Monday, June 05, 2006


Daaaammmmn, the NFL draft is in the rear-view and mini-camps and team Training Camps are in the not-too distant future, the NBA Finals, perhaps the most exciting match-up in years (c'mon, "The Giant German" and Josh Howard do battle with the "Big Aristotle" and D-Wade?), is poised to start, and the first third of the Baseball season quietly became history.

Every season sees a Felix Hernandez, Chase Utley, Chad Cordero, Grady Sizemore and Jeff Francoeur explode onto the Baseball scene. Some, like Tiger pitcher Justin Verlander and Brewer infielders Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks are highly touted, "can't-miss" prospects who are finally seeing big league action. Others, such as Red 3B Edwin Encarnacion, Pirate infielder Freddy Sanchez, and Padre starter Clay Hensley are pleasant surprises who are enjoying varying degrees of success; enough success, however, to make them worthy 'Wire grabs predicated upon the depth of your league.

Every 3 weeks or so I peruse Baseball's ranks. I look for the rare fantasy diamond who is camoflauged amongst the countless platoon player baubles.
So... it's about that time!

Catchers: An awfully thin position if you need help because your starter isn't performing as you'd anticipated. Even amongst the everyday receivers, there's a very sharp drop-off in production after the top 5 or so.

Pirates; Ronny Paulino: Swatting an impressive .310 and hitting amongst a much better Bucc' lineup than many observers initially believed, it would appear as if Paulino has permanently supplanted Ryan Doumit (.214 BA) though Doumit will occassionally pop a 9 inning squat. The 25 year old Paulino has put his 38 base hits to excellent use; 8 went for extra-bases (1 HR, 7 Doubles), and he scored 14 times while drivng in 13. Displaying a better than expected eye at the plate, the Pirate backstop has whiffed 18 times and walked 10 times in 126 plate appearances.

Angels; Mike Napoli: With Jose Molina hitting a buck-86 over almost 100 ABs, manager Mike Scioscia deemed it time for change. Napoli, sitting atop a line of .327/3/8/10, was initially believed to be nothing more than a spare part; highly regarded Jeff Mathis was, and still is, viewed as the future everyday Catcher.
But Scioscia, a former Catcher himself, likes what he ses in Nap' and Napoli will continue to catch on a semi-regular basis and is worth a pickup if yer' strapped at the position.

1st Basemen: As there are every year, 1st Base has yielded some nice surprises. It's fairly easy to hide a guy who wields a big bat but wears a suspect glove at the right corner.

Diamondbacks; Conor Jackson: I've been high on this kid since I wrote my pre-draft positional analyses. A big dude with a thunderous bat, the 6-2/225 D-Back simply smoked the ball in May (.313/.538/.400) after a slow April (.272/.424/.364), and looks to be on his way to NL "Rookie of the Year" honors. A disciplined batsman for such a big and young player, C-Jack's Walk to Strikeout ratio is almost exactly 1 : 1 (22 Walks to 20 Ks)

Angels; Kendry Morales: Aside from fleeing the Castro regime Morales has accomplished little. So far, that is. The 22 year old Morales is just starting to get the hang of the American game, but Sunday's 3-5, 2 Double, 3 Ribbie' 2 Run performance is an enticing taste of what lies ahead.
Baseball "people" think the Angel 1B/DH has .300/25 capability, and those of you belonging to "Keeper" and "Dynasty" leagues might wish to take a flyer on him. Once Kendry learns the umps and how to work the Strikezone, his determination, power, and Baseball IQ will make him a fantasy stud.

Red Sox; Kevin Youkilis: With his suhweet' shawing', Yuke' is hitting .313/7/27/41, and sports a .500 SLG and .430 OBP. No secret to knowledgeable Roto-ballers, the kid's been smackin' the white offa' the ball all season long and aside from a modest end of May slump, Kevin Youkilis has been a knock-out player in ALL formats. Due to his power, remarkable productivity, and positional flexibility (depending upon your league's requirements, 1B, 3B, and OF), those of you who lack a power hitting corner-infielder might see if you can pry the Red Sock loose from his owner.
Once Youkilis finishes this break-out season, his price-tag will be ridicuolous.

2nd Basemen: Traditionally a slap-hitting speedster, guys like Chase Utley, Alfonso Soriano, and Jeff Kent have redefined the 2nd Base position. The new crop of middle infielders is made up of swift, powerful athletes such as Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks, Tampa Bay's Jorge Cantu, and Cincy's Brandon Phillips. Phillips, incidentally, could be available if you belong to a shallow league.

Pirates; Jose Castillo: Another Pirate who makes this list, Jose Castillo's numbers look like they belong to a 1st Baseman or Outfielder! Hitting a cushy .305/8/31 with 3 swiped bags and a SLG % of .484, Castillo is 9 for his last 18, with 3 HRs and 12 Ribs'.
If the Pitt' 2nd Sacker remains unclaimed in your league... claim him.

Marlins; Dan Uggla: If, per chance, you remain blissfully unaware of Dan Uggla? You have little business playing fantasy ball! All Uggla's done has been to hit at a .302/7/30/39 clip, with 9 Doubs', 2 Trips' and 4 thieved bags. Upon entering the season Ugg' projected to be a solid Utility-Man, but now... now he's the 4th ranked fantasy 2nd Bagger in most leagues.
Here's a noteworthy stat', and frankly I don't know if it speaks to Uggla's talent or the Marlins' collective futility; after he poked his 7th round-tripper' of the season on Saturday Dan Uggla set a record for "most Home Runs hit by a Marlin 2nd Baseman over the span of a full season. Upon further reflection, I think the fact that it took 14 freakin' years for a Florida 2nd Baseman to hit 8 Homers MUST speak to the team's historic lack of talent at the position.

Rangers; Ian Kinsler: The Ranger middie' was whacking the ball at a .327 pace before dislocating his thumb. Give him some time to get back into the groove... a loaded Texas lineup will afford him lots of fat pitches, if he can reclaim his job.



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