2009 Fantasy Baseball Cheat Sheet

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2009 Fantasy Baseball Cheat Sheet Powered By Docstoc
					2009 Fantasy Baseball Downloadable Draft Kit National League Head-to-Head Scoring
Draft Preparation Guide | Updated: April 3, 2009

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Table of Contents
Top 300.................................................................................................................................................................................................5 Player Rankings/Auction Values ...................................................................................................................................................... 6-9 Player Profiles............................................................................................................................................................................... 10-21 Draft Prep Advice Columns ........................................................................................................................................................ 22-121 Depth Charts............................................................................................................................................................................. 122-129

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Letter From The Editor
First off, thank you for downloading’s new and improved (at least we think so; hopefully you will agree) Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit(s), whichever version you choose. As a company we came to a decision not to print an Owners Manual and Draft Guide this season, instead focusing our energy and attention on making these the most comprehensive, up-to-date and useful draft tools an owner can utilize leading up to Draft Day. You’ll find all of the usual Draft Prep staples in the following pages, whether you are looking for rankings by position, auction values, player profiles, rookies to target, statistical analysis, draft strategies and so on. One of the great features with these Draft Kits is that you can customize them to your specific needs. No need to sift through National League players in your rank lists if you play in an American League-only Rotisserie league. We have a Draft Kit just for you. You also have the ability to print out only the pages that are of interest to you, whether it be our rankings or specific Draft Prep articles. One of the features of these Draft Kits that makes this editor sleep better at night during the spring is our ability to constantly update them when news warrants. There is nothing worse than hearing that a stud starting pitcher is considering Tommy John surgery two days after you put a magazine to bed back in January. You can expect these Draft Kits to be updated daily leading up to opening day. The best part? Free! (But you’ll have to supply the paper.) Best of luck this Fantasy season.

Peter Madden Managing Editor, Fantasy Sports 4

Top 300
1. Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLA 2. Albert Pujols, 1B, STL 3. Jose B. Reyes, SS, NYM 4. David Wright, 3B, NYM 5. Ryan Howard, 1B, PHI 6. Johan Santana, SP, NYM 7. Tim Lincecum, SP, SF 8. Prince Fielder, 1B, MIL 9. Carlos Beltran, OF, NYM 10. Jimmy Rollins, SS, PHI 11. Ryan J. Braun, OF, MIL 12. Chase Utley, 2B, PHI 13. Lance Berkman, 1B, HOU 14. Brandon Webb, SP, ARI 15. Manny Ramirez, OF, LAD 16. Jake Peavy, SP, SD 17. Cole Hamels, SP, PHI 18. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, SD 19. Nate McLouth, OF, PIT 20. Dan Haren, SP, ARI 21. Adam Dunn, OF, WAS 22. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, CHC 23. Carlos N. Lee, OF, HOU 24. Derrek Lee, 1B, CHC 25. Roy Oswalt, SP, HOU 26. Dan Uggla, 2B, FLA 27. Garrett Atkins, 3B, COL 28. Edinson Volquez, SP, CIN 29. Carlos Delgado, 1B, NYM 30. Alfonso Soriano, OF, CHC 31. Chipper Jones, 3B, ATL 32. Corey C. Hart, OF, MIL 33. Ryan Ludwick, OF, STL 34. Conor Jackson, 1B, ARI 35. James Loney, 1B, LAD 36. Chad Billingsley, SP, LAD 37. Shane Victorino, OF, PHI 38. Raul Ibanez, OF, PHI 39. Stephen Drew, SS, ARI 40. Matt Kemp, OF, LAD 41. Hunter Pence, OF, HOU 42. Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN 43. Russell Martin, C, LAD 44. Carlos Zambrano, SP, CHC 45. Chris B. Young, OF, ARI 46. Andre Ethier, OF, LAD 47. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN 48. Brad Hawpe, OF, COL 49. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, WAS 50. Brian McCann, C, ATL 51. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL 52. Geovany Soto, C, CHC 53. Jay Bruce, OF, CIN 54. Miguel Tejada, SS, HOU 55. J.J. Hardy, SS, MIL 56. Ryan Dempster, SP, CHC 57. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, CIN 58. Adam Wainwright, SP, STL 59. Ricky Nolasco, SP, FLA 60. Jeff Francoeur, OF, ATL 61. Kelly Johnson, 2B, ATL 62. Ryan Theriot, SS, CHC 63. Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, SD 64. Francisco Rodriguez, RP, NYM 65. Mark Reynolds, 3B, ARI 66. Casey Kotchman, 1B, ATL 67. Jorge Cantu, 3B, FLA 68. Brian Giles, OF, SD 69. Rich Harden, SP, CHC 70. Randy Winn, OF, SF 71. Casey Blake, 3B, LAD 72. Ted Lilly, SP, CHC 73. Justin Upton, OF, ARI 74. Brett Myers, SP, PHI 75. Rickie Weeks, 2B, MIL 76. Aaron Harang, SP, CIN 77. Yovani Gallardo, SP, MIL 78. Lastings Milledge, OF, WAS 79. Mike Cameron, OF, MIL 80. Rick Ankiel, OF, STL 81. Yunel Escobar, SS, ATL 82. Matt Cain, SP, SF 83. Josh Willingham, OF, WAS 84. Cristian Guzman, SS, WAS 85. Freddy Sanchez, 2B, PIT 86. Josh Johnson, SP, FLA 87. Adam A. LaRoche, 1B, PIT 88. Fred Lewis, OF, SF 89. Jeremy Hermida, OF, FLA 90. Eric Byrnes, OF, ARI 91. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, COL 92. Milton Bradley, OF, CHC 93. Jayson Werth, OF, PHI 94. Javier Vazquez, SP, ATL 95. Max Scherzer, SP, ARI 96. Aaron Rowand, OF, SF 97. Todd Helton, 1B, COL 98. Pablo Sandoval, 1B, SF 99. Derek Lowe, SP, ATL 100. Mike Pelfrey, SP, NYM 101. Jair Jurrjens, SP, ATL 102. Skip Schumaker, OF, STL 103. Ryan Church, OF, NYM 104. John Maine, SP, NYM 105. Ryan Spilborghs, OF, COL 106. Chase Headley, OF, SD 107. Khalil Greene, SS, STL 108. Ryan Doumit, C, PIT 109. Bengie Molina, C, SF 110. Chris Iannetta, C, COL 111. Jordan Schafer, OF, ATL 112. Felipe Lopez, 2B, ARI 113. Rafael Furcal, SS, LAD 114. Cody Ross, OF, FLA 115. Edgar Renteria, SS, SF 116. Willy Taveras, OF, CIN 117. Johnny Cueto, SP, CIN 118. Emmanuel Burriss, SS, SF 119. Elijah Dukes, OF, WAS 120. Garret Anderson, OF, ATL 121. Orlando Hudson, 2B, LAD 122. Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD 123. Andy LaRoche, 3B, PIT 124. Chris Carpenter, SP, STL 125. Nate Schierholtz, OF, SF 126. Nick Johnson, 1B, WAS 127. Oliver Perez, SP, NYM 128. Kosuke Fukudome, OF, CHC 129. Jody Gerut, OF, SD 130. Bronson Arroyo, SP, CIN 131. Mike Fontenot, 2B, CHC 132. Dexter Fowler, OF, COL 133. Manny Parra, SP, MIL 134. Austin Kearns, OF, WAS 135. Luis Castillo, 2B, NYM 136. Scott Hairston, OF, SD 137. Ian Stewart, 3B, COL 138. Brad Lidge, RP, PHI 139. Jon Garland, SP, ARI 140. Bill Hall, 3B, MIL 141. Randy Wolf, SP, LAD 142. Wandy Rodriguez, SP, HOU 143. Pedro Feliz, 3B, PHI 144. Kyle Lohse, SP, STL 145. Ramon Hernandez, C, CIN 146. Kazuo Matsui, 2B, HOU 147. Michael Bourn, OF, HOU 148. Paul Maholm, SP, PIT 149. Scott Olsen, SP, WAS 150. Ian Snell, SP, PIT 151. Joe Blanton, SP, PHI 152. Jonathan O. Sanchez, SP, SF 153. Emilio Bonifacio, 2B, FLA 154. Chris R. Young, SP, SD 155. Jeff Keppinger, SS, HOU 156. Cameron Maybin, OF, FLA 157. Aaron Cook, SP, COL 158. Jason Kendall, C, MIL 159. Sean Marshall, SP, CHC 160. Yadier Molina, C, STL 161. Clint Barmes, 2B, COL 162. Eric Hinske, OF, PIT 163. Hiroki Kuroda, SP, LAD 164. Chad Tracy, 1B, ARI 165. Brian Wilson, RP, SF 166. Jonathan Broxton, RP, LAD 167. Jose Valverde, RP, HOU 168. Todd Wellemeyer, SP, STL 169. Daniel Murphy, OF, NYM 170. Francisco Cordero, RP, CIN 171. Dave Bush, SP, MIL 172. Doug Davis, SP, ARI 173. Juan Pierre, OF, LAD 174. Chris Dickerson, OF, CIN 175. Chris Snyder, C, ARI 176. Jordan Zimmermann, SP, WAS 177. Huston Street, RP, COL 178. Randy Johnson, SP, SF 179. Chris Volstad, SP, FLA 180. Jesus Flores, C, WAS 181. Jamie Moyer, SP, PHI 182. Brandon Moss, OF, PIT 183. Ivan Rodriguez, C, HOU 184. Travis Ishikawa, 1B, SF 185. Jeff Baker, 2B, COL 186. Kenshin Kawakami, SP, ATL 187. David Freese, 3B, STL 188. Chad Qualls, RP, ARI 189. Gregor M. Blanco, OF, ATL 190. Andrew Miller, SP, FLA 191. Mike Gonzalez, RP, ATL 192. David Eckstein, SS, SD 193. Barry Zito, SP, SF 194. John Baker, C, FLA 195. Willie Harris, OF, WAS 196. John Lannan, SP, WAS 197. Pedro Martinez, SP, FA 198. Trevor Hoffman, RP, MIL 199. Troy Glaus, 3B, STL 200. John Bowker, 1B, SF 201. Jerry Hairston, OF, CIN 202. Blake DeWitt, 2B, LAD 203. Fernando Tatis, OF, NYM 204. Jeff Suppan, SP, MIL 205. Reed Johnson, OF, CHC 206. Matt Capps, RP, PIT 207. Nick Hundley, C, SD 208. Micah Owings, SP, CIN 209. Brian Schneider, C, NYM 210. Anibal Sanchez, SP, FLA 211. Daniel Cabrera, SP, WAS 212. Shairon Martis, SP, WAS 213. Aaron Miles, 2B, CHC 214. Norris Hopper, OF, CIN 215. Franklin Morales, SP, COL 216. Braden Looper, SP, MIL 217. Rich Aurilia, 1B, SF 218. James McDonald, RP, LAD 219. Matt Lindstrom, RP, FLA 220. Kevin Gregg, RP, CHC 221. Corey Patterson, OF, WAS 222. Jason Motte, RP, STL 223. J.R. Towles, C, HOU 224. Matt Antonelli, 2B, SD 225. Mike Hampton, SP, HOU 226. Joel Hanrahan, RP, WAS 227. Jason Michaels, OF, HOU 228. Chris Duncan, 1B, STL 229. Jason Marquis, SP, COL 230. Heath Bell, RP, SD 231. Jack Wilson, SS, PIT 232. Matt Murton, OF, COL 233. Carlos Marmol, RP, CHC 234. Tyler Greene, 2B, STL 235. Carlos Ruiz, C, PHI 236. Ronnie Belliard, 2B, WAS 237. Joe Mather, OF, STL 238. Will Venable, OF, SD 239. Emil Brown, OF, SD 240. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, COL 241. Mark Loretta, 2B, LAD 242. Steve Pearce, OF, PIT 243. Gary Sheffield, OF, FA 244. Geoff Blum, 3B, HOU 245. Kevin Correia, SP, SD 246. Edgar V. Gonzalez, 2B, SD 247. Omar Infante, 3B, ATL 248. Eugenio Velez, 2B, SF 249. Zach Duke, SP, PIT 250. Jorge De La Rosa, SP, COL 251. Tony Abreu, 3B, LAD 252. Brandon Backe, SP, HOU 253. Colby Rasmus, OF, STL 254. Andrew McCutchen, OF, PIT 255. Ronny Paulino, C, FLA 256. Livan Hernandez, SP, NYM 257. Chan Ho Park, SP, PHI 258. Jonny Gomes, OF, CIN 259. Jeremy Reed, OF, NYM 260. Walter Silva, SP, SD 261. Alfredo Amezaga, OF, FLA 262. Jeff Samardzija, RP, CHC 263. Angel Pagan, OF, NYM 264. J.J. Putz, RP, NYM 265. Cha Seung Baek, SP, SD 266. Ross Ohlendorf, SP, PIT 267. Juan Uribe, 2B, SF 268. Seth Smith, OF, COL 269. Esteban German, 2B, CHC 270. Ryan Franklin, RP, STL 271. Hong-Chih Kuo, RP, LAD 272. Mat Gamel, 3B, MIL 273. Martin Prado, 3B, ATL 274. Greg Dobbs, 3B, PHI 275. Joel Pineiro, SP, STL 276. Miguel Montero, C, ARI 277. Alex Gonzalez, SS, CIN 278. Joey Gathright, OF, CHC 279. Thomas Hanson, SP, ATL 280. Tom Glavine, SP, ATL 281. Homer Bailey, SP, CIN 282. Noah Lowry, SP, SF 283. Manny Corpas, RP, COL 284. Matt Diaz, OF, ATL 285. J.A. Happ, SP, PHI 286. Matt Stairs, OF, PHI 287. Jonathon Niese, SP, NYM 288. Nyjer Morgan, OF, PIT 289. Brandon Jones, OF, ATL 290. Jason Donald, SS, PHI 291. Eric Bruntlett, SS, PHI 292. Brian Moehler, SP, HOU 293. Micah Hoffpauir, OF, CHC 294. Josh Bard, C, WAS 295. Carlos Carrasco, SP, PHI 296. Ryan Madson, RP, PHI 297. Nick Evans, OF, NYM 298. Jon Rauch, RP, ARI 299. Josh Geer, SP, SD 300. Greg Norton, OF, ATL


Player Rankings
1. Russell Martin, LAD 2. Brian McCann, ATL 3. Geovany Soto, CHC 4. Ryan Doumit, PIT 5. Bengie Molina, SF 6. Chris Iannetta, COL 7. Ramon Hernandez, CIN 8. Jason Kendall, MIL 9. Yadier Molina, STL 10. Chris Snyder, ARI 11. Jesus Flores, WAS 12. Ivan Rodriguez, HOU 13. John Baker, FLA 14. Nick Hundley, SD 15. Brian Schneider, NYM 16. J.R. Towles, HOU 17. Carlos Ruiz, PHI 18. Ronny Paulino, FLA 19. Miguel Montero, ARI 20. Josh Bard, WAS 21. Yorvit Torrealba, COL 22. Lou Palmisano, HOU 23. Chris Coste, PHI 24. David Ross, ATL 25. Jason LaRue, STL 26. Angel Salome, MIL 27. Ramon A. Castro, NYM 28. Wil Nieves, WAS 29. Brad Ausmus, LAD 30. Johnny Estrada, WAS 31. Humberto Quintero, HOU 32. Steve Holm, SF 33. Mike Rabelo, FLA 34. Lucas May, LAD 35. Ryan Hanigan, CIN 36. A.J. Ellis, LAD 37. Rene Rivera, NYM 38. Eliezer Alfonzo, SD 39. Luke Carlin, ARI 40. Henry Blanco, SD 41. Luke Montz, WAS 42. Jason Jaramillo, PIT 43. Clint Sammons, ATL 44. Mike Rivera, MIL 45. Colt Morton, SD 46. James Skelton, ARI 47. Lou Marson, PHI 48. Buster Posey, SF 49. Robinzon Diaz, PIT 50. Edwin Bellorin, COL 51. Raul Casanova, NYM 52. Bryan D. Anderson, STL 53. Danny Ardoin, LAD 54. Robinson Cancel, NYM 55. Omir Santos, NYM 56. Gustavo Molina, WAS 57. Paul Hoover, PHI 58. Koyie Hill, CHC

First Basemen
1. Albert Pujols, STL 2. Ryan Howard, PHI 3. Prince Fielder, MIL 4. Lance Berkman, HOU 5. Adrian Gonzalez, SD 6. Derrek Lee, CHC 7. Garrett Atkins, COL 8. Carlos Delgado, NYM 9. Conor Jackson, ARI 10. James Loney, LAD 11. Joey Votto, CIN 12. Casey Kotchman, ATL 13. Jorge Cantu, FLA 14. Casey Blake, LAD 15. Adam A. LaRoche, PIT 16. Todd Helton, COL 17. Pablo Sandoval, SF 18. Nick Johnson, WAS 19. Chad Tracy, ARI 20. Travis Ishikawa, SF 21. Jeff Baker, COL 22. John Bowker, SF 23. Rich Aurilia, SF 24. Chris Duncan, STL 25. Ronnie Belliard, WAS 26. Dmitri Young, WAS 27. Doug Mientkiewicz, LAD 28. Wes Helms, FLA 29. Joel Guzman, WAS 30. Kory Casto, WAS 31. Gaby Sanchez, FLA 32. Scott Thorman, MIL 33. Tony Clark, ARI 34. Joe Koshansky, COL 35. Kyle Blanks, SD 36. Josh Phelps, SF 37. Josh Whitesell, ARI 38. Kala Kaaihue, ATL 39. Brad Nelson, MIL 40. Andy Gonzalez, FLA 41. Garrett Jones, PIT 42. Logan Morrison, FLA 43. Frederick Freeman, ATL 44. Lucas Duda, NYM

Second Basemen
1. Chase Utley, PHI 2. Dan Uggla, FLA 3. Brandon Phillips, CIN 4. Kelly Johnson, ATL 5. Rickie Weeks, MIL 6. Freddy Sanchez, PIT 7. Felipe Lopez, ARI 8. Emmanuel Burriss, SF 9. Orlando Hudson, LAD 10. Mike Fontenot, CHC 11. Luis Castillo, NYM 12. Kazuo Matsui, HOU 13. Emilio Bonifacio, FLA 14. Clint Barmes, COL 15. Jeff Baker, COL 16. David Eckstein, SD 17. Blake DeWitt, LAD 18. Aaron Miles, CHC 19. Matt Antonelli, SD 20. Tyler Greene, STL 21. Ronnie Belliard, WAS 22. Mark Loretta, LAD 23. Edgar V. Gonzalez, SD 24. Eugenio Velez, SF 25. Juan Uribe, SF 26. Esteban German, CHC 27. Ramon Vazquez, PIT 28. Kevin Frandsen, SF 29. Brendan Ryan, STL 30. Augie Ojeda, ARI 31. Danny Richar, CIN 32. Chin-lung Hu, LAD 33. Anderson Hernandez, WAS 34. Travis Denker, SD 35. Eric O. Young, COL 36. Omar Quintanilla, COL 37. Jason Bourgeois, MIL 38. Jarrett Hoffpauir, STL 39. Craig Stansberry, SD 40. Luis Rivas, CHC 41. Jon Herrera, COL 42. Jason Smith, HOU 43. Argenis Reyes, NYM 44. Matt Kata, HOU 45. Pablo Ozuna, PHI 46. Luis A. Gonzalez, COL 47. Hernan Iribarren, MIL 48. Luis Maza, LAD

1. Hanley Ramirez, FLA 2. Jose B. Reyes, NYM 3. Jimmy Rollins, PHI 4. Stephen Drew, ARI 5. Troy Tulowitzki, COL 6. Miguel Tejada, HOU 7. J.J. Hardy, MIL 8. Ryan Theriot, CHC 9. Yunel Escobar, ATL 10. Cristian Guzman, WAS 11. Khalil Greene, STL 12. Rafael Furcal, LAD 13. Edgar Renteria, SF 14. Emmanuel Burriss, SF 15. Jeff Keppinger, HOU 16. Clint Barmes, COL 17. David Eckstein, SD 18. Jerry Hairston, CIN 19. Aaron Miles, CHC 20. Jack Wilson, PIT 21. Omar Infante, ATL 22. Alex Gonzalez, CIN 23. Jason Donald, PHI 24. Eric Bruntlett, PHI 25. Brian Bixler, PIT 26. Ramon Vazquez, PIT 27. Luis O. Rodriguez, SD 28. Brendan Ryan, STL 29. Craig Counsell, MIL 30. Everth Cabrera, SD 31. Augie Ojeda, ARI 32. Christopher Valaika, CIN 33. Alex Cintron, WAS 34. Alex Cora, NYM 35. Chin-lung Hu, LAD 36. Omar Quintanilla, COL 37. Alcides Escobar, MIL 38. Alberto Gonzalez, WAS 39. Paul Janish, CIN 40. Todd Frazier, CIN 41. Juan Castro, LAD 42. Pete Orr, WAS 43. Luis Rivas, CHC 44. Diory Hernandez, ATL 45. Luis Cruz, PIT 46. Brian Bocock, SF 47. Sean Kazmar, SD 48. Edwin Maysonet, HOU


Third Basemen
1. David Wright, NYM 2. Aramis Ramirez, CHC 3. Garrett Atkins, COL 4. Chipper Jones, ATL 5. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS 6. Edwin Encarnacion, CIN 7. Kevin Kouzmanoff, SD 8. Mark Reynolds, ARI 9. Jorge Cantu, FLA 10. Casey Blake, LAD 11. Andy LaRoche, PIT 12. Ian Stewart, COL 13. Bill Hall, MIL 14. Pedro Feliz, PHI 15. David Freese, STL 16. Troy Glaus, STL 17. Blake DeWitt, LAD 18. Rich Aurilia, SF 19. Ronnie Belliard, WAS 20. Geoff Blum, HOU 21. Omar Infante, ATL 22. Tony Abreu, LAD 23. Juan Uribe, SF 24. Mat Gamel, MIL 25. Martin Prado, ATL 26. Greg Dobbs, PHI 27. Eric Bruntlett, PHI 28. Dallas McPherson, FLA 29. Doug Mientkiewicz, LAD 30. Wes Helms, FLA 31. Neil Walker, PIT 32. Craig Counsell, MIL 33. Jose Castillo, WAS 34. Augie Ojeda, ARI 35. Ruben Gotay, PIT 36. Andy Phillips, PIT 37. Mike Lamb, FA 38. Brian Barden, STL 39. Eric Campbell, ATL 40. Chris Coghlan, FLA 41. Casey McGehee, MIL 42. Conor M. Gillaspie, SF 43. Jesus Guzman, SF 44. Ryan Rohlinger, SF 45. Rico Washington, STL 46. Adam Rosales, CIN 47. Pedro Alvarez, PIT 48. Brett Wallace, STL 49. Brooks Conrad, ATL 50. Josh Vitters, CHC 51. Taylor Green, MIL 52. Juan Francisco, CIN 53. Matt Whitney, WAS

1. Carlos Beltran, NYM 2. Ryan J. Braun, MIL 3. Manny Ramirez, LAD 4. Nate McLouth, PIT 5. Adam Dunn, WAS 6. Carlos N. Lee, HOU 7. Alfonso Soriano, CHC 8. Corey C. Hart, MIL 9. Ryan Ludwick, STL 10. Conor Jackson, ARI 11. Shane Victorino, PHI 12. Raul Ibanez, PHI 13. Matt Kemp, LAD 14. Hunter Pence, HOU 15. Chris B. Young, ARI 16. Andre Ethier, LAD 17. Brad Hawpe, COL 18. Jay Bruce, CIN 19. Jeff Francoeur, ATL 20. Brian Giles, SD 21. Randy Winn, SF 22. Justin Upton, ARI 23. Lastings Milledge, WAS 24. Mike Cameron, MIL 25. Rick Ankiel, STL 26. Josh Willingham, WAS 27. Fred Lewis, SF 28. Jeremy Hermida, FLA 29. Eric Byrnes, ARI 30. Milton Bradley, CHC 31. Jayson Werth, PHI 32. Aaron Rowand, SF 33. Skip Schumaker, STL 34. Ryan Church, NYM 35. Ryan Spilborghs, COL 36. Chase Headley, SD 37. Jordan Schafer, ATL 38. Cody Ross, FLA 39. Willy Taveras, CIN 40. Elijah Dukes, WAS 41. Garret Anderson, ATL 42. Nate Schierholtz, SF 43. Kosuke Fukudome, CHC 44. Jody Gerut, SD 45. Dexter Fowler, COL 46. Austin Kearns, WAS 47. Scott Hairston, SD 48. Michael Bourn, HOU 49. Cameron Maybin, FLA 50. Eric Hinske, PIT 51. Daniel Murphy, NYM 52. Juan Pierre, LAD 53. Chris Dickerson, CIN 54. Brandon Moss, PIT 55. Gregor M. Blanco, ATL 56. Willie Harris, WAS 57. Jerry Hairston, CIN 58. Fernando Tatis, NYM 59. Reed Johnson, CHC 60. Norris Hopper, CIN 61. Corey Patterson, WAS 62. Jason Michaels, HOU 63. Chris Duncan, STL 64. Matt Murton, COL 65. Joe Mather, STL 66. Will Venable, SD 67. Emil Brown, SD 68. Carlos Gonzalez, COL 69. Steve Pearce, PIT 70. Gary Sheffield, FA 71. Omar Infante, ATL 72. Colby Rasmus, STL 73. Andrew McCutchen, PIT 74. Jonny Gomes, CIN 75. Jeremy Reed, NYM 76. Alfredo Amezaga, FLA 77. Angel Pagan, NYM 78. Seth Smith, COL 79. Esteban German, CHC 80. Joey Gathright, CHC 81. Matt Diaz, ATL 82. Matt Stairs, PHI 83. Nyjer Morgan, PIT 84. Brandon Jones, ATL 85. Eric Bruntlett, PHI 86. Micah Hoffpauir, CHC 87. Nick Evans, NYM 88. Greg Norton, ATL 89. Darin Erstad, HOU 90. Brian Barton, STL 91. Drew Stubbs, CIN 92. Cliff Floyd, SD 93. John Mayberry, PHI 94. Fernando Martinez, NYM 95. Laynce Nix, CIN 96. Jai Miller, FLA 97. John Raynor, FLA 98. Jamie Hoffmann, LAD 99. Delwyn Young, LAD 100. Tony K. Gwynn, MIL 101. Jason Repko, LAD 102. Ryan Langerhans, WAS 103. Craig Monroe, PIT 104. Cory Sullivan, NYM 105. Daniel Ortmeier, COL 106. Roger Bernadina, WAS 107. Rob Mackowiak, NYM 108. Geoff Jenkins, FA 109. Jacque Jones, CIN 110. Justin Maxwell, WAS 111. Alex Romero, ARI 112. Marlon Anderson, NYM 113. Chris Snelling, SD 114. Chris Duffy, MIL 115. Cole Gillespie, MIL 116. Brian Horwitz, SF 117. Jason J. Ellison, PHI 118. Jeff Salazar, PIT 119. Jason Perry, ATL 120. So Taguchi, CHC 121. Lorenzo Cain, MIL 122. Chad Huffman, SD 123. Reggie Abercrombie, HOU 124. Brett Carroll, FLA 125. Wilkin Castillo, CIN 126. Nick Stavinoha, STL 127. Justin Huber, SD 128. Drew Macias, SD 129. Joe Thurston, STL 130. Brad Eldred, WAS 131. Michael Stanton, FLA 132. Tyler Colvin, CHC 133. Michael Burgess, WAS 134. Gorkys Hernandez, ATL 135. Christopher Marrero, WAS 136. Gerardo Parra, ARI 137. Chris Roberson, ARI 138. Jose Tabata, PIT 139. Jason Heyward, ATL 140. Jamie Romak, PIT 141. Ryan Mulhern, PIT 142. Alejandro De Aza, FLA 143. Sam Fuld, CHC 144. Cedric Hunter, SD 145. Darren Ford, MIL


Starting Pitchers
1. Johan Santana, NYM 2. Tim Lincecum, SF 3. Brandon Webb, ARI 4. Jake Peavy, SD 5. Cole Hamels, PHI 6. Dan Haren, ARI 7. Roy Oswalt, HOU 8. Edinson Volquez, CIN 9. Chad Billingsley, LAD 10. Carlos Zambrano, CHC 11. Ryan Dempster, CHC 12. Adam Wainwright, STL 13. Ricky Nolasco, FLA 14. Rich Harden, CHC 15. Ted Lilly, CHC 16. Brett Myers, PHI 17. Aaron Harang, CIN 18. Yovani Gallardo, MIL 19. Matt Cain, SF 20. Josh Johnson, FLA 21. Ubaldo Jimenez, COL 22. Javier Vazquez, ATL 23. Max Scherzer, ARI 24. Derek Lowe, ATL 25. Mike Pelfrey, NYM 26. Jair Jurrjens, ATL 27. John Maine, NYM 28. Johnny Cueto, CIN 29. Clayton Kershaw, LAD 30. Chris Carpenter, STL 31. Oliver Perez, NYM 32. Bronson Arroyo, CIN 33. Manny Parra, MIL 34. Jon Garland, ARI 35. Randy Wolf, LAD 36. Wandy Rodriguez, HOU 37. Kyle Lohse, STL 38. Paul Maholm, PIT 39. Scott Olsen, WAS 40. Ian Snell, PIT 41. Joe Blanton, PHI 42. Jonathan O. Sanchez, SF 43. Chris R. Young, SD 44. Aaron Cook, COL 45. Sean Marshall, CHC 46. Hiroki Kuroda, LAD 47. Todd Wellemeyer, STL 48. Dave Bush, MIL 49. Doug Davis, ARI 50. Jordan Zimmermann, WAS 51. Randy Johnson, SF 52. Chris Volstad, FLA 53. Jamie Moyer, PHI 54. Kenshin Kawakami, ATL 55. Andrew Miller, FLA 56. Barry Zito, SF 57. John Lannan, WAS 58. Pedro Martinez, FA 59. Jeff Suppan, MIL 60. Micah Owings, CIN 61. Anibal Sanchez, FLA 62. Daniel Cabrera, WAS 63. Shairon Martis, WAS 64. Franklin Morales, COL 65. Braden Looper, MIL 66. Mike Hampton, HOU 67. Jason Marquis, COL 68. Kevin Correia, SD 69. Zach Duke, PIT 70. Jorge De La Rosa, COL 71. Brandon Backe, HOU 72. Livan Hernandez, NYM 73. Chan Ho Park, PHI 74. Walter Silva, SD 75. Cha Seung Baek, SD 76. Ross Ohlendorf, PIT 77. Joel Pineiro, STL 78. Thomas Hanson, ATL 79. Tom Glavine, ATL 80. Homer Bailey, CIN 81. Noah Lowry, SF 82. J.A. Happ, PHI 83. Jonathon Niese, NYM 84. Brian Moehler, HOU 85. Carlos Carrasco, PHI 86. Josh Geer, SD 87. Jason Hirsh, COL 88. Jason Schmidt, LAD 89. Tim Redding, NYM 90. Mark Prior, SD 91. Jo-Jo Reyes, ATL 92. Jeff Karstens, PIT 93. Russ Ortiz, HOU 94. Jhoulys Chacin, COL 95. Jorge Campillo, ATL 96. Shawn Hill, SD 97. Carlos Villanueva, MIL 98. Greg Smith, COL 99. Chad Gaudin, CHC 100. Todd Redmond, ATL 101. William Inman, SD 102. Chad Reineke, SD 103. Brett Sinkbeil, FLA 104. Wade LeBlanc, SD 105. Tom Gorzelanny, PIT 106. Daniel McCutchen, PIT 107. Blake Hawksworth, STL 108. Kyle Kendrick, PHI 109. Yusmeiro Petit, ARI 110. Seth McClung, MIL 111. Paul Byrd, FA 112. Felipe Paulino, HOU 113. Collin Balester, WAS 114. Ben Sheets, FA 115. Matt Belisle, COL 116. Chris Sampson, HOU 117. Cesar Carrillo, SD 118. Brad Thompson, STL 119. Hayden Penn, FLA 120. Tim Hudson, ATL 121. Jason Bergmann, WAS 122. Greg Reynolds, COL 123. Claudio Vargas, LAD 124. Nelson Figueroa, NYM 125. Mitchell Boggs, STL 126. Tyler Lumsden, HOU 127. Juan Gutierrez, ARI 128. Rick VandenHurk, FLA 129. Freddy An. Garcia, NYM 130. Burke Badenhop, FLA 131. Eric Stults, LAD 132. Timothy Alderson, SF 133. Madison Bumgarner, SF 134. Patrick Misch, SF 135. Wil Ledezma, WAS 136. Sean West, FLA 137. Daniel Moskos, PIT 138. Ramon A. Ramirez, CIN 139. Josh Fogg, COL 140. Jarrod Parker, ARI 141. Odalis Perez, FA 142. J.D. Durbin, PHI 143. Ryan Tucker, FLA 144. Ross Detwiler, WAS 145. Chase Wright, MIL 146. Josh Banks, SD 147. Jeremy Jeffress, MIL 148. Charlie Morton, ATL 149. Glendon Rusch, COL 150. Daryl Thompson, CIN 151. Joe Savery, PHI 152. Matt Chico, WAS 153. Dan L. Meyer, FLA 154. Donald Veal, PIT 155. Matt Maloney, CIN 156. Phil Dumatrait, PIT 157. Mark Holliman, MIL 158. James R. Parr, ATL 159. Aaron Thompson, FLA 160. Tyler Clippard, WAS 161. Chris Capuano, MIL 162. Josh Towers, WAS 163. Gustavo Chacin, WAS 164. Ramon Ortiz, SF 165. Virgil Vasquez, PIT 166. Eric Milton, LAD 167. Juan Mateo, PIT 168. Dallas Trahern, FLA 169. Ty Taubenheim, PIT 170. Brandon Knight, NYM 171. Kyle Drabek, PHI 172. Daniel Barone, FLA 173. Adam Bostick, NYM 174. Scott Mathieson, PHI 175. Travis Blackley, ARI 176. Jimmy Barthmaier, PIT 177. Antonio Bastardo, PHI


Relief Pitchers
1. Francisco Rodriguez, NYM 2. Brad Lidge, PHI 3. Sean Marshall, CHC 4. Brian Wilson, SF 5. Jonathan Broxton, LAD 6. Jose Valverde, HOU 7. Francisco Cordero, CIN 8. Huston Street, COL 9. Chad Qualls, ARI 10. Mike Gonzalez, ATL 11. Trevor Hoffman, MIL 12. Matt Capps, PIT 13. James McDonald, LAD 14. Matt Lindstrom, FLA 15. Kevin Gregg, CHC 16. Jason Motte, STL 17. Joel Hanrahan, WAS 18. Heath Bell, SD 19. Carlos Marmol, CHC 20. Chan Ho Park, PHI 21. Jeff Samardzija, CHC 22. J.J. Putz, NYM 23. Cha Seung Baek, SD 24. Ross Ohlendorf, PIT 25. Ryan Franklin, STL 26. Hong-Chih Kuo, LAD 27. Manny Corpas, COL 28. Ryan Madson, PHI 29. Jon Rauch, ARI 30. Jeff Bennett, ATL 31. John Grabow, PIT 32. Jared Burton, CIN 33. Saul Rivera, WAS 34. Tony A. Pena, ARI 35. Chris Perez, STL 36. Jeremy Affeldt, SF 37. Rafael Soriano, ATL 38. Alex Hinshaw, SF 39. Leo Nunez, FLA 40. Sergio Romo, SF 41. Geoff Geary, HOU 42. Jorge Campillo, ATL 43. Bob Howry, SF 44. Carlos Villanueva, MIL 45. Taylor Buchholz, COL 46. Steven Shell, WAS 47. Cory Wade, LAD 48. Cla C. Meredith, SD 49. Chad Gaudin, CHC 50. Bobby Parnell, NYM 51. Tyler Yates, PIT 52. Manny Acosta, ATL 53. Duaner Sanchez, SD 54. Jason Grilli, COL 55. Wesley Wright, HOU 56. Kyle McClellan, STL 57. Pedro Feliciano, NYM 58. Will Ohman, LAD 59. Aaron Heilman, CHC 60. Buddy Carlyle, ATL 61. Logan Kensing, FLA 62. Chad Durbin, PHI 63. Scott Eyre, PHI 64. Luis Vizcaino, CHC 65. Dennys Reyes, STL 66. Joe Beimel, WAS 67. Scott Proctor, FLA 68. Renyel Pinto, FLA 69. Mike M. Adams, SD 70. LaTroy Hawkins, HOU 71. David Weathers, CIN 72. Doug Brocail, HOU 73. Ramon Troncoso, LAD 74. Yusmeiro Petit, ARI 75. Bill Bray, CIN 76. Scott Elbert, LAD 77. Alan Embree, COL 78. Ryan Speier, COL 79. Mitch Stetter, MIL 80. Sean Green, NYM 81. Jose F. Capellan, HOU 82. Seth McClung, MIL 83. Justin Miller, SF 84. Billy Buckner, ARI 85. Boone Logan, ATL 86. David Riske, MIL 87. J.C. Romero, PHI 88. Mike Lincoln, CIN 89. Chris Sampson, HOU 90. Guillermo Mota, LAD 91. Brad Thompson, STL 92. Garrett Mock, WAS 93. Trever Miller, STL 94. Tom Gordon, ARI 95. Billy Sadler, SF 96. Craig Hansen, PIT 97. Clay Condrey, PHI 98. Nelson Figueroa, NYM 99. Peter Moylan, ATL 100. Brian Stokes, NYM 101. Todd Coffey, MIL 102. Neal Cotts, CHC 103. Nick Masset, CIN 104. Scott Schoeneweis, ARI 105. Wil Ledezma, WAS 106. Jack Taschner, PHI 107. R.J. Swindle, MIL 108. Doug Slaten, ARI 109. Mark DiFelice, MIL 110. Jesse Todd, STL 111. Arthur Rhodes, CIN 112. Eric O'Flaherty, ATL 113. Tim Byrdak, HOU 114. Gary Glover, WAS 115. Sean Burnett, PIT 116. Joe Thatcher, SD 117. Josh Kinney, STL 118. Angel Guzman, CHC 119. Blaine Boyer, ATL 120. Luis Perdomo, SF 121. Kevin Hart, CHC 122. Jesus Colome, WAS 123. Glendon Rusch, COL 124. Jose Ceda, FLA 125. Taylor Tankersley, FLA 126. Bryan Corey, SD 127. Edward Mujica, SD 128. Royce Ring, STL 129. Darren O'Day, NYM 130. Brandon Medders, SF 131. Dave Borkowski, PHI 132. Michael Hinckley, WAS 133. Greg D. Miller, LAD 134. Eddie Kunz, NYM 135. Phil Dumatrait, PIT 136. Ryan Wagner, WAS 137. Randy Flores, COL 138. Denny Bautista, PIT 139. Terrell Young, WAS 140. Jose Ascanio, CHC 141. Casey Fossum, NYM 142. Jason T. Davis, PIT 143. Kiko Calero, FLA 144. Nick A. Green, MIL 145. Oneli Perez, SD 146. Merkin Valdez, SF 147. Kyle Snyder, NYM 148. Matt J. Smith, CHC 149. Emiliano Fruto, ATL 150. Jorge Sosa, WAS 151. Juan Morillo, COL 152. Carlos Muniz, NYM 153. Chris Britton, SD 154. Charlie Manning, STL 155. Charlie Haeger, LAD 156. Brian Sanches, FLA 157. Stephen Randolph, LAD 158. Mike Koplove, PHI 159. Chad Paronto, HOU 160. Gary Majewski, PHI 161. Julio Mateo, SF 162. Mike Wood, FLA 163. Ron Flores, CIN 164. Chris Bootcheck, PIT 165. Kyle Bloom, PIT 166. Francisley Bueno, ATL 167. Bobby Korecky, ARI 168. Erick Threets, LAD 169. Tanyon Sturtze, LAD 170. Carmen Cali, LAD 171. Eduardo Morlan, MIL 172. Justin Lehr, PHI 173. Connor Robertson, NYM 174. Jon Adkins, CIN 175. Jon Switzer, NYM 176. Jeff Stevens, CHC 177. Steven Register, COL 178. Juan P. Perez, ATL


Player Profiles (Alphabetical by Position)
Ryan Doumit, PIT The Pirates finally showed some faith in Doumit last year, handing him the everyday catcher job out of spring training, and he responded with a breakout season offensively. It wasn't just the career highs in countable stats, the 15 home runs and the 34 doubles that you'd expect simply from the increased at-bats, but the boost in percentages, the .318 batting average and .858 OPS, that suggests he belongs among the elite Fantasy options at the catcher position. The stability of playing the same position every day enabled him to capitalize on the potential he long demonstrated in the minors, and his strikeout rate of one every 7.8 at-bats suggests his batting average won't slip as much as you might think. He likely has the ceiling of any of the catchers ranked ahead of him, but we list him just outside the top five due to his lack of track record. Johnny Estrada, WAS Estrada ended up a bust in Washington last season after missing 69 games with a nerve problem in his right elbow. Though a successful starter for several years, he'll likely have to settle for a backup job since he has yet to prove his health. Treat him as nothing more than a low-end Fantasy option and don't draft him outside of the deepest of leagues. Jesus Flores, WAS Flores had a quietly productive 2008 season, finishing 11th among catchers in RBI even though he played only 90 games. His performance really shouldn't have come as a surprise, though, considering the Nationals considered him their long-term solution at catcher going into the season. He even hit 21 home runs in the minors in 2006, showing just how much potential he has for the future, and considering he only turned 24 in the offseason, that future might last for a long time. Of course, Flores has some of the shortcomings common for young hitters -- poor plate discipline and inconsistency among them -- but if you miss out on some of the power-hitting catchers earlier in the draft, don't overlook him as your No. 2 catcher late. Ramon Hernandez, CIN When Hernandez missed 56 games in 2007, his career seemed to have hit a wall. When he hit .227 with four home runs through the first two months of 2008, his career seemed potentially over. But quick to regain his health and desperate to hold off top prospect Matt Wieters, Hernandez rediscovered his stroke midway through 2008, hitting .272 with 11 home runs over the final four months. In doing so, he showed some of the power he did in his earlier years with Oakland and San Diego and reclaimed his spot as a low-end No. 1 Fantasy catcher. Now, he goes to a great hitter's park in Cincinnati where he doesn't have to worry about a prospect like Wieters looking over his shoulder. Draft him in the middle-to-late rounds. Chris Iannetta, COL Iannetta burned Fantasy owners as a rookie in 2007, following Ben Petrick and J.D. Closser as evidence that homegrown Rockies catchers always come overhyped. But Iannetta took the starting job away from journeyman Yorvit Torrealba early in 2008 and never looked back. A quick look at his numbers might not reveal anything world-beating, but an examination of those oftentimes overlooked peripherals shows he ranked second in OPS among all catchers with at least 300 at-bats, behind only Brian McCann. The guy has rare patience for a catcher, and patience usually translates to Fantasy superstardom in Coors Field. Iannetta turns 26 soon after opening day, meaning he only stands to improve from here, especially with more regular at-bats. You can wait until the middle rounds to draft him, but don't be surprised if he ends up having the kind of breakout season that boosts him into Fantasy's elite. Jason Kendall, MIL Kendall once had a place in the Fantasy world. Back in the late '90s when he used to hit well over .300 and steal 20 bases every year for the Pirates, he even ranked among the elite options at his position. But those days have long since passed, and anyone who still views him in that light might also make the mistake of wasting a draft pick on Sammy Sosa. Any and all of Kendall's perceived Fantasy value comes from the consistency of his at-bats. Yes, he plays more regularly than most catchers, so over time, he'll accumulate a sufficient number of Fantasy points. But the amount he'll give you each week is negligible, and in traditional Rotisserie leagues, he won't put you ahead in any of the five categories. Don't bother with him except as a last resort in NL-only leagues. Paul Lo Duca, FA Not too long ago, Lo Duca would have gone off the board in any Fantasy draft. Now, he's practically irrelevant. His career with Washington got off to a poor start with a knee injury last winter, and he couldn't secure a starting job upon his return. The team actually released him, forcing him to accept a backup role with the Marlins. He turns 37 soon after opening day and has little offensive potential at that age. If he latches on with a team, he'll play a reserve role and have little Fantasy significance. Russell Martin, LA Martin nearly did the unthinkable for a catcher in 2007, coming within a home run of a 20-20 campaign. Perhaps that surprising rise to Fantasy prominence made his slight regression in 2008 a given. Still, he stole 18 bases and walked 90 times, showing speed and discipline usually absent from catcher's skill set. And better yet, the Dodgers seemed particularly motivated to keep his bat in the lineup, giving him occasional starts at third base to rest his knees. Clearly, they recognize his ability as a natural batsman, and even though he probably won't steal bases much longer considering the toll catching takes on his knees, he can only improve from here power-wise at the age of 26. As a middle-of-the-order hitter at a position usually considered Fantasy's weakest, Martin once again deserves an early-round pick on Draft Day. Brian McCann, ATL McCann's .333 batting average and 24 home runs in 2006 seemed too good to be true when he slumped to a .772 OPS in 2007, seemingly back in line with a normal career projection for a 24-yearold catcher. But just when Fantasy owners had begun to write him off as another slow-developing catcher with a higher-than-average ceiling, he went 2006 all over again, capturing his second silver slugger in three years and solidifying his place at the top of his position. He also played a career-high 145 games, showing impressive resilience for a guy who has to squat for three hours every day. The workload caught up to him at the end of the year, which explains his five home runs in the second half, but the increased playing time only ups his Fantasy appeal over other catchers who might not play as often. If you need middle-of-theorder production from your catcher, you simply can't do any better than McCann, who only stands to improve with age. Bengie Molina, SF Molina's peripherals didn't look any different last year than they did over the last five or six years of his career, but for whatever reason, he just felt more relevant in Fantasy. Maybe it had to do with his role in San Francisco, where for the first time in his career, he got a chance to hit in the middle of the batting order, accumulating 95 RBI -- tops among all catchers. The Giants had trouble taking him out of their lineup as a result, giving him career highs in at-bats (530) and games played (145). He doesn't have monster power, but he has at least 15 home runs in four straight seasons. And as long as he continues to bat in the middle of the lineup, he'll offer underrated run production for a Fantasy catcher. Draft him just outside the top five catchers, but try waiting until the middle rounds to do so. Yadier Molina, STL Molina didn't make any huge strides last season, but he did firmly cement his place as the Cardinals everyday catcher, setting career highs with 444 atbats and 56 RBI. He also established himself as one of the best contact hitters at his position, batting over .300 with a strikeout rate (one every 15.3 at-bats) better even than most leadoff hitters'. Molina won't ever offer big power numbers, but he can only improve from here and is a nice choice at catcher for Fantasy owners who don't like to invest much in the position. You can probably wait until relatively late to get him. Ivan Rodriguez, HOU Rodriguez's Fantasy owners had cause for excitement July 30 last year, when the Yankees "rescued" the veteran catcher from a sinking ship in Detroit. Or so they thought, anyway. Turns out the Yankees never played Rodriguez, giving him only 96 at-bats over the final two months. You could argue he didn't deserve more, hitting only .219 during his tenure in New York, but at age 37, you have to wonder if he can handle the Astros' everyday job. In case you haven't noticed, his production declined significantly during his years in Detroit, making him much more Paul Lo Duca than Victor Martinez. He still looks like a deserving No. 2 Fantasy catcher because the Astros will start him, but don't bother with him until the last round or two in mixed leagues.


Chris Snyder, ARI Snyder has some nice OPS ability for a catcher, setting a career high last year with an .800 mark, but for as long as he plays in Arizona, he'll have to look over his shoulder for Miguel Montero, a younger alternative with similar offensive ability. Snyder had only 334 at-bats last year, and with Montero behind him, he likely won't ever get more. His .237 batting average last year, even with that solid OPS, only works against him. Still, he usually bats near the middle of the Diamondbacks lineup when he plays, meaning he'll get a decent number of RBI to go along with his 15-20 homers. Since you can't count on him for more than power numbers, though, given his inconsistent at-bats, draft him as a No. 2 Fantasy catcher in mixed leagues. Geovany Soto, CHC Something happened to Soto down in Triple-A Iowa the year before last. As if sensing the dearth of elite Fantasy catchers, he broke out with neverbefore-seen power, hitting 26 home runs with a .652 slugging percentage. His newfound offensive prowess continued into his rookie season in 2008, giving him 23 home runs to capture the NL Rookie of the Year. Rarely does a 25-year-old catcher adapt so quickly to the big leagues -- almost never as a rookie. Clearly, Soto looks like a special player, and even though his suspect plate discipline leaves him vulnerable to extended slumps (he hit .348 in April and August and .255 the other four months of the year), he might have the best power of any catcher in baseball. Don't hesitate to take him among the top four Fantasy catchers. You can even make a case for him as No. 1 at the position.

than not, Berkman will hit his usual .300 with 30 home runs, so don't let him slip too far beyond the second or third round. Jorge Cantu, FLA Cantu, who broke out with 28 home runs and 117 RBI in 2005 before regressing and bouncing around the league as a utility infielder, landed with the Marlins before spring training last year. They offered him a chance to earn the everyday thirdbase job, and boy, did he capitalize. Suddenly, that '05 campaign seemed less a fluke than a premature breakout, as Cantu actually upped his performance in home runs and runs scored from that season. He qualifies at first and third base these days, but as a candidate to hit 25-30 home runs, he has plenty of Fantasy appeal at those positions. Just to guard yourself from another letdown, though, wait until the middle rounds to draft him. Carlos Delgado, NYM After a sharp decline in home runs in 2007, Delgado looked like he might ride off into the sunset early in 2008, hitting .231 with 14 home runs through the first three months of the season. But then came June -- oh, sweet June -- when the 36-year-old proved he still had some thunder in his bat. His age still makes him a risk, and his .518 slugging percentage was his second lowest since 1996 (after the disastrous 2007, of course), but as a candidate to hit 30 home runs, Delgado ranks right at the tail end of the top 12 first basemen. Draft him somewhere in the middle rounds. Prince Fielder, MIL You could blame opposing pitchers, a regression to the mean or his decision to become a vegetarian, but Fielder looked like a completely different hitter in 2008. His home runs shrank from 50 to 34, and if not for his .316 batting average in September, we might have to label his season a total bust. Instead of losing weight with the adjusted diet, Fielder looked larger than ever -- dangerously large for an athlete, which only fuels speculation his career might have to end early because of his size. At age 24, Prince Fielder probably has a few more years before you have to worry about a sudden decline, so you can consider him a safe bet for 30 home runs again and maybe even a candidate to reach the 40-homer plateau. The risk, though, makes him less than first-round pick. Adrian Gonzalez, SD Another year, more of the same from Gonzalez, who set a career high with 36 home runs but once again finished with a batting average around .280. He has emerged as a left-handed power hitter in a ballpark that usually destroys them, but his inconsistencies --caused in part by a high number of strikeouts -- rank him behind the first tier of Fantasy first basemen. In time, as he matures into a more complete hitter, he might perennially bat around .300, but for now, draft him exclusively for power numbers after the elite options go off the board. Ryan Howard, PHI For the first five months of 2008, Howard took up residence in Bust Central. A perennial contender for the home-run title, he seemed more interested in setting the single-season strikeout record, equaling his 2007 total of 199, and his batting average hovered around the .230 mark. But something happened during the heat of a pennant race in September: He went bonkers, hitting .352 with 11 home runs. The hot streak salvaged an otherwise lost season and renewed Howard's

standing as a potential first-rounder. His high strikeouts and shaky batting average probably make him more of a second-rounder, but his power remains second to none. Just make sure your league doesn't penalize strikeouts, because if it does, you might not want to touch him until Round 5. Conor Jackson, ARI Jackson seems like he had a breakout season in 2008 -- a misconception created by him getting more at-bats. In actuality, his power regressed. He dropped from 15 home runs to 12 even with those extra at-bats, including none over the final two months. With three full seasons now under his belt, he might never develop into a consistent power threat, but if you buy into the age-27 theory, this year might be his year. If nothing else, you can count on him for a solid batting average, an inconsequential number of strikeouts and decent run production in the heart of the Diamondbacks' batting order. Draft him as a corner infielder with upside. Adam A. LaRoche, PIT For the third straight season in 2008, LaRoche hit over .300 after the All-Star break, and if not for a strained rib cage in late July, he might have approached his seemingly unattainable numbers from 2006. Even with the DL stint, he finished with his fourth straight season with at least 20 home runs and his third straight with at least 80 RBI. If you draft him, don't let a cold first half scare you away because he might rebound with a .974 OPS in the second half, like he did in '08. For a player with the potential to hit .280 with 30 home runs over the course of a season, LaRoche tends to hang around until the late rounds, making him a bit of a sleeper on Draft Day. Derrek Lee, CHC Wrist surgery cost Lee most of his 2006 season, but of greater significance for today's Fantasy owners, it also cost him his power stroke. Or so it seems, anyway. In the year before the surgery, he hit 46 home runs. In the two years since, he hit 42. And in an even more discouraging development last year, he hit only seven of his 20 home runs after May. He looks like the next Todd Helton -- a former 40-home run hitter prematurely reduced to Mark Grace-like numbers. Still, like Helton, Lee remains a good enough contact hitter to produce Fantasy points even with the decrease in home runs, and he actually ranks as a low-end No. 1 first baseman entering next season. Just keep in mind his numbers might look more like Casey Kotchman's than Justin Morneau's at season's end. James Loney, LA In 2008, Loney did something less often in 595 atbats than he did the year before in 344 at-bats: He homered 13 times compared to 15. Hey, don't say when didn't warn you on the 24-year-old, who progressed too fast for his own good as a rookie in '07. He'll likely develop power someday, but you shouldn't necessarily expect him to hit 25 balls out of the park this season either. On a positive note, he already knows how to make contact and struck out only 85 times in those 595 at-bats last year -- a particularly impressive feat for a player his age. If you play in a standard Head-to-Head league, meaning you lose points for strikeouts, give him a slight nudge. For the most part, though, he ranks just outside the top 15 first basemen.

First Basemen
Garrett Atkins, COL The further Atkins gets into his career, the more it looks like a prolonged regression to the mean. Bottom line: He shouldn't have done what he did in 2006, when he hit .329 with 29 home runs and a .965 OPS. The Rockies themselves didn't see it coming. He could hit, sure, but not quite that well. So what happened the next year? He declined to .301 with 25 home runs and an .853 OPS. And last year? Again, he declined -- this time to .286, 21 and .780. Even more perplexing, his strikeouts increased and walks decreased each year, to the point he struck out more than twice as much as he walked in '08 after walking more than he struck out in '06. The Rockies moved him to first base to make room for rookie Ian Stewart late last year, giving him dual eligibility for the upcoming season, but if the trend continues into the years beyond, Atkins stands to lose even more Fantasy appeal. Draft him among the top 10 third basemen, but don't necessarily expect him to rebound. Lance Berkman, HOU For the first time in his 10-year career, Berkman doesn't qualify in the outfield, leaving him to fend off the abundance of bats at first base. If that alone doesn't lower his status on Draft Day, then maybe the path of his 2008 season will. He began it looking like the best player this side of Babe Ruth, hitting .365 with 22 home runs over the first three months. He ended it looking ... slightly different, hitting .252 with seven home runs over the last three months, including a career-worst 33-game streak without a home run. Ironically, his 2007 season looked similar (thought the better numbers came in the first half), so we probably shouldn't look too much into the dramatic split. More likely


Albert Pujols, STL The Great Pujols Scare began last January, when the Cardinals revealed their first baseman had a torn ligament in his right elbow, putting him one illfated check swing away from reconstructive surgery. As reports of the injury multiplied, Pujols' draft value sank, few daring to risk losing their top pick to a readily known injury. So what happened? Pujols responded with by far the most points of any hitter in Head-to-Head leagues, a near batting title and (probably) his second NL MVP award. Crisis averted. Pujols now says he might play years, maybe even his whole career, without needing surgery, so if more doomsday reports come out next spring, don't believe the hype. Let go of the elbow and draft Pujols as his performance dictates. He might not go first overall since he plays first base, but his numbers certainly make him a candidate. Joey Votto, CIN Votto didn't disappoint as a sophomore, even picking up steam in the second half. He hit .341 over the final two months and nine of his 24 home runs in September. Not surprisingly, he cut way down on his strikeouts during that time, giving Head-to-Head owners another reason to target him. At age 25, he might still have some growing pains ahead, but he could potentially emerge as the next great OPS hitter in the majors. If you miss out on the top 10 Fantasy first baseman on draft day, take a flier on Votto in the mid-to-late rounds. He's already set the benchmark at a .300 average and 25 home runs and has nowhere to go but up.

Emmanuel Burriss, SF Burriss has some nice base-stealing potential, and he got a chance to put in on display on a regular basis after the Giants traded Ray Durham to the Brewers last year. He finished with 13 stolen bases in 240 at-bats before his season ended with a strained oblique, and he has the potential for even more. He did steal 68 bases in the minors in 2007, after all. He is a slap-hitting, base-stealing infielder with some long-term potential, but consider him nothing more than a deeper Rotisserie option heading into spring 2009. There is a chance he could open next year as an everyday player, but he will have to move to second base or another team via trade. Both are possible at this point. Luis Castillo, NYM Castillo's 33 years of age finally became more than his body could handle in 2008, as he missed most of the summer with a strained left hip flexor. He didn't look particularly healthy in his return either, hitting .111 in September to finish with a .245 batting average overall -- his worst since 1998. As a pure burner for much of his career, he doesn't stand to make much of a Fantasy contribution as his legs continue to age, and he might have to fight to keep his starting job this spring. Consider him nothing more than a last resort on Draft Day, even in NL-only leagues. Orlando Hudson, LAD For the second straight year, Hudson's season ended early to injury -- this time to his wrist, and this time in early August. Considering he's only once played 145 games in his seven-year majorleague career, he rightfully carries the label of "injury prone," and since he doesn't offer serious home-run or stolen-base potential, you have to wonder why you'd draft him as more than a lateround middle infielder. He knows how to get on base, and he can certainly leg out a few doubles and triples, so you can count on him for solid, reliable, and serviceable stats if you miss out on the elite second basemen on Draft Day. Just don't count on him for those stats all season long. Tadahito Iguchi, PHI Iguchi's marginal power evaporated when he played in a pitcher's park for the first time in his career last year in San Diego. He couldn't hit for average either, and the team finally released him as part of a youth movement. At age 34, he no longer figures to play an everyday role in the majors. He'll offer a handful of home runs at best and should go widely undrafted in Fantasy. Kelly Johnson, ATL You remember the hype on this guy, right? Johnson -- the disciple of discipline, the preacher of patience, the ... ah, whatever. The guy disappointed last year, plain and simple. He settled for doubles instead of home runs and outs instead of walks, and by midseason, he found himself losing at-bats to left-handed pitchers (against whom he hit .333 compared to .270 against righties, just so you know). In Fantasy, you have to wonder if he might go the way of Marcus Giles, showing great promise in his first full season only to regress every year thereafter, but keep in mind he has a better pedigree than Giles did. Those 39 doubles will translate to homers as he enters his prime, and the walks will become more consistent as he matures. He still has as much sleeper potential as he did last year -- think a ceiling of 2025 home runs for now -- but you should draft with the expectation he remains the same, just in case.

Felipe Lopez, ARI Lopez, who the Nationals quickly pushed aside after his power numbers took a dive, showed he still has some offensive potential at age 28, hitting .385 with four home runs and four stolen bases in only 156 at-bats with the Cardinals. Moving to a better situation clearly helped him lock in at the plate, and even though he doesn't figure to contend for a batting title anytime soon, he certainly has the ability and upside to hit double-digit homers with a decent number of stolen bases. Don't forget he hit 23 home runs for the Reds in 2005 -- an outlier likely caused by playing in a small ballpark, but a sign of ability regardless. Because Lopez has failed so many times in the past and will likely have to compete for a job this spring, he should go widely undrafted in Fantasy. But don't forget about him in deeper leagues if you need a low-end middle infielder with upside. Kazuo Matsui, HOU Matsui, coming off a career year with Colorado in 2007, had the potential to backslide with his move back closer to sea level. Turns out his own body was the real problem in 2008. He served three separate DL stints -- one for a hemorrhoid problem, another for a hamstring strain, and a third, perhaps the most serious, for an irritated disc in his lower back. Any way you slice it, the guy can't stay healthy, and it shows with how he has no more than 460 at-bats in five major-league seasons. He actually hit a career-high .293 last season -- the third straight in which his batting average has increased -- so he seems to have turned a corner in hitting major-league pitching. He also remains a solid base stealer. But because of his injury history, consider him more of an NL-only option on Draft Day. Brandon Phillips, CIN Coming off a 30-30 season, Phillips, age 27, came back down to earth in 2008, but he didn't exactly fall off the face of the planet. Yes, he hit only .261 to go along with a .312 on-base percentage, but he still went 20-20. If not for a broken finger in early September, he might have had a chance to turn his season around. More than anything, he probably just got caught in an end-of-the-season slump, which made his final numbers look worse than they otherwise would. He did hit .209 after July 31, after all. His lack of plate discipline will always make him vulnerable to such slumps, but his rare combination of power and speed still makes him one of the better second basemen you could own in Fantasy. We rank him in the top five. Freddy Sanchez, PIT Sanchez, a batting title winner in 2006, saw his batting average decline by 30 points for the second straight year in 2008. A shoulder injury early in the year deserved much of the blame, though, because he ended up hitting .346 in the second half. In fact, all of his numbers came around in the second half, so don't worry about his slugging percentage dipping below .400 for the season either (not that he ever hits many home runs or ever will at age 31). He usually ends up with a decent number of RBI and runs scored as a gap hitter in the middle of the Pirates lineup, so don't forget about him late in mixed leagues if you miss out on some of the big names early. He doesn't have a name like Orlando Hernandez or Edgar Renteria, but he might finish with numbers just as good.

Second Basemen
Clint Barmes, COL For the first two months of the 2008 season, all seemed right in the world of Barmes. The deer meat incident that derailed his career in 2005 seemed a distant memory, as he compiled a .343 batting average with five home runs in 134 at-bats. Then came the sprained right knee in June, followed by the weeks of poor play that exposed him for the streaky hitter he is. Of course, he rebounded to hit five home runs in September, no doubt throwing his hat back into the ring to compete for the Rockies' starting job at second base. He likely enters as the favorite, but with his inconsistent track record, the Rockies might have no choice but to bench him every now and then. With his decent power for a middle infielder, he'll probably offer serviceable Fantasy numbers for stretches at a time, though if you play in a mixed league, you won't have much competition for him on Draft Day. Ronnie Belliard, WAS In 2008, Belliard missed time with a strained groin, a strained calf, a strained back and even an infection under his fingernail -- all signs of him turning 33 (well, maybe not the fingernail). When he could actually play, he homered once every 26.9 at-bats -- the best rate of his career. He also played all over the infield, gaining eligibility at first base and third base in addition to second base. As he loses range and increases in size with age, he might ultimately move to a corner-infield position full time, but he deserves a look in Fantasy right now because of his underrated power as a middle infielder. Just make sure he ends up with a starting job this spring before making him a big part of your plans in NL-only leagues.


Dan Uggla, FLA Uggla certainly has power, averaging 30 home runs over his first three major-league seasons, and that contribution alone makes him one of the most desirable second basemen on Draft Day. But he has one massive shortcoming that keeps him from entering the elite class at the position. He strikes out like crazy, and the habit seems to get worse with each passing season. He set a career high with 171 strikeouts last year even though he had 101 fewer at-bats than in 2007. That kind of all-ornothing approach makes him one of the most streaky players in baseball. How streaky? Well, he hit .347 with 12 home runs in May last year and .240 with 20 home runs the rest of the season. He looked particularly awful in the second half, batting .226 with a Brendan Harris-like .396 slugging percentage. Obviously, you can't pass up his power after the elite second basemen go off the board, but prepare to sink or swim with him if you play in a Head-to-Head league. Chase Utley, PHI Utley looked like a world beater last April, hitting .352 with 10 home runs, but his season only got worse from there, his monthly home-run total decreasing to eight, four, four, four and two the rest of the way. Needless to say, Fantasy owners felt a little bit slighted. But before you jump off the Utley bandwagon, keep in mind he played with a sore hip since June -- the very month his power took a big turn for the worse. He's fine, and even with those struggles, he still finished with a career-high 33 home runs. Certain second basemen -- Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia, specifically -- have closed the gap on him in terms of Fantasy value, but Utley remains the main man at the position. As one of the few middle infielders with consistent 30-homer power, not to mention the ability to hit .300, he deserves to go in the first round of any Fantasy draft. Rickie Weeks, MIL Tired of Weeks yet? So is the rest of the Fantasyplaying community. Sure, he's shown moderate power and speed, but his batting average has hovered around the .235 mark the last two seasons, and he seemingly hasn't getting any better now four years into his big-league career. Even the Brewers seemed to lose confidence in him midseason, trading for Ray Durham and making him his platoon partner. Still, Weeks went second overall in the 2003 draft. You know that talent has to shine through eventually, and you know the year you give up on him, it will. He doesn't have to worry about Durham anymore, and he's only now beginning his prime at age 26. No one would blame you if you don't want to draft him as your No. 1 second baseman, but don't forget about him late, when you can afford to make a boom-or-bust pick.

inconsistent track record, the Rockies might have no choice but to bench him every now and then. With his decent power for a middle infielder, he'll probably offer serviceable Fantasy numbers for stretches at a time, though if you play in a mixed league, you won't have much competition for him on Draft Day. Stephen Drew, ARI Somewhat quietly, Drew improved by leaps and bounds in 2008 -- his third full season in the majors. He became the third shortstop in majorleague history to finish with 40 doubles, 10 triples and 20 home runs in a season, slugging .502 -second among full-time shortstops. Clearly, he qualifies as one of the few power hitters at his position, and his pedigree suggests he has room to get even better. He thrived in the leadoff spot last year, so he might not get as many RBI as you'd like for a power hitter, but if you can't get one of the Big Three shortstops on Draft Day, Drew looks like your next best bet. By this time next year, he might have even forced his way into a Big Four. Yunel Escobar, ATL On second thought, Escobar might have entered the 2008 season a little overhyped. Much of the excitement no doubt stemmed from his ability to play all over the infield, but now that he has only shortstop eligibility, perhaps we can assess him a bit more fairly. He just doesn't look like the kind of player who'll do anything more for your Fantasy team than keep it afloat. He had only a .767 OPS before having to shut down in mid-September with a hamstring strain, and he has yet to show more than passable power. His pedigree says he has upside, so you could maybe get away with calling him a sleeper -- he makes consistent contact, after all -- but if you draft him before the late rounds, you'll probably end up sorry. Rafael Furcal, LA Furcal looked like he might have the best season of his underrated career in 2008, batting .367 in April before a lower back injury derailed his season in early May. With a free-agent contract on the line, he returned in late September and looked relatively healthy during a postseason run, batting .258. Having back problems at age 31 is never a good sign, and you have to wonder if Furcal rushed himself back just to make sure he got paid. Consider him an injury-risk sleeper on Draft Day because, with a ceiling of 15 home runs and 40 stolen bases if he somehow plays a full season, he has more potential than any of those other shortstops available in the latter stages of the draft. Khalil Greene, STL Greene's 2008 season ended in July, when he punched a storage chest out of frustration and broke his left hand. He had reason to get frustrated, though. He was batting only .213. Considering he turns 30 later this year, the time has come to stop waiting for a big breakout from Greene. He likely won't hit much higher than .250, and he'll always strike out a ton. He will have some debilitating slumps, but he'll show enough power during his hot stretches to hit 15-20 home runs, especially since he is out of the unforgiving pitcher's park in San Diego. If those numbers sound appealing to you, give him a look in the late rounds on Draft Day. We rank him around the 20th best Fantasy shortstop, but the power and the change of scenery to a better offense and home hitter's park could make him return to top-10 status.

Cristian Guzman, WAS In 2008, Guzman had a relatively healthy season for the first time since his Minnesota days. The results proved fairly impressive. He hit .316 and even made the All-Star team. And he actually picked up steam toward the end of the season, batting .356 over the final two months. Since having laser-eye surgery a couple years ago, he has become a different player -- one worth using in Fantasy. He won't hit many homers or steal many bases, but as long as he maintains a batting average over .300, he deserves to start as a lowend option in mixed leagues. Target him late if you miss out on the elite options early. J.J. Hardy, MIL For the first three months of 2008, Hardy's 26 home runs in 2007 looked like a fluke. Then came the July explosion, when he hit six home runs in the span of six games. He didn't stop there, hitting a total of 18 home runs over the final three months to finish, somewhat surprisingly, with a slugging percentage even better than the one he posted in 2007. He was similarly streaky during that breakout season, so you have to consider inconsistency just a part of his game at this point. Rate him just a tick better in Rotisserie than Head-to-Head leagues, but his underrated power makes him a worthwhile Fantasy starter in both. Hanley Ramirez, FLA Ramirez joined the 30-30 club last season after falling short by just one home run the year before -just another accomplishment in three of the most impressive seasons a player will ever have to begin his career. The Marlins expressed an interest in having him run less before the season, but he still swiped 35 bags and, at age 25, probably still has a few more seasons ahead before his steals take a downturn, particularly if he keeps batting leadoff. Ramirez has clearly established himself among the elite class of Fantasy shortstops, joining Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins -- neither of whom has the tools Ramirez does. Considering his ability to combine power and speed with a high batting average and the fact he plays one of the weakest positions in Fantasy, you could make a case -- a good one, even -- for him to go No. 1 overall on Draft Day. He'll surely go in the top five picks of any Fantasy draft. Edgar Renteria, SF Renteria, a 13-year big league veteran, will be looking to have a better year in 2009 back in the NL with the Giants. He batted .270 with 10 homers and 55 RBI last season for the Tigers. His batting average dipped more than 60 points, and he posted a laughably poor .699 OPS. At age 33, the best of his career is obviously behind him, but he has too much natural hitting ability not to bounce back at least somewhat this season. Consider him a safe bet to approach a .290 batting average with double-digit home runs and draft him among the top 15 shortstops on Draft Day -- albeit a laterounder in a standard mixed league.

