Adam Ronis, Staff Writer January 19, 2013
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Jason Heyward had a 20-20 season at age 23. Photo Credit: dizbuster319

Would you rather have Jason Heyward or Jacoby Ellsbury?

Last season was a big one for Heyward. He was highly touted coming into the majors and had a good season as a rookie before disappointing in 2011. Some of the struggles can be attributed to a shoulder injury. At 20 years old, Heyward batted .277 with 18 home runs, 72 RBIs and 11 stolen bases and an .849 OPS. Then in 2011 he hit .227 with 14 home runs, 42 RBIs and nine stolen bases in 396 at-bats. In 2012, the talent that was evident in Heyward came through. Heyward showed some growth and put up better numbers. In 587 at-bats, Heyward batted .269 with 93 runs, 27 home runs, 82 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases in 29 attempts. It doesn’t take much to see how good Heyward is when you watch him play and the stats back it up. Heyward is just 23-years old and this will be his fourth season in the major leagues. One of the few things Heyward didn’t improve on in 2012 was strikeouts as he struck out 23.3 percent of the time. The walk rate has also decreased from 14.6 percent to 11.2 percent to 8.9 percent. It’s not a major concern and he’s shown the ability to be patient and draw walks. Heyward had a career-high .479 slugging percentage and cut down on his groundball rate for the second straight season and improved his fly ball percentage to 36.7 percent in 2012. There’s a lot to like about Heyward, who will likely bat third, and I’d love to own him in 2013. Ellsbury had a great season in 2011 leading him to be a first-round pick in many formats last season. Ellsbury batted .321 with 119 runs, 32 home runs, 105 RBIs, 39 stolen bases and a .928 OPS. Ellsbury was bothered by injuries in 2012 and was limited to 303 at-bats and batted .271 with 43 runs, four home runs, 26 RBIs, 14 stolen bases and a .682 OPS. Injuries have been an issue for Ellsbury in two of the last three seasons as he was limited to 18 games in 2010. The power is something that can’t be counted on. Besides the 32-homer season, Ellsbury has never hit double-digit home runs in a season. Heyward is the better player with a higher ceiling. Give me Heyward.

I am in a slow draft and want to take a pitcher with my next pick. I will be able to get Cole Hamels or Jered Weaver. Which one would you take and why?

They are both good options. Hamels is the pitcher I would select. Hamels is as reliable a pitcher that you can find and he’s capable of winning a Cy Young award. Hamels has pitched at least 208 2/3 innings in four of the last five seasons. He produces a high K/9, limits the walks and fly balls and doesn’t allow many homers considering the hitters park that is his home ballpark in Philadelphia. Surprisingly, wins have been difficult for Hamels to get, although wins aren’t a measure of how good a pitcher is. Too many factors are beyond a pitchers control such as defense, offensive support and bullpen. Hamels had a career-high 17 wins in 2012. Hamels went 17-6 with a 3.05 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. In 215 1/3 innings, Hamels struck out 216 and walked 52. Hamels has a 3.09 ERA in four of the last five seasons. Many might go with Weaver because he had more wins and a better ERA and WHIP than Hamels in 2012. The big difference is the strikeouts that favor Hamels. Weaver’s velocity decreased in 2012 and his strikeout rate dipped to 6.77 as he generated less swings and misses. Weaver went 20-5 with a 2.81 ERA and 1.02 WHIP and a 142/45 K/BB ratio in 188 2/3 innings. Weaver allows a good amount of fly balls, although it hasn’t hurt him pitching in Anaheim. The other worry is Weaver missed some time last season with a back injury and he said he was very tired at the end of last season. I’d draft Hamels.

I see Stephen Strasburg going in the first round of the NFBC as the first pitcher off the board. Is that a good pick?

It’s not a pick I would make. In general, I don’t like to take a pitcher in the first round. The argument for it this year is more viable because there is a lot of uncertainty in many of the offensive players going in the first round. Still, I doubt taking a pitcher is going to be in my plans. If I did, it would be Strasburg. There’s no question Strasburg is phenomenal. His career strikeout rate is 30.8 percent. Strasburg only threw 159 1/3 innings last season. The Nationals have stated they want him to throw 200 innings in 2013. That means he could throw more, but is he going to throw 230-240 innings? That’s highly unlikely and if he does throw around 200 innings, that’s not enough to justify a first round pick. Will the Nationals allow him to throw more pitches? He didn’t throw more than seven innings in a game in 2012. Justin Verlander has thrown at least 224 1/3 innings in four consecutive seasons, including 238 1/3 innings last year when he was one of the top Fantasy pitchers. Clayton Kershaw has thrown at least 227 2/3 innings in two consecutive years. R.A. Dickey was one of the top Fantasy pitchers in 2012 and he threw 233 2/3 innings. Based on the way the Nationals handled Strasburg last season, it’s highly unlikely he gets to 220 innings. The innings he gives you will be excellent, but he if a pitcher goes in the first round it should be Kershaw or Verlander. If your league uses K/9, then an argument could be made for taking Strasburg as the top pitcher considering his K/9 was 11.13 and his career mark is 11.21.

Is Matt Wieters a top five catcher?

I definitely think he is and an argument and can be made for taking him as the second catcher off the board. The best part is you won’t have to pay that price in most leagues. Wieters turns 27 in May and hasn’t hit his peak yet. He’s got legit power and could hit 30 home runs this season. Wieters hit 22 home runs in 2011 and 23 last season. A baseline of 20-25 home runs is expected. He batted .262 in 2011 and .249 in 2012. Wieters always hit well in the minors and it usually takes some time for catchers to click offensively. He’s capable of hitting .270-.280.

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