Love/Hate for 2008

Losing my hair, loving the Lakers, having unresolved anger issues with Big Fat Bartolo Colon, obsessing over my 14-pound "girly dog" Macy, being a Razzie nominee for my work as a co-author of "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles," Rice Krispies treats and chicken fingers, my TRUM blog, being a Syracuse graduate, living and dying with the Redskins, being dead wrong on the Bengals' defense and Adrian Peterson for one great week last football season, the Fantasy Focus podcast I do with Nate and my annoyance with its producer PodVader, being the most hard-core believer in Erik Bedard and Ryan Braun (among many others last year), and saying Dice-K was due for a terrible second half at the All-Star break last year...

(Deep breath.)

... my obsession with bad reality TV, being called "The Talented Mr. Roto," having written for "Married ... With Children," being either the best or worst fantasy analyst alive (depending upon who you're talking to), drawing snickers (and/or crickets) when I bid $1 on Carlos Pena at Tout Wars last year, my ill-fated romance with Ivanka Trump (by ill-fated, of course, I mean she doesn't know I exist), my "crazy chick" stories, re-inventing the definition of "playing Madden" and, of course, being a company man: May God bless the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.

I am known for many things. But more than anything else, I am known for my Love/Hate columns.

Longtime readers know this is old hat for me. But for those of you who don't know, I write Love/Hate columns in the preseason and during the year, including every week of the NFL season. The premise of Love/Hate is to present my personal list of sleepers and busts. For the purpose of this piece, I've decided to use our official ESPN Fantasy Baseball rankings as my base. You see, we had this huge rankings "summit" where we as a group sat in a conference room all day, and everyone yelled at me because I love Josh Fields too much. Or maybe it just seemed that way.

At any rate, our group of 12 editors and writers ranked 340 players, but as you might guess, I didn't agree with the group on everything. So players that I would draft higher than their current overall ranking on ESPN.com are the players I "love" this year, while players I would draft lower are players I "hate." That simple.

Now, as I write this, I assume a few things, the first of which is that you are not a moron. For instance, I have Joe Mauer as someone I "hate" this year. Does it mean I think he'll have a terrible year? No, he's clearly a high-quality fantasy catcher. But we have him as the fourth-best fantasy catcher this year, and I'd rather have some of the guys below him on the list (Jorge Posada, Kenji Johjima, etc.) that I can get a lot later (or cheaper). Mauer is batting-average dependent for his value, and he's an injury risk. He's still great, but not worth the draft pick/auction money it would take to get him.

I also feel my readers "get it." I could write long, statistical analyses of every player, but frankly, that's boring. Sometimes I offer stats, sometimes I just like to make jokes. Just because I don't spend two paragraphs giving you all the stats to back up my call doesn't mean I didn't do the research. And if I didn't, well, it's my butt on the line ... and ESPN pays me regardless. (Rubbing my hands together evilly ... Bwah, hah, hah, hah!)

2008 Players I Love

Russell Martin, C, Dodgers: Of course he's a bit obvious, but I put him here because I argued hard for him to be our No. 1 catcher over Victor Martinez. Martinez had six more home runs and batted eight points higher in 2007, while Martin had nine more runs. That's basically a wash to me. So it boils down to V-Mart's 27 more RBIs to Martin's 21 more stolen bases, and I value steals more than RBIs. Plus, there's no reason to think Martin won't improve. After all, new manager Joe Torre has had quite a bit of success with catchers, no?

Brian McCann, C, Braves: Had a "bad" 2007 and still finished with almost 100 RBIs.

Bengie Molina, C, Giants: Honestly, he shouldn't be on this list since we have him ranked seventh, and even I think that could be high for him. But I'm putting him here because it gives me a chance to point out that I won an expensive dinner from "Baseball Tonight" executive producer Jay Levy by predicting Bengie would hit more than 16 home runs last year. Hah! Love me the Bengie Molina!

Geovany Soto, C, Cubs: He's the Talented Mr. Soto! (Pause.) Please. If you were me, you wouldn't be able to resist, either.

Mike Napoli, C, Angels: Ten homers and five stolen bases in just more than 200 at-bats last year. Just sayin'.

Kurt Suzuki, C, A's: Man makes a mean motorcycle, too.