Clint Barmes, COL For the first two months of the 2008 season, all seemed right in the world of Barmes. The deer meat incident that derailed his career in 2005 seemed a distant memory, as he compiled a .343 batting average with five home runs in 134 at-bats. Then came the sprained right knee in June, followed by the weeks of poor play that exposed him for the streaky hitter he is. Of course, he rebounded to hit five home runs in September, no doubt throwing his hat back into the ring to compete for the Rockies' starting job at second base. He likely enters as the favorite, but with his


Jose B. Reyes, NYM Reyes brought the power back to his game in 2008, hitting 16 home runs to go along with a career-high 19 triples. More than anything, though, he did what he does best, stealing at least 50 bases for a fourth straight season. The guy knows how to run, and he only stands to improve the other areas of his game at age 25. His approach at the plate matures every year, as evidenced by his career-best .358 on-base percentage last year, and as long as he stays healthy and gets close to 700 at-bats, you know he'll rank among the league leaders in runs scored every year. He'll surely go in the top five picks on Draft Day, ranking just behind Hanley Ramirez among the elite shortstops, and if you prefer to build your team around speed, you could even make an argument to draft him ahead of the Marlins shortstop. Jimmy Rollins, PHI Rollins' surprising power surge came to an abrupt end last year. Coming off consecutive seasons with at least 25 home runs, he hit only 11 in 2008 -- or about the standard he set for himself earlier in his career. Of course, an ankle injury limited early in the season, making him fall short of 600 at-bats for the first time in his career. He still brings plenty to the table at age 30, setting a career high with 47 stolen bases last year and walking more than he struck out -- a sign of maturity -- but as a player who relies so much on pure athleticism, he might have already begun the downside of his career. Still, at the weak shortstop position, a guy with 20homer, 40-steal potential is golden. Rollins might not deserve to go in the first round anymore, but he probably won't last through the second. Miguel Tejada, HOU For the second straight year, Tejada's home runs dropped to a new low -- and this time, he didn't even miss a month with a fractured wrist. Considering his down season happened to coincide with his move to a hitter-friendly ballpark, we can now safely assume he's on the decline, which makes sense for a 34-year-old. He has the potential to rebound and hit 20 or so homers, and the fact he'll take the field virtually every day gives him some value on its own, but you can't expect elite numbers from an aging veteran who posted a .729 OPS last year. Draft Tejada as a starter, but wait until the middle rounds to do so. Ryan Theriot, CHC Theriot played over his head as a full-timer in 2008, and it began to show in the second half, when his batting average declined each month. For as hard as Theriot plays, he falls a bit short in the talent department, and before you point to his 22 stolen bases as a way he can help your Fantasy team, keep in mind he also got caught 13 times. That makes for a lousy percentage -- and one the Cubs noticed considering Theriot stopped running so much in the second half. The Cubs seem committed to starting Theriot at shortstop at least for as long as he overachieves with a .300 batting average, but if you end up having to draft him as your starter in Fantasy, don't get too comfortable. He just doesn't project as a long-term solution for any major-league team in this day and age. Troy Tulowitzki, COL After a late push nearly won him Rookie of the Year honors in 2007, Tulowitzki had a dreaded sophomore slump in 2008. Of course, a torn left quadriceps and a cut right hand hardly gave him a chance in the first half, and he did rebound to hit .327 in the second half. Still, eight home runs in 377 at-bats makes him less than a sure bet to

return to the 20-homer plateau this year. He certainly has the potential, but with so few high-end shortstops available in Fantasy, you'll probably have to draft him with the expectation he'll reach those numbers. In other words, he might not have as much sleeper potential as you think. Even though he has proven streaky early in his career, his upside gives him a chance to rank among the top five options at his position, and everybody knows it.

he significantly upped his home-run total, from 16 to 26. He also exhibited better patience at the plate, walking a career-high 61 times. Like or not, the kid is growing up, and when all's said and done, he might just end up a Fantasy asset after all. You wouldn't want to draft him as your No. 1 third baseman in mixed leagues, but if you take a flier on him late, he might end up starting for you more often than you think. Troy Glaus, STL Left for dead by some analysts after he missed much of 2007 with plantar fasciitis, Glaus ended up having a nice 2008 season -- his first in the NL since 2005. In fact, he might have had his best allaround season since his days with the Angels. True, he finished with only 27 home runs, meaning he no longer seems like a threat to hit 40, but considering he had only three through the first two months of the season, he might still pack more of a punch than you think. And he made strides in other, less visible, areas, cutting way down on his strikeouts, for instance. He finished with only 104 -or 30 below his previous best in a 500 at-bat season. Clearly, he still has some life in his bat at age 32, and if you miss out on the elite third basemen on Draft Day, you could do much worse than making Glaus your starter. Chipper Jones, ATL For a future Hall-of-Famer coming off his first career batting title, Jones's stock continues to fall -and for good reason. In 2008 alone, he battled a strained quadriceps, a strained elbow, a twisted knee, a stiff back, a sore shoulder and throwback case of scurvy. OK, not the scurvy, but you get the idea. You name an ailment; he had it, and we've seen that same song and dance from him since 2004. After vowing last spring to play 150 games in 2008, he fell painfully short, finishing at 128 -- his fifth straight season at less than 140. Even worse, those injuries -- not to mention the fact he'll turn 37 soon -- seemed to catch up to him in the second half, when he hit only four of his 22 home runs. But for all that negative talk, you still have to draft Jones as a top-10 third baseman. He has the potential to lead the world in OPS, after all. Just understand that before too long, we might have to start referring to him as the Moises Alou of the hot corner. Kevin Kouzmanoff, SD Kouzmanoff didn't really take a step forward in his second full major-league season, especially since you could credit any of his statistical gains on an increase in at-bats. He slowed way down in the second half, too, batting .241 with a paltry .272 onbase percentage. He doesn't walk at all and will forever remain streaky as a result, but if you need 20 bombs late, you can get them from him. Think of him as the second coming of Pedro Feliz, though with perhaps a little more upside.

Third Basemen
Garrett Atkins, COL The further Atkins gets into his career, the more it looks like a prolonged regression to the mean. Bottom line: He shouldn't have done what he did in 2006, when he hit .329 with 29 home runs and a .965 OPS. The Rockies themselves didn't see it coming. He could hit, sure, but not quite that well. So what happened the next year? He declined to .301 with 25 home runs and an .853 OPS. And last year? Again, he declined -- this time to .286, 21 and .780. Even more perplexing, his strikeouts increased and walks decreased each year, to the point he struck out more than twice as much as he walked in '08 after walking more than he struck out in '06. The Rockies moved him to first base to make room for rookie Ian Stewart late last year, giving him dual eligibility for the upcoming season, but if the trend continues into the years beyond, Atkins stands to lose even more Fantasy appeal. Draft him among the top 10 third basemen, but don't necessarily expect him to rebound. Casey Blake, LAD Blake is a streaky right-handed hitter who tends to go on tears and then disappear for weeks at a time. The Dodgers picked him up at the trade deadline a year ago and then re-signed him as a free agent this winter, hoping they will get more of the good than the bad. It tends to be that way as a hitter matures, the hot streaks get longer and the cold streaks get shorter. If that is the case, Blake can outperform our projections of around a .265 average, 20-25 homers and over 80 RBI. Those numbers slot him among the top 25 Fantasy third basemen and top 30 first basemen to target on Draft Day. The dual eligibility will help, but Blake will be playing just third base with the Dodgers after years of bouncing around third, first and outfield with the Indians. Jorge Cantu, FLA Cantu, who broke out with 28 home runs and 117 RBI in 2005 before regressing and bouncing around the league as a utility infielder, landed with the Marlins before spring training last year. They offered him a chance to earn the everyday thirdbase job, and boy, did he capitalize. Suddenly, that '05 campaign seemed less a fluke than a premature breakout, as Cantu actually upped his performance in home runs and runs scored from that season. He qualifies at first and third base these days, but as a candidate to hit 25-30 home runs, he has plenty of Fantasy appeal at those positions. Just to guard yourself from another letdown, though, wait until the middle rounds to draft him. Edwin Encarnacion, CIN Encarnacion has become somewhat of forgotten man in Fantasy circles, as most owners have grown disenchanted with his marginally useful statistics, thinking his big breakout will never come. But you have to keep in mind he just recently turned 26, and he's coming off a season in which


Aramis Ramirez, CHC Ramirez never gets much fanfare on Draft Day, but all he does is hit .300 and drive in 100 runs every year. Now two years removed from his career-high 38-homer season, he no longer seems like a safe bet to hit 30 home runs, but he could certainly reach that plateau if he manages to avoid some of the nagging injuries that have plagued over the past two years. Keep in mind he's only 30 years old. No, not too many owners will curse in frustration when someone else calls Ramirez's name on Draft Day, but with Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Braun no longer in the picture at third base, he no doubt ranks among the top five at the position. And that ranking makes him extremely valuable. Mark Reynolds, ARI If you owned Reynolds in Fantasy last year, you had to accept the good -- 28 home runs and 97 RBI -- with the bad -- a .239 batting average and a major-league record 204 strikeouts. He looks like as much of an all-or-nothing type hitter as Jack Cust in the American League, only he plays a weaker position and starts against both left- and right-handers. Reynolds likely won't finish with such a low batting average again -- he hit .279 as a rookie in 2007, after all -- but until he cuts down on his strikeouts, you can't take him seriously as a starting third baseman mixed leagues. Draft him late if you need a corner infielder with 35-homer upside, but brace yourself for six months of inconsistency. Ian Stewart, COL A longtime gem of the Rockies farm system, Stewart finally got his chance to play every day when Todd Helton missed most of the second half with a back injury. He didn't disappoint either, hitting 10 home runs in 266 at-bats. He even maintained a batting average around .300 until a dreadful September slump brought it to its final mark of .259. Even with the cold finish, he proved he deserves to keep playing every day in the majors, but unless the Rockies trade one of Helton or Garrett Atkins, he might not get that chance. As one of the Rockies' best long-term prospects, he deserves a late-round pick because he has the upside to hit 25-30 home runs with a decent batting average, but if Helton comes to spring training 100 percent healthy, Stewart might end up having to split at-bats. Ty Wigginton, HOU You could almost say Wigginton had a power breakout last year at age 30. He hit 23 home runs in 386 at-bats, which would translate to 36 in 600 at-bats. Keep in mind 12 of those homers came in August, so he might have just had the hottest month of his life -- nothing more, nothing less. We don't really know since he missed much of the season with a broken thumb and a strained hamstring. He loses eligibility at second base next season, which might negate any increase in power, but he now qualifies in the outfield as well as at third base. He still doesn't deserve more than a late-round draft pick as a likely 20-home run hitter with disproportionately low RBI and run totals, but he looks a little more intriguing this year than most. David Wright, NYM For years, Wright, Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera formed the triumvirate of studly third basemen, each going in the first round of Fantasy drafts. But with Cabrera's move to first base, Wright becomes A-Rod's lone partner in crime, making him even more valuable on Draft Day, if you can believe it. You could even make a case for

Wright to go ahead of A-Rod, given their difference in age. Last year, the 26-year-old set career highs in home runs, RBI and runs scored, and he hit over .300 for the fourth straight season. His stolen bases took a dive, which you had to expect for a burgeoning run producer, but he still finished with 15. He might never steal 30 again, but he looks like one of the most skilled batsmen in the league and will remain a hot commodity on Draft Day. If you want him, you better have a top-five pick or pray for a miracle. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS After knocking the socks off everybody who saw him in 2006 by hitting 20 home runs as a 21-yearold rookie in his second professional season, Zimmerman hasn't progressed one iota. His 2008 looked like it might end up a completely lost season when he missed two months with a torn muscle in his left shoulder, but he finished strong, batting .290 with five home runs in September. He still has upside -- enough to make him a top-10 third baseman -- but he belongs more to the mess of 20home run hitters available in the middle-to-late rounds than the handful of elite options at the position. If you miss out on one of the few stud third basemen and want a player with the potential to become one, don't hesitate to grab Zimmerman, but temper your expectations a bit.

couldn't go whole week in the second half without straining or bruising something and ended up with only 108 at-bats over the final two months as a result. His potential is obvious, but his inability to stay healthy makes him just a No. 3 Fantasy outfielder. The great supporting cast in Chicago can keep him productive enough for all leagues when healthy, though. Ryan J. Braun, MIL Braun proved his rookie 2007 season anything but a fluke, actually topping his home-run total with 37 in 2008. Sure, some of his ratios fell -- his slugging percentage, his OPS and his batting average among them -- but he posted such unreachable marks as a rookie that the law of average demanded a course correction. The fact remains Braun again played like a Fantasy stud and looks like the next elite power hitter to enter the game. Sure, he's not perfect. His suspect plate discipline leads to some inconsistency, such as one month where he hit .248 and another where he hit .208, and he no longer qualifies at third base, playing exclusively the outfield last season. In the end, though, the numbers will be there for the former first-round pick, and he only stands to improve at age 25. Draft him among the top five Fantasy outfielders. Jay Bruce, CIN Bruce, one of the highest-rated prospects in baseball in recent years, made his major-league debut in late May and created a stir by homering in three straight games during his first week on the job. He cooled off from there, though, and ended up having a relatively tame rookie season compared to the Evan Longorias and Ryan Brauns of recent years. He certainly didn't embarrass himself, though, and if his 14 home runs over the final two months of the season say anything, he could emerge as one of the league's top power threats as early as this season. He also has the potential to hit .300 someday, but considering his poor strikeout rate, he might need some time to get to that level. Keep in mind he only turns 22 at the beginning of the season. In keeper leagues, he remains a prized commodity. In seasonal leagues, you can wait to draft him as a No. 3 Fantasy outfielder, but he has the potential to emerge as much, much more. Eric Byrnes, ARI Byrnes, coming off a career season in 2007, developed a sore hamstring early in spring training last year that just wouldn't go away. He tried to play through it and seemed capable at first, but when he hit only .149 in May and June, he couldn't ignore the problem anymore. The Diamondbacks ultimately shut him down with a torn left hamstring, hoping eight months of rest would cure the problem. Byrnes will obviously have to prove his health this spring, and at age 33, his best years are behind him. But he remains a threat for 20 homers and 20-30 stolen bases. Draft him late as an injuryrisk sleeper with the upside to perform like a second or third outfielder in mixed leagues.

Rick Ankiel, STL Ankiel, the converted starting pitcher getting his first look as a full-time major-league outfielder, showed much of the same power he demonstrated in the minors, hitting 25 home runs in 413 at-bats. Of course, his free-swinging ways led to some inconsistency, including a two-month stretch where he hit only .239, and an abdominal injury sidelined him for much of the season's final two months, limiting him to those 413 at-bats. He ultimately needed surgery to remedy the problem. Ankiel stands to improve as he adjusts to life as a position player, and he likely still has a bright future ahead of him at age 29. Keep your expectations in check, though, and draft him as strictly a power hitter and as no more than your third outfielder. Carlos Beltran, NYM Beltran's ceiling might not go as high as some of the other elite outfielders in Fantasy, especially since he turns 32 in late April, but his consistency makes him well worth the investment. He'll probably never hit 40 home runs again -- even 35 would turn a few heads -- and forget about him stealing more than 20-25 bases. But as long as he stays healthy and bats in the heart of the Mets lineup, you know he'll give you at least 100 RBI and 100 runs scored. For what the career .281 hitter lacks in batting average he makes up for in on-base percentage, giving him an added boost in Head-to-Head leagues. Just watch out for a DL stint sometime during the season. He has reached 150 games only once in the last three years. Milton Bradley, CHC Bradley finally managed to put together enough atbats to show off his potential in 2008, ranking fourth among full-time players with a .999 OPS. He set or equaled career highs with a .321 batting average, 22 home runs, 78 runs scored and 77 RBI, showing patience, pop and plenty of consistency. He even made his first All-Star team. But for all he did right last year, he still couldn't clear the one hurdle that has plagued him throughout his career: injuries. He pretty much


Adam Dunn, WAS Dunn has hit exactly 40 home runs each of the last four seasons. Exactly. So if you draft him, you know you'll at least get something good. Unfortunately, he remains the very definition of an all-or-nothing player, hitting less than .240 in two of his last three seasons. All that run production makes him a clear No. 2 outfielder in Fantasy and an early-to-mid-round draft pick in most leagues, but if you choose to draft Dunn, you need to have a way to counteract his poor batting average. Fortunately, for as much as he strikes out, he also walks, which salvages his appeal in Head-to-Head leagues and Rotisserie formats that use on-base percentage instead of batting average. Andre Ethier, LAD What a difference a year makes. Entering 2008, the Dodgers had spent Ethier right out of a job, bringing in Andruw Jones exactly one year after signing Juan Pierre. With the two of them playing alongside big-time prospect Matt Kemp, Ethier had nowhere to go but the bench. But when Jones bombed and Pierre didn't fare much better, Ethier got a chance to make a second impression. And oh, did he ever take advantage. He led all Dodgers with 20 home runs, posting a career-best OPS of .885, and seemed to get better over the course of the season, batting .335 with a .992 OPS in the second half. His breakout doesn't look like a fluke either. It happened with him just now entering his age-27 season. He probably doesn't have the upside to hit 30 home runs, but he looks primed to build on last year's success and makes an excellent choice as a No. 3 outfielder in mixed leagues. Corey C. Hart, MIL Hart, coming off a breakout 20-20 season in 2007, waited until April 19 to hit his first home run in 2008 -- just a sign of the disappointment to come. He took a step back rather than the expected step forward in his age-26 season and completely fell apart in the second half, hitting .239 with five home runs, including .173 in September. His final OPS of .759 actually trailed his .796 mark from 2006, when the Brewers didn't consider him good enough to play full time. For as much as he disappointed, though, Hart still had a decent year, joining the 2020 club for the second straight season and setting a career high with 91 RBI. The hype has died on him a bit entering this season, making him somewhat of a bargain as a No. 3 Fantasy outfielder, but you have to expect more inconsistency from the still-developing freeswinger. Brad Hawpe, COL Hawpe seemed on the verge of joining Fantasy's elite following a breakout 29-homer, 116-RBI campaign in 2007, but a slow start in 2008 pretty much derailed that notion. He hit .231 with three home runs over the first two months, and though he salvaged his season by hitting .322 with 19 home runs over the next three months, his inconsistency ruined some of his luster. In reality, the Rockies' continued reluctance to use him against left-handed pitchers will likely prevent him from ever becoming an elite option, but if you need seem run production and a solid batting average from your third outfielder, don't hesitate to take Hawpe. Raul Ibanez, PHI With 100 RBI for a third consecutive season last year, Ibanez continued his emergence as a solid middle-of-the-order hitter with 20-homer power. Unfortunately, he waited until the twilight of his

career to show off his abilities, which is precisely the reason you should feel wary about drafting him as more than a No. 3 Fantasy outfielder. You can't argue with his consistency, though -- he has at least a .289 batting average in six of his past seven seasons -- and his run production might even improve now that he no longer plays for a horrendous Seattle team in a pitcher's park. Philly's bandbox ballpark and monster lineup will suit him, even if it is a little lefty leaning. Consider him a top 35 Fantasy outfielder to target in all leagues, even at his advanced age. Conor Jackson, ARI Jackson seems like he had a breakout season in 2008 -- a misconception created by him getting more at-bats. In actuality, his power regressed. He dropped from 15 home runs to 12 even with those extra at-bats, including none over the final two months. With three full seasons now under his belt, he might never develop into a consistent power threat, but if you buy into the age-27 theory, this year might be his year. If nothing else, you can count on him for a solid batting average, an inconsequential number of strikeouts and decent run production in the heart of the Diamondbacks' batting order. Draft him as a corner infielder with upside. Matt Kemp, LA The Dodgers didn't seem to know what to do with a five-tool prospect like Kemp last year, batting him everywhere from leadoff to sixth. But wherever he hit, he hit well, finishing with a .290 batting average. His high strikeout rate -- approximately one every four at-bats -- seems like a concern, but it hasn't slowed him down yet. Ironically, the prospect mostly renowned for his power ended up with more stolen bases (35) than home runs (18), but the home runs will come as he matures. And when they come, they'll come fast. The 24-year-old has 30-30 potential as soon as this year, but since he also has the potential to take half a step back due to inexperience, you should draft him as no more than a low-end No. 2 Fantasy outfielder in mixed leagues. Carlos N. Lee, HOU If you like your outfielders trim and svelte, you might want to steer clear of El Caballo. If you simply like them to produce big numbers, then don't hesitate to sign up for Houston's big bopper. Only a broken pinkie in August prevented him from his sixth straight 30-homer season, and his batting average rose for a third straight year, to a careerhigh .314. Lee, for all of his portliness, simply knows how to hit, and he shows no signs of slowing down at age 32. Don't make the mistake of assuming he'll get hurt again just because he did last year. Over his previous three seasons, he played in 485 of his teams' 486 games, making him one of the most reliable players you could own. Don't hesitate to take him in the early rounds as your No. 1 outfielder. Fred Lewis, SF Lewis, a second-round pick in 2002, never did anything that impressive in the minors but got a chance to start for the deprived Giants anyway in 2008. He did enough to keep the job entering the new season, but he really doesn't have much Fantasy appeal. He can steal a few bases and pop the occasional homer, but considering he's already 28, he doesn't offer much upside. Last year might represent about the best he can do, and if the Giants acquire a decent alternative, they won't hesitate to make Lewis a role player off the bench.

Right now, he looks like a better choice for NL-only leagues than mixed leagues. Ryan Ludwick, STL Who is Ryan Ludwick? That's what most Fantasy owners asked when the journeyman outfielder hit .323 with 13 home runs over the first two months. By the end of the year, they knew, because after surviving a .228 slump in June, he finished just as strong, hitting .312 with 21 home runs over the final three months. That kind of wall-to-wall consistency legitimizes a season that some skeptics might write off as a fluke. Certainly, the potential exists for Ludwick to regress -- and the law of averages says his numbers will dip a bit, particularly his batting average -- but he shouldn't fall totally off the map. Most likely, he always had this kind of potential -his part-time numbers and pedigree suggest it -and just never got to show it playing in loaded Texas and Cleveland organizations. Ludwick deserves to go as a No. 2 Fantasy outfielder, but if he drops to a No. 3 because of widespread skepticism, he actually has some sleeper potential. Nate McLouth, PIT McLouth entered 2008 as a sleeper after he stole 22 bases and posted an .810 OPS in 2007, but no one could have expected what he accomplished over the first two months of the season, when he hit .305 with 12 home runs. The rest of his season became just an effort to keep pace, which he obviously couldn't do, and he showed it by hitting only .270 with seven home runs in the second half. But the good news is McLouth's performance didn't come totally out of nowhere. His numbers in parttime duty earlier in his career made him look like a future 20-20 man, and for a time, Baseball America listed him as the top contact hitter in the Pirates' farm system. He probably doesn't have much upside from here, but as a centerpiece of the Pirates' lineup, he'll get enough RBI and runs scored to function as a No. 2 Fantasy outfielder. Lastings Milledge, WAS Milledge certainly has upside, but some of his flaws and inconsistencies came to the forefront last year when he finally got a chance to play every day from start to finish. He slugged only .402 and had a three-month stretch where he hit only .224. But he showed signs of an impending breakout by hitting .299 after the All-Star break, and for as long as his name has floated around Fantasy circles, he wouldn't surprise anybody by breaking out this year. Considering he has yet to 24, his big breakout likely won't come for a few more years, but consider him a potential 20-20 man as soon as this year and draft him as a fourth outfielder in mixed leagues. Hunter Pence, HOU Much like Jeff Francoeur several years earlier, Pence couldn't quite live up to the hype of his rookie season as a sophomore last year. His totals improved as a result of increased at-bats, but his percentages all took a turn for the worse. Clearly, opposing pitchers figured out the 25-year-old's weaknesses, forcing him to adjust. The bad news is you probably can't expect the free-swinging Pence to hit .322 again, as he did as a rookie -- at least not anytime soon. The good news is he did seem to make some adjustments in the second half, slugging .521 after the All-Star break as opposed to .429 before it. He'll likely take a small step forward power-wise in his age-26 season, but prepare for some inconsistencies and an unpredictable batting average. Treat the developing prospect as a No. 3 Fantasy outfielder with obvious upside.


Juan Pierre, LA Pierre's streak of seven straight seasons with at least 590 at-bats came to an end last season as the Dodgers tried to squeeze him into the same outfield as Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Andruw Jones. He still managed to steal 40 bases, though, showing he can do what he does best even as a part-time player. Most likely, he'll start more often than he sits this year, but either way, if you draft him, you draft him strictly for stolen bases. He'll probably post a decent batting average and score plenty of runs atop the Dodgers lineup, but you'll have to compensate for his lack of power. Plus, as he approaches his 32nd birthday, injuries will become more of a factor. Don't count on him as more than a No. 4 Fantasy outfielder. Manny Ramirez, LAD The statistical decline that began for Ramirez in 2007 continued in 2008 while he bided his time in Boston, all mopey and unmotivated. But when he joined the Dodgers late in July, the lights came back on, making him feel like a 27-year-old again. He hit almost as many home runs in half the atbats, posted an OPS of 1.232 instead of .927 and batted nearly .400. He performed so well he even finished fourth in NL MVP voting despite spending less than a third of the season in the league. Clearly, he didn't lose ability in Boston, only interest -- a revelation that makes him potentially one of the most dangerous hitters in Fantasy. Of course, it also makes him a potential bust because his performance -- not to mention his health -correlates so closely to his mood. If he ends up unhappy, so do you. Still, the potential for him to play like the best outfielder in Fantasy makes him somewhat of a bargain in the third or fourth round, so don't hesitate to pick him there. Alfonso Soriano, CHC When all is said and done, Soriano will give you numbers. When he plays 150 games, he tops 35 homers -- has in every season but his first. The problem for him is consistency, which you see reflected in his dreadful strikeout-to-walk ratio. He does things like hit 20 of his 35 home runs in two months and only 15 over the other four, and all that down time can wreck your Fantasy team if you invest too highly in him in a Head-to-Head league (doesn't matter in a Rotisserie league, obviously). He also has a checkered injury history, missing time last year with a broken hand. The Cubs have talked about potentially moving him out of the leadoff spot, which would finally give him the RBI opportunities he deserves, but it might have the reciprocal effect of cutting into his stolen bases. Someone in your league will probably draft Soriano as a No. 1 Fantasy outfielder, but you'll have an easier time contending if you treat him as a No. 2. Willy Taveras, CIN Taveras doubled his previous career high with 68 stolen bases last year, showing exactly what he is good for -- run, run and run some more. If he couldn't run, he wouldn't matter in Fantasy or maybe even the major leagues, but since he can, he matters plenty. He has dealt with leg injuries throughout his career and did miss some time last year with a sore quadriceps, but you only care about his cumulative stolen-base total in Rotisserie leagues, where he has far more value. He can pretty much carry your team in that one category and could help you runs scored, even if he is a drag in the other categories. Consider him a potential 40-50 steals man as the Reds' leadoff hitter and center fielder.

Shane Victorino, PHI Victorino lost some at-bats early last year as the Phillies tried to fit him, Jayson Werth and Geoff Jenkins into two outfield spots, but they soon realized Victorino belonged in their lineup on an everyday basis -- and for good reason. For the second straight season in 2008, his slugging and on-base percentages increased, giving him an OPS of .799. That total might not sound particularly impressive until you realize it came from an all-out burner. Victorino can fly -- hence his nickname, the Flyin' Hawaiian -- and if he stays healthy, you know he'll deliver 35-40 bases. He also has surprising power for a 5-foot-9, 180-pound player -- the kind that shouldn't disappear while playing his home games in Citizens Bank Park. He remains one of the more underrated players in Fantasy and a nice choice as a No. 2 or 3 outfielder, especially if you find your Rotisserie team short on steals in the middle rounds. Jayson Werth, PHI With Geoff Jenkins a free-agent bust, Werth soon found himself playing every day last year for the first time in his big-league career. He made the most of the opportunity, posting an impressive .861 OPS and joining the 20-20 club in only 418 at-bats. His stats looked significantly better against lefthanded pitchers, so the threat of a platoon still exists, but the Phillies trust him as their everyday center fielder for now. His strong defense likely gives him some wiggle room. He might not have another 20-20 season ahead of him, but as a patient hitter with plus power, he deserves a look as a No. 4 outfielder in mixed leagues. Chris B. Young, ARI As a sophomore in 2008, Young had all the bad from his rookie season in 2007 without so much of the good. He no longer showed the 30-30 potential he did just one year earlier, and he still couldn't make consistent contact, striking out 165 times with a .248 batting average. But considering his pedigree, his former top-prospect status, you know the good will come around as soon as he corrects the bad. He showed signs of doing just that in the second half, batting .278 with an .851 OPS. Expect more inconsistency from the 25-year-old in 2008, but his home runs and stolen bases will more likely rise than fall. Draft him as a No. 3 outfielder with a high, high ceiling.

surgery. The injury might cause him to get off to a late start this spring, so approach him with caution. If healthy in spring training, he is a stud who gets plenty of strikeouts and will likely go among the top 20 Fantasy starting pitchers on Draft Day. Matt Cain, SF Some will thumb their nose at Cain on Draft Day. After all, he has lost 30 games the past two seasons and walked a career worst 91 batters last season. Those that look just at the numbers might be making a big mistake. It is easy to forget Cain is still younger than NL Cy Young winning teammate Tim Lincecum. Cain is a horse with great stuff and the potential to win 15 games, even for a punchless Giants team. He should break double-digit wins and challenge for 200 strikeouts, which will help him get drafted among the top 45 starting pitchers on Draft Day. There is immense upside long term, if the Giants could only find some run support for him. On a better team, Cain is top 20 option. Chris Carpenter, STL Injuries have stripped Carpenter of his status as a potential Fantasy ace. He returned from Tommy John elbow surgery last season, only to develop a shoulder issue and then need offseason nerve transposition surgery in his elbow. There is a chance he proves healthy and capable of opening the season in the contending Cardinals rotation, but the team has also talked about using him as a closer. Consider him a sleeper in the latter rounds on Draft Day. At 33, he could have a healthy year or two left in him, maybe. Aaron Cook, COL Like so many pitchers, Cook's season was a tale of two halves. He was cruising into the break at 11-6 with a 3.57 ERA and .279 batting-average against and then went just (5-3)-4.71-.303 in the second half. You could blame his slow second half on building back up to 200 innings. All told, his fullseason numbers still look solid enough to make him a top 75 starting pitcher to target on Draft Day, but you have to be wary of him because of the hitter's park he pitches half his games in. The Rockies are notoriously a strong team at home and bad on the road, but away from Coors is where Cook won 10 of his games and his ERA was a half run lower. Johnny Cueto, CIN The other Dominican Dandy after Edinson Volquez, Cueto came out of spring training throwing peas and looking like a future front-line starting pitcher. By the end of the year, the fact he was just 22 caught up to him. He proven to be at times dominant and at times real frustrating, which is not out of character for young Fantasy starters. Cueto is an elite long-term talent with a full-time rotation spot, so consider him an outstanding sleeper among the top 60 starting pitchers in Fantasy. We think he will still have more than his share of struggles, but the mere possibility he puts everything together makes him a great pick in the latter rounds. Ryan Dempster, CHC Dempster re-signed with the Cubs as a free agent after making a wildly successful switch from closer to starter. He was 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA and proved to be a 200-inning workhorse rather quickly. Now you have to consider him just outside of the top 20 starting pitchers to target on Draft Day. The return to Chicago is just about the best thing for his Fantasy value since he gets to remain with an elite contender. Don't count an ERA that low, but our projection of 14-10, 3.60 seems reasonable.

Starting Pitchers
Bronson Arroyo, CIN Arroyo, who will be 32 this spring, posted his worst full-season ERA of his career at 4.77 and highest ever WHIP 1.44, but he still won a career high 15 games. He cracked 200 innings for the fourth consecutive season and did so only because he got hot in the second half, going 8-4 with a 3.47 ERA and a .246 batting-average against. Arroyo tends to get overlooked on Draft Day, because he pitches for the non-contending Reds and in one of the best hitter's parks in America, but he represents a steady option after the top 70 starting pitchers are off the board. Chad Billingsley, LA Billingsley went 16-10 with a 3.14 ERA in his first full season as a starter, cementing himself as an ace of the Dodgers staff and Fantasy rotations. He went 5-1 over his last eight starts of the regular season and just a few too many walks kept him from becoming an elite ace in his breakthrough campaign. His year ended much worse when he broke his leg in a fall outside his home, needing


Jeff Francis, COL After winning a career high 17 games for the 2007 NL champion Rockies, Francis struggled through an injury-plagued last season, winning just four of 24 starts and posting an ERA over 5.00 for the first time in three years. Francis, a control-andcommand lefty, no longer is the Rockies' ace, that distinction is now Ubaldo Jimenez's, but he can be a winner again for a team you can expect to get him run support. Francis will be on the board around 65th among starting pitchers, so consider him a sleeper to rebound this season. Yovani Gallardo, MIL Gallardo, one of the next big things in Fantasy, lost most of last season due to knee surgery, but he valiantly returned before the end of the Brewers' postseason push, setting him up as the staff ace now. Gallardo has 15-20 win stuff, but his inexperience should keep him from reaching the all-important 200 innings or being a 15-game winner this season. You have to like his upside, though, especially fronting a rotation that is backed by the offense of Ryan J. Braun and Prince Fielder. Gallardo might be available after the top 35 starting pitchers are gone and he is a legit steal at that point. Jon Garland, ARI The move to Anaheim from Chicago figured to help, not hurt, Garland before free agency. So much for that. While he won 14 games for the top contending Angels, he posted the highest ERA (4.91) and WHIP (1.51) of his career, failing to reach 200 innings for the first time since 2003. The 29-year-old has twice won 18 games, but only once in his career has he posted an ERA under 4.00 (3.50 in 2005). Expect him to be a steady starter on a potential contender in Arizona, but he is someone you can wait on until 60 starting pitchers are off the board on Draft Day. Cole Hamels, PHI In Year 3, Hamels has arrived as one of the aces of baseball, winning the World Series MVP award, a title and posting career bests in ERA (3.09) and WHIP (1.08). He went over 200 innings for the first time, well over it, and approached 200 strikeouts -a plateau he can reach this year. Pitching for one of the best contenders in baseball -- one that will get him arguably the best run support in the NL -Hamels should win more than 15 games. He is easily a top 10 Fantasy starting pitcher to target on Draft Day and you might even make a case for picking him in the top five. Aaron Harang, CIN Something finally caught up to Harang last year. Perhaps it was back-to-back years of 230-plus innings, or the sub-par supporting cast with the Reds, or perhaps more likely, the bandbox ballpark in Cincy. Maybe it was he got lost in the Dominican Dandy mania in the first half (3-11, 4.76), watching Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto become the team's stud starters. Whatever it was, he seemed right again in September, posting a useful 3.07 ERA and a .247 batting-average against. Now that's the Harang we used to know and love. He was dealing with a sore elbow from June to August, which were his real bad months. His finish suggests he is healthy again and ready to assume his place among the top 40 starting pitchers in Fantasy. You cannot expect 15 victories, but he should be far closer to his 2006-07 form than what we saw from his last year.

Rich Harden, CHC Reaching 25 starts and 148 innings equates to a "healthy" season for the oft-injured Harden, who is one of baseball's best bat-missers when he is actually able to toe the slab. Harden (10-2), who wound up getting dealt to one of the game's elite teams last July, posted a career low 2.07 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He was completely unhittable in the second half, going 5-1 with a 1.92 ERA and a Bob Gibson-like .149 batting-average against. It is this amazing potential that forces owners to pick the annual injury risk among the top 30 Fantasy starting pitchers every year, even if 150 innings is a optimistic goal. The Cubs have a real deep stable of starting pitchers, so Harden will be coddled along and not overtaxed. That gives him a chance to reach the 165 innings we project for him. If he gets there and stays as dominant as he is capable, he will be a top 10 Fantasy starter -- especially on that elite contender. Dan Haren, ARI The move to a contender made an ace out of the former A's right-hander. Haren won a career high 16 games, with a career low 1.13 WHIP. Pitching over in the NL and with a young D-Backs team capable of winning certainly helps. He has gone well over 200 innings in each of his four seasons in the majors and his full-season low in victories is 14. We see another 16-win, 200-strikeout campaign from him. We rank this durable starter among top 10 Fantasy starting pitchers to target on Draft Day, even though we might be ready to admit he has reached his ceiling. Reliability and consistency cannot be discounted, though, especially with the erratic nature of Fantasy pitchers. Ubaldo Jimenez, COL The 2007 stretch-run and postseason hero put together a very good first full season in the majors. It is not often you see a young arm able to approach 200 innings this quickly. The power righthander, who will be 25 this spring, is one of the burgeoning aces of baseball and capable of striking out 200 batters in Year 2. He does have some reasons to be cautious, though. One, he walked an alarming 103 batters; and two, he works half his games in hitter-friendly Coors Field. He handed the rare air even better than he handled the road, going 7-4 with a 3.31 ERA and a .223 battingaverage against at home vs. (5-8)-4.72-.266 away. And, in another strange twist, Jimenez got stronger as the year went on and he reach his career high in innings, going (8-3)-3.68-.221 after the break vs. (4-9)-4.22-.262 before it. His splits home-away and first half-second half bode real well for continues improvement and future dominance for Fantasy owners. Consider him a high-ceiling pick after the top 50 starting pitchers are off the board on Draft Day. No one would blame you for taking a shot on him even earlier. Josh Johnson, FLA If you can ignore the fact he had Tommy John surgery, this right-hander, who will be 25 this spring, looks like a future ace. He is 19-11 in his career with a 3.54 ERA and 234 strikeouts. That is quite a season. Since injury has been a factor, we project 13 victories, 151 strikeouts and a 3.34 ERA this season in 175 innings. Because he is a workhorse when healthy, though, he could easily beat those modest expectations. The numbers make him a top 35 Fantasy starting pitcher even if he isn't quite a household name yet. With a year of health, he could become one.

Randy Johnson, SF The Big Unit needs just five wins to reach 300, a figure he could reach in May. His stuff might not be dominant anymore, but the 45-year-old's numbers are still better than most in baseball. We cannot project more than 160 innings, but when he is on the mound there should be few matchups you wouldn't trust him in for most formats. Consider him just outside of the top 60 Fantasy starting pitchers to target on Draft Day. The fact he signed with an offensively challenged team will keep him from going any earlier than that. The Giants figure to make him a .500 pitcher at best. Jair Jurrjens, ATL The Braves pulled off a fleecing of the Tigers in the Edgar Renteria trade a year ago, getting a future front-line starting pitcher in Jurrjens. Heck, just 23 this spring, he might already be the Braves' ace. The walks were a bit of a factor, keeping him from getting deep into games and over 200 innings, but he represents a great value on Draft Day if you need a potential staff ace after the top 50 starting pitchers are off the board. A mere repeat of his rookie numbers could have him outperform his draft position. Clayton Kershaw, LAD Lightning-armed 20-year-old lefties capable of pitching in the major leagues come around once a generation. Kershaw, after buckling World Series MVP Mike Lowell's knees on a breaking ball in his spring debut, arrived midseason and logged more than 100 innings. His stuff is so good, Baseball America ranks him as a better prospect than ALCS Game 7 breakthrough David Price. Kershaw might not surpass 180 innings because the Dodgers are cautious with their prized prospect, but he is a must-have after the top 70 starting pitchers are off the board on Draft Day. He is only ranked that low because of his age, inexperience and unstretched arm. We see him as a future No. 1 in the Fantasy rankings, so if you play in a keeper league, be prepared to have to pay a Yankees-like premium for his services. Hiroki Kuroda, LAD The Dodgers got about what they expected out of this Japanese import in his first season here last year. He wasn't quite a Daisuke Matsuzaka, but thankfully, he wasn't a Kei Igawa either. His lack of knockout stuff keeps him from being a potential ace, but he is a solid option among the top 75 starting pitchers in Fantasy, especially since the Dodgers are expected to be a contender. Five-man rotations are an adjustment for Japanese pitchers, which is why we saw the second half catch up to Kuroda a little. Year 2 in a new place tends to settle players down, like it did for Dice-K last season, so Kuroda should be able to get a little better and prove more consistent. Ted Lilly, CHC The Cubs were wildly criticized for giving Lilly a huge contract before he was able to reach 200 innings. Who is laughing now? Not the Cubs opponents. Lilly surpassed 200 innings each of the past two seasons, keeping his walks in check and setting career highs in victories (17) and strikeouts (184) each of the past two years. The lefty was at his best in the second half (8-3 with a 3.32 ERA and a .223 batting-average against) and in Fantasy crunch time (4-1, 3.30, .171). Lilly gets the benefit of pitching for one of the best teams in baseball and should be targeted as one of the top 45 starting pitchers on Draft Day.


Tim Lincecum, SF Listed at 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, tiny by today's standards for a big league pitcher, Lincecum defied detractors -- and the laws of physics -- by firing 97 mph fastballs past one hulking slugger after another. The 24-year-old right-hander, whose father helped engineer his delivery and advise him to never ice his arm after starts, was 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA and a major league-best 265 strikeouts, remarkable numbers for a fourth-place team. Despite his stature and non-contender, consider Lincecum arguably the No. 1 pitcher to target in Fantasy on Draft Day. We keep Johan Santana and CC Sabathia Nos. 1 and 1a still, because of the top contenders with great offenses they pitch for, but Lincecum has a ton of upside and strikeout potential. At 24, there is no better long-term keeper pitcher in Fantasy, though. Derek Lowe, LA The 35-year-old Lowe won't wow you on the radar gun or the stat sheet with big strikeout totals, but he does what only a handful of veterans can do, avoid the DL and make 32-plus starts every year. He has done it every season for seven years since transitioning from the closer's role back in his Boston days. Consistency and reliability cannot be understated at the riskiest position in Fantasy, pitcher. His career ERA of 3.75 and WHIP of 1.27 are as reasonable expectations as 200 innings are for him. Consider him a steady option among the top 45 starting pitchers in Fantasy, even if he got paid the big bucks. He didn't rest on his laurels after leaving the world champion Red Sox for the Dodgers in his last big contract. John Maine, NYM After coming out of spring training throwing 98 mph peas, Maine suffered through an injury-plagued second full season in the majors. The 27-year-old missed the final five weeks of the season because of the shoulder problem that required surgery to shave down bone spurs. Maine's surgery wasn't considered invasive, but bone spurs tend to develop when you have weakness in joints and ligaments, which could lead to more serious injuries. We won't rule out Maine from being an ace for 2009, but you have to be wary at this point. Our projections slot him as a top 60 Fantasy starter, but he certainly has top 20 stuff if he can prove healthy again. Brett Myers, PHI Myers had an uneven year in his return to the Phillies rotation, but you have to give him a mulligan on his 4.55 ERA and lack of velocity midseason because he was making a rare transition from closer to starter. It is a move that John Smoltz made look easy, but going from less than 70 innings to an expectation of 200 isn't routine. Myers should be stronger and more wellequipped to be a full-time starter this season, for a world champion contender that gets him great run support no less. Myers can beat his career high 14 victories and career bests in ERA (3.72) and WHIP (1.21). Yeah, we are saying expect a career year out of the 28-year-old Myers. He ranks around the 35th best starting pitcher in our rankings, but if you assume he is due for a career year like we might, you are justified picking him among the top 25. Ricky Nolasco, FLA The common perception was the Marlins would be real good if Josh Johnson (elbow) and Anibal Sanchez (shoulder) could make it back from injury. Nolasco's name was generally left out of the discussion. But no Marlins pitcher -- perhaps no pitcher in baseball -- had a bigger comeback from

injury than this 26-year-old right-hander. He won 15 games, posting a solid 3.52 ERA and an ace-like 1.10 WHIP along with 186 strikeouts and over 212 innings. If he could repeat those numbers, Nolasco is a top 20 Fantasy starting pitcher. We are somewhat skeptical he is this good, though, so target him after the top 30 options at the position are off the board on Draft Day. Consistency and reliability counts and Nolasco needs to put up some good years back-to-back before he should be considered an elite ace. Roy Oswalt, HOU The Astros dramatically improved offensively last season, which allowed Oswalt to return to being one of baseball's biggest winners. The right-hander has won 20 games twice, 19 once and now 17. The latter is our projection for him this season, along with well over 200 innings an ERA in the low 3.00s and a WHIP around an ace-like 1.20. Despite pitching in a hitter-friendly park, Oswalt has a remarkable career ERA of 3.13, giving the Astros a chance to win every time he takes the hill. Oswalt started slow a season ago, going just 7-8 with a 4.56 ERA in the first half, but he more than made up for it down the stretch for Fantasy owners. He went 10-2 with a 2.24 ERA and a .206 battingaverage against after the break, including (5-1)1.42-.161 in September. He is among our top 10 starting pitchers to target on Draft Day and should be an ace you're happy with at a position of annual uncertainty. Jake Peavy, SD Peavy is the latest example of the inherent risk of drafting pitchers early in Fantasy leagues. After winning 19 games, striking out 240 and pitching over 223 innings -- career highs, all -- Peavy sunk to 10 victories, 166 strikeouts and 173 2/3 innings. Those were all four-year lows. The rebuilding Padres put one of the best right-handers in baseball on the trade block this winter. That was great news for his Fantasy owners, because he could get a contender to pitch for, even if he leaves arguably the most pitcher-friendly home park in San Diego, but he has stayed put. Even after his disappointing year and even if he sticks with the lowly Padres to start the season, Peavy has to be considered a top 10 Fantasy pitcher. If he is dealt to a contender and stays healthy, he is a good bet to finish among the top five at the position. We like the durability of Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, Brandon Webb and Roy Halladay ahead of him in the rankings, but we wouldn't be surprised to see Peavy top the list if everything goes right at age 27. Mike Pelfrey, NYM Well, well, well, Pelfrey and his 96 mph stuff has some Fantasy juice after all. Pitching for the top contender in New York helps him win games, but Pelfrey was lights out at times in his first full season as a starting pitcher. When it looked like he belonged back in Triple-A to start the season, the Mets stuck with him when he was 2-6 with a 5.33 ERA through late May. Right around the firing of former pitching coach Rick Peterson, Pelfrey took off as a major league starter. He win 3-0, 3.52 in June, 4-1, 2.70 in July and 4-1, 2.93 in August before reaching his career high in innings and tiring in September (0-3, 4.06). Pelfrey throws a heavy Brandon Webb-like ball as evidence by his mere 12 homers allowed last season. All of this bodes well for continued improvement and makes Pelfrey and excellent sleeper after the top 50 starters are off the board on Draft Day. Pelfrey has top 15 potential, especially if he can pitch the ace-like way he did in the summer months.

Oliver Perez, NYM The 27-year-old Perez slipped from 15 victories in 2007 to just 10 last year heading into free agency this winter. His biggest issue was his wildness, walking over 100 batters for the first time in his career. On the good side of things, he did approach 200 innings and 180 strikeouts, though, and, despite a shaky September (5.79 ERA), he went 42 with a 3.97 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break. Consider him a streaky Fantasy starter useful in any league when he is going well, but he is one to sit during his notorious periodic cold spells. At times, Perez is a shutdown starter. At others, he is a complete bum for Fantasy owners. A high-maintenance starting pitcher pick, for sure, so consider him after the top 65 starting pitchers are off the board on Draft Day. Johan Santana, NYM Many might look at Santana's full-season low of 206 strikeouts and full-season high of a 1.15 WHIP and consider his first season in New York a disappointment. Those people are fools. Santana went 16-7 with a 2.53 ERA after coming over from the Twins in February in a blockbuster trade and we still consider him the No. 1 Fantasy starting pitcher to target on Draft Day still, especially since a suspect Mets bullpen blew so many of his victories. He could have had five to seven more. The good news is the Mets fixed their suspect lateinning relief, acquiring a pair of closers Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz this winter. Those two will help Santana save his arm -- he pitched a career high 234 1/3 innings last season -- in addition to his games. This very well could be Santana's second 20-victory season this year, especially since players in their second season in their new homes tend to settle down and reach their full potential. It certainly was the case with Santana in the second half, as his 8-0, 2.17 post-break split was overshadowed by what CC Sabathia did for Milwaukee. We might consider Sabathia only a slightly better pick as the first pitcher off the board in Head-to-Head leagues, but Santana's year-toyear excellence at least makes it a coin flip in those formats. Joe Saunders, ANA Saunders, a finesse lefty, had a breakout season in 2008, winning 17 games at age 27 and in his first full season as a starter. After going 12-5 with a 3.07 ERA and a .238 batting-average against before the All-Star break, he slowed down a bit in the second half, posting a 3.94 ERA and .275 BAA. Overall, he pitched well enough to enter spring training as one of the contending Angels top starters. That team makes him a potential 15-plus game winner for years. The fact he doesn't strike out a whole lot of batters is the only reason we are inclined to rank him around the 50th-best starting pitcher to target on this Draft Day. Wins just are a tricky stat to project and count on, because of the variables that go into it.


Max Scherzer, ARI The D-Backs' Scherzer was lightning in a bottle for Fantasy owners in the middle of last season -- as in a lightning arm. The hard-throwing whiff master proved ready to contribute in the majors and will have a rotation spot to call his own this spring. He has the talent to be an elite Fantasy starter in a hurry, so consider him a high-ceiling pick after the top 40 starting pitchers are off the board. Partially because he spent more of last year as a late-inning reliever, you cannot expect much more than 160 innings on his unstretched arm, but Scherzer will be a popular target among draftniks this spring. He might even be a bit too difficult to acquire at a reasonable price. Pitching is erratic enough and young pitching is even worse, especially when you consider Scherzer suffered from a shoulder issue last summer that was deemed "dead arm" amid his first full season as a pro. Ben Sheets, FA Everything was lining up perfectly for the oft-injured Sheets last year. He was enjoying a renaissance and approaching the all-important 200-inning plateau heading down the stretch with the postseason-bound Brewers. Then, fate stepped in and robbed Sheets of his health again -- not to mention millions in free agency. A torn muscle in his forearm ended his season early and leaves questions unanswered for Fantasy owners and his new team heading into spring training. Can he stay healthy and prove reliable again? Sheets won a career high 13 games last year, which is a low total for someone with his stature as a front-line starter. He is at risk of surgery and isn't someone we can advise picking in mixed leagues. He is nothing more than a stashee in AL-only and NL-only formats, too. We expect he spends the first half of the year rehabbing his elbow and then looking for suitors in the second half. Javier Vazquez, ATL Vazquez was 12-16 with a 4.67 ERA in 33 starts for the AL Central champions last season, surpassing 200 innings for the eighth time in nine years. One of baseball's more consistent batmissers, he has struck out 200 batters in four of those seasons and will be a candidate to improve his numbers back in the NL with the Braves, who play in a suitable pitcher's park and acquired him to help front their injury-hit and young rotation. We rank him just outside of the top 40 Fantasy starting pitchers to target on Draft Day, but he certainly has shown flashes of potential to perform even better. Edinson Volquez, CIN You will be hard-pressed to find a bigger breakthrough player last year in Fantasy, save for the player he was traded for, Josh Hamilton. One of the Dominican Dandys (along with teammate Johnny Cueto), Volquez went 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA for a non-contender that plays its home games in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in America. The 25-year-old was a respectable 8-3 with a 4.03 ERA and a .255 batting-average against in the Great American Bandbox and a dominant (9-3)2.43-.209 on the road. Typically, pitchers reaching their career high in innings slow down and Volquez was no different, going (5-3)-4.60-.260 in the second half after hitting the break at (12-3)-2.29.212. We don't think you can count on Volquez to be as good as he was in the first half, but his second full year should make him at least a bit more consistent for Fantasy owners. Target him just after the top 15 Fantasy starting pitchers are off the board, but the burgeoning ace could be a coup in the middle rounds if he falls that far.

Chris Volstad, FLA Volstad is one of those prospects where you just need to trust the scouts. While his numbers in the minors were never as mind-blowing as some, he arrived highly-regarded and proved to be a solid big league starter for the Marlins last season. He won six of his 14 starts and posted an ace-like 2.89 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. You cannot expect that kind of dominance in his first full season in the majors, not to mention much more than 175 innings, but Volstad represents a good value among the top 80 starting pitchers on the board. There is great long-term potential here, but expect him to take some lumps like so many young pitchers before him. Adam Wainwright, STL When we talked to Wainwright after his huge 2006 postseason as a closer, he was pretty arrogant about being able to reach 200 innings as a firsttime starter in the majors after serving as a reliever for a season. He backed it up in 2007, but wound up proving banged up a year later, going just 132 innings. They were real quality innings, though, as he went 11-3 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, Cy Young-type splits. We expect he will prove more healthy over the full season, especially after overcoming his sprained finger to go 5-0 upon his return in late August. Injury risk might drop this staff ace below the top 25 starting pitchers on Draft Day, but we are pretty sure he can outperform that draft position and prove to be a reliable every-week starter in any matchup. Brandon Webb, ARI Webb, the NL Cy Young winner in 2006, was runner-up for the second consecutive season, going 22-7 with a 3.30 ERA in 226 2/3 innings. The fact he won 22 games for a non-playoff team speaks volumes of the best "heavy ball" thrower in the game. Webb doesn't need to knock you out to get out. He has yet to strike out 200 batters in a season, but his lower pitch counts allow him to work deeper into games and approach 230 innings every year. We see him reaching that total again in addition to cutting back on some walks. No pitcher has won more games the past two seasons, so reliable Webb has to be one of the top five Fantasy starting pitchers off the board on Draft Day. You might not agree, but we think the D-Backs' young offense will make some significant strides this year, too, giving him more run support and perhaps even greater wins potential. Chris R. Young, SD Young's rise to Fantasy ace got sidetracked last season by a skull fracture from a batted ball, but he proved healthy and effective again in the second half, going 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA and .180 battingaverage against in September. That will help him get picked among the top 65 starting pitchers on Draft Day, but you cannot like the fact the Padres have gone into complete rebuilding mode. Young will struggle to win games with that poor offense, even though he works half his games in one of the best pitcher parks in baseball. We don't project him to be a double-digit winner, but he has the stuff to be one if he can prove healthy. Carlos Zambrano, CHC Big Z's status as a Fantasy ace took a real hit last year, especially in the second half, when he went 4-3 with a 5.80 ERA. He then proceeded to get tagged for seven runs in the postseason, further disappointing long-suffering Cubs fans. Zambrano struck out a career low 130 batters, posted an ERA just under 4.00 and failed to reach 200 innings for the first time as a full-time starter -- mostly due to a

sore elbow that plagued him down the stretch. But we should not lose sight of his long track record of success and his first-half splits last season of 10-3 and a 2.84. Assuming that elbow is sound, Big Z is far closer to that pitcher we came to love and saw before the break. Consider him a top 20 Fantasy starting pitcher to target on Draft Day, but he prepared to accept some walks and erratic starts from time to time. The ends have almost always justified the means with this 27-year-old Cubs ace.

Relief Pitchers
Jonathan Broxton, LAD Bat-breaker. That is one No. 1 superlative for a pitcher, especially a late-inning one. It is also something we are able to toss around with Broxton quite often. The Dodgers turned to him as the closer in the second half of last season and he responded, saving 14 of 17 games from July on. Now, we expect him to officially be named the Dodgers' closer coming out of spring training for the first time, which makes him a top 15 Fantasy option at the position. There is less certainty with him than some other stoppers perhaps, but few have his quality of stuff. Matt Capps, PIT If you could just control how many save chances a closer will get in a given week, Capps would have to be considered a top 10 Fantasy closer. As it is, he is arguably a glorified middle reliever. The Pirates have a solid closer in Capps, but he has saved just 39 games the past two seasons. Granted, a shoulder issue cost him July and August, but the Pirates don't win enough games to truly value their closer even when he is healthy. He has the potential to post a sub-3.00 ERA and sub1.00 WHIP, numbers that would make him an elite closer if he was with a better team. We think you should target at least 20 closers before him on Draft Day, though. Francisco Cordero, CIN The Reds gave Coco a boatload of cash to solve their closer woes and he was able to do it, albeit with some broken eggs. Cordero has never been one to post a great ERA or WHIP, but he does post top-15 worthy save totals. The Reds continue to improve and figure to get him a decent amount of save chances again in 2009, so pick him after the elite options are off the board on Draft Day. We see him getting 30-plus saves with an ERA in the mid3.00s and a WHIP around his career average of 1.36. Mike Gonzalez, ATL This 30-year-old Tommy John survivor might not have proved dominant last season, but at least he proved healthy and capable of being the Braves' closer again. That job won't be handed to him going into spring training, but he has a good chance at winning it. Consider him an injury-risk sleeper on Draft Day. We rank him inside the top 20 at the closer position, but that is assuming the Braves stick with him as their stopper long term. They should.


Trevor Hoffman, MIL Hell's Bells entered his final free agency coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. Even in a bad year, though, Hoffman saved 30 games for a team that probably should have only won 60. Hoffman wasn't great out of the gate last year, going 1-5 with a 5.08 ERA and a .252 battingaverage against in the first half, but he was great there on out at (2-1)-1.59-.169. The Padres didn't bring him back as the closer, but that decision was more financial than anything else. The 41-year-old can still close games in this league and is a sleeper at the position now that he will be pitching for a better team in Milwaukee. The Brewers are a top contender that will give him an excellent shot at 30plus saves, especially since they have little competition for his job this season. Consider him a steady veteran option after the top 20 closers are off the board on Draft Day. Brad Lidge, PHI The world champion closer could do no wrong last year, literally, saving a perfect 41-for-41. You could have thought the vilified ex-Astros closer and the homer-friendly home park would have been a disaster combination, instead it was just what the doctor ordered for Lidge. He has re-emerged as a potential top five closer in Fantasy. Draft him right after the elite of the position are off the board. His year-to-year consistency is not yet there to put him in that class, even if his stuff is. Matt Lindstrom, FLA If you like picking your Fantasy relievers and potential closers on the basis of their radar readings, Lindstrom is your man. He might be the Marlins' too. After dealing Kevin Gregg to the Cubs, the Marlins could finally be ready to hand the closer's role to Lindstrom in spring training. But, as it has been for years, whoever closes for the Marlins will have a lot of competition from an organization full of strong-armed prospects. Consider Lindstrom after the top 25 closers in Fantasy, unless it is clear they won't be finding the next Gregg to slot ahead of him. Lindstrom has top 20 stuff, if he can keep the full-time closer's job. Carlos Marmol, CHC Arguably the best setup man in baseball, Marmol now is the likely first choice at closer for that elite club on Chicago's north side. After losing out to Kerry Wood as Ryan Dempster's heir at closer in spring training, Marmol posted another solid season for the Cubs. He saved seven games and posted a career-low 0.93 WHIP. He was much better in the second half (1.29 ERA, .103) than the first (3.61-.156), but as the closer on one of baseball's best teams, you should be fine with either split in his first full season in the last-inning role. We see him as a top five option on Draft Day, albeit will a lot less conviction than the four ahead of him: Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Papelbon, Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan. That quartet has been up there for years, while the 26-year-old Marmol is just getting started. Chad Qualls, ARI The D-Backs might have found their next closer last September as Qualls was installed in the role during the pennant race and tossed up 13 shutout innings, two victories and seven saves. He gave up just five hits and a walk. He obviously performed at an unsustainable level, but it should be enough to slot him as the team's closer out of spring training. No one can guarantee he is given the role for a full season, or holds it, so expect him to be available after the top 20 closers are off the board. The DBacks are a pitching-and-defense team that also

fancies itself a division title contender, so Qualls is a great sleeper to post 30-40 saves. Francisco Rodriguez, NYM Rodriguez, who will be 27 this season, is coming off a record-setting season for a closer, saving 62 games in just over 68 innings of work. That's the good news, especially since he will have an outstanding contender to save games for after signing his big free-agent deal. The bad news is his velocity was down at the end of the year and his other numbers were some of the worst of his career. He had the highest WHIP of his career, allowing a career-high 54 hits. His walk and strikeout rates were both at career lows as well. It didn't really matter, though; his worst peripherals equated to a record-breaking year for saves regardless. A bad year by K-Rod still makes him the No. 1 closer to have in Fantasy Baseball and he is worth considering as early as round two. Huston Street, COL Street, a 25-year-old right-hander, was demoted from his job as Oakland's closer last season and wound up getting sent out of town in a blockbuster deal for Matt Holliday. He joins a bullpen that loses closer Brian Fuentes to free agency but still includes Manny Corpas, who was the closer who unseated Fuentes in 2007 only to lose the job back to Fuentes last year. We figure Street will open spring training as the Rockies' closer, which makes him a candidate for 30 saves and one of the top 15 closers to target on Draft Day. He has top 10, perhaps even top five, potential, which makes him a candidate to outperform his draft position. Jose Valverde, HOU Valverde, who will be 31 this spring, is not quite an elite closer, but you can’t argue with 91 combined saves the past two years. Valverde blew an alarming seven saves last season, but he got better as his first season in Houston wore on, going 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA and a .192 WHIP. That was the type of guy we saw in Arizona in 2007, the year before he was traded. The Astros figure to give him a consistent number of save chances, so consider Valverde a value pick after the top 10 closers are off the board. His save totals suggest he should get picked higher, but you have to be wary of those blown saves, too. He can be frustrating at times. Brian Wilson, SF Wilson, who will be 27 this spring, had a decent first full season as a closer, posting a surprising 41 saves -- albeit with a disgustingly high ERA and WHIP. The Giants are a team built on pitching and defense and those type teams tend to win a lot of close games and create an inordinate amount of save chances in relation to overall victories. We don't think you can trust him entirely, but you cannot ignore him either. Pick him up after the top 20 at the position are off the board on Draft Day.


Updated Top 25 rookies to target
By Eric Mack Tell Eric your opinion!

What in the name of late Octobers? David Price is back in Triple-A. If you have lived under a rock this spring, it comes as a complete shock. "No, I knew it was coming," Price said after being demoted to the minors, "but right now, it kind of stinks a little bit." The Rays' ALCS Game 7 closer was supposed to be taking flight as one of the aces of baseball this April, not toiling back in the Triple-A holding pattern. But, it makes sense, if you recall what made Price such an impactful late-season pitcher last year. His first professional season started last May 22. That was the only reason he was as fresh as he was Oct. 19, when he was closing out the Red Sox, and Oct. 29 when he pitched the Rays' last inning of the World Series in the rain-suspended Game 5. See, to build a pitching staff that will be strong after six months of baseball -- geez, the baseball season is freakin' long -- you have to either count on 12 pitchers conditioned to do six-plus months of pitching or count on organizational depth and reinforcements. Price is clearly not conditioned to pitch six -or seven -- months of baseball. He is the primary reinforcement. "We have obviously spent a lot of time talking about this," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "When we came into camp, we came in with an open mind, knowing full well that there were certain developmental issues that we wanted him to focus on and also the workload. And just the increase and how we're going to monitor that." The Rays can say they are sending Price to the minor leagues to work on things. Fans might think they are doing it to be cheap, like they were with 2008 AL Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria and the B.J. Upton's and Delmon Young's before him. Hogwash. Price is one of the top 25 pitchers in all of baseball right now, be it March, April or May - for as long as he can pitch this season.

The Rays are just building pitching depth, affording them the chance to keep the Jeff Niemanns and Jason Hammels on the staff now to eat the less meaningful April and May innings, so Price can be fresh to dominate in the September and maybe October ones. "We had a lot of conversations about ways to get creative," Friedman said, "and went through it for the last two or three weeks at length and ultimately decided that all things considered that this was the right move for David and, in turn, the organization. "David will help us win games in 2009." Price's changeup is good enough to win now for the Rays and Fantasy owners. He doesn't need to blow away overmatched Triple-A hitters in April and May to prove it. "Absolutely," he said, debunking claims his changeup needs work. "I think that's a nonissue. That was way better than my slider, so I don't think that's an issue." So, the question now is where do we draft Price? Strangely, his demotion merely drops him to where he should have been going all along, in the middle rounds. He is a stashee in all leagues with reserves and maybe only a lateround flier in leagues without them. You could be taking a zero until June 1 -- although this writer says he returns well before that. The Rays will be five games behind the Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East with their fifth starter getting bounced in the fourth inning just about every time out. Price will be back in Triple-A, sitting 5-0 with a 0.77 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 27 innings. That will change their plans in a hurry. The 23-year-old pitched around 139 1/3 innings between spring training, the minors, majors and the postseason in 2008. Tampa wants to ensure he doesn't exceed that total by more than 20 percent this season. That is about 170 total innings, but that counts spring training and the postseason. Our projections had forecasted exactly 169. Chopping off those 27 we see coming in Triple-A -- which means just about all of that 20 percent increase being absorbed in the minors, by the way -- Price becomes our No. 55 starting pitcher in Fantasy Baseball. That makes him a $6 bid in mixed leagues --

although he is sure to go for far more -- and a $15 bid in AL-only formats. Still, he will go for far more, justifiably so.

Somewhat surprisingly, David Price will start the year in Triple-A. (Getty Images)

He is a talent you just cannot find on a street corner or the midseason waiver wire. We project 9-7 with a 3.99 ERA, 1.231 WHIP and 135 strikeouts in 135 innings. Capable of so much more, sure, but we cannot project more than the Rays are saying he will give us. The shoulder is a complex and fragile joint, layered with muscles, tendons and tissue. The consequences of overstretching it can be disastrous. Ask Mark Prior. Pedro Martinez. Matt Clement. Or any other pitcher to have undergone major shoulder surgery on the labrum and/or rotator cuff. We don't like the fact our preseason Nos. 1 (Price) and 2 (Matt Wieters) will be starting in the minor leagues, but we can understand it - even justify it in the case of Price. With the season now very close, we provide an upgraded Top 25 rookies to target on Draft Day. This is a living, breathing list that can change on a moment's notice. It is frankly that reason alone that makes us say drafting rookies in Fantasy Baseball as anything more than mid- to late-round fliers -- no matter how talented -- is a crapshoot and a dangerous step into the unknown. They can be heroes or big fat zeroes.


Top 25 rookies to target on Draft Day
RK Player TM Age POS 2008 high Destination Spring training stats through March 25 1 David Price TB 23 LHP Majors Triple-A 2-0, 1.08 ERA, .214 BAA, 10 Ks, 8 1/3 innings Very few come around with greater expectations, but almost no one has this kind of talent. 2 Matt Wieters BAL 22 C Double-A Triple-A .343 AVG, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 8 R, 0 SB, .543 SLUG in 35 AB They remain committed to him starting in the minor leagues, but Gregg Zaun still could hand the job over. 3 Tommy Hanson ATL 22 RHP Double-A Triple-A 1-0, 2.45 ERA, .250 BAA, 14 Ks, 14 2/3 innings Arizona Fall League is a hitter's league and it couldn't touch him. What an amazing talent on the verge. 4 Cameron Maybin FLA 21 OF Majors Majors .313-1-2-9-2, .438 SLUG in 48 AB His steals will be what he should be drafted for, but he figures to be able do everything long term. 5 Travis Snider TOR 21 OF Majors Majors .359-3-8-6-1, .667 SLUG in 39 AB His power will be far more intriguing long term, but he is a nice sleeper at a real deep position. 6 Trevor Cahill OAK 21 RHP Double-A Triple-A 2-0, 3.94 ERA, .200 BAA, 10 Ks, 16 innings We like Cahill over Anderson long term, but Anderson may be more ready to start the season in the majors. 7 Brett Anderson OAK 21 LHP Triple-A Majors 1-1, 2.25 ERA, .276 BAA, 6 Ks, 16 innings A's injury-hit rotation looks like it will need this shot in the arm out of spring training, so look out in any format. 8 Jordan Zimmermann WAS 22 RHP Double-A Majors 1-1, 3.14 ERA, .232 BAA, 20 Ks, 14 1/3 innings We are a bit surprised the Nationals would rush him up so soon, but his spring dominance earned him a spot. 9 Elvis Andrus TEX 20 SS Double-A Majors .255-0-2-7-3, .291 SLUG in 55 AB Rangers hand the starting SS job to him over Michael Young, but his steals are his lone plus asset. 10 Colby Rasmus STL 22 OF Triple-A Majors .283-0-5-12-3, .417 SLUG in 60 AB We thought he should have made the team last spring, and don't think he should make the team this spring. 11 Chris Getz CHW 25 2B Majors Majors .333-1-7-3-2, .467 SLUG in 45 AB He beat out a big-time prospect in Gordon Beckham and now might even lead off for a great offense. 12 Scott Lewis CLE 25 LHP Majors Majors 1-1, 3.52 ERA, .241 BAA, 12 Ks, 15 1/3 innings Winning the Indians' No. 4 starting spot makes him a great sleeper even in mixed leagues on Draft Day. 13 Jason Motte STL 26 RHP Majors Majors 4 saves, 1.08 ERA, .161 BAA, 13 Ks, 8 1/3 innings With Chris Perez's bad spring, we are thinking if the Cardinals go raw at closer, it will be Motte now. 14 Nick Adenhart LAA 22 RHP Majors Majors 1-0, 4.05 ERA, .240 BAA, 10 Ks, 13 1/3 innings If not for his poor 2008, he would be a certain top five on this list. Angels injury-hit rotation needs him now. 15 Matt LaPorta CLE 24 OF Triple-A Triple-A .361-1-4-7-1, .611 SLUG in 36 AB The biggest mashing prospect around will eventually be a Fantasy superstar, but opens the season in Triple-A. 16 Rick Porcello DET 20 RHP High Class A Double-A 0-1, 4.26 ERA, .379 BAA, 4 Ks, 6 1/3 innings If he gets time in the rotation, you have to figure it is because the other options are weak. He's being rushed. 17 James McDonald LAD 24 RHP Majors Triple-A 1-2, 5.84 ERA, .277 BAA, 8 Ks, 12 1/3 innings Another No. 5 rotation candidate who we would have higher on this list if he won a rotation spot in camp. 18 Aaron Poreda CHW 22 LHP Double-A Triple-A 1-1, 6.08 ERA, .245 BAA, 7 Ks, 13 1/3 innings He opens the year in the majors, but he will be impacting the White Sox and Fantasy before the year is out. 19 Clayton Richard CHW 25 LHP Majors Majors 1-1, 5.06 ERA, .314 BAA, 7 Ks, 21 1/3 innings He might merely be a back-end starter, but he will start the year in the rotation if Bartolo Colon doesn't. 20 Taylor Teagarden TEX 25 C Majors Majors .179-2-5-4-0, .393 SLUG in 28 AB Jarrod Saltalamacchia is ahead of him right now, but T2 is a future top 10 Fantasy C himself, too. 21 Kenshin Kawakami ATL 33 RHP Japan Majors 1-0, 1.23 ERA, .167 BAA, 7 Ks, 14 2/3 innings Smallish right-handed import is a real old for a rookie, but he could have a Hiroki Kuroda-like impact. 22 Koji Uehara BAL 33 RHP Japan Majors 0-1, 4.70 ERA, .258 BAA, 12 Ks, 7 2/3 innings The Orioles have him penciled in as their No. 2 starter, but that's not a good situation for any Fantasy pitcher. 23

RK Player TM Age POS 2008 high Destination Spring training stats through March 25 23 Brett Gardner NYY 25 OF Majors Majors .409-3-6-9-4, .750 SLUG in 44 AB The Yankees don't have a true center fielder, so this base-stealer could impact Rotisserie if he starts. 24 Gordon Beckham CHW 22 SS Low Class A Double-A .270-2-6-6-2, .568 SLUG in 37 AB Our look at him this spring has us giddy behind our original belief. He is going to be a big-time star very soon. 25 Gaby Sanchez FLA 25 1B Double-A Triple-A .200-0-0-2-0, .267 SLUG in 30 AB We think Dallas McPherson needs to start and Sanchez needs to be in the minors, but there is potential here.

The dropouts
RK Player TM Age POS 2008 high Destination Spring training stats through March 25 NR Jeff Samardzija CHC 24 RHP Majors Triple-A 0-1, 9.75 ERA, 8 K, 2.00 WHIP, 12 innings This is one of the biggest fallers in Fantasy value this spring. He is going from the rotation to perhaps Triple-A. NR Gio Gonzalez OAK 23 LHP Majors Majors 0-0, 4.32 ERA, 8 Ks, 1.08 WHIP in 8 1/3 innings Minor league strikeout maven had a rotation spot to lose with the A's and went out and did this spring. NR Max Ramirez TEX 24 C Majors Triple-A .600-0-1-1-0, .800 SLUG in 5 AB Of Texas' catching trio, Ramirez has the most dynamic bat, but he might be the one to open in Triple-A. NR George Kottaras BOS 25 C Majors Majors .273-1-5-4-0, .455 SLUG in 22 AB The next Kelly Shoppach? Kottaras had 22 Triple-A HRs and could steal some starts from Jason Varitek. NR Carlos Carrasco PHI 22 RHP Triple-A Triple-A 2-1, 6.75 ERA, 10 Ks, 1.43 WHIP in 14 2/3 innings The Phillies might bring their prized pitching prospect along slowly this spring, but look out once he arrives. NR David Freese STL 25 3B Triple-A Triple-A .263-0-2-2-0, .316 SLUG in 19 AB After Troy Glaus' surgery, his 26 Triple-A homers made him a sleeper to start on opening day. He still might. NR Brent Lillibridge CHW 25 SS Majors Majors .228-0-3-3-1, .263 SLUG in 57 AB He's insurance in case Getz isn't the answer and he could prove to be a steal in deeper AL-only formats. NR Matt Antonelli SD 23 2B Majors Triple-A .250-0-3-8-0, .344 SLUG in 32 AB He is still better than Chase Headley in our eyes and a potential starter at second base for the Padres later. Other potential ROY candidates: Jordan Schafer, OF, ATL; Jeff Niemann, SP, TB; Dexter Fowler, OF, COL; Andrew McCutchen, OF, PIT; Mat Gamel, 3B, MIL; Jonathon Niese, SP, NYM; Alcides Escobar, SS, MIL; Brad Mills, SP, TOR and Brett Cecil, SP, TOR.

Projected postseason honors
And we also update our projected All-Rookie Team, guys we expect to make an impact this year, and the All-Prospect Team, those that will be the hottest names in the minors this season at their positions.

