I joined my first fantasy baseball league during the amazing 1998 season. A full dynasty league, I won a couple of championships before deciding I was in too many leagues and left it in 2008.
Last season, I was fortunate to be able to re-join my original league and was happy to play with old friends again, but I had to take over a new team that was not very good.
Fantasy players are always up for a good challenge, and I did my best with the lineup I inherited. However, as soon as it was clear that I would not contend for a 2011 postseason spot, I decided to look ahead to 2012. I kept a healthy active roster, but I used most of my reserve positions on injured players and prospects. The second half of 2011 was miserable, but 2012 is finally here and the rebuilding can proceed.
Here are five of the players that I kept for this season and am excited about having on my fantasy team:
1. Matt Moore SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Moore dominated AA and AAA last season, combining for a 12-3 record, a 1.92 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 155 innings. When he was called up to Tampa Bay in September, Moore threw nine innings and had a 2.89 ERA with 15 strikeouts. By the time he blanked the Texas Rangers in his first postseason start, I was counting my future fantasy wins!
2. Julio Teheran SP, Atlanta Braves
Teheran has looked like a future staff ace in every level of minor league baseball. With a career 2.96 ERA in the minors, he was even better last season (2.55) when he spent most of the year in AAA. Teheran was not as impressive in a few appearances for Atlanta but should improve in 2012. (To be safe, I also grabbed Teheran's teammate and fellow prospect Mike Minor.)
3. Jacob Turner SP, Detroit Tigers
Between AA and AAA last season, Turner posted 110 strikeouts in 131 innings with a 3.44 ERA. In 17 innings at AAA he walked only three batters, while striking out 20. I am hoping he continues to improve along the way to becoming a star for Detroit.
4. Brett Jackson OF, Chicago Cubs
As a Cubs fan, I made sure I jumped on my team's top prospect at the time. Jackson may not even appear in Chicago until September 2012 at the earliest, but I was willing to take the risk due to my team loyalty. The only non-pitcher on my list, Jackson's potential as a five-tool player was too tempting to pass on. In AAA last season, Jackson hit .297 with a .388 on-base percentage, 10 home runs and 26 RBIs in only 215 at-bats. Knowing how long the Cubs have been searching for a productive leadoff hitter, if Jackson continues to hit, I am expecting to see him before the September roster expansions.
5. Josh Johnson SP, Miami Marlins
Johnson is the only player on my list with significant experience at the major league level. Before he was injured in May 2011, Johnson had a 3-1 record with a 1.64 ERA. At some point last year, he was dropped despite having a career record of 48-23 and a 2.98 ERA. I held him for the entire second half, hoping he will quickly return to his 2010 form, when he struck out 186 hitters in 183 innings.
Mike Patton has been a fantasy enthusiast since 1997 and has won championships in baseball, football, basketball, hockey and pick 'em leagues.