to suddenly stop producing. But at $7, he's almost certain to be a bargain barring a complete collapse. His performance the last two years has been subpar, but he's probably going to keep putting up 15 HR or so with a .275 average for another year or two before the decline really sets in.
ENDGAME: Joe Crede $3, Brandon Inge $2, Mike Lamb $2, Nick Punto $2, Wilson Betemit $1, Travis Metcalf $1, Brandon Wood $1.
Crede and Inge will see a spike in value if they're traded within the American League. We'll have to see how Crede's back holds up after off-season surgery; back injuries are almost always chronic and usually sapr the power. The Tigers are talking about using Inge as a back-up catcher if Vance Wilson isn't ready, so a trade doesn't look likely at the moment. Lamb is a steal here. If he's the full-time 3B in Minnesota, 20 HR isn't out of the realm of possibility, though his batting average could drop considerably if he's pressed into regular duty against left-handers. Punto should be on the Twins bench; he's a cheap steals play and nothing more, and his poor performance last year means that he could disappear entirely. I'd like Betemit more in a weaker organization. There's some talk of platooning him at 1B with Jason Giambi, but the OF/1B/DH situation in New York is pretty crowded. Metcalf is a hedge if Blalock isn't healthy this spring, and he's a weak hedge at that. Wood's status as a prospect has fallen somewhat, but you can't fault this gamble at $1. If the Angels decide to stick him at SS in AAA, Wood could turn into quite the bargain, even if he doesn't come up until June.