All-Rookie Team
C 1B 2B 3B SS OF OF OF DH SP SP SP SP SP SP RP Matt Wieters Gaby Sanchez Chris Getz Mat Gamel Elvis Andrus Cameron Maybin Travis Snider Colby Rasmus Matt LaPorta David Price Tommy Hanson Trevor Cahill/Brett Anderson Jordan Zimmermann Scott Lewis Nick Adenhart Jason Motte BAL FLA CHW MIL TEX FLA TOR STL CLE TB ATL OAK WAS CLE LAA STL

All-Prospect Team
C 1B 2B 3B SS OF OF OF DH SP SP SP SP SP SP RP Matt Wieters Justin Smoak Alcides Escobar Pedro Alvarez Gordon Beckham Cameron Maybin Colby Rasmus Jason Heyward Matt LaPorta David Price Tommy Hanson Madison Bumgarner Stephen Strasburg Neftali Feliz Chris Tillman Daniel Bard BAL TEX MIL PIT CHW FLA STL ATL CLE TB ATL SF NCAA TEX BAL OAK


Who is due for a bounce back?
By Scott White Tell Scott your opinion!

So you got burned last year. You entered the season with high hopes for someone, and he didn't deliver. Now, you can't help but hold a grudge, devising an entire draft strategy with the direct aim of making sure your two paths never cross again. Then again, he might just redeem himself. He might just bounce back. How can you tell? For some players, it's easy. They might have suffered fluke injuries that kept them on the disabled list for half the year, but their final numbers looked normal considering the time they missed. They're fine. You know it. End of story.

Frankly, he has a better chance of "bouncing back" -- speaking strictly in terms of Fantasy points, now -- by improving his power. Verdict: Crawford isn't a bad choice as a No. 2 outfielder considering he used to rate as a No. 1, but you should probably expect the numbers of a No. 2.

some time, but it probably won't get him back to a .315 batting average or 45 home runs, not with him battling chronic knee problems. You shouldn't stick a fork in him, of course. He still walks plenty and has above-average power. But you can't expect him to produce at a first-round level anymore. Verdict: Last season was likely the beginning of the end for Big Papi. He tends to fall to the fourth or fifth round in drafts because you have to expect fourth- or fifth-round production from him, not first-round production at a bargain-basement price. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers Verlander, the second overall pick in the 2004 draft, entered last season as a favorite to win the AL Cy Young, including my own. Coming off a season with 18 wins, a no-hitter and his first All-Star selection, the third-year pitcher with the 98-mph fastball appeared on the verge of turning the corner as one of the game's best pitchers to perhaps the best. Instead, he had the worst season of his career, losing 17 games. His strikeouts decreased. His walks increased. He barely had an ERA below 5.00. He disappointed right out of the gate and only got worse from there, compiling a 6.04 ERA in the second half, so anyone who expects him to rebound is simply putting faith in his raw talent -something he should have in bunches. But a decrease in strikeouts coupled with an increase in walks is a sure sign of bad pitching, not just bad luck, and some observers claim Verlander has lost some velocity on that 98-mph fastball. He pitched like a No. 5 Fantasy starter at best last year, so by drafting him as a No. 2, which you'd likely have to do to get him, you leave yourself vulnerable to serious disappointment. Verdict: Though his talent and pedigree suggest he has the potential to rebound, Verlander has exhibited some signs of impending collapse. Plus, you'd have to draft him as a near certainty to rebound and not just a pray-for-rain type, making him one of the riskier choices on this list. Aaron Harang, SP Reds Like Verlander, Harang entered last season as a No. 1 Fantasy starting pitcher, and like Verlander, he bombed, losing 17 games, like Verlander, with an ERA barely below 5.00, like Verlander. But unlike Verlander, his strikeouts and walks didn't change significantly. In fact, he began the season as dominant as always, compiling a 2.98 ERA in April. His troubles didn't begin until that one fateful day in May when manager Dusty Baker had him pitch four innings of relief on 25

But others don't have such open-and-shut cases. They didn't have injuries that sidelined them for weeks at a time, so they can't blame their statistical losses on missing at-bats. No, they just plain stunk. For those players, you might need a little help. Granted, you don't want them to burn you again, but you don't want to miss out on this year's version of Carlos Delgado, Aubrey Huff or Jason Bay either. This column examines a few of those potential bounceback players, assessing the many factors that might have contributed to their demises and the likelihood of them overcoming those factors, before delivering a final verdict on where you should draft them, if at all. Let's bounce. Carl Crawford, OF, Rays Something went wrong for Crawford last season, and it started before he needed surgery on his hand in mid-August. It started the same place it ended in 2007, in his legs. Unfortunately, the 27-year-old speedster now has history of "leg problems" -- a condition he credits to playing half his games on artificial turf. He made a point to train on grass in the offseason and hasn't shied away from stealing bases this spring, but the fact he has to double last year's stolen-base output (25) just to return to his career norms makes him somewhat of a risky choice as a bounce-back candidate. Fifty stolen bases is a ridiculous number for a healthy player, not to mention one trying to preserve his legs. As for his .273 batting average last year, well, his usual .305 mark always seemed like a bit of an aberration given his low walk rate. A .290 batting average and 35 stolen bases sounds about right for Crawford, and he might disappoint you if you hope for anything more.
Why does it seem like Carl Crawford is performing like someone much older than 27? (US Presswire)

David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox By most measurements, Ortiz still had a "good" season last year. It just wasn't Big Papi good. True, the guy missed most of July with a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, so you might attribute his relatively low numbers to the fact he played only 109 games, his fewest during his tenure in Boston. But you can't ignore the decline in his percentages, particularly his slugging percentage. He slugged less than .600 for the first time in five years. And he didn't just miss the mark by a few percentage points: He slugged only .507. You can blame the wrist injury if you want, but he actually had a worse slugging percentage before it (.486) than after it (.529). Look, Big Papi is 33 years old -- almost the exact age when other "big" sluggers, such as Cecil Fielder and Mo Vaughn, hit a wall. Their bodies just can't take the abuse a normal athlete's can. Ortiz knows it. He slimmed down in the offseason, which might buy him

two days' rest. He did just fine then, allowing two hits and recording nine strikeouts. Not so great thereafter, however, and after eight mostly mediocre starts, he went on the disabled list with a strained forearm. A scapegoat? Hard to say. He looked back to normal in six September starts, though, allowing a .247 batting average compared to a .245 mark in April. All factors considered, his struggles last year don't look as much like a decline as a combination of bad luck, the strained forearm and the lingering effects of that excessive relief appearance. Yet everyone seems more scared of him than Verlander, selecting him as the 40th starting pitcher in Head-to-Head leagues and the 42nd in Rotisserie. Nothing to lose there. Verdict: Harang has slipped enough in drafts that he has legitimate sleeper potential. The fact he maintained his usual strikeout rate and walk rate throughout his struggles suggests he simply had a bad season, not a loss of talent. Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees Everyone's favorite breakout candidate last year hit 30 points lower than the year before, and it dropped him from a fourth-rounder then to a ninth-rounder now. Fair? Well, let's decide. He didn't turn 26 until the offseason. He had a .333 on-base percentage and a .482 slugging percentage in the second half last year, falling right in line with his career marks of .335 and .468. He doesn't walk much, so you had to expect his batting average to bend more than most players' from year to year. Just because it bent down last year doesn't mean it can't bend back up again. And for as little as he walks, he strikes out even less for a player his age, so based on sheer probability, more of those batted balls will land this year than last year. So his abilities haven't changed. His supporting cast hasn't changed. His potential hasn't changed. The only thing that has changed with Cano from last year to this year is the way people perceive him. Nothing but bad luck and his own poor walk rate stands in the way of him having a bounce-back season. Verdict: A good player had a bad year. If you don't mind streakiness, Cano will more likely outperform than underperform his draft position in Round 9, and he might even improve his power numbers to boot. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies Nobody can tell the story of Tulowitzki's 2008 season without mentioning the injuries that derailed his first half. By the time he recovered from a torn quadriceps and a cut right hand heading into the All-Star break, his batting average stood at .166, making him the bust of the century for all the Fantasy owners who selected him in the second or third round. Unfortunately, they might have judged him a bit too soon. See, in the second half, when all those down-and-out Tulowitzki owners turned their attention to Fantasy Football, the 2007 runner-up for Rookie of the

Year played arguably the best baseball of his major-league career, hitting .327 with an .858 OPS. Even more impressive, he cut down his strikeout rate from one every 4.7 at-bats as a rookie to one every 9.9 at-bats last year. Yes, in between his poor numbers influenced mostly by that dreadful first half, he turned a corner in his development as a hitter. He needs to combine that improved contact rate with home-run ability before he emerges as a Fantasy stud, but he certainly looks ready to continue his upward climb to elite status. Verdict: Based on his second half, Tulowitzki should pick up where he left off in 2007. You'd still have to draft him before the 10th round, limiting his sleeper appeal, but a bounce-back season seems a virtual certainty.

projected minor-leaguer David Price in Rotisserie leagues. Myers can sometimes walk a few too many batters, as all curveball pitchers tend to do, but overall, the pros outweigh the cons for the 28-year-old hurler. Verdict: Myers already bounced back. It just happened in the middle of the season instead of at the beginning. If people drafted him according to his second-half numbers instead of his overall numbers, he wouldn't deserve a spot on this list. Bobby Jenks, RP, White Sox Jenks had at least 40 saves each of his first two seasons as the White Sox closer only to take a step back with 30 last year, when the team actually made the playoffs. Even more discouraging, he recorded only 5.5 strikeouts per nine innings -- a rate you'd normally reserve for mop-up men. So what makes him a candidate to rebound? Really, everything else. He again had an ERA below 3.00 and a WHIP below 1.20, and those shrinking strikeouts you can credit to the continuation of a trend. He went from 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2006 to 7.8 in 2007 to 5.5 last year. Considering how much his control has improved over that stretch, the declining whiff rate looks like a tradeoff designed to decrease his walks, which decreases his WHIP and makes him a better closer overall. As for those 30 saves during a winning season, Jenks just goes down as one of last year's examples why saves remain the most unpredictable, overvalued stat in Fantasy Baseball. He could actually get better this year even if the White Sox get worse. Hey, it worked for Mariano Rivera with the Yankees last year. Verdict: Jenks certainly doesn't rank among the elite closers, but he still rates as a No. 1 Fantasy option as a reliable strike-thrower on a probable contender. Expect him to save somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-40 games with a solid ERA and WHIP even if his strikeout rate doesn't improve. Jeff Francoeur, OF, Braves After watching his home runs decrease from 29 to 19 in 2007, Francoeur committed to improving his power going into last season, gaining 17 pounds of muscle. Unfortunately, he forgot the most crucial aspect of power hitting: bat speed. The muscles simply got in the way, causing him to overswing instead of just flipping his bat through the zone. He ended up hitting .239 with 11 home runs. So now, it's back to the basics for a slimmeddown Francoeur, meaning an altered batting stance that helps him stay balanced and hit the ball to the opposite field. So far, the adjustments have improved his contact rate this spring, but with the decreased emphasis on power, you have to wonder when he'll ever break out with 30 home runs. Coming off such a miserable season, a .280 batting average, 20 home runs, and 90 RBI sounds like improvement enough. 26

Troy Tulowitzki is too young to assume that last year's disappointment was anything but bad luck. (US Presswire)

Brett Myers, SP, Phillies The Phillies erred by moving Myers to the bullpen early in 2007 not only because they did it right as he had begun to peak as a starting pitcher, but also because he ended up liking it, resisting his return to the rotation in 2008. But he, like the Phillies, eventually had to face the reality that he has too much talent to waste on one-inning spurts. He wouldn't get to show off his full arsenal unless he moved back to the starting rotation, back to where he could pitch six or seven innings at once. The adjustment took some time, especially since Myers didn't exactly approach it with a gung-ho attitude, but he eventually came around, going 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA in the second half. In fact, you could almost say his bounce back already happened, but you wouldn't know it by where people draft him. Even though he has 200strikeout potential, having already achieved the feat once in 2005, and the ability to win 15-plus games for the defending world champions, he goes off the board after

Verdict: Francoeur needs to get back to a starting point before he can begin moving forward. The chance of him regaining his form makes him well worth a late-round pick, but in shallower Head-to-Head leagues, he was never worth more than that anyway. Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox Last year, Konerko didn't look like the same player who hit at least 30 home runs each of the previous four seasons. He finished with only 22, his lowest total since a curiously poor 2003 season when he hit .234 with 18 home runs. His batting average also declined for the second straight year, finishing at .240 to give him a cumulative mark of .250 over the last two seasons. Some Fantasy owners might assume Konerko's skills have simply begun to diminish at age 33, which might have some basis if he didn't recover to hit .270 with 13 home runs and a .910 OPS in the second half last year. He looked like himself all over again, making his first-half numbers one of the season's biggest mysteries and his overall numbers dangerously misleading. As a player who often goes undrafted in mixed leagues, he comes with zero risk, and anyone who overlooks him simply puts too much stock in the wrong numbers. Food for thought: Konerko also rebounded in the second half of that awful 2003 season, hitting .275 with 13 home runs and an .853 OPS.

Verdict: His poor season likely had more to do with a prolonged slump than declining skills, and his average draft position gives you the luxury of assuming so. Here's some quick verdicts on a few other bounce-back candidates: Chris B. Young, OF, Diamondbacks: Young went from a near 30-30 man as a rookie to not even a 20-20 man as a sophomore, but you have to think of him as more potential than anything else at his age. He showed signs of development with a .278 batting average in the second half. Expect him to continue this two-steps-forward, onestep-back approach. Micah Owings, SP, Reds: After pitching like an emerging ace during the first month of the season, Owings fell apart, finishing with 5.93 ERA. He maintained a relatively low WHIP despite his struggles, though, and improved his strikeout rate. Now dominating for the Reds this spring, he looks like an earlyseason waiver claim in mixed leagues. Expect not just a bounce back, but an improvement. Fausto Carmona, SP, Indians: Control problems came back to haunt this former 19game winner with a sick sinkerball, making him worthless last year. Another sinkerballer, Brandon Webb, had off-and-on control

problems earlier in his career, but he also had far more strikeouts than Carmona. The Indians right-hander has to rebound some, and for a late-round pick, you can expect more than some. Just don't expect 19 wins. Miguel Tejada, SS, Astros: When Tejada moved to Houston and its short fence in left field, some people expected him to return to his slugging ways. Instead, he continued to regress. The regression will continue for the 34-year-old, and he compares better to Edgar Renteria than J.J. Hardy. Chone Figgins, 3B, Angels: Figgins' steals didn't really decrease last year, but his batting average sure did, and his .318 slugging percentage looks like a misprint. Most likely, he's more a .276 hitter than a .330 hitter, but people seem to understand that now and wait until the middle rounds, drafting him for steals and steals alone. Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins: After hitting .340 with 10 home runs in the second half of 2007, Hermida regressed in every way possible last year. As a still-developing 24year-old and a no-risk pick in the late rounds, he has the potential to become a regular starter for your Fantasy team, and he looks like he might have turned a corner this spring. Just don't make the mistake of reaching for him, like you might have done last year.


Buying into spring studs?
By Al Melchior Tell Al your opinion!

Fantasy owners starved for stats can be tempted to put too much weight on the numbers produced in the Cactus and Grapefruit League, even though we should know better. Hitters face a smorgasbord of minor league and major league pitchers and sample sizes are too small to be conclusive. Even with these caveats, spring performances are taken seriously, even by big league front offices. Hot preseasons catapulted the likes of Eugenio Velez and Elliot Johnson onto regular season rosters in 2008, and David Murphy won a starting role outright. Some of this spring's surprising hitters may earn and keep a significant big league role, as Murphy and Velez did last year, while others will follow Johnson's path towards a quick minor league demotion, if they even make the final cut to begin with. The best indicator of what's to come for this year's March phenoms is to take a look at their long-range trends in the minors, along with the level of competition they face for a significant role with the big league club. And that's exactly what I have done with half a dozen of this month's hottest hitters. Jesus Guzman, 3B, San Francisco: The biggest impact being made this spring comes from the player on this list who is probably the least well-known. Guzman, who arrived in Giants' camp via minor league free agency, is forcing people to take notice with a .400 batting average and .943 slugging percentage through 16 games. It would be a huge upset if Guzman forced Pablo Sandoval out of the lineup, but his hot spring combined with superior minor-league numbers should give the Giants a reason to consider moving Sandoval over to first base to replace Travis Ishikawa. If this happened, Guzman should hit with enough power and for a high enough average to be a Fantasy asset, possibly even in mixed leagues. Year 2006 2007 2008 Team San Antonio (Double-A) High Desert (High Class A) Midland (Double-A) Walk Rate 10% 9% 9% Whiff Rate 18% 16% 16% Iso Power .125 .237 .196 SB 7 3 5

Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B, Seattle: The Mariners' prospect has torched the Cactus League almost as badly as Guzman, hitting for a .450 average and collecting seven doubles in 40 at-bats. The doubles power is for real; he clubbed 32 of them in Triple-A last season as a 22 year-old. Despite the signs of developing power, there is nowhere for Tuiasosopo to play right now. His spring tryout may not be for naught in '09, particularly if the M's fall out of the race and move free-agent-to-be Adrian Beltre to a contender. Given a chance to play, Tuiasosopo would be suitable for owners in AL-only leagues, but he'll need to improve his home run power and cut back on strikeouts significantly to be anything more. Year 2006 2007 2008 Team San Antonio (Double-A) West Tennessee (Double-A) Tacoma (Triple-A) Walk Rate 9% 15% 10% Whiff Rate 30% 25% 24% Iso Power .032 .143 .172 SB 2 4 4

Xavier Paul, OF, L.A. Dodgers: Paul is turning heads with a .425 batting average this spring, but with an already crowded Dodger outfield, he can hope for no better than a spot at the end of the bench. Even if an injury to a starter forces Paul into a larger role, there is little reason to expect him to continue to hit for a high average. Even though he hit .316 in Triple-A in 2008, Paul built that average on a .388 BABIP that he is unlikely to sustain at the major league level. He strikes out too much and offers too little power to be a valuable Fantasy asset, even as a starter. Year 2007 2008 Team Jacksonville (Double-A) Las Vegas (Triple-A) Walk Rate 10% 9% Whiff Rate 27% 22% Iso Power .137 .147 SB 17 17

Brett Gardner, OF, N.Y. Yankees: Even as a spare outfielder, Gardner has some Fantasy value as a stolen base threat in the mold of Rajai Davis. Now that Gardner has a chance to start the season as the Yankees' everyday center fielder, you would think he would have even more value. With a full-time gig, it's conceivable that he could steal 40 bases, but Gardner's contact skills are nothing to get excited about. That will put a damper on his batting average, which in turn will limit his run-scoring possibilities. Gardner is an AL-only option at best. Year 2006 2007 2008 Team Trenton (Double-A) Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Triple-A) N.Y. Yankees Walk Rate 11% 10% 6% Whiff Rate 18% 24% 24% Iso Power .046 .072 .071 SB 28 21 13

Micah Hoffpauir, 1B/OF, Chicago Cubs: Hoffpauir's performance to date, which includes a .288 batting average and 13 RBI (currently thirdbest in the Cactus League), has drawn a great deal of attention. It just may be enough to earn him a ticket to Wrigley as a bench player. Assuming he does head north, between Milton Bradley's questionable durability and the lackluster offense of Derrek Lee and Kosuke Fukudome, Hoffpauir could get considerable playing time. There's not going to be much upside for this 29 year-old, but his Fantasy value could rival Raul Ibanez' if he gets a chance to play regularly. Year 2006 2007 2008 Team Iowa (Triple-A) Iowa (Triple-A) Iowa (Triple-A) Walk Rate 12% 7% 6% Whiff Rate 23% 11% 16% Iso Power .184 .232 .390 SB 1 2 2 28

Ryan Roberts, 2B, Arizona: With five doubles in preseason play so far, Roberts is showing that he's got a some pop for a middle infielder. Don't trust the .325 batting average, though. His 10 strikeouts in 40 at-bats are an indication of how limited his potential for a high batting average is. Should Felipe Lopez get hurt or just continue his downward spiral, the 28 year-old Roberts would be an adequate replacement and a useful player in NL-only leagues. Year 2006 2007 2008 Team Syracuse (Triple-A) Syracuse (Triple-A) Syracuse (Triple-A) Walk Rate 8% 14% 13% Whiff Rate 24% 25% 17% Iso Power .166 .161 .163 SB 5 1 15

Each of these six hitters, with the exception of Paul, has something to offer Fantasy owners in 2009, if not quite at the level they are establishing with their preseason numbers. Hoffpauir and Guzman, in particular, have both the skill sets and the potential playing time opportunities to make them valuable Fantasy commodities. A few pitchers could join the ranks of Hoffpauir and Guzman as unexpected roster additions this spring. How many will make their squads and will they stick? Answers will be revealed in the next installment. Isolated Power – The difference between slugging percentage and batting average; created by Branch Rickey and Allan Roth Walk Rate – Walks / (at bats + walks) Whiff Rate – Strikeouts / at bats


Air-to-ground mission
By Al Melchior Tell Al your opinion!

One of the more notable statistical shifts we have seen over the past couple of seasons has been the drop in home run totals. We can wag our collective finger at the rampant use of steroids and HGH and feel pretty certain we have found the culprit for the overall drop in power. For at least a few players, though, we can find a much more benign explanation: an extreme increase in ground balls. It's true that some hitters become more or less prone to hitting grounders over time, but some changes in this tendency are so extreme, they almost certainly have to be classified as flukes. Two seasons ago, Jorge Cantu was the poster child for Fluky Groundball Syndrome, and a single-season spike in his groundball rate, combined with an even more inexplicable drop in home run per flyball rate, sapped him of his power. Groundball rates can take extreme dips as well. In '07, Matt Diaz decreased his AB/HR rate from 42.4 to 29.8, thanks in large part to an increasing tendency to put the ball in the air. Heading into 2008, owners who rostered Diaz mistakenly thought the power surge was genuine, only to be disappointed. Diaz returned to his groundball-hitting ways last year, albeit in an injury-shortened 135 at-bat season. When players like Cantu and Diaz experience radical changes in their groundball tendencies, they are almost certain to reverse course the following season, regressing to something closer to their usual levels. When this occurs, it can have an impact on batting average as well as home runs. Changes in groundball tendencies have a marginal impact on BABIP, but when those changes are extreme, the effect on BABIP -and ultimately, batting average -- can be noteworthy. Based on aberrant Ground Out-to-Air Out ratios (GO/AO) ratios from 2008, we can identify six players who are probably due for some shifts in their home run totals and/or batting averages. For some players, like Robinson Cano and Jimmy Rollins, a return to their normal statistical selves is a positive development for the coming season. For others, like Jack Cust and Ryan Theriot, it's a mixed bag at best.

Due for More Grounders
Jack Cust, OF, Oakland: Cust has power galore, but with all those strikeouts, he needs to put a lot of balls in the air to get 30 homers. With an expected dip in flyballs, Cust will have trouble breaking the 30-homer mark again this year. The upside of the diminished homer total is a batting average that should approach the .250 level. Year 2008 2007 Ground outs/Air outs 1.24 1.90 BABIP .311 .366 BA .231 .256 Iso Power .245 .248 Home Runs 33 26

Robinson Cano, 2B, N.Y. Yankees: The strangest outcome of Cano's hitting more balls in the air is that his home run rate actually decreased. Especially with an expected increase in ground balls in '09, it would be a mistake to expect more than 15 homers from Cano, but you can count on a spike in batting average. A conservative estimate would still put his average for this season in the .290 to .300 range. Year 2008 2007 Ground outs/Air outs 1.16 1.64 BABIP .286 .331 BA .271 .306 Iso Power .139 .182 Home Runs 14 19

Due to Go Airborne
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia: It's not like Rollins to put fewer than one-third of his hit balls up for flies, but that's what he did last year. Rebounding back to his normal ratios won't be enough to get Rollins back to 30 homers, but 20 is a realistic projection. His batting average won't take a hit, and it could even improve slightly. Hitting more flyballs will generally push a batter's average downward, but Rollins is also owed a BABIP rebound, as last year's .292 rate was oddly low. The dual trends of a higher flyball rate and better luck with BABIP will most likely cancel each other out. Year 2008 2007 Ground outs/Air outs 1.23 0.72 BABIP .292 .303 BA .277 .296 Iso Power .160 .235 Home Runs 11 30

Delmon Young, OF, Minnesota: Unlike last year, owners won't have to wait until June for Young to hit his first homer in 2009. Several signs point towards a more powerful Young this season: a minor league track record of 20-plus home run power; a 17-homer pace after the '08 AllStar Break; the continuing development of a 23 year-old; and a slim chance of repeating one of the major league's highest ground ball rates. BABIP might get knocked down a few points, but with continued improvement in his whiff rate, Young could easily raise his batting average to .300. Year 2008 2007 Ground outs/Air outs 1.88 1.32 BABIP .341 .343 BA .290 .288 Iso Power .115 .119 Home Runs 10 13


Ryan Theriot, SS, Chicago Cubs: Rising flyball rates aren't always a good thing. In Theriot's case, the trend will erode his batting average, which is his main asset. It may not plummet all the way to the .260s, as it did in 2007, but even as a .280 hitter, Theriot loses a lot of his value. More flyballs will mean a lower average, fewer runs and fewer steals, but with so little power, they don't really add to Theriot's ability to help you in the home run category. Year 2008 2007 Ground outs/Air outs 2.02 1.22 BABIP .340 .289 BA .307 .266 Iso Power .052 .080 Home Runs 1 3

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Houston Astros: The good news for the Astros' new acquisition is that he is primed for a return to double-digit home runs, especially if he gets the four or five starts a week that he wants. Just don't look for improvement in batting average. His .276 mark from last year is about the highest you can expect, and a drop into the .260s is not out of the question. Despite the expected improvement in power over last year, Pudge's production will still not be quite worthy of consideration in standard mixed leagues. Year 2008 2007 Ground outs/Air outs 2.17 1.73 BABIP .318 .329 BA .276 .281 Iso Power .118 .139 Home Runs 7 11

Base Hits per Balls in Play (BABIP) – The percentage of balls in play (at bats minus strikeouts and home runs) that are base hits; research by Voros McCracken and others has established that this rate is largely random and has a norm of approximately 30% Isolated Power – The difference between slugging percentage and batting average; created by Branch Rickey and Allan Roth


Avoid gopheritis on Draft Day!
By Al Melchior Tell Al your opinion!

Here's a news flash from your Fantasy Surgeon General: home runs are hazardous to your pitching staff's health. It's obvious enough that long balls are the fastest way to explode a pitcher's ERA, but it still may be necessary to put a warning label on your more combustible hurlers. After all, there are some pretty good Fantasy pitchers, like Ricky Nolasco, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly, who have career home run rates well above average. Even superstars like Johan Santana and Josh Beckett have had recent seasons where they can't seem to keep the ball in play. Don't be fooled. It is tempting to think that a pitcher with gopherball tendencies must have some compensating skill that makes it palatable to absorb all those dinger-induced runs. Whether he's a control artist like Brian Bannister or an extreme flyball, low-BABIP pitcher like Lilly, there's no way to avoid the ugly truth. With few exceptions, a pitcher who is afflicted with gopheritis will kill your Fantasy team. Because pitchers with high HR/9 rates have no advantage over other pitchers when it comes to walk rates or BABIP, they don't make up for their astronomical ERAs with lower WHIPs. Worse yet, gopherball pitchers record fewer strikeouts than their whiplash-free counterparts, so their WHIPs are actually higher. In comparing starting pitchers with extreme HR/9 rates from the last four seasons, we see the not-so-surprising result that those yielding few homers have much lower ERAs on average. The 69 pitchers with full-season HR/9 rates below 0.73 averaged a sparkling 3.45 ERA, while the 63 pitchers with rates over 1.33 posted ERAs that were nearly a run and a half higher on average. The gopherball pitchers also missed fewer bats, leaving more balls in play, leading to more men on base. The result is an average WHIP that is 0.13 higher than that posted by the low-homer group. By the time you add up the differences in ERA, WHIP and K/9 rate, you have an enormous chasm between these two groups of pitchers. It's essentially the difference between a mixed league pitcher like Jair Jurrjens (0.53 HR/9 in 2008) and waiver wire fodder like Tim Redding (1.34 HR/9). # of pitchers K/9
HR/9 less than 0.73 HR/9 greater than 1.33 69 63 6.67 6.09

rates near 3.0 as well. Look for Lilly's WHIP to shoot up over 1.30 and his ERA to creep up to 4.20 or higher. Armando Galarraga, Detroit: On a superficial level, Galarraga looked like a better pitcher than Jurrjens last year. His 6.35 K/9, 3.07 BB/9 and 3.73 ERA were nearly identical to Jurrjens', and his 1.19 WHIP was dramatically lower. As the owner of a .239 BABIP, 'Mando is due for a mondo meltdown. As far as comparables go, don't think Jurrjens. Think Vicente Padilla. Dave Bush, Milwaukee: Three years ago, Bush looked like he could be the next Roy Halladay. Since then, his walks have increased, his strikeouts have decreased, and the long balls just keep coming. Without a .239 BABIP, Bush's stat line would not have looked much different from Brian Bannister's. Scott Olsen, Washington: Olsen's story is essentially the same as Bush's: inexplicable skill decline masked by an unsustainably low BABIP. Jamie Moyer, Philadelphia: Moyer didn't get any favors from BABIP, but his gopheritis went into remission with a fishy 0.92 HR/9. Especially given where he pitches half his games, a substantial increase in that rate seems almost inevitable. Gavin Floyd, Chicago White Sox: Last season, Floyd was Galarraga's statistical clone, right down to the fluky BABIP. The good news for Floyd owners is that he wasn't as much of a home run pitcher in the minors. Now would be a good time for Floyd to take a step forward, as far as his owners are concerned. Until he does, the safe bet is to expect an ERA in the upper 4.00s and a WHIP around 1.40. Just as the pitchers above could fool unsuspecting owners into believing in their 2008 level of performance, pitchers can also be victims of statistical fluctuations. John Lackey and Scott Kazmir are the two best examples of starters who are better buys than last year's stats would lead you to believe. Lackey experienced a near-doubling of his HR/9 rate despite there being almost no change in his GB/FB ratio. Kazmir did see his GB/FB drop by more than a third, which led his HR/9 rate to spike up to 1.36. This could signal a new approach for Kazmir or just a hiatus from his typical sub-1.00 rates. Finally, there may occasionally be that special pitcher who is such a freak of statistical nature that he actually benefits from a high homer rate. That pitcher is Chris R. Young, whose inflated HR/9 rates in '06 and '08 were offset by BABIPs under .260. In fact, Young's BABIPs since '06 -- .232, .246 and .259 -- could stem from insanely-low GB/FB rates that were all below 0.55. Young has had the lowest GB/FB ratios in the majors, and by large margins, for each of the last three seasons. Research has shown that fewer flyballs fall in for hits than do grounders, so Young's low BABIP rates may actually be sustainable. That means, while he will give up more than his share of runs via the long ball, that effect will be neutralized by putting fewer runners on via base hits.

2.87 2.89 0.299 0.298 3.45 4.87 1.27 1.40

When you come across a homerific hurler like Redding, the combination of high ERAs and WHIPs with average strikeout rates should be reason enough to stay away. Sometimes these pitchers disguise themselves with an aberrant BABIP, home run or strikeout rate for a season, and before you know it, a fluke can be misdiagnosed as a breakthrough. This actually happened with Redding after 2007, when an uncharacteristic 1.07 HR/9 and .280 BABIP contributed to a misleading 3.64 ERA. So that you don't get Redding-ed in '09, here is a list of pitchers whose home run history should inspire caution, if not paralyzing fear. Ted Lilly, Chicago Cubs: The impact of HR/9 rates of 1.22 and 1.41 in the last two seasons have been dulled by BABIPs below .275. He is unlikely to keep those quite so low, and he could regress from K/BB

Base Hits per Balls in Play (BABIP) – The percentage of balls in play (at bats minus strikeouts and home runs) that are base hits; research by Voros McCracken and others has established that this rate is largely random and has a norm of approximately 30% Component ERA (ERC) – An estimate of what a pitcher's ERA would be if it were based solely on actual pitching performance; created by Bill James


Top 10 free agents-to-be
By Eric Mack Tell Eric your opinion!

It is everyone's favorite vice, that all-mighty dollar -- even in a depressed economy. No, especially in a depressed economy. And it is the motivator many love to see in their Fantasy players: Those in a walk year. They eagerly pick guys who can be motivated by a potential pay raise next winter. But, before we gush about how great some of these guys can be because of their contract status, we have to warn you: It tends to be overrated. Here we break down the top free agents to be and project those that might have a career year because of it. It is perhaps the most anticipated and clamored-for list in the Fantasy industry. People love to know the upcoming free agents, almost as much as they like money ... or air to breathe. We don't buy into it as much as you all do -mostly because free agents are usually old. Before being a big-league free agent you have go through three cheapo years and three years of salary arbitration. That means if you enter the majors as a 26-year-old rookie, you are a free agent at 32 and perhaps already past your prime.

All-Contract Year Team
Pos C 1B 2B 3B SS OF OF OF DH SP SP SP SP SP RP RP Player Victor Martinez* Carlos Delgado Felipe Lopez Chipper Jones Khalil Greene Matt Holliday Jason Bay Vladimir Guerrero Hank Blalock Brandon Webb* John Lackey Brett Myers Rich Harden Erik Bedard Jose Valverde Mike Gonzalez TM CLE NYM ARI ATL STL OAK BOS LAA TEX ARI LAA PHI CHC SEA HOU ATL

expect, and chances are the team that wins your league will have the most players who exceed general expectations. Among the many reasons we are wary buying too much in contract-year players, is that pending free agency motivation is something that could be taken away on a day's notice. A player could sign a long-term deal like Brian Roberts did earlier this spring in anticipation of free agency for 2010. Now that Roberts has made his cash, what is the possibility he could take his foot off the gas pedal? Maybe those odds are long, particularly with a head-first guy like Roberts, but he is already 31, so the O's likely won't be getting his best years -- specifically in the category he is most useful for in Fantasy: steals. Motivation is nice and all, but some players just don't control how well they perform -especially the aging veterans (Gary Sheffield and Jim Thome). Those old mares just ain't what they used to be. And there are some who are serial free agents -- they are on the market every year and never much better because of it. But enough for the reasons we are skeptical of the FA-to-be Fantasy stars.

If we have seen the best of a player, then chances are it will be hard for him to outperform his draft position. Name recognition is sometimes a Fantasy Baseballer's No. 1 scouting tool, we are sorry to say. Our Draft Prep coverage unearthing sleepers and breakouts -- of which this is the final part -- has endlessly stressed how important it is to find players who haven't yet peaked. You don't want picks to do less than what you

There are the rare free agents in their prime that make it to the big leagues young and enter the free market after their six years of service. Here our top 10 free agents to be, focusing on players who are most motivated to have a big year to spruce up their resume before contract negotiations next winter:

Top 10 Pending Free Agents
Player, position, team Our 2009 Rotisserie projections 1. Matt Holliday, OF, OAK .308 AVG, 28 HR, 100 RBI, 100 R, 15 SB (.390 OBP, .537 SLUG) Many see him as a bust leaving Coors Field, but a Scott Boras client usually doesn't disappoint before free agency. 2. Jason Bay, OF, BOS .282-30-107-105-8 (.375-.517) It is pretty easy to see him setting career highs in the power categories with a full year at Fenway. 3. Erik Bedard, SP, SEA 12-9, 3.82 ERA, 165 Ks, 1.24 WHIP in 165 innings Injury risk makes his projections modest, but if healthy, he will earn a midseason trade and a long-term deal. 4. Brett Myers, SP, PHI (13-10)-3.96-190-1.30 in 200 innings Desire to close is behind him and he might finally put up that huge year we figured he would have had years ago. 5. Vladimir Guerrero, OF, LAA .312-26-106-85-2 (.379-.534) Free swinger is a year older than we thought, and still not protected in the order, but we have a hunch of a big year. 6. John Lackey, SP, LAA (17-9)-3.54-175-1.18 in 216 innings He has 20-win stuff on an elite contender and should return to being an innings-eating horse this season. 7. Rick Ankiel, OF, STL .262-28-85-76-3 (.325-.500) We might have figured him for that breakout Ryan Ludwick had, but maybe this will be Ankiel's big breakthrough.


8. Khalil Greene, SS, STL .248-19-78-65-3 (.305-.427) If Tony La Russa can't get the best out of Greene, maybe the motivation of a big contract will help wake him up. 9. Hideki Matsui, OF, NYY .295-16-80-77-0 (.376-.478) Godzilla is a steady 100-RBI man when he is healthy; if he is healthy, we expect surprising late-round numbers. 10. Miguel Tejada, SS, HOU .287-13-80-83-2 (.342-.435) His numbers have been steady in decline, but we like his potential to produce solid SS power out of late rounds.

Top contract year players by position
Catchers: Victor Martinez*, CLE; Miguel Olivo, KC; Rod Barajas, TOR; Brian Schneider, NYM; Jason Kendall, MIL; Ramon A. Castro, NYM; Mike Redmond, MIN First basemen: Carlos Delgado, NYM; Adam A. LaRoche, PIT; Hank Blalock, TEX; Nick Johnson, WAS Second baseman: Mark DeRosa, CLE; Placido Polanco, DET; Felipe Lopez, ARI; Orlando Hudson, LAD Third basemen: Chipper Jones, ATL; Mark DeRosa, CLE; Chone Figgins, LAA; Adrian Beltre, SEA; Melvin Mora*, BAL; Hank Blalock, TEX; Joe Crede, MIN; Troy Glaus, STL Shortstops: Miguel Tejada, BAL; Orlando Cabrera, OAK; Khalil Greene, STL; Bobby Crosby, OAK; Marco Scutaro, TOR Outfielders: Matt Holliday, OAK; Manny Ramirez*, LAD; Jason Bay, BOS; Vladimir Guerrero, LAA; Aubrey Huff, BAL; Magglio Ordonez*, DET; Bobby Abreu, LAA; Johnny Damon, NYY; Jermaine Dye*, CHW; Xavier Nady, NYY; Hideki Matsui, NYY; Rick Ankiel, STL; Mike Cameron, MIL; Randy Winn, SF; Brian Giles, SD; Garret Anderson, ATL; Jody Gerut, SD; Marlon Byrd, TEX; Ryan P. Freel, BAL; Jerry Hairston, CIN; Dave Dellucci, TEX; Wily Mo Pena, WAS; Endy Chavez, SEA Designated hitters: Jim Thome, CHW; Hideki Matsui, NYY; Hank Blalock, TEX; Gary Sheffield, DET Starting pitchers: Brandon Webb*, ARI; Josh Beckett*, BOS; John Lackey, LAA; Cliff Lee*, CLE; Rich Harden*, CHC; Brett Myers, PHI; Erik Bedard, SEA; Todd Wellemeyer, STL; Justin Duchscherer, OAK; Randy Wolf, LAD; Doug Davis, ARI; Brad Penny*, BOS; Carl Pavano, CLE; Jason Marquis, COL; Jose A. Contreras, CHW; Joel Pineiro, STL; Mike Hampton, HOU; Kelvim Escobar, LAA; Jarrod Washburn, SEA; Jason Schmidt, LAD; Brandon Backe, HOU Relief pitchers: Jose Valverde, HOU; Mike Gonzalez, ATL; Troy Percival, TB; Brandon Lyon, DET; Kevin Gregg, CHC; Fernando Rodney, DET; Miguel Batista, SEA; Grant Balfour, TB; Rafael Soriano, ATL; Danys Baez, BAL; Octavio Dotel, CHW; John Grabow, PIT; Seth McClung, MIL; Billy Wagner, NYM Players marked with an * here are those who have an option left on their current contract. They will be motivated to earn that option or to make big dollars as a free agent themselves.


Running into trouble with SBs
By Al Melchior Tell Al your opinion!

There are certain players you can count on for steals year after year. Over the past few seasons, you could draft Jose Reyes, Juan Pierre or Brian Roberts knowing that 30 steals was a lock, and you would have a good chance at much more. Overall, drafting for steals is a risky proposition, and you take a chance of getting burned by one-dimensional players like Corey Patterson or Jerry Owens if they hit a slump. Only 10 of the top 20 major leaguers in steals from 2007 made the top 20 again in 2008. Of the 11 who didn't repeat the feat, six did not exceed even 15 swipes, even though all had at least 28 steals just the season before. (My math isn't as bad as it appears. There was a tie for 20th place in '07.) In nearly every case, the reason for a player's decreasing stolen base production stemmed from one of three sources. Some players, like Felipe Lopez and Russell Martin, cut back on their stolen base attempts, in all likelihood, because they just aren't very efficient base stealers. While we don't know for sure that this was the reason for both players' dropoff in steals, it was probably more than coincidence that Lopez and Martin had the worst stolen base success rates for all players with at least 20 steals in 2007. Still others, including Eric Byrnes, Carl Crawford and Julio Lugo, could blame their diminished output on injuries and time lost on the disabled list. Finally, there were players who didn't steal as many bases because they spent significant time on the bench (i.e., Coco Crisp) or in the minors (i.e., Jerry Owens). Looking ahead to the coming season, we can brace ourselves for falling stolen base totals -- or attempt to avoid them altogether -- by identifying the players in each of the three risk categories. This is not to say that these players will be unhelpful with stolen bases; in fact, several could still provide 20 steals or more. Rather a player's inclusion in this analysis signals that they will probably steal fewer bases in 2009, and your expectations should be adjusted accordingly. Low Success Rate Risks: After posting success rates lower than 73 percent in '07, Felipe Lopez made 17 fewer attempts in '08, and Russell Martin had six fewer tries. Last season, there were five players with at least 20 stolen bases who registered rates below 73 percent, including two with rates below 67 percent. Bobby Abreu and Ryan Theriot were the pair with rates of twothirds or lower, and neither should be counted on for 20 swipes. Brandon Phillips, Chone Figgins and Lastings Milledge are the others getting caution flags. Expect Phillips and Figgins to continue the stolen base decline each experienced last year, while Milledge may fail to break the 20-steals barrier. Injury Risks: It's almost a certainty that someone from last year's stolen base leaderboard will sustain an injury this season, but it's hard to know who. Perhaps it's because steals are a young player's category or because chronically injured players aren't likely to be good sources for steals in the first place. Few probably saw the injuries to Byrnes, Crawford and Lugo last season, so it's anybody's guess as to who will be victimized this year. Johnny Damon is the only 20-plus stolen base club member from 2008 who seems like even a moderate injury risk, given his age and the fact that he has missed at least 19 games in each of the last two seasons. Playing Time Risks: Unless the Dodgers can manage to move his contract to a team that will make him a regular, Juan Pierre stands to lose more steals than anyone in the majors. Michael Bourn doesn't have Manny Ramirez, or anyone else, taking his job away just yet, but his own difficulties with getting on base could threaten his hold on a starting role, not to mention his steals total. Reggie Abercrombie isn't exactly an on-base machine himself, but if the Astros grow frustrated with Bourn, they may be tempted to give the more powerful Abercrombie a try. Rajai Davis should boast a higher batting average and on-base percentage than either Bourn or Abercrombie, but unfortunately, he plays for the A's instead of the 'Stros. In '08, he nabbed an incredible 29 steals in just 214 at-bats. In a crowded Oakland outfield, he will struggle to get that many reps again.

Carlos Gomez has speed to burn, but he doesn't have a starting job locked up just yet. (US Presswire)

As the centerpiece of the Johan Santana trade, you would expect the Twins to keep giving Carlos Gomez every chance to hold onto his starting job. However, after a rookie season in which his batting eye regressed badly, the Twins could lose patience if he doesn't show progress early. Gomez faces stiff competition in a crowded Minnesota outfield. Ron Gardenhire has the luxury of turning to one of them and letting Gomez ease back into a larger role. If he does show improved power and contact skills, he would be a threat to steal 40 bases, but Gomez' prolonged struggles in '08 give us reason to view him and his stolen base potential skeptically in '09. There is one other factor that could affect the fortunes of last year's top stealers: managerial change. Of last year's top 20 in stolen bases, only three players have new managers this year. Both Willy Taveras and Matt Holliday leave the stewardship of Clint Hurdle, who has been on the conservative side when it comes to baserunning. Then again, Taveras had 75 attempts last year, and it's hard to imagine him having more chances under the more freewheeling Dusty Baker. Holliday, on the other hand, goes to the steals-averse regime of Billy Beane and Bob Geren, so his emergence as a 20-plus stolen base threat could be short-lived. Ichiro Suzuki also gets a new skipper, but only time will tell whether rookie manager Don Wakamatsu will keep him on his steady diet of 40 to 50 attempts per season.


Thirty names you need to know
By Eric Mack Tell Eric your opinion!

Everyone knows the stars of baseball. They see them on TV. They wait in line for hours for their autographs. They watch them: Lie to our faces, admit to steroids, be diagnosed with potentially crippling hip injuries, get into fights with their rival catcher, get into media word wars with their team captain, get photographed at hotels with another woman who isn't their wife, inexplicably date women who made their name in the early '80s and never get a clutch hit in the postseason. And they pick them in the early rounds of their Fantasy Baseball league. But it is really about what your league mates don't know -- maybe even what you don't know -- that can really make the difference in building a championship team. There are four pieces of knowledge pie: 1. The things you know you know. 2. The things you don't know you know. 3. The things you know you don't know. 4. And the things you don't know you don't know. You have know idea. Our AL-only and NL-only lists of 2009 Fantasy Baseball Names to Know will try to hone in on the latter two. This writer doesn't know what you know and don't know. Maybe you know everything in the world, or at least think you do in your Fantasy world. But lighten up if these names and notes have already been recycled over and over in your large pulsating cranium. Here are 15 from each league, with something you might not know and perhaps the reason you need get some knowledge.

40 steals. His first time on base this spring ... stole second without a throw. Through five spring games, he has four steals in four attempts, which is good for second in the league behind the likes of Ryan P. Freel and Michael Bourn. They are ready to make Jones a legit basestealing threat. 3. Alex Gordon, 3B, Royals You might have forgotten he was the next Ryan Braun or Evan Longoria, well before those two ever made the major leagues. Once he hits lefties better, there will be a huge statistical correction. 4. Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels You probably don't see a future batting champ. We do. Oh, and we also see 15-20 homers and steals annually in his prime. Howie know that? We just do.

Giddy up. "He understands that he's got to use the whole field. He really did a good job hitting for average last year and had a lot of extra-base hits as well. I think you'll start seeing those doubles turn into some more home runs. He could go out and have a big year for us." Sold ... to the Fantasy Baseballer scribbling down a name that sounds like a dropped fork. 6. Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers Did you know he once was called a 30-30 prospect? You need to know Cruz had a monster season at Triple-A last season, hitting .342 with 37 homers, 24 steals and a .429 OBP and .695 SLUG. And, you need to know he could bat cleanup in Texas -- that is a huge statement for someone generally understated, especially from a writer who tends to overstate. 7. Jason Kubel, OF, Twins You don't know, or at least want to forget, he was once a slugging Twins prospect just a cut below Justin Morneau. Kubel came on the second half last season and has earned fulltime DH status with the Twins. That is significant, because the Twins are content letting Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young battle for at-bats among the three outfield spots. 8. Hank Blalock, 3B, Rangers You might not know how healthy his shoulder is, but the cost may be so low, it might not matter. Teammate Michael Young says, "I think he'll have an incredible season." Blalock is certainly capable of that in his prime (age 28). 9. Billy Butler, 1B, Royals You might not know this, but there are scouts that are convinced Butler will eventually become one of the most feared hitters in the American League. His career numers (.282 average, 19 homers, 107 RBI and 82 runs) are underwhelming when you consider they came in 772 at-bats, a season and a half, but Butler is capable of that statline (or better) in his first true full season as the Royals' DH/1B.

American know




This writer still holds out hope of Howie Kendrick eventually winning a batting title. (US Presswire)

1. Brandon Morrow, SP, Mariners You don't realize this is the Joba Chamberlain of the Great Northwest. His slider isn't as nasty, but his fastball is better. Morrow is set back a little this spring, but he should be ready to go for the season. His dual eligibility at RP and SP will help in leagues on, too. 2. Adam Jones, OF, Orioles You don't realize he is still just 23 years old, which is about four years from his prime. You need to know he has personal designs on 30-

5. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians Travis Hafner told us in January that this is the sleeper to watch with the Indians. Hafner, who knows a thing or 40 about bombs, said Choo absolutely Donkey Kongs balls in BP. "Would Choo be a breakout guy? He's a guy," Hafner said. "He's got tremendous power potential. He's not a huge guy. In batting practice, he's got unbelievable power."


10. Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue Jays Hill has looked like he is over the postconcussion syndrome that ended his season prematurely. Hill has doubles pop that reminds us of a young Mark DeRosa. You see the seasons that DeRosa has put up of late? That is what Hill is capable of -- at a fraction of the cost on Draft Day. 11. Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays Lind has Aubrey Huff-like potential in his bat, but he has just needed to get the opportunity to display it. The retooling Blue Jays have no choice but to give Lind at-bats now, which is to Fantasy owners' gain in deeper formats -especially AL-only leagues. Lind is like so many young left-handed hitters -- more or a threat against right-handed pitchers -- but with full-time at-bats, he will improve those splits and come far closer to the .300-25-10080 guy he can be. 12. Travis Snider, OF, Blue Jays A third straight Blue Jay on this list, but Snider is one of the best young sluggers at his position. He is just 21 years old and only Cincinnati's Jay Bruce has a better case as the No. 1 player at that age. Snider is a really nice consolation prize if Bruce is priced out of your range on Draft Day. 13. Rocco Baldelli, DH, Red Sox You definitely don't know what -- in the name of the next Joe DiMaggio (yeah, he was called that once, geez!) -- a mitochondrial disorder is. But channelopathy causes a sigh of relief. You probably think it is the ability to flip from Friends re-runs to a ballgame by using just your mind. You need to know it is a less severe and more treatable muscular disorder. By midseason, Baldelli will make the Rays regret letting him walk -- not quite in a Josh Hamilton way, but regardless. 14. Matt Wieters, C, Orioles You need to know the Georgia Tech prospect went from being the next Jason Varitek to being a switch-hitting version of the next Mike Piazza, albeit drafted 61 rounds earlier and decades later at the same time. Huh? Seriously, you also need to know he will be starting the year in the minor leagues. The premium it will take to get him probably doesn't mesh well with the uncertainty of when he will actually arrive for Fantasy owners. It is tough to pay for any catchers on Draft Day, much less highly hyped ones that won't even open the season in the major leagues. 15. Justin Masterson, RP, Red Sox One of the elite arms stuck in the Pitch-22 (good enough to start, but too valuable in relief). You need to not forget, though: Bad shoulders -- Brad Penny, John Smoltz and Tim Wakefield -- just never seem to go away. Masterson is our choice right now to open the season as the Red Sox's No. 5 starter. If he pitches the way he is capable with that nasty

delivery and buggy-whip slider, it will be hard to unseat from from the rotation. The additions of Takashi Saito and Ramon Ramirez certainly help Masterson's case to open the season in the rotation. Those in the AL need to know who just don't show: Ryan Freel, UTL, Orioles; Grant Balfour, RP, Rays; Anthony Reyes, SP, Indians; Edwin Jackson, SP, Tigers; Wladimir Balentien, OF, Mariners; Jeff Clement, C/DH, Mariners; Kenji Johjima, C, Mariners; Sean Rodriguez, 2B, Angels; Ronny Cedeno, SS, Mariners; Mark Lowe, RP, Mariners

5. Jeff Francoeur, OF, Braves Frenchy hit just .239 for your 2008 Fantasy team ... with 11 homers, 71 RBI, 70 runs and nary a steal in 599 at-bats. How in the world did a .295-OBP, .359-SLUG guy earn that many at-bats, with a Double-A demotion tossed in? Sometimes the negative numbers give us a positive reading on an undersold player. Francoeur is an immense talent with far more potential that he has shown even in his high times in years prior. There will be a season he goes .300-30-100-100, even if he looks a little too free-swingy right now.

National know




1. Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals Wainwright looks like the next Chris Carpenter, even if his numbers haven't yet caught up to his confidence, mound presence and talent. The Cardinals annually have one of the more surprising rotations in baseball because of pitching coach Dave Duncan and not even Carpenter will unseat Wainwright as the unquestioned staff ace. He has 20-win potential as soon as this year and might even chip in 180 strikeouts to boot. It all depends on his health, but since his injury last year was a finger and not a shoulder, arm, elbow, knee or back, he has a great chance to make us and you look 'Wright. 2. Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers You don't know he was once the next Francisco Liriano. And, you need to know Gallardo's injury last year wasn't arm-related, more specifically an elbow ligament replacement. Gallardo has big shoes to fill with the departure of CC Sabathia and the injury to Ben Sheets, but Gallardo has plenty of talent to burn and will look like an ace in his first full season. 3. Max Scherzer, SP, Diamondbacks You don't know how many innings or strikeouts he can rack up, because you don't know how healthy this notoriously problematic shoulder is. You need to know: When on, his arm is lightning. He might only need around 175 innings to reach the 200strikeout Holy Grail for Fantasy owners. He might post the next-best strikeout rate to the incomparable Tim Lincecum. 4. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers You don't know Baseball America considers this opening day 21-year-old the best longterm left-handed pitcher in baseball. Yes, better than even Mr. David Price, who everyone knows after last October, and Sabathia (who everyone knows because of his fat paycheck and fat belly). You need to know 180 innings might be a Max, a least more than Scherzer.

Frenchy has potential, it's just a matter of whether or not you feel he'll ever deliver on it. (US Presswire)

6. Ian Stewart, 3B, Rockies The Yankees sent A-Rod and his torn hip labrum to Colorado. You knew that. You might not have realized third basemen by the name of Garrett Atkins and Ian Stewart just so happen to call Colorado home as well. Those are two stud third basemen for one job. You need to get in the know on how many at-bats Stewart is getting, and will get, in left field after the departure of Matt Holliday. We have called Stewart the next Chase Utley -- albeit as a third baseman. Stewart arrived in the majors years younger than Utley ever did, by the way.


7. Pablo Sandoval, 1B, Giants You probably don't know why he doesn't qualify at catcher on You need to know it is because he didn't play 20 games at any one position last year (first, catcher or third) and played his most games at first. You also need to know he will catch some and the Giants are hoping he can be their primary third baseman. You should already know: The 22-year-old can mash. He is the Giants' best home-grown position player prospect since Matt Williams. No kidding. 8. Sean Marshall, SP, Cubs Forgetting Sean Marshall? You will want to pay very close attention to who wins the No. 5 starter's job for the Cubs -- Marshall, wide receiver Jeff Samardzija or Aaron Heilman. Marshall is having the best spring of the trio and he came into the spring needing a disaster to lose his grip on it. It doesn't appear like he will. Samardzija and Heilman look ticketed for Pitch-22 ... or Triple-A. Neither destination gives them much value in mixed Fantasy leagues. Marshall has 12-15 wins potential if he can get and stay in the Cubs rotation. 9. Ryan Church, OF, Mets Like Hill in the American League, Church looks like he has overcome the postconcussion syndrome that plagued him most of last season. Church has a lot of potential in his bat and was looking like a .300-25-100-90 threat before he ran into Yunel Escobar's knee last May. Church will come cheaply in

the late rounds of mixed leagues and is a streaky player who could -- and has -- look like the Mets' best hitter at times. 10. Ryan Doumit, C, Pirates You don't know, or care, or care to know Doumit was no-mitt. But now he is an everyday catcher and a middle-of-the-order slugger. And a great sleeper at age 27. He is one of the few catchers in baseball that doesn't hit like a pitcher and he will be a nice option if you miss out on Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Geovany Soto and Joe Mauer on Draft Day. 11. Skip Schumaker, OF, Cardinals Don't skip those reports that have a career outfielder moving to a position he has never played in his life, not an easy position to handle at second, either. But, do know, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is so not by the book, he bats his pitcher eighth. Having a slap-hitting .300 hitter at second base is just Skippy! 12. Chris Dickerson, OF, Reds Dickerson has the inside track on everyday at-bats in left field for the Reds and he has enough speed and power to hit 15 homers and steal 25 bases in his first full season. That makes him a poor man's Nate McLouth. Remember what that guy did for Fantasy owners last season? 13. Khalil Greene, SS, Cardinals It wasn't easy being Greene in San Diego. It is a lot easier when you are under La Russa's

influence, though. Greene has pop and will lead all non-Hanley Ramirez shortstops with 30 homers this season. He comes real, real cheap with that 30-homer potential, too. 14. Dallas McPherson, 3B, Marlins McPherson hit 42 jacks last season, leading all minor leaguers. You, if you are like us, also have no idea why the Marlins are planning to start Gaby Sanchez (at first, keeping Jorge Cantu at third) or Emilio Bonifacio (at third, moving Cantu to first). Dallas, a cool baseball name, sounds like someone to give your lonely dollars to on frequent nights. We mean in the late rounds of NL-only leagues. What did you think we meant? 15. Kenshin Kawakami, SP, Braves We strategically didn't let you know it was Kojia Uehara that helped defending WBC champion Japan oust Dominicana in the semifinals years ago. You need to know we did that because it would take your large pulsating cranium off the Japanese import we like a little more, Kawakami. He has a far better team than Uehara's O's and could post a Hiroki Kuroda-like season on the bottom tier of mixed-league pitchers. Those in the NL need to know who just don't show: Daniel Murphy, OF, Mets; Chris Duncan, OF/1B, Cardinals; Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Marlins; Jeff Samardzija, SP, Cubs; Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals, Matt Antonelli, 2B, Padres; Emilio Bonifacio, 2B, Marlins.


Undervalued and Underrated
By Scott White Tell Scott your opinion!

Cha-ching! You don't hear that old-style cash register working overtime to keep up with the rewards flowing in? Oh. Well, I do, and I'll tell you why. I just pocketed another player destined to outperform his draft position. Money. You might as well think of those players as such, and by "those players," I mean the relative no-names who slip through the cracks on Draft Day, providing you with quality Fantasy production three rounds, five rounds, maybe even as 10 rounds later than the pure, unbiased numbers say they should. Or you could just think of them as underrated -- Undervalued and Underrated, even. Hey, the draft averages don't lie. According to actual drafts conducted in Fantasy leagues, these players don't get nearly the credit they deserve. After each of their names, just check out the numbers in parentheses. They'll indicate when they typically go off the board, both in Rotisserie leagues and Head-to-Head. With this list, you might notice a distinctive Kansas City flavor. It happens. Historically uncompetitive, small-market teams yield relatively unknown commodities. They don't get on TV as much, don't generate as much preseason hype and generally disappear into the background. And whether anybody wants to admit it or not, they disappear on draft boards as well. Not this one. Chris Iannetta, C, Rockies (Roto: Rd. 12, H2H: Rd. 13) For years, Fantasy owners have viewed catcher as the weak link in Fantasy -- the position most chided, most denigrated, most skipped and most ignored unless you wanted to reach for one of those elite options in the early rounds. But the catcher position has had a revolution of sorts, beginning with Geovany Soto and Ryan Doumit last year and continuing with Matt Wieters this year. With those three along with Brian McCann, Joe Mauer, Russell Martin and Victor Martinez, the exception has suddenly become the rule at the position, and you might actually find yourself at a

pronounced disadvantage if you don't get one of the magnificent seven. But maybe you don't want to use an earlyround pick on a catcher considering the higher level of talent you'd have to forfeit at other positions. So what's the solution? Consider Iannetta, the Rockies catcher, the unheralded eighth member of that newfound catching order and a relative bargain at the point in the draft when your competitors will take players like Mark DeRosa and Joe Saunders.

out one-third of his team's games. Most likely, the Rockies, coming off a trip to the World Series, felt compelled to start the man who got them there, Yorvit Torrealba, a little more than they should have, mostly for the comfort of their pitching staff. Now starting over as a bottom-of-the-division ball club (close enough, anyway), they have no reason to keep him out of the lineup. So get him in yours, and get him a full seven rounds later than someone else gets Soto. Mike Aviles, SS/2B, Royals (Roto: Rd. 15, H2H: Rd. 17) Entering the offseason, Aviles looked every bit like a bust candidate for the upcoming season. But that's the funny thing about value -- it changes with perception. And apparently nobody perceived Aviles' numbers last season -- his .325 batting average and 10 home runs in 419 at-bats -- as anything close to realistic. Is that fair? Six months ago, when I expected people to draft him as his numbers suggested, meaning in the Michael Young and J.J. Hardy range, I would have answered with a resounding "yes." Why take a chance on a possible fluke when you could have a proven commodity with comparable production? But for as late as Aviles goes off the board, I think we have to step back and reassess his numbers. Instead of writing them off as a fluke, as the byproduct of a partial season, we have to consider the notso-radical possibility that they are for real.

Chris Iannetta is making a name for himself with Team USA this spring. (US Presswire)

Iannetta doesn't have the following yet, but he has the numbers, his .895 OPS last year ranking behind only McCann among catchers with 300 at-bats. And he achieved it with an exceptionally high walk rate for a backstop, reaching base nearly 40 percent of the time even though he hit only .264. And because he routinely hit over .300 in the minors, you know he can only get better. Within the next few years, he might reach base at a .450 clip. That's Chipper Jones and Albert Pujols territory. Of course, the main reason he doesn't get the credit he deserves is because he had only 333 at-bats last year, and a player obviously can't do much for your Fantasy team if he sits

How can I have such optimism? How can I honestly believe in a player who managed to disappear in the Royals farm system, with all the shortcomings of the major-league team, until age 27? It's simply a matter of consistency, of the fact Aviles never showed any signs of slowing down during his entire stay in the majors. Typically, when a player has a fluky season, you can point to its cause simply by looking at his month-by-month breakdown. He might have had a ridiculous first month, for instance, but then slowed to a reasonable pace in the months that followed, skewing his final numbers. But from the time he arrived in May until the end of the season in September, Aviles hit over .300 every single month. In fact, he hit over .330 each of the first three. 39

If his 2008 season was really a masquerade, he kept it going for a long, long time. Aviles doesn't have plate discipline, room to improve or any of the other qualities I typically like in a hitter, but he does have ridiculous value beyond the 15th round, when you have a decent chance of releasing any player you draft anyway. Why not take a chance on him then? If he busts, he busts. You'll live. But if you don't draft him and he doesn't bust, you'll have to do some serious soul searching in the months that follow. Kevin Slowey, SP, Twins (Roto: Rd. 16, H2H: Rd. 18) Slowey.

He averaged 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings last season, ranking ahead of Carlos Zambrano, Adam Wainwright and Matt Garza, among others. He won't ever strike out 200 batters in a season, but he certainly won't sink you in the category either. Meanwhile, he'll repair much of the damage done to your WHIP by some of those hard throwers, especially since his control should allow him to pitch deeper and deeper into games as he solidifies his role in the rotation. You know that James Shields guy in Tampa Bay, the one you trust for 200-plus quality innings, a top-10 WHIP and an occasional boost in strikeouts? Slowey can and likely will do the same thing. He'll just do it 10 rounds later. Gil Meche, SP, Royals (Roto: Rd. 18, H2H: Rd. 16) At age 30, Meche doesn't have much room to improve. But just by standing still, he might end up one of your league's biggest bargains as one of the last starting pitchers off the board on Draft Day. His accomplishments last year went largely undetected, disguised by a brutal April in which he went 1-4 with a 7.81 ERA. But beginning on June 10 and continuing over his final 21 starts, he went 11-3 with a 3.09 ERA. Considering he also recorded 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings, ranking between Felix Hernandez and Cole Hamels, he had arguably the most underrated, underappreciated numbers of any pitcher in baseball. He even won 14 games, which wouldn't exactly earn him Cy Young consideration but also doesn't justify the argument to "avoid" him since he pitches for "the lowly Royals." If he pitched for the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Mets or the Dodgers, he'd never last beyond the eighth round. But since he pitches for that anonymous Kansas City team and carries the reputation of a failed Mariners prospect who signed an undeserved $55 million contract before the 2007 season, he goes unloved, unwanted and unappreciated. And undervalued and underrated, of course. Denard Span, OF, Twins (Roto: Rd. 18, H2H: Rd. 24) If you don't know about Span from last year, you either play in an NL-only league or you turned your attention to Fantasy Football in July. Because make no mistake, he made noise. In the middle of last summer, he took over as the Twins leadoff hitter and never looked

back, hitting .297 from that point with a .389 on-base percentage, a .449 slugging percentage, six home runs and 15 stolen bases. And all in only 316 at-bats. No, he won't hit 15-20 home runs. He might not even hit 12. But he will hit some, and he'll hit all the doubles and triples you could want in between -- contributions that still have value in Head-to-Head leagues. He'll also get on base, rarely strike out and, if last year's pattern holds, steal somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 bases. Of course, "if last year's pattern holds" is admittedly an important stipulation, but the former first-round pick showed the same kind of potential in Triple-A earlier in the season, earning him the call to the majors in the first place. In fact, down there, he hit .340. So in Span, we're looking at a potential .300 hitter with the power to hit 10 homers, the speed to steal 30 bases and the plate discipline ideal for a leadoff hitter. Sounds a bit like Shane Victorino, who sometimes goes off the board as early as Round 5 -- and for good reason. So why do people avoid him? Well, he does technically have to compete for a job this spring. The Twins also have Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gomez -- four players for three spots. But with the impact Span made down the stretch last season, with coaches and players often referring to him as their most valuable player, you have to think he'll keep his job. He is their leadoff hitter. Not only does he get on base, but he gets himself into scoring position either by hitting a gapper or stealing second base. Teams rarely find players with a skill set so perfect for that role, so when they actually have one, they don't squander it. Between the four players competing to start in the Twins outfield, Span's job appears the safest. And even if I end up wrong about that, what have a lost? A 24th-round pick? Yeah, I'll regret that day I didn't take Akinori Iwamura instead. Elijah Dukes, OF, Nationals (Roto: Rd. 22, H2H: Rd. 26) Nothing will go wrong. Nothing will go wrong. He won't pull a hamstring circling the bases. Nothing will go wrong. Nothing will go wrong. His name won't come across the police blotter. 40

Kevin Slowey isn't spectacular, but he certainly won't kill you in Fantasy either. (US Presswire)

You already don't like him, right? Well, put aside your prejudices and concentrate on the numbers, because in addition to his plight as one of the most unfortunately named players in the majors, Slowey has exceptional control -- the kind that allows me to sit here today and guarantee he'll finish the season with a WHIP on the right side of 1.20. He walked only 24 batters in 160 1/3 innings last year. The only other pitchers who came close to that ratio with at least 150 innings pitched -- Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina -have Hall-of-Fame credentials. So what's the hang-up, then? Strikeouts? Since he doesn't throw as hard (88-92 mph) as most Fantasy-relevant hurlers, you don't think he gets as many? Think again.

Nothing will go wrong. Nothing will go wrong. He won't come out of the gate hitting .167, forcing me to cut him exactly two weeks before he breaks out for somebody else. No, none of that will happen. Nothing will go wrong for Dukes this year. You have to hope so, anyway, if you draft him. And that's probably reason enough for some people to stay away -- far, far away. So far, in fact, they don't mind loading up on scrubs like Skip Schumaker and Felipe Lopez instead. But Dukes' talent deserves far more credit than any of those people want to give it. He hit .283 with nine home runs and five stolen bases over his final 120 at-bats last year, turning the corner despite another injury-plagued year. He still strikes out too much, but he makes up for any shortcomings in batting average with an insane number of walks, enough to make him a candidate for 100 if he could ever stay healthy. He has league-leading OPS potential, making him another Milton Bradley in the sense that he'll give you both hitting and headaches. But at age 24, he still has time to shake that reputation as an injury-prone, off-the-field distraction, and unlike Bradley, he might just steal 20-25 bases. Risk or no risk, how could you not use your last-round pick on a player with a ceiling so high?

Here's a quick look at a few other players currently undervalued on Draft Day: Matt Garza, SP, Rays (Roto: Rd. 14, H2H: Rd. 13): Thought Garza might become the latest postseason hero to surge to Fantasy prominence? Maybe if the Rays had won the World Series. Turns out his exploits in the ALCS didn't do much for him and, in fact, left him a virtual unknown still. But few pitchers improved more over the course of last season than Garza, who overcame the control problems he had with the Twins. As hard as he throws, his strikeouts will surely rise, and because he pitches for a contender, so will his wins. Yet he gets drafted after the inconsistent Matt Cain, the unfulfilled Jered Weaver, the broken down Erik Bedard and the often wild Ubaldo Jimenez. For a pitcher with ace potential who has virtually no downside, you can't ask for a better bargain. Gavin Floyd, SP, White Sox (Roto: Rd. 17, H2H: Rd. 12): Entering the offseason, Floyd looked like the kind of player Fantasy owners would overrate. He was coming off a 17-win season in which he didn't record even 150 strikeouts, making him prone to a statistical backslide if his luck took a turn for the worse. But when drafting started and Fantasy owners had to make up their minds on Floyd, they scoffed. A 17-win season hasn't gotten so little love since Kent Bottenfield's conspicuously improbable 18-win 1999. People, Floyd was a top prospect -- the fourth overall pick in the 2001 draft, in fact -- so what happened last year happened as a result of natural progression. Now that Floyd has found his footing in the majors, he should only get better, even if he falls short of 17 wins. He could stand to strike out a few more batters and walk a few less, but neither strikes me as a glaring weakness. I'll take him as my fourth or fifth pitcher and do it with a smile. Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (Roto: Rd. 14, H2H: Rd. 17): Over the years, Cruz inherited the "bust" moniker with failure after repeated failure. But to become a bust, a player has to have talent in the first place, and Cruz finally made sense of his as a 28-year old last year, hitting .342 with 37 home runs in 383 at-bats at Triple-A Oklahoma. Those numbers sound too good to be true, obviously, but for a player batting in the heart of a loaded Rangers lineup, 30 homers and 100 RBI don't, especially since Cruz carried over his performance to the majors late in the season, hitting .330 with seven home runs in 115 atbats. With the ballpark, the supporting cast and the emergence of talent, the man simply has too much working in his favor not to perform. He'll likely outproduce guys like Xavier Nady, David DeJesus and Nick Swisher even if he gets drafted behind them.

Jayson Werth, OF, Phillies (Roto: Rd. 14, H2H: Rd. 19): The guy went 20-20 last year, but people treat him more like Cory Sullivan than Corey Hart on Draft Day. And now, after that breakthrough season, he has the assurances of a full-time job for the first time in his career. You'd think people who play Fantasy would dance in the streets, thrilled over the latest discovery of a legitimate mixed-league talent. But they don't care. They just yawn, shrug and take Hideki Matsui, J.D. Drew and Carlos Gomez instead. Not me. Not ever. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians (Roto: Rd. 18, H2H: Rd. 18): If you've read anything about Choo on over the last few months, you've probably heard the comparisons already. Last year, Choo had a better OPS (.946) than David Wright, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Howard and just about anybody else you might draft in the first round. Granted, he achieved that mark in only 317 at-bats, but what does that even mean? He did it in 317 at-bats, meaning not 100 or 150. You can't give it quite as much credit as a full season, but you have to at least pay attention to it. He probably can't repeat the mark, but the Indians like him in the middle of the batting order, which should almost guarantee 100 RBI and 100 runs scored considering how often he gets on base. Anything else he gives you is gravy. Billy Butler, 1B, Royals (Roto: Rd. 25, H2H: Rd. 19): Butler hasn't shown much power in the majors yet, which is the only reason a 22-year-old former first-round pick can fall so far on Draft Day. He has power. If you can't tell by his big frame, then just look at his minor-league numbers. He compiled a .977 OPS in 1,532 career at-bats, which would rank among the league leaders in the majors last year, not to mention ahead of Shin Soo-Choo ... and David Wright, Hanley Ramirez, etc. Besides, for all Butler hasn't done in the majors, he has done something even more impressive. Last year, he struck out only 57 times in 443 at-bats, a rate not far behind Albert Pujols'. He has already mastered perhaps the hardest part of hitting in the majors: making consistent contact. Now, all he needs to do is grow into his body. Why not take a flier on him with your last pick, behind guys you know won't give you anything special like Casey Kotchman, Casey Blake and Mike Jacobs?


Overvalued and Overrated
By Scott White Tell Scott your opinion!