Michael Barrett, C, Padres: Remember, he used to be good.

Kelly Shoppach, C, Indians: Very much worth a buck or two at the end of an AL-only auction.

Yorvit Torrealba, C, Rockies: I feel like someone from a small, backwoods, rural community could walk into a doctor's office scratching himself and say, "Doc, I got a bad case of the Yorvits."

Carlos Ruiz, C, Phillies: Had 54 RBIs in just more than 350 at-bats last year, and his BB/K ratio was an impressive (for a catcher, anyway) 0.86 last year. He also had 29 doubles, tied for sixth-most among major league catchers.

Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: Because I would draft him ahead of Ryan Howard. That's right.

Carlos Pena, 1B, Devil Rays: The answer: zero. The question: How many first basemen hit more home runs after the All-Star break than Pena?

James Loney, 1B, Dodgers: It's "Loney at the top," um, of the middle tier of first basemen.

Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, White Sox: The move to Chicago can only help him. Only three ballparks gave up more home runs per game last year than U.S. Cellular.

Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: I'm blotto for Votto!

Sean Casey, 1B, Red Sox: He'll never hit for power, but when you're scrambling for a corner guy who won't hurt you in an AL-only league, I'd go the extra mile to get Casey.

Mike Jacobs, 1B, Marlins: He always goes late because he's not gonna help your average, but 37 home runs the past two years isn't something to dismiss.

Kevin Millar, 1B, Orioles: After a slow start to 2007, Millar had a much better year than folks realize.

Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: Let's try a little fun with numbers:

Player A: 30 homers, 32 steals, .288 avg., 107 runs
Player B: 33 HRs, 19 SBs, .299 avg., 97 runs
Player C: 30 HRs, 34 SBs, .325 avg., 113 runs

Player A, as you might have guessed, was Phillips in 2007. Player B? Alfonso Soriano. Player C? David Wright. Unless you owned him last year, you have no idea just how good Phillips is. Thanks to position scarcity, he's a late first-rounder who for some reason likely will be taken in the second round (or even the third).

Jeff Kent, 2B, Dodgers: At least 20 home runs in 10 of his past 11 seasons. Just sayin'.

Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers: My future epitaph: "Here lies Matthew Berry. He believed in Rickie Weeks."

Alexi Casilla, 2B/SS, Twins: Cheap speed for AL-only leagues.

Mark Ellis, 2B, A's: Bet you didn't know he hit 11 home runs after the All-Star break last year, did ya?

Ryan Theriot, 2B/SS, Cubs: The second base position gets shallow quickly, and it's important to note a few things here: Ryan had 28 steals last year, he struck out less than 12 percent of the time, he qualifies at both middle-infield positions, his BB/K ratio has gone up each of the last three seasons, and his nickname is "The Riot."

Yunel Escobar, 2B/SS/3B, Braves: Anyone want to invest in "Give 'em hell, Yunel!" cup cozies with me? Anyone?

Jeff Keppinger, SS/3B, Reds: Hit .335 in 233 at-bats after the All-Star break, is the magical age of 27 and walked twice as many times as he struck out last season, which is amazing.

Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins: After A-Rod, he's the next guy on my board.

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies: I'd drink his bath water.

Orlando Cabrera, SS, White Sox: More fun with numbers.

Player A: 101 runs, 8 homers, 86 RBIs, 20 stolen bases, .301 average
Player B: 102 runs, 12 HRs, 73 RBIs, 15 SBs, .322 average

Player A is "The O.C." Player B? Derek Jeter. Cabrera had a career year and is no longer with the Angels, but the White Sox run just as much, and even if The O.C. takes a bit of a dive, he's still going to be available much later (or for cheaper) than Jeter. He's always underrated.

Edgar Renteria, SS, Tigers: Speaking of always underrated...

Yuniesky Betancourt, SS, Mariners: Hit .311 after the All-Star break.

Ryan Braun, 3B, Brewers: We have him rated fourth at third base behind A-Rod, David Wright and Miguel Cabrera, and I wouldn't draft him ahead of any of those guys. But I'm putting him here just to underline the fact that I don't think he was a fluke. I was all over him prior to his call-up last year, so you know I'm on board in a big way here.

Chone Figgins, 3B, Angles: As always, I'm wiggy for Figgy!

Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres: Hit .317 after the All-Star break.

