Saturday, February 18, 2012

Looking at our forward options

I'm going to start the year off by taking a look at our options at forward. I've created a table with just about every notable forward who was in MLS last season and ranked them based on how many minutes they played per fantasy point earned.

9RodgersNew York15.112
13WondolowskiSan Jose16.919
14HenryNew York17.018
15AgudeloNew York17.18
18Le TouxVancouver17.720
27LenhartSan Jose18.28
34CooperNew York20.010
41SchilawskiNew England21.82

There are obviously some players (Paulo, White, Tan, etc.) who ended up pretty high up in these rankings that simply won't be getting the playing time needed to make them a viable fantasy option. There are also some players who have lost their role as starter or first option off the bench (Barrett, Cooper, etc.) that should eliminate them until injury strikes someone ahead of them in the pecking order.

So now that all those little caveats are out of the way, what do we have left? The ranking of how effectively players used their time on the field in terms of fantasy points earned.

A quick look at the most widely owned players at the time of writing shows there are six players owned by at least 10 percent of all fantasy managers: Wondolowski (ranked 13 in my table), Le Toux (18), Henry (14), Montero (10), Rodgers (9), and Camilo (20). What this tells me is that most players are simply basing their selections off of name recognition and the raw number of points they earned last season. Conversely, our top 5 players who will get serious playing time aren't owned nearly widely enough: Koevermans (2.4% owned), Keane (7.2%), Renteria (1.4%), Casey (1.5%), and Montero (26.4%). Assuming players perform at roughly the same rate they did last season, picking up a guy like Koevermans or Renteria will be huge in terms of differentiating your team from your competition with players who will actually give us fantasy returns.

New signings and transfers
I would be remiss to neglect some of the talent that has moved within the league or new signings who will take a starting role.

Le Toux - Seba's transfer from Philly to Vancouver is the move that will have the most impact across the game this year. Le Toux was last season's leading point scorer for forwards. That is mostly due to the fact that he simply played every minute and was taking all the team's PK's. Now that he's in Vancouver, both of those are in doubt. With so much talent up front for the Whitecaps, Le Toux will certainly see his minutes reduced and it remains to be seen whether he will take spot kick duties away from Hassli. On the other side of this transfer, things are wide open in Philly for a new star to light up the fantasy game. I have no idea who will be taking the PK's for the Union, but Mwanga looks set to be the main striker for Philadelphia and is certainly worth a look, even though his production last season saw him land in 30th in the above table.

Cooper - Kenny Cooper was shipped out of Portland and landed in New York. I'm not sure who will be starting alongside Thierry Henry... will it be Cooper or Rodgers, maybe even Agudelo might break into the first team. Who will be the first off the bench? I'm going to wait on this situation until there is indication of what the pecking order will be. Henry is the only lock at forward for New York.

Montreal - Historically, expansion sides don't fare well in their first season with the notable exceptions of Chicago and Seattle. Montreal appears to be building a decent side that looks like they won't win the wooden spoon this year. Braun and Neagle are currently the only players listed as forwards. Fucito and Nyassi,have the ability to play there too, but are listed in other positions. Wenger hasn't been added to the game yet, so we don't know if he'll be listed as a forward or a defender, but coach Marsch has indicated he likes him as a forward. I think Braun is the most likely to start up top and the second striker option is one that I will be monitoring closely.

Boyd - Portland decided it was time to say goodbye to Cooper and was able to sign Kris Boyd. He was prolific in Scotland but struggled since transferring elsewhere. He's a classic poacher that won't do much but score goals. I'm not convinced he'll get the quality ball supply he'll need.

Buddle - Edson Buddle returns to an already star-studded LA side. He immediately becomes Robbie Keane's strike partner forming what is likely the best front-line in the league. Buddle won the golden boot in 2010, so we know he has the talent to produce again this year. Barrett should get pushed to the bench, so avoid him.

Johnson - Seattle has long been looking for someone to throw out in front of Montero. They elected to trade fan favorites Fucito and Neagle for Eddie Johnson, who is coming back after an unsuccessful European stint. I'm going to stay away from Johnson for now, but I think this raises Montero's profile since he'll be able to sit in the trequartista role he succeeds in. This also practically rules Ochoa (listed as a midfielder) out as a fantasy option.

Perez - Dallas is going to try yet another forward to lead their attack. Panamanian international Blas Perez lands at his 15th club in as many years. He's had a fairly constant and fine goalscoring rate. When David Ferreira finally comes back from injury, the Dallas attack will be back to full strength. If you're looking for a true dark-horse pick, Perez is your man.

Martinez - Josue Martinez was picked up by Philadelphia. With Le Toux gone, he (and Mqanga) has the chance to step into a leading role. He had a pretty good scoring rate for Saprissa that earned him a spot for the Costa Rican national team, despite being so young.

Salihi - DC United secured the signature of Hamdi Salihi from Austria. He had been scoring about 1 goal every 2 games from 2005-2011. I don't know much about this guy and have never seen him play. Sounds like he will get minutes ahead of Maicon Santos, Pontius, and Wolff.

Players I'm actually considering for my own team
There's only a few players that make my short-list. Koevermans, Montero, Wondolowski, Buddle, Keane, Mwanga, Renteria and Casey.

I haven't yet taken the time to look at the early-season strength of schedule yet, and that will likely be the deciding factor. I will likely pass on Montero because of the early season blank week, CCL games, and he'll need time to gel with Johnson. I'll also probably pass on Mwanga since Philly's main source of offensive production is now gone and I'm not sure if Mwanga will be the one to step up. I would only pick one of Buddle and Keane, with Keane being the most likely. Wondo and Koevermans are both almost certainly going to make my start-of season squad with the third spot coming down to Casey, Keane or Renteria.

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