You like it, don't you? Paying too much, I mean. No? Well, as often as you do it on Draft Day, you could have fooled me. I have a list of examples right here -- players who went too early, and of your own doing. Based on draft averages recorded from actual Fantasy leagues, both Rotisserie and Head-to-Head, these players get more credit than they deserve. You could refer to them as "busts," though that term almost condemns them to "do not touch" status. Some might give you perfectly respectable numbers. They just won't give you numbers good enough to justify the price you'd have to pay for them. So let's go with something a little less aggressive: the Overvalued and Overrated. You don't want to ignore these players completely, after all. If they fall to you, they fall to you. But they haven't come close to falling to me yet. Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees (Roto: Rd. 6, H2H: Rd. 6)

Fantasy, where he has long carried the title of "overrated." And this year especially. Last year, the decline went from subtle to obvious for the soon-to-be 35-year-old, who barely hit .300 with an almost invisible 11 homers and 11 steals. The decline in batting average you could write off as year-to-year statistical variance, but the decline in power and speed? Totally legit. It happened for the second straight year, in both categories, at an age when players, particularly middle infielders, transition from "aging" to "old." So why do people still draft him ahead of every shortstop not named Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins? Why do they draft him ahead of emerging top prospect Stephen Drew, who already outperformed him in Head-to-Head scoring last year. Why do they draft him three rounds ahead of nearly identical player Michael Young, three rounds ahead of potential 30-homer guys Troy Tulowitzki and Jhonny Peralta and a full five rounds ahead of established 25-homer man J.J. Hardy? It makes my skin crawl. At his age, Jeter will more likely take another step back than reverse course, so let somebody else look his way while you wait for somebody better. Garrett Atkins, 1B/3B, Rockies (Roto: Rd. 6, H2H: Rd. 6) Mark me among the Atkins converts. Mark me their leader, in fact. I used to love the guy. Now, the thought of drafting him in the sixth round makes me want to bury my head in the sand. Why? It all comes back to plate discipline. He used to have it, lots of it. He had 79 walks compared to 76 strikeouts in 2006, back when he first won my affections. But last year, he had 40 walks compared to 100 strikeouts, his career-low .328 on-base percentage making him almost a liability in the middle of the batting order. In theory, strikeout-to-walk ratio should remain fairly constant, but I can understand

why those 79 walks might dip to 65 one year or those 76 strikeouts might rise to 90. It happens. But to go from walking more than he strikes out to striking out twice as much as he walks only two years later? How? Why? Who are you, noble sir, and what have you done with the real Garrett Atkins? Perhaps we should have asked that question two years ago, when Atkins hit a David Wright-like .329 with 29 home runs, 120 RBI and 117 runs scored to go along with that impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio. It shocked us. It amazed us. It carried us to special places on imaginary wings. But it's over now. And you know how I know? Because it never should have happened in the first place. Atkins was never David Wright. He was a pleasant surprise expected to fill the void at third base until top prospect Ian Stewart ascended to the major leagues. He could hit for a high enough batting average and with enough power to keep his job, but he wouldn't do anything exceptionally well. Time to think of him that way again, meaning his .286-21-99-86 line last year looks about right as long as he remains in the middle of the lineup. Do those numbers have value in Fantasy? Of course they do, but you could get them from Jorge Cantu about a zillion rounds later. Scott Kazmir, SP, Rays (Roto: Rd. 8, H2H: Rd. 5) For someone who gets so many strikeouts, Kazmir sure throws a lot of balls. And that's the story on him, from beginning to end. His stuff and league-leading potential gives Fantasy owners sweaty palms and rapid heartbeats, their imaginations so consumed by the prospect of him striking out 200, maybe even 250, that they ignore the fact he has brought more sizzle than steak to the table over his entire major-league career. And quite frankly, I've had enough. In Fantasy, I appreciate strikeouts as much as anybody, but you can't live on them alone. And at the rate Kazmir walks batters, I don't have much confidence he can give you anything more. 42

Derek Jeter's name seems to carry extra weight on Draft Day in most Fantasy leagues. (US Presswire)

Ah, here I go attacking baseball's most beloved player right out of the gate. Shame on me. But at least I do it in the context of

Just look at the history. With all those walks, he has yet to post a WHIP below 1.27 -- not a terrible number, but nothing exceptional. His pitch counts get so high that he rarely lasts through seven innings, doing so only five times last year -four within his first seven starts. Even when he pitches well, he has to lean on too many innings from his bullpen to secure a victory, which explains his career high of only 13 wins. Bottom line: He helps you in exactly one category in Rotisserie leagues, maybe two during one of his better ERA years, and in Head-to-Head leagues, those stat shortages only hurt your final tally. And let's not forget his history of injuries. Granted, he hasn't needed elbow reconstruction surgery yet, but his hightorque delivery rings up more than its share of tender elbows and strained forearms over the course of a season. Does anybody notice? Does anybody care? People can't run away from A.J. Burnett and Rich Harden fast enough on Draft Day, but they come flocking back to Kazmir after each and every 25-start seasons. Yes, he probably has the potential to improve, but the price you have to pay for him already assumes he will. You don't get any value with the pick, and more likely than not, he'll probably give you more of the same. Wouldn't you rather get a surefire ace instead of one with so many question marks? Carlos Zambrano, SP, Cubs (Roto: Rd. 8, H2H: Rd. 6) Remember the good old days when Zambrano pitched so many innings and recorded so many strikeouts that we could plead blissful ignorance on his abnormally high walk totals? Yeah? Well, forget them. The have long since passed. It started in 2007 and only got worse last year. The walks still came in groups of three or four per game, but the strikeouts continued to dwindle. In fact, Zambrano's 6.2 strikeouts per nine innings placed him behind such noted flamethrowers as Todd Wellemeyer, Dana Eveland and Brett Tomko. Ew. I don't know if it has to do with the natural aging process or the high pitch counts that allowed him to pitch all those innings despite all those walks, but his stuff just doesn't do what it once did. The same thing happened to Barry Zito at the beginning of his collapse. And you see it reflected in Zambrano's other numbers as well, such as his 5.80 ERA in the

second half last year. Yes, you could blame those struggles on him battling a sore elbow during much of that time, but shouldn't his first bout with arm trouble raise a red flag of its own? So what all does Zambrano give you? Not many strikeouts. Not an impressive WHIP. Not the peace of mind he'll remain healthy. Wins? I guess, but for the pick you'd have to use, you want the complete package. Take someone like Jon Lester, James Shields or even Ryan Dempster instead. Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs (Roto: Rd. 8, H2H: Rd. 6) Done.

homer potential? Do they overvalue his ability to hit .300 -- something, by the way, he has done only once since that magical 2005? Do they see him batting in the middle of that loaded Cubs lineup and simply assume good things will follow? Remember how, later in his career, Todd Helton lost his power and became a completely different player? The same thing has happened to Lee. You can't count on him for 30 home runs anymore. He might not give you 20. He'll likely hit for a good batting average and compete for the league lead in doubles -- useful contributions for sure, but not sixth-round contributions. If you want a high batting average and 15-20 home runs from your first baseman, you might as well shoot for younger (not to mention cheaper) options like James Loney and Conor Jackson. At least they have the upside to get better. Nick Swisher, OF/1B, Yankees (Roto: Rd. 20, H2H: Rd. 14) Can't we give up on this guy by now? You know, wave the white flag? Turn the page? Please? It won't make Moneyball any less relevant. I promise. The headliner of the draft class featured in that best-selling book hasn't quite lived up to the hype, instead backtracking with a .219 batting average and .742 OPS for the White Sox last year. Could it get any worse? Probably not, but I have my doubts it could get much better either just looking at his body of work so far.

Derrek Lee's 2005 season still seems to be influencing owners on Draft Day '09. (US Presswire)

Oh, you want more? Let's see ... D-Lee hit 13 home runs in the first two months of last season and only seven over the final four. He batted .266 with a Kurt Suzuki-like .733 OPS in the second half. He hasn't hit as many as 25 home runs in a season since 2005, when he hit 46 and then broke his wrist the next year. He has driven in 100 runs exactly once in his career -- again, in 2005 -- scored 100 exactly once (2005) and generally hasn't performed up to the offensive standards at the deepest position in Fantasy Baseball. So why does he go off the board as early as Round 6 on Draft Day? I don't think anyone expects him to hit 46 home runs again -- if they did, he'd go in Round 1 -- but they must see something I don't. Do they mistake him for having 30

He has performed up to mixed-league standards in exactly one season: 2006, when he had 35 home runs, 95 RBI and 106 runs scored and looked well on his way to a fruitful major-league career. During the two years before and the two years since, he has never once reached 25 homers, never once reached 80 RBI and never did anything to pull his career batting average out of the sub-.250 range. And even during that one "good" year, he hit .254 with an astonishingly low .493 slugging percentage, home runs considered. Now he plays for the Yankees, who don't have the patience for an underachiever. I don't know if you've checked their depth chart recently, but they have a bit of an overflow at the corner outfield spots, where Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady project to start. Hideki Matsui has that DH slot pretty well secured, and the Mark Teixeira signing puts 43

to rest any ideas of Swisher manning first base. Sure, given the recent history of injuries for Damon and Matsui and the offand-on performance expected from Nady, Swisher will get his share of at-bats spelling each. But could you consider him a full-time player? I wouldn't. You shouldn't. You know what I call a part-time outfielder with 20-homer potential and a batting average below .250? Marcus Thames. Look it up. Here's a quick look at a few other players currently valued too high on Draft Day: Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers (Roto: Rd. 5, H2H: Rd. 4): Considering all the 20-20 players you could have on Draft Day -- Alex Rios, Matt Kemp, Corey Hart and Bobby Abreu -- you don't need to reach for Granderson in the early rounds, especially if you play in a Head-to-Head league that penalizes strikeouts. Even though Granderson has taken a small step forward with his hitting approach each year, he stole only 12 bases last year after stealing only eight as a rookie in 2006. In fact, he has only one 20-steal season, and he stole only 26 during it. Only, only, only, only -- doesn't sound good, does it? You want to pay full price for a presumed 20-20 player that has the potential to slump to 20-10? Not me. Nate McLouth, OF, Pirates (Roto: Rd. 5, H2H: Rd. 4): McLouth achieved his first 2020 season mostly because of the unrealistic pace he set for himself over the first two months, when he hit 12 of his 26 home runs. His second-half numbers (.270 batting average, seven home runs and 12 stolen bases) give a more accurate account of his

abilities. They make him a useful Fantasy performer, yes, but not a deserving pick over legitimate early-rounders like Joe Mauer, Brian Roberts and B.J. Upton. Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers (Roto: Rd. 6, H2H: Rd. 6): His draft position suggests he still gets the benefit of the doubt on his .363 batting average in 2007 -- a mark he won't even sniff again. Meanwhile, as he enters his mid-30s, he'll likely have to miss more time for day-to-day injuries -- something we began to see last year with his 146 games played. He obviously doesn't steal bases, and he doesn't have elite power, making him something like the Derrek Lee of outfielders. If you want a .300-hitting, 20-homer outfielder, you might as well wait six rounds and draft Andre Ethier. Chien-Ming Wang, SP, Yankees (Roto: Rd. 11, H2H: Rd. 8): Wang, a pitch-to-contact sinkerballer, tends to have a high WHIP for a pitcher with his control. His ERA hovers around 3.90, and his strikeout rate is laughably low -- one of the worst in the league. Like Scott Kazmir, he contributes in only one Rotisserie category, though instead of strikeouts, his is the less predictable wins. A few unlucky breaks here and there could make him a 12-game winner instead of a 19game winner, leaving you with nothing but hollow innings in Fantasy. Give me Ryan Dempster, Ricky Nolasco or Zack Greinke instead. Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B/OF, Indians (Roto: Rd. 12, H2H: Rd. 13): Players don't break out at age 33. Except when they're DeRosa, apparently, because the lifetime utility player nearly doubled his career high with 21 home runs last year. Seven of those homers came during an especially hot August when he

posted a slugging percentage (.733) nearly 300 points higher than any other month, adding fuel to the "fluke" argument. Plus, the lack of a track record for a player his age suggests he has to slip back to his career norms this year, especially now that he no longer has the blustery benefit of playing half his games at Wrigley Field. Expect him to land back in the 12-15 homer range, which still makes him a serviceable Fantasy option given his versatility, but more of a laterounder than a middle-rounder. If I need a second baseman, I'll take the high-upside Kelly Johnson instead (and wait to a few rounds to do so). Mike Pelfrey, SP, Mets (Roto: Rd. 15, H2H: Rd. 12): I don't have a problem with anyone targeting a young up-and-coming pitcher in the middle-to-late rounds, but why Pelfrey? What makes him so special that he has become the overwhelming favorite of all the pitchers like him, going sometimes as many as three or four rounds earlier than the rest? What makes him so much better than Jair Jurrjens, Max Scherzer, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kevin Slowey, Gavin Floyd and -- I almost cringe to say it -- Matt Garza? Folks, Pelfrey struck out only 4.93 batters per nine innings, which -- no way to sugarcoat this, really -- is just plain bad. I understand he has the stuff to improve on that number, but at the same point in the draft, you could get pitchers who don't need to make any improvements. You could get Brett Myers at about the same time. Or John Danks. Ted Lilly. Josh Johnson looks ready to dominate for the Marlins. Pelfrey has plenty of upside and a certain amount of sleeper potential, but he just doesn't belong in the same sentence as those other pitchers.


Ranking NL closers
By Al Melchior Tell Al your opinion!

One of the loudest responses I received to any column last season was the outcry over my omission of Jonathan Broxton from my National League closers-in-waiting list. Here I am a year later ready to make up for it. Not only did I remember to include the big man in my list this year, but I'll lobby for all NL-only owners to make him the first reliever taken. In fact, if you want the NL's best closer badly enough, you should plan on taking Broxton early. There are a number of closers in the league who can pile up similarly insane strikeout totals, but of this group, Broxton possesses the best combination of low walk and home run rates. That blend of skills will make him the most productive NL Fantasy closer in '09. There are some other pretty fair closers on this list of elites, though I've included the most recognizable name with some reluctance. Francisco Rodriguez might be K-Rod, but he's also BB-King. He walked more batters than any other closer in the American League last year. According to his 3.06 ERC, Rodriguez' ERA should have been almost a full run higher than it was last year, but his less-than-spectacular 1.29 WHIP was very much for real. That said, if you don't mind taking on his mediocre WHIP ratio, K-Rod has proven to be an elite closer despite all of the walks, because of his ability to miss lots of bats and keep homers to a minimum. NL saves champ Jose Valverde is also among this esteemed group, despite the likelihood of a mid-3.00s ERA. He compensates for it with strikeouts aplenty and great command that keeps his WHIP under 1.20. Brad Lidge will almost certainly give up more than a pair of homers this year, but he should keep enough balls in the park to maintain an ERA near 3.00. Chad Qualls doesn't have the firepower of Broxton, K-Rod, Valverde or Lidge, but he generates a ton of worm-burners. With a groundball rate that could go as high as 60 percent, Qualls can be a highly effective closer despite a strikeout rate that falls short of double digits. Matt Capps will be absolutely no help with Ks, but how good is his control? He has 33 walks in three full seasons, which is fewer than the number granted by Lidge or Rodriguez last season alone. If you can afford the hit in strikeouts, Capps is an excellent source of low WHIP and ERA.

Elite Closers (2008 Stats)
Pitcher Matt Capps Chad Qualls Jose Valverde Jonathan Broxton Brad Lidge Francisco Rodriguez BABIP .268 .289 .284 .327 .302 .296 GB/FB 0.58 2.40 0.71 1.20 1.21 1.00 K/BB 7.8 3.9 3.6 3.3 2.6 2.3 BB/9 0.8 2.2 2.9 3.5 4.5 4.5 K/9 6.5 8.7 10.4 11.5 11.9 10.1 HR/9 0.8 0.5 1.3 0.3 0.3 0.5

The rest of the NL closers are standing on shakier ground due to a flaw or two in their statistical profiles. Carlos Marmol's inclusion here may be a surprise to some, but there is no way he will be hiding his control problems behind a .174 BABIP again this season. Mike Gonzalez' astronomical HR/9 rate from '08 might have been an aberration, but if that doesn't make owners wary, health concerns should. While Marmol may come into this year's drafts a bit overrated, Brian Wilson and Manny Corpas are sure to be underappreciated by many owners. Both are due for BABIP drops, which will lead to improvements in ERA and WHIP. Since both are groundball pitchers, both could also see improvements in HR/9, which would further deflate their ERAs. Though Wilson and Corpas are better than last year's stats make them appear, drafting them is not without its pitfalls. Wilson's wildness and Corpas' inconsistency have landed them on this list, and should they falter, able replacements are waiting in the wings. And Corpas might not even get a chance to fail as a closer, since he first must beat out Huston Street for the job.

Closers at Risk (2008 Stats)
Pitcher Trevor Hoffman Mike Gonzalez Carlos Marmol Huston Street Heath Bell Brian Wilson Joel Hanrahan Manny Corpas Francisco Cordero Chris Perez Ryan Franklin Matt Lindstrom BABIP .259 .270 .174 .292 .288 .340 .303 .335 .313 .282 .306 .335 GB/FB 0.71 0.84 0.57 0.86 1.09 1.63 0.93 1.65 0.94 0.89 1.03 1.31 K/BB 5.1 3.1 2.8 2.6 2.5 2.4 2.2 2.2 2.1 1.9 1.7 1.7 BB/9 1.8 3.7 4.2 3.5 3.2 4.0 4.5 2.6 4.9 4.8 3.4 4.1 K/9 9.1 11.8 11.8 8.9 8.2 9.7 9.9 5.7 10.0 9.1 5.8 6.8 HR/9 1.6 1.6 1.0 0.8 0.6 1.0 1.0 0.8 0.8 1.1 1.1 0.2


With so many vulnerable closers, the question isn't whether any will lose their jobs, but rather how many and which ones. Joel Hanrahan, Francisco Cordero and Matt Lindstrom all lack the command you'd like to see from a closer, yet all could remain closers due to the lack of superior alternatives (barring a trade, of course). Underrated though he may be, Brian Wilson may actually be one of the NL closers most susceptible to a demotion. If his struggles with control continue, Bruce Bochy could always call upon Jeremy Affeldt. The free agent arrival can out-Wilson Wilson, chucking more groundballs while posting a more respectable WHIP. Whoever emerges from the preseason as the Rockies' closer -- Street or Corpas -- could eventually face competition from Taylor Buchholz. The former starter has thrived in the bullpen, succeeding through a low HR/9 rate. The main threat to Heath Bell's job security is a walk rate that has crept higher in every year of his major league career. If the trend continues, Mike Adams could be a superior in-house alternative. While Hong-Chih Kuo may not have a shot at closing games ahead of Broxton, he adds to the embarrassment of riches in the Dodgers' pen, which also includes Cory Wade and Ramon Troncoso. The Cards have just the opposite situation: lots of competitors for the closer's role but none with a sterling skill profile. Though he has just 11 innings of major league experience, Jason Motte may eventually emerge as a stable presence in the ninth inning.

Closers in Waiting (2008 Stats)
Pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo Mike Adams Jeremy Affeldt Taylor Buchholz BABIP .289 .273 .327 .225 GB/FB 1.18 1.05 2.18 0.87 K/BB 4.6 3.9 3.2 3.1 BB/9 2.4 2.6 2.9 2.4 K/9 10.8 10.2 9.2 7.6 HR/9 0.5 1.0 1.0 0.7

Base Hits per Balls in Play (BABIP)
The percentage of balls in play (at bats minus strikeouts and home runs) that are base hits; research by Voros McCracken and others has established that this rate is largely random and has a norm of approximately 30%


A matter of (the right) choice
By Scott White Tell Scott your opinion!

Decisions, decisions -- you make them over and over again on Draft Day. Some of them come naturally, without more than a moment's hesitation. You look at your two choices, remember what you like about one or dislike about the other, then -- click! -you move on. But some require a bit more deliberation, keeping your stomach tied up in knots until the clock ticks down to zero. You ultimately pick a player, yes, but even after you've made your decision, you haven't really made up your mind. You hate those, don't you? Bad news, then -I have 10 for you right here. Happy birthday. Relax. The responsibility here falls entirely on me. I assess the choices, weigh the pros and cons of each and make the final call. You need only sit back and enjoy -- or agree, disagree, whatever. Even if you don't face these exact choices on Draft Day, you'll likely face ones like them, and in many cases, the same arguments will apply. Just keep in mind these decisions are supposed to be tough. Neither of the players in any of these scenarios ranks well ahead of the other. Caught in the moment of an actual draft, when assessing the makeup of my team up to that point, I might just choose the other guy. Can't make it too easy, right?

significance. Mauer doesn't rest as much as McCann, or he at least plays DH when he does, giving him more at-bats. Still, hitters generally have an easier time repeating home-run totals than batting averages from year to year, and if Mauer takes even a slight step back from his league-leading ways, his point total will likely drop behind McCann's. The Twins catcher also has offseason kidney surgery working against him. Scott's choice: McCann

off come April 30, but concerns nonetheless. Enough to avoid Berkman on Draft Day? No, but enough to give Morneau the ever-sosubtle edge over him. Scott's choice: Morneau

Second Base ... Brandon Phillips or Dan Uggla?
Over the last three seasons, Uggla leads all second basemen in home runs. Not Chase Utley, not Dustin Pedroia -- Uggla. Sounds like a winner, yes? Then again, in 2007, Phillips became only the second player at the position to join the 30-30 club. People tend to think of Phillips' 2008 season as a disappointment even though he again went 20-20 and likely would have finished with a higher batting average if his season-ending finger injury hadn't come in the middle of a slump. Even with the bad timing, he still hit .261. Uggla hit .260. In addition to his poor batting average and excessive strikeouts, Uggla will kill Head-to-Head owners with his inconsistency. Eliminate an especially hot May, and he hit .240 with 20 home runs last year. So Phillips will hit for a higher batting average and steal more bases than Uggla, and he at least has the ability to equal him in home runs. I'd call this decision one of the easier ones on this list, really. Scott's choice: Phillips

First Base ... Justin Morneau or Lance Berkman?

Shortstop ... Derek Jeter or Stephen Drew?
Talk about your David-and-Goliath matchups. Jeter is arguably the most famous player in baseball, and Drew ... I dare say some baseball fans -- legitimate, jersey-wearing fans -- haven't heard of Drew, except as maybe the younger brother of that good-fornothing J.D. But the 26-year-old Drew closed the gap on Jeter last year, actually surpassing him in standard Head-to-Head leagues. With 44 doubles, 11 triples and 21 home runs, he showed impressive extra-base power for a middle infielder -- the kind that should lead to more home runs as he enters his prime. Meanwhile, the 34-year-old Jeter regressed to 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases last year -- his lowest combined total since his injury-plagued 2003 season. They don't have the exact same abilities -- Jeter will hit for a higher average and steal some bases while Drew will hit for more power -but for all practical purposes, they offered equal numbers last year. Would you rather have the one on the rise or the one on the decline? Scott's choice: Drew

Catcher ... McCann?





Justin Morneau is just now entering his prime years, giving him an edge over a guy like Berkman. (US Presswire)

In a way, this battle encapsulates the fundamental debate going on in your head ever since you first started learning about baseball statistics: Which matters more, batting average or home runs? Mauer has already made history with his contact hitting, becoming the first American League catcher to win the batting title in 2006 and then repeating the feat last year. McCann has topped 20 home runs two of the last three years, making him one of the better power hitters at the position. Of course, McCann also has a .300 batting average during that three-year stretch, showing he doesn't rate far enough behind Mauer as a contact hitter to justify the difference in power. The decision seems straightforward enough in Rotisserie leagues. Not as much in Head-toHead, where at-bats have greater

Looking strictly at the numbers, it's no contest. Berkman usually finishes with a higher batting average and more home runs than Morneau. He also has one of the best batting eyes in the game, his career .973 OPS ranking 16th among all-time major leaguers. But when assessing the two, you have to look beyond the numbers. At age 33, Berkman has begun his decline. At age 27, Morneau has just entered his prime and should continue to close the gap between the two in the years to come. Of course, that doesn't mean he'll top Berkman this year. Personally, I'd prefer to take the player who falls to me, but if forced to choose, I want Morneau. Berkman hit only .259 with seven home runs after the All-Star break last year, perhaps showing his first signs of decline. Or perhaps not. I can't deny I have my concerns -- minor ones, the kind I fully expect to laugh


Third Base ... Chipper Jones or Aubrey Huff?
Pick your poison here. Jones won the National League batting title last year, which would probably make him a legend in Fantasy if he didn't play only 128 games, giving him an average of 120.3 games over the last four seasons. Huff ranked ahead of every third baseman not named David Wright in standard Head-to-Head scoring last year, but he did it at the age of 31 and after spending the previous three seasons as a mostly unimpressive .260-hitting, 20-homer type. The question here isn't so much "who do you like more?" as "who bothers you less?" Jones' propensity for injury reached almost laughable levels in the second half last year, and considering he turns 37 in late April, the chances of him reversing the trend have pretty much dwindled to nothing. Huff at least will stay in the lineup, and even if he slumps to a .275 batting average and 25 home runs, he'll score and drive in enough runs as an everyday player to prove a positive addition to your Fantasy team. And you never know: He just might prove last year wasn't a fluke. Scott's choice: Huff

Outfielder ... Jacoby Shane Victorino?



Starting Pitcher ... Chad Billingsley or Jon Lester?
By all accounts, Lester looked like the more polished pitcher of the two last year -- the one who had clearly "arrived." He walked fewer batters, finished with a lower ERA and consistently pitched deeper into games. But on Draft Day, when deciding between two more or less equal players, my killer instinct takes over: I want the one with the knockout stuff. Billingsley has it. He had more strikeouts than innings pitched last year, which gives him a higher ceiling than Lester. Think about it. Lester looked more polished last year, meaning he came closer to meeting his full potential, and yet Billingsley still outscored him. So if Billingsley takes that next step forward, improving his control and pitching deeper into games, his strikeout ability will elevate him from Lester range to Tim Lincecum range. Billingsley already proved last year he can give you numbers on par with Lester's, so you might as well shoot for the upside. Scott's choice: Billingsley

Outfielder ... Nick Markakis or Carlos Lee?
On the surface, this looks like the same situation we had at shortstop -- a player entering his prime vs. a player soon to leave it. But unlike Jeter, Lee hasn't shown any signs of regression, and unlike Drew, Markakis hasn't quite yet equaled his veteran counterpart. Markakis has established himself as a .300-hitting, 20-homer man, but Lee has established himself as a .300-hitting 30-homer man. The two don't really have any other differences. Both can steal 10-plus bases, but neither looks like a serious asset in that category. Lee broke his pinkie late last season but otherwise has an impressive track record of health, just like Markakis. Granted, Markakis looks better at age 25 than Lee did at the same age, but only the here and now matters in Fantasy. Go with Lee. Scott's choice: Lee

Unlike most of the matchups in this piece, this one features two players with the exact same skill set. Both Ellsbury and Victorino can steal 40 bases and pop 12-15 home runs. The difference? Ellsbury came to the majors with the hype of a top prospect. With everyone's eyes on him from the beginning, he never had a chance to slip through the cracks on Draft Day. Victorino flew under the radar at first, eventually playing so well the Fantasy world had no choice but to take notice of him. Guys, Victorino is the better player today. He has shown better power and better plate discipline than Ellsbury, and he likely hasn't reached his peak considering he slugged .534 in his last season at Triple-A. You know you'll get extra-base hits from him while you just have to hope for them from Ellsbury, who didn't give any clear indications of an impending power breakout last year. Is Ellsbury improving? Yes. He has the higher ceiling, and I like him. But for the here and now, I trust Victorino to have better stats in 2009, which probably means I won't bother to select Victorino until I see someone else take Ellsbury. Commence hating ... now. Scott's choice: Victorino

Relief Pitcher ... Jose Valverde or Kerry Wood?
Valverde has led the National League in saves each of the last two seasons, but you wouldn't know it by where he gets drafted. I can't say I don't understand. He probably shouldn't lead the league in saves pitching for a non-contending Astros team with holes aplenty on its pitching staff. Still, he can do it. We know because he already did. Of course, Wood can too. He has a better chance of doing it, in fact, pitching for a contender in Cleveland. Then again, he managed only 34 saves pitching for the 97-64 Cubs last year, and he had a relatively healthy season -something you can't expect again from someone with his history of injuries. Already this spring, he has a sore back. Why take the chance of an injury-shortened season from Wood when you can instead have a relatively worry-free Valverde who might just finish with more saves, as he did last year? You have little to gain by Wood staying healthy, so in this case, I say better safe than sorry. Scott's choice: Valverde

Starting Pitcher ... Cliff Lee or John Lackey?
If Lee hadn't had such an up-and-down career, you wouldn't even have a choice here. He was arguably the best pitcher in baseball last year. Lackey was ... eh. His numbers finished on par with his three-year averages -- accounting for the six weeks he missed with a triceps injury, of course -- but he bombed in the second half. I'm talking really awful pitching, as in a 4.99 ERA in 13 starts. I wouldn't read too much into it -- I don't think he'll have a 5.00 ERA this year or anything -- but I do think an especially good first half necessitated his collapse. By now, he is what he is -- a pitcher with aboveaverage potential for strikeouts and wins who won't have better than a 3.50 ERA or 1.25 WHIP. Even if Lee regresses from his Cy Young season, he should finish with about those same numbers -- just look at what he did in 2005 -- and unlike Lackey, he proved last year he has the potential for more. You obviously shouldn't draft Lee where he ranked last year, right up there with Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay, but by the time he falls to the Lackey range, go for it. Scott's choice: Lee


Breaking NL Starting Pitchers into tiers
By Al Melchior Tell Al your opinion!

Conventional wisdom suggests that it's a mistake to go after pitching early in a draft. Generally, this is good rule of thumb, but there are a few starting pitchers who are so far ahead of the pack that they are worth targeting in the first two rounds, even in a mixed league. American League hitters cannot be happy to see the return of CC Sabathia, who resumes his role as the league's preeminent hurler. Sabathia does have rivals in the National League, and we'll use our two-pronged approach of sorting pitchers by projected K/9 rate and ERA to determine tiers, from the elites on down, for your pitching draft list. Using a 8.5 K/9 rate and a 3.80 ERA as our cutoff for the first tier, we arrive at the list of seven starters below for the senior circuit. We can see that Tim Lincecum, Johan Santana and Jake Peavy are true National League elites, and each rivals Sabathia for major league pitching supremacy. The remaining four, despite their lofty ratios, don't really belong in the same class. Rich Harden has perpetual health issues, Edinson Volquez and Chad Billingsley project to post mediocre WHIPs, and Max Scherzer has made only seven major league starts..

Tier I
Rich Harden, Chicago Cubs Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Max Scherzer, Arizona Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati Jake Peavy, San Diego Johan Santana, N.Y. Mets Chad Billingsley, L.A. Dodgers

10.4 10.2 10.0 9.6 9.3 9.0 8.9

3.27 2.89 3.75 3.43 3.04 2.86 3.40

1.25 1.19 1.29 1.36 1.17 1.16 1.35

We uncover a few more gems if we ratchet our standards down to include pitchers who strike out fewer than 8.5 batters per nine innings, starting with Dan Haren. He projects to compile the same ERA as Harden and the same WHIP as Peavy, though he could lag 15 to 20 whiffs behind Peavy. Roy Oswalt, Brandon Webb and Cole Hamels are also strong bets to post excellent ERAs and WHIPs, but each presents an even greater sacrifice in the strikeout category. As with Volquez and Billingsley in the previous group, Josh Johnson, Yovani Gallardo and Matt Cain destroy an otherwise sparkling set of projections with WHIPs likely to rise above 1.30. Still, only two pitchers in this group are projected to post any ratio worse than the expected league average. Ruining the perfect picture are Adam Wainwright and Derek Lowe, whose below-average K/9 rates render them slightly less valuable than their cohorts on this list.

Tier II
Roy Oswalt, Houston Brandon Webb, Arizona Dan Haren, Arizona Josh Johnson, Florida Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs Ryan Dempster, Chicago Cubs Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Matt Cain, San Francisco Derek Lowe, Atlanta

7.0 7.4 8.2 7.8 8.2 8.0 8.1 8.0 6.6 8.1 6.0

3.12 3.21 3.27 3.34 3.36 3.42 3.49 3.60 3.63 3.73 3.73

1.21 1.17 1.17 1.31 1.34 1.12 1.29 1.25 1.28 1.31 1.27

The next four pitchers will all be close to striking out a batter an inning, but their collective firepower won't help them in the other categories. Jonathan Sanchez and Oliver Perez have too many control issues, and Brett Myers has gopheritis. Javier Vazquez has neither, but he is the rare starting pitcher who has a chronically high BABIP.

Tier III
Jonathan Sanchez, San Francisco Oliver Perez, N.Y. Mets Brett Myers, Philadelphia Javier Vazquez, Atlanta

8.8 8.7 8.6 8.6

4.79 4.38 3.96 4.32

1.42 1.42 1.30 1.26


This next tier represents the final helping of starting pitchers for mixed league drafts. For the most part, these pitchers are close to league average, and none are likely to meet either the 8.5 K/9 or 3.80 ERA threshold. Ricky Nolasco and Aaron Harang come close to these standards, and since both are very stingy with walks, they can be a big help with WHIP, too. Though their projected ratios place them in this group, both pitchers really belong with Myers and Vazquez in the previous tier. Nolasco and Harang are even better picks than Sanchez and Perez, despite their slight disadvantage in strikeouts.

Tier IV
Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Chris R. Young, San Diego Clayton Kershaw, L.A. Dodgers John Maine, N.Y. Mets Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Aaron Harang, Cincinnati Ted Lilly, Chicago Cubs Ricky Nolasco, Florida Paul Maholm, Pittsburgh Todd Wellemeyer, St. Louis Kenshin Kawakami, Atlanta Manny Parra, Milwaukee Wandy Rodriguez, Houston Randy Wolf, L.A. Dodgers Doug Davis, Arizona Barry Zito, San Francisco Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati Randy Johnson, San Francisco Anibal Sanchez, Florida Ian Snell, Pittsburgh Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati

6.5 8.2 8.4 8.3 7.7 8.2 8.1 7.8 6.3 6.1 6.3 8.0 7.5 7.6 6.9 6.1 7.1 8.4 6.1 8.0 8.3

3.83 3.96 4.00 4.00 4.00 4.05 4.05 4.11 4.21 4.22 4.25 4.31 4.31 4.33 4.36 4.38 4.39 4.42 4.45 4.48 4.50

1.36 1.37 1.44 1.33 1.37 1.26 1.32 1.24 1.36 1.36 1.39 1.45 1.39 1.39 1.46 1.42 1.39 1.30 1.44 1.45 1.35

Nearly all of the pitchers below should be avoided in mixed leagues, especially the ones who aren't expected to reach five strikeouts per nine innings. Chien-Ming Wang is an exception to this rule in the American League, but the NL lacks a finesse pitcher who is as skilled as Wang at inducing groundball outs. Honorable mentions go to Mike Pelfrey and Chris Volstad, who should compile sub-4.00 ERAs and near-average WHIPs despite subpar K/9 rates. Pelfrey and Volstad join Carlos Villanueva, Scott Olsen and Collin Balester as the best pitchers in this tier, and the ones who are the best choices for a late round mixed league pick. Balester, in particular, is an intriguing pitcher. Despite the modest projections, the 22 year-old has shown in his minor league career the promise of posting above-average ratios. The question is whether he can make good on that promise this season or somewhere further down the road.

Tier V
Andrew Miller, Florida Carlos Villanueva, Milwaukee Daniel Cabrera, Washington Scott Olsen, Washington Micah Owings, Cincinnati Tom Gorzelanny, Pittsburgh Brandon Backe, Houston Cha Seung Baek, San Diego Collin Balester, Washington Mike Pelfrey, N.Y. Mets Chris Volstad, Florida Hiroki Kuroda, L.A. Dodgers Mike Hampton, Houston Kyle Lohse, St. Louis John Lannan, Washington Greg Smith, Colorado Jamie Moyer, Philadelphia Joe Blanton, Philadelphia Dave Bush, Milwaukee Jeff Suppan, Milwaukee Braden Looper, Milwaukee Jason Marquis, Colorado Zach Duke, Pittsburgh Jon Garland, Arizona Aaron Cook, Colorado Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia

7.7 7.7 7.1 6.3 6.3 6.2 6.0 5.8 5.8 5.7 5.7 5.5 5.5 5.4 5.4 5.4 5.4 5.2 5.2 5.1 4.8 4.8 4.5 4.5 4.0 3.9

4.95 4.58 4.98 4.61 4.96 4.70 4.98 4.83 4.95 3.86 3.91 4.26 4.48 4.51 3.97 4.28 4.20 4.28 4.45 4.45 4.60 4.55 4.36 4.28 4.13 4.76

1.45 1.46 1.48 1.34 1.35 1.48 1.48 1.40 1.45 1.36 1.37 1.32 1.46 1.35 1.45 1.43 1.41 1.41 1.29 1.43 1.37 1.40 1.46 1.35 1.35 1.43


Projecting NL outfielders with RC/27
By Al Melchior Tell Al your opinion!

In the American League, just a quartet of outfielders stand out from the pack, making Grady Sizemore, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Quentin and Nick Markakis valuable commodities. In the National League, top outfielders are even more scarce. The AL is loaded with borderline mixed leaguequality outfielders, but the NL is even more loaded. It's a good idea to nab your No.1 outfielder early in NL-only leagues, but if you miss out on the 10 best, sit back, relax, go fill other needs, and take your time picking from any one of the many middle-of-the-road outfielders, from Raul Ibanez to Hunter Pence. The Elite: At this moment, Ryan Braun stands alone as the best NL Fantasy outfielder. Should Manny Ramirez sign with an NL team, as has been rumored for weeks, Braun would have some company at the top. Whereas Manny is due for a reality check (or at least his stats are), things are looking up for Braun in 2009. He has yet to show the contact skills he displayed as a minor leaguer, and with modest improvement, Braun could hit .300 this season. Add that to his 40 HR, 20 SB potential and you have possibly the most productive outfielder in baseball.

The Elite
Player Ryan Braun 2009 projection 7.5-8.0 2008 6.48 2007 8.31 2006 N/A

Solid No. 1/No.2 Outfielders: Trailing behind Braun in the NL's single-file line of outfielders are Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano. Milton Bradley and Adam Dunn are on par with this pair in terms of per-game productivity, but Bradley's questionable durability and Dunn's lopsided Fantasy line are reason enough to drop them back in your rankings. Further down the list are a consistent producer (Carlos Lee), a Rockie who is figuring out how to hit on the road (Brad Hawpe) and a trio of guys (Jayson Werth, Nate McLouth and Matt Kemp) who each have just one year of experience as a regular outfielder. Their inclusion in this tier indicates that they can repeat their '08 successes, but which is the best bet? The suspense ends just a little further down the page. Cohort Analysis: Carlos Beltran vs. Alfonso Soriano. Both players could compile similar stat lines, with a .280 average, 30 home runs and 20 steals being common denominators. The decisive factors are whether Soriano will bat lower in the order, where he can accumulate more RBI, and whether Beltran will continue a dramatic two-year trend of declining power. While you may not know how the first issue shakes out before Draft Day, the latter issue is a factor you ignore at your own risk. Also, while Soriano's skill profile has been comparatively stable over the past few years, Beltran's '08 whiff rate, his lowest since 2003, smells like a fluke, so a batting average decline is an even greater risk than a further decline in power. So while Beltran could equal Soriano's production, he is a much greater threat to fall short. Cohort Analysis, Part II: Jayson Werth vs. Nate McLouth vs. Matt Kemp. Each one of these players has the potential to hit 20 to 25 home runs and steal 20 to 25 bases. While there may be some tradeoffs over runs and RBI, the choice among them comes down to batting average. Kemp won that contest last year, and he could win it by an even wider margin this year. The more that Werth faces righties, the more his average will likely suffer, as he has never batted higher than .257 against them. McLouth's average is also due for a dip, since he is unlikely to sustain an eight percentage point improvement in whiff rate. You might think that Kemp's .363 BABIP from last year signals trouble for his batting average, but his history suggests that he should put more balls in play this year. In other words, declining BABIP and whiff rates will cancel each other out, and his .290 average should be safe.

Solid No.1/No.2 Outfielders
Player Milton Bradley Adam Dunn Carlos Beltran Alfonso Soriano Carlos Lee Jayson Werth Brad Hawpe Nate McLouth Matt Kemp 2009 projection 7.0-7.5 7.0-7.5 7.0-7.5 7.0-7.5 6.5-7.0 6.5-7.0 6.5-7.0 6.5-7.0 6.5-7.0 2008 9.39 7.20 7.14 6.57 7.82 7.23 7.07 6.74 5.56 2007 8.15 7.70 6.93 6.79 6.10 7.72 7.42 6.41 7.15 2006 5.81 6.49 8.78 7.06 6.70 N/A 7.20 3.75 4.79

Other Mixed League Outfielders: The list below features the horde of NL hitters who could be anything from a No. 2 to a No. 5 mixed leaguer outfielder. Unproven and inconsistent types like Justin Upton and Jody Gerut should be available later in your draft, while the ploddingly consistent Raul Ibanez, Josh Willingham and Conor Jackson (who was also included in the RC/27 analysis of first basemen) are worthy of a higher pick. More puzzling is where to rank one-year wonders like Ryan Ludwick, Andre Ethier and Corey Hart, who have produced at near-elite levels, but not for more than one season. Cohort Analysis: Ryan Ludwick vs. Andre Ethier vs. Corey Hart. Even though Hart had the worst season of the three last year, I like him the best out of this group for the coming year. Both Ludwick and Ethier took massive leaps in Isolated Power in '08, and both are likely to give some of those gains back. Ethier's power surge looks especially suspicious, since it was built mainly on one very good month's worth of stats. Not only have Hart's stats followed a more believable progression, but he was also a BABIP victim last season, registering a .298 rate. He could easily improve his batting average by 20 points. Ethier will still offer owners the highest batting average, but Hart will close the gap. Also, Ethier can't provide the home runs or RBI that Hart and Ludwick can. If you take Hart over Ludwick, the reward for sacrificing a few homers and RBI is an additional 20 stolen bases plus a slight edge in batting average. 51

Other Mixed League Outfielders
Player Ryan Ludwick Andre Ethier Jody Gerut Conor Jackson Raul Ibanez Josh Willingham Jay Bruce Corey Hart Brian Giles Randy Winn Rick Ankiel Shane Victorino Fred Lewis Justin Upton Hunter Pence Chris B. Young 2009 projection 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 5.5-6.0 5.5-6.0 5.5-6.0 5.5-6.0 5.5-6.0 5.5-6.0 5.5-6.0 5.5-6.0 2008 8.11 7.31 6.59 6.24 6.08 6.06 4.62 4.46 6.68 6.25 5.95 5.84 5.77 5.76 4.78 4.76 2007 5.83 5.43 N/A 6.27 5.99 6.16 N/A 6.96 5.36 5.78 6.21 5.58 5.67 3.37 7.01 4.86 2006 N/A 6.05 N/A 5.64 6.37 6.25 N/A 4.56 5.32 4.49 N/A 5.19 N/A N/A N/A 4.35

Now we'll focus our attention to those outfielders who are best suited for play in NL-only Fantasy leagues. Even the better hitters in this group, like Elijah Dukes, Mike Cameron and Jeremy Hermida, have some weakness in their game that makes them highly replaceable in a mixed league format. Replaceable is the key word here. Just because a player is listed as a "solid NL-only leaguer" doesn't mean that player can't be reasonably productive as a No. 5 mixed league option. It just means that there are many similar or better options available for that slot. Likewise, a "borderline NL-only leaguer" is good enough for one of your last spots in an NL-only league, but then again, so is everyone else in that tier. Solid NL-Only Leaguers: This tier includes some players with serious power (Dukes, Cameron, Cody Ross), some with a decent amount of speed (Lastings Milledge, a healthy Eric Byrnes), and others still who will help with batting average (Ryan Spilborghs, Skip Schumaker), but none who have bought the whole combo meal. Despite the wide variety of skill profiles, all should provide roughly equal value in most formats. Why They Belong: None of the three guys profiled below is an obvious addition to a top outfielders list, even if it's a "top mixed league leftovers" list like this one. For many, Schumaker still bears the fourth-outfielder label, Steve Pearce is a relative unknown, and Byrnes had to shower all winter to rid himself of the stench of an awful season. Yet each provides owners with good reasons to suit them up for the coming Fantasy season. Skip Schumaker, St. Louis: If we exclude cups of coffee from '05 and '06, Schumaker would be a career .309 hitter in 717 big league at-bats. For those who doubt the legitimacy of that average, the stunning news is that it could actually get even better this year. He is an excellent contact hitter with extreme groundball tendencies, which makes him a strong candidate to be a perennial .300 hitter. With a BABIP that could rise into the .340s, Schumaker's average could soar even higher. With regular play, that could give him a lot of run-scoring opportunities to go with his high average and 8-10 homers. Added bonus: Schumaker might even qualify at second base at some point this year. Steve Pearce, Pittsburgh: Last season was a down year for Pierce, especially in the power department, but his minor league history shows the promise of a 25 home run hitter. While he won't replicate the .333 average he put up in the minors in 2007, he's much better than the .248 he hit as a Pirate last year. In addition to power and a decent average, Pearce could deliver a dozen or more steals, just as he has done in each of the last two years. Eric Byrnes, Arizona: Having had such a miserable '08 season, it's hard to believe that Byrnes' skill numbers were only the slightest bit down from 2007, when he smacked 21 homers, scored more than 100 runs, and stole 50 sacks. Well, believe it. It's not clear which hurt more -- his twin torn hammies or his .226 BABIP -- but at least the latter, if not both, should be mended in the coming season.

Solid NL-only Leaguers
Player Ryan Spilborghs Elijah Dukes Mike Cameron Cody Ross Chase Headley Skip Schumaker Ryan Church Kosuke Fukudome Steve Pearce Jeremy Hermida Lastings Milledge Eric Byrnes 2009 projection 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 2008 6.90 6.45 5.68 5.53 5.11 5.08 5.07 5.05 4.49 4.46 4.28 2.98 2007 6.54 3.72 4.98 10.86 N/A 5.82 5.60 N/A N/A 6.50 5.08 6.22 2006 4.63 N/A 6.19 3.93 N/A N/A 6.89 N/A N/A 4.30 3.70 5.30


Borderline NL-Only Leaguers: There are useful players in this group, but there are no .300 hitters, and maybe one or two, at the very most, who are capable of cracking 20 homers. Even more important, only Garret Anderson, Aaron Rowand, Willy Taveras and Cameron Maybin look like locks for starting jobs, so you need to monitor the depth chart and health status of the others to ensure that they are truly worthy of a roster spot. Why They Probably Don't Belong: Rowand and Juan Pierre have been Fantasy stalwarts for some time, but a shrewd Fantasy front office knows when to say when. And is it time now to buy into the Cameron Maybin hype? Maybe not so fast just yet. Aaron Rowand, San Francisco: Rowand had his worst season as a major leaguer last year, so after losing more than two runs worth of production (as measured by RC/27), he looks due for a rebound. This is a case where looks are deceiving. Whatever comeback Rowand enjoys, it will be modest, thanks a home park that is inhospitable to the long ball and a whiff rate that has increased by 22 percent over the last two years. Juan Pierre, Los Angeles Dodgers: Back when Pierre was a .300 hitter with the Marlins, he had one of the highest groundball-to-flyball rates in baseball. While he is still one of the game's best contact hitters and hits more than his share of grounders, a recent increase in flyball rate has thrown a wrench into the singles-hitting machine. Because this is Juan Pierre we're talking about, those flyballs aren't turning into homers; they're becoming outs. That means fewer runs and steals to go along with a .280ish average. Even if Manny Ramirez doesn't steal his job, 2009 looks to be another disappointing year for Pierre. Cameron Maybin, Florida: This latest successor to Pierre in Florida has that highly coveted power-speed combination, but to say he lacks Pierre's contact skills is like saying that Spring Training games lack suspense. Maybin will have to make some quick progress on his whiff rate if he is to prove our projection of a .247 batting average wrong.

Borderline NL-only Leaguers
Player Chris Dickerson Daniel Murphy Josh Anderson Garret Anderson Brandon Moss Aaron Rowand Juan Pierre Willy Taveras Cameron Maybin 2009 projection 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 2008 9.58 6.57 5.74 4.92 4.55 4.44 4.15 3.89 N/A 2007 N/A N/A 7.11 5.91 N/A 6.84 4.42 5.74 N/A 2006 N/A N/A N/A 5.00 N/A 4.41 4.73 4.25 N/A

Leave 'Em Alone: Each of the players below is in the running for a starting job in 2009, but none should be competing for a spot on your Fantasy roster. Jerry Hairston's .871 OPS last year was not a sign of things to come, but rather a sign that he should have played Lotto every day. He benefited from a lucky .361 BABIP and an equally fluky .161 Isolated Power. Gregor Blanco and Michael Bourn are one-category wonders, and while Norris Hopper does have some contact skills, he's still just Juan Pierre Ultra-Lite. Jordan Schafer and Colby Rasmus could exceed these projections, but both still have to prove they can hit better pitching than what they faced in Double-A. Both may also spend a significant portion of the season down in the minors.

Leave 'Em Alone
Player Jerry Hairston Gregor M. Blanco Jeff Francoeur Michael Bourn Carlos Gonzalez Jordan Schafer Colby Rasmus Norris Hopper 2009 projection 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 2008 7.61 4.46 3.35 3.22 3.15 N/A N/A N/A 2007 2.19 N/A 5.30 5.89 N/A N/A N/A 5.18 2006 2.10 N/A 4.15 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27)
An estimate of how many runs a lineup would produce per 27 outs if a particular player occupied each spot in the order; ex. the RC/27 for Miguel Cabrera would predict the productivity of a lineup where Cabrera (or his statistical equal) batted in all nine spots; created by Bill James


Our Top 27 under 27
By Eric Mack Tell Eric your opinion!

We get criticized quite a bit about an overreliance of general Fantasy Baseball draft theories like breakout 27-year-olds. Other Mickey Mouse organizations even take the time to pull stats to try to debunk it. Billy Beane also told us he sees the beginning of a player's prime a year earlier at age 26. Nobody's perfect. With that in mind, we present the Top 27 players under the age of 27 before opening day. Why 27? We like the number. It also happens to be the number of outs you are from a perfect game. This is just one piece in our pre-draft series on sleepers and breakouts, the top players who haven't yet reached their prime. We have already dealt with the 27-year-olds, third-year starting pitchers, injury-risk sleepers, top 25 rookies, top 100 prospects and overlooked sophomores. Still to come are the players in a contract year and the top names you might not know but should. The Top 27 under 27 debuted a year ago and it was a who's who of sound Fantasy picks. Save for those who graduated to 27 years of age, the lone "dropoffs" on this year's list are: SP Justin Verlander, OF

Hunter Pence, 3B Ryan Zimmerman, 2B Robinson Cano and 2B Rickie Weeks. We still like those players as sleepers, but some fresher talent had to have room made for them. They include: the reigning AL MVP, NL Cy Young and both rookies of the year. They are marked below with asterisks. So, clearly our 27 under 27 doesn't go deep enough. Players who haven't yet reached their prime are very, very likely to outperform their draft position. That makes them great picks on all tiers of your draft boards. We might have not gone deep enough for those award winners, but last season my editor (he's a genius) placed an Ian Kinsler photo in the draft prep feature on our website. The cutline: "Ian Kinsler could very well fly under the radar on Draft Day." Brilliant! Now you're going to be hard-pressed to get Kinsler on your Fantasy team this season, because so many recognize him as one of the game's burgeoning superstars. Here are the other 26:

Fantasy Baseball's Top 27 under 27 for 2009
RK Player Age Pos TM Projections 1 Hanley Ramirez 25 SS FLA .308 avg., 31 HRs, 110 RBI, 100 runs, 38 steals (.399 OBP, .553 SLUG) He has become our No. 1 overall player in all formats, especially with the move to the No. 3 spot in the order. 2 Jose B. Reyes 25 SS NYM .287-16-65-120-60 (.354-.454) Another leadoff man who might move to third, but we don't buy it. He is the modern-day Ricky Henderson ... at SS! 3 David Wright 26 3B NYM .309-31-118-110-19 (.400-.534) After this season, he will have a great case to be considered a better Fantasy 3B than A-Rod; he might be already. 4 Grady Sizemore 26 OF CLE .279-30-80-115-35 (.378-.491) Our projections don't reflect it, but midseason 27-year-old could become a .300-40-100-100-40 monster this season. 5 Ryan Braun 25 3B MIL .301-38-110-95-14 (.350-.587) Big swing has been nothing but spectacular since he was called up, so you have to expect he will get better and better. 6 Miguel Cabrera 25 3B DET .309-39-121-100-2 (.381-.574) Year 2 in a new home tends to lead to higher comfort level, so Miggy could break through with a huge, huge year for you. 7 Evan Longoria* 23 3B TB .292-35-111-95-14 (.358-.552) Reigning AL ROY trails A-Rod and Wright for now, but unlike Braun and Miggy, he will stay at 3B long term. 8 Tim Lincecum* 24 SP SF 17-9, 2.89 ERA, 1.188 WHIP, 248 strikeouts, 77 walks, 218 innings Reigning NL Cy Young was superb as a sophomore and already has a case to be the No. 1 pitcher in Fantasy. 9 B.J. Upton 24 OF TB .277-20-80-90-40 (.383-.463) Postseason power surge was good to see, so if shoulder holds up after surgery, he could rise to the Fantasy elite. 10 Prince Fielder 24 1B MIL .292-40-114-100-5 (.381-.553) Notoriously turned vegetarian last year and his power slumped early. Hey, Year 2 on a new diet theory anyone? 11 Ian Kinsler 26 2B TEX .290-22-80-96-27 (.362-.473) We love his talent, calling him the next Chase Utley, but it appears so many might be overrating him now, perhaps. 12 Dustin Pedroia* 25 2B BOS .313-17-82-110-18 (.369-.472) We are guilty, too, but so many people place Kinsler over the reigning AL MVP. Pedroia should feel robbed.


RK Player Age Pos TM Projections 13 Carlos Quentin* 26 OF CHW .286-37-111-100-11 (.365-.569) He would have won the AL MVP if not for his self-inflicted injury; he seems to be a bit underrated in drafts right now. 14 Cole Hamels 25 SP PHI (16-10)-3.42-1.124-200-55-226 Few players had a better year, personally, as Hamels earned his Fantasy ace stripes and won the World Series. 15 Carlos Marmol* 26 RP CHC 2-2, 3.09 ERA, 1.200 WHIP, 30 saves, 81 strikeouts, 39 walks, 70 IP He still needs to win, and hold, the Cubs' closer role to earn this lofty status, but we obviously think the world of him. 16 Nick Markakis 25 OF BAL .300-22-95-95-10 (.400-.477) Our projections are modest, considering his talent and quietly productive supporting cast. He is even better than we say. 17 Jacoby Ellsbury* 25 OF BOS .276-8-50-100-40 (.325-.413) Looking back, we probably should upgrade his steals; he stole 50 in a time-share, but now he is a full-time starter. 18 Adrian Gonzalez 26 1B SD .282-30-110-100-0 (.349-.511) If his home ballpark wasn't so pitcher-friendly and his supporting cast so mediocre, he would be higher on this list. 19 Matt Kemp* 24 OF LAD .268-19-90-90-25 (.313-.473) Another one we could look back at and laugh how modest our projections are on him; he's capable of .290-30-100-100-30. 20 Joakim Soria* 24 RP KC (0-1)-2.77-1.077-30-66-20-65 A dominant closer on a bad team can be a great sleeper, but Soria won't be getting consistent save opportunities. 21 Brian McCann 25 C ATL .297-24-96-70-4 (.359-.501) As you can see on this list, there is a cluster of very good young catchers to choose from now; McCann is our pick. 22 Russell Martin 26 C LAD .285-15-75-88-17 (.374-.433) Martin's steals might make you consider him in Rotisserie leagues, but we wary of how he wore down in the second half. 23 Geovany Soto* 26 C CHC .290-28-94-75-2 (.366-.512) The reigning NL ROY has power that is unmatched at his position already; too bad he cannot play 150-plus games. 24 Joe Mauer 25 C MIN .317-10-85-99-2 (.407-.457) Look into baseball history, very, very few catchers score 100 runs in a season; we project Mauer to score 99. 25 Ervin Santana* 26 SP LAA (17-11)-3.83-1.201-212-57-214 He settled his home-road splits and became a burgeoning Fantasy ace; Santana's strikeout potential keeps him there. 26 Edinson Volquez* 25 SP CIN (16-10)-3.43-1.357-225-85-210 When everybody was buying the Johnny Cueto hype last spring, it was Volquez who put up the huge Fantasy numbers. 27 Jay Bruce* 21 OF CIN .269-30-85-83-8 (.334-.475) Streaky slugger needs to find more consistency and he should in Year 2; that is a great hitter's park to grow up in. The dropoffs: SP Justin Verlander, DET; OF Hunter Pence, HOU; 3B Ryan Zimmerman, WAS; 2B Robinson Cano, NYY and 2B Rickie Weeks, MIL.

That is quite an impressive list of Fantasy talent. If it is possible, you might even consider drafting no player older than 28. That would be a decent strategy, perhaps. Players beyond that age tend to be more experienced, but they also come with established résumés that make them expensive and less capable of outperforming their Draft Day value. A Derek Jeter comes to mind. His best years are behind him, but he will be drafted highly as always on name recognition and on the promise of his supporting cast. Most significantly, as players age, their bodies become more and more fragile and they are slower to rebound from injury or are just unable to manage the daily grind. Reducing risk is a significant factor in how to make your picks count in Fantasy.

You will notice many of the projections for these players above are cautious or conservative and many of them have totals easily reachable. Some are even downgraded from the seasons they have already had, like Fielder and Ellsbury. That is great news, especially if you pick in our live draft rooms, where our projections produce the rankings everyone gets to stare at. We can't guarantee improvement on great years by sub-27s, but you can certainly anticipate a player with less wear to outproduce what we projected for him. There are many, many more players we could add to this list to stretch it past 27 -- some of which have yet to even appear in the big leagues. It would take a whole series of lists, like say our multifaceted draft prep sleepers and breakouts series. The main point is: be very, very aware of a player's age and mileage.


Projecting NL shortstops with RC/27
By Al Melchior Tell Al your opinion!

There's no question that the quality of the National League shortstop pool far exceeds that of the junior circuit. While players like Jhonny Peralta and Derek Jeter will set the standard for their position in the American League with RC/27s in the 5.0 to 5.5 range, there are nine regular shortstops in the National League who should match or surpass that level of productivity. Once again, the Three Rs -- Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins -- lead the NL's pack of offensively-minded shortstops, and each is among the most valuable players in Fantasy. The Elite: When Ramirez broke in with the Marlins in 2006, he quickly put himself on a par with Reyes and Rollins with his impressive combination of power and speed. In elevating his power game to 30-homer status, while remaining a threat in the batting average and stolen base categories, he has pulled away from the NL's two other elites. Reyes and Rollins are still far enough ahead of other shortstops to be worthy of first round picks, but Ramirez is valuable enough to merit the first or -- if you prefer David Wright -- second pick overall in virtually any format. Cohort Analysis: Jose Reyes vs. Jimmy Rollins. Last season, Rollins reverted to being the groundball hitter he was prior to 2006. This did no damage to his batting average (though BABIP dropped it about 10 points) or his stolen base total, but it killed him in homers, runs scored and RBI. Even a partial return to his power hitting ways would put him back on a par with Reyes, but maybe the "old" Rollins is now the "new" Rollins. Reyes underwent a similar power downturn in '07 and subsequently recovered, but owners don't count on Reyes for homers in the same way. Until Rollins can prove that he can restore the core of his Fantasy game, Reyes is the safer pick.

The Elite
Player Hanley Ramirez Jose Reyes Jimmy Rollins 2009 projection 8.0-8.5 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 2008 8.42 6.39 5.96 2007 8.34 5.74 6.91 2006 6.31 6.59 5.94

Solid Mixed Leaguers: There is so much depth in the second tier of NL shortstops that there are half a dozen players from this group alone who could be the top shortstop in the AL. Stephen Drew, J.J. Hardy and Troy Tulowitzki are the Jhonny Peraltas of the NL, possessing 20-homer power and the ability to hit .280, but offering little help with stolen bases. Rafael Furcal, Cristian Guzman and Yunel Escobar profile more like Derek Jeter, providing considerably less power than Drew, Hardy and Tulowitzki, but compensating with the possibility of a .300 average. Mixed league owners who wait longer to pick their shortstop can still get stolen base help, along with a .290 average, from either Clint Barmes or Ryan Theriot. Cohort Analysis: J.J. Hardy vs. Troy Tulowitzki. After a season marred by a terrible start out of the gate and injuries, Tulowitzki would like to forget 2008. But should owners wipe their memories clean of this disaster? Tulo did hit .327 in the second half, but with no more power than he did in the first half. Entering 2009 with a clean bill of health, it's entirely possible that he could return to being the 24 HR, 99 RBI force that he was in his rookie year. However, Hardy's Isolated Power has grown steadily since his rookie season, and he has shown every sign of being able to repeat last season's 24 HR, .283 batting average performance. Even with the promise of a comeback season for Tulowitzki, there is little risk in going for the more consistent Hardy first.

Solid Mixed Leaguers
Player Stephen Drew Rafael Furcal Cristian Guzman J.J. Hardy Yunel Escobar Troy Tulowitzki Ramon Vazquez Clint Barmes Ryan Theriot Edgar Renteria 2009 projection 5.5-6.0 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 2008 6.11 10.14 5.53 5.51 4.67 3.96 5.76 5.16 4.97 3.88 2007 4.26 4.34 7.27 5.08 6.58 5.98 3.77 N/A 4.14 6.93 2006 7.17 6.27 N/A 3.65 N/A N/A N/A 2.91 7.85 5.53


NL-Only Leaguers: Miguel Tejada and Khalil Greene should provide plenty of at-bats, but neither can be relied upon to be the run producers they once were. Playing time is less certain for David Eckstein and Emmanuel Burriss, and Alex Gonzalez needs to show that his knee is healthy. Even if all goes well for these latter three in Spring Training, they are last resorts, even in NL-only formats. Cohort Analysis: Miguel Tejada vs. Khalil Greene. With his steady loss of power, Tejada has essentially become the NL's Michael Young, but with even fewer steals and walks. That isn't all bad, since Miggy still has the contact skills to hit in the .280s. We can't say that for Greene, who went whiff happy after a 27-HR season in 2007. The bigger problem for Greene is that he, too, saw his Isolated Power go in the tank last season. The 29 year-old Cardinal stands a better chance than Tejada of regaining his home run stroke, but before investing a pick on this lowaverage hitter, I would want to see some evidence that he fixed what ailed him in the power department. In any event, whatever advantages Greene can gain in the home run and runs scored categories, they won't likely make up for the 30-to-40 point edge that Tejada will have in batting average.

NL-only options
Player David Eckstein Emmanuel Burriss Miguel Tejada Khalil Greene Alex Gonzalez 2009 projection 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 2008 4.22 4.17 3.79 2.88 N/A 2007 5.16 N/A 5.25 4.59 4.93 2006 4.44 N/A 6.55 4.41 4.05

The Rest: Making contact is the one skill that Aaron Miles, Jack Wilson and Luis O. Rodriguez own, which renders them about as useful for Fantasy as Juan Pierre without the speed. In other words, not useful at all, except in the deepest of leagues. Despite good contact skills, Brendan Ryan probably won't help much with batting average, but if he picks up regular at-bats as the patented Tony LaRussa super-utility guy, he could provide 10 to 15 stolen bases.

The Rest
Player Aaron Miles Jack Wilson Luis O. Rodriguez Brendan Ryan 2009 projection 3.5-4.0 3.5-4.0 3.0-3.5 3.0-3.5 2008 4.78 3.67 3.54 3.11 2007 3.95 5.39 2.47 5.40 2006 3.95 3.86 3.40 N/A

Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27)
An estimate of how many runs a lineup would produce per 27 outs if a particular player occupied each spot in the order; ex. the RC/27 for Miguel Cabrera would predict the productivity of a lineup where Cabrera (or his statistical equal) batted in all nine spots; created by Bill James


Potentially overlooked sophomores
By Eric Mack Tell Eric your opinion!

Hopefully you haven't given up on our series on sleepers and breakouts, frustrated with our failure to outline the right 27-year-olds, third-year starting pitchers, injury-risk sleepers or rookies/prospects. Because this next one could knock your Sox off: The phenomenon of the overlooked sophomore. The Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia, 2007 AL Rookie of the Year, might not have been completely overlooked in Fantasy drafts last year, but he was most certainly undervalued. All he did was win the AL MVP in his second season. Over in the NL, how about the Cy Young campaign of one Tim Lincecum? Not overlooked, but certainly undervalued. Did you see him dominating so quickly? Well, the AL MVP and NL Cy Young were both sophomores. But we knew those guys were good. A perfect example of the overlooked is Edinson Volquez. He wasn't even the key piece of his own phenom story, the Reds' Dominican Dandies. That was 2008 spring surprise Johnny Cueto. But how overlooked was Volquez as a sophomore last year? He appeared in the NL Rookie of the Year vote, despite not even being eligible! That smack is so absurdly fresh, it is borderline unbelievable. But, this is no joke. The joke was on the voters -- writers (of which this guy is not invited to cast a ballot). Three ballots had Volquez cast with second-place votes. Dummies. They are almost as moronic as the many e-mailers we got last year when we kept "forgetting" about Volquez in my NL ROY watch in the weekly Prospect Reports. Had those voters only been paying 2008 AL All-Rookie Team C Jeff Clement attention to our Friday Fantasy Baseball editorial centerpiece (back again of course in '09) ... 1B Volquez (17-6 with a 3.21 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 206 strikeouts in 196 innings) finished fourth in the NL ROY 2B balloting ... as a sophomore. Talk about not getting your due respect. 3B Cueto was the Dominican Dandy everyone wanted last spring because drafters love players with high SS ceilings. Sure, that makes complete sense. Even more so, they love players who have never failed. Cueto OF was that. Volquez, not so much. OF But I tend to be known as a contrarian. If you say jump, this guy might choose to sit down. It is all about OF flipping the script to avoid being sucked in by public perception and excessive hype. UTL We can actually like players who have failed and are forgotten. It helps us acquire talent on Draft Day that SP might otherwise never be available to us. Geovany Soto, Jay Bruce and Alexei Ramirez are all great talents and very productive rookies in Fantasy, but they stand little chance of being on this writer's team(s) this SP spring. They are so highly valued, they are at risk of not performing to their Draft Day cost. SP Let's take a look back at the Cueto-Volquez phenomenon as an example last April. We point you to a blog entry that I posted April 3 of last year after Cueto's spectacular major league league debut of 10 strikeouts. SP Click here to read the blog entry. RP SP Chris Davis Alexei Ramirez Evan Longoria Mike Aviles Jacoby Ellsbury David Murphy Denard Span Ben Francisco Armando Galarraga Joba Chamberlain Nick Blackburn Glen Perkins Greg Smith Joey Devine

This is the most poignant line of the entire 2008 Fantasy Baseball analysis/content on "If you missed out on Cueto, there is a consolation prize: Edinson Volquez, the Reds' No. 5 starter. Pick up Volquez now if you have room -- especially if you missed the boat on Cueto." We said that before Volquez made a start in his spectacular breakthrough campaign. When everyone was looking left, it was time to veer the opposite -- which serendipitously was the right way. It proved to be a key to numerous Fantasy championships a year ago. Volquez, inactive in over four-fifths of's leagues in Week 1, wound up finishing in the top 20 overall in winning percentage on our website. Only 17 players had a higher winning percentage on Head-toHead Fantasy teams on our website. How in the world did so many people miss the boat? Well, look back at this particular comment on the prophetic April 3, 2008 blog: "Agreed on Cueto," poster "scoofer" commented less than three hours after the blog was published. "I'm so glad I picked him in all of my leagues. But personally, I think I'll ship him soon. Because I doubt he'll repeat performances like that again, and while his stock is high, that is the best bait." Good work, young Padawan leaner. But, you are not a Jedi yet ...


"I've seen Volquez," our scoffer, err "scoofer," continued, "and he isn't as dominant as Cueto. If he has a 2008 NL All-Rookie Team nice matchup, I'd want him, but not on a regular basis." C Geovany Soto Tsk, tsk, tsk. If he had only gone and picked up Volquez instead of writing that fateful final sentence ... 1B Joey Votto Now that we might have adequately made our point about not overlooking the once-hyped, perhaps now- 2B trashed, sophomores, we present our Top 10 overlooked sophomores for 2009. The who, what, when, 3B where, why and how. They get a second chance to make a new first impression this go around. SS 1. Johnny Cueto, SP, Reds OF OF Edgar V. Gonzalez Ian Stewart Emmanuel Burriss Jay Bruce Chase Headley Kosuke Fukudome Brandon Moss Jair Jurrjens Hiroki Kuroda Clayton Kershaw Johnny Cueto Jorge Campillo Chris Perez

Of course we just had to lead with this guy. The Fantasy Baseball world is looking right at Volquez, et al. We OF are steering back left toward Cueto -- flipping the script as we are most comfortable doing. UTL Why is he overlooked? ... Cueto was vastly a disappointment to Fantasy owners, because -- like so many SP young pitchers -- he provided erratic results. He would dominate one start and get beat up the next. SP Look at his final two starts of the season, when numerous Head-to-Head championships were being held, SP along with the crucial final days of Rotisserie leagues: Cueto picked up a victory Sept. 20 of Week 25, going SP six strong with just two earned and his ninth victory of the season. Then, your rookie sleeper earned a spot in your Week 26 lineup, only to lay an egg: 2 2/3 innings, seven hits, five earned and three weeks -- his 14th SP loss. RP

When/where is he getting picked? ... Many talented pitchers tend to fly under the radar on Draft Day and Cueto is surprisingly going cheap. He fetched a mere $1 winning bid in our 12-team mixed Rotisserie auction (Volquez went for $10). It took just $7 to win the bid in our 12-team NLonly auction, some $13 less than Volquez. In a recent 12-team mixed-league snake-draft, Cueto went No. 222 overall at pick 19-6. That was 11 rounds later than Volquez (90th at 8-6). How talented is he? ... It doesn't take a mathematician to note how good Cueto can be from time to time. There were starts last season where Cueto looked like potentially the most dominant pitcher in baseball. Some day, he very well could be. What could we see? ... We should expect more consistency. It happens with your second go-around and pitchers can really soar in Year 3, like we often suggest. But the very hype that made Cueto the favorite over the previously beat-up Volquez is what makes us say Cueto can be even better than Volquez was in Year 2 ... and that was a dominant Fantasy ace that can win you a championship. 2. Pablo Sandoval, 1B, Giants Overlooked NL Soph team Nick Hundley Pablo Sandoval Blake DeWitt Andy LaRoche Emmanuel Burriss Chase Headley Steve Pearce Daniel Murphy Seth Smith Johnny Cueto Max Scherzer Chris Volstad John Lannan Franklin Morales Steven Shell

The appearance of this name on the list has more to do with his potential to earn catcher eligibility in the C month of April. The Giants will slot Sandoval in the middle of their order, playing either third, first or getting 1B spot starts behind Bengie Molina at the catcher position. 2B Why is he overlooked? ... It isn't a question of whether Sandoval can get at-bats. It is a matter of where he 3B qualifies for Fantasy lineups. On Draft Day and going into the season, Sandoval is merely 1B-only and that SS really downgrades him. That is arguably the most top-heavy position in Fantasy and while his offensive OF potential is intriguing, it plays a whole lot better at catcher or even third base. OF How talented is he? ... Sandoval can mash and he is currently slated to be one of the few sophomores in baseball that will be counted on by his team to hit in the middle of the lineup. We project a .280 average, 15 OF homers, 75 RBI and 70 runs, but he might even more capable than that in his first full season in the majors. UTL SP What could we see? ... A Ryan Doumit-like breakthrough. There are only a handful of catchers in baseball who have better projections than those we lay on Sandoval at this point. Sandoval is Doumit-good with that SP bat. SP When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: No. 193 overall, 19-1. Mixed Rotisserie auction: SP Unselected. NL-only auction: $11. RP 3. Brandon Wood, SS/3B, L.A. Angels of Anaheim SP

This is one of the potential behemoth sleepers in all of Fantasy Baseball. Since when does a shortstop coming off a Triple-A campaign of: .29631-84-82-6 get overlooked? Almost never. Why is he overlooked? ... In 183 at-bats -- around one-third of a season -- Wood has gone just .183-6-16-14-4. Multiple by three and .183-18-4842-12 doesn't look at the impressive, save for the homer count at the thin shortstop position. How talented is he? ... Wood hits bombs! He once went .321-43-115-109-7 in high Class A (2005), making his mark as one of the best prospects in baseball at the time. It came in his third season as a pro. It should be noted he is entering what will be his third Angels season on the back of his baseball card. 59

What could we see? ... You like fellow sophomore Chris Davis? Wood is potentially that potent. We project .251-17-55-46-7, but those numbers are numbed by the fact Wood doesn't yet have an everyday job. The Angels are a team that relies heavily on pitching and defense. Wood isn't quite the defender the speedy slap hitters Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis are, so he is perhaps third in the race for the shortstop job going into spring training. Unseating lineup catalyst Chone Figgins at third is a tough call, too. Wood will make the team, though, and we expect he will slug his way into Fantasy prominence this year. When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: Unselected. Mixed Rotisserie auction: Unselected. AL-only auction: $14 (I overpaid, putting the money where the mouth/keyboard is). 4. Ian Stewart, 3B, Rockies Overlooked AL Soph team Jeff Clement Bryan LaHair Sean Rodriguez Brandon Wood Jed Lowrie Matt Joyce Wladimir Balentien Ryan Sweeney Daric Barton Glen Perkins Aaron Laffey Matt Harrison Clay Buchholz Justin Masterson Brad Ziegler

One of the game's burgeoning superstars didn't follow through on his transition to second base, which would C have made him the next Chase Utley, but Utley numbers would play nicely anywhere in Fantasy Baseball. 1B Why is he overlooked? ... Stewart is currently a player without a position. He won't push third baseman 2B Garrett Atkins or first baseman Todd Helton to the bench ... yet ... and he isn't quite up to speed defensively 3B to replace the departed Matt Holliday in left field. It is real hard to spend a draft pick or auction dollars on a SS part-time player -- no matter how well he can swing the bat. OF How talented is he? ... We aren't messing around when we say Stewart can swing the bat like Utley. It is OF also not a statement you want to throw around lightly. Utley could go down as one of the best slugging second baseman in baseball history. While Stewart's days of playing second are over, he will wind up being OF UTL a top five Fantasy third baseman annually. What could we see? ... The 23-year-old Stewart went .259-10-41-33-1 in 266 at-bats as a rookie. Our boy Utley was 27 when he went a comparable .266-13-57-36-4 in 267 at-bats as a rookie. Stewart's first "full" SP season just might be productive enough to match Utley's first full season of .291-28-105-93-16. That is SP some potential here, although Stewart is potentially making his splash four years younger and in an SP arguably better hitter's park in Coors Field. SP When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: Unselected. Mixed Rotisserie auction: $1. NL- RP only auction: $8. 5. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers SP

If you ask Baseball America analysts which left-hander has the highest ceiling long term, they will tell you Mr. Kershaw. That trumps the prospects of one David Price and highest-paid pitcher in baseball history CC Sabathia. That is some company to be better than. Why is he overlooked? ... Kershaw won't turn 21 until the middle of spring training, so he is years away from approaching his physical prime. Also, like the Cueto case, there were times Kershaw looked like he needed some seasoning in Triple-A, perhaps even Double-A -- which was where he was sent back to last year for a spell. How talented is he? ... Better than Price and Sabathia? Wow. Maybe not this year, because he won't likely surpass the 200-inning threshold required of a Fantasy ace, but Kershaw's talent -- and breaking ball -- is other-worldly. What could we see? ... You like what you saw out of Lincecum last year? BA might not have the guts to suggest Kershaw is better than that stud long term, but the gap is smaller than you might think. The Dodgers are a contender with a nice pitcher's park and a lineup that can get Kersh plenty of run support and wins potential. This guy would not be entirely shocked if he produced a surprise NL Cy Young campaign on the heels of Linc. After all, their rookie numbers aren't all that far apart -and a few years young in Kershaw's case.
Clayton Kershaw is still so young, but he could have a Lincecum-type impact in 2009. (US Presswire)

When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: No. 200, 17-8. Mixed Rotisserie auction: $3. NL-only auction: $11 (I put the money where the mouth/keyboard is).

