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Interview With ESPN Fantasy Expert Matthew Berry

On Wednesday morning, ESPN Fantasy Expert Matthew Berry took the time to answer some questions about the upcoming fantasy baseball season.  As always, he was gracious, knowledgeable and funny.  If any of that does not come through, it is the fault of the interviewer and not Matthew.

ESPN offers 100% free fantasy baseball leagues with live scoring, full customability for whatever rules may be unique to your league and auction draft capability.  The ESPN 2009 Fantasy Draft Kit is also 100% free, and Matthew and Nate Ravitz will begin their daily podcasts next week.

As interesting for those who log a lot of face time with their PCs, desktops and mobile devices, Matthew is gunning for Rob Neyer's all-time chat record of 12 hours and two minutes on Monday March 9th beginning at 10 AM.

Q:  Last year, the debate between Meghan Fox and Anne Hathaway over which was the better actress was evenly split.  This year, Anne Hathaway was nominated for a Best Actress Award and Meghan Fox, um, wasn't.

Are there two players who are currently viewed as equal, but in a year from now, one will clearly be seen as the better one?

Matthew Berry:  Good question.  Derek Jeter and Alexei Ramirez are being taken in the same general area.  Based on their 2008 production, both players offer double digit HRs and SBs with a good AVG.  However, Jeter's skills show a three-year decline.  Next year at this time, there will be no question that Alexei Ramirez is the better player.

Q: Other than the standard 5 x 5 categories, which stat do you pay the most attention to?

Matthew Berry:  For both pitchers and hitters, it is K/BB. Despite the exception to the rule of Alexei Ramirez, I like hitters with a good batting eye who get on-base.  For pitchers, I want a 3:1 K/BB with a minimum of 2:1.

Q:  With all the conversation-ending talk about Spring Training stats being meaningless, is there something you look for during Spring Training?

Matthew Berry:  I look at the health of the various players and at playing time/role definitions.  If a player is expected to be in a platoon, I will note if one or the other is getting more time.  Spring Training stats could help after that, but, even if one of the platoon mates hits .400 and the other .175, I won't necessarily given the .400 hitter the edge.  The player hitting .400 is a rookie and the .175 hitter is a veteran, their Spring efforts do not change the platoon plans.

For pitchers, I am curious whether a new pitch is being added or worked on.  This can   someone like Cliff Lee doesn't come out of nowhere

Q:  Do you place a lot of meaning on Brandon Wood batting 4th or 5th this Spring?

Matthew Berry:  Not really.  He has to learn to strikeout less, but his time is running out.  There doesn't seem to be anywhere for him to play.  The Angels do need power, though.

Q:  Which young hitter or pitcher are you targeting in AL-Only leagues?

Matthew Berry:  That's easy.  Brandon Morrow in Seattle and Shin Soo Choo in Cleveland.  I absolutely love Choo and expect him to be on all my teams this year - even mixed league ones.  Looking at his second half production, I don't expect the glut of corner outfielders to hurt his playing time.

Q:   How does your strategy change in AL/NL-only auctions versus mixed snake draft formats?

Matthew Berry:  I pay a lot more attention to pitching.  In mixed leagues, there is always pitching available in the free agent, but, in AL/NL-only formats, one has to be aware that there isn't much available in the free agent pool and should focus on having back-ups for most positions.

Q:  Which player do you think will make the leap from 3rd round plus into the 1st/2nd round for next year's drafts?

Matthew Berry:  Evan Longoria could be making that jump to the first round, and Alexei Ramirez, who could make an Ian Kinsler type of jump.  For pitchers, I expect Ricky Nolasco to finish the season as a Top 10 fantasy pitcher.  This would place him in the 6th-8th round range when the second tier of good pitchers begins to be drafted.

Q:  Who will be the more valuable player for the 2009 fantasy season, David Price or Matt Wieters?

Matthew Berry:  David Price and it is not even close.  Wieters is going to start the season in the minors.  I expect 150-160 innings of excellent production from Price.

Related, I expect C Ramon Hernandez to be a great value pick in Cincinnati.  He is going in the area of the 16th round in most drafts, and, unlike Wieters, he will be playing every day from the start of the season and benefiting from playing in Great American Ballpark.

Q:  Finally, one last question.  Do you prefer auction drafts or snake drafts?

Matthew Berry:  Auction drafts, and it isn't close.