Troy Glaus, 3B, Cardinals: People forget that Glaus actually played one year in the NL. He was with Arizona in 2005, and he hit 37 home runs and had 97 RBIs. Now he'll get some pretty good pitches to hit while protecting a guy named Albert. Me likey.

Josh Fields, 3B, White Sox: Joe Crede. That was the extent of the argument the rest of the ESPN Fantasy staff gave me every time I tried to get Fields ranked higher. They didn't care that he had the third-most home runs after the All-Star break among big league third basemen. That he had only seven fewer RBIs than David Wright over that same time frame. More runs than Miguel Cabrera (and only four fewer than Chone Figgins). No, he won't help your batting average (.240 average after the break), but he is only 24, and if you paid attention this offseason, you'd have noticed the White Sox are going with a youth movement. Fields' bat is simply too good to keep out of the lineup.

Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks: If I were his publicist, I would hire a hip-hop star to create a song about him and call it the "Reynolds Rap." But that's me. I have no taste.

Mike Lamb, 3B, Twins: Finally has a starting gig.

Akinori Iwamura, 3B, Rays: Moving over to second base this year, he now has had a year to adjust to the majors, and let's not forget he was very productive when healthy in 2007. He'll go cheap and soon qualify at both second base and third base.

Wilson Betemit, 3B, Yankees: OK, sure, he has a guy in front of him who isn't too bad. But he can play a lot of positions, he has power, and he won't play enough to hurt you anywhere else.

Brandon Wood, 3B, Angels: Lord help me, I still believe.

Alex Rios, OF, Blue Jays: Yes, he was much worse in the second half than he was in, say, May. But I still like him. A lot. A gut call for this year: He goes 30/30.

Corey Hart, OF, Brewers: Pretty much the only thing I don't like about Hart is that fantasy columnists, myself included, always feel compelled to make a "Sunglasses at Night" reference when discussing him. But consider this: Starting June 1, which is around when he started playing full-time, Hart was in the top 30 in the majors in homers, Runs, RBIs and stolen bases. Plus, he hit .294, and he's still young. What's not to like here?

Jason Bay and Andruw Jones, OFs, Pirates and Dodgers: Because neither can do as poorly as they did last year.

Chris B. Young, OF, Diamondbacks: You know how many outfielders had more home runs than CBY? Four. You know how many outfielders had more stolen bases than CBY? Eleven. You know how many outfielders hit better than CBY's .237? Well, a lot, actually. But he was a career .266 hitter in the minors! Hmm, that's not selling it, either. Look, the guy is batting-average-ugly. No question about it. But there are so many things that he does well that it's kinda like a girl having what some guys call a "butter face." Is everything as great as you want? No. But if it was, would she have anything to do with you at 1:45 a.m. when the bar is closing? No, she wouldn't.

Josh Hamilton and Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Rangers and Red Sox: Look, Ma! I'm trendy, too!

Gary Matthews Jr., OF, Angels: But when will he play, you might wonder. He's in an outfield with Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson. When is he not gonna play?

Xavier Nady, OF, Pirates: Twenty home runs and 72 RBIs in just more than 400 at-bats last year. His time is now.

Chris Duncan, Bill Hall and Mark Teahen, OF: See Bay, Jason and Jones, Andruw.

Chris Denorfia, OF, A's: Just one of those guys I've always liked.

The "Cheap Speed" team: None of these players are assured of starting gigs as of this writing, but all of them will swipe at least 20 bags regardless: Jerry Owens, White Sox; Carlos Gomez, Twins; Norris Hopper, Reds; Michael Bourn, Astros; Rajai Davis, Giants.

The "Cheap Power" team: These guys will all be under the radar and in some cases not starting, but all of them can hit for power, and I like 'em in deep leagues: Marcus Thames, Tigers; Juan Rivera, Angels; Jayson Werth, Phillies; Matt Murton, Cubs; Jay Bruce, Reds; Matt Diaz, Braves.

Wily Mo Pena, OF, Nationals: Hit eight home runs and had 22 RBIs and two steals in just 37 games with the Nats.

Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Indians: Two last names, a new crowd-pleaser.

Chris Young and Kelvim Escobar, SPs, Padres and Angels: I put them here because these are two guys I have loved for a long time. Both injury-prone (Escobar might start the year on the DL) and folks know they are good, but I still find a way to get 'em on my teams.

Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Rockies: Fun to say, fun to type, and rhymes with "Upaldo."

Dustin McGowan, SP, Blue Jays: After the All-Star break, only 10 pitchers had more strikeouts.

Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals: After the All-Star break, he posted seven wins and a 2.71 ERA in 15 starts.

Mark Prior and Randy Johnson, SPs, Padres and Diamondbacks: Two totally different situations, but you either believe or you don't. I believe. After talking with our injury expert, Stephania Bell, I actually feel Prior has something left. Go figure.

Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers: I want him more than Sheets, want him more than any other rookie from last year, want him more than any other pitcher named "Yovani."

Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Astros: You know he'll rock at least half the time.

Micah Owings, SP, Diamondbacks: Hitters batted just .219 off of him in the second half last year and .233 on balls in play. Had a brutal July but turned it around in August (3.03 ERA) and September/October (3.00 ERA). Gets to follow Webb, Haren and Big Unit in the rotation. Only 24 years old. Lots to like here, especially in NL-only leagues.

Jon Lester, P, Red Sox: While everyone else is drooling over Clay Buchholz, and rightfully so, I'd like to remind you that Lester can pitch, too.

Brandon Morrow, RP, Mariners: Make no mistake, this will not be a smooth ride. He is not for the weak of heart because he is still young. But he can flat-out pitch. He had a K/9 of 9.38 last year.

Brian Bannister, SP, Royals: More fun with numbers:

Pitcher A: 12-9, 3.87 ERA, 77 K's in 165 innings pitched.
Pitcher B: 12-5, 3.82 ERA, 106 K's in 141 innings pitched.

Bannister is pitcher A, and Ben Sheets is pitcher B. I hate that Bannister doesn't strike anyone out, but it's important to note the guy pitched very well last year.

Joba Chamberlain and Clay Buchholz, SPs, Yankees and Red Sox: Come on up, we got room for more on the bandwagon!

Edwin Jackson, RP, Rays: Only if you are in a deep AL-only league, but there's something here. Had seven wins in his last two months and a 2.46 ERA in August. (Of course, September was 6.75). Still, he's only 24 and had a K/9 of 7.16 last year.

Joe Borowski, RP, Indians: I put him here because he is proof positive you don't have to pay for saves. I'm not listing any closers here. You can read my list of potential set-up guys/cheap closers in the Draft Day Manifesto, where I discuss why you never pay for saves. But Borowski is the poster boy. Or Jeremy Accardo. Or Kevin Gregg. Or...

2008 Players I Hate

Jorge Posada, C, Yankees: Never pay for a career year. Or a big name. Plus, the catcher position is deeper this year.

Joe Mauer, C, Twins: Too batting-average-dependent for my taste.

Ramon Hernandez, C, Orioles: Only five home runs in the second half. And this is going to be a bad team this year.

A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: I just don't like him. Never have, never will.

Josh Bard, C, Padres: I actually like Bard, but you'd have to pay starter money for him, and my concern is that Barrett ends up in a platoon with him.

Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals: Is the elbow healthy? I'd rather not pay a top-three pick to find out.

Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs: You're never gonna see him run again, and that was part of his appeal. Well, that and the two first names. But you should enjoy that from afar.

Kevin Youkilis, 1B, Red Sox: Will be overrated because of his name and postseason play, but the Casey signing and his .238 second-half batting average are both red flags for a guy you won't get at a discount.

Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays: I want to believe. I really do. But he had only two home runs in his final 218 at bats. And only 17 RBIs. He's named Lyle. He hit .225 after the All-Star break. Pick a reason, any reason.

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers: Again, this is another case of a player I actually like that I feel we have ranked too high. If he's still around in the later parts of the draft, fine. But he's not someone I make sure I grab. Too inconsistent.

Orlando Hudson, 2B, Diamondbacks: Another guy who is too batting-average-dependent for his fantasy value. Only three home runs after the All-Star break, and while he did steal seven bags, I'd rather not count on Arizona running a lot with him (they have Eric Byrnes and CBY, don'tcha know).

Ty Wigginton, 2B/3B, Astros: Because everyone else loves him, and there is no upside here.