6. Andy LaRoche, 3B, Pirates When you come up in the class of third base prospects Ryan Braun, Evan Longoria, Alex Gordon, Wood and Stewart, you have the tendency to be lost in the shuffle if you don't immediately star. LaRoche, dealt for Jason Bay and Manny Ramirez in one trade, has had massive expectations his entire career. Why is he overlooked? ... Of that quintet of 3B prospects so highly ranked and clumped together, only Wood and LaRoche have the most stigma of having been busts in the major leagues. Andy, the younger and more-talented but far less-accomplished brother of fellow Pirate Adam (and son of former pitcher Dave), has gone just .184-6-28-33-4 in 315 career at-bats. He is also coming off an injury-plagued season and is playing for the off-the-radar Pirates. 60

How talented is he? ... LaRoche hasn't had that monster season Wood put together, although he did combine for 30 homers, 94 RBI, 95 runs and eight steals between high Class A and Double-A in 2005. That is the same year Wood rose to prominence. Andy is a better prospect than his brother Adam ever was and his career bests are: .285-32-90-89-1. What could we see? ... We modestly project .250-15-60-59-3 for LaRoche, but he could easily be as productive as the disappointing Gordon has been. Still just 25, LaRoche could produce the numbers we project of Gordon (.263-20-75-75-10) and he will be available many, many rounds later. When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: Unselected. Mixed Rotisserie auction: Unselected. NL-only auction: $2. 7. Chase Headley, OF, Padres Yet another third base prospect, this one has converted to left field now. He is also another one in the category of a good, young player on an awful non-contending team with little in the way of a supporting cast. Why is he overlooked? ... Headley isn't a real eye-opener in any one Fantasy category, especially since he plays half of his games in one of the worst hitter's parks in baseball. He is also a low-end option in one of the deepest positions in Fantasy, which makes him a great fallback in the latter rounds when you fill out your outfield on Draft Day. How talented is he? ... Headley is overlooked as a prospect in general, but in 1,410 career at-bats in the minors, he has a career .301 average, .400 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage. If we were to draw up the holy grail of hitting standards in those categories, those are it. Headley hits them right on the button. What could we see? ... Headley put in a good half season with the Padres, going .269-9-38-34-4. Extrapolating those numbers for a full season, .269-18-76-68-8 looks like a real nice bargain for where Headley will go on Draft Day. We cautiously project .273-15-64-64-5, but it wouldn't be that much of a surprise to see him develop into a poor man's Xavier Nady at .280-20-80-80-10 as early as this season. When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: No. 258, 28-6. Mixed Rotisserie auction: Unselected. NL-only auction: $7. 8. Jeff Clement, C, Mariners If you break Alex Rodriguez's home run records -- sans steroids, presumably -- you have accomplished something. Clement did. He was once the national record-holder for career homers. (Reds starting pitcher Micah Owings is the current record-holder). Why is he overlooked? ... Clement is coming off offseason knee surgery and isn't even going to be the Mariners' primary catcher this season. Kenji Johjima is the man right now, especially since he has a long-term contract, Clement is rehabbing the knee and Clement has yet to be impressive in the majors (.237-7-26-21-0). How talented is he? ... Clement can mash and he is a catcher, so those two factors alone can make him a Fantasy star. After going .275-20-8076 in 455 Triple-A at-bats in 2007 and .335-14-43-40 in 173 Triple-A at-bats in 2008, Clement is one of the game's burgeoning offensive forces at the catcher position. What could we see? ... Many, many people are going to overpay to get future No. 1 Fantasy catcher Matt Wieters this spring, but Clement will at least be in the majors at the start of the season -- assuming his knee is healthy. If Ken Griffey can make the transition and play left field regularly, Clement can part-time at catcher behind Johjima and be the Mariners' primary DH. A catcher who is a DH, yeah, sign us up. Uncertain of his health and role are the only real reasons we project him so low at .274-12-43-40-0. When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: No. 248, 21-8. Mixed Rotisserie auction: Unselected. AL-only auction: $7. 9. Glen Perkins, SP, Twins Perkins is one of those pitching prospects who began his career in the Pitch-22: Good enough to start, but too valuable for relief. He found himself in the Twins rotation last year and was good enough to help hold off the return to the majors of Francisco Liriano. Why is he overlooked? ... Perkins is a No. 5 starter on an upstart, small-market surprise club. In fact, he might not even be assured of a rotation spot at this point. How talented is he? ... Save for the elite talent of Liriano, Perkins was perhaps the next most well-regarded prospect before he was shuffled to the bullpen and hidden under the Fantasy radar. In his first season as a starting pitcher, Perkins went 12-4 in 26 starts (151 innings). What could we see? ... Perkins' first-year starter numbers give him a great chance to better our modest projections of a 12-10 record with a 4.10 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 180 innings. He could sneak up for 15 victories on a team that is much better than anyone gives them credit for being. When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: No. 248, 21-8. Mixed Rotisserie auction: Unselected. NL-only auction: $7.


10. Brad Ziegler/Joey Devine, RPs, Athletics Do you know which one will be the A's closer this season? We figure Ziegler will get the first shot, but Devine has better stuff and frankly better numbers to take the job very early in the season, if not out of spring training. Also, pitching prospect Henry A. Rodriguez throws 100 mph and could be a factor before the end of the season. Why are they overlooked? ... Frankly, it doesn't look like they are individually at this point, but the likelihood is if one is highly sought in your league, the other might not be. That makes one of them "overlooked" perhaps. How talented are they? ... Ziegler set a rookie record with 39 scoreless innings to begin his major league career, while Devine was drafted in Round 1 as a college closer who could close in the majors immediately. That was years ago with the Braves. Ziegler gets by with a funky, deceptive delivery. Devine blows people away and can be unhittable, posting an unmatched 0.60 ERA and 0.84 WHIP as a rookie last year. What could we see? ... Ziegler has sleeper potential if your league is seduced by the talent and potential of Devine. While Devine could be a top five closer in Fantasy if he holds the job wire to wire and pitches like he did a year ago. In terms of talent, you have to prefer Devine, but the fact Ziegler could open the year as closer and be overlooked in lieu of Devine intrigues us, too. When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: Devine (No. 161, 14-5) and Ziegler (No. 189, 16-9). Mixed Rotisserie auction: Devine $8 and Ziegler $2. AL-only auction: Devine $22 and Ziegler $9. Editor's note: The following is a team-by-team list of the players who exhausted their rookie eligibility in 2008. There are varying degrees of Fantasy potential here, but if there is a top sophomore talent that is getting undervalued in your league, he has great potential to outperform his draft position. (The 2008 rookies here are listed with the team they finished last season with).

AL East
Baltimore Orioles: RP Jim R. Johnson, SP Radhames Liz, SP Chris Waters, SP Garrett Olson, RP Dennis Sarfate, RP Brian Bass, RP Randor Bierd (service time), C Guillermo Quiroz, SS Luis A. Hernandez (service time) and RP Alberto Castillo (service time). Boston Red Sox: OF Jacoby Ellsbury, RP Justin Masterson, SS Jed Lowrie and SP Clay Buchholz. New York Yankees: SP Joba Chamberlain, SP Ian Kennedy (service time), RP Edwar Ramirez, 1B Shelley Duncan (service time), RP Jose Veras, RP David Robertson (service time) and RP Dan Giese (service time). Tampa Bay Rays: 3B Evan Longoria, OF Justin Ruggiano (service time) and C Shawn Riggans. Toronto Blue Jays: SP David Purcey and RP Jesse Carlson.

NL East
Atlanta Braves: SP Jair Jurrjens, SP Jorge Campillo, SP Charlie Morton, OF Brandon Jones, OF Josh Anderson, OF Gregor M. Blanco and RP Manny Acosta. Florida Marlins: SP Chris Volstad, C John Baker, SP Burke Badenhop, SP Ryan Tucker, 2B Emilio Bonifacio and 2B Robert Andino. New York Mets: OF Daniel Murphy, OF Nick Evans, SS Argenis Reyes, C Robinson Cancel and RP Carlos Muniz. Philadelphia Phillies: None. Washington Nationals: SP John Lannan, SP Collin Balester, OF Kory Casto, RP Steven Shell and 2B Anderson Hernandez.

NL Central
Chicago Cubs: C Geovany Soto and OF Kosuke Fukudome. Cincinnati Reds: OF Jay Bruce, 1B Joey Votto, SP Johnny Cueto and SP Homer Bailey. Houston Astros: C J.R. Towles, RP Wesley Wright and SP Jack Cassel. Milwaukee Brewers: RP Mitch Stetter. Pittsburgh Pirates: OF Brandon Moss, 3B Andy LaRoche, OF Steve Pearce, SS Brian Bixler, RP Ross Ohlendorf, OF Nyjer Morgan, SP Phil Dumatrait and RP T.J. Beam. St. Louis Cardinals: RP Chris Perez, OF Brian Barton, OF Joe Mather and RP Kyle McClellan.

AL Central
Chicago White Sox: 2B Alexei Ramirez and RP Adam Russell (service time). Cleveland Indians: OF Ben Francisco, SP Aaron Laffey and RP Masa Kobayashi. Detroit Tigers: SP Armando Galarraga, OF Matt Joyce, RP Freddy Dolsi, RP Clay Rapada and OF Clete Thomas. Kansas City Royals: SS Mike Aviles, SP Luke Hochevar and RP Yasuhiko Yabuta. Minnesota Twins: SP Glen Perkins, SP Nick Blackburn, OF Denard Span, 3B Brian Buscher, SS Matt Tolbert (service time) and RP Craig Breslow.

NL West
Arizona Diamondbacks: SP Max Scherzer, RP Leo Rosales (service time) and OF Alex Romero. Colorado Rockies: Ian Stewart, SP Greg Reynolds, SP Franklin Morales, OF Seth Smith (service time) and 2B Jon Herrera. Los Angeles Dodgers: SP Clayton Kershaw, SP Hiroki Kuroda, 2B Blake DeWitt, RP Cory Wade, SS Chin-Lung Hu (service time), OF Delwyn Young (service time), RP Ramon Troncoso (service time) and SS Luis Maza (service time). San Diego Padres: OF Chase Headley, 2B Edgar V. Gonzalez, C Nick Hundley, SP Josh Banks, RP Joe Thatcher (service time), C Luke Carlin (service time), 2B Travis Denker (service time) and 1B Justin Huber (service time). San Francisco Giants: 1B Pablo Sandoval, OF Nate Schierholtz, 2B Eugenio Velez, RP Alex Hinshaw (service time), OF John Bowker, SS Emmanuel Burriss, RP Billy Sadler (service time), RP Patrick Misch, RP Sergio Romo (service time), SS Ivan Ochoa (service time) and C Steve Holm (service time). 62

AL West
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: RP Jose Arredondo, SS Brandon Wood, SS Sean Rodriguez and RP Darren O'Day. Oakland Athletics: RP Brad Ziegler, SP Sean Gallagher, SP Greg Smith, OF Ryan Sweeney, 1B Daric Barton, OF Carlos Gonzalez, RP Joey Devine, RP Jerry Blevins, 2B Eric Patterson and Dan L. Meyer. Seattle Mariners: C Jeff Clement, OF Wladimir Balentien, 1B Bryan Lahair and RP Cesar Jimenez. Texas Rangers: 3B Chris Davis, OF David Murphy, SP Matt Harrison, OF Brandon Boggs, 2B German Duran, RP Warner Madrigal, SP Luis Mendoza and RP Josh Rupe.

Draft Day Dos and Don’ts
By Scott White Tell Scott your opinion!

Everyone loves a rebel -- someone who gets by without trying or caring as if he could do it all in his sleep. He doesn't have a plan or purpose. He doesn't follow any set of rules. He flies by the seat of his pants, making split-second decisions on instinct, while the ladies swoon, the teachers impugn and the guys drop their jaws in amazement. You know you want to say it: That guy is so ... cool. Enough! You're not that guy -- not in real life, not in Fantasy. Chances are you won't make any ladies swoon with your exploits in Fantasy Baseball anyway, so stop with the tough-guy act. You want to win your league, right? Then what makes you think you can do it with a haphazard approach, going into a draft half asleep with nothing more than a mental list of players you like? If you want to win, you need a plan. You need order. You need rules. And I got 'em. I call them the Draft Day Dos and Don'ts. A departure from the usual sleepers, busts, breakouts and other player-oriented columns you read this time of year -- all useful in their own way -- the Dos and Don'ts guide you with general ideas and concepts that can steer you in the right direction regardless of which players you like or don't like. I can't guarantee you'll win your league with them. In fact, one of your rebel competitors might just flail his way to a better team. But I can guarantee that whichever of those yahoos happens to pull away from the pack this time around, you'll be right there with him. It's a matter of consistency, you see -- of relying on reason rather than luck. And if you buck the luck and embrace the reason, by the end of this five-part series, you'll look back on your rebel days and laugh, wondering how you ever thought you could get by that way. Ah, the ignorance of youth.

Part I: Tier up before the big day
Oh no, here we go. One line in, and already the Dos and Don'ts have interfered with your tough-guy image. Relax. You don't have to cry. You might want to, though -- as in laugh so hard you cry -when I tell you what I think you can accomplish on Draft Day: Using this approach, you can come out of the draft with every player you hoped to get.

cancel each other out, right? Of course they do, because Kinsler and Pedroia belong in the same tier -- the first one, along with Chase Utley. Now, tell me which of Kinsler and Placido Polanco will have the better year. Not as tricky, right? Sure, under some set of circumstances in the entire realm of possibility, Polanco could conceivably finish with better numbers than Kinsler, but under reasonable expectations, he won't -- not even close. Hence, they belong in different tiers. It's a bit of a judgment call, yes, but it's your judgment call. You can decide your tiers based on your own level of comfort. You might include Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Geovany Soto, Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez in the first tier of catchers, thinking any of them capable of claiming the top spot by season's end. Or you might exclude Martinez, thinking him too much of an injury risk, and instead include him in the second tier with Ryan Doumit, Chris Iannetta and Bengie Molina. Or you might give him a tier of his own and make Doumit, Iannetta and Molina the third tier. You could go any number of ways with it, really. You simply have to gauge your feelings and map them accordingly. If you'd feel just as comfortable with Iannetta as you would with Martinez, then you know they belong in the same tier. Clear?

Albert Pujols deserves a first-base tier all to himself. (US Presswire)

I mean it. As implausible as it sounds, it's true. No, you can't get the exact players, like if you filled out a lineup card with specific names before the draft -- not unless you get extremely lucky. But if you target groups of players -- "tiers," you might call them -instead of individuals, you can put together a team as balanced as any you dreamed up. First, let me clarify the definition of "tier." A tier is a group of players at a particular position with such similar expectations that they could conceivably rank in any order by season's end. For example, tell me which of Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia will have the better year. Don't guess. Tell me. You can't, can you? Oh, you might say one has more injury risk, one has a better supporting cast, one has a higher ceiling, blah, blah, blah -- all issues that more or less

Obviously, the size of each tier varies from position to position and layer to layer. Some positions might even have more than others. But you can't go overboard and create so many tiers that they no longer have any meaning. When establishing your tiers, you must use this exact phrasing: Could Player 1 realistically finish the season ahead of Player 2? If you wimp out and try to hedge bets by saying "would I rather have Player 1 than Player 2?" you end up assigning each player his own separate tier, essentially recreating the rankings and defeating the purpose altogether. Because naturally, what matters more than the formation of tiers is the exploitation of tiers. And to demonstrate the influence they should have on your decision making, let's examine just the four infield positions, forgetting outfielders, catchers and pitchers for now. At second base, we've already established the first tier as Utley, Kinsler and Pedroia. 63

Third base has an even smaller first tier of Alex Rodriguez and David Wright, leading into a second tier of Evan Longoria, Kevin Youkilis, Aramis Ramirez and Aubrey Huff. First base could potentially have the biggest first tier of any position, but I actually give Albert Pujols the first tier all to himself before the massive second-tier conglomerate of Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira, Lance Berkman, Justin Morneau and Prince Fielder. Otherwise, I could never justify drafting Pujols in the first round. Hanley Ramirez, Jose B. Reyes and Jimmy Rollins form the first tier at shortstop. So let's say you have the fifth pick, and someone has already taken Pujols off the board. No sweat. He didn't deserve his own tier by much, so you'd prefer to solidify another position with this pick anyway. At this point in the draft, with Pujols off the board, first base shouldn't even enter your mind. The second tier is currently "in play," and it runs six players deep, with each player, according to your own comfort level, capable of equal statistical production. You don't have to be the guy who drafts Howard in Round 1 because you know you can get Berkman two or three rounds later and feel just as good about it. In addition to Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, Reyes and Rodriguez have also gone off the board, making the only remaining first-tier infielders Wright, Rollins, Utley, Kinsler and Pedroia. With three top-tier second basemen remaining, again, you know you can afford to wait at the position. One of those second basemen has a decent chance of rebounding to you in the second round, so you can concentrate on Wright or Rollins instead. Just by looking at average draft positions, you know Rollins doesn't deserve to go so early in the first round and could potentially fall to you in the second. Besides, if you don't take Wright now, you could end up with Youkilis or Huff instead -- both of whom fit into the third tier across the diamond at first base, indicating the level of drop-off from the first tier to the second tier at third base. As much as you hate to give up on an elite shortstop, you have to take Wright here and hope for the best. In the second round, low and behold, Rollins falls to you. Then again, Utley and Kinsler have gone off the board by this point, making Pedroia the only remaining first-tier second baseman. Again, you have a dilemma. Why not look ahead at both positions? The second tier at shortstop consists of one player -Stephen Drew -- before a massive drop-off to seven or eight middle-round types. Meanwhile, the second tier at second base consists of a solid four -- all borderline firsttier players, actually -- in Brian Roberts, Brandon Phillips, Dan Uggla and Alexei Ramirez. Easy call, right? If you skip Rollins here, you might end up having to reach for

Drew just to avoid the nothingness that follows. Meanwhile, if you miss Pedroia, you still have an opportunity to get an aboveaverage player and, in effect, buy yourself more time at the position by expanding your options. Hey, you might not have to touch it for two or three more rounds. Go with Rollins. By the time the third round hits, only Berkman and Fielder remain of those second-tier first baseman, so you go ahead and grab one. Then in the fourth round, you might feel like you can still afford to wait at second base, so you take an outfielder instead, depending on how your tiers look there. Then, you select Uggla in the fifth round and so on and so on. Depending on the size of your league, the way the draft unfolds and how exactly you establish your tiers, the possibilities are endless. This example comes from my own tiers, which you'll find posted this year in the 2009 Draft Prep Index. If the process seems overly confining to you, you might prefer to make your tiers even bigger. Obviously, you can't make them so big that they again defeat their own purpose -- you don't want to convince yourself you'd be equally happy with any of the top 12 players at every position across the diamond, for instance -- but you want to give yourself as many opportunities as reasonably possible to wait at a position. The idea, in case you haven't caught on yet, is to give yourself a blueprint for your draft -a guide to knowing which position to target at what time in order to leave yourself without a hole anywhere and as well-fortified across the diamond as possible. If you establish rigid tiers and closely monitor them throughout the draft, your picks, with a little bit of luck, should become obvious. So there you have it. Feel free to examine my tiers, but I encourage you to create your own. Pull out a pen, pull out your rankings, and start dividing each position as you see fit. Of course, if you want some ideas for which positions might not deserve as much emphasis as others, check out Part II below, where I pass on the ancient mariner's warning of avoiding the Siren's song of the C's (catcher and closer).

your own indecision, that sweet sound of saves becomes all the more enticing, that weakness behind the plate enough to drive you wild, until eventually, you relent. You say "OK" to K-Rod and "let's do it" to Ryan Doumit, and before you have a chance to look up, you're in over your head -- the latest casualty of a seduction so primal it's as old as time itself. What's wrong with that, you ask? You wasted draft picks. And while everyone in your league will waste a draft pick or two -- even the eventual champion -- if you waste one willingly and knowingly, you've all but given in to the siren song and thrown yourself after those winged women of ancient lore -- who, by the way, didn't even look that good. I've seen pictures. And if I can judge them that way now, with a clear and rational head, far removed from the wide-open sea and their enchanted singing, then you can do the same now for closers and catchers, before all the fireworks of Draft Day. Once you escape the distractions and look beyond the hefty contracts and multiple All-Star appearances, the logic against closers and catchers exposes them for what they really are: Not worth it. Let's start with closers, because the reasons to avoid them should come almost naturally. In a closer, you want one thing and one thing alone: saves. Sure, a sparkling ERA and WHIP help, but those contributions become almost negligible, lost in the innings upon innings accumulated by your starting pitchers. So unless you decide you don't need starting pitchers and want to adopt some bizarre strategy where you punt wins and strikeouts, I think we can all agree here: If you draft a closer, you draft him for saves. End of story. So if saves is your one and only priority with closers, then you want to draft the ones that record the most saves. Sounds easy enough, right? But how do you do that? Do you target the ones on the most successful teams, thinking more wins means more saves? No doubt, the idea has a certain logic to it, enough that the closers on successful teams often go as many as 10 rounds earlier than equally talented closers on less-than-successful teams. But does the difference in actual output justify the difference in price? Let's examine the numbers. Of the six closers that finished with 40 or more saves last year, four -- or 67 percent -pitched for winning teams. Of the nine closers that finished with 30-39 saves, five -- or 56 percent -- pitched for winning teams. 64

Part II: Avoid the siren song of the C's (catcher and closer)
Oh, the temptation ... the insufferable longing ... the unending fascination with that which will bring about your destruction. You know you feel it with closers. Catchers too. Every year in the heat of the draft, with the picks flying off the board and your roster becoming more and more a jumbled mess of

So of the 15 closers who recorded 30 or more saves last year, 60 percent pitched for winning teams. A slight correlation? Maybe, but hardly an open-and-shut case.

my high draft picks for the best of the best closers ... which, again, might not even end up being the best of the best at the position. And even if they are, how much better is the best than the next-best? It's a matter of elasticity, of how quickly the position loses its usefulness the further you go down the rankings. Eliminating Francisco Rodriguez as an outlier since he had 18 more saves than anyone else and smashed the previous record for saves in a season, the best closer in standard Head-to-Head scoring last year -- Mariano Rivera, by that account -outscored the 12th-best closer by 153 points. Compare that 153-point difference to the 211point difference at third base, the 221.5-point difference at second base or 237.5-point difference at third base, and you begin to see just how little you gain by investing early in a closer, assuming you even pick the right closer. I like to call closers the kickers of Fantasy Baseball. They score enough points that you wouldn't dare go without one, but they don't have enough difference between them for you to care which one you get. So if closers represent the least predictable and the most interchangeable position, what's the point? Why bother with them any earlier than you absolutely have to? And in standard mixed-league drafts, you don't have to until much later than some experts would have you believe. Catchers, meanwhile, suffer from a similar lack of elasticity -- at least up to a certain point. Really, this year looks like one of the few in recent history when you actually could justify drafting a catcher early, if only because Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Joe Mauer and Geovany Soto give the position a largerthan-usual elite tier, with Victor Martinez and Ryan Doumit not so far removed themselves. But after that first elite grouping, the position remains as shallow as ever. You could find excuses for more, but for all practical purposes, the catcher position breaks down into three tiers (if you don't know what I mean by "tiers," go back and read Draft Day Dos and Don'ts, Part 1): 1. The elite. 2. Those I would consider drafting. 3. Those I wouldn't consider drafting. Just look at the numbers. Beginning with the eighth-ranked catcher in our standard Headto-Head scoring, you'd have to cycle through 15 names before you reached a 100-point drop-off at the position. Catcher No. 8 finished only 91.5 points ahead of catcher No. 22. Of course, you wouldn't even have to begin as far down as the eighth catcher if marginal options like Bengie Molina and A.J.

Pierzynski didn't play especially well last year, skewing the results. In 2007, for example, catcher No. 6 ranked 99 points ahead of catcher No. 26, which should give you a better idea just how little you have to gain by taking one particular catcher over another. But like I said, this year the position does offer more elite options, which increases the likelihood of one falling to you later than he should, at a place in the draft when no other pick would make more sense. And if so, go for it. By avoiding catchers and closers, you mostly want to avoid wasteful spending. If you get a clear value, then obviously waste goes out the window. Likewise, you can't ignore closers completely. You still need saves; you just want the most affordable saves. The way I see it, the closer position breaks down into four tiers: 1. The elite. 2. Those with good stuff, but some degree of uncertainty. 3. Those with good stuff, but a higher degree of uncertainty. 4. Those with bad stuff. Go ahead and eliminate the first tier because, as we discussed, it exists in theory alone. No, you won't get any of the big-name closers as a result, but you'll live. Trust me. Instead, grab the most cost-effective closer from that next tier -- someone like Jonathan Broxton, B.J. Ryan or Francisco Cordero -just so you have a relatively safe option to lead your bullpen. Then, you can make do with two closers from that third tier, which consists of guys who could still give you 35 saves -- Brian Wilson, Chad Qualls, Mike Gonzalez, Huston Street and the like -- but with enough risk factors to make them far more affordable than their 35-save counterparts. And what if those risk factors come to pass and spell their downfalls? Well, any pitcher you draft comes with an inordinate amount of risk -- even the elite ones. Look what happened to Saito last year. Or Street. Or Billy Wagner. Besides, even if the unthinkable happens and all three of your closers don't pan out, you'll find replacements off the waiver wire easier than you might think. At this time last year, we weren't even talking about Broxton, Gonzalez or Qualls. And with that, I've hopefully talked you off the Brad Lidge ledge, convinced you that Soto is a no-go, and given you a better appreciation of your late-round draft picks -- which, by avoiding catchers and closers, will yield players just as useful as some of your competitors' middle- and maybe even earlyround picks.

Is Jonathan Papelbon really worth that early round draft pick just for saves and maybe a low ERA? (US Presswire)

Meanwhile, Bobby Jenks, considered one of the best closers in Fantasy entering the season, saved only 30 games for the firstplace White Sox -- same as Trevor Hoffman of the last-place Padres and one less than George Sherrill of the last-place Orioles, who actually recorded all but three of his saves in the first half alone. Also, Takashi Saito and Jonathan Broxton combined for only 32 saves for the first-place Dodgers, 10 fewer than Joakim Soria of the 75-87 Royals, and Jonathan Papelbon, our second-ranked closer, got as many saves out of the Red Sox's 95 victories as Brian Wilson got out of the Giants' 72. You can't win! Which is precisely the point -- you can't win. So why waste your early-round picks on a position you can't win when you can instead focus on ones you can? I don't mean to suggest elite closers like Papelbon and Joe Nathan don't deserve to go off the board before lesser options like Wilson and Matt Capps, but by how much? Two or three rounds is one thing, but half the draft? That slight correlation between the success of a team and the success of its closer means only so much to me. Maybe I could take the plunge if it meant the difference between Brad Hawpe and Rick Ankiel in my outfield, but when I have to pass on Nick Markakis to lock up an elite closer like Papelbon, I can't justify it. I can't shell out


Part III: Don't chase wins, draft bat missers
Shawn Chacon -- remember him? Hopefully not. He had a mostly unmemorable career that began with a whimper and ended with a physical confrontation that, quite frankly, everyone would just like to forget. So why do I bring him up? Because at one point during my long and winding Fantasy Baseball apprenticeship, I wanted him. And even worse, I got him. The year was 2006. The round was late-ish. I selected him and, in my blissful ignorance, walked away convinced I had snagged that one crucial sleeper that would carry my team to victory. What ... was I thinking? I'll tell you what: I wanted wins. Couldn't live without them. They gave me 10 points a piece in my Head-to-Head league, and I considered them the first priority when selecting a starting pitcher. At that point in his career, Chacon pitched for the Yankees. The Yankees always won, making winners out of losers in the process, so when I saw Chacon go 7-3 with a 2.85 ERA in 14 appearances for the Yankees one year earlier, my eyes flashed with Ws like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. But ultimately, Chacon did what Chacon does. He posted a 7.00 ERA in 17 appearances (11 of them starts), making a mockery of the pinstripes until the Yankees couldn't stand any more of his incompetence and shipped him off to Pittsburgh. I, of course, had shipped him off to the waiver wire much earlier, frustrated by another wasted draft pick, wondering how I let this sort of thing happen. Simple -- I broke the third rule of the Draft Day Dos and Don'ts. I chased wins. Do what, now? Look, everybody loves wins. They provide a quick sum of points in Head-to-Head leagues, have a category of their own in Rotisserie leagues, and often make all the difference in Cy Young voting. But they don't say much about a pitcher's ability. In fact, they don't say much of anything on their own. Yeah, they might hint of consistency or an ability to work deep into ballgames, but as an isolated statistic,

removed from all others, wins give no clear indication of what a pitcher can do. People know this -- baseball people -- but because Fantasy Baseball is about getting the best numbers and not necessarily the best talent, they don't think it matters on Draft Day. It does. See, while wins matter more than talent at the end of the season when counting up numbers and positioning teams in the standings, Fantasy Baseball is a game of prediction, of concentrating less on what has happened than what will happen. Because wins don't indicate a pitcher's ability, a pitcher has no control over them. And if you draft a player who doesn't control his own destiny, you don't so much draft that player as the millions of external factors that determine his success. You want to try to predict those factors? You want to try to determine not just if he has the ability, but if he has the run support, the strength of bullpen and, above all else, the luck? Good luck. I try not to throw the "L" word around lightly, because when you see it, you should immediately picture a skull and crossbones. If you ever wanted to undermine a well thoughtout strategy, try injecting it with an overreliance on luck. Naturally, of the 10 categories traditionally used in Rotisserie leagues, wins remains the most dependent on luck -- a variable completely impenetrable by your predictive abilities. And maybe you get that. Maybe you understand you don't want to leave yourself vulnerable to luck and even realize how much wins depends on it, but still you can't help but feel like you have a surefire method for predicting wins. "What about pitchers who play for the best teams?" you wonder. "If a team wins more games, its pitchers win more games, right?" Well, that's all fine and good assuming you know how many games each team will win. Of the 25 pitchers who won 15 or more games last season, 80 percent played for teams above .500, so a clear correlation exists between the success of a team and the success of its pitchers. But of those same 25 pitchers, only 44 percent played for the eight playoff teams, meaning the majority of baseball's winningest pitchers didn't play for slam-dunk, in-your-face contenders. So even if you have an accurate grasp of the exceptionally good and the exceptionally bad teams in baseball, the endless number of soso teams in the middle could go either way and potentially overturn all those wins you'd

have otherwise accumulated -- again, assuming the luck worked in your favor.

Who knows how many games Matt Garza will win in '09, but he should rack up plenty of Ks. (US Presswire)

Besides, some of those "slam-dunk contenders" don't always pan out. Remembers the Tigers last year? Or the Indians? The Braves? The Mariners, for gosh sakes? Pursuing wins is an endless chase, like a dog after its tail -- too often fruitless and forever pointless. So why bother? Here's an idea: Don't. I mean it -- don't even try. It's not so much a case of punting a category as abandoning something you can't control to focus on something you can. And what can you control? Why, the antithesis of wins, of course. If wins say nothing about a pitcher's raw ability and depend almost entirely on factors beyond his control, what statistical measure does just the opposite? Maybe ... strikeouts? A pitcher records strikeouts entirely on his own ability. They depend entirely on him and his stuff. They have nothing to do with his team -- its offense or its defense. No matter where he goes or who he faces, if he knows how to strike batters out, he'll strike them out. And you can bank on their consistency, leaving you no longer at the mercy of luck. In all but a few exceptions, a pitcher's strikeouts will carry over from year to year and quite often even from game to game. If you draft a 66

strikeout pitcher, you don't have to cross your fingers and hope. You know you'll get something good. Don't get me wrong: I don't mean to suggest you should rank your pitchers by strikeouts and draft from there. You do have to pay attention to other statistics if you want the complete picture of a pitcher's relative worth, particularly WHIP to give you an idea of command. I wouldn't, for example, rank A.J. Burnett ahead of Brandon Webb based strictly on the merit of strikeouts. To me, both qualify as "strikeout pitchers" even if Burnett technically gets more than Webb. But strikeouts take priority, and when you target a pitcher -- particularly those laterounders like Chacon in 2006 -- you better make sure strikeouts fit into his repertoire. You might feel like you do your team's ERA and WHIP a disservice by taking that approach, but you have to remember what strikeouts indicate: a pure, uninfluenced ability to dominate. If a pitcher has established himself as a batmisser with his high number of strikeouts, then usually only his lack of command prevents him from reaching his full potential. With experience, he'll find his command, his ERA and WHIP will fall, and his wins -- luck willing -- will rise as a result. Meanwhile, if you avoid the strikeout pitcher and go for the pitcher with the low ERA and WHIP instead -say, a Justin Duchscherer or Armando Galarraga -- you won't get the established bat-misser. You'll leave yourself vulnerable to a rising ERA and WHIP as opposing hitters continue to make contact, and you obviously won't have the strikeouts to fall back on. So really, an emphasis on strikeouts not only guarantees you a lead in the mostpredictable category. It also gives you a reasonable chance of competing in the other categories even if you didn't pay any attention to them. But as I said, you don't want to rank pitchers by number of strikeouts, because that won't tell the whole story. The ability to get strikeouts matters more than the exact number of strikeouts. So what, then, qualifies as a "strikeout pitcher?" I like to draw the line at seven strikeouts per nine innings, but I will make exceptions for young pitchers with hard enough stuff that they clearly have the potential for more (Matt Garza fits the bill this season). Of course, you obviously don't want to make so many exceptions that you don't have anyone to exclude, but you can't totally disregard the importance of upside. So you can count on me gunning for guys like Zack Greinke, Brett Myers and John Danks in the middle rounds, and you know I won't hesitate to grab Gil Meche, Randy Johnson, Johnny Cueto, Jonathan O. Sanchez or

Wandy Rodriguez late. Shoot, in deeper leagues, Anibal Sanchez, David Purcey and Sean Gallagher look awfully enticing, despite their obvious shortcomings. Meanwhile, you won't catch me targeting Fausto Carmona, Mark Buehrle or Derek Lowe. Even Carlos Zambrano doesn't strike me the way he once did. And let's not even talk about Jon Garland, Joe Saunders or Chien-Ming Wang. Yes, with this approach, you might never claim first place in the wins category because, in all probability, one of the many win chasers in your league will get lucky enough to take it instead. Let him, I say. Let all of those yahoos compete for the title of luckiest while you sit pretty in the middle of the category -- a spot you know for sure you'll attain, because while you might not win the category, you certainly won't get buried either with all the talent you assembled in your pursuit of strikeouts. Meanwhile, you'll sit permanently atop the strikeouts category, with ERA and WHIP also well within reach. And when trying to balance all the many factors that contribute to a first-place team, wouldn't you prefer a sure outcome to a hopeful outcome? If you never chase wins, you never have to shoot for the unknown. Confused yet? Hopefully not. Because in Part IV of the Draft Day Dos and Don'ts (coming soon), I give you the most baffling and seemingly self-defeating piece of advice yet: Let your opponents make the big decisions for you. Do what, now?

This is a painful admission, perhaps even an unnatural one. After all, Fantasy Baseball started as a way to prove which of you and your buddies knows the most -- well, that and to win some money. But it's a necessary admission if you want to take the most cost-effective approach on Draft Day -- if you want to avoid waste and make sure you get the best value with every pick. Really, that sort of casual surrender makes the most sense for a draft. Of all the ways you could construct your Fantasy Baseball team, a draft is the most passive. During it, you wait. You watch everyone else make their picks, and then on your turn, you react. Notice I said react, not act, which would suggest aggression. You don't want to act. You don't want to stand out. You don't want to climb over people to make sure you land that one must-have player -- an approach that's both reckless and unnecessary. You want to mind your own business, quietly observe everyone else, and when something falls in your lap, you want to know what to do with it. In other words, you can't necessarily have your favorites, and when you don't get them, you have to understand you gave them up for the greater good. For example, I love Carlos Quentin and think he has the potential to become the next Lance Berkman, the player I've long considered my favorite to own in Fantasy. But I've participated in seven drafts so far and have yet to select Quentin in any. Coincidentally, I have yet to select Berkman either. And did I walk away from those drafts miserable and dejected, wondering how I'd survive without the players I wanted most? Not at all. I couldn't have taken them when I would have had to take them because they just didn't make sense at that point. Too many equitable players remained at their positions, meaning by taking them that early, I would have been doing something aggressive. I would have been reaching, saying "I know these players will perform so well that I want to take them a round or two earlier than players just as good," and passing on a much more logical player in the process. So instead, I let someone else have them, and I moved on. Of course, you have to know when something has fallen into your lap to know when to take advantage of it. That's where choices come in to play. In short, you don't want to have any. You want everyone else to have made their choices, to have reached for the players they wanted, their favorites, and left you with something just as good in the rounds that follow. Basically, you want to have your opponents make the decisions for you. 67

Part IV: Let your opponents make the big decisions for you
I should probably let you in on a little secret. Whenever people ask me questions about their Fantasy teams, I do my best to provide careful, thoughtful, sometimes long-winded answers. But for each of those questions, I could simply offer the same curt response that, in all reality, would be the most truthful: I don't know. I don't know, and I know I don't know. And of all the things I do know, the fact I don't know helps me to know the most. Huh? Just admit it: You know nothing about the upcoming baseball season. You certainly think some things. You probably wish some things. But you know no things. And neither do I.

The key phrase there is just as good. Obviously, if you wait so long that your opponents take all the good players and leave you with something worse, you've done yourself more harm than good. But if you grant them the luxury of favoritism and don't mind scavenging the leftovers, you'll end up with the bargain players time and time again. Sounds simple, right? In fact, you might argue I could have assigned this column a much more straightforward and familiar name: don't reach. Maybe, but "reaching" usually refers to something more overt, a blatant disregard for established value. Here, I want to focus on the subtle, to point out the logical fallacies in what most people would describe as acceptable Draft Day behavior.

Obviously, this approach works better if you have a middle pick in a standard snake draft. If you have a bookend pick and have to wait as many as 22 picks before you pick again, you might have to make some tough decisions just to avoid getting shut out at a position over and over again. But the overriding idea still applies: If four equitable players remain at one position and two at another, you should probably choose between the two at the thinner position. The whole idea is to relieve yourself from the burden of prediction, to remove the element of luck from your season by building a roster that doesn't depend on it. Everyone likes to make bold predictions, and everyone will get some of theirs right. But even the best get no more than 50 or 60 percent right. Do you really want to bank on those odds from the beginning of your draft to the end? What about all those times you guess wrong? What chance do you give yourself of succeeding if you overpaid for half your team? Fantasy Baseball is an unpredictable game, but instead of pinning your failures on luck and hoping it'll work in your favor one of these years, you can use that unpredictability against your opponents. You can let them wrestle with it, force them to decide which of two equitable players they like more, and then swoop in for the leftovers one or maybe even two rounds later. Free from the burden of prediction, you'll always ensure yourself the best deals. Plus, you'll never have to spend those restless nights asking yourself why you chose Robinson Cano over Ian Kinsler. Hey, someone in your league made that mistake last year. Of course, with all this talk of how nobody really knows anything and how you can live without the players you like most, I don't want you to feel like you should settle for a projected bust. You might see enough red flags on a player that you know you wouldn't draft him even remotely close to where someone else would draft him. I can understand, and I wouldn't want you to take him if he makes you feel uncomfortable. Remember: Your tiers should measure your own level of comfort, so if you really dislike a player that much, you can control where you draft him by establishing your tiers accordingly, maybe even dropping him a tier or two lower than everyone else has him. After all, you don't want to end up with a roster full of players who scare you half to death. I also don't want you to think you'll never get to target players you like. By the end of the draft, that's pretty much all you'll do. In the late rounds, when you have only so many more roster spots to fill, you want to take the guys you like the most. Shoot, the rest will

probably end up on waivers, ready for you to grab them that 50 percent of the time you guess wrong. But during the first three-fourths of a draft, when players all have predetermined value and clear points when they project to go off the board, you want to make sure you get value with every pick -- or at least as many as you can. You won't do it by grabbing and clawing for players you like just to make sure you get them, so stop trying to play know-itall and just pick the players who make the most sense, the ones your opponents giftwrapped for you by making all the tough decisions themselves. Almost there. Part V of the Draft Day Dos and Don'ts will challenge the previous four concepts with the one piece of advice that will forever prevent this game from becoming too easy: Be flexible.

Part V: Be flexible
Don't listen to anything I just told you. I mean it. It's bad news. You might feel that way, anyway, after reading the subheading of this piece. Be flexible? What kind of generic, throwaway, goody-goody-gumdrops advice is that? It sounds almost self-defeating, like I designed this whole series to waste your time and destroy my credibility in one fell swoop. But like all the other Draft Day Dos and Don'ts, it's rooted in logic. Rules -- perhaps you've come to think of the Draft Day Dos and Don'ts as such. In your mind, I've given you an exact process to follow indiscriminately -- do this, don't do that, always. Always always, in fact. But the truth is you can't do anything 100 percent of the time. The Dos and Don'ts exist to point out the inefficiencies of Draft Day and to help you take advantage of them. Each guideline -notice I didn't say "rule" -- represents an inefficiency. Late-round closers often record as many saves as early-rounders -inefficiency. Wins serve as the basis for drafting starting pitchers even though they remain more or less unpredictable -inefficiency. Even though these inefficiencies have become readily identifiable, they exist only because your opponents continue to perpetuate them. Someone always drafts closers early. Someone always ranks ChienMing Wang ahead of Zack Greinke. That's the way it is and the way it has to be for the Dos and Don'ts to work. If every single person in the Fantasy Baseball universe 68

Our Scott White loves Carlos Quentin, but even he won't reach for him. (US Presswire)

In case you haven't connected the dots yet, this idea goes hand-in-hand with the tier approach I discussed in Dos and Don'ts Part I. Once you've divided each position into tiers, you want to make sure you take the last player in a particular tier. If you select a player from a tier when three or four players remain in that tier, you've reached. You've made a decision for yourself, choosing one player over another, and allowed someone behind you to get the bargain. This approach might even sound counterintuitive to some, who wonder why you'd want to let everyone else have the best players while you settle for the worst. But you have to remember the fundamental premise: You want the last player in a tier, not the worst. Presumably, you made your own tiers, and you made them so that you feel equally comfortable with any of the players in the same tier. So by waiting to select the last player in a tier, you select the one with the lowest perceived value, not the lowest actual value.

followed them to a tee, they'd no longer apply. Of course, I don't mean to suggest you should so quickly abandon them. In fact, I've only done you a disservice if I've made you think you play in a league so exceptional that they don't apply to you. They do, virtually always. But some time during your draft, depending on the overall personality of your league, you might feel the need to revise them ever so slightly. For example, I've occasionally drafted a catcher in the early rounds. Yeah, I'll admit it. Why would I do something so hypocritical and blatantly irresponsible? Hey, sometimes the tiers forced my hand. Sometimes in my careful waiting for the perfect time to draft an elite shortstop or second baseman, I've gotten neither. It's never a happy day. And as you hopefully know from compiling your own tiers, once you pass a certain point in the rankings, the dropoff at those two positions becomes so significant that you might as well wait until the end of the draft to fill them. So if I already know I'll end up with a lateround shortstop and a late-round second baseman, should I still settle for a late-round catcher and enter the season with a glaring disadvantage at three positions? Not if I want to win. Hey, I have to make up all those lost points somewhere. Catcher makes the most sense, assuming I can still get one of the elite options. In fact, I usually end up with an elite catcher in one or two drafts every year. I've made it something of a backup plan, you might say. But when I did it for the first time, do you think I'd even considered the possibility of walking out of that draft with an elite catcher? Of course not. I didn't draft catchers until the late rounds -- period. Period? Try "comma" instead, because low and behold, when I went to set my roster, I had Russell Martin winking back at me. And that's what it means to be flexible. You want to enter the draft with a plan you can hopefully follow to perfection, but you have to know how to think on your feet, adjust on the fly and roll with whatever the draft gives you, because sometimes it won't give you anything close to what you expect ... like an elite catcher, for instance. So for as much good as a preset plan does to keep you sensible, organized and thorough on Draft Day, you can't become so dependent on it that you have no sense of direction without it. Think of how that situation could have gone differently if I didn't allow

myself to glance at the catcher position. I would have flipped out, thrown up my arms in disgust, considered my draft a lost cause and, in that moment of hopelessness, pulled the trigger on Derek Jeter.

team, giving you something even better than you imagined. And if you don't know how to adjust for it, you might end up overlooking it. For example, some of you might know from some of my other columns that I like to load up on hitting early and avoid pitching until the seventh or eighth round. Obviously, I understand I'll never end up with an elite starting pitcher using that approach, but I don't mind. It's not so much that I don't want one; I just know everyone will take them earlier than I'd want them. So you can imagine my shock this offseason when, in one my drafts -- a 15-team league, no less -- CC Sabathia lasted until the fourth round. Oh. Yes. I hadn't planned on taking a pitcher in the fourth round, but I hadn't planned on Sabathia lasting that long, making him easily the best value on the board at that point in the draft. So what did I do? Did I cave and take Sabathia, or did I ignore that once-in-alifetime opportunity gift-wrapped in front of me just because it went against my goofy little plan? Let's just say I didn't have to worry about pitching again until the 10th round.

Even if you typically wait on pitching, at some point you have to take CC if he falls in your lap. (Getty Images)

Right choice. Even though I told myself all offseason I'd never, ever draft Sabathia, I drafted him. And I felt good about it. It's a tricky word, that "never." It never means never ... well, except for just then. I've even gone on record as saying I'll never keep a pitcher over a hitter, assuming I have a legitimate choice to make. But some people apparently overlook that little addendum and send me e-mails like this one: Should I make Tim Lincecum my fourth keeper or ... Rick Ankiel? Seriously? Come on, people. Bend with me here. These Dos and Don'ts work when applied in conjunction with one another. You want to follow them always, yes, but not ... really always. To the point of usefulness, but not the point of recklessness. So open your eyes. Go into the draft with a clear head and a plan flexible enough that every pick that goes off the board still means something to you. And then do what you're told like good little boys and girls, because you'll never have reason to stray. Except for those times you do. 69

Because you know the first person who panics on Draft Day always winds up with Jeter. That's just the way it goes. But I remained calm. I didn't dwell over a lost cause. I assessed my alternatives, looked for a position where I could redeem my losses and -- even though it went against my core ideals -- rolled with it. And all of the Dos and Don'ts have some bend to them. Each has an appropriate time for you to stray from it, even if that time rarely, if ever, comes. For example, at some point during the draft, if enough people passed on him for a long enough period of time, I'd take Jonathan Papelbon. I'd take Derek Lowe, too. I don't strike a big "X" through their names just because they don't fit into my plan. I don't expect to get them, but I have to constantly assess and reassess the field to see how they compare to the players I could draft instead. That willingness to be flexible might just save me in the end. But flexibility doesn't function as merely a safeguard, helping you adjust to the many misfortunes that might come your way on Draft Day. It can also help you advance your

Projecting NL third basemen with RC/27
By Al Melchior Tell Al your opinion!

In the American League, the trio of A-Rod, Evan and Youk dominate the hot corner. Three's a charm in the National League, too, with David Wright, Aramis Ramirez and Chipper Jones producing at a level well above the rest of the field. If you are in an NL-only league and have gone the first four or five rounds without drafting a third baseman, you can fill other needs while still having a great shot at getting a third baseman who's good enough even for a mixed league. Waiting for you in the later rounds are several options, from Ryan Zimmerman to Jorge Cantu to Mark Reynolds, who are all roughly equivalent. Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Glaus should be there, too, and both of these players could provide surprisingly rewarding payoffs this year. The Elite: As mentioned above, it's all about David, Aramis and Chipper in the NL, and in that order. You can make a strong argument that David Wright will surpass Alex Rodriguez as the best Fantasy third baseman, period. With Wright's power and contact skills growing slowly but steadily, he can equal A-Rod's mid-30s homer total while besting his batting average by 10 points or more. Jones projects to outproduce Ramirez on a per-game basis, but he is far too much of an injury risk to rank as the second-best NL third-sacker. Chipper did have a spectacular 2008, but even putting his injury demons aside, his .364 average buoyed by a .388 BABIP is now nothing more than a distant memory to look back on fondly.

The Elite options
Player David Wright Chipper Jones Aramis Ramirez 2009 projection 9.0-9.5 8.5-9.0 7.0-7.5 2008 7.70 11.08 7.13 2007 9.06 9.45 7.25 2006 7.42 9.17 6.95

Solid Mixed Leaguers: There's a dropoff from The Big Three to Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Glaus, but not as much as you might think. Encarnacion made big strides in home runs and RBI last year and he greatly improved his walk-to-strikeout ratio. So why, then, did his batting average drop from .289 to .251? The usual suspect -- BABIP -- is guilty yet again, as Encarnacion's .267 rate should have been at least 30 points higher. In '09, Encarnacion's line could include an Aramis-like .290 average and 25 to 30 homers. Glaus could be nearly as productive, though only if he returns healthy from his shoulder surgery. The injury risk clearly puts Glaus a step below Encarnacion, but appreciate the fact that the Cards' third baseman shattered his personal-best contact rate without sacrificing power last year. When he returns, he could still manage to hit 20 to 25 homers with an average in the .270s. Then there are some tough choices among the glut of middle-of-the-road guys, but there are worse problems to have on Draft Day than having to settle for Mark Reynolds. The wild card among this group is Ian Stewart. Depending on how the Rox use him, he could have extra value by qualifying at second base, or less value by not settling into a regular job at all. Cohort Analysis: Ryan Zimmerman vs. Garrett Atkins. Zimmerman's OPS has dropped in each of the two years since his rookie season, but the trend isn't as bad as it looks. From a power and contact perspective, he was actually better in '07 than in '06, but an increase in his flyball rate sent his batting average tumbling by more than 20 points. Zimmerman corrected the flyball tendency last year, and while his batting average rebounded, his power numbers suffered. The power outage was probably temporary and due to injuries, so Zimmerman looks poised for a breakout season. There are no such encouraging explanations for Atkins' two-year statistical free fall. Since he is apparently neither a victim of health nor BABIP issues, we can only blame a decline in patience and power for his troubles. Atkins continues to make contact at a good rate, so we can rightfully expect a .285 average to go with 20-or-so home runs, but I like the 24 year-old Zimmerman's chances to rise at least a shade above this level. Cohort Analysis, Part II: Casey Blake vs. Jorge Cantu vs. Mark Reynolds. For those who like their Fantasy players on the steady and unspectacular side, Casey Blake is your man for the hot corner. You can always count on Blake to be just barely good enough to pick up for a mixed league, and to hit with just enough power and contact to be a little better than the Kevin Kouzmanoffs of the world. Cantu's numbers are just a mess -- his walk, contact and flyball rates have been all over the place -- but this Fish can clearly slug. Unless he reverts back to being the groundball machine he was in '07, Cantu should outperform Blake in every category, save steals. Reynolds should have no problem outhomering both Cantu and Blake, both he's just a whiff machine, and he won't whiff for nobody but you. (Actually, he'll whiff for anyone who drafts him, but now I can't get that song out of my head.) The tradeoff between Cantu (the flyball hitting version) and Reynolds is roughly the 15 extra batting average points you'd get from Cantu versus the additional four or five homers that Reynolds will deliver.

Solid Mixed-Leaguers
Player Troy Glaus Edwin Encarnacion Ryan Zimmerman Garrett Atkins Ian Stewart Casey Blake Jorge Cantu Mark Reynolds 2009 projection 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 5.5-6.0 5.5-6.0 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 2008 6.40 5.47 5.01 4.96 5.71 5.62 5.40 5.05 2007 6.24 6.01 4.86 6.44 N/A 5.01 N/A 6.17 2006 5.75 6.02 5.65 8.31 N/A 6.05 3.63 N/A 70

NL-Only Leaguers: There are some potentially useful players in this lower tier, as no fewer than five third basemen in this group have produced an RC/27 of at least 4.5 at least once within the last three seasons. The question for Kevin Kouzmanoff and Bill Hall is whether they can bounce back from down seasons. Ramon Vazquez' 2008 production was genuine; his .290 batting average and .365 on-base percentage were completely supported by his skill indicators, but can he supplant either Andy LaRoche or Freddy Sanchez in the Bucs' infield? Cohort Analysis: Geoff Blum vs. Bill Hall. Both players are playing time risks. Hall is coming off of two disappointing seasons, just as Mat Gamel's footsteps are getting louder. Blum doesn't have a clear challenger for his job, but he has also never received more than 453 at-bats in any of his 10 major league seasons. The move from Petco to Minute Maid Park has agreed with Blum, and he could hit 10 to 15 home runs again this year, along with a .240-.250 average that should be right in line with Hall's. What gives Hall an edge is the possibility for him to get back into 15-20 homer territory along with the likelihood of a few stolen bases.

NL-only options
Player Ramon Vazquez Kevin Kouzmanoff Mat Gamel Geoff Blum Bill Hall Dallas McPherson Mike Lamb 2009 projection 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 2008 5.76 4.32 N/A 3.97 3.80 N/A 2.98 2007 3.77 5.30 N/A 3.85 4.41 N/A 6.18 2006 N/A N/A N/A 3.14 6.25 4.67 5.94

The Rest: At this stage of the draft list, what you want is someone who can provide steady at-bats, and Pedro Feliz can certainly handle that. Feliz would make a nice late-round pick who can temporarily hold a roster spot for a reserved player, like Glaus. Then again, if you already have a productive third baseman on your roster, you may want someone with a little more upside, like Andy LaRoche. He was truly awful last year, though he didn't deserve a batting average under the Mendoza line, which was the fault of his .177 BABIP. There is hope for LaRoche, who could still add power to his developing skill set.

The Rest
Player Pedro Feliz Andy LaRoche 2009 projection 3.5-4.0 3.5-4.0 2008 3.86 1.93 2007 3.89 4.24 2006 3.75 N/A

Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27)
An estimate of how many runs a lineup would produce per 27 outs if a particular player occupied each spot in the order; ex. the RC/27 for Miguel Cabrera would predict the productivity of a lineup where Cabrera (or his statistical equal) batted in all nine spots; created by Bill James


Breaking up into tiers!
By Scott White Tell Scott your opinion!

This piece lists every player I'd consider drafting in a standard mixed league, sorts them by position, and divides them into tiers. Mostly, it exists for that final purpose -- the tiers, defined as groups of players expected to perform at more or less an equal level. For a full explanation of tiers and their uses, you should look for Part 1 of the Draft Day Do's and Don'ts series. But to summarize, tiers tell how long you can wait to draft a player at a particular position by knowing when that position will have its next statistical drop-off. If several players remain in the tier currently "in play" for a position, you know you can wait to select a player at that position. But if only one player remains, you know you should probably go ahead and select him. I didn't design these tiers with any particular scoring format in mind, meaning they might look different depending on how your league weighs some of the more flexible statistics, such as strikeouts and stolen bases. Again, I designed them for standard 10-or-12-team mixed leagues, so if you play in a deeper format, you might want to add another tier or two to each position. But no matter the league type, these tiers should at least give you a starting point for creating your own blueprint -- a guide to knowing when to draft which players in order to make yourself as well-fortified across the diamond as possible. Note: The last tier at each position often has a wider range of player values since the tier approach no longer applies by that point in the draft. The draft should theoretically end in the middle of that tier, so in the final rounds, you pretty much just want to grab the players you like most from that final tier without considering how many players remain in the tier.

The Near-Elite: Victor Martinez The Fallback Options: Ryan Doumit, Chris Iannetta, Matt Wieters, Bengie Molina Last Resorts and Sleepers: Jorge Posada, Mike Napoli, Dioner Navarro, Yadier Molina, Kelly Shoppach, Ramon Hernandez, Brandon Inge, Chris Snyder, Kurt Suzuki, A.J. Pierzynski, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jeff Clement, John Baker, Jesus Flores, Gerald Laird, Taylor Teagarden, J.R. Towles, Rod Barajas, Miguel Olivo, Jason Varitek

First base
At the most dominant offensive position in Fantasy, the fact only one player -- Albert Pujols -- appears among the elite might come as a shock to you. But don't let it. According to the guidelines for creating tiers, no other player has any chance of surpassing him, health permitting, and therefore, he belongs in a tier of his own. But just because he clearly stands head and shoulders above the rest of the players at his position doesn't necessarily mean you have to make him your first priority on Draft Day. No, first-base remains the deepest position in Fantasy, with a full seven players expected to perform at a near-elite level and three more -- Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and Aubrey Huff -- capable of performing just as well,

Known mostly as a wasted position in Fantasy over the last few years, catcher has suddenly become top-heavy thanks to the emergence of Geovany Soto and the continued emergences of Brian McCann and Joe Mauer. The three join Russell Martin to give the position a clear elite tier of four players. And that's not even counting Victor Martinez, the one-time mainstay at the top of the position. He certainly has the talent to join the elite tier, but the elbow injury that sapped him of his power last year clearly makes him a bigger risk than any of the top four and, hence, a lower tier. Unlike in years past, the catcher position has a third tier worthy of distinction, as up-and-comers Ryan Doumit, Chris Iannetta and Matt Wieters have enough talent to distinguish themselves from the mostly uninspiring options jumbled at the bottom of position. Yes, as usual, catcher ends in a mass of marginal stat producers, none significantly better than the others. A few notable options -Jorge Posada, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jeff Clement -- have more upside, but all of them have serious question marks. Needless to say, if you can't get any of the top nine players at the position -- and quite often, you'll have to reach for one -- just take whatever you can get at the end of the draft. The Elite: Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Joe Mauer, Geovany Soto
An owner can't start a first base tier without Albert Pujols. (US Presswire)

though each with a slightly lower ceiling. Huff actually gets a tier all to himself after having a monster season with little track record to support it. If the heightened production continues, he'll equal Youkilis and Gonzalez in terms of Fantasy value, but if it doesn't, he'll disappear into the lengthy list of last resorts. Of course, The Last Resorts at first base still deserve to start in most Fantasy leagues -- another testament to the position's depth. Among that group, Joey Votto stands out as the most likely player to rise to a higher tier. Again, because of first base's inherent depth, the position gets an additional tier at the end, Strictly Late-Rounders. In this tier, you'll find a few more players that could conceivably go off the board in the final rounds of a mixed-league draft, each with his own measure of sleeper potential, so don't forget about them when rounding out your Fantasy roster. Note: Because too few Fantasy-relevant DH-only players exist to give the position its own set of tiers, and because so many Fantasy owners 72

look to first base to fill their DH slots anyway, I've decided to count all relevant DH-only players as first basemen for the purposes of this piece. Any player with an asterisk (*) next to his name qualifies only at DH. The Elite: Albert Pujols The Near-Elite: Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira, Lance Berkman, Justin Morneau, David Ortiz*, Prince Fielder The Next-Best Things: Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez The Fallback Option: Aubrey Huff The Last Resorts: Carlos Delgado, Garrett Atkins, Joey Votto, Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee, Chris Davis, Jim Thome*, Conor Jackson, James Loney, Jorge Cantu Strictly Late-Rounders: Hank Blalock, Jason Giambi, Travis Hafner*, Paul Konerko, Carlos Guillen, Billy Butler, Nick Johnson, Gary Sheffield*, Mike Jacobs, Casey Kotchman, Adam LaRoche, Pablo Sandoval, Nick Swisher, Todd Helton

If you whiff on the Big Three, then you want Drew, and hopefully you won't have to reach to get him. If Ramirez, Reyes, Rollins and Drew all go off the board before you have an opportunity to pounce, you might as well bide your time until the latter stages of the draft. Among The Fallback Options, Rafael Furcal has a chance to join Drew if he can stay healthy. So does Troy Tulowitzki, if he can overcome his sophomore slump. For the most part, though, the tier offers an unappetizing jumble of players who all hit about .285, pop a dozen or so home runs and cross home plate only slightly more often than the average player. And as if the position couldn't get any worse, The Last Resorts at shortstop offer surprisingly few sleepers, with Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera (and Edgar Renteria, if he can turn back the clock) the most likely players to step up and distinguish themselves as worthwhile mixed-league options. The Elite: Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins The Next-Best Thing: Stephen Drew The Fallback Options: Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki, Rafael Furcal, J.J. Hardy, Jhonny Peralta, Michael Young, Mike Aviles, Miguel Tejada, Yunel Escobar, Orlando Cabrera The Last Resorts: Edgar Renteria, Ryan Theriot, Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera, Cristian Guzman, Elvis Andrus, Jerry Hairston, Ben Zobrist, Clint Barmes, Bobby Crosby, Khalil Greene, Jason Bartlett, Emmanuel Burriss

Second base
At a position where Chase Utley once towered over the rest of the pack, Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia significantly closed the gap last season, giving second base a clear three-headed monster at the top of the position much like the "Big Three" at shortstop. But with one crucial difference. After that three-headed monster goes off the board, second base still offers some early-round players before settling into the overall mediocrity of the position. With Brian Roberts, Brandon Phillips, Alexei Ramirez and Dan Uggla, you might not get elite numbers, but you'll get numbers good enough to give you an advantage over the competition most of the time. The inevitable drop-off does eventually occur after Uggla, though, and you might notice an entire tier, The Next-Best Things, missing as a result. It usually falls between The Near-Elite and The Fallback Options, so its absence should indicate to you the extent of the statistical drop-off after the first seven players go off the board. But if you miss out on any of those first seven players, you have six more opportunities to redeem yourself before the position gives way to The Last Resorts, which feature a collection of deep sleepers and slap hitters -- neither of which you can trust for Fantasy-relevant numbers. If you have to select from that group, you might as well not bother until the last round or two of the draft. The Elite: Ian Kinsler, Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia The Near-Elite: Brian Roberts, Brandon Phillips, Alexei Ramirez, Dan Uggla The Fallback Options: Robinson Cano, Kelly Johnson, Mark DeRosa, Jose Lopez, Placido Polanco, Mike Aviles The Last Resorts: Rickie Weeks, Kazuo Matsui, Blake DeWitt, Alexi Casilla, Orlando Hudson, Howie Kendrick, Freddy Sanchez, Aaron Hill, Asdrubal Cabrera, Akinori Iwamura, Clint Barmes, Jeff Baker, Felipe Lopez, Emmanuel Burriss

Third base
Third base has two clear frontrunners in projected first-rounders Alex Rodriguez and David Wright. Sophomore Evan Longoria certainly has the upside to join them, but his inexperience -- and in some formats, his strikeouts -- confines him to the next-best tier. Just like at first base, Aubrey Huff gets a tier all to himself after having a monster season with little track record to support it. If the breakout continues, he belongs with The Near-Elite, but if he reverts back to his old numbers, he belongs with The Fallback Options. Considering the current level of uncertainty surrounding him, he should go somewhere in between. Chipper Jones obviously slots in with The Fallback Options because of his propensity for injury. His percentages say he belongs with The Near-Elite, but his projected number of at-bats says otherwise. The rest of the third-base position consists of essentially one player. He goes by many names, but he hits .270 with 20-25 home runs. Obviously, Chone Figgins is an exception as the lone pure basestealer at the position. Alex Gordon, Hank Blalock and Ian Stewart also have the upside to exceed those numbers. Generally speaking, though, if you miss out on the first four tiers of third basemen, you can wait to sort through the leftovers in the last round or two of the draft. The Elite: Alex Rodriguez, David Wright The Near-Elite: Evan Longoria, Kevin Youkilis, Aramis Ramirez The Next-Best Thing: Aubrey Huff The Fallback Options: Chipper Jones, Garrett Atkins, Chris Davis, Ryan Zimmerman Last Resorts and Sleepers: Chone Figgins, Mark DeRosa, Jorge Cantu, Mark Reynolds, Edwin Encarnacion, Mike Lowell, Adrian Beltre, Alex Gordon, Troy Glaus, Hank Blalock, Carlos Guillen, Melvin Mora, Casey Blake, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Blake DeWitt, Eric Chavez, Ian Stewart

On to shortstop, where the Big Three of Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins remain as far removed from the rest of the position as ever. In fact, you'll notice the position skips an entire tier, The NearElite, and moves on to The Next-Best Things. But in that tier, you'll also notice some hope for the future in Stephen Drew, whose performance last year, particularly in the second half, suggests he might approach that elite trio sometime in the near future.


Compared to the other players discussed so far in this piece, outfielders obviously require a somewhat different approach since, in virtually all Fantasy leagues, you start more than one -sometimes as many as five. So naturally, you might not want to limit yourself to just one player in any particular tier, meaning you might not always want to wait until the end of a tier to draft a player. Then again, with so many players available at the Grady Sizemore makes up an elite tier position, the tiers tend to of Fantasy outfielders. (US Presswire) overlap more in the outfield than at other positions, with the distinctions not quite as decisive from tier to tier. Generally speaking, though, you'll at least keep pace with the competition if you select a total of two players from the first three tiers. The Elite: Grady Sizemore, Carlos Quentin, Josh Hamilton, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Lee, Ryan Braun The Near-Elite: Manny Ramirez, Nick Markakis, Jason Bay, Vladimir Guerrero, Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, B.J. Upton The Next-Best Things: Nate McLouth, Jacoby Ellsbury, Bobby Abreu, Alex Rios, Shane Victorino, Magglio Ordonez, Vernon Wells, Ryan Ludwick, Curtis Granderson, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Adam Dunn The Fallback Options: Corey C. Hart, Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, Milton Bradley, Jay Bruce, Andre Ethier, Pat Burrell, Raul Ibanez, Brad Hawpe, Rick Ankiel, Chris B. Young, Delmon Young, Hunter Pence, Torii Hunter, Shin-Soo Choo, Conor Jackson, Jayson Werth, Elijah Dukes, Denard Span Last Resorts and Sleepers: Nelson Cruz, Lastings Milledge, Eric Byrnes, Hideki Matsui, J.D. Drew, Mark DeRosa, Justin Upton, Xavier Nady, Cameron Maybin, Coco Crisp, Willy Taveras, Juan Pierre, Brian Giles, Jeff Francoeur, Jeremy Hermida, David DeJesus, Mike Cameron, Randy Winn, Jody Gerut, Kosuke Fukudome, Ryan Spilborghs, Adam Jones, Jason Kubel, Josh Willingham, Nick Swisher, Jose Guillen, Carlos Gomez, Fred Lewis, David Murphy, Jack Cust

indicate the likelihood he'll pitch at an elite level. Granted, someone like Tim Lincecum has more talent than someone like James Shields, but generally speaking, the tiers for starting pitchers allow for more overlap. Typically, Fantasy owners aim for a total of two pitchers from the first three tiers, though you can aim for more or fewer as your personal tastes dictate. Note that the position gets an additional tier at the end to account for the volume of Fantasy-relevant players available. The Elite: CC Sabathia, Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, Brandon Webb, Roy Halladay The Near-Elite: Cole Hamels, Jake Peavy, Dan Haren, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Ervin Santana The Next-Best Things: Jon Lester, Chad Billingsley, Daisuke Matsuzaka, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster, Edinson Volquez, James Shields The Fallback Options: Rich Harden, Francisco Liriano, Adam Wainwright, Scott Kazmir, Yovani Gallardo, Ricky Nolasco, Carlos Zambrano, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Joba Chamberlain, Zack Greinke, Brett Myers, Matt Garza, Aaron Harang, Erik Bedard, Matt Cain, John Danks The Last Resorts: Javier Vazquez, David Price, Josh Johnson, Max Scherzer, Ted Lilly, Gavin Floyd, Jered Weaver, Chien-Ming Wang, Chris R. Young, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, Jair Jurrjens Strictly Late-Rounders: Gil Meche, John Maine, Ubaldo Jimenez, Derek Lowe, Brandon Morrow, Mike Pelfrey, Randy Johnson, Clayton Kershaw, Wandy Rodriguez, Oliver Perez, Justin Duchscherer, Armando Galarraga, Johnny Cueto, Jonathan O. Sanchez, Manny Parra, Fausto Carmona, Andy Sonnanstine, Todd Wellemeyer, Paul Maholm, Mark Buehrle, Jeremy Guthrie

Relief pitchers
This section obviously focuses on closers, where the distinction between the top three tiers -- The Elite, The Near-Elite and The NextBest Things -- remains paper-thin, but still worth noting if for no other reason than to point out when during a draft you can expect each player to go off the board. If you choose to skip an elite or near-elite option at a position, you should probably make relief pitcher the position of choice. In doing so, your bullpen would consist entirely of players in the third tier, The Next-Best Things -- all of whom could conceivably perform at an elite level -- or any of the somewhat riskier options in the tier that follows. Considering the importance of role to a relief pitcher's Fantasy value and the fact so many roles remain undecided as of this piece's publication, these tiers make a few assumptions, most notably that Brad Ziegler, George Sherrill and Brandon Lyon will close for their respective teams. If any of Joey Devine, Chris Ray or Fernando Rodney ends up closing instead, feel free to swap him with his respective counterpart. The Elite: Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera The Near-Elite: Brad Lidge, Joakim Soria, Brian Fuentes, Jose Valverde The Next-Best Things: Kerry Wood, Jonathan Broxton, B.J. Ryan, Bobby Jenks, Carlos Marmol, Francisco Cordero The Fallback Options: Brian Wilson, Huston Street, Chad Qualls, Matt Capps, Trevor Hoffman, Mike Gonzalez, Frank Francisco The Last Resorts: Matt Lindstrom, Heath Bell, Joel Hanrahan, Chris Perez, Joey Devine, Troy Percival, Brandon Lyon, George Sherrill Worth Monitoring, But Not Drafting: Brad Ziegler, Chris Ray, Kevin Gregg, Fernando Rodney, Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour

Starting pitchers
Just like with outfielders, you can afford to finesse the tier approach a bit with starting pitchers since you need so many and can choose from so many more. Add the wrinkle that starting pitchers tend to shift in value, with even some of The Last Resorts having the potential to join The Elite, and you can understand why so many Fantasy owners choose to forego the first or second tier entirely, instead loading up on pitchers in the third and fourth tiers. Tiers almost have a different meaning for starting pitchers. They don't describe a player's upside or statistical ceiling as much as they


Traditional Draft strategies
By Scott White Tell Scott your opinion!

