This guide came close to being my favorite fantasy guide of the season, but just missed the mark because, in some ways they got a little too fancy. Certainly this is the most improved guide since we reviewed our last set of guides, and this one certainly fixed most of the flaws since then, and even borrowed a few tricks from the free fantasy guide we here at AHP produced several years back.
It missed the mark however for two reasons -- one is that it was too graphics driven, and in order to put player pictures in each profile, they were forced to reduce the size of the text and stats to the point that even with 20-20 vision I felt the need for magnifiers to study the capsules - which are the heart of any guide.
The second thing that bothered me was more of a personal issue, and that was the organization of the guide, which makes quick look up of players impossible and forces you to check an index to figure out where their capsule is. The downside of this format -- where players are listed by specific positions -- is that players who are eligible at more than one position are often only listed in the section for one position as was the case with several players in this guide.
In the following categories – let’s see how it scored.
• Articles - A solid stable of articles talking about position scarcity, strategy, must have players, speedsters, a really nice section before each position asking the 10 intelligent questions about players at that position, as well as offering up each of the ten staff member’s opinions on where they rank (in list form) and who the leaders were at the position in 2008.
• Top prospects - Thin compared to other guides only covering the top 12 guys as rated by the experts at this guide plus a small column telling us about for more guys coming down the pike but who probably won’t have an impact this season.
• Sleeper picks - An article picking sleepers plus opinions in the capsules.
• Boom and Bust predictions - In two articles called “Sleepers” and “Busts.” Well reasoned pieces.
• Medical watch - None.
• Cheat Sheets - Solid, with players divided by position and by tiers and a top 300 overall.
• Team Previews - Check - not greatly in depth.
• Depth Charts - Projected lineups, starters and setup/closers for all 30 teams - No depth charts, but projected lineups, rotations, closers, key bullpen guys and expected bench players.
• Mock Draft - Several mock drafts, including a 10 team mixed league, a 12 team AL and a 13 team NL Serpentine as well as a 12 team mock auction draft. There isn’t another guide which offers you this many drafts and the expert reasoning behind them.
• Position eligibility chart - Check
• Park Factors chart - Not done as a chart, but ballpark factors are added to the team previews, showing how each home park plays. Nicely done. Give them a check mark on that.
• Information Key - Hardly obvious and not clearly defined, but you can figure out that their auction draft prices are based on 12 teams.
• Rankings by positions - Check, but the format, where there is no master list (at each position -- although you could look at the cheat sheets which is a pain) but instead is attached to capsules, which are ranked, but which force you to try to read the tiny type used for each one. This will slow you down considerably during a draft.
• Internet updates - Not free, but for an additional $2.95 ($10 off their regular price) you can get the Fanball Owner’s Edge online fantasy guide with sorting tools, and additional resources. We may be reviewing this service as well.
• Player capsules - A very good selection of roughly 850 player profiles (according to their cover) which are well written and often feature a second opinion on players, from a second writer. However, the font size is so small that it may give you headaches trying to read it, making the information less accessible.
• Bonus features which are nice to have - List of contract year players by position, ratings of the projected top 20 (10 per league) middle relievers for a fantasy team, plus five more worth knowing. Projected leader boards for the standard 5x5 plus Slugging %, OBP and IP.
Upsides: Top notch capsule content and analysis, informative articles, most features you want in a fantasy guide.
Downsides: Too many pictures causing them to use a tiny hard to read font in the capsules, layouts which slow down lookups, no master list of eligible players at a position at the beginning of each position. No clear information key.
Overall: This is one of the best fantasy guides in terms of content on the market for 2009.
Give it 2.5 balls but recognize that it would have rated higher if they had cut out most of the pictures and instead used a font size that was visible to the naked eye. After all, if you can’t read the information, it does you no good.
AtHomePlate.com grades books with the following system
Four Balls: An exceptional book that truly earns a walk straight to the local book story to get a copy.
Three Balls: This book stands out from its peers and is highly recommended.
Two Balls: A book worth reading/owning and is usually above average.
One Ball: This book has something to say but is nothing special.
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