Danny Richar, 2B, White Sox: He'll be overhyped because of his strong finish last year, but the power is not real -- he never hit for power in the minors -- and he has hit only .230 as a big leaguer.

Josh Barfield, 2B, Indians: Hey, turns out I have some hate left from last season.

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: Just because it's fun to hate the most beloved player in the universe. A good fantasy play, but not a great one, he is always overvalued because of his name and team. See Cabrera, Orlando.

J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers: He's not a power hitter. You know how I know this? He actually told Nate Ravitz this in an interview.

Juan Uribe, SS, White Sox: Because he's Juan Uribe.

Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers: Speed is much more plentiful this year, and he'll cost too much to deal with any of the other stuff.

Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox: He ain't hitting .350 in the second half again, I promise you that.

Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves: Know what I am? Not chipper about Chipper! (Pause.) If it makes you feel better, I'm groaning too. He's another guy who will put up good numbers, but not what he did last year. It's all about value.

Casey Blake, 3B, Indians: Strikes out more than twice as much as he walks.

Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays: Make no mistake here, he truly is all that and a bag of chips. He's going to be great. I put him here because he'll be taken way too high for someone as unproven as he is. I like him, I just don't want to overpay for him because he is this year's "it" rookie. See Gordon, Alex circa last year.

Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: Going way too high.

Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels: He no longer steals bases but keeps getting drafted like he does.

Manny Ramirez, OF, Red Sox: You're gonna pay for 35 home runs and get 25. No upside at all, and lots of downside.

Pat Burrell, OF, Phillies: When he retires, I'm opening up a ball-cap shop in Philly with him, and I'm gonna call it Pat the Hat.

Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays: When's he gonna turn into Vernon Wells? I'm sick of waiting.

Aaron Rowand, OF, Giants: You know what's not good for your value? Retiring or moving to Japan, but also moving from a hitters' park to a pitchers' park to play on a terrible team.

Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Cubs: He has been overhyped and already has been compared to Ichiro, but he doesn't have Ichiro's speed, and he's not really a power guy. He's Bobby Abreu without the steals. Solid, but a better real-life option than fantasy option.

J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox: One home run does not a good player make. I hate J.D. Drew. With every fiber in my little body. OK, that's not true ... I'm 6-foot-1, so I'm not exactly little. And I've reserved a few hate fibers for Big Fat Bartolo Colon, people that grab the back of your seat on an airplane to get up while you're sleeping and anyone who pays for closers.

Dan Haren, SP, Diamondbacks: Had a very average second half and doesn't strike out enough guys to be my No. 1 pitcher, and you'll have to draft/buy him at a point when he will have to be.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP, Red Sox: Post-All-Star-break ERA: 5.19

Scott Kazmir and Felix Hernandez, SPs, Rays and Mariners: Simply put, they will break your heart.

Tim Hudson, SP, Braves: Not crazy about his river, either.

Brad Penny, SP, Dodgers: Nowhere to go but down.

Dontrelle Willis, SP, Tigers: Oh, he'll get wins. But anyone buying this big resurgence because he's going to the American League is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Dave Bush, SP, Brewers: If you go back to him again, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Bronson Arroyo, SP, Reds: I'm not buying his album, either.

Chad Billingsley, SP, Dodgers: Another guy who'll go too high. Only four pitchers walked more batters after the All-Star break than Billingsley, one of whom was Chad Gaudin. Hmm. Maybe it's the first name.

Jon Garland, SP, Angels: Career ERA in Angel Stadium: 4.94. And he doesn't strike anyone out.

Barry Zito, SP, Giants: For the record, he was on my hate list last year, too. You're welcome.

Any high-priced closer: Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, etc. It's not that they aren't good, it's just that you don't need them. Rivera had the exact same number of saves last year as Jeremy Accardo. Just sayin'.

There you go, kids; 4,900 words later, the first Love/Hate of the baseball season is in the books. I'll do updates to the list throughout spring training and, of course, be sure to always listen to our daily Fantasy Focus podcast, watch our daily online show and read the articles. Unless, you know, you don't care if you win or not. Peace out!

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a four-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner and the only writer in the industry with wins in multiple sports (NFL, MLB, NBA). Be sure to check him out every Sunday morning on "ESPNEWS Fantasy Insider" at 11 a.m. ET.

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