These strategies apply specifically to leagues that use traditional snake drafts. For strategies specific to auction leagues, Rotisserie leagues and Head-to-Head leagues, check out the strategy guides for each either already posted or set to appear in the coming days. And here it is: the tried and true. The bread and butter, the staple of every Fantasy player's diet and, in some cases, the only thing that gets him out of bed in the morning: Draft Day. It has a certain ring to it. And while you could argue whether or not a traditional snake draft actually qualifies as "traditional," the fact is most people use it today, and every longtime Fantasy player has experienced it at one time or another. The reasons are obvious. It's straightforward, easily accessible and relatively quick. It can take place at a kitchen table or at separate computers all over the world. Quite simply, it works. But for all its strengths, it has a certain side effect that you might not notice until you've tried building a team using a different approach -- say, an auction. It's orderly -- almost painfully so. You have to wait your turn. You can't make an aggressive move that sets your team apart from everyone else's. You can only wait politely for your next turn to arrive and then, when it does, take the best player available to you, like him or not. You almost get handcuffed to the player you take because your pick depends entirely on everyone else's. On and on and on it goes, with pick after pick contributing to 12 mostly equal teams, provided nobody does anything stupid. Yes, no team gets a clear advantage over the others because, in theory, the best player goes off the board with each and every pick. But, uh, in Fantasy, don't you want an advantage? That's where it gets tricky. How do you get an advantage in a system designed not to give you one? You can certainly do it, but you have to rely on a primal emotion you've tried so valiantly to beat out of your subconscious. You might not like it -- oh heck, I'll say it: Greed. In the draft room, greed can prove your greatest ally. You want the best player at each position because only then can you know for sure you have the best team. And while I understand you can't literally get the best player at each position, you can come 75 awfully close -- much closer than you probably think, depending on the size of your league and your starting lineup. You mostly just have to avoid the one pitfall that can derail any carefully constructed plan: a big, heaping dose of the Draft Day jitters. Yes, greed and fear -- I've gone there ... with Fantasy Baseball. Sounds more like a J.R.R Tolkien novel. First, the basics Some people go into a draft empty handed. They don't have a printout of their rankings. They don't have a pen or highlighter. They don't even have a soda or other stimulating beverage. In fact, I'd venture to say most people approach a draft that way. I can't begin to understand it. The beauty of a draft is it allows for so much organization. Since you have nothing to do outside of your own turns, you can pay close to attention to everyone else's, crossing players off your rankings as your opponents select them. So when your turn arrives, instead of clumsily flipping between each position, trying to ascertain which players remain without having any real context, you can simply look at your printout and learn it all at a moment's glance. Drafting without a printout of your rankings is the equivalent to trying to solve a complicated math problem in your head. Maybe you can do it, but you leave yourself vulnerable to mistakes in the process, often forcing you to retrace your steps and waste more time than you save. You certainly don't lose anything by keeping track on paper, so only laziness would prevent you from doing so -- that or some ego-driven attempt to show off your computational skills ... er, baseball knowledge. So come equipped with the tools you need -the printout to show who you can draft, the pen or highlighter to show who you can't, and the soda because, well, deep down, everybody likes soda. Embracing greed So you want it all -- the best of the best at each position. Fat chance, right?

Jose Reyes could be interchanged with at least two other shortstops, so don't reach for him. (US Presswire)

You can't possibly make it happen, so why even entertain the idea? Why not just accept a roster riddled with shortcomings and settle for less-than-ideal options at hard-to-fill positions like second base and shortstop? It's hopeless. But it's not hopeless. In fact, "hope" is the most essential ingredient to make it happen -not ridiculous, pie-in-the-sky hope, like when you drop your cell phone in a swimming pool and hope it still works. More like a willingness to believe the practical might happen. Obviously, each position has a clear frontrunner or top player -- Albert Pujols at first base, Hanley Ramirez at shortstop, Grady Sizemore in the outfield and so on. You can't get them all. How could you? They all project as first rounders, and you have only one first-round pick.

"Well, there you go. Impossible," you say. "Guess I should just give in and take Miguel Cabrera because I think he'll really come around in his second year in the AL, and I --" Stop. Think for a minute. Yes, you'll find frontrunners at each position, but what about the players directly behind them? How do they compare, both to each other and the frontrunners themselves? Going position by position, you have to ask yourself how many players could end up performing just as well as, if not better than, the frontrunner. How many potential frontrunners does each position have? Looking at shortstop, Ramirez sits at No. 1, with Jose B. Reyes and Jimmy Rollins right behind him. They could end up outperforming him, couldn't they? OK, what about the next two -- Derek Jeter and Stephen Drew? Not as likely, huh? So you'd draw the line at three, with Ramirez, Reyes and Rollins each giving you a chance to have the best shortstop in Fantasy. What about first base? We have Pujols at the top, but any of Miguel Cabrera, Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard, Lance Berkman, Justin Morneau and maybe even Prince Fielder behind him could end up with numbers just as good, if not better. Thus, first base has seven potential frontrunners. And second base? Any of Chase Utley (recovering from hip surgery, remember), Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia at the top could end up the best second baseman in Fantasy. In some formats, Brian Roberts might have a say as well. How do I know? It's a judgment call, really. You have to determine why one player ranks ahead of another. Does the subtle give and take of statistics simply project him for more Fantasy points, or does he have such an overwhelming amount of talent that he belongs in a completely different class? Just by performing that quick exercise for those three positions, you now have an opening blueprint for your draft. Remember: To distinguish your team in a system designed for parity, you want to get greedy and go for the best of the best at every position. You want to snag as many of those potential frontrunners as possible. So naturally, you wouldn't want to go for a first baseman like Cabrera in the first round, not with five equitable first basemen behind him. You might love him to pieces and genuinely believe he'll have the best year of his life now that he's adjusted to his new league, but do you really want to leave yourself vulnerable at shortstop or second base based on that gut feeling? Regardless of whether or not he actually has that career year, if Berkman and Morneau could perform

just as well, how could you regret taking them instead? Because you can't go get any player you want in a draft, because you have to wait your turn and accept whatever player comes to you, a draft is less about who you want and more about who you can get now and can't get later. Don't fight it. Embrace it. You can't get potential frontrunners at shortstop or second base later, so go for them now. Ideally, you'd have an early-round pick and take Ramirez in the first round and Pedroia in the second. Or maybe you'd have a late-round pick and take Kinsler in the first round and Rollins in the second. Either way, the rest of the draft falls into place from there. Maybe you'd then go for a first baseman like Berkman in the third round and, not wanting to settle for Chipper Jones or Ryan Zimmerman, a third baseman like Kevin Youkilis in the fourth. By the time you opt for your first outfielder in the fifth, you'll still get someone like Nick Markakis, who has a chance of ranking in the top 10 at his position. Not a bad first five, right? Couldn't have happened if you didn't get greedy. Couldn't have happened if you didn't go with the natural flow of the draft. (By the way, you might notice I completely ignored pitchers in that little scenario. Check out my Pitching Philosophies to understand why. And if you like the idea of narrowing down "potential frontrunners," you can find a more sophisticated approach to the same concept, the formation of tiers, in the Draft Day Dos and Don'ts set to come out in the coming weeks.) The importance of order and sequence Of course, that plan sounds all fine and good in theory, but it might not fall into place. And even if it does, you still have to worry about Round 6 and beyond. You can only follow a plan for so long before something disrupts it, and eventually -- whether in Round 1 or Round 6 -- you'll have to adjust on the fly. You might even choose to adjust your plan if you see something better come your way. For example, in a Head-to-Head draft where I saw a disproportionate number of pitchers going early, I ended up taking David Wright -who plays a top-heavy position in his own right -- in the first round and Grady Sizemore in the second, only to end up with Jimmy Rollins in the third and Ian Kinsler in the fourth. No sense in reaching for a player, regardless of position scarcity, if you know you can get him one round -- or in this case, two rounds -- later. Fortunately, whenever you veer off course, you have that printout of your rankings with all the names crossed off up to that point.

When you find yourself having to make an off-the-cuff decision, you can just look at each position, see how the remaining players compare to each other, and draft the one that most stands out as head-and-shoulders above the rest, assuming he fills a need in your lineup -- in other words, the one least likely to fall back to you. But do you know for sure who will or won't fall back to you? Can you afford to pass on a greater need just because you think a player who fills that need will more likely fall back to you than one who fills another? For example, if you need a third baseman and a second baseman, and Aubrey Huff and Garrett Atkins remain at the former while Roberts, Brandon Phillips, Dan Uggla and Alexei Ramirez remain at the latter, can you afford to take Huff now and grab one of the second basemen on the bounceback? Unfortunately, that decision depends largely on where you draft. Going into a draft, you don't often have the opportunity to pick your draft position, but if you ever get the opportunity, you really have only one choice. You want the middle -- or as close to it as possible. Your pick should always depend on what everyone else picks. Always. In the draft room, sequence means everything. Turn order means everything. So how can you keep your foot in the door on trends if you have to wait twice as long as everybody else to make a pick? You want to minimize your wait for each pick, and the back-to-back picks to end one round and begin another don't compensate for the unbearably long wait before your next pair of picks. Quite simply, the less you have to wait between turns, the better you can predict your next turn. So if you pick 10th of 12 teams, for instance, and know you have to wait 18 picks before your next one, you might want to forego Huff and take one of those four second baseman. Avoiding fear So let's say the draft starts out well enough. You end up with the fifth pick, so you don't have a real chance for Ramirez or Reyes and instead opt to select Wright. Not a bad plan. You wouldn't want to reach for Rollins, Utley or Kinsler so soon, not with Pedroia another possible option. Plus, third base thins out pretty quickly in its own right. But then, as you wait for your second pick, you see each of those players fall over like dominoes -- Utley, Kinsler and Rollins, one right after the other. And as the green designation arrow creeps back to the pick 76

right before yours, right when you've finally convinced yourself you have to take Pedroia, that pesky competitor gobbles him up in the blink of an eye, leaving you without a fallback plan. "Ack, my plan's ruined! And it's my turn! What do I do, what do I do, what do I do!?" First, take a deep breath. You won't get anywhere by having a panic attack. Yes, you'll now have to do without a potential frontrunner at a position or two. It happens, but you haven't lost your league yet. If you continue down this road, though, your fear will drive you to do something crazy, like draft Derek Jeter in the fifth round. So with time winding down and you on the verge of ruining your team in one fell swoop, what do you do? Why, you rely again on your dear friend greed to show you the way, of course.

Look, if all those middle infielders unexpectedly went off the board by the middle of the second round, then some other stud unexpectedly dropped. Someone like Sizemore, Teixeira, Josh Hamilton or even Evan Longoria, assuming you start a corner infielder, won't give you as much of an advantage at a position as Rollins or Utley would have, but they will keep you from falling behind your competition in terms of overall talent. After all, you shouldn't get so tied up in position scarcity that you use a second-round pick on a player you could just as easily get a round or two later. But fear drives you to make that sort of mistake. The moment you grow fearful, you start reaching. You worry about the millions of improbable possibilities between this pick and the next and start preempting them with irrational selections. "What if the same thing happens at catcher?" you might worry, so you

go ahead and use your second-round pick on Brian McCann. No, no, no! Of course, you might argue you could have avoided the dilemma altogether by passing on Wright in the first round and taking Utley, Kinsler and Rollins instead, but does that sound like a move driven more by greed or by fear? Seriously, three options on the board -- four if you count Pedroia -- and you want to pass on a clear top-five player just make sure you get one? Please. In this scenario, the idea that all four middle infielders would go off the board before your next pick seemed less plausible than the idea they wouldn't. Greed might drive you to make some unnatural decisions, like in the earlier example of taking Kinsler over Cabrera, but it can easily cross the line to fear if it drives you to make an irrational one.


Projecting NL second basemen with RC/27
By Al Melchior Tell Al your opinion!

While second base has become something of a glamour position in the American League, the collection of second basemen in the National League is doing its part to keep the keystone position one of the weakest in Fantasy. The NL is home to the most productive second baseman in baseball, Chase Utley, but the list of must-have Fantasy players at the position begins and ends with him. Even if this analysis included players with shortstop eligibility, like Clint Barmes, or free agents, like Orlando Hudson, the overall picture is one of bland mediocrity. The Elite: Even with Utley likely to miss two weeks or more at the beginning of the season, he is laps ahead of the competition. With his hip injury sapping some of his power last season, Utley still managed to increase his Isolated Power average by 10 points and maintain his whiff rate at 17 percent. If healthy, he could be even more productive in 2009.

The Elite options
Player Chase Utley 2009 projection 8.0-8.5 2008 7.71 2007 9.39 2006 7.70

Solid Mixed-Leaguers: If you miss out on Utley, there is no need to hurt yourself trying to nab your next second baseman of choice. The next seven players in the RC/27 rankings all project to produce within one run per 27 outs of each other. Of course, there are other things to consider, such as job security and health. On a per-game basis, Kazuo Matsui is one of the four most productive second basemen in the league, but he consistently plays just a portion of the schedule due to injuries. The 114 games that Matsui played in his rookie season was his career best. Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker could hold their own with the other players in this tier, but first the Cubs and Rockies have to entrust them with an everyday job. Cohort Analysis: Dan Uggla vs. Kelly Johnson. For all the whiffing that Uggla did last year, he caught a lucky break with a .323 BABIP that led to a .260 batting average. His owners will have to hope he can continue his good fortune or discontinue his 32 percent whiff rate. Johnson hits with sufficient contact to sustain an average in the .280s, but the cost of rostering that higher batting average is the additional 10 to 15 home runs and roughly 30 RBI that Uggla would provide. Cohort Analysis, Part II: Rickie Weeks vs. Brandon Phillips. Neither Weeks nor Phillips has Uggla-like power, and neither is likely to post a Kelly Johnson-like batting average to make up for it. If you put Phillips' single 30-homer season in '07 aside, what you've got are a couple of players with no obvious distinguishing statistical features, other than the ability to rack up 20-plus steals. This is not to say, however, that there are no important differences to help you prioritize them in your draft list. While both Weeks and Phillips should hit a humdrum .260, Weeks' on-base skills and frequent leadoff duty make him a stronger threat to score 100 runs, while Phillips' contact skills and typical spot in the middle of the order give him a serious edge in RBI. Weeks once showed glimpses of 30-homer power, while Phillips has actually delivered it. That potential gives Phillips the overall advantage.

Solid Mixed-Leaguers
Player Dan Uggla Kazuo Matsui Kelly Johnson Mike Fontenot Jeff Baker Rickie Weeks Brandon Phillips 2009 projection 5.5-6.0 5.5-6.0 5.5-6.0 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 2008 6.43 5.80 5.74 8.12 5.35 5.04 4.53 2007 5.41 5.62 6.30 4.59 2.98 6.42 5.21 2006 5.82 4.48 N/A N/A N/A 5.51 4.72


NL-Only Leaguers: Other than Kevin Frandsen, all of these Not-Ready-For-Mixed-League Players have, if nothing else, the comfort of little to no competition for playing time. Luis Castillo should rebound from a wretched .269 BABIP, bringing his average back up to the .280s or better, but he will have his hands full battling his health issues, if not an outright challenge from Daniel Murphy. Incidentally, Murphy is not included in this analysis, since he starts the year eligible only as an outfielder. If I did include Murphy, he'd find a home in this tier. With full-time reps, he would most likely boast a stat line very similar to Blake DeWitt's, but with 10 to 15 steals. Cohort Analysis: Blake DeWitt vs. Freddy Sanchez. DeWitt and Sanchez are the surest bets among this group, but which one should get drafted first? If last year's performances are a good indication, then it should be DeWitt. In fact, DeWitt has the contact skills to hit in the .260s again, and he could clout a few more homers for good measure. Recent performance is not the best guide for judging Sanchez. Despite his plummeting average and RBI trends, 2009 should be an up year for the former batting champ. Sanchez is one of a very small number of big league hitters who routinely smacks 20 percent or more of his hit balls as line drives. Combine that trend with Sanchez' aversion to flyballs, and you have a recipe for a .300 average. This boils down to a homers versus batting average trade-off, but Sanchez' decisive advantage in batting average and longer track record make him the more attractive draftee.

NL-only Leaguers
Player Blake DeWitt Luis Castillo Freddy Sanchez Kevin Frandsen Felipe Lopez 2009 projection 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 4.0-4.5 2008 4.83 3.89 3.67 N/A 4.44 2007 N/A 5.06 5.42 3.54 3.72 2006 N/A 4.73 6.78 N/A 5.16

The Rest: Of this group, only Anderson Hernandez sits atop his team's depth chart, but that doesn't make him a viable candidate, even in NLonly leagues. After three years in Triple-A, his walk and whiff rates have been mediocre at best, and last season he raised his Isolated Power to a whopping .104. Antonelli could be a decent power source someday, but that would be a long shot to happen in '09. Velez' combination of speed, contact skills and versatility make him an intriguing player (not to mention a fan favorite), but he has to contend with a crowded Giant infield situation first.

The Rest
Player Eugenio Velez Emilio Bonifacio Joe Thurston Anderson Hernandez Matt Antonelli 2009 projection 3.5-4.0 3.5-4.0 3.5-4.0 3.5-4.0 3.5-4.0 2008 3.42 3.37 N/A N/A N/A 2007 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 2006 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27)
An estimate of how many runs a lineup would produce per 27 outs if a particular player occupied each spot in the order; ex. the RC/27 for Miguel Cabrera would predict the productivity of a lineup where Cabrera (or his statistical equal) batted in all nine spots; created by Bill James


Projecting NL first basemen with RC/27
By Al Melchior Tell Al your opinion!

We continue to stack first basemen into tiers for your Fantasy draft list, moving on from the American League to the National League. While the American League features its share of heavy hitters like Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera and Kevin Youkilis, the National League is even more chock-full-of-sluggers at this power position. One of them is enough of a Fantasy force to be worthy of a top five pick in a mixed league draft, despite playing at such a talent-rich position. Don't let the suspense kill you; the answers to this and other first base-related riddles lie just ahead. The Elite: How valuable is Albert Pujols? He projects to be about 4.0 RC/27 better than a borderline mixed-league first baseman. That would be a pretty dominant performance from a player at a stacked position, when you consider that the projected gap between Brian McCann or Joe Mauer and a replacement-level mixed-league catcher is only 2.5 RC/27. There is some distance between Pujols and the next-best options -Lance Berkman, Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder. In turn, there will be a notable dropoff after this trio has been drafted. Cohort Analysis: Lance Berkman vs. Ryan Howard. According to RC/27, a team of Berkman clones would have clobbered a team of Howards by nearly three runs a game on average last season, despite the fact that Howard outhomered Berkman 48 to 29. Howard whiffed 91 more times than Berkman, and that adds up to an awful lot of lost scoring and run-driving opportunities, not to mention a drain on batting average. Howard should close the gap in 2009, not because he will be less prone to strike out, but because more of the balls he does hit should fall for hits. BABIP did Howard wrong in '08 to the tune of a .289 rate. Berkman is also unlikely to match his career-high 18 steals from last year. In the end, this drafting dilemma comes to down to a choice between home runs and batting average.

The Elite options
Player Albert Pujols Lance Berkman Ryan Howard Prince Fielder 2009 projection 9.5-10.0 8.0-8.5 8.0-8.5 7.0-7.5 2008 11.75 9.12 6.30 6.74 2007 8.40 7.23 8.03 9.03 2006 10.60 9.86 10.87 5.74

Solid Mixed-Leaguers: Though all of these players project to produce within the same RC/27 range, I would give Votto the nod on Draft Day. He has the most potential to exceed this projection, especially if his power increases and he continues to hit line drives like a lumber-slinging madman. In that case, Votto could hit .310 with 30 homers and 10 steals, and wind up being not much worse than Berkman. Nick Johnson is an extreme health risk and should be taken as a last resort among this group at best. Though they could be as productive as anyone in this tier, Carlos Delgado and Adam LaRoche have been maddeningly inconsistent. Why take the risk on either of them when there are so many comparable options? Cohort Analysis: Conor Jackson vs. Adrian Gonzalez vs. Derrek Lee. Lee, like Delgado and LaRoche, has struggled with consistency, but he is only two years removed from a .317 batting average. Is a .310-plus season with 20 or more homers back on Lee's horizon? Probably not. While he is a good bet to slam 20-plus home runs, his '07 batting average was built on a shaky .367 BABIP. On the other hand, Jackson and Gonzalez have been models of consistency. They represent another batting average versus homers dilemma, and the batting average gap could widen, as their whiff rates have been moving in opposite directions. Despite Jackson's legitimate credentials as a .300 hitter, his bat is of little use when he's stuck on the bench. Whereas Gonzalez has missed just two games over the past two seasons, Jackson has missed a total of 50. My draft list order will be: Gonzalez, Lee, Jackson.

Solid Mixed-Leaguers
Player Joey Votto Nick Johnson Carlos Delgado Conor Jackson Adrian Gonzalez Adam LaRoche Derrek Lee 2009 projection 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 2008 6.87 6.73 6.25 6.24 6.12 6.00 5.59 2007 N/A N/A 5.19 6.27 6.48 5.32 7.54 2006 N/A 8.46 6.93 5.64 6.00 7.01 5.21


NL-Only Leaguers: James Loney and Todd Helton are the head of this class in terms of RC/27, but Loney stands alone, due to Helton's recent health struggles. None of the remaining players are safe bets for regular playing time, though all are solid NL-only league picks if given a regular role. Cohort Analysis: Pablo Sandoval vs. Travis Ishikawa. As neither contender for the Giants' first base job has much of a major league track record to go on, we look to their minor league numbers for guidance. Their Double-A stats suggest that Sandoval will hit for more power and a higher average, though Ishikawa can steal bases and draw walks. The real edge for Sandoval is his versatility. Though he qualifies only as a first baseman to start the Fantasy season, he could wind up seeing considerable at catcher and third base.

NL-only Leaguers
Player Todd Helton James Loney Pablo Sandoval Travis Ishikawa Chad Tracy 2009 projection 5.5-6.0 5.5-6.0 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 2008 5.50 4.72 6.02 5.39 4.41 2007 8.29 7.80 N/A N/A 5.24 2006 7.37 5.34 N/A N/A 5.58

The Rest: The primary leftovers are Gaby Sanchez, who is in the mix for the Marlins' first base job, and Casey Kotchman, the Braves' incumbent. Sanchez' uncertain status makes him a poor pick, even in NL-only leagues, especially since he doesn't figure to be anything more than a contact hitter with 15-homer power. The only reason to take him is for stolen base help; with regular playing time, he could wind up leading all major league first basemen with somewhere between 10 to 15 swipes. If the 26 year-old Kotchman has his big breakout, he could flirt with a .300-20-80-75 season. There is no need to take a gamble on this happening when there are so many NL-only-quality first basemen who are already firmly in that territory.

The Rest
Player Gaby Sanchez Casey Kotchman 2009 projection 4.5-5.0 4.5-5.0 2008 N/A 4.46 2007 N/A 5.84 2006 N/A N/A

Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27)
An estimate of how many runs a lineup would produce per 27 outs if a particular player occupied each spot in the order; ex. the RC/27 for Miguel Cabrera would predict the productivity of a lineup where Cabrera (or his statistical equal) batted in all nine spots; created by Bill James


Top NL-only prospects
By Eric Mack Tell Eric your opinion!

We outlined the Top 25 rookies to target on Draft Day and Fantasy Baseball's Top 100 prospects, so now we split them off with the Top NL prospects for those in NL-only leagues. These prospects might not necessarily make the team out of camp, but they will be some of the most-hyped minor leaguers throughout the season. They are ranked for their potential long-term rewards in Fantasy leagues. There are hundreds of others that can get call-ups and help Fantasy owners in the near future, too, so go through our Organizational Prospect Reports we did last fall to get an even deeper view of all the teams' top farmhands.
RK Overall Player TM Age POS 1 3 Madison Bumgarner SF 19 LHP Pitching this young is very difficult to project, but he won't be a teenager come Aug. 1; can he arrive then? 2 5 Cameron Maybin FLA 21 OF His steals will be what he should be drafted for this year, but he figures to be able do everything long term. 3 8 Thomas Hanson ATL 22 RHP Arizona Fall League is a hitter's league and it couldn't touch him. What an amazing talent on the verge. 4 9 Jeff Samardzija CHC 24 RHP If he wins the No. 5 spot in the Cubs rotation in spring, he might prove the most valuable on this list. 5 10 Colby Rasmus STL 22 OF He had a poor season, but he is a five-tool talent with tremendous swagger. He could really rebound this season. 6 12 Pedro Alvarez PIT 22 3B No. 2 overall pick in last June's draft can really mash and should be able to move quickly with rebuilding Pirates. 7 16 Michael Stanton FLA 19 OF The Florida State League will give us a much better sense of how much monster power this guy really has. 8 17 Timothy Alderson SF 20 RHP Bumgarner has trumped him in the Giants' system, but Alderson can make his case as a future ace in his own right. 9 18 Jason Heyward ATL 19 OF Some see him as a top-5 or top-10 prospect, but it is really too early to tell because some others have bigger numbers. 10 20 Jarrod Parker ARI 20 RHP The D-Backs crown jewel must now help them forget they traded away the likes of the A's Anderson and others. 11 24 Mat Gamel MIL 23 3B His D is bad and his numbers were a lot better when LaPorta was protecting him in Double-A. His bat will play, though. 12 26 Alcides Escobar MIL 22 SS His power should develop, but the Brewers have to be satisfied with J.J. Hardy at SS. Perhaps Escobar moves to 2B? 13 27 Andrew McCutchen PIT 22 OF Five-tool talent can make an immediate impact in all Rotisserie leagues once he arrives; watch closely this spring. 14 29 Logan Morrison FLA 21 1B His power numbers weren't quite there, but the FSL does have a lot of big ballparks that suppress homer totals. 15 30 Buster Posey SF 22 C Early '08 first-round pick doesn't have a whole lot of a track record as a pro, but he could be the next Matt Wieters. 16 32 Carlos Carrasco PHI 22 RHP The Phillies might bring their prized pitching prospect along slowly this spring, but look out once he arrives. 17 33 Fernando Martinez NYM 20 OF He is extremely raw and somewhat injury prone, but his bat is quick and his power should develop like the Mets hope. 18 40 Kyle Blanks SD 22 1B Monster slugger could be an impact call-up this season, but that only happens if the Padres move Adrian Gonzalez. 19 41 Yonder Alonso CIN 21 1B Miami product's power is legit and Baseball America thinks he can move Joey Votto to LF by next season. 20 43 Josh Vitters CHC 19 3B A little behind Moustakas now after being drafted on the same level, but he played catch up nicely last season. 2008 high Low Class A Destination High Class A









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RK Overall Player TM Age POS 21 45 Todd Frazier CIN 23 SS It should be a great rivalry in the Reds system between Frazier and the Reds SS prospect that follows him on this list. 22 46 Chris Valaika CIN 23 SS A level ahead of Frazier now, but our guess is Frazier proves more powerful; the better one is the one that stays at SS. 23 47 Brett Wallace STL 22 3B He likely won't be a candidate to start out of spring training this year, but next year he very well could be ready. 24 49 Dexter Fowler COL 22 RHP The Matt Holliday trade opens up a chance for him, but the question is how much speed and power will he display? 25 57 Jordan Zimmermann WAS 22 RHP Nationals top pitching prospect figures to get a chance before the year is out, but can he win with that supporting cast? 26 58 Jhoulys Chacin COL 21 RHP There's something about him that just reminds us of Ubaldo Jimenez; he very well could help Fantasy owners this year. 27 60 Angel Salome MIL 23 C We see him hitting his way into at-bats this season, especially if Jason Kendall breaks down or the Brewers go young. 28 63 Matt Antonelli SD 23 2B He is still better than Chase Headley in our eyes and a potential starter at second base for the Padres. 29 65 James McDonald LAD 24 RHP He is a candidate for the No. 5 spot in the rotation this spring, but we're not sure he is an elite arm long term.

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30 66 Gaby Sanchez FLA 25 1B Majors Sanchez will compete with Dallas McPherson and Jorge Cantu for a starting job this spring; pop gives him a chance to star. 31 70 Jonathon Niese NYM 22 LHP He is a candidate for the No. 5 spot in the rotation this spring, but he really could use some time back in Triple-A. 32 72 Jordan Schafer ATL 22 OF Substance suspension taints his prospects at little, but he still stands to help the outfield-needy Braves this season. Majors





33 75 Angel Villalona SF 18 1B Low Class A His age-level ratio is outstanding as is his power potential, but we are really yet to be impressed by him for some reason. 34 77 Gerardo Parra ARI 21 OF Speed is ahead of his power, but a huge winter is helping him enter the conservation for an impact in 2009. 35 80 Matt Dominguez FLA 19 3B Not quite in the class of Moustakas and Vitters among California 3B prospects, but his power came around last year. 36 81 David Freese STL 25 3B With Troy Glaus' shoulder surgery, his 26 Triple-A homers could make him a sleeper to start on opening day. Double-A

High Class A


Low Class A

High Class A



37 83 Neil Walker PIT 25 3B Triple-A He might need a new position now that Adam LaRoche is in Pittsburgh and Alvarez is pushing him from lower in the system. 38 84 Jesse Todd STL 22 RHP The Cardinals don't have a rotation that figures to hold him back much when he is deemed ready by midseason. 39 86 Jason Castro HOU 21 C Stanford prospect is just getting started as a pro, but his offensive potential at the position makes him a must-stash. 40 88 Dominic Brown PHI 21 OF Baseball America draws some Darryl Strawberry comparisons here, but the power really isn't there yet. 41 95 Daniel McCutchen PIT 26 RHP A key piece in the Xavier Nady deal, McCutchen should push his way into the rotation this season, if not out of spring. 42 97 Jason Motte STL 26 RHP The Cardinals could give him a look as closer, but we see a setup man. If he closes, he will be top 10 here. 43 98 Kenshin Kawakami ATL 33 Smallish right-handed import is old for a rookie, but he could have a Hiroki Kuroda -like impact. RHP Triple-A



Low Class A

Low Class A

Low Class A

High Class A








Plus/Minus Player Ratings
By Scott White Tell Scott your opinion!

With defense always and forever the priority at catcher, the position, at least in recent years, has become somewhat of a joke in Fantasy, with the elite options usually going off the board too soon and the middle options proving mostly indistinguishable from one another. So perhaps you might not expect to see us hold catchers to a higher standard for home runs (14) than we do second basemen or shortstops (12 each). Keep in mind, though, that the rigors of catching make baserunning an afterthought, leaving Russell Martin as the only halfway decent base stealer of the bunch. If a catcher doesn't homer, he doesn't do much of anything offensively, making power hitters a bit more common at the position. Rest assured, catchers have a low statistical baseline overall, with the average top-40 Fantasy option hitting .270 with 14 home runs, 65 RBI, 50 runs scored and five stolen bases. If any of these catchers in the table below projects to perform above that baseline in a particular category, he gets a plus (+). If he projects to perform below it, he gets a minus (-). If he projects to meet it, he gets nothing at all. You might notice runs and RBI remain in short supply for the catcher position, which shouldn't come as a surprise considering catchers typically need a day off once a week to rest their knees. Of the five traditional Rotisserie stats, none depend on at-bats more than runs and RBI, which tend to accumulate during the natural course of a game, regardless of the individual player's talent (though that obviously plays a crucial role as well). Avg. .270 + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + HR 14 + + + RBI 65 + + + + + + + Runs 50 + + + + + + + + SB 5 + -

Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Player, Team Brian McCann, ATL Russell Martin, LA Geovany Soto, CHC Joe Mauer, MIN Victor Martinez, CLE Bengie Molina, SF Ryan Doumit, PIT Chris Iannetta, COL Kelly Shoppach, CLE Jorge Posada, NYY Matt Wieters, BAL A.J. Pierzynski, CHW Ramon Hernandez, CIN Brandon Inge, DET Yadier Molina, STL Chris Snyder, ARI Jarrod Saltalamacchia, TEX Dioner Navarro, TB Mike Napoli, ANA Jesus Flores, WAS Kurt Suzuki, OAK Ivan Rodriguez, FA Gerald Laird, DET Jason Varitek, BOS Taylor Teagarden, TEX John Baker, FLA Jeff Clement, SEA Kenji Johjima, SEA Rod Barajas, TOR Miguel Olivo, KC John Buck, KC Brian Schneider, NYM Carlos Ruiz, PHI Jason Kendall, MIL Miguel Montero, ARI Jeff Mathis, ANA J.R. Towles, HOU Ronny Paulino, PHI Gregg Zaun, BAL Max Ramirez, TEX

+ +


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First Basemen
You won't find many first basemen batting in front of or behind the pitcher. That's because teams usually reserve the position for their best sluggers. Accordingly, Fantasy owners have always considered first base one of the deepest positions in the game, often using it to fill their DH and utility slots. So perhaps you won't even blink when you hear that the average Fantasy-relevant first baseman hits .280 with 25 home runs, 85 RBI, 75 runs scored and five stolen bases. Those numbers represent the approximate medians for each statistic using the top 40 players at the position. Of course, any player with a .280-24-85-75-5 line would have some appeal in Fantasy, so don't discount someone just because you don't see a plus sign next to his name. Remember: This table shows how first basemen compare to each other, not to players at other positions. Then again, that baseline does reveal one shortcoming: For all you can expect to find at first base, look elsewhere for stolen bases. Lance Berkman led the position with 18 steals last season, and even that marginal total doubled his previous career high. Conor Jackson ranked second with 10. Avg. .280 + + + + + + + + + + + + + + HR 24 + + + + + + + RBI 85 + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + Runs 75 + + + + + + + + + + + + + SB 5 + -

Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Player, Team Albert Pujols, STL Miguel Cabrera, DET Ryan Howard, PHI Mark Teixeira, NYY Lance Berkman, HOU Justin Morneau, MIN Prince Fielder, MIL Kevin Youkilis, BOS Adrian Gonzalez, SD Aubrey Huff, BAL Carlos Delgado, NYM Garrett Atkins, COL Derrek Lee, CHC Joey Votto, CIN Carlos Pena, TB Chris Davis, TEX James Loney, LA Conor Jackson, ARI Jorge Cantu, FLA Carlos Guillen, DET Nick Swisher, NYY Mike Jacobs, KC Jason Giambi, OAK Paul Konerko, CHW Adam LaRoche, PIT Casey Blake, LA Todd Helton, COL Hank Blalock, TEX Ryan Garko, CLE Pablo Sandoval, SF Casey Kotchman, ATL Billy Butler, KC Lyle Overbay, TOR Kevin Millar, BAL Nick Johnson, WAS Travis Ishikawa, SF Wilson Betemit, CHW Chad Tracy, ARI Jeff Baker, COL Ryan Shealy, KC


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Second Basemen
Given coaches' and executives' insistence on defense up the middle, second base has historically modeled shortstop as a glove-first, batsecond domain. Fittingly, the two positions share the same unimpressive baseline numbers: a .276 batting average, 12 home runs, 60 RBI, 70 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. The average starting second baseman will finish with those stats, giving you a basis of comparison for every player at the position. Just glancing at this table, you might notice second base has a few more plus signs at the top than shortstop does, indicating a more gradual decline in talent. If you miss out on the elite trio of Chase Utley, Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia, you still have a halfway decent chance to grab a plus Fantasy option like Brian Roberts, Brandon Phillips or Dan Uggla. Avg. .276 + + + + HR 12 + + + + + + + + + + + + + RBI 60 + + + + + + + + + + Runs 70 + + + + + + + + + + + + + SB 12 + + + + + + + + + + -

Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Player, Team Chase Utley, PHI Ian Kinsler, TEX Dustin Pedroia, BOS Brian Roberts, BAL Brandon Phillips, CIN Alexei Ramirez, CHW Dan Uggla, FLA Robinson Cano, NYY Mark DeRosa, CHC Jose Lopez, SEA Kelly Johnson, ATL Placido Polanco, DET Rickie Weeks, MIL Howie Kendrick, ANA Freddy Sanchez, PIT Mike Aviles, KC Aaron Hill, TOR Orlando Hudson, ARI Akinori Iwamura, TB Kazuo Matsui, HOU Mark Ellis, OAK Clint Barmes, COL Alexi Casilla, MIN Felipe Lopez, ARI Luis Castillo, NYM Blake DeWitt, LA Brendan Harris, MIN Maicer Izturis, ANA Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE Emmanuel Burriss, SF Mike Fontenot, CHC Jeff Baker, COL Joaquin Arias, TEX Chris Getz, CHW Esteban German, KC Nick Punto, MIN David Eckstein, SD Marco Scutaro, TOR Mark Grudzielanek, KC Matt Antonelli, SD


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The shortstop position doesn't have a long track record of middle-of-the-order hitters, and it doesn't figure to gain any in 2009. Still a position more for speedsters than sluggers -- if either -- shortstop usually doesn't have enough depth to satisfy every member of a 12-team Fantasy league. If you were to approximate a median baseline for the top 40 Fantasy shortstops in the five traditional Rotisserie categories, you might arrive at a .276 batting average, 12 home runs, 60 RBI, 70 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. The table below underscores the aforementioned lack of depth at the position. Given the already low baseline, only a few useful Fantasy options remain after the elite trio of Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins goes off the board. What follows is a virtual wasteland of numbers, littered by a handful of stolen-base specialists and only one or two legitimate sleepers. Avg. .276 + + + + HR 12 + + + + + + + RBI 60 + + + + + + + + + Runs 70 + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + SB 12 + + + + + + + + + + + + + + -

Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Player, Team Hanley Ramirez, FLA Jose Reyes, NYM Jimmy Rollins, PHI Derek Jeter, NYY Stephen Drew, ARI Troy Tulowitzki, COL J.J. Hardy, MIL Jhonny Peralta, CLE Michael Young, TEX Miguel Tejada, HOU Yunel Escobar, ATL Orlando Cabrera, FA Mike Aviles, KC Rafael Furcal, LA Edgar Renteria, SF Cristian Guzman, WAS Ryan Theriot, CHC Jed Lowrie, BOS Yuniesky Betancourt, SEA Jason Bartlett, TB Bobby Crosby, OAK Khalil Greene, STL Elvis Andrus, TEX Clint Barmes, COL Brendan Harris, MIN Nomar Garciaparra, FA Maicer Izturis, ANA Erick Aybar, ANA Cesar Izturis, BAL Brandon Wood, ANA Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE Jerry Hairston, CIN Julio Lugo, BOS Emmanuel Burriss, SF Ben Zobrist, TB Jeff Keppinger, CIN Nick Punto, MIN David Eckstein, SD Marco Scutaro, TOR Ronny Cedeno, SEA

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Third Basemen
Though maybe not quite as deep in talent as first base, third base remains a power position, with some of the top options carrying as much clout as any player in Fantasy. Not surprisingly, third basemen rank just behind first basemen and outfielders in average performance, with a median baseline of a .280 batting average, 20 home runs, 75 RBI, 70 runs scored and 10 stolen bases. The average third baseman produces those numbers, giving you an indication of how your third baseman will compare to your competitors'. Since a .280-20-75-70-10 performer has a significant amount of Fantasy value in his own right, a blank space isn't necessarily a bad thing. An average third baseman is a good, solid player and a likely starter for some Fantasy team as either a corner infielder or a designated hitter. Again like first base, you won't find many stolen bases at third base, with Chone Figgins the only true speedster who qualifies at the position. Avg. .280 + + + + + + + + + + + HR 20 + + + + + RBI 75 + + + + + + + + + + + + + + Runs 70 + + + + + + + + + + + + + SB 10 + + + -

Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Player, Team Alex Rodriguez, NYY David Wright, NYM Evan Longoria, TB Kevin Youkilis, BOS Aramis Ramirez, CHC Chipper Jones, ATL Aubrey Huff, BAL Garrett Atkins, COL Chris Davis, TEX Ryan Zimmerman, WAS Chone Figgins, ANA Mark DeRosa, CLE Jorge Cantu, FLA Mark Reynolds, ARI Edwin Encarnacion, CIN Mike Lowell, BOS Carlos Guillen, DET Alex Gordon, KC Adrian Beltre, SEA Casey Blake, LA Melvin Mora, BAL Hank Blalock, TEX Ian Stewart, COL Kevin Kouzmanoff, SD Ty Wigginton, FA Jed Lowrie, BOS Bill Hall, MIL Blake DeWitt, LA Wilson Betemit, CHW Brendan Harris, MIN Eric Chavez, OAK Josh Fields, CHW Troy Glaus, STL Brandon Wood, ANA Dallas McPherson, FLA Pedro Feliz, PHI Scott Rolen, TOR Brandon Inge, DET Joe Crede, FA Andy LaRoche, PIT


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Ah, outfielders. You can find one to fit just about any need. From middle-of-the-order sluggers to speedy leadoff types, the outfield position offers every type of offensive player imaginable simply because it has three times the selection of any other offensive position. As you might imagine, outfielders have to measure up to a pretty high standard in Fantasy -- one so diverse not even some of the elite players (i.e. Grady Sizemore) can excel in every category. Using the median statistics for the top 100 outfielders, the average Fantasy outfielder hits .280 with 20 home runs, 80 RBI, 80 runs scored and 16 stolen bases. Fantasy owners often look to outfielders to build up their stolen bases, and the table demonstrates just how much value those specialized players can have. An outfielder with a plus sign in the steals column will jump significantly up the chart even if he doesn't excel in as many ways as a player beneath him.
Avg. .280 + + + HR 20 + + + + + + + + + + + + RBI 80 + + + + Runs 80 + + + + + + + + + + + + SB 16 + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + Avg. .280 HR 20 RBI 80 Runs 80 SB 16 + + + + + + + -

Rk 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

Player, Team Grady Sizemore, CLE Matt Holliday, COL Josh Hamilton, TEX Ryan J. Braun, MIL Carlos Beltran, NYM Alfonso Soriano, CHC B.J. Upton, TB Manny Ramirez, FA Carlos Quentin, CHW Ichiro Suzuki, SEA Carl Crawford, TB Alex Rios, TOR Jason Bay, BOS Carlos N. Lee, HOU Vladimir Guerrero, ANA Nick Markakis, BAL Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS Shane Victorino, PHI Curtis Granderson, DET Magglio Ordonez, DET Nate McLouth, PIT Matt Kemp, LA Bobby Abreu, FA Adam Dunn, FA Ryan Ludwick, STL Vernon Wells, TOR Corey C. Hart, MIL Torii Hunter, ANA Jay Bruce, CIN Raul Ibanez, PHI Johnny Damon, NYY Hunter Pence, HOU Jermaine Dye, CHW Brad Hawpe, COL Chris B. Young, ARI Pat Burrell, PHI Conor Jackson, ARI Carlos Gomez, MIN Coco Crisp, KC Milton Bradley, CHC Juan Pierre, LA Andre Ethier, LA Rick Ankiel, STL Xavier Nady, NYY Mark DeRosa, CHC J.D. Drew, BOS Delmon Young, MIN Hideki Matsui, NYY Justin Upton, ARI Eric Byrnes, ARI

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Rk 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100

Player, Team Jayson Werth, PHI Lastings Milledge, WAS Fred Lewis, SF Denard Span, MIN Nick Swisher, NYY Shin-Soo Choo, CLE Nelson Cruz, TEX Adam Jones, BAL Willy Taveras, CIN Mike Cameron, MIL Cameron Maybin, FLA Josh Willingham, WAS Jason Kubel, MIN Jeff Francoeur, ATL Michael Cuddyer, MIN Randy Winn, SF Jose Guillen, KC David DeJesus, KC Brian Giles, SD Ty Wigginton, FA Aaron Rowand, SF Jeremy Hermida, FLA Luke Scott, BAL Elijah Dukes, WAS Ryan Church, NYM Chase Headley, SD Michael Bourn, HOU Ryan Spilbourghs, COL Ryan P. Freel, BAL David Murphy, TEX Adam Lind, TOR Ben Francisco, CLE Marlon Byrd, TEX Skip Schumaker, STL Ken Griffey, SEA Chris Dickerson, CIN Cody Ross, FLA Jack Cust, OAK Mark Teahen, KC Marcus Thames, DET Jody Gerut, SD Juan L. Rivera, ANA Nate Schierholtz, SF Garret Anderson, ANA Matt Joyce, TB Franklin Gutierrez, SEA Travis Snider, TOR Matt LaPorta, CLE Eric Hinske, FA Ryan Sweeney, OAK

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Starting Pitchers
Starting pitchers can help you in only four categories, as the saying goes, making the basis for comparison a bit short-handed. You can pretty much strike the saves column from the record because it obviously doesn't apply. When discussing starting pitchers in Rotisserie play, you care only about wins, ERA, strikeouts and WHIP. In case you haven't caught on to the drill yet, the table below shows how each starting pitcher compares to the average starting pitcher in each of those four statistics using a plus sign (+), a minus sign (-) or neither. The baseline stats, as taken from the median values for the top 100 starting pitchers, are 13 wins, a 4.00 ERA, 165 strikeouts and a 1.32 WHIP. The baseline for saves, obviously, is zero, meaning any starting pitcher with even a remote chance of recording saves gets a plus sign in that category. With only four categories, not five, available for drawing comparisons, the distinctions within this table aren't quite as obvious as the ones you'd find for position players. For instance, by just counting up the pluses and minuses, Adam Wainwright doesn't appear to have significantly more value than Derek Lowe, when in reality, he most definitely does. So use it for what it is. No table can take the place of you actually looking up the statistics yourself, but this one at least gives you a quick reference for making comparisons if you get in a pinch on Draft Day. One more word of caution: Just because a pitcher doesn't have a plus sign in the strikeout category doesn't mean he isn't a strikeout pitcher. Innings have a direct impact on strikeouts, remember, and some pitchers get hurt often enough that we can only project so many innings for them.
Rk 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 Player, Team Johan Santana, NYM C.C. Sabathia, NYY Tim Lincecum, SF Brandon Webb, ARI Roy Halladay, TOR Jake Peavy, SD Cole Hamels, PHI Dan Haren, ARI Roy Oswalt, HOU Cliff Lee, CLE John Lackey, ANA Josh Beckett, BOS Ervin Santana, ANA A.J. Burnett, NYY Edinson Volquez, CIN Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS Carlos Zambrano, CHC Scott Kazmir, TB Chad Billingsley, LA Jon Lester, BOS James Shields, TB Francisco Liriano, MIN Felix Hernandez, SEA Ryan Dempster, CHC Chien-Ming Wang, NYY Justin Verlander, DET Adam Wainwright, STL Rich Harden, CHC Joba Chamberlain, NYY Ben Sheets, FA Jered Weaver, ANA Brandon Morrow, SEA Ricky Nolasco, FLA Josh Johnson, FLA Brett Myers, PHI David Price, TB Yovani Gallardo, MIL Aaron Harang, CIN Matt Cain, SF Max Scherzer, ARI Erik Bedard, SEA Ted Lilly, CHC Derek Lowe, ATL John Danks, CHW Zack Greinke, KC Javier Vazquez, ATL Fausto Carmona, CLE Matt Garza, TB Joe Saunders, ANA Mike Pelfrey, NYM Wins 13 + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + ERA 4 + + + + + + + + + + + Ks 165 + + + + + + + WHIP 1.32 + + + + + + + + + + + + + Saves 0 Rk 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 Player, Team Gavin Floyd, CHW Jair Jurrjens, ATL Ubaldo Jimenez, COL John Maine, NYM Kevin Slowey, MIN Andy Pettitte, NYY Scott Baker, MIN Johnny Cueto, CIN Chris Carpenter, STL Andy Sonnanstine, TB Jon Garland, ANA Chris R. Young, SD Jeff Francis, COL Brad Penny, BOS Randy Johnson, ARI Oliver Perez, NYM Gil Meche, KC Clayton Kershaw, LA Hiroki Kuroda, LA Aaron Cook, COL Bronson Arroyo, CIN Mark Buehrle, CHW Jeremy Bonderman, DET Chris Volstad, FLA Justin Duchscherer, OAK Sean Marshall, CHC Armando Galarraga, DET Paul Maholm, PIT Kyle Lohse, STL Wandy Rodriguez, HOU Jesse Litsch, TOR Scott Olsen, WAS Randy Wolf, FA Todd Wellemeyer, STL Anthony Reyes, CLE Dave Bush, MIL John Smoltz, ATL Edwin Jackson, DET Joe Blanton, PHI Jamie Moyer, PHI Jeremy Guthrie, BAL Pedro Martinez, FA Nick Blackburn, MIN Glen Perkins, MIN Vicente Padilla, TEX Manny Parra, MIL John Lannan, WAS Brandon McCarthy, TEX Barry Zito, SF Kenshin Kawakami, ATL Wins 13 ERA 4 Ks 165 WHIP 1.32 Saves 0

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Relief Pitchers
Saves are the name of the game for relief pitchers. All other stats are peripheral by comparison, making the distinction between the good Fantasy relievers and the bad Fantasy relievers clear as night and day. But those other stats matter in their own small way, if for no other reason because they show how likely a pitcher will meet, or perhaps even exceed, his projection for saves. The better a pitcher pitches -- with a lower ERA and WHIP, more strikeouts, etc. -- the more likely he'll capitalize on his save opportunities and the more likely his team will trust him with even more opportunities. The table below demonstrates how each reliever compares to the average reliever using a median baseline of three wins, a 3.30 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, 68 strikeouts, and most importantly, 22 saves -- a mark attainable by any reliever with a legitimate chance of earning saves, but one easily surpassed by the most reliable closers in the game. Given the nature of their responsibilities, closers, who you'll see concentrated at the top of this table, don't -- and, in fact, shouldn't -- project for more than the baseline three wins. Some of the middle relievers at the bottom, though, project for slightly more either because they have consistently exceeded three wins in the past or have an outside chance of starting this season. In general, though, you shouldn't count on any wins from your relief pitchers, for obvious reasons. Wins 3 ERA 3.30 + + + + + + Ks 68 + + WHIP 1.25 + + + + + + + Saves 22 + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Player, Team Francisco J. Rodriguez, NYM Jonathan Papelbon, BOS Mariano Rivera, NYY Joe Nathan, MIN Joakim Soria, KC Carlos Marmol, CHC Brad Lidge, PHI Bobby Jenks, CHW Kerry Wood, CLE B.J. Ryan, TOR Jose Valverde, HOU Brian Fuentes, ANA Jonathan Broxton, LA Francisco Cordero, CIN Huston Street, COL Mike Gonzalez, ATL Trevor Hoffman, MIL Brad Ziegler, OAK Joey Devine, OAK Matt Capps, PIT Brian Wilson, SF Chad Qualls, ARI Matt Lindstrom, FLA Heath Bell, SD Troy Percival, TB Chris Perez, STL George Sherrill, BAL Chris Ray, BAL Jose Arredondo, ANA Frank Francisco, TEX Grant Balfour, TB Joel Hanrahan, WAS Brandon Lyon, DET Ryan Franklin, STL J.J. Putz, NYM Joel Zumaya, DET Scot Shields, ANA Dan Wheeler, TB C.J. Wilson, TEX Hong-Chih Kuo, LA

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Dealing with damaged goods
By Scott White Tell Scott your opinion!

Oh, you don't want that player. At least you think you don't as you go to grab him on Draft Day and begin visualizing all the red flags popping up around him. You remember the elbow injury that cost him three months of the season. You remember the paltry numbers upon his return. You remember the surgical procedure in early October, the lengthy offseason rehabilitation and the many injuries he suffered earlier in his career. And as you pull your hand back from the mouse, deliberating over your increasingly complicated decision, you can't help but wonder, "If the guy has so many problems, why should I take the risk?" Risk -- it's a tricky concept. But whenever a player suffers an injury, he suddenly comes attached with it. That inherent risk scares away potential buyers, causing the player's value to slip and slip and slip all the more. Scary, right? But it has its advantages. For all the harm a risky player can do, he still has the abilities that gave him so much value in the first place. And if that value slips just enough, with one too many buyers turning the other way, you can take him at the point the reward outweighs the risk. For those injury risks, this piece assesses the damage done -- not so much to each player's body, but to his value on Draft Day. How much did it fall, or in some cases, how much didn't it rise? After each player's name, you'll see an approximation for when during a draft the potential reward outweighs the risk -- either in the early rounds (1-5), the early-to-middle rounds (6-10), the middle rounds (11-16), or the late rounds (17+). So stop the deliberation, put your hand back on the mouse, and click on these players with confidence.

Keep in mind, though, he played the whole year with a torn labrum in his left shoulder -an ailment that required surgery in the offseason. And by the way he talked after the procedure, he couldn't have played any better.

you take those exact same numbers and then add 20 home runs to them, think of the bargain you're getting. I probably wouldn't draft him in the second round -- the recovery might cost him some time in April, after all -but I wouldn't hesitate to draft him soon afterward.

Francisco Liriano, SP, Twins (early-tomiddle rounds) Liriano had the incredible rookie season in 2006. He had the recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2007. He had the sleeper status entering 2008 and hundreds of thousands of Fantasy owners in his back pocket, ready to believe he could recapture the form that allowed him to go 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings the year of the injury. He had it and blew it, spending most of 2008 trying to right himself at Triple-A Rochester after a disastrous first three weeks of the season. But the story doesn't end there. He ended up returning in August, looking more like himself with a 6-1 record and 2.74 ERA over his final 11 starts, giving the whole world cause for excitement again. So now Liriano, an ace-in-waiting, has another year of sleeper status where you can get him much later than his anticipated numbers suggest you should. And while everybody seems to know it, they know it in a way that makes them want to see just how late they can get him, not in a way that makes them want to reach for him early, assuming he'll live up to his potential. Or at least the early results say so. Funny how that works sometimes in Fantasy. You obviously don't want to get so caught up in the Liriano hype that you draft him among the elite pitchers, because then he only has the potential to underperform, not outperform, his draft value. But if you can get him as your second or maybe even your third pitcher, you might end up having the best staff in your league.

B.J. Upton produced with a bum shoulder. Think of what he can do when healthy? (US Presswire)

"It actually feels like there's something there," Upton recently told the Tampa Tribune. "All year it was kind of weak and it kind of felt like it didn't have anything behind it, but since the surgery it's come along and it's definitely getting stronger."

Think of how many factors have to go just right for a major-league player to hit a home run. Now, of all those factors, take away the strength from one of the two body parts actually swinging the bat. Kind of makes you wonder how Upton hit any home runs, doesn't it? And oh, by the way, even with "nothing there," he still managed to hit seven home runs in the playoffs, guiding the Rays to the World Series. With Upton's shoulder now repaired and his status as one of baseball's best natural talents still intact, the home runs will come -- if not in April, then soon afterward. Look, you can't exactly wait until the 10th round to draft him, but just his 44 stolen bases last year make him worthy of a fourthor fifth-round pick in Rotisserie leagues. If

B.J. Upton, OF, Rays (early rounds) Power -- Upton has it. But you'd never know by the year he had with the Rays in 2008. He hit nine home runs in 531 at-bats -- nothing Placido Polanco hasn't done before.


Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs (middle rounds) Only one word can describe Bradley's numbers last season: ridiculous. You might not see anything particularly special about a .321 batting average or 22 home runs, but when you consider he compiled those numbers in only 414 at-bats and with such a keen batting eye that he ranked fourth among full-time players with a .999 OPS, you begin to realize he has the potential to become ridiculously special, maybe even the best offensive player in baseball. Yeah, I said it.

middle-round pick. And even if he has his usual injuries, you'll want him active whenever he can play.

drafts, but if you find yourself choosing between Zimmerman and players like Jorge Cantu and Adrian Beltre, hopefully you know which one to take.

Erik Bedard, SP, Mariners (middle rounds) Chris Young, SP, Padres (middle rounds) One year ago, Bedard was in the discussion for third-best pitcher in Fantasy. It almost sounds like a bad dream. But should it really? During a season in which he never looked like he wanted to pitch -- one that ended after 15 starts because of a sore shoulder -- he posted some halfway impressive numbers -- ones comparable to his breakout 2006 season, if not his uberbreakout 2007. The fact remains he's one of only a few starting pitchers who can strike out more than one batter per inning, allow less than one hit per inning, and not walk every single batter in between. Sure, he has suffered his share of injuries and probably won't win more than a dozen games or so for the Mariners, but for a pitcher with top-10 potential, you could live with a wasted pick in the middle rounds, couldn't you? Draft him as the fourth man in your rotation and don't look back. Young has always enticed Fantasy owners with his strikeout potential and nearly unhittable stuff. In fact, if anything, his reputation as a bat misser has flown a bit under the radar because of injuries. When you stop and consider his career 1.19 WHIP even though he walks a relatively high 3.3 batters per nine innings, you begin to realize just how rarely hitters make solid contact off him. I mean, Johan Santana -- the best pitcher in Fantasy, I might add -- had a comparable 1.16 WHIP last season, and he walked only 2.4 batters per nine innings. But alas, those injuries. Forget 200 innings. Now four seasons into his major-league career, Young has yet to reach 180, and some Fantasy owners have apparently lost hope he ever will. With injuries now seemingly a foregone conclusion for the righthander, his stock has slipped to the point where he now goes off the board in the same territory as Ubaldo Jimenez and Johnny Cueto in some Fantasy leagues -- two far bigger mysteries from a statistical standpoint. But stop for a minute and consider Young's injury last year. An elbow? No. A shoulder? Not quite. A skull fracture from a batted ball? Ding, ding, ding! He took a page out of Roy Halladay's big book of freak injuries, and his Fantasy stock couldn't have declined more as a result. Seriously, a skull fracture? It won't happen again, people, and even if you assume he'll suffer a more common injury instead, his past status as an early-to-middleround pick should already account for that risk. The fact his stock continues to drop has no real statistical basis unless you play in a league without bench or injury slots. If Young falls to you after Round 15, take him. He won't hurt you in any category except for maybe wins.

Milton Bradley's numbers are absurd, when he's healthy enough to step in the batter's box. (US Presswire)

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals (middle rounds) One of these years, Zimmerman has to step up his production and swat more than 24 home runs in a season. Otherwise, we might start thinking of him more as a potential bust than a potential sleeper in Fantasy. But considering he missed two months of last season with a torn muscle in his left shoulder and tried to play through the injury for who knows how much longer, his 14 home runs look pretty good. Especially when you focus on two months -the one just before the shoulder injury, May, and the one right after he had a chance to make a full recovery, September. During those months, he hit .290 with 10 home runs and a .514 slugging percentage in 183 atbats. Sounds like a middle-of-the-order hitter, right? Sounds like the early signs of a breakout, even? The breakout will come eventually for the 24year-old, and if not for the shoulder injury, it might have already come. Again, a player with his status as a former top prospect also has the potential to go too early in Fantasy

Of course, some people assume he only achieved those numbers because he played in one of the league's better hitter's parks, and his home-road splits certainly seem to support that idea. But those people seem to forget his breakout actually occurred with the Padres -- in perhaps the worst park for hitters -- one season earlier, when he hit .313 with 11 home runs and a 1.004 OPS in 144 atbats. By that account, his numbers last year had less to do with ballpark and more to do with the natural maturation of a hitter. So there you have it: great numbers. Now, you want a word to describe his health? Try flaky. Or shaky. Breaky? Doesn't matter. Any word that connotes some measure of "bad" will do the trick. And it's not like he breaks every bone in his body and spends weeks at a time on the DL. It's just that every little tweak or muscle pull throughout the season forces him to the bench. Hey, I don't judge. If it hurts, it hurts. But come on. For that kind of potential, the mere possibility he stays healthy justifies a

Hank Blalock, 3B, Rangers (late rounds) In each of the last two seasons, Blalock has posted a higher batting average and slugging percentage than in any of the previous three. So it goes for a 28-year-old player just beginning the prime of his career. The strikeouts decrease, the production increases, and the batting average stabilizes. But you probably hadn't even noticed, mostly because Blalock has played only 123 games over the last two seasons. 93

A hand injury proved the culprit last season ... and a hamstring injury ... and carpal tunnel syndrome. OK, let's face it: He was wreck from start to finish. Except when at the plate, where he produced numbers befitting of any Fantasy-relevant corner infielder.

Look, the guy has problems with his body, but the Rangers might have finally found the solution by making him their everyday DH this season. After bouncing between third base and first base all of last season, he now won't have to play that field at all, which cuts his risk of injury by 50 percent.

OK, that's a totally made-up statistic, but it has a certain logic to it, right? If you need a corner infielder late, Blalock will certainly give you the numbers, and you can always cross your fingers and hope he gives you the time.

Here's a quick look at a few more "damaged" players worth noting on Draft Day:

Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals (middle rounds): Wainwright compares to Zimmerman and Blalock in that an injury -- his to his finger -- overshadowed a breakout season. He went 5-2 with a 2.86 ERA over the first two months and returned to go 5-0 over his final seven starts. He has the value of a No. 2 starting pitcher but the draft position of a No. 4. Eric Byrnes, OF, Diamondbacks (late rounds): A forgotten man after a torn left hamstring cost him most of last season, Byrnes is only one year removed from 21 homers and 50 stolen bases and two years removed from a separate 20-20 season. His combination of power and speed makes him an easy call in the late rounds of a Rotisserie draft even if his leg injury could possibly turn him into a different player. Elijah Dukes, OF, Nationals (late rounds): Dukes is kind of like Bradley with the OPS potential and nagging muscle injuries, only he hasn't quite lasted through a full season just yet. He's young, though, and has the potential to steal a few bases to go along with the home runs. With a late-round pick, he can't possibly disappoint.

John Maine, SP, Mets (late rounds): Before he battled shoulder soreness last season, Fantasy owners lauded Maine as a burgeoning ace with a decent strikeout rate and low batting average against. Now, with him coming off a minor surgical procedure -- nothing invasive -they don't want anything to do with him. True, the soreness could return, but considering the relative ease of the procedure, it might not bother him again. No sense in avoiding him late. Kazuo Matsui, 2B, Astros (late rounds): Matsui can't stay healthy. He can't. He has a career high of 410 at-bats. But he also has a .290 batting average and 52 stolen bases over the last two seasons. One of these years, he might just stay healthy, and with his stolen-base potential at one of the weakest positions in Fantasy, he'll make some Rotisserie owner very, very happy. Why not take a flier on him late? Randy Johnson, SP, Giants (late rounds): Always overlooked because of his age and chronic back issues, Johnson had a mostly healthy season in 2008, making 30 starts for the fourth time in five seasons. He still knows how to pitch, too, compiling a 2.41 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in the second half. You can get him late -- as in the last round or two -- and he'll probably end up a permanent part of your rotation at some point during the season.


Projecting NL catchers with RC/27
By Al Melchior Tell Al your opinion!

As discussed in my last column, Joe Mauer is the top pick among a thin catching corps in the American League. Things will play out a little differently in NL-only drafts, as there is more company at the top. Despite the NL having two more franchises than the AL, there are actually fewer catchers to consider, because there are fewer teams that have catcher at-bats up for grabs. Only the Astros and Phillies have a wide-open competition for catcher this spring. So while there are plenty of good No. 1 catchers to go around in the NL, finding a No. 2 catcher with regular playing time could be a dicey proposition. The Elite: After a great rebound season in '08, Brian McCann reestablished himself as the NL's premier catcher. Adding heft to the elite category is the emergence of Chris Iannetta, Geovany Soto and Ryan Doumit. Because Iannetta accumulated just 333 at-bats last year, he was not in the same league with these other Fantasy producers. Look for that to change this year, as he grabs more playing time away from Yorvit Torrealba. Cohort Analysis: Chris Iannetta vs. Geovany Soto. Can Iannetta really ascend to the ranks of Soto if given more playing time? Little separates these two mid-20s catchers except for their whiff rates. That goes a long way to explain why Soto's batting average was 21 points higher than Iannetta's last year. The Rockies' catcher could close that gap this year, bringing his rate closer to the sub-20 percent marks he compiled in the minors. Until he actually accomplishes that, Soto will still be a hair better.

No. 1/No. 2 Catchers: The NL is blessed with a bevy of borderline backstops. The Molinas and Brian Schneider have the longeststanding track records, but relative newcomers John Baker, Jesus Flores and Nick Hundley also stand to spend plenty of time in the lineup. The remaining foursome -- Chris Coste, Carlos Ruiz, Ronny Paulino and J.R. Towles -- have the least certain hold on playing time. None of the four merits the distinction of being a No. 1 catcher, whether in a 10-team or 12-team NL-only league, but given the lack of alternatives, each is a legitimate No. 2 catcher, even with part-time play. Cohort Analysis: Bengie Molina vs. Yadier Molina vs. Brian Schneider. Looking at the three-year RC/27 trends below, Bengie Molina seems to be a step above the other two in this group. So why is he listed as part of this cohort? Extreme contact hitter that the eldest Molina is, his seven percent rate from last season won't last. His .292 BABIP will also probably tumble, unless he can rein in his 47 percent flyball rate, and this will drop Bengie's batting average a few more notches. Though his average could drop 15 to 20 points, he will still provide more power than Schneider and brother Yadier. What the latter two offer is the potential for more runs resulting from higher onbase percentages.

Low-end No. 1/No. 2 options
Player John Baker Bengie Molina Chris Coste Yadier Molina Brian Schneider Jesus Flores Nick Hundley Carlos Ruiz Ronny Paulino J.R. Towles 2009 (proj) 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 4.0-4.5 2008 6.34 4.56 4.56 4.37 4.14 3.88 3.53 2.94 2.59 1.98 2007 N/A 4.28 4.68 3.91 3.56 3.59 N/A 4.27 3.99 N/A 2006 N/A 4.85 6.91 2.59 3.38 N/A N/A N/A 4.87 N/A

The Elite options
Player Brian McCann Chris Iannetta Geovany Soto Ryan Doumit Russell Martin 2009 (proj) 6.5-7.0 6.0-6.5 6.0-6.5 5.5-6.0 5.5-6.0 2008 6.97 7.28 6.55 6.44 5.60 2007 4.58 4.07 N/A 5.53 6.20 2006 8.29 N/A N/A 4.24 5.06

Solid No. 1 Catchers: Once you get past the top five NL catchers, the Fantasy talent starts to thin out quickly. Chris Snyder represents the rickety bridge between the elite talent and the masses of Molina-level catchers in the NL. If you miss out on the top catchers and pass on Snyder, Ramon Hernandez is a sound pick, as his move to Great American Ballpark and low 2008 BABIP (.269) suggest a slight uptick in '09. If Miguel Montero is traded to a team that can provide him with more playing time, he will be right on par with Snyder. Cohort Analysis: Chris Snyder vs. Miguel Montero. Because Snyder will probably keep his spot atop the Diamondbacks' depth chart, he is, at least for now, a much better pick than Montero. To make this interesting, let's say that Montero gets traded to another NL team. Even with a surge in his whiff rate in '08, Montero is a much better contact hitter than Snyder and would beat him in the batting average category. With full-time at-bats, Snyder would hit approximately 20 home runs, whereas Montero would most likely top out in the midteens.

The Rest: Where is the "Solid No. 2 Catchers" category? It doesn't exist in the NL. Once the borderline No. 1/No. 2 tier has been wiped from the board, all that is left is a handful of guys who produce empty at-bats by the gross. Hopefully, you will have taken care of your catching needs before you reach this point in the draft, yet those in deeper leagues may find themselves needing to pick from this group. Kendall is the clear choice for an endgame catcher, since he has a better chance of accumulating at-bats than any of the Astros' candidates.

The Rest
Player 2009 (proj) Lou Palmisano 3.5-4.0 Jason Kendall 3.5-4.0 Toby Hall 3.5-4.0 Humberto Quintero 3.0-3.5 2008 N/A 3.89 3.74 2.44 2007 N/A 3.13 1.71 N/A 2006 N/A 4.46 3.46 N/A

Solid No. 1 options
Player Chris Snyder Miguel Montero Ramon Hernandez 2009 (proj) 5.0-5.5 5.0-5.5 4.5-5.0 2008 5.39 5.23 4.30 2007 4.96 3.64 4.29 2006 5.13 N/A 5.74

Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27)
An estimate of how many runs a lineup would produce per 27 outs if a particular player occupied each spot in the order; ex. the RC/27 for Miguel Cabrera would predict the productivity of a lineup where Cabrera (or his statistical equal) batted in all nine spots; created by Bill James. 95

Injury-risk sleepers to target
By Eric Mack Tell Eric your opinion!

Travis Hafner says his shoulder felt so worthless last year, picking up his fork at the dinner table was painful. Forget about swinging the Louisville Slugger or carrying the Indians, much less your Fantasy team. "My shoulder felt dead one day," Hafner said of last spring when he first started feeling the effects that would ultimately cost him his season and lead to surgery. "There wasn't a whole lot of strength in it and the endurance in it was pretty bad." He couldn't swing a bat. He couldn't lift weights. It hurt to lift a fork. What the, fork?! He said there was no one event that led to this for the country-strong man affectionately known as Pronk -- half project, half donkey. The man who has a t-shirt that reads "I'm not smart, but I can lift heavy things" was merely done in by years of wear and tear. "Really anything using the shoulder would cause fatigue in it -- eating dinner or anything," he recalls. And that can be good news now. Not because he couldn't overeat himself into baseball obscurity, but because the MVP aura is gone and the serious red injury flags are up full mast. It is with guys like Hafner that you can potentially pocket some steals on Draft Day. Injury-risk sleepers: A high-risk, high-reward category in our annual series to unearth players who can outperform their draft position. The key is looking closely at them during spring training, especially the potentially elite guys like Albert Pujols (elbow), Chase Utley (hip), B.J. Upton (shoulder), Carlos Quentin (wrist), Carl Crawford (finger), David Ortiz (wrist), Ben Sheets (elbow) and Victor Martinez (elbow). While they are not "sleepers" or "breakouts," they can be drafted a little later than usual because of the perceived injury risks. You have to love it when talent and potential drops to you on Draft Day, as long as that player can stay healthy and be a monster for you. Hafner is one of those biggest slippers, a Fantasy Cinderella, if you will. He can be found in the latter rounds because of that troublesome shoulder, but there is that chance he could perform like a .300-hitting, 40-homer, 130-RBI beast. C "I am really just looking to get a lot of at-bats in spring training and get back in a groove and feel good," Hafner told us in late January. "And then from there, rather 1B than numbers, you just set goals as far as staying healthy and not giving any at-bats 2B away and always have a good approach." 3B Hafner hadn't yet swung a bat in anger this winter when we talked to him. He was SS doing mere soft toss swings. Come the last week of February or early March, he will OF start hitting off live pitching and then a week later play in games. OF "As long as everything goes well, I see no reason why that won't happen," he said. OF DH His injury risk is so real, he has no idea how healthy he can be. We don't. Your league SP mates surely won't either. SP "It depends on where you could get me," Hafner said of where he should be drafted in SP Fantasy Baseball this spring. "I would take myself at a point I know I could be there. SP "There is no sense in drafting someone five rounds before you have to." SP While Hafner doesn't play Fantasy Baseball, he knows full well how much we care RP about Fantasy. He won the MLB Players Fantasy Football league on, RP competing against the likes of David Wright, Brad Lidge and Sheets. All injury-risk team Player Victor Martinez Hank Blalock Rickie Weeks Ryan Zimmerman Troy Tulowitzki B.J. Upton Carlos Quentin Carl Crawford Rocco Baldelli Ben Sheets Erik Bedard John Maine Chris Carpenter Jeremy Bonderman Chris Ray Joel Zumaya TM CLE TEX MIL WAS COL TB CHW TB BOS FA SEA NYM STL DET BAL DET

We told him exactly what we had projected for him this season: a .278 average, 20 homers, 84 RBI and 60 runs. Modest numbers for a guy once considered a perennial MVP candidate. He wasn't quite thrilled to hear them, but the guy we label a $1 bid in a standard auction understands the need for caution. "I can't argue with anybody's projections or anything right now, but for me, if I can get back to being a .300 hitter, the power and RBI will take care of themselves," he said. "Rather than my focus being on home runs right now, my focus is really just get my approach where I want it; and to make sure that I am hitting the ball hard and using the whole field." 96

Pay close attention this spring for rebound guys like Hafner, who broke out at age 27 when he went .311-28-109-96 in 2004. He peaked at 29 in 2006 with .308-42-117-100. "When I was having good years, I would miss a month a couple of those years with injuries," said Hafner, who was hit in the head and hand by pitches, costing him DL time in both 2005 and '06. "If I can feel healthy and play a full season and swing the bat well, then I think I can have better years than those years." In fact, the only year Hafner was healthy all the way through was 2007 at age 30, when he slipped back to .266-24-100-80. Good numbers, but ones that made him a relative bust of an early round pick. That was his lone year he surpassed 500 at-bats and wasn't affected by injury. "For me it was mechanical," Hafner said of his disappointing season that preceded his shoulder woes. "My swing never really felt right the whole year. Whether it was the approach or the mechanics, it never really felt right. It never felt like it normally does." C Those "struggles" -- we surely would take 24-100-80 now -- forced him to try to 1B outwork himself. 2B "I am a guy that likes to hit as much as I can anyway," he said. "In '07, that probably 3B was the most that I hit, you know? SS "I thought the more swings I take the better, and that can wear you out a little bit as OF well. But you want to be proactive about it, where you want to take as many swings as you can until you feel right, rather than sitting back and not doing as much as you OF OF could." DH And after that, the wear and tear set in. An arthroscopic surgery by Dr. James SP Andrews last fall cleaned out his shoulder and found no structural abnormalities. SP "I pride myself in taking good care of myself and doing everything I can to stay healthy SP and stay in good shape," he said. "I'd like to play the game until I'm 40." SP Those that score him on the cheap on Draft Day hope he starts his resurgence at age SP 31. RP They will be happy to know struggling to pick up a fork is long past. After all, a fork RP doesn't qualify as being able to "lift heavy things." Next up is bashing some balls and perhaps shouldering the load for the Indians and Fantasy owners. Pronk on his peer, teammate Hafner offered his thoughts on a couple of the other top injury risks this spring, David Ortiz and Victor Martinez. Buy or sell the Red Sox DH? "I think you would buy," he said. "He had some wrist issues last year. As long as he's healthy, I don't see any reason why he won't be the type of hitter he was in the past." V-Mart, who we rank fifth among catchers, is coming off elbow surgery and seems to us to be a little too streaky in the power department for someone rated so highly year-in, year-out. "It never really feels like Vic is streaky," Hafner said. "He's got a very uncanny ability to put the barrel on the ball and to always hit the ball hard, so to me it seems like he's one of the more consistent hitters in the game." Still, V-Mart hit just two homers in 266 at-bats last year. "I think the injury had a lot to do with that, because it's tough to get extension with that lead arm," Hafner said. "I totally expect him to be back healthy and to be at or above .300 -- and with his typical 100 runs batted in and hit 20-25 homers." Hafner should hope so, because that is likely his protection in the batting order. Top risks worth taking Player Joe Mauer Albert Pujols Chase Utley Chipper Jones Troy Tulowitzki Alfonso Soriano B.J. Upton Carlos Quentin David Ortiz Scott Kazmir Francisco Liriano Chien-Ming Wang Adam Wainwright Yovani Gallardo Mariano Rivera Joel Zumaya TM MIN STL PHI ATL COL CHC TB CHW BOS TB MIN NYY STL MIL NYY DET


Injury-risk sleepers by position There are hundreds of players who can, and will, fall to you later than usual on Draft Day because of injury risk dragging down their value. We cannot go in depth on all of them here, but this Hafner story should pique your interest to follow them closely this spring. Here are some of the top injury risks to watch, broken down by position and C listed in order of rank: 1B Catchers: Joe Mauer, MIN and Martinez, CLE. 2B 3B First basemen: Pujols, STL; Todd Helton, COL; Hank Blalock, TEX; Nick SS Johnson,WAS; Chad Tracy, ARI; Chris Duncan, STL and Dmitri Young, WAS. OF Second basemen: Utley, PHI; Rickie Weeks, MIL; Howie Kendrick, LAA; Aaron Hill, TOR; Orlando Hudson, FA; Kazuo Matsui, HOU; Mark Ellis, OAK and Luis Castillo, OF OF NYM. Third basemen: Chipper Jones, ATL; Ryan Zimmerman, WAS; Mike Lowell, BOS; SP Blalock, TEX; Scott Rolen, TOR; Joe Crede, FA and Tony Abreu, LAD. SP Shortstops: Troy Tulowitzki, COL; Rafael Furcal, LAD; Khalil Greene, STL; Julio SP Lugo, BOS and Alex Gonzalez, CIN. SP Outfielders: Alfonso Soriano, CHC; Upton, TB; Quentin, CHW; Crawford, TB; Hideki SP Matsui, NYY; Eric Byrnes, ARI; Jason Kubel, MIN; Michael Cuddyer, MIN; Elijah RP Dukes, WAS; Ryan Freel, BAL; Andruw Jones, FA and Duncan, STL. RP Designated hitters: Ortiz, BOS; Hafner, CLE; Rocco Baldelli, BOS; Gary Sheffield, DET and Mike Sweeney, SEA. DH Risks to scout heavily Player Victor Martinez Todd Helton Howie Kendrick Joe Crede Rafael Furcal B.J. Upton Hideki Matsui Eric Byrnes Travis Hafner Carlos Zambrano Rich Harden Max Scherzer Fausto Carmona Pedro Martinez Mike Gonzalez Troy Percival TM CLE COL LAA FA LAD TB NYY ARI CLE CHC CHC ARI CLE FA ATL TB

Starting pitchers: Jake Peavy, SD; Carlos Zambrano, CHC; Scott Kazmir, TB; Francisco Liriano, MIN; Chien-Ming Wang, NYY; Adam Wainwright, STL; Rich Harden, CHC; Sheets, FA; Josh Johnson, FLA; Yovani Gallardo, MIL; Max Scherzer, ARI; Erik Bedard, SEA; Fausto Carmona, CLE; John Maine, NYM; Andy Pettitte, NYY; Chris Carpenter, STL; Jeremy Bonderman, DET; Anthony Reyes, CLE; John Smoltz, BOS; Pedro Martinez, FA; Brandon McCarthy, TEX; Phil Hughes, NYY; Micah Owings, CIN; Bartolo Colon, CHW; Dontrelle Willis, DET; Andrew Miller, FLA; Mike Hampton, HOU; Freddy Garcia, NYM; Tom Glavine, FA; Carl Pavano, CLE; Jason Schmidt, LAD; Rich Hill, BAL; Mark Prior, SD and Adam Miller, CLE. Relief pitchers: Mariano Rivera, NYY; Kerry Wood, CLE; B.J. Ryan, TOR; Mike Gonzalez, ATL; Matt Capps, PIT; Troy Percival, TB; Chris Ray, BAL; Joel Zumaya, DET; Fernando Rodney, DET; Takashi Saito, BOS and Kevin Gregg, CHC


Feeling out a Head-to-Head draft
By Scott White Tell Scott your opinion!

These strategies apply specifically to Head-to-Head leagues. For strategies on Rotisserie leagues, auction leagues, and draft leagues, check out the strategy guides for each. Some of last season's statistics you know by heart: the home runs, batting averages and stolen bases, for instance. They define a player on the back of his baseball card, and for all those years when only Rotisserie play existed, they defined him in terms of Fantasy value. But in Head-to-Head leagues, they don't tell the whole story. They tell only a portion, blending with the lesser-known stats, the ones nobody remembers or cares to look up, to form one composite score that determines wins and losses. In the end, the home runs don't have any greater significance than the doubles and triples or the walks and strikeouts. So if those peripheral stats matter just as much as the big ones, shouldn't you care about them? Couldn't they conceivably make all the difference? Obviously, they don't matter exactly as much as the big ones. Any Head-to-Head league halfway worth its salt would award more points for a home run than a double, but the fact it rewards a double at all gives it a unique spin from Rotisserie play that often goes overlooked. And when something goes overlooked, you can usually use it to your advantage. Winning on peripherals, I call it. No, you won't blow away your opponent with a squadron of doubles-only nobodies. After all, the usual suspects tend to lead the league in doubles -and every statistic, for that matter. But by combining those lesser contributions -- the doubles, triples, strikeouts and walks -- and seeing how they work together to produce a player's final score, you'll occasionally unearth players who gain significant value -such as Brian Roberts, Johnny Damon and Brian Giles -- and players who lose significant value -- looking at you, Ryan Howard. If that process sounds complicated to you, relax. You already have a built-in mechanism for combining stats simply by playing in a Head-to-Head league. Head-to-Head play offers something Rotisserie, no matter how many complex formulas or "player raters" Fantasy websites develop, never can: a single number that tells you exactly how good a player is -- or, more accurately, was. You need only look at how many Fantasy points he scored last year. Go to your league's stats page, sort by Fantasy points, pick out the players that seem abnormally high or abnormally low, and go from there. penalize hitters for striking out; others don't. Some leagues reward two points for a stolen base; others reward one. In some leagues, Howard might still rank second among first basemen. In others, he might drop to 10th or 11th. Review your league's scoring structure well before Draft Day, and if in your calculations, you find a player's scoring average that seems out of whack, try to figure out why. Maybe you'll catch a subtle scoring tweak you can use to your advantage. Everyone has an itching for pitching Some Fantasy owners hold steadfast to the belief that pitching trumps hitting in Head-toHead leagues, bucking the conventional wisdom of Rotisserie play, which says just the opposite. So when you see your opponents scooping up starting pitchers left and right during the first few rounds of a Head-to-Head draft, don't be surprised, but don't follow suit either. The argument just doesn't hold water. True, you can survive with a makeshift rotation better in a Rotisserie league than a Head-toHead league, where wins and innings often have greater statistical significance, but that subtle difference shouldn't rock the foundation of longstanding Fantasy ideology. I think the misconception stems from a recurring snap judgment that even responsible -- yes, responsible -- Fantasy owners seem to make. They look at the numbers -- a habit I fully endorse -- and see that pitchers typically score more than hitters. I'll admit it: They do. They outscore hitters. But quarterbacks typically outscore running backs in Fantasy Football, and you won't find anyone telling you to pick them instead. And you know full well why. The position as a whole outscores the other positions, meaning the 10th starting pitcher outscores the 10th second baseman just like the first starting pitcher outscores the first second baseman. But you'll notice the 10th starting pitcher outscores the 10th second baseman by more than the first starting pitcher outscores the first second baseman, demonstrating a lack of elasticity at the position. The scoring output declines faster at second base, meaning you don't lose as much by taking a lesser pitcher as you do by taking a lesser second baseman. 99

If your H2H league penalizes strikeouts, drop Ryan Howard down your rank lists. (US Presswire)

In fact, I'd take the process one step further. Injuries, midseason call-ups and other changes in playing time can severely affect scoring totals, potentially causing you to overlook or unfairly judge someone. So instead of focusing on totals, pull out a calculator -- or a pen and paper, for those more in tune with fifth-grade mathematics -and calculate each player's scoring average. Divide the number of Fantasy points by the number of games played and write down the number next to the player's name. The process might take some time, maybe even a whole afternoon, but no other exercise will teach you more about how a player fits into your league's scoring structure. You might, for example, gain a better appreciation of Elijah Dukes' sleeper potential when you see how his scoring average last year (3.24 in standard leagues) compared to Ichiro Suzuki's (3.18). I want to emphasize that part about your league's scoring structure. You need to know it. Don't just assume you use a standard system, because one small tweak can turn a player's value upside-down. Some leagues

You might worry that if you don't draft a pitcher early, you'll lose your chance to get a bona-fide ace. But you shouldn't think of it as losing an ace so much as gaining a stud at another position. You'll still get an ace, just a lesser one, and your opponent will have a much harder time finding a suitable option at whatever position you took instead. Just because someone drafts a pitcher early doesn't mean he gets to play that pitcher at shortstop instead, which I realize sounds like a ridiculously fundamental idea, but my point is you shouldn't judge how a position stacks up against another position as much as how a position stacks up against itself. Don't think of it so much as your opponent getting 582 points from Tim Lincecum compared to your 563.5 points from Jimmy Rollins. Think of it more as him getting 582 points from Lincecum and 426.5 from Miguel Tejada compared to your 563.5 points from Rollins and 461 points from Chad Billingsley. Who wins? Quite honestly, who wins? To get an idea of how far this pitchers-first mentality has spun out of control, take a look at our earliest Head-to-Head mock draft. I didn't take my first pitcher until Round 6. By then, most every other team had two or three. Might I have considered taking one earlier? Sure, but not when I had the opportunity to reel in this catch during Rounds 1-4: David Wright, Grady Sizemore, Rollins and Ian Kinsler. Notice the common thread between those players? That's right: All four could potentially go in the first round of any draft. Nobody should ever open a season with four first-round draft picks. You might get two if you pick in the right spot, maybe three if you play with a complete novice on some misguided mission to reassemble the 2003 New York Yankees. But four? That should never, ever happen. But it did -- and in a league of professionals, no less. And I don't mean to suggest they don't know what they're doing, because they obviously do. I just want you to understand how easily you can get swept away in a grabfest for frontline starting pitching.

I also don't mean to suggest if some clear-cut ace like Roy Halladay falls to you in the third or fourth round, you shouldn't even consider taking him, but don't get so caught up in an ill-advised pitching run that you overlook a stud the rest of the league has hand delivered to you. Of course, that idea applies specifically to Head-to-Head leagues. I can think of some even more important reasons to target hitters over pitchers, and if you'd like to read about them, check out my separate column on pitching philosophies. Double fresh, double good, come on and double it ... In Rotisserie play, you constantly have to worry about ratios and percentages. A negative performance could do so much damage that it overrides a positive one, meaning you don't necessarily want to start the player with the most games on his upcoming schedule. For example, a starting pitcher could throw a five-hit shutout in one game, get rocked the next, and post a lessthan-impressive 1.40 WHIP for the week, making you wish he made only the one start instead of two. But in Head-to-Head leagues, only totals matter, and you want as many as you can get. For the easiest way to give your team more opportunities to accumulate totals, look no further than your starting rotation. Since major-league teams play six or seven games each week and have five-man starting rotations, one or two pitchers on each team will make two starts in any given week. The more starting pitchers you have on your roster, the more you'll have making two starts each week. Obviously, you can take this approach too far. If you find yourself debating between a one-start Dan Haren and a two-start Mike Hampton, for instance, you know you've gone totally off the deep end. But to a certain extent, quantity trumps quality for starting pitchers in Head-to-Head leagues. Make sure you have plenty on your bench to switch in and out of your starting lineup.

The bench is no place for backups Of course, in order to have more starting pitchers on your bench, you can't have as many position players, which tells you two things. One, you shouldn't worry so much about drafting a backup player for every position across the diamond. You can still have some backups, certainly. You might want a fourth outfielder, for instance, and maybe a slugging corner infielder who fell to you in the middle rounds. Mostly, you just want to avoid clogging your roster with reserves who barely deserve roster spots and would likely go unclaimed if you released them. Because if you have one who'd just sit on waivers, waiting for you to claim him again, why not release him and use that bench slot on something you can actually use, like another pitcher? Two, if you can't afford to use your bench slots on position players, you better make sure you have a reliable starting lineup going into the season. Hmm ... sounds like another reason to favor hitters over pitchers in the early rounds, doesn't it? I never get tired of that same old song and verse.


Don't be cheap on Auction Day
By Scott White Tell Scott your opinion!

These strategies apply specifically to auction leagues. For strategies on draft leagues, Rotisserie leagues and Head-to-Head leagues, check out the strategy guides for each. In the cold, unforgiving world of real-life economics, a certain quality defines me: I don't spend. While some people rush out to buy the latest, greatest gadget or gizmo, I prefer to wait, sitting on my little pile of money until I find something I really, really, without the slightest doubt or hesitation, want. Call it an instinct -- a basic means of survival. I don't like to throw around the fundamental resource of my existence unless I know the benefit justifies the cost. And I can afford to take that approach because I know even if I change my mind and decide I want what everyone else has, I can still get it -- maybe even for less money. Stores constantly restock their shelves, after all, so it won't run out or disappear. And because companies work tirelessly to invent newer, faster technology, I might even end up getting something better. So yes, holding on to money, as I've learned, is a good thing. But not in Fantasy Baseball. Not in a league that uses an auction instead of a draft. See, a Fantasy Baseball auction exposes us to a foreign concept -- something we, in this mountain of luxury known as the United States of America, rarely have a chance to experience: a finite supply. Once a player goes, he's gone -- as in never coming back, no matter how much money we have available to spend on him. But that's the thing: We all have money available to us at the beginning of an auction -- plenty of it -- and we have it for the explicit purpose of spending it on baseball players. We don't get to keep what we don't spend, so we have every incentive to get rid of it. It's like when you purchase a package of tokens at an amusement park. You want to use every last token during that short time you visit the park because those tokens have zero value except within the framework of that alternate world. And even though we know that, even though none of us lives under the delusion that we'll receive a stack of cash equal to the amount of money we don't spend on auction day, the idea that we have to spend every last dollar we have -- fictional or otherwise -- is so fundamentally unnatural that we tend to resist it. Everybody, no matter how frugal, wants to find a bargain, and during the three hours or so of an auction, you can easily fall into the trap of bargain hunting, of passing on player after player that you consider a little bit overpriced. But here's the problem with bargain hunting: You might never find one. And you know what? You can win without one. You can't win, however, if you get nothing, if you spend so much time waiting for a bargain that everyone else gobbles up the studs while you end up with Hideki Matsui as your No. 1 outfielder. Oh, but you got him for only $1 because everyone else spent their money on studs. Good deal, right? Maybe, but how good is any deal that results from you having the worst team in the league? So to avoid the trap of having a handful of dollars and nobody left to spend them on, I have to fight my natural tendencies. I have to remind myself that running out of money isn't nearly as detrimental as running out of players and that the window of opportunity to purchase the best players will always close sooner than I expect. Then, as if turning around to swim upstream, I grit my teeth, take a deep breath, and do the one thing that goes against every natural fiber of my being: Spend. For the love of Pete, spend. Don't spend recklessly or needlessly, forcing yourself to field a team halfway comprised of $1 players. But if you can afford a good player, make sure you get a good one before they all disappear. Because they don't restock the shelves in Fantasy Land, and their tokens mean nothing when they go out of business. Everybody thinks like you do When Fantasy owners first consider having an auction instead of a draft, they tend to focus on the freedom such an approach will permit them. No longer bound by draft order, having to wait their turn and watch helplessly whenever someone else picks "their guys," they can get -- or at least try to get -- any player they want. But that general conceit overlooks the somewhat obvious truth that the benefit of an auction is the same for everyone. Just because you recognize that you have an opportunity to purchase two players of firstround value doesn't mean your competitors won't shell out big bucks trying to do the same. Yes, an auction gives you freedom, but that freedom could end up hurting you more than it helps you. A draft has a way of evenly distributing talent as long as nobody does anything crazy, but in an auction, just as many people will end up with zero first-round players as two. Hey, if someone's getting more, someone else has to get less. Typically, you can avoid the standard pitfalls of a Fantasy auction -- waiting too long at a position, getting into a bidding war, that sort of thing -- if you operate under the general assumption that everybody thinks like you do. You shouldn't come up with a plan too firm or love a particular player too much, because in a room with 11 other people, chances are someone has the same plan or loves that player just a little bit more. And while overpaying a little for something you really want is in some ways advisable, you can't afford to do anything ridiculous. Let's say, for example, you decide going into an auction that you want one of the three elite shortstops: Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins. Hey, it's an auction. You have your choice of three, and you can bid on all of them. It'll happen, right? So the big day arrives, and the first of the three shortstops, Ramirez, goes up for auction. You get in the bidding early, but as the price climbs dollar by dollar past the amount you expected to pay for him, you think better of it, back off and decide to let him go. "That's OK," you say. "I can still get Reyes or Rollins." Reyes goes up for auction next. You again don't like the price. "That's OK. I'll just get Rollins." Stop. You've just committed. You've put yourself in a this-player-or-bust scenario and left yourself vulnerable to either an 101

outrageous bidding war or a heartbreaking disappointment. And unless the rest of the league falls asleep on you, you will have one or the other. Because everyone did the exact same thing you did. Everyone crossed the first two names off his cheat sheet and pinpointed Rollins as the last of the elite shortstops. So however much you thought was too much for Ramirez and Reyes, Rollins -- a lesser player, according to most people -- will likely go for even more. Hey, it's the last chance for everybody. All your competitors will go into desperation mode just like you. Knowing the alternative, wouldn't you much rather go back in time and shell out a few extra dollars for Ramirez or Reyes than get in a bidding war for a player you don't like nearly as much? But that's the kind of thing that can happen when you momentarily forget you have living, breathing opponents that don't always go by the book. They have working minds that often follow the same logic as yours. That little example also establishes a much more specific guideline: Never wait to purchase the last player in a particular tier. The rest of your league will try to do the same thing. If you really want a player from that tier, invest a few extra bucks in one earlier in the auction. Wait for it early; go for it late Although it somewhat contradicts many of the ideas presented in this piece -- that you shouldn't wait too long to pursue the players you want, for instance -- most longtime Fantasy owners will tell you that in the early stages of the draft, when your turn comes to nominate and place an opening bid on a player, you should nominate one you don't want. The approach makes sense up to a point. Your opponents will win those players you don't want and then have less money to spend on the players you do want, taking them out of the competition ... in theory. But the danger comes when you start reaching the end of a tier at a particular position. If you keep nominating players you don't want -- Mark Teixeira, Lance Berkman and Prince Fielder, let's say -- and keep waiting for a player you do want, such as Justin Morneau, you might end up in another bidding war just like you had with Rollins. Instead of using them as bait, those players you don't want can help you just by remaining available. If your opponents know they can

pursue them instead, they might not bid so aggressively on Morneau. So instead of getting sneaky, maybe you should just nominate Morneau and not throw a wrench in your own plans. Certainly by those middle stages of the auction, you don't want to run the risk of depleting the player pool so much that everyone wants the same players you do. It doesn't work. Patience doesn't pay off. And if you wait for a specific player you want and watch as player after player after player go off the board instead, when the time comes to bid on your player, you better win him because you won't have a Plan B to fall back on. Again, they don't restock the shelves in Fantasy Land. No matter how much money you save for a player, someone will always save more. Always. Always. They might not even want the player half as badly as you do, but they'll recognize that he's the best use of all that money they forgot to spend and snatch him away from you like you don't even care. I know from experience. It was an NL-only league, last year. I wanted Nate McLouth and thought I could win him with my remaining max bid of $9. But I wanted to make sure. I kept nominating other players instead, draining everyone else's budget. During that time, I saw plenty of decent sleepers go off the board -- ones I might potentially want, but none that struck my fancy like McLouth. Finally, with a bare-bones crop of hitters remaining, someone nominated McLouth. I thought I had him. I knew someone else had a max bid of $8, but I hadn't seen anyone with more than that in half an hour or so. I went ahead and bid the full $9. And then, that guy -- that one guy hiding in the bushes with a remaining max bid of $10 -decided to leap out in broad daylight and one-up me. Despite how careful I'd been, and in some ways, how lucky I'd been, someone else still had the extra dollar needed to steal McLouth away from me. He placed the winning bid, I cried giant tears, and McLouth became everything McLouth became. Lesson learned.

The last leg: When the auction becomes a draft Inevitably, the auction will reach a point where everyone -- or everyone who succeeds in using his full budget, anyway -- can place no more than $1 bids. It's not a bad thing. A well-balanced roster should have some $1 sleepers. Of course, you'd like to avoid hitting that $1-only stage too early -- like, when you still have eight openings on your roster -- but at least if that happens, you know you didn't leave any money on the table. The most important thing to remember when you reach that $1-only stage is that you can only win players you nominate yourself, and for obvious reasons. The minimum opening bid for a player is $1, so if someone else opens the bidding, you're immediately out of the running. At that point, the auction essentially becomes a draft. You don't want anyone to beat you to your sleepers, so when your turn comes to place an opening bid, you have to bid on the player you want most. Even if some opponents can still outbid you for him, having not reached the $1-only stage of the auction themselves, you have to go for the player you want and just hope those wealthier opponents have players they want instead. Of course, if some of your opponents can still outbid you at that point, you have to make sure you bid on a player you can reasonably obtain for $1 and not one so overwhelmingly good that those wealthier opponents have obviously reserved their cash specifically for him. If, for example, Vernon Wells lasts until those latter stages of the auction, you shouldn't go bidding $1 on him. You know one of those wealthier opponents will just outbid you, forcing you to wait 12 picks until you can place your next bid -- 12 picks your opponents can use to steal your sleepers away from you. In some ways, you could call that $1-only stage the most stressful part of the auction. Of course, in some ways, you could call the whole auction stressful, making it not worth your trouble when you could have a nice, easy, straightforward draft. Then again, that added level of intensity is what distinguishes an auction from a draft, making it worth playing in the first place.


Third-year starters to target
By Eric Mack Tell Eric your opinion!

If you have finished our pontification on prime-time 27-year-olds, maybe even buying into the logic, we might have a harder sell with a close second in our list of Fantasy rules of thumb: the breakthrough of the third-year starting pitcher. Save for World Series hero Cole Hamels and his Series counterpart James Shields of the Rays, it was a down year for pitchers in their third season. Sure, two of them helped their teams to league championships, but because of the case of Justin Verlander, you might be inclined to mock our theory as the breakdown of the third-year starter. The big fat bust cost many owners their Fantasy seasons. Among the top 130 most-owned players on last season, only the teams that rostered Robinson Cano, A.J. Pierzynski, Derek Jeter and Torii Hunter had worst winning percentages than Verlander's. That is the same Verlander who was No. 2 in our top 10 third-year starting pitchers last spring, behind Jered Weaver, who seems to have leveled off. Others in the top 10, John Maine, Matt Cain, Rich Hill, Ian Snell, Boof Bonser and Scott Olsen, weren't their best either. Have you heard about how risky pitching is in Fantasy Baseball? We are not going to give up on targeting third-year starting pitchers, though. Doing so would make us hypocrites. It is still our belief those with between 40-70 career starts, starting pitchers roughly in their third season, have survived the learning curve and are now conditioned to reach Fantasy ace status -- especially in relation to a full season of starts (30-plus) and innings (200-plus). It cannot be forgotten the legendary Fantasy L.I.M.A. Plan (Low Investment Mound Aces, named by Ron Shandler) was derived from Jose Lima, who broke through at 21-10 with 187 strikeouts and a RK 3.58 ERA in 1999. He entered that year with 54 big-league starts under his belt. The L.I.M.A. strategy suggests you pick starters on the cheap because breakouts can come from the depths of the position and risk is heavier among the elite pitchers as opposed to hitters. That is for 2 you, disappointed Verlander owners. 3 Unlike hitters, where we define a players prime at a specific age, pitchers develop at varying ages. We spoke to Billy Beane about this topic last September and he agreed: There is no optimal age for 5 pitchers. 6 Instead, Beane suggested you simply buy pitchers in bulk. Apparently, Beane has been using 7 8 Shandler's strategy. Get them on the cheap and see how some of them pan out. And, as for how Beane weighs which pitchers to buy, he says judge them by looking at: 1. History of work. 2. History of health. 9 10 11 12 4 1 Top-ranked third-year SPs Pitcher Tim Lincecum Edinson Volquez Daisuke Matsuzaka Chad Billingsley Jon Lester Adam Wainwright Ricky Nolasco Josh Johnson John Danks Fausto Carmona Matt Garza Joe Saunders Mike Pelfrey Gavin Floyd Ubaldo Jimenez Andy Sonnanstine Sean Marshall Jesse Litsch Todd Wellemeyer Anthony Reyes Jeremy Guthrie Braden Looper Micah Owings Dustin McGowan Brian Bannister Age is age on opening day Age 24 25 28 24 25 27 26 25 23 25 25 27 25 26 25 26 26 24 30 27 29 34 26 27 28

Come 40-70 starts, or what amounts to a couple full seasons on the back of the baseball card, we 13 finally have some bit of history of work and health to weigh. 14 There are theories out there suggesting 500 innings is where a pitcher has arrived -- roughly the 15 amount of innings after a third season -- but it is tough to believe it takes that long when you see the 16 quick success of NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, Dodgers ace Chad Billingsley and no-hitting 17 Red Sox star Jon Lester had last season. They are highly valued commodities this spring after Year 18 2, but our third-year starting pitcher list is about finding Fantasy breakthroughs before they happen. 19 Below is a ranking of the top 10 third-year starting pitchers for 2009. They have varying degrees of 20 draft value, but the ranking is a projection of the rewards you can expect out of them as sleepers. Therefore, you won't see the likes of Lincecum, Edinson Volquez and Daisuke Matsuzaka, who are 21 more likely to disappoint than surprise you. 22 23 Maybe we should be careful of pitchers who ramped their innings up past 200 too quickly. The shoulder is an intricate mechanism that needs to be built up and conditioned with care. You don't jog 24 a 5K and then go out and run a marathon. Similarly, pitchers should stretch out their shoulder 25 gradually -- daily, monthly and annually -- rather than overload it without the proper conditioning. Remember those coaches who made you stretch? To avoid injuries, you need to condition yourself.


See, we did learn something from last year and the disappointment of early rising, lately sinking Verlander. But we will bet our Fantasy season the 2009 version of third-year starting pitchers list will look more prophetic than pathetic this time around. 1. Adam Wainwright Right-hander | St. Louis Cardinals | Age 27 You just know we couldn't help ourselves, ranking a 27-year-old as our favorite third-year starting pitcher to target this spring. But, Wainwright also helps us explain another dilemma with young pitching. See, Wainwright was pretty cocky about going from reliever to starter after his World Series season in 2006, ramping his innings from 75 to 202 in a hurry. He was right when he told us in spring training he had no doubts he would go 200 innings in his first year as a starter. We should have asked how many innings would he be able to handle the year following that. It turns out just 132 last season -- albeit really good ones. He went 11-3 with a 3.20 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 20 starts, Cy Young splits. Wainwright was a pitcher we called the next Chris Carpenter, an NL Cy Young and No. 2 to the incomparable Johan Santana in his heyday. Now, in his third season as a starting pitcher, he could be. Reaching 200 innings was his first order of business and then dominating the league was second. Year 3 it is to dominate the league for over 200 innings. Since his injury was with his finger and not his shoulder or elbow, we are now the ones that have no doubts he will do so. Our modest projections rank him just outside of the top 25 starting pitchers to target on Draft Day, but his learning curve continues, he will be a Carpenterlike Cy Young front-runner this season and perform like a top 10 Fantasy ace. 2. Mike Pelfrey Right-hander | New York Mets | Age 25 While Wainwright is a fairly obvious Fantasy ace, Pelfrey is just now looking capable of becoming one. He always had the hard-sinking 96 mph stuff, so it was just a matter of time. At the end of last May, Pelfrey was just 2-6 with an awful 5.33 ERA, looking more ready to be a Triple-A rotation ace than a major league one. After that point, though -- right around the change of the Mets' coaching staff -- Pelfrey went 11-5 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Those are Wainwright numbers right there. Strangely the best part about Pelfrey is he actually pitches to contact and doesn't strike hitters out. Among this year's crop of third-year starters, he has one of the highest batting-average against figures. It doesn't worry us, though, because pitching to contact means Pelfrey won't be working as many deep counts and should be able to pitch deep into games with his hard sinking stuff. Plus, the Mets have a very good defensive team Pelfrey is allowing batters to hit into. We project Pelfrey to be a 15-game winner with a sub-4.00 ERA -- a top 50 option -- but many drafters are going to look at his full-season stats of 2008 or even his career numbers and see a far less capable Fantasy starter. But you know the splits and you know pitchers with 40-70 career stats are finally conditioned to put everything together. Pelfrey just needs to do it for a full season to finish among the top 25 starters in Fantasy. 3. Gavin Floyd/John Danks Right-hander/Left-hander | Chicago White Sox | Ages 26/23 We clump these two burgeoning White Sox aces together because their development last season make them just so similar -- even if they pitch from opposite sides of the rubber. RK Floyd's path to his "third" season was far more circuitous, having been unable to prove capable 1 before winning 17 games in his first full season after a few partial ones. Floyd was pretty steady 2 last season, though, until having his first so-so month in September (2-2, 4.81). 3 Danks, meanwhile, was dynamic in the first half (7-4, 2.67 with a .234 batting-average against) 4 before being a little more middlin' after the break (5-5, 4.26, .268). But, among pitchers with 405 70 career starts, Danks is the youngest and still with plenty room to grow. Both of these pitchers will be around the top 50 starters picked on Draft Day, but their continued development and presence in the rotation of a contender make them candidates to perform on a 7 8 top 25 level. 4. Matt Garza Right-hander | Tampa Bay Rays | Age 25 9 10 6 Youngest third-year SPs Pitcher John Danks Jesse Litsch Kyle Kendrick Chad Billingsley Tim Lincecum Josh Johnson Ubaldo Jimenez Mike Pelfrey Jon Lester Fausto Carmona Birthdate 4/15/1985 3/9/1985 8/26/1984 7/29/1984 6/15/1984 1/31/1984 1/22/1984 1/14/1984 1/7/1984 12/7/1983

If you watched Garza last postseason, you got a real appreciation of what the right-hander can do -- to the point where you are wondering why the Twins ever gave up on him for disappointing Delmon Young. Unlike most young pitchers, Garza seemed to get better as the season, and his games, went on. That is a sign of a future Fantasy horse. 104

Garza was at his best in the big games, picking up seven of his 11 victories against AL East foes and winning the ALCS MVP award on the strength of two dynamite starts, including a Game 7 clincher. Garza is prepared to reach the all-important 200-inning plateau and should push 15 victories with the elite contender now in Tampa Bay. His postseason success put some extra innings on his arm that don't show up in his season stats, so we are a little worried about that, but that contender he pitches for should help him stay healthy in Year 3 and be a consistent winner. 5. Ubaldo Jimenez Right-hander | Colorado Rockies | Age 25 Jimenez was the Garza-like postseason breakthrough one year prior. The power right-hander is one of the burgeoning aces of baseball and capable of striking out 200 batters. He does have some reasons to be cautious, though. One, he walked an alarming 103 batters; and two, he works half his games in hitter-friendly Coors Field. But, ironically, he handled the rare air even better than he handled the road, going 7-4 with a 3.31 ERA and a .223 batting-average against at home vs. (5-8)-4.72-.266 away. In another strange Garza-like twist, Jimenez got stronger as last year went on as he reached his career high in innings, going (8-3)-3.68-.221 after the break vs. (4-9)-4.22-.262 before it. His splits home-away and first half-second half bode well for continued improvement and future dominance for Fantasy owners. Consider him a high-ceiling pick after the top 50 starting pitchers are off the board on Draft Day. No one would blame you for taking a shot on him even earlier. 6. Josh Johnson Right-hander | Florida Marlins | Age 25 Unlike all the others on this list, Johnson has already gotten his Tommy John surgery out of the way. That is the good news, along with how the perceived injury risk will weigh him down on Draft Day. We don't see him jumping from less that 88 innings to over 200 in one year, but Johnson has been great when he has pitched to date. He is 1911 in his career with a 3.54 ERA and 234 strikeouts. That is quite a season. Since injury has been a factor, we project 13 victories, 151 strikeouts and a 3.34 ERA this season in 175 innings. Because he is a workhorse when healthy, though, he could easily beat those modest expectations. The numbers make him a top 35 Fantasy starting pitcher even if he isn't quite a household name yet. With a year of health, he could become one. 7. Fausto Carmona Right-hander | Cleveland Indians | Age 25 In the same vein as Wainwright, Carmona went from reliever to starter from 2006 to 2007, making an unadvisable innings bump that could have contributed to his injury-plagued second full season last year. Carmona was a 215-inning horse and a Fantasy MVP for his production in relation to his draft position. Then the 2007 breakout pitcher of the year wound up being arguably the biggest bust of 2008. Not only did he battle injury, but he was also pretty ineffective when he was on the hill, too, posting a career worst 5.47 ERA and 1.63 WHIP. Those were just a tad worse than his 2006 rookie season, where he failed as a closer and looked like a bust of a prospect. That has to scare you. Which is the real Carmona, the 2006/2008 version? Could 2007 have been the fluke? We think Carmona is somewhere in between behind the 19-win, 3.06 ERA breakthrough and a complete pile of Fantasy trash. The talent and potential make him a top 50 starting pitcher to target, as we project 14 victories and an ERA around 4.00, but there is some obvious risk with taking him in such a prominent draft position. If our theory on third-year starting pitchers holds, Carmona is due for a big bounce-back year. 8. Sean Marshall Left-hander | Chicago Cubs | Age 26 The Cubs dealt away Jason Marquis and passed on a deal for Jake Peavy, presumably because they are comfortable with Marshall competing with Jeff Samardzija for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. You have to like the wins potential of every starter on the Cubs this season, especially one possibly coming out of obscurity in Marshall. He runs the risk of taking on too many innings after his year as a spot starter and long reliever, but before 2008, Marshall had proven to be a steady starter for the Cubs and Fantasy owners. Remember his fast start out of the gate in 2006, when he was looking like a Rookie of the Year candidate through April.


Marshall is the first starter on this list that needs to earn a rotation spot before he truly can be considered viable in most Fantasy leagues, but that kind of question mark can be just enough to make him a great sleeper for you on Draft Day. 9. Micah Owings Right-hander | Cincinnati Reds | Age 26 If only there were Fantasy points awarded for a pitcher's offensive numbers, Owings would be a gem on Draft Day. He is such a good hitter, he was at times the first bat off the bench last season. As it is, the Reds pulled off a coup sending free-agent-to-be Adam Dunn to the D-Backs before the Aug. 31 trade deadline for a package that included Owings. The big, powerful right-hander has long-term potential to be a Fantasy ace and should be one of the Reds' five starters out of spring training. That is a non-contender that plays its home games in arguably the best hitter's park in baseball, though, so bid with caution on the slugging pitcher. Owings could be a real steal in deeper formats, especially long-term keeper and NL-only leagues. Unlike at the plate, Owings hasn't come close to scratching the surface of his real potential on the mound. 10. Anthony Reyes/Jeremy Sowers Right-hander/Left-hander | Cleveland Indians | Ages 27/25 Another combo pick among teammates, this one because they might actually be competing for one rotation spot this spring. Like Floyd and Danks, they are as different as they are similar, if that is even possible. Reyes is all hard stuff, and stubborn enough to get his backside traded out of St. Louis because he wanted to pitch his way -- the hard way. Sowers is a control-and-command lefty, a Jeff Francis-type, who paints it black but sits more around 90 mph. To us, Reyes has Ben Sheets-like potential, while Sowers could suddenly find his niche like Francis did in his third season as a starter. That was in 2007 when Francis went 215 innings, going 17-9 and leading his team to the World Series. Both Reyes and Sowers have yet to prove anything over the course of a full season, but their trio of partial seasons has them in the 40-70 career starts area and could lead to a big breakthrough this season. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Our list of pitchers in this category is quite large this season and ranging from the aces of Lincecum, Volquez, Dice-K, Billingsley and Lester to the relief retreads of Todd Wellemeyer and Braden Looper. You might even be able to put together an entirely different top 10 breakouts and sleepers, which is partially the reason we are so willing to overlook last season's third-year starting pitcher disasters. There are just so many promising pitchers to buy in on with a middle-to-late pick.


The following stats feature all of the starting pitchers with 40-70 career starts. Like 27-year-olds, it is our suggestion you highlight these guys on your cheatsheets and target them periodically during your draft because they have the potential to surprise and outproduce their draft position.

Third-year starting pitcher stats
Player Lester, Jon Lincecum, Tim Matsuzaka, Daisuke Saunders, Joe Billingsley, Chad Johnson, Josh Wainwright, Adam Chacin, Gustavo Kendrick, Kyle Marcum, Shaun Floyd, Gavin Nolasco, Ricky James, Chuck Volquez, Edinson Wellemeyer, Todd Carmona, Fausto Gaudin, Chad Litsch, Jesse Hill, Rich Guthrie, Jeremy Jimenez, Ubaldo Looper, Braden Sonnanstine, Andy Hudson, Luke McGowan, Dustin Pelfrey, Mike Baek, Cha Seung Bannister, Brian Gorzelanny, Tom Garza, Matt Tejeda, Robinson Hensley, Clay Owings, Micah Danks, John De La Rosa, Jorge McClung, Seth Hennessey, Brad Marshall, Sean Bonser, Boof Correia, Kevin Sowers, Jeremy Bergmann, Jason Reyes, Anthony Mitre, Sergio Birthdate 1/7/1984 6/15/1984 9/13/1980 6/16/1981 7/29/1984 1/31/1984 8/30/1981 11/4/1980 8/26/1984 12/14/1981 1/27/1983 12/13/1982 11/9/1981 7/3/1983 8/30/1978 12/7/1983 3/24/1983 3/9/1985 3/11/1980 4/8/1979 1/22/1984 10/28/1974 3/18/1983 5/2/1977 3/24/1982 1/14/1984 5/29/1980 2/28/1981 7/12/1982 11/26/1983 3/24/1982 8/31/1979 9/28/1982 4/15/1985 4/5/1981 2/7/1981 2/7/1980 8/30/1982 10/14/1981 8/24/1980 5/17/1983 9/25/1981 10/16/1981 2/16/1981 APP 60 58 61 64 96 53 115 58 51 89 73 74 64 53 167 92 185 49 64 78 51 636 54 58 75 51 59 67 67 56 88 106 51 59 125 136 148 79 96 170 49 95 59 78 GS 59 57 61 64 68 43 52 58 50 64 62 58 55 49 43 61 50 48 57 57 50 63 54 41 56 49 44 65 65 54 47 40 45 59 64 49 44 50 60 46 49 50 44 52 INN 354.2 373.1 372.1 385.1 437.2 272.1 411 27 331.2 276.2 396.2 385 25 373.2 315.2 276 433.2 410.1 449 287 337.2 403 288.1 981.1 324 243 353.2 294.2 279.2 385.2 374.2 317.2 300 323.2 257.1 334 404 368.1 360.2 294.1 391.2 398 276.2 339.1 255 310.2 W 27 25 33 32 35 19 16 25 21 24 18 27 24 20 22 28 28 20 18 17 16 58 19 17 20 18 16 23 22 19 16 15 14 18 25 23 17 16 18 14 12 10 12 10 L 8 10 15 15 19 11 .628 15 13 17 .581 21 19 17 19 25 25 18 17 17 16 58 19 18 22 20 18 26 25 22 19 18 17 22 31 31 23 22 25 22 19 19 25 23 WPCT .771 .714 .688 .681 .648 .633 3.48 .625 .618 .585 4.98 .563 .558 .541 .537 .528 .528 .526 .514 .500 .500 .500 .500 .486 .476 .474 .471 .469 .468 .463 .457 .455 .452 .450 .446 .426 .425 .421 .419 .389 .387 .345 .324 .303 ERA 3.81 3.16 3.72 4.04 3.33 3.54 299 4.18 4.78 3.95 269 4.12 4.48 4.37 4.42 4.19 4.45 3.67 4.37 3.89 4.06 3.93 4.97 5.11 4.71 4.31 4.83 4.81 4.78 4.02 4.77 4.09 4.97 4.23 5.55 5.55 4.69 4.62 5.12 4.59 5.14 5.04 4.91 5.36 K 262 415 355 227 401 234 6.55 185 117 314 6.29 296 234 261 340 253 326 149 309 267 243 569 221 162 285 168 184 209 245 233 226 206 193 268 324 274 192 202 317 289 123 257 183 188 K/9 6.65 10.00 8.58 5.30 8.25 7.73 127 5.02 3.81 7.12 153 7.13 6.67 8.51 7.06 5.55 6.53 4.67 8.24 5.96 7.58 5.22 6.14 6.00 7.25 5.13 5.92 4.88 5.89 6.60 6.78 5.73 6.75 7.22 7.22 6.70 4.79 6.18 7.28 6.54 4.00 6.82 6.46 5.45 BB 140 149 174 120 202 117 2.78 118 82 141 3.58 92 128 135 213 162 207 75 137 128 143 309 63 123 141 115 81 124 172 114 167 150 91 111 221 215 147 117 125 168 80 127 96 108 BB/9 3.55 3.59 4.21 2.80 4.15 3.87 1.282 3.20 2.67 3.20 1.436 2.22 3.65 4.40 4.42 3.55 4.15 2.35 3.65 2.86 4.46 2.83 1.75 4.56 3.59 3.51 2.61 2.89 4.13 3.23 5.01 4.17 3.18 2.99 4.92 5.25 3.67 3.58 2.87 3.80 2.60 3.37 3.39 3.13 WHIP 1.393 1.213 1.324 1.342 1.401 1.399 .254 1.381 1.464 1.283 .266 1.250 1.372 1.496 1.430 1.401 1.519 1.286 1.268 1.268 1.387 1.350 1.315 1.473 1.374 1.473 1.341 1.372 1.511 1.391 1.513 1.406 1.325 1.356 1.651 1.569 1.489 1.413 1.448 1.492 1.410 1.397 1.337 1.545 BAA .265 .223 .230 .268 .251 .260 .268 .294 .244 .262 .256 .263 .250 .265 .273 .264 .232 .250 .238 .268 .284 .259 .256 .284 .268 .270 .273 .267 .254 .252 .254 .265 .282 .260 .278 .263 .281 .274 .283 .265 .254 .298


What wins in Rotisserie
By Scott White Tell Scott your opinion!

These strategies apply specifically to Rotisserie leagues. For strategies on Head-to-Head leagues, auction leagues, and draft leagues, check out the strategy guides for each either already posted on the site or set to appear in the coming days. Stolen bases. If you learn nothing else about how to build a team for Rotisserie play as opposed to Head-to-Head, take with you this one little bit of guidance on stolen bases: You need them, and they tend to disappear quickly. That's not to say you don't like stolen bases in any format. In Head-to-Head leagues they still give you points, and they form the basis for some players' entire Fantasy worth. But you don't need them, and if you don't get them, you can simply make up for them with extra home runs, doubles and RBI. But that's Head-to-Head play, where you don't have to perform a balancing act with 10 or 12 statistical categories. In those leagues, a home run gives you a set number of points regardless of how many home runs you already have or how many any of your opponents have. But in Rotisserie, scoring is entirely relative. You earn points based on where you rank in each statistical category. If you rank first in a category, you get the same number of points whether you double up the entire field or merely edge the second-place team by a decimal point. You need variety because all the home runs in the world won't save you if your team accumulates only 48 stolen bases. Accordingly, an early-rounder who steals bases -- someone like Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Grady Sizemore, Jimmy Rollins, Ian Kinsler and, to a lesser extent, David Wright -- has even more appeal on Draft Day, offering your team a more versatile centerpiece than a one- or two-category monster like Ryan Howard. You have to get stolen bases somewhere, and if you don't get them early, with players who'll help you in most, if not all, of the other categories, you might have to settle for a one-category specialist like Willy Taveras later in the draft (not that you'll find many of them either). But sometimes, you can't get any of those early-round steals. The picks just don't line up the right way, and you have to take a Howard or a Ryan Braun instead. If it happens, it happens. You might just have to reach a little in the early-to-middle rounds to get a Jacoby Ellsbury or Shane Victorino and then, in the later rounds, target a sleeper like Denard Span instead of Shin-Soo Choo. Maybe you'll lose a handful of home runs in the process, but you don't have much choice if you want to preserve the balance between home runs and stolen bases. And balance is the key word. I don't want to make you so preoccupied with stolen bases that you blow out the rest of the league in the category while falling behind in home runs -which is certainly possible to do -- but I feel like enough 20-homer guys go undrafted every year that you can supplement your home runs easily enough in the later rounds. OK, but what about all those other hitting categories? You might notice I've spent the vast majority of this piece discussing stolen bases and home runs while ignoring some of the other hitting categories in standard 5X5 Rotisserie leagues -- most notably, runs scored and RBI. An oversight? Not really. I didn't pay as much attention to them because I don't think you should pay as much attention to them. So much for preserving balance, right? It sounds like a departure from that idea, but it's really not. It serves simply to eliminate distractions, to keep your attention focused on the most critical statistics and not the ones directly tied to them. Would it hurt to keep runs scored and RBI in the back of your mind, diverting just a little attention to them? Of course not. But in the heat of the moment on Draft Day, when you have 90 seconds to make a decision, you only have so much attention you can divert. Certain statistics correlate to one another. Players who steal bases tend to bat higher in the lineup, in front of the heavy hitters, where they score more runs. Players who hit home runs tend to bat lower in the lineup, behind the fast runners, where they drive in more runs. And the best players -- the ones you'll target in the early rounds -- tend to do both. They get on base often enough to score runs and bat in the right part of the lineup to collect RBI. You really only run into trouble if you rely too heavily on late-rounders for home runs and stolen bases -- guys like Jack Cust and Michael Bourn -- because you chose to stockpile pitching early. Those types of players -- "specialists," you might call them -will keep you afloat in home runs and stolen bases, but their inconsistent batting averages and playing time -- the reasons they fell to the late rounds in the first place -will lead to disproportionate RBI and runs scored, causing you to fall behind in those categories. Sounds like reason enough to avoid pitching early, doesn't it?

David Wright hits for power and can steal bases, making him a must-have in Roto formats. (Getty Images)

If, however, you don't pay close enough attention to your stolen bases on Draft Day, you could end up totally shut out in the category, not even realize it until the last round or two, and then, in a mad panic, have to target players like Joey Gathright and Jason Bartlett, who might give you a few steals but virtually nothing else. Then, you'll spend the entire season debating whether you should leave the dead weight in your lineup or punt the steals category entirely -not that either decision would do your team much good. And that, my friend, is no way to win a Rotisserie league.


Nobody wants a pitcher early Pitching tends to take a backseat in Rotisserie leagues, with no more than two or three starting pitchers going in the first three rounds of any standard draft. The phenomenon partially has to do with the reason I mentioned earlier, how you need to build a solid foundation of elite hitters in order to compete in RBI and runs scored, but even more so, it hinges on the fact that you actually can build a solid foundation with hitters. Pitchers, on the other hand, are maddeningly inconsistent. They break out and emerge as Fantasy mainstays (see Ervin Santana, Ryan Dempster and Ricky Nolasco) just as suddenly as they collapse and become waiver fodder (see Aaron Harang, Justin Verlander and Fausto Carmona). And just when you think you've found the most consistent pitcher in the universe, the one you think you can count on for studly numbers year in and year out, he suffers some sort of season-ending injury (see Tim Hudson, Chien-Ming Wang and John Smoltz). When you draft a pitcher, you draft the unknown, so instead of shelling out for a stud and risking an early-round disaster, you're better off waiting for someone to fall to you or assembling a staff of high-upside types available in the middle and late rounds -- especially since all your competitors plan to do the same thing. And why Fantasy owners embrace all of these ideas in Rotisserie drafts and then

throw them out the window in Head-to-Head play, I'll never know. (Actually, I do know, but I don't necessarily agree with their reasoning. To learn more, check out my strategy guide for Head-toHead drafts.) You don't get style points for saves Pitching for a contender improves a closer's Fantasy appeal. Pretty much all Fantasy owners subscribe to this idea on some level, but they might argue by how much. And depending on the league type, their arguments might differ. In Head-to-Head leagues, you have to account for regularity of saves since you obviously don't want to take a goose egg from a reliever in any one week. Closers on contending teams, therefore, have inflated value because their teams win more consistently, giving them more consistent save opportunities. But in Rotisserie leagues, where only the final, end-of-theyear tally counts for anything, saves are saves are saves, and 41 of them mean just as much from Brian Wilson as they do from Jonathan Papelbon. But some Fantasy owners haven't quite caught on to that idea, and they still draft Papelbon at the same inflated value, paying for consistency they don't need. I'm not saying Papelbon doesn't deserve to go earlier than Wilson, but if the difference between the two is 10 rounds -- as it so often is -- why would you pass up an elite hitter in

the early rounds for potentially zero gain in saves? It makes no sense. So instead of worrying so much about the quality of your relievers in Rotisserie leagues, focus on the quantity -- because, believe me, it makes the bigger difference. Just do the math. With no more than 30 closers in the major leagues, if your Fantasy league has 12 teams, six will likely end up with two closers and six will likely end up with three. You want to make sure you're one of the six that gets three, because in doing so, you almost ensure you'll finish in the upper half of your league in saves. Try this award-winning combination: Brian Fuentes, Matt Capps and Chad Qualls. Or here's another one: B.J. Ryan, Huston Street and Frank Francisco. Don't shy away from good pitchers on bad teams, because even they'll likely give you 25-30 saves. You mostly just want to avoid the closers so risky or with such obvious potential replacements that you halfway expect them to lose their jobs -- guys like George Sherrill, Brad Ziegler and Troy Percival. Of course, the three-closer standard applies specifically to 12-team leagues. Depending on the size of your league, you might need only two closers to compete for saves. Then again, you might need four. You can figure out the exact number easily enough. Just divide the number of available closers (30 in mixed leagues, 16 in NL-only, 14 in AL-only, etc.) by the number of teams in your league and, regardless of the decimal point, round up.


The age that's all the rage
By Eric Mack Tell Eric your opinion!

If you are like us -- intensely competitive -- you do the same exercise we do after every baseball season. You scratch your head and say, "I would have won my league if I had so-and-so." Or better yet, you pat yourself on the back with a: "So-and-so won me a Fantasy Baseball title and some drinking money." You play to win the game, as Herm Edwards so eloquently put it. You don't just play to play it. Choosing players who outperform their draft position or auction dollar is the No. 1 objective, in any Fantasy sport. That is why we are here; to help you find those individuals. The owner that won your league a year ago was either a scoundrel who found the most suckers in lopsided trades during the season, or the genius who unearthed the most gems on Draft Day -- maybe even a combination of both. Since you cannot count on finding suckers -- and frankly shouldn't be out to rip off your friends or leaguemates -- we try to help you find those potential sleepers and breakouts on your own. Start with players in their prime, our favorite Fantasy rule of thumb. Obvious, right? Not necessarily ... Name the Fantasy MVPs that helped win Fantasy Baseball leagues last year? Got 'em? Did you say Josh Hamilton and CC Sabathia, perhaps? You should have. That pitcher and hitter weren't picked atop their positions last spring, but they were among the top four winningest players in's Fantasy Baseball Head-to-Head leagues. Save for sophomore sensation and NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum (.561 winning percentage) and injury-risk sleeper/comeback player of the year Cliff Lee (.560), Hamilton (.558) and Sabathia (.556) won the most games for Fantasy owners on our website last year.'s Winningest players Rank 1 2 3 4 Player Tim Lincecum Cliff Lee Josh Hamilton CC Sabathia Rich Harden WPCT .561 .560 .558 .556 .548

None of the top five biggest winners, including injury-risk sleeper Rich Harden, were Fantasy 5 first-rounders. Only Sabathia was rated remotely close.

Yet, some of the most indelible images of 2008 were provided by Hamilton -- hearing his name chanted during the Home Run Derby at old Yankee Stadium -- and big Sabathia, fist pumping and exulting as he pitched (on three days rest yet again) the Brewers to the postseason for the first time in ages. Know what they had in common? They both were 27 years old last season. It is not a coincidence to us. Age 27 is a great way to pinpoint a breakthrough. The theory behind breakouts at that age is based on medical research that suggests a man's body reaches its physical peak at that point. Also, after years of seasoning and pro experience, everything comes together for career highs across the POS board. C It was certainly the case for Hamilton and the second-half world-beater Sabathia. They were good 1B players going in, sure, but great ones coming out. 2B Moneymakers, in fact. 3B SS OK, hindsight is 20-20 and other 27-year-olds like Alex Rios, Curtis Granderson and Ryan Garko OF didn't quite live up to lofty expectations. There are exceptions to every rule. And some, including A's OF GM Billy Beane, define a player's prime as 26 to 31 years of age, a year earlier than we do. OF "But you're right there; I am 100 percent with you on that," he told us last September. SP All-27 breakthrough team Player Ryan Doumit Conor Jackson Rickie Weeks Kevin Kouzmanoff Alexei Ramirez Grady Sizemore Jason Kubel Rocco Baldelli Adam Wainwright TM PIT ARI MIL SD CHW CLE MIN BOS STL

Tony A. Pena ARI You can't argue with Beane, or nature. The strategy of picking players entering their prime physical RP years is a great one if you are trying to choose between a veteran in decline or a comparable player statistically who is now just 27 and yet to be a true MVP (see No. 1 below). Here are our top 10 27-year-olds to target on Draft Day: 110

Note: All of the players mentioned here are either 27 years old on opening day or will turn that age during the season. Catchers

2009's top 27-year-olds First basemen 1. Justin Morneau 2. Adrian Gonzalez 3. Conor Jackson 4. Jorge Cantu 5. Chris Duncan Third basemen 1. Jorge Cantu 2. Kevin Kouzmanoff 3. Wilson Betemit 4. Omar Infante 5. Kory Casto

1. Ryan Doumit 1. Grady Sizemore 2. Yadier Molina Outfielder | Cleveland Indians 27th birthdate: Aug. 2, 2009 3. Mike Napoli Career highs by category: .290 AVG, 33 HR, 90 RBI, 134 R, 38 SB, 390 OBP, .533 4. Ronny Paulino SLUG 5. Lou Palmisano OK, this selection of a sure-fire Fantasy first-rounder atop this list looks like a copout. Second basemen Of course Sizemore is going to have a big year, right? 1. Ian Kinsler 2. Brandon Phillips The point is just how big. 3. Alexei Ramirez Look at his career highs and compare those to the projections of our No. 1 player in 4. Kelly Johnson our 2009 Top 300, Hanley Ramirez: (.308-31-75-120-40-.399-.553). Since Sizemore 5. Rickie Weeks is just now reaching his prime, you could argue he will be the best pick of the first Shortstops round in all leagues. Our modest Sizemore projections (.279-30-80-115-35-.378-.491) slot him sixth in our Rotisserie-leaning Top 300 -- behind only Ramirez, Alex 1. Alexei Ramirez Rodriguez, Jose Reyes, David Wright and Albert Pujols. 2. J.J. Hardy 3. Jhonny Peralta Sizemore is better than we are giving him credit for, especially at this age. We said 4. Yuniesky Betancourt years ago, whether you were listening or not, when he turns 27, he will be a 40-40 man, an MVP candidate and a potential No. 1 overall pick. Like Beane suggested, it 5. Ben Zobrist could have happened in his age-26 season as Sizemore was cruising at last year's Outfielders All-Star break (.273-23-54-60-22-.374-.539). 1. Grady Sizemore 2. Josh Hamilton It didn't. 3. Carlos Quentin The Indians struggled in the second half, mostly due to the losses of Victor Martinez 4. Carl Crawford and Travis Hafner, the guys Sizemore sets the table for from his leadoff spot. The 5. Nate McLouth Indians were well out of the race and, with a noncontender, Sizemore went just .2616. Corey C. Hart 10-36-41-16 after the break, falling short of that 40-40 pace he was on. 7. Andre Ethier While he leads off for the Indians and doesn't get the benefit of as many runners in 8. Shin-Soo Choo scoring position as some of Fantasy's other sluggers and RBI kings, it cannot be Starting pitchers overlooked that he does get the added at-bats of hitting first in the order. Sizemore was third in baseball in plate appearances in 2008 for an offense that vastly 1. Jake Peavy underachieved. His past three seasons of plate appearances rank in the top 50 of all 2. Carlos Zambrano time. That is a lot of opportunities to score Fantasy points, or tally for Rotisserie 3. James Shields leagues. 4. Adam Wainwright 5. Rich Harden You heard it here first: Sizemore will be more consistent at age 27, the Indians' supporting cast will be far better and Sizemore will be someone we consider ranking 6. Jered Weaver 7. Joe Saunders No. 1 overall next spring ... just as we projected years ago. 8. John Maine Everyday health, immense talent, great opportunity and the prime age make for an 9. Scott Baker outstanding combination. 10. Oliver Perez 2. Ian Kinsler Second baseman | Texas Rangers 27th birthdate: June 22, 2009 Career highs by category: .319 AVG, 20 HR, 71 RBI, 102 R, 26 SB, .375 OBP, .517 SLUG Relief pitchers

9. Jason Kubel 10. Rocco Baldelli 11. David Murphy 12. Ben Francisco 13. Chris Dickerson 14. Mark Teahen 15. Luis Montanez

11. Sean Marshall 12. Armando Galarraga 13. Paul Maholm 14. Anthony Reyes 15. Nick Blackburn 16. Ian Snell 17. Micah Owings 18. Dontrelle Willis 19. Boof Bonser 20. Tom Gorzelanny

1. Francisco Rodriguez 6. Hong-Chih Kuo 2. Brian Wilson 7. Taylor Buchholz 3. Chris Ray 8. Casey Janssen 4. Joel Hanrahan 9. Rafael Perez When Kinsler was getting started, we called him the next Chase Utley -- the gold 5. Tony A. Pena 10. Jesse Crain standard of second basemen for this generation, perhaps any generation. But Kinsler got started a lot younger, while Utley didn't breakthrough as a Fantasy star until he was 27, going .291-28-105-93-.376-.540 in 2005. Utley has continued to get better ever since. Kinsler might even be better, in addition to being more accomplished at a similar stage of their careers. Kinsler has more steals potential of course, but he could very well prove to be a .300-30-100-100-30 star the year he is turning the prime age. This one. Don't forget Kinsler's first half a year ago (.337-14-58-84-23-.397-.548). Those are Utley-plus numbers. If not for Kinsler's injury-plagued second half of .258-4-13-18-3-.300-.417, we might have been inclined to rank him atop the second base position this spring -- especially since Utley is coming off offseason hip surgery that could affect the start of his season.


As it is, Kinsler is a close No. 2 at second base but will be available a round or two after the more proven MVP candidate Utley goes off the board, injury risk and all. It is hard to find bargains in the top 25 hitters in Fantasy, but Kinsler can be one for you. That hitter's ballpark in Texas and the protection of Hamilton certain weigh in his favor. 3. Alexei Ramirez Shortstop | Chicago White Sox 27th birthdate: Sept. 22, 2008 Career highs by category: .290 AVG, 21 HR, 77 RBI, 65 R, 13 SB, .317 OBP, .475 SLUG Ramirez is one of the two-time 27-year-old breakthrough candidates, having celebrated his 27th birthday during last season and entering a season at 27 for the first time. It was quite a breakthrough for the Cuban defector, surging to Fantasy prominence after an April where he wallowed on the bench at .138-0-2-1-0-.138-.207. You never know what you're going to get from players who don't have a minor league track record. Starting in May, we got quite a bit from Ramirez and might even get more this go around, especially since he is slated to pick up the added position eligibility at shortstop. Merely writing this story led us to upgrade Ramirez's projections from being a top 60 hitter to one in the top 45. Take a look at Dustin Pedroia's Rookie of the Year campaign in 2007. He started real slow for a month and a half, only to take off and surge the rest of the way -- much like Ramirez did. The Red Sox stayed patient with Pedroia and those splits post-slow start wound up being the type of numbers he posted throughout his 2008 AL MVP season. Now, we aren't saying Ramirez will have the same exponential Fantasy value growth, but if he truly is the player we saw after April, his full-season numbers could amount to a .300-25-100-100-20 monster. Certainly a great consolation if you miss out on Sizemore, Utley, Kinsler or Pedroia in rounds 1-4. 4. Carlos Quentin Outfielder | Chicago White Sox 27th birthdate: Aug. 28, 2009 Career highs by category: .288 AVG, 36 HR, 100 RBI, 96 R, 7 SB, .394 OBP, .571 SLUG Someone in Arizona (everyone?) needs to be fired for letting this one get away before he was 27. The White Sox got a steal with this slugger who looks like a perennial MVP candidate. Had Quentin not gotten hurt last August, he would have won Pedroia's MVP. Quentin came out of the gate mashing and he would have challenged those Fantasy winning percentage leaders we talked about above. Instead, his loss crushed many Fantasy teams down the stretch. We won't hold it against him, but we are guessing the Fantasy public will. See, the difference between Hamilton and Quentin at the outfield position at the time of the broken wrist was indeterminable. But this spring, and in our projections, Hamilton is a sure-fire first-rounder, while Quentin might be considered a reach in Round 2. Perception might be the only reason we have Quentin so far away from Hamilton in our rankings. If you miss out on Hamilton in Round 1, you can get Quentin in Round 2 or maybe even Round 3 -- likely with the same kind of production. 5. Conor Jackson First baseman | Arizona Diamondbacks 27th birthdate: May 7, 2009 Career highs by category: .300 AVG, 15 HR, 79 RBI, 87 R, 10 SB, .376 OBP, .468 SLUG The top four on this list will be highly sought in all Fantasy leagues. They pretty obviously can carry a Fantasy team. Jackson, not so much. This is where the 27-year-old strategy can be genius, finding a diamond in the rough. Jackson might not look like much, especially at his deep position that is filled with big-time sluggers, but he has far more power and run production potential than he has shown. Remember, when moving through the D-Backs system, there was a debate whether Jackson or Quentin would be the better masher in the major leagues. The DBacks picked Jackson and sent Quentin out. Clearly, that is a big fat oops right now, but Jackson can catch up now that he is reaching his prime. There were points last season Jackson actually looked like a 30-homer slugger. He went .348-5-24-24 in April and .343-5-15-20 in July. Granted he only hit only two homers in the season's other four months -- one in May, one in June and none in August or September -- but five homers a month is a pace of 30. Baseball history has taught us that streaky young hitters become big-time stars later, because hot streaks get longer and cold streaks get shorter with experience. Also, Jackson is a master at working the count, drawing walks and posting a strong OPS. You know all the Sabermetrics that say OPS equals run production, but Jackson was explaining his power surges by pitch recognition. When you take a lot of pitches and become more established in the league, you can sit on fastballs to hammer for homers. We project just .287-15-91-85-5, because he has yet to prove consistent enough, but the hunch here is he proves to be a bargain in the middle rounds and proves more potent in the power categories than ever before. 112

6. Kelly Johnson Second baseman | Atlanta Braves 27th birthdate: Feb. 22, 2009 Career highs by category: .287 AVG, 16 HR, 69 RBI, 91 R, 11 SB, .375 OBP, .457 SLUG The Braves finally let Johnson play vs. left-handed pitching last season and all he did was hit .333 with a .366 OBP -- not too shabby. Granted, he hit just one of his 12 homers off lefties, but the point is Johnson is a burgeoning OPS hog hitting his prime and on the verge of becoming one of the game's stars at a thin position in Fantasy. Like so many inexperienced hitters -- Johnson has only had two full seasons -- he is a bit streaky. As we said, that is good news and could mean big things in his prime. It hasn't proven to be true yet, but Johnson is a better pick than Mark DeRosa and maybe even Robinson Cano -- two second basemen sure to be scooped up before Johnson. Our Johnson projections of .273-15-70-82-9-.355-.440 slot him 11th at his position, but frankly they are far too modest. He has the talent to go .300-20-90-100-15, which would make him a Fantasy MVP when you consider his modest draft position. 7. Rickie Weeks Second baseman | Milwaukee Brewers 27th birthdate: Sept. 13, 2009 Career highs by category: .279 AVG, 16 HR, 46 RBI, 89 R, 25 SB, .374 OBP, .432 SLUG Hmm ... this could be a really big year for breakthrough second basemen, eh? Four of the top seven 27-year-olds are second base eligible (although Ramirez is moving to shortstop). You can player-hate on Weeks because of his strikeout rate, suspect defense and .245 career average, but you should not completely forget how big of a talent he is. The two-time NCAA Division I batting title winner can hit for a better average, and his Triple-A manager once went on record as saying Weeks has better power than eventual 50-homer man Prince Fielder. Oh, Weeks can also run. In the not-so-impressive prediction category, when Weeks was called up, we said he could be a .300-30-100-100-30 player in his prime. We are still waiting, but only now is Weeks finally near that point. Weeks has had wrist issues that hindered him the past few years, but he turned the corner after the All-Star break last year. After a hitting .217 in the first half, Weeks posted a more respectable .263 average, .378 OBP and .451 SLUG after the break. Those are reachable levels that can make Weeks a top five Fantasy second baseman because of his rare speed-and-power mix. 8. J.J. Hardy Shortstop | Milwaukee Brewers 27th birthdate: Aug. 19, 2009 Career highs by category: .283 AVG, 26 HR, 80 RBI, 89 R, 2 SB, .343 OBP, .478 SLUG Sticking with Brewers, middle infielders and notoriously streaky hitters, Hardy is every bit of those and capable of putting an even bigger year together. It is likely your opposing Fantasy owners think Hardy has reached his potential and is ready to plateau, but since when is a 26-year-old ready to level off? Hardy had just two homers through June 1 of last year, but he surged with an amazing nine in July alone. He is a four-homers-a-month guy ordinarily, but do you remember his .280-18-54-48 first half in 2007, one that featured a six-homer April and a nine-homer May? His homers come in bunches and we will continue to beat you over the head with the rule of thumb that streaky young hitters become big-time stars in their prime -- Jeff Kent-style. Kent once went from a 15-20 homer guy to an annual MVP candidate, not to mention a future Hall of Famer. We project Hardy as a top 10 Fantasy shortstop at .272-24-75-93-4-.331-.447, but we would not be surprised in the least to see him produce more consistently great numbers and go .275-30-100-100. Those numbers would make Derek Jeter look like Rey Ordonez -- and you just know Jeter is going to go around five rounds earlier in most leagues on name recognition alone. 9. Jhonny Peralta Shortstop | Cleveland Indians 27th birthdate: May 28, 2009 Career highs by category: .292 AVG, 24 HR, 89 RBI, 104 R, 4 SB, .366 OBP, .473 SLUG It is pretty remarkable that Peralta is only now reaching his prime. It seems he has been around for years -- and productive at that. When V-Mart and Hafner went down last season and Sizemore was tailing off a bit, Peralta became the heart of the Indians' order, becoming a rare shortstop that hits cleanup. There aren't many shortstops in baseball that hit cleanup right now, or in history for that matter. Peralta thrived in the cleanup spot, going .300-12-58-63-1-.360-.506 in his 84 games there. Also, his batting average jumped from .261 before the break to .295 after. 113

We slot Peralta just behind Hardy in our top 10 shortstop rankings, but Peralta hits with more runners in scoring position, making it more likely he can tally 100-100. He has reached 89-104 and a full year of health from V-Mart and Hafner should only help matters. 10. Jason Kubel Outfielder | Minnesota Twins 27th birthdate: May 25, 2009 Career highs by category: .273 AVG, 20 HR, 78 RBI, 74 R, 4 SB, .336 OBP, .471 SLUG Kubel was a prospect arguably on the level of AL MVP runner-up Justin Morneau when he was coming up through the Twins system, but a serious knee reconstruction curtailed his development. Only in the middle of last season did he finally look like a solid big league regular. Kubel had a huge June, going .312-6-15-21-0-.409-.636. Those are Morneau splits. Now, Kubel might never hit more than 30 homers or .300 -- mostly because of his struggles against left-handed pitching (.232) -- but his projections will get him picked really late at the deep outfield position. With his first 500 at-bat season possible in his age-27 season, Kubel can go .275-25-90-90. That makes him a bargain in the late rounds. While these 10 are favorites to have career years, the list of 27-year-olds is quite large. Here is the list and career stats of players who will be 27 at some point during the 2009 season, broken down by hitters and pitchers. You should print this list out, highlight these players on your cheatsheet and target them periodically during your draft. The odds are in their favor to be their best yet and outperform their Draft Day value.

27-year-old hitter stats
Player Anderson, Brian N. Anderson, Drew T. Anderson, Josh Aubrey, Michael Baker, Jeff Baldelli, Rocco Barden, Brian Barton, Brian Bellorin, Edwin Betancourt, Yuniesky Betemit, Wilson Bourgeois, Jason Brown, Dusty Brown, Matt Buscher, Brian Cantu, Jorge Carroll, Brett Carter, Chris Casto, Kory Chavez, Angel Choo, Shin-Soo Coats, Buck Costa, Shane Crawford, Carl D'Antona, Jamie Dickerson, Chris Doumit, Ryan Duncan, Chris Ellis, A.J. Ethier, Andre Evans, Terry Fox, Jake Francisco, Ben Frandsen, Kevin Fuld, Sam Gathright, Joey Gonzalez, Adrian Gonzalez, Andy Gwynn, Tony K. Hamilton, Josh Hardy, J.J. Hart, Corey Hill, Aaron Hollimon, Michael Huber, Justin Infante, Omar Jackson, Conor Johnson, Kelly Kinsler, Ian Koshansky, Joe D.O.B 3/11/1982 6/9/1981 8/10/1982 4/15/1982 6/21/1981 9/25/1981 4/2/1981 4/25/1982 2/21/1982 1/31/1982 11/2/1981 1/4/1982 6/19/1982 8/8/1982 4/18/1981 1/30/1982 10/3/1982 9/16/1982 12/8/1981 7/22/1981 7/13/1982 6/9/1982 12/12/1981 8/5/1981 5/12/1982 4/10/1982 4/3/1981 5/5/1981 4/9/1981 4/10/1982 1/19/1982 7/20/1982 10/23/1981 5/24/1982 11/20/1981 4/27/1981 5/8/1982 12/15/1981 10/4/1982 5/21/1981 8/19/1982 3/24/1982 3/21/1982 6/14/1982 7/1/1982 12/26/1981 5/7/1982 2/22/1982 6/22/1982 5/26/1982 G 269 9 61 15 219 447 32 82 6 525 496 6 0 15 103 514 49 9 82 10 159 46 154 925 18 31 335 302 4 420 8 7 146 151 14 408 538 77 130 246 456 406 475 11 71 590 454 384 371 35 AB 597 9 203 45 538 1736 44 153 5 1864 1098 3 0 24 300 1927 66 18 217 19 509 57 421 3786 17 102 1063 887 3 1368 11 14 509 358 6 1145 2024 213 242 922 1661 1412 1720 23 159 1909 1525 1358 1424 50 AVG .221 .111 .315 .200 .262 .281 .182 .268 .200 .282 .260 .333 --.042 .280 .275 .152 .333 .194 .263 .291 .193 .254 .293 .176 .304 .278 .266 .000 .299 .091 .143 .267 .254 .000 .263 .282 .188 .248 .300 .270 .277 .284 .261 .220 .260 .287 .273 .290 .180 HR 18 0 3 2 22 52 0 2 0 25 42 0 0 0 6 74 0 0 2 0 17 1 5 70 0 6 36 50 0 44 1 0 18 7 0 1 97 3 0 51 64 55 28 1 2 35 44 37 52 3 RBI 62 0 23 3 85 234 1 13 0 180 151 0 0 3 57 304 3 3 19 1 94 3 42 434 1 15 153 143 0 196 2 1 66 38 0 96 325 13 15 177 218 212 188 2 15 194 222 177 187 10 R 76 3 31 2 91 255 6 23 0 230 145 0 0 0 37 242 15 5 16 1 97 4 49 559 2 20 144 139 1 190 3 3 75 38 3 168 311 20 23 150 226 203 225 4 14 237 226 223 263 5 SB 10 0 11 0 6 58 0 3 0 21 5 0 0 1 1 8 0 0 1 0 9 1 2 302 0 5 5 4 0 11 0 0 4 4 0 78 0 1 14 12 5 53 15 0 1 34 13 22 60 0 OBP .277 .200 .364 .280 .319 .325 .217 .354 .200 .305 .325 .333 --.148 .335 .317 .200 .400 .264 .263 .377 .242 .289 .330 .263 .413 .341 .353 .000 .364 .231 .200 .329 .318 .333 .328 .349 .291 .300 .370 .329 .323 .339 .280 .273 .304 .367 .356 .360 .236 SLUG .379 .111 .419 .333 .468 .445 .205 .392 .200 .400 .437 .667 --.083 .373 .460 .197 .333 .276 .316 .493 .333 .366 .435 .176 .608 .456 .487 .000 .482 .364 .286 .446 .363 .000 .304 .494 .258 .298 .538 .446 .485 .409 .565 .302 .391 .443 .440 .473 .440


Player Kouzmanoff, Kevin Kubel, Jason Lucy, Donny Macri, Matt Maier, Mitch Mather, Joe Maysonet, Edwin McLouth, Nate Melillo, Kevin Metcalf, Travis Molina, Gustavo Molina, Yadier Montanez, Luis Morneau, Justin Morse, Mike Morton, Colt Murphy, David Murton, Matt Napoli, Mike Nix, Jayson Ortmeier, Daniel Pagan, Angel Palmisano, Lou Paulino, Ronny Pena, Brayan Pena, Wily Mo Peralta, Jhonny Phillips, Brandon Powell, Landon Quentin, Carlos Quintanilla, Omar Quiroz, Guillermo Raburn, Ryan Ramirez, Alexei Reed, Jeremy Reyes, Argenis Ruggiano, Justin Ryan, Brendan Sandoval, Freddy Santos, Omir Sizemore, Grady Smith, Seth Snelling, Chris Snyder, Brad Stansberry, Craig Stavinoha, Nick Stewart, Chris Taveras, Willy Teahen, Mark Tolbert, Matt Velez, Eugenio Weeks, Rickie Whitesell, Josh Willits, Reggie Young, Delwyn Zobrist, Ben

D.O.B 7/25/1981 5/25/1982 8/8/1982 5/29/1982 6/30/1982 7/23/1982 10/17/1981 10/28/1981 5/14/1982 8/17/1982 2/24/1982 7/13/1982 12/15/1981 5/15/1981 3/22/1982 4/10/1982 10/18/1981 10/3/1981 10/31/1981 8/26/1982 5/11/1981 7/2/1981 9/16/1982 4/21/1981 1/7/1982 1/23/1982 5/28/1982 6/28/1981 3/19/1982 8/28/1982 10/24/1981 11/29/1981 4/17/1981 9/22/1981 6/15/1981 9/25/1982 4/12/1982 3/26/1982 8/16/1982 4/29/1981 8/2/1982 9/30/1982 12/3/1981 5/25/1982 3/8/1982 5/3/1982 2/19/1982 12/25/1981 9/6/1981 5/4/1982 5/16/1982 9/13/1982 4/14/1982 5/30/1981 6/30/1982 5/26/1981

G 315 365 8 18 39 54 7 436 1 80 19 529 38 732 107 10 174 317 252 22 124 179 0 304 71 560 681 583 0 268 158 95 153 136 336 49 52 147 6 11 682 74 93 0 23 29 24 541 532 41 112 445 7 246 110 145

AB 1164 1161 15 34 104 133 7 1305 0 217 34 1734 112 2681 300 16 542 900 714 56 255 409 0 1021 127 1590 2519 2177 0 875 442 234 349 480 1061 110 90 377 6 10 2695 116 225 0 23 57 48 1973 1956 113 286 1615 7 583 165 478

AVG .264 .268 .200 .324 .269 .241 .143 .261 --.249 .118 .262 .295 .281 .300 .063 .286 .288 .248 .125 .255 .259 --.278 .228 .253 .268 .262 --.262 .226 .201 .255 .290 .257 .218 .200 .265 .167 .100 .279 .284 .244 --.348 .193 .188 .283 .268 .283 .262 .245 .286 .273 .267 .222

HR 44 43 0 1 0 8 0 51 0 11 0 29 3 133 3 0 18 28 46 0 6 9 0 19 2 77 85 74 0 50 2 2 8 21 11 1 2 4 0 0 111 4 7 0 0 0 0 7 47 0 1 51 1 0 3 15

RBI 169 176 0 4 9 18 0 160 0 35 1 209 14 523 37 1 90 106 125 2 24 52 0 128 12 225 330 285 0 163 30 26 48 77 98 3 10 22 0 0 349 15 20 0 3 4 3 109 243 6 32 158 1 43 10 57

R 132 156 0 3 12 20 0 245 0 36 1 144 18 393 33 2 85 127 126 2 25 61 0 102 16 196 383 295 0 148 53 18 58 65 131 13 11 60 0 0 479 17 31 0 5 4 4 295 274 18 37 306 1 107 14 50

SB 1 8 0 1 0 1 0 57 0 0 0 4 0 4 4 0 7 8 14 1 5 12 0 2 0 12 8 84 0 10 3 1 7 13 19 2 2 14 0 0 117 1 2 0 0 0 0 169 34 7 19 78 0 33 1 7

OBP .311 .326 .200 .361 .309 .306 .143 .338 1.000 .300 .162 .316 .316 .348 .365 .158 .334 .354 .362 .234 .309 .316 --.331 .252 .307 .335 .308 --.359 .278 .266 .306 .317 .314 .259 .250 .326 .286 .100 .370 .366 .360 --.423 .217 .235 .331 .332 .322 .303 .352 .444 .379 .331 .279

SLUG .442 .445 .200 .441 .298 .474 .143 .461 --.475 .147 .360 .446 .498 .397 .063 .480 .438 .493 .161 .412 .406 --.382 .315 .447 .437 .425 --.505 .301 .269 .407 .475 .365 .245 .311 .345 .167 .100 .491 .466 .400 --.391 .211 .229 .337 .421 .389 .392 .406 .714 .319 .394 .370


27-year-old pitcher stats
Player Aardsma, David Accardo, Jeremy Acosta, Manny Baker, Scott Banks, Josh Bass, Brian Bergmann, Jason Bisenius, Joe Blackburn, Nick Bonine, Eddie Bonser, Boof Boyer, Blaine Bruney, Brian Buchholz, Taylor Burnett, Sean Burres, Brian Burton, Jared Cabrera, Daniel Cabrera, Fernando Coke, Phil Cordero, Chad Crain, Jesse Cruceta, Francisco De La Rosa, Jorge Delcarmen, Manny Dumatrait, Phil Espineli, Geno Gabbard, Kason Galarraga, Armando Germano, Justin Gobble, Jimmy Gonzalez, Enrique Gorzelanny, Tom Gray, Jeff Guevara, Carlos Guzman, Angel Hammel, Jason Hanrahan, Joel Harden, Rich Henn, Sean Herrera, Yoslan Hill, Shawn Hirsh, Jason Huber, Jon James, Chuck Janssen, Casey Johnson, Tyler Karstens, Jeff Kensing, Logan Kuo, Hong-Chih Littleton, Wes Livingston, Bobby Loe, Kameron Maholm, Paul Maine, John Marcum, Shaun Marshall, Sean Martinez, Carlos Masset, Nick McCrory, Rob McGowan, Dustin Messenger, Randy Meyer, Dan Miller, Jim Miner, Zach Misch, Patrick Moseley, Dustin Motte, Jason Murphy, Bill Murray, A.J. Newman, Josh Nieve, Fernando Nippert, Dustin Ohlendorf, Ross Osoria, Franquelis D.O.B 12/27/1981 12/8/1981 5/1/1981 9/19/1981 7/18/1982 1/6/1982 9/25/1981 9/18/1982 2/24/1982 6/6/1981 10/14/1981 7/11/1981 2/17/1982 10/13/1981 9/17/1982 4/8/1981 6/2/1981 5/28/1981 11/16/1981 7/19/1982 3/18/1982 7/5/1981 7/4/1981 4/5/1981 2/16/1982 7/12/1981 9/8/1982 4/8/1982 1/15/1982 8/6/1982 7/19/1981 7/14/1982 7/12/1982 11/19/1981 3/18/1982 12/14/1981 9/2/1982 10/6/1981 11/30/1981 4/23/1981 4/28/1981 4/28/1981 2/20/1982 7/7/1981 11/9/1981 9/17/1981 6/7/1981 9/24/1982 7/3/1982 7/23/1981 9/2/1982 9/3/1982 9/10/1981 6/25/1982 5/8/1981 12/14/1981 8/30/1982 5/26/1982 5/17/1982 5/3/1982 3/24/1982 8/13/1981 7/3/1981 4/28/1982 3/12/1982 8/18/1981 12/26/1981 6/22/1982 5/9/1981 3/17/1982 6/11/1982 7/15/1982 5/6/1981 8/8/1982 9/12/1981 G 128 173 67 78 20 49 95 2 39 5 96 126 186 126 71 79 101 147 125 12 305 249 19 125 177 27 15 34 33 47 235 27 67 5 10 33 73 81 109 40 5 37 32 25 64 89 116 24 102 87 80 13 107 96 84 89 79 14 77 8 75 161 19 8 106 34 61 12 10 16 14 51 61 36 104 GS 0 0 0 76 15 4 50 0 33 5 60 0 1 27 13 39 0 146 0 0 0 0 3 64 0 17 0 31 29 35 43 18 65 0 0 14 28 11 101 5 5 37 29 0 55 17 0 18 3 14 0 10 47 96 81 64 50 0 2 0 56 0 7 0 30 11 20 0 0 4 0 11 11 5 0 INN 144 2/3 178 1/3 76 2/3 453 92 2/3 89 1/3 339 1/3 2 205 26 2/3 391 2/3 115 2/3 182 1/3 273 128 1/3 258 2/3 101 2/3 841 1/3 168 2/3 14 2/3 320 2/3 262 1/3 26 404 180 2/3 96 2/3 16 163 187 1/3 205 423 2/3 111 2/3 374 2/3 4 2/3 12 1/3 96 207 1/3 135 1/3 612 2/3 66 2/3 18 1/3 206 1/3 165 2/3 28 315 2/3 166 2/3 77 108 2/3 125 2/3 175 1/3 102 1/3 61 1/3 343 2/3 601 1/3 464 2/3 396 2/3 294 1/3 13 110 6 1/3 353 2/3 174 1/3 46 7 2/3 264 2/3 93 2/3 153 1/3 11 6 1/3 35 2/3 17 2/3 107 141 2/3 69 136 1/3 W 10 7 4 28 3 4 10 0 11 2 18 6 11 18 6 13 9 48 8 1 20 25 0 25 3 3 2 9 13 8 22 4 22 0 1 0 7 11 41 2 1 7 8 2 24 8 3 5 7 7 5 3 19 30 33 24 16 0 4 0 20 4 0 0 18 0 7 0 0 2 0 3 5 1 4 L 3 16 6 24 6 4 19 0 13 1 25 8 10 21 6 18 3 59 7 0 14 16 4 31 2 8 0 7 7 16 23 7 25 0 0 7 15 6 20 6 1 15 11 1 19 13 5 11 7 13 3 3 23 35 27 17 22 1 3 0 22 11 6 2 15 7 7 0 0 2 0 4 8 4 9 ERA 5.29 3.99 3.17 4.23 4.95 4.84 5.04 0.00 4.26 5.40 5.12 5.06 4.34 4.42 4.91 5.88 2.92 5.05 5.02 0.61 2.78 3.26 7.96 5.55 3.49 7.08 5.06 4.53 3.84 5.27 5.23 5.96 4.78 7.71 5.84 6.00 5.90 4.72 3.23 7.56 9.82 4.93 5.32 2.57 4.48 3.89 4.32 4.89 4.94 3.90 3.69 6.31 4.77 4.30 4.18 3.95 4.62 4.15 5.07 15.63 4.71 4.90 7.63 1.17 4.22 5.00 5.52 0.82 5.68 4.29 8.15 4.63 6.42 6.13 5.48 SO 139 132 53 337 45 45 257 3 104 9 317 103 182 194 72 165 94 651 185 14 292 159 22 324 167 61 8 103 132 119 275 67 245 4 11 96 140 136 612 47 10 130 110 19 234 83 65 44 124 204 55 30 180 387 398 314 202 13 68 5 285 115 32 8 155 65 90 16 2 23 11 82 113 58 72 BB 90 57 40 101 34 31 127 2 41 5 125 44 130 72 62 117 47 478 92 2 117 87 20 221 69 54 8 96 68 70 163 37 172 1 9 50 96 80 262 52 12 67 74 10 128 41 42 33 71 73 37 14 123 210 202 141 117 7 54 8 141 80 24 5 100 27 49 3 7 18 12 43 73 33 37 WHIP 1.652 1.262 1.317 1.294 1.500 1.444 1.397 2.000 1.385 1.538 1.448 1.409 1.547 1.205 1.597 1.655 1.289 1.549 1.506 0.682 1.198 1.239 2.038 1.651 1.262 1.810 1.563 1.546 1.217 1.444 1.487 1.424 1.511 1.929 1.784 1.667 1.640 1.567 1.213 2.040 2.564 1.459 1.449 1.179 1.372 1.266 1.416 1.436 1.528 1.295 1.231 1.630 1.516 1.410 1.306 1.283 1.413 1.538 1.691 2.842 1.374 1.675 1.761 1.826 1.413 1.409 1.552 0.727 2.526 1.542 2.208 1.374 1.680 1.797 1.555 BAA .269 .247 .223 .274 .294 .280 .265 .286 .296 .333 .281 .267 .228 .249 .288 .297 .224 .259 .255 .160 .222 .242 .317 .282 .236 .310 .279 .257 .227 .279 .279 .279 .273 .364 .265 .293 .295 .254 .216 .307 .427 .286 .257 .228 .256 .263 .233 .283 .252 .234 .239 .330 .288 .279 .233 .244 .263 .271 .307 .370 .256 .305 .300 .290 .269 .285 .309 .139 .346 .264 .351 .256 .286 .314 .315


Player Owings, Micah Peavy, Jake Pena, Tony Perez, Oliver Perez, Rafael Pignatiello, Carmen Pinto, Renyel Purcey, David Ramirez, Ramon Ramirez, Ramon Ray, Chris Reineke, Chad Reyes, Anthony Robertson, Connor Rodriguez, Francisco Roenicke, Josh Rosales, Leo Rundles, Rich Rupe, Josh Sadler, Billy Sarfate, Dennis Saunders, Joe Shields, James Simon, Alfredo Smith, Chris Snell, Ian Stauffer, Tim Tata, Jordan Tejeda, Robinson Thatcher, Joe Thompson, Brad Threets, Erick Valdez, Merkin Vasquez, Virgil Villarreal, Oscar Wagner, Ryan Wainwright, Adam Weaver, Jered Wells, Jared Wells, Randy White, Sean Willis, Dontrelle Wilson, Brian Woods, Jake Zambrano, Carlos

D.O.B 9/28/1982 5/31/1981 1/9/1982 8/15/1981 5/15/1982 9/12/1982 7/8/1982 4/22/1982 8/31/1981 9/16/1982 1/12/1982 4/9/1982 10/16/1981 9/10/1981 1/7/1982 8/4/1982 5/28/1981 6/3/1981 8/18/1982 9/21/1981 4/9/1981 6/16/1981 12/20/1981 5/8/1981 4/9/1981 10/30/1981 6/2/1982 9/20/1981 3/24/1982 10/4/1981 1/31/1982 11/4/1981 11/5/1981 6/7/1982 11/22/1981 7/15/1982 8/30/1981 10/4/1982 10/31/1981 8/28/1982 4/25/1981 1/12/1982 3/16/1982 9/3/1981 6/1/1981

G 51 199 172 175 135 6 151 12 154 5 145 4 59 9 408 5 27 8 66 38 72 64 85 4 12 113 18 11 88 47 153 10 19 5 258 148 115 77 8 4 15 170 118 84 231

GS 45 199 0 174 0 0 0 12 0 4 0 3 44 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 4 64 85 1 0 101 17 3 47 0 24 0 1 3 5 0 52 77 0 0 0 169 0 8 210

INN 257 1/3 1261 188 2/3 999 1/3 149 1/3 2 2/3 153 65 156 2/3 27 149 1/3 18 255 9 451 2/3 3 30 5 128 48 1/3 96 1/3 385 1/3 554 2/3 13 18 1/3 612 1/3 94 2/3 28 2/3 300 46 2/3 305 2/3 12 1/3 17 2/3 16 2/3 336 165 1/3 411 460 2/3 8 1/3 5 1/3 35 1/3 1046 2/3 116 162 1/3 1382

W 14 86 11 55 5 0 4 3 9 1 10 2 12 0 23 0 1 0 4 0 5 32 32 0 1 31 4 1 16 2 19 0 1 0 24 11 27 35 0 0 1 68 6 8 96

L 17 62 10 60 6 0 9 6 7 1 13 1 25 1 17 0 1 0 2 1 3 15 24 0 0 38 7 1 19 6 11 1 0 1 15 9 16 19 0 0 1 56 7 5 61

ERA 4.97 3.25 4.05 4.39 2.89 6.75 3.88 5.54 3.62 2.67 3.19 5.00 4.91 8.00 2.35 9.00 4.20 1.80 4.57 4.28 4.39 4.04 3.96 6.23 7.85 4.67 6.37 6.91 4.77 5.21 4.24 6.57 4.08 8.64 3.86 4.79 3.48 3.71 8.64 0.00 5.60 3.91 4.34 4.60 3.48

SO 193 1256 136 1027 163 3 148 58 146 21 138 13 183 4 587 6 18 6 73 48 111 227 448 8 13 524 57 14 226 33 146 7 15 7 236 130 299 372 5 1 16 775 108 99 1172

BB 91 407 56 528 44 2 98 29 64 11 63 12 96 4 198 2 15 3 59 29 67 120 114 2 7 264 36 15 167 19 94 12 10 5 135 79 127 132 7 3 20 379 56 79 620

WHIP 1.325 1.186 1.246 1.425 1.085 2.625 1.405 1.477 1.277 1.037 1.185 1.444 1.337 2.000 1.114 2.667 1.567 1.600 1.500 1.407 1.484 1.342 1.199 1.385 1.364 1.517 1.542 1.570 1.513 1.586 1.397 2.270 1.585 1.920 1.372 1.591 1.282 1.253 2.160 0.563 1.557 1.379 1.431 1.571 1.287

BAA .254 .232 .251 .240 .213 .417 .217 .267 .236 .183 .210 .219 .254 .359 .189 .400 .271 .263 .281 .223 .218 .268 .259 .296 .261 .280 .289 .275 .254 .293 .281 .327 .265 .360 .256 .281 .254 .252 .314 .000 .261 .265 .253 .275 .228


Draft Day pitching philosophies
By Scott White Tell Scott your opinion!

Edinson Volquez. Ryan Dempster. Cliff Lee. Ricky Nolasco. Gavin Floyd. At the beginning of 2008, you couldn't have imagined any of those guys on your Fantasy team. But by the end of the year, you couldn't have imagined life without them. And if you somehow managed to snag all of them off the waiver wire early last season, you got the last laugh over every Tommy Tapwater last seen leaning back with his hands behind his head in the far corner of the draft room, sitting smug with his starting rotation of Justin Verlander, Erik Bedard, Aaron Harang, Fausto Carmona and Tim Hudson. Yes, starting pitchers are a fickle bunch. Just when you think you have them figured out, they find a way to confuse you even more. You can spend an entire season wrestling with one you picked in the early rounds, moving him in and out of your lineup based on tough matchups, inconsistent play and injuries -- unfulfilled expectations, in one form or another. But what if I told you it didn't have to be that way, that you could play a season without having to worry about a drop in velocity or a postgame MRI, without that unwritten obligation to keep an underperforming ace in your starting lineup simply because you drafted him 18th overall? It's simple, really: Just don't draft a pitcher in the early rounds. Don't even bother. Oh sure, it works sometimes. Every now and then, you'll find someone who drafts a stud pitcher early, gets exactly the stats he expected, playfully calls him his team MVP on the league message board, and lives happily ever after. I never said that by drafting a pitcher early, you doom yourself to failure. But you don't give yourself the best possible chance to succeed either. But before I explain how this strategy works, I figure you might need a little more convincing. The capricious nature of starting pitchers I like to use the term "boom-or-bust potential" when comparing pitchers to hitters, believing that pitchers have more of it -- and by far. Every year, several nobody starting pitchers emerge as studs, and several studs fall off

the face of the earth. By comparison, hitters are more predictable. The top prospects usually enter the league somewhat raw and overmatched before gradually climbing to superstar status, improving little by little each year until they reach those "peak years" in which they perform at their highest level. Then, they gradually decline, slowly fading from Fantasy usefulness before ultimately retiring. Hitters follow such a familiar pattern that you don't get the same out-of-left-field surprises from them that you get from pitchers each year.

Now, I realize plenty of hitters dramatically improved their Fantasy standing last season. You might point to Josh Hamilton and Dustin Pedroia as examples, but the fact of the matter is they got drafted. They didn't catch anybody by surprise. Everybody had caught on to them, scooping them up as late-round sleepers, so you can't use them as examples any more than I can use Ervin Santana or Jon Lester. They broke out, sure, but they didn't boom. Of course, the boom of our five out-of-leftfield nobodies only tells half the story. So many of their brethren, such as the five I mentioned above -- Verlander, Bedard, Harang, Carmona and Hudson -- busted, performing well below their draft status either because they forgot how to pitch or because they suffered some sort of injury. And while pitchers throughout history typically haven't shied away from sudden statistical regressions, it's that second option -- the injuries -- that should terrify you more. A marked pitcher doesn't even need some sort of on-field collision or other sort of freak accident to cause the injury. It could happen, and most often does, simply in the performance of his job -- a windup, a delivery and pop! Forearm, shoulder, elbow -- what this time? Sure, hitters have their share of injuries too, but consider how Tommy John surgery has become almost a rite of passage for pitchers, meaning no one can relax with them on the mound until they've had one. It's like a ticking time bomb, a question of when rather than if, that inevitable case of chickenpox you'd rather knock out while young and resilient than endure later in life. When you consider its prevalence -- not to mention the 18 months of rehabilitation it requires -- can you think of any hitting injury, on any scope or level, that even compares? I can't. You can't control it. He can't control it. Nobody knows when it'll come exactly, but everyone knows it might. It's a shot in the dark, a total coin flip, and yet a chance so many Fantasy owners seem ready and willing to take. If you want the one guideline to ensure that you finish near the top of your Fantasy league every season, this is it: Don't leave yourself vulnerable to things you can't control.

Finding a potential breakout pitcher like Jon Lester a year ago will pay big dividends. (US Presswire)

Don’t believe me? Just look at the evidence. Take the five pitchers I mentioned at the beginning of this piece: Volquez, Dempster, Lee, Nolasco and Floyd. All five ranked as top-25 options last season according to standard Head-to-Head scoring, yet all five were drafted in less than 50 percent of leagues. You know how many hitters fit that same mold, ranking in the top 25 even though less than half of the Fantasy-playing community considered them worthy of roster spots entering the season? Exactly two: Nate McLouth and Aubrey Huff -- and Huff just barely made the cut at 49.4 percent. Most of the pitchers didn't even come close, with Volquez at 36.4 percent, Dempster at 28.6 percent and Lee at 10.4 percent. Nolasco and Floyd got so little attention on Draft Day that their percentages didn't even register.


You can't control injury, but by making a pitcher the centerpiece of your team, you leave yourself vulnerable to it. For that reason alone, a heavy investment in pitching is a heavy investment in luck, and if you wanted to rely on luck to win, you'd have played something like roulette or Candy Land instead of Fantasy Baseball. Scavenging for a winning pitching staff I don't mean to suggest the game of Fantasy Baseball doesn't involve any luck. It does, and until someone figures out a way to predict the future, it always will. But that's precisely the point of this whole strategy. If you get in the habit of trying to predict, of saying "I think this guy will stay healthy" or "I think this guy will have a monster season" and then acting accordingly, you get in the habit of counting on good luck. My continuing goal in Fantasy is to make the game less about prediction and more about maximizing knowns. In baseball, the known commodity is hitters, meaning they work to your advantage in the early rounds but to your disadvantage in the later rounds.

That's when you have to remember the other side of the boom-or-bust spectrum. True, the bust potential should scare you away from pitchers early, but only as much as the boom potential should draw you to them late. Just like you used the known quality of hitters to your advantage in the early rounds, you want to use the unknown quality of pitchers to your advantage in the later rounds. At that point, you want the unknown, because a known commodity in the later rounds is probably a mediocre one anyway. So go all-out for pitching. Look for the hurlers with favorable strikeout rates and WHIPs, the stats that most indicate emerging dominance, and don't worry so much about win-loss records and ERAs, the stats more influenced by luck. Your goal, of course, is to find the next batch of Volquez, Dempster, Lee, Nolasco and Floyd. But wait. Those five guys went undrafted, remember. You don't even have to dig that deep. Instead, target guys like Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo and Matt Garza, whose peripheral numbers and pedigrees say they have the potential to perform like the Dan Harens, Roy Oswalts and John Lackeys of the world in the not-too-distant future, and wait to supplement your staff with those outof-left-field guys -- Volquez, Lee and company -- when they begin to emerge after opening day. And that's the most important part of building this type of rotation. You have to remember that Draft Day is only the first step. From the beginning of the season, you need to monitor box scores on a nightly basis, and when you see a free-agent pitcher string together two or three dominant starts in a row -- meaning a high number of innings and strikeouts and a low number of walks -- pick him up, regardless of your preconceived notions about him. You don't want to miss out on the next Dempster, after all. Besides, if he ends up bombing over his next two starts, you can always drop him for someone else. As long as you follow the box scores and keep one or two roster spots flexible for spurof-the-moment pickups, you will land one or two out-of-left-field, nobody-saw-themcoming, top-25 starting pitchers, guaranteed.

A few clarifications and warnings Before you do something crazy, like devote each of your first 13 picks to hitters, keep in mind I outlined the most extreme example of the hitter-first mentality. In order to execute it perfectly, you need to discern when exactly to veer off course. For example, in a 15-team mock draft I did earlier this offseason, when I saw CC Sabathia fall to the fourth round, you better believe I jumped all over him. If you have a plan, you want to stick to it, sure, but you shouldn't ignore a once-in-a-lifetime bargain slapping you up and down the face. Besides, by the sixth or seventh round, you'll probably want to have at least one starting pitcher on your roster just to stabilize your rotation during those early stages when you don't know exactly which of your middle-tolate-round sleepers will take that next step forward. You don't need a pitcher like Sabathia, obviously, but maybe a Chad Billingsley or Jon Lester -- someone trustworthy who you can get at a reasonable value. And by that point in the draft, taking a pitcher will probably make the most sense anyway. You'll already have five or six stud hitters, and while you might still have some holes in your lineup, the studs by then have disappeared. The choices to fill those holes won't seem nearly as obvious, and waiting one round to take Vernon Wells instead of Bobby Abreu won't make much of a difference to your Fantasy team. Mostly, you just want to ensure you have one of the heaviest-hitting teams in the league. As long as you do that and target only the highupside pitchers (and not the ones treading water like Derek Lowe and Mark Buehrle), you'll end up in a favorable situation.

Drafting a loaded lineup and discovering guys like Zack Greinke later is key. (US Presswire)

Follow me yet? You will. Just keep reading. So you get several rounds into a draft and have your rock-solid foundation of hitters. You have your knowns. What next? You still need good pitching, obviously. If hitters could win this game on their own, you wouldn't find anyone targeting pitchers early.

And if you end up with two top-25 starters in a 12-team league, suddenly your starting rotation is on the same level as everybody else's -- even the guys who used early-round draft picks to build theirs. Except you also have that stud lineup they only wish they had. Because when they try to scavenge the waiver wire for hitters, they won't have nearly as much success as you had with pitchers. It's all about boom-or-bust potential. 119

Multi-position eligible players for 2009
By Eric Mack Tell Eric your opinion!

We break down the 52 hitters and 30 pitchers who will be eligible at more than one position in a standard Fantasy Baseball league on for 2009. The standard we use for hitters is at least 20 games at a position in the previous season. Each of these players has played 20-plus games at the positions assigned to them. For pitchers, dual eligibility at relief pitcher and starting pitcher is determined by at least five starts and 10 relief appearances last season. For reference, we listed the games played by position in 2008.

Multiposition eligibile players for Fantasy Baseball 2009
Player Aaron Miles Anthony Reyes Asdrubal Cabrera Aubrey Huff Augie Ojeda Ben Zobrist Blake DeWitt Boof Bonser Brad Thompson Brandon Inge Brandon Morrow Brandon Wood Brendan Harris Brendan Ryan Brett Tomko Carlos Guillen Carlos Villanueva Casey Blake Cha Seung Baek Chad Gaudin Chan Ho Park Chin-lung Hu Chris Davis Chris Duncan Chris Sampson Clint Barmes Conor Jackson Craig Counsell David Eckstein Doug Mientkiewicz Dustin Nippert Edgar G. Gonzalez Emmanuel Burriss Eric Bruntlett Esteban German Frank Catalanotto Garrett Atkins Glendon Rusch Hank Blalock Jamey Carroll Jason Hammel Jed Lowrie Jeff Baker Jerry Hairston Joba Chamberlain Joe Inglett Jorge Campillo Jorge Cantu Juan Uribe Justin Masterson Kevin Youkilis Luis Mendoza POS1 2B SP 2B 1B 2B SS 2B SP SP 3B SP 3B SS SS SP 3B SP 3B SP SP SP SS 3B 1B SP 2B 1B 3B SS 1B SP SP SS SS 2B 1B 3B SP 1B 2B SP SS 2B OF SP 2B SP 3B 2B SP 1B SP POS2 SS RP SS 3B 3B OF 3B RP RP C RP SS 2B 2B RP 1B RP 1B RP RP RP 2B 1B OF RP SS OF SS 2B 3B RP RP 2B OF OF OF 1B RP 3B 3B RP 3B 1B SS RP OF RP 1B 3B RP 3B RP POS3 SS 3B 3B GPC 0 0 0 0 0 0 60 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 GP1B 0 0 24 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 24 29 0 51 21 0 68 0 0 37 0 2 0 33 61 34 0 0 22 0 0 66 0 125 GP2B 85 94 0 44 8 27 0 0 39 23 0 1 30 0 0 61 0 19 24 0 41 5 35 0 1 0 74 3 49 7 66 0 52 0 GP3B 11 0 33 28 1 95 51 32 34 5 89 133 0 32 0 13 0 38 0 33 0 27 6 0 94 31 43 45 9 1 6 129 57 36 GPSS 27 20 0 22 35 0 0 28 55 40 0 1 35 0 0 36 0 24 57 0 47 35 3 0 0 0 0 49 0 34 2 0 4 0 GPOF 6 0 0 0 21 0 15 0 0 4 2 0 0 0 45 1 77 0 0 10 1 36 39 26 0 0 1 0 3 53 35 0 0 2 GPDH 0 1 98 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 9 0 0 0 5 25 0 0 0 1 3 0 2 0 1 0 GPSP 6 12 6 5 10 9 21 6 5 11 6 6 9 5 12 25 9 11 GPRP 10 35 20 40 12 38 11 44 49 43 14 11 26 35 30 14 27 14 120

Player Luis Rivas Maicer Izturis Marco Scutaro Mark DeRosa Mark Hendrickson Miguel Batista Mike Aviles Nelson Figueroa Nick Punto Nick Swisher Omar Infante Omar Quintanilla Phil Dumatrait R.A. Dickey Ramon Santiago Ramon Vazquez Rich Aurilia Robb Quinlan Ronnie Belliard Ronny Cedeno Ross Ohlendorf Ryan Rowland-Smith Sean Marshall Seth McClung Ty Wigginton Wes Helms Wil Ledezma Wilson Betemit Yusmeiro Petit Zach Miner



POS3 3B 3B SS 1B -

GPC 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -

GP1B 0 0 3 1 0 0 71 0 0 0 1 82 22 33 0 0 42 36 -

GP2B 29 23 50 95 28 26 0 10 40 21 11 1 0 29 43 0 0 3 -

GP3B 1 5 41 22 7 12 0 32 0 6 70 63 39 31 7 82 60 21 -

GPSS 31 52 56 1 91 61 0 20 39 33 26 0 0 5 27 0 0 14 -

GPOF 0 0 3 65 0 3 106 37 0 0 0 0 6 0 2 30 1 0 -

GPDH 0 0 3 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 4 0 0 0 0 1 -

GPSP 19 20 6 11 14 5 12 7 12 6 8 13

GPRP 17 24 10 10 18 25 35 27 25 22 11 32


Arizona Diamondbacks
Catcher Chris Snyder Miguel Montero Luke Carlin First Base Chad Tracy Conor Jackson Tony Clark Josh Whitesell Second Base Felipe Lopez Augie Ojeda Third Base Mark Reynolds Chad Tracy Ryan Roberts Shortstop Stephen O. Drew Augie Ojeda Josh Wilson Left Field Conor Jackson Eric Byrnes Center Field Chris B. Young Eric Byrnes Right Field Justin Upton Eric Byrnes Starting Pitchers Brandon Webb Dan Haren Jon Garland Doug Davis Max Scherzer Bullpen Chad Qualls Tony A. Pena Jon Rauch Tom Gordon Scott Schoeneweis Doug Slaten Billy Buckner Yusmeiro Petit Juan Gutierrez GP 115 70 36 GP 88 144 108 7 GP 143 105 GP 152 88 1 GP 152 105 AVG .237 .255 .149 AVG .267 .300 .225 .286 AVG .283 .242 AVG .239 .267 0 AVG .291 .242 R 47 24 12 R 25 87 12 1 R 64 27 R 87 25 0 R 91 27 HR 16 5 1 HR 8 12 3 1 HR 6 0 HR 28 8 0 HR 21 0 RBI 64 18 6 RBI 39 75 24 1 RBI 46 17 RBI 97 39 0 RBI 67 17 SB 0 0 0 SB 0 10 0 0 SB 8 0 SB 11 0 0 SB 3 0

Atlanta Braves
Catcher Brian McCann David Ross J.C. Boscan First Base Casey Kotchman Greg Norton Second Base Kelly Johnson Omar Infante Brooks Conrad Third Base Chipper Jones Omar Infante Greg Norton Shortstop Yunel Escobar Martin Prado Left Field Garret Anderson Matt Diaz Brandon Jones Greg Norton Center Field Jordan Schafer Gregor M. Blanco Right Field Jeff Francoeur Matt Diaz Starting Pitchers Derek Lowe Jair Jurrjens Javier Vazquez Kenshin Kawakami Tom Glavine Tim Hudson Bullpen Mike Gonzalez Rafael Soriano Manny Acosta Jeff Bennett Eric O'Flaherty Peter Moylan Jorge Campillo Boone Logan Blaine Boyer Buddy Carlyle Kristopher Medlen Charlie Morton GP 145 60 AVG .301 .225 R 68 18 HR 23 3 RBI 87 13 SB 5 0

GP 143 117 GP 150 96 6 GP 128 96 117 GP 136 78 GP 145 43 41 117 GP 144 GP 155 43 W 14 13 12 2 11 W 0 0 3 3 0 0 8 2 2 2 4

AVG .272 .262 AVG .287 .293 .158 AVG .364 .293 .262 AVG .288 .320 AVG .293 .244 .267 .262 AVG .251 AVG .239 .244 L 11 10 16 4 7 L 3 1 5 7 1 1 7 3 6 0 8

R 65 29 R 86 45 0 R 82 45 29 R 71 36 R 66 9 16 29 R 52 R 70 9 IP 211.0 188.1 208.1 63.1 142.0 IP 33.2 14.0 53.0 97.1 6.2 5.2 158.2 42.1 72.0 62.2 74.2

HR 14 7 HR 12 3 0 HR 22 3 7 HR 10 2 HR 15 2 1 7 HR 1 HR 11 2 ERA 3.24 3.68 4.67 5.54 3.17 ERA 4.28 2.57 3.57 3.70 20.25 1.59 3.91 5.95 5.88 3.59 6.15

RBI 74 35 RBI 69 40 2 RBI 75 40 35 RBI 60 33 RBI 84 14 17 35 RBI 38 RBI 71 14 BB 45 70 61 37 40 SV 14 3 3 3 0 1 0 0 1 0 0

SB 2 0 SB 11 0 0 SB 4 0 0 SB 2 3 SB 7 4 1 0 SB 13 SB 0 4 K 147 139 200 37 85 K 44 16 31 68 4 5 107 42 67 59 48

GP 144 52 GP 160 52 GP 108 52 W 22 16 14 6 0 W 4 3 4 5 2 0 1 3

AVG .300 .209 AVG .248 .209 AVG .250 .209 L 7 8 8 8 4 L 8 2 8 4 6 3 0 5

R 87 28 R 85 28 R 52 28 IP 226.2 216.0 196.2 146.0 56.0 IP 73.2 72.2 71.2 29.2 56.2 32.1 14.0 56.1

HR 12 6 HR 22 6 HR 15 6 ERA 3.30 3.33 4.90 4.32 3.05 ERA 2.81 4.33 4.14 5.16 3.34 4.73 3.21 4.31

RBI 75 23 RBI 85 23 RBI 42 23 BB 65 40 59 64 21 SV 9 3 18 2 1 0 0 0

SB 10 4 SB 14 4 SB 1 4 K 183 206 90 112 66 K 71 52 66 26 34 20 11 42


Chicago Cubs
Catcher Geovany Soto Koyie Hill First Base Derrek Lee Micah Hoffpauir Second Base Mike Fontenot Aaron Miles Third Base Aramis Ramirez Aaron Miles Shortstop Ryan Theriot Aaron Miles Left Field Alfonso Soriano Micah Hoffpauir Center Field Kosuke Fukudome Reed Johnson Joey Gathright Right Field Milton Bradley Micah Hoffpauir Starting Pitchers Carlos Zambrano Ryan Dempster Ted Lilly Rich Harden Sean Marshall Bullpen Kevin Gregg Carlos Marmol Aaron Heilman Luis Vizcaino Neal Cotts Chad Gaudin Angel Guzman David Patton Jeff Samardzija GP 141 10 GP 155 33 GP 119 134 GP 149 134 GP 149 134 GP 109 33 GP 150 109 105 GP 126 33 W 14 17 17 10 3 W 7 2 3 1 0 9 0 1 AVG .285 .095 AVG .291 .342 AVG .305 .317 AVG .289 .317 AVG .307 .317 AVG .280 .342 AVG .257 .303 .254 AVG .321 .342 L 6 6 9 2 5 L 8 4 8 2 2 5 0 0 R 66 0 R 93 14 R 42 49 R 97 49 R 85 49 R 76 14 R 79 52 41 R 78 14 IP 188.2 206.2 204.2 148.0 65.1 IP 68.2 87.1 76.0 46.0 35.2 90.0 9.2 27.2 HR 23 0 HR 20 2 HR 9 4 HR 27 4 HR 1 4 HR 29 2 HR 10 6 0 HR 22 2 ERA 3.91 2.96 4.09 2.07 3.86 ERA 3.41 2.68 5.21 5.28 4.29 4.40 5.59 2.28 RBI 86 1 RBI 90 8 RBI 40 31 RBI 111 31 RBI 38 31 RBI 75 8 RBI 58 50 22 RBI 77 8 BB 72 76 64 61 23 SV 29 7 3 0 0 0 0 1 SB 0 0 SB 8 1 SB 2 3 SB 2 3 SB 22 3 SB 19 1 SB 12 5 21 SB 5 1 K 130 187 184 181 58 K 58 114 80 49 43 71 10 25

Cincinnati Reds
Catcher Ramon Hernandez Ryan Hanigan Wilkin Castillo First Base Joey Votto Jonny Gomes Second Base Brandon Phillips Adam Rosales Third Base Edwin Encarnacion Paul Janish Shortstop Alex Gonzalez Paul Janish Left Field Jerry Hairston Chris Dickerson Center Field Willy Taveras Chris Dickerson Laynce Nix Right Field Jay Bruce Jonny Gomes Starting Pitchers Aaron Harang Edinson Volquez Bronson Arroyo Johnny Cueto Micah Owings Bullpen Francisco Cordero David Weathers Mike Lincoln Jared Burton Arthur Rhodes Danny Herrera Nick Masset Homer Bailey Bill Bray GP 133 31 18 GP 151 77 GP 141 18 GP 146 38 GP 38 GP 80 31 GP 133 31 10 GP 108 77 W 6 17 15 9 6 W 5 4 2 5 4 0 2 0 2 AVG .257 .271 .281 AVG .297 .182 AVG .261 .207 AVG .251 .188 AVG .188 AVG .326 .304 AVG .251 .304 .083 AVG .254 .182 L 17 6 11 14 9 L 4 6 5 1 1 0 0 6 2 R 49 9 6 R 69 23 R 80 0 R 75 5 R 5 R 47 20 R 64 20 1 R 63 23 IP 184.1 196.0 200.0 174.0 104.2 IP 70.1 69.1 70.1 58.2 35.1 7.1 62.0 36.1 47.0 HR 15 2 0 HR 24 8 HR 21 0 HR 26 1 HR 1 HR 6 6 HR 1 6 0 HR 21 8 ERA 4.78 3.21 4.77 4.81 5.93 ERA 3.33 3.25 4.48 3.22 2.04 7.36 3.92 7.93 2.87 RBI 65 9 1 RBI 84 21 RBI 78 2 RBI 68 6 RBI 6 RBI 36 15 RBI 26 15 0 RBI 52 21 BB 50 93 68 68 41 SV 34 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 SB 0 0 0 SB 7 8 SB 23 1 SB 1 0 SB 0 SB 15 5 SB 68 5 0 SB 4 8 K 153 206 163 158 87 K 78 46 57 58 40 8 43 18 54


Colorado Rockies
Catcher Chris Iannetta Yorvit Torrealba Sal Fasano First Base Todd Helton Garrett Atkins Jeff Baker Second Base Clint Barmes Jeff Baker Jon Herrera Third Base Garrett Atkins Ian Stewart Jeff Baker Christian Colonel Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki Clint Barmes Omar Quintanilla Chris Nelson Left Field Ryan Spilborghs Ian Stewart Daniel Ortmeier Lew Ford Center Field Dexter Fowler Ryan Spilborghs Right Field Brad Hawpe Seth Smith Starting Pitchers Aaron Cook Ubaldo Jimenez Jason Marquis Franklin Morales Jorge De La Rosa Jeff Francis Bullpen Huston Street Manuel Corpas Alan Embree Jason Grilli Ryan Speier Glendon Rusch Juan Morillo Matt Belisle Justin Fogg Taylor Bucholz GP 104 70 15 GP 83 155 104 GP 107 104 28 GP 155 81 104 AVG .264 .246 .261 AVG .264 .286 .268 AVG .290 .268 .230 AVG .286 .259 .268 R 50 19 5 R 39 86 55 R 47 55 5 R 86 33 55 HR 18 6 0 HR 7 21 12 HR 11 12 0 HR 21 10 12 RBI 65 31 6 RBI 29 99 48 RBI 44 48 3 RBI 99 41 48 SB 0 0 0 SB 0 1 4 SB 13 4 1 SB 1 1 4

Florida Marlins
Catcher John Baker Ronny Paulino First Base Jorge Cantu Wes Helms Second Base Dan Uggla Emilio Bonifacio Alfredo Amezaga Third Base Emilio Bonifacio Wes Helms Shortstop Hanley Ramirez Andy Gonzalez Left Field Jeremy Hermida Ross Gload Center Field Cameron Maybin GP 61 40 GP 155 132 GP 146 49 125 GP 49 132 GP 153 10 GP 142 122 GP 8 GP 145 26 W 15 7 6 2 6 W 3 4 2 2 0 0 3 2 1 AVG .299 .212 AVG .277 .243 AVG .260 .243 .264 AVG .243 .243 AVG .301 .208 AVG .249 .273 AVG .500 AVG .260 .059 L 8 1 4 5 10 L 3 1 5 0 0 4 1 0 1 R 32 8 R 92 28 R 97 29 41 R 29 28 R 125 3 R 74 46 R 9 R 59 5 IP 212.1 87.1 84.1 51.2 107.1 IP 57.1 48.1 64.2 38.2 4.2 27.2 55.1 11.0 14.0 HR 5 2 HR 29 5 HR 32 0 3 HR 0 5 HR 33 1 HR 17 3 HR 0 HR 22 0 ERA 3.52 3.61 2.88 5.57 5.87 ERA 3.14 2.98 4.45 6.05 3.86 7.48 4.23 7.36 7.71 RBI 32 18 RBI 95 31 RBI 92 14 32 RBI 14 31 RBI 67 2 RBI 61 37 RBI 2 RBI 73 1 BB 42 27 36 27 56 SV 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 SB 0 0 SB 6 0 SB 5 7 8 SB 7 0 SB 35 0 SB 6 3 SB 4 SB 6 0 K 186 77 52 50 89 K 43 26 56 46 7 20 55 10 20

GP 101 107 81

AVG .263 .290 .238

R 48 47 28

HR 8 11 2

RBI 46 44 15

SB 1 13 0

GP 89 81 38

AVG .313 .259 .219

R 38 33 4

HR 6 10 0

RBI 36 41 5

SB 7 1 2

Right Field Cody Ross Brett Carroll Starting Pitchers Ricky Nolasco Josh Johnson Chris Volstad Anibal Sanchez Andrew Miller Bullpen Matt Lindstrom Leo Nunez Renyel Pinto Scott Proctor Kiko Calero Dan L. Meyer Logan Kensing Hayden Penn Brian Sanches Carlos Martinez Rick VandenHurk Henry Owens

GP 13 89 GP 138 67 W 16 12 11 1 10 4 W 7 3 2 3 2 5 0 1 2 6

AVG .154 .313 AVG .283 .259 L 9 12 9 2 8 10 L 5 4 5 3 1 5 0 4 7 6

R 3 38 R 69 13 IP 211.1 198.2 167.0 25.1 130.0 143.2 IP 70.0 79.2 61.2 75.0 51.0 83.2 1.0 29.2 78.1 66.1

HR 0 6 HR 25 4 ERA 3.96 3.99 4.53 6.39 4.92 5.01 ERA 3.73 4.52 4.96 3.00 4.06 5.16 0 7.28 7.58 2.17

RBI 0 36 RBI 85 15 BB 48 103 70 17 62 49 SV 18 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1

SB 0 7 SB 2 1 K 96 172 91 9 128 94 K 69 50 57 69 33 55 0 14 45 56


Houston Astros
Catcher Ivan Rodriguez Humberto Quintero Lou Palmisano Lou Santangelo First Base Lance Berkman Geoff Blum Second Base Kazuo Matsui Jason Smith Third Base Geoff Blum Jeff Keppinger Aaron Boone Shortstop Miguel Tejada Jeff Keppinger Left Field Carlos N. Lee Jason Michaels Center Field Michael Bourn Darin Erstad Reggie Abercrombie Right Field Hunter Pence Jason Michaels Starting Pitchers Roy Oswalt Wandy Rodriguez Mike Hampton Brian Moehler Russ Ortiz Jose F. Capellan Brandon Backe Bullpen Jose Valverde LaTroy Hawkins Geoff Geary Doug Brocail Wesley Wright Tim Byrdak Chris Sampson GP 115 59 AVG .276 .226 R 44 16 HR 7 2 RBI 35 12 SB 10 0

Los Angeles Dodgers
Catcher Russell Martin Brad Ausmus A.J. Ellis First Base James Loney Casey Blake Doug Mientkiewicz Second Base Orlando Hudson Blake DeWitt Mark Loretta Luis Maza Third Base Casey Blake Blake DeWitt Shortstop Rafael Furcal Mark Loretta Chin-lung Hu Juan Castro Left Field Manny Ramirez Juan Pierre Jason Repko Center Field Matt Kemp Juan Pierre Right Field Andre Ethier Delwyn Young Xavier Paul Starting Pitchers Chad Billingsley Clayton Kershaw Hiroki Kuroda Randy Wolf James McDonald Jason Schmidt Bullpen Jonathan Broxton Hong-Chih Kuo Guillermo Mota Ramon Troncoso Cory Wade Tanyon Sturtze Brian Mazone Erick Threets Jeff Weaver Brad Halsey Joshua Lindblom Eric Stults Eric Milton Claudio Vargas GP 155 81 4 GP 161 152 125 GP 107 117 101 45 GP 152 117 GP 36 101 65 61 GP 153 119 22 GP 155 119 GP 141 83 AVG .280 .218 0 AVG .289 .274 .277 AVG .305 .264 .280 .228 AVG .274 .264 AVG .357 .280 .181 .193 AVG .332 .283 .167 AVG .290 .283 AVG .305 .246 R 87 15 1 R 66 71 37 R 54 45 27 7 R 71 45 R 34 27 16 16 R 102 44 0 R 93 44 R 90 10 HR 13 3 0 HR 13 21 2 HR 8 9 4 1 HR 21 9 HR 5 4 0 2 HR 37 1 0 HR 18 1 HR 20 1 RBI 69 24 0 RBI 90 81 30 RBI 41 52 38 4 RBI 81 52 RBI 16 38 9 16 RBI 121 28 0 RBI 76 28 RBI 77 7 SB 18 0 0 SB 7 3 0 SB 4 3 0 0 SB 3 3 SB 8 0 2 0 SB 3 40 1 SB 35 40 SB 6 0

GP 159 114 GP 96 22 GP 114 121 104 GP 158 121 GP 115 123 GP 138 140 34 GP 157 123 W 17 9 3 11 0 9 W 6 3 2 7 4 2 6

AVG .312 .240 AVG .293 .214 AVG .240 .266 .241 AVG .283 .266 AVG .314 .224 AVG .229 .276 .309 AVG .269 .224 L 10 7 4 8 0 14 L 3 1 3 5 3 1 4

R 114 36 R 58 6 R 36 45 23 R 92 45 R 61 28 R 57 49 10 R 78 28 IP 208.2 137.1 78.0 150.0 2.0 166.2 IP 72.0 62.0 64.0 68.2 55.2 55.1 117.1

HR 29 14 HR 6 0 HR 14 3 6 HR 13 3 HR 28 8 HR 5 4 2 HR 25 8 ERA 3.54 3.54 4.85 4.56 4.50 6.05 ERA 3.38 3.92 2.53 3.93 5.01 3.90 4.22

RBI 106 53 RBI 33 1 RBI 53 43 28 RBI 66 43 RBI 100 53 RBI 29 31 5 RBI 83 53 BB 47 44 28 36 0 77 SV 44 1 0 2 1 0 0

SB 18 1 SB 20 0 SB 1 3 0 SB 7 3 SB 4 2 SB 41 2 5 SB 11 2 K 165 131 38 82 2 127 K 83 48 45 64 57 47 61

W 16 5 9 12 0

L 10 5 10 12 0

IP 200.2 107.2 183.1 190.1 6.0

ERA 3.14 4.26 3.73 4.30 0

BB 80 52 42 71 1

K 201 100 116 162 2

W 3 5 5 1 2 0 0

L 5 3 6 1 1 0 1

IP 69.0 80.0 57.0 38.0 71.1 2.1 10.0

ERA 3.13 2.14 4.11 4.26 2.27 0 3.60

SV 14 1 1 0 0 0 0

K 88 96 50 38 51 1 6

2 3

3 2

38.2 37.0

3.49 4.62

0 0

30 20


Milwaukee Brewers
Catcher Jason Kendall Mike Rivera Carlos Corporan First Base Prince Fielder Brad Nelson Second Base Rickie Weeks Craig Counsell Third Base Bill Hall Casey McGehee Shortstop J.J. Hardy Craig Counsell Left Field Ryan J. Braun Tony K. Gwynn Center Field Mike Cameron Tony K. Gwynn Chris Duffy Right Field Corey C. Hart Brad Nelson Starting Pitchers Yovani Gallardo Dave Bush Jeff Suppan Braden Looper Manny Parra Bullpen Carlos Villanueva Seth McClung David Riske Jorge Julio Mitch Stetter Todd Coffey Mark DiFelice Sam Narron Trevor Hoffman GP 151 21 AVG .246 .306 R 46 8 HR 2 1 RBI 49 14 SB 8 2

New York Mets
Catcher Brian Schneider Ramon A. Castro Omir Santos First Base Carlos Delgado Nick Evans Second Base Luis Castillo Alex Cora Ramon E. Martinez Third Base David Wright Daniel Murphy Fernando Tatis Shortstop Jose B. Reyes Alex Cora Left Field Daniel Murphy Fernando Tatis Nick Evans Marlon Anderson Center Field Carlos Beltran Jeremy Reed Angel Pagan Right Field Ryan Church Fernando Tatis Starting Pitchers Johan Santana Mike Pelfrey John Maine Oliver Perez Livan Hernandez Tim Redding Bullpen Francisco Rodriguez J.J. Putz Sean Green Pedro Feliciano Darren O'Day Bobby Parnell Brian Stokes Billy Wagner GP 110 52 11 GP 159 50 GP 87 75 7 GP 160 49 92 GP 159 75 GP 49 92 50 87 GP 161 97 31 GP 90 92 W 16 13 10 10 13 10 W 2 6 4 3 0 0 1 0 AVG .257 .245 .100 AVG .271 .257 AVG .245 .270 .250 AVG .302 .313 .297 AVG .297 .270 AVG .313 .297 .257 .210 AVG .284 .269 .275 AVG .276 .297 L 7 11 8 7 11 11 L 3 5 5 4 1 0 0 1 R 30 15 0 R 96 18 R 46 14 0 R 115 24 33 R 113 14 R 24 33 18 16 R 116 30 12 R 54 33 IP 234.1 200.2 140.0 194.0 180.0 182.0 IP 68.1 46.1 79.0 53.1 43.1 5.0 33.1 47.0 HR 9 7 0 HR 38 2 HR 3 0 0 HR 33 2 11 HR 16 0 HR 2 11 2 1 HR 27 2 0 HR 12 11 ERA 2.53 3.72 4.18 4.22 6.05 4.95 ERA 2.24 3.88 4.67 4.05 4.57 5.40 3.51 2.30 RBI 38 24 0 RBI 115 9 RBI 28 9 3 RBI 124 17 47 RBI 68 9 RBI 17 47 9 10 RBI 112 31 13 RBI 49 47 BB 63 64 67 105 43 65 SV 62 15 1 2 0 0 1 27 SB 0 0 0 SB 1 0 SB 17 1 0 SB 15 0 3 SB 56 1 SB 0 3 0 2 SB 25 2 4 SB 2 3 K 206 110 122 180 67 120 K 77 56 62 50 29 3 26 52

GP 159 9 GP 129 110 GP 128 9 GP 146 110 GP 151 29 GP 120 29

AVG .276 .286 AVG .234 .226 AVG .225 .167 AVG .283 .226 AVG .285 .190 AVG .243 .190

R 86 0 R 89 31 R 50 1 R 78 31 R 92 5 R 69 5

HR 34 0 HR 14 1 HR 15 0 HR 24 1 HR 37 0 HR 25 0

RBI 102 0 RBI 46 14 RBI 55 5 RBI 74 14 RBI 106 1 RBI 70 1

SB 3 0 SB 19 3 SB 5 0 SB 2 3 SB 14 3 SB 17 3

GP 157 9 W 0 9 10 12 10 W 4 6 1 3 3 1 1 3

AVG .268 .286 L 0 10 10 14 8 L 7 6 2 0 1 0 0 6

R 76 0 IP 24.0 185.0 177.2 199.0 166.0 IP 108.1 105.1 42.1 30.0 25.1 26.2 19.0 45.1

HR 20 0 ERA 1.88 4.18 4.96 4.16 4.39 ERA 4.07 4.02 5.31 3.60 3.20 4.39 2.84 3.77

RBI 91 0 BB 8 48 67 45 75 SV 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 30

SB 23 0 K 20 109 90 108 147 K 93 87 27 34 31 15 20 46


Philadelphia Phillies
Catcher Carlos Ruiz Chris Coste First Base Ryan Howard Matt Stairs Second Base Chase Utley Miguel Cairo Third Base Pedro Feliz Greg Dobbs Shortstop Jimmy Rollins Eric Bruntlett Left Field Raul Ibanez Eric Bruntlett Center Field Shane Victorino Jayson Werth Right Field Jayson Werth Matt Stairs Starting Pitchers Cole Hamels Brett Myers Joe Blanton Jamie Moyer Chan Ho Park Bullpen Brad Lidge Ryan Madson Chad Durbin Scott Eyre Clay Condrey Jack Taschner Gary Majewski J.A. Happ Rodrigo Lopez J.C. Romero Scott Mathieson Mike Zagurski GP 117 98 GP 162 121 GP 159 108 GP 133 128 GP 137 120 GP 162 120 GP 146 134 GP 134 121 W 14 10 9 16 4 W 2 4 5 5 3 3 1 1 4 AVG .219 .263 AVG .251 .252 AVG .292 .249 AVG .249 .301 AVG .277 .217 AVG .293 .217 AVG .293 .273 AVG .273 .252 L 10 13 12 7 4 L 0 2 4 0 4 2 0 0 4 R 47 28 R 105 46 R 113 34 R 43 30 R 76 37 R 85 37 R 102 73 R 73 46 IP 227.1 190.0 197.2 196.1 95.1 IP 69.1 82.2 87.2 25.2 69.0 48.0 40.0 31.2 59.0 HR 4 9 HR 48 13 HR 33 0 HR 14 9 HR 11 2 HR 23 2 HR 14 24 HR 24 13 ERA 3.09 4.55 4.69 3.71 3.40 ERA 1.95 3.05 2.87 4.21 3.26 4.88 6.53 3.69 2.75 RBI 31 36 RBI 146 49 RBI 104 23 RBI 58 40 RBI 59 15 RBI 110 15 RBI 58 67 RBI 67 49 BB 53 65 66 62 36 SV 41 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 SB 1 0 SB 1 1 SB 14 5 SB 0 3 SB 47 9 SB 2 9 SB 36 20 SB 20 1 K 196 163 111 123 79 K 92 67 63 32 34 39 27 26 52

Pittsburgh Pirates
Catcher Ryan Doumit Jason Jaramillo First Base Adam A. LaRoche Eric Hinske Second Base Freddy Sanchez Ramon Vazquez Ruben Gotay Third Base Andy LaRoche Eric Hinske Ramon Vazquez Shortstop Jack Wilson Luis Cruz Left Field Nyjer Morgan Eric Hinske Craig Monroe Center Field Nate McLouth Nyjer Morgan Right Field Brandon Moss Craig Monroe Starting Pitchers Paul Maholm Ian Snell Zach Duke Ross Ohlendorf Jeff Karstens Bullpen Matt Capps Tyler Yates John Grabow Craig Hansen Jesse Chavez Sean Burnett Ty Taubenheim Donnie Veal Phil Dumatrait GP 116 AVG .318 R 71 HR 15 RBI 69 SB 2

GP 136 133 GP 145 105 88 GP 76 133 105 GP 87 22 GP 58 133 58 GP 152 58 GP 79 58 W 9 7 5 1 2 W 2 6 6 2 0 1 0 3

AVG .270 .247 AVG .271 .290 .235 AVG .166 .247 .290 AVG .272 .224 AVG .294 .247 .202 AVG .276 .294 AVG .246 .202 L 9 12 14 4 6 L 3 3 3 7 1 1 0 4

R 66 59 R 75 44 10 R 17 59 44 R 24 6 R 26 59 22 R 113 26 R 19 22 IP 206.1 164.1 185.0 62.2 51.1 IP 53.2 73.1 76.0 46.1 15.0 56.2 6.0 78.2

HR 25 20 HR 9 6 2 HR 5 20 6 HR 1 0 HR 0 20 8 HR 26 0 HR 8 8 ERA 3.71 5.42 4.82 6.46 4.03 ERA 3.02 4.66 2.84 6.22 6.60 4.76 3.00 5.26

RBI 85 60 RBI 52 40 8 RBI 18 60 40 RBI 22 3 RBI 7 60 29 RBI 94 7 RBI 34 29 BB 63 89 47 31 13 SV 21 1 4 3 0 0 0 0

SB 1 10 SB 0 0 1 SB 2 10 0 SB 2 1 SB 9 10 0 SB 23 9 SB 1 0 K 139 135 87 49 23 K 39 63 62 32 16 42 4 52


St. Louis Cardinals
Catcher Yadier Molina Jason LaRue First Base Albert Pujols Chris Duncan Allen Craig Second Base Skip Schumaker Joe Thurston Brendan Ryan Brian Barden Third Base David Freese Brian Barden Troy Glaus Shortstop Khalil Greene Brendan Ryan Left Field Chris Duncan Skip Schumaker Center Field Rick Ankiel Colby Rasmus Right Field Ryan Ludwick Colby Rasmus Starting Pitchers Adam Wainwright Chris Carpenter Kyle Lohse Todd Wellemeyer Joel Pineiro Kyle McClellan Bullpen Ryan Franklin Jason Motte Trever Miller Dennys Reyes Josh Kinney Adam Ottavino Noel Salas Brad Thompson Clayton Mortensen Jesse Todd Jaime Garcia GP 124 61 GP 148 76 AVG .304 .213 AVG .357 .248 R 37 17 R 100 26 HR 7 4 HR 37 6 RBI 56 21 RBI 116 27 SB 0 0 SB 7 2

San Diego Padres
Catcher Nick Hundley Henry Blanco First Base Adrian Gonzalez Cliff Floyd Second Base David Eckstein Edgar V. Gonzalez Third Base Kevin Kouzmanoff Edgar V. Gonzalez Shortstop Luis O. Rodriguez Everth Cabrera Left Field Chase Headley Scott Hairston Center Field Jody Gerut Scott Hairston Right Field Brian Giles Cliff Floyd Starting Pitchers Jake Peavy Chris R. Young Walter Silva Kevin Correia Shawn Hill Cha Seung Baek Bullpen Heath Bell Cla C. Meredith Duaner Sanchez Eulogio de la Cruz Arturo A. Lopez Edward Mujica Edwin Moreno Mike M. Adams Mark Worrell GP 60 58 GP 162 80 GP 94 111 GP 154 111 GP 64 AVG .237 .292 AVG .279 .268 AVG .265 .274 AVG .260 .274 AVG .287 R 21 15 R 103 32 R 32 38 R 71 38 R 22 HR 5 3 HR 36 11 HR 2 7 HR 23 7 HR 0 RBI 24 12 RBI 119 39 RBI 27 33 RBI 84 33 RBI 12 SB 0 0 SB 0 1 SB 2 1 SB 0 1 SB 1

GP 153 4 80 9 GP 9 151 GP 105 80 GP 76 153 GP 120

AVG .302 0 .244 .222 AVG .222 .270 AVG .213 .244 AVG .248 .302 AVG .264

R 87 0 30 0 R 0 69 R 30 30 R 26 87 R 65

HR 8 0 0 0 HR 0 27 HR 10 0 HR 6 8 HR 25

RBI 46 0 10 1 RBI 1 99 RBI 35 10 RBI 27 46 RBI 71

SB 8 0 7 0 SB 0 0 SB 5 7 SB 2 8 SB 2

GP 91 112 GP 100 112 GP 147 80 W 10 7 3 1 6 W 6 0 5 0 3 2 0

AVG .269 .248 AVG .296 .248 AVG .306 .268 L 11 6 8 5 10 L 6 3 1 0 2 3 1

R 34 42 R 46 42 R 81 32 IP 173.2 102.1 110.0 63.1 141.0 IP 78.0 70.1 58.1 9.0 38.2 65.1 5.2

HR 9 17 HR 14 17 HR 12 11 ERA 2.85 3.96 6.05 5.83 4.79 ERA 3.58 4.09 4.32 18.00 6.75 2.48 7.94

RBI 38 31 RBI 43 31 RBI 63 39 BB 59 48 47 23 43 SV 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

SB 4 3 SB 6 3 SB 2 1 K 166 93 66 39 92 K 71 49 44 4 27 74 4

GP 152

AVG .299

R 104

HR 37

RBI 113

SB 4

W 11 0 15 13 7 2 W 6 0 2 3 0

L 3 1 6 9 7 7 L 6 0 0 0 0

IP 132.0 15.1 200.0 191.2 148.2 75.2 IP 78.2 11.0 43.1 46.1 7.0

ERA 3.20 1.76 3.78 3.71 5.15 4.04 ERA 3.55 0.82 4.15 2.33 0

BB 34 4 49 62 35 26 SV 17 1 2 0 0

K 91 7 119 134 81 59 K 51 16 44 39 8














San Francisco Giants
Catcher Bengie Molina Pablo Sandoval First Base Travis Ishikawa Rich Aurilia Second Base Emmanuel Burriss Eugenio Velez Third Base Pablo Sandoval Rich Aurilia Shortstop Edgar Renteria Juan Uribe Left Field Fred Lewis John Bowker Andres Torres Center Field Aaron Rowand Randy Winn Right Field Randy Winn Nate Schierholtz Starting Pitchers Tim Lincecum Matt Cain Randy Johnson Barry Zito Jonathan O. Sanchez Noah Lowry Bullpen Brian Wilson Bob Howry Jeremy Affeldt Alexander Hinshaw Luis Perdomo Merkin Valdez Joseph Martinez Ramon Ortiz Sergio Romo GP 145 41 GP 33 140 GP 95 98 GP 41 140 GP 138 110 GP 133 111 AVG .292 .345 AVG .274 .283 AVG .283 .262 AVG .345 .283 AVG .270 .247 AVG .282 .255 R 46 24 R 12 33 R 37 32 R 24 33 R 69 38 R 81 31 HR 16 3 HR 3 10 HR 1 1 HR 3 10 HR 10 7 HR 9 10 RBI 95 24 RBI 15 52 RBI 18 30 RBI 24 52 RBI 55 40 RBI 40 43 SB 0 0 SB 1 1 SB 13 15 SB 0 1 SB 6 1 SB 21 1

Washington Nationals
Catcher Jesus Flores Josh Bard Wil Nieves First Base Nick Johnson Adam Dunn Dmitri Young Second Base Ronnie Belliard Alberto Gonzalez Anderson Hernandez Third Base Ryan Zimmerman Kory Casto Shortstop Cristian Guzman Alberto Gonzalez Alex Cintron Left Field Adam Dunn Josh Willingham Center Field Lastings Milledge Willie Harris Right Field Elijah Dukes Austin Kearns Starting Pitchers John Lannan Scott Olsen Daniel Cabrera Shairon Martis Jordan Zimmermann Bullpen Joel Hanrahan Joe Beimel Steven Shell Saul Rivera Jesus Colome Jason Bergmann Terrell Young Garrett Mock Wil Ledezma Michael Hinckley Julian Tavarez Kip Wells Matt Chico GP 90 57 68 GP 38 158 50 GP 96 45 28 GP 106 66 GP 138 45 61 GP 158 102 GP 138 140 GP 81 86 W 9 8 8 1 AVG .256 .202 .261 AVG .220 .236 .280 AVG .287 .257 .333 AVG .283 .215 AVG .316 .257 .286 AVG .236 .254 AVG .268 .251 AVG .264 .217 L 15 11 10 3 R 23 11 15 R 15 79 15 R 37 13 11 R 51 15 R 77 13 12 R 79 54 R 65 58 R 48 40 IP 182.0 201.2 180.0 20.2 HR 8 1 1 HR 5 40 4 HR 11 1 0 HR 14 2 HR 9 1 1 HR 40 15 HR 14 13 HR 13 7 ERA 3.91 4.20 5.25 5.66 RBI 59 16 20 RBI 20 100 10 RBI 46 10 17 RBI 51 16 RBI 55 10 10 RBI 100 51 RBI 61 43 RBI 44 32 BB 72 69 90 12 SB 0 0 0 SB 0 2 0 SB 3 0 0 SB 1 1 SB 6 0 0 SB 2 3 SB 24 13 SB 13 2 K 117 113 95 23

GP 152 155 GP 155 19 W 18 8 11 10 9

AVG .271 .306 AVG .306 .320 L 5 14 10 17 12

R 57 84 R 84 12 IP 227.0 217.2 184.0 180.0 158.0

HR 13 10 HR 10 1 ERA 2.62 3.76 3.91 5.15 5.01

RBI 70 64 RBI 64 5 BB 84 91 44 102 75

SB 2 25 SB 25 0 K 265 186 173 120 157

W 3 7 1 2 1

L 2 5 1 1 0

IP 62.1 70.2 78.1 39.2 16.0

ERA 4.62 5.35 3.33 3.40 1.69

SV 41 1 0 0 0

K 67 59 80 47 13

W 6 5 2 5 2 2 1 0 0 1 1 0

L 3 1 2 6 2 11 3 2 0 5 3 6

IP 84.1 49.0 50.0 84.0 71.0 139.2 41.0 58.1 13.2 54.2 37.2 48.0

ERA 3.95 2.02 2.16 3.96 4.31 5.09 4.17 4.17 0 5.10 6.21 6.19

SV 9 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

K 93 32 41 65 55 96 46 53 9 51 31 31