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Sunday, April 05, 2009

This season I've drafted no less than fifteen fantasy teams. Perhaps I will regret it, but my intention is to win every league, test the boundaries of my knowledge. I am playing in nearly every format: AL-only, NL-only, draft, auction, salary cap, H2H, 12-team, 16-team, roto, points, daily, weekly, yada-yada. As of this morning, my final draft has been completed. Here is a list of the players who appear on three or more of my rosters. These are obviously not exactly the players who I consider the finest at each position. I love Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera as much as the next guy, but they weren't always available when I wished them to be. More accurately, this list indicates which players I am ranking above the average fantasy player or analyst.

Victor Martinez (Indians) C/1B - 6 teams
Russell Martin (Dodgers) C/3B - 3 teams
Yadier Molina (Cardinals) C - 3 teams

My passion for Russell Martin began before he took his first major-league at-bat and is part of public record. Victor is merely a year removed from being widely considered the finest fantasy catcher in either league. His power was sapped by injury last season, but he had 3 HR in spring training and will see a larger share of ABs at first base and DH after the breakout of Kelly Shoppach and the breakdowns of Travis Haftner and Ryan Garko. Yadier Molina is a strikeout-free .300 hitter who is only 24 and already plays like a veteran. He's the definition of a catcher who won't hurt you.

Prince Fielder (Brewers) 1B - 6 teams
Albert Pujols (Cardinals) 1B - 5 teams
David Ortiz (Red Sox) 1B - 5 teams
James Loney (Dodgers) 1B - 3 teams
Jason Giambi (Athletics) 1B - 3 teams

I gathered Pujols in more leagues than usual because so many have strangely ranked him behind the likes of Hanley Ramirez and even A-Rod in drafts which happened prior to his injury. For me, Prince Albert is still the #1 player in fantasy baseball. Prince Fielder is, like Russell Martin, among my man-crushes. His mere 38 HR last year, after 50 in 2007, had him falling to me in the second or even third round in drafts and at under $30 in auctions. Big Papi is a steal this year, so long as the wrist injury hasn't permanently sapped his power (see Derrek Lee). Giambi and Loney both offer significant potential with only moderate risk.

Brandon Phillips (Reds) 2B - 5 teams
Howie Kendrick (Angels) 2B - 4 teams
Rickie Weeks (Brewers) 2B - 4 teams
Orlando Hudson (Dodgers) 2B - 4 teams

I, personally, rank Phillips ahead of Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler because he is not an injury-risk and he has yet to reach the limit of his tremendous talents. He is truly a five-tool player. Thankfully, he's usually still around several rounds after those fellows. The other are just talented players who may be on the verge of breakout seasons...or they may not.

Garrett Atkins (Rockies) 3B/1B - 4 teams
Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) 3B - 4 teams
Scott Rolen (Blue Jays) 3B - 3 teams

Atkins won't have the luxury of hitting behind Holliday, but I don't expect him to dip much form the .280-25-100 plateau that he has consistently reached the last few years. He is probably among the most undervalued commodities in fantasy baseball, routinely putting up numbers which rival Aramis Ramirez, but coming nowhere near his price. Zimmerman and Rolen represent high-risk, high-reward options coming off injury-plagued campaigns and hitting in the middle of significantly improved lineups.

Rafael Furcal (Dodgers) SS - 4 teams

Furcal missed most of last season, but during April and May he was as good as any player in baseball. He looked strong in the postseason as well, even though he was probably only at about 90%. After the Big Three (Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, and Jimmy Rollins) the field of shortstops drops off drastically. Furcal is arguably the best of the rest, in competition with Stephen Drew, Jhonny Peralta, and Michael Young.

Chris Young (D-Backs) CF - 6 teams
Justin Upton (D-Backs) RF - 6 teams
Delmon Young (Twins) LF - 5 teams
Adam Dunn (Nationals) LF - 5 teams
Alex Rios (Blue Jays) RF - 4 teams
Milton Bradley (Cubs) RF - 4 teams
Adam Lind (Blue Jays) LF - 4 teams
Carl Crawford (Rays) LF - 3 teams
Elijah Dukes (Nationals) RF - 3 teams

The outfield is the place where my "soul brothers" formula is most apparent. Justin Upton, Christ Young, and Delmon Young were very hot commodities a year ago, but all had moderately disappointing seasons in 2008. However, Chris Young is the oldest of the trio at 25 and each is entering their third season in the big leagues. I expect all to endure cold stretches, but also sizzle for weeks at a time as well. Even if none outperforms his '08 numbers, they will have been decent value buys. The same can be said for Adam Dunn, Milton Bradley, and Elijah Dukes. Dunn dropped into the middle rounds after moving to the Nationals. Even if he only hits 35 HR this year (after hitting 40+ the last three seasons), he'll be a bargain. Dukes and Bradley will spend time on the D.L., but they are absolute monsters when they're in the lineup. I also look for rebounds from Rios and Crawford, who was rated as the best outfielder in fantasy by many only a year ago.

Carlos Zambrano (Cubs) SP - 6 teams
Jesse Litsch (Blue Jays) SP - 6 teams
Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies) SP - 5 teams
Anthony Reyes (Indians) SP/RP - 5 teams
Roy Halladay (Blue Jays) SP - 4 teams
Matt Cain (Giants) SP - 4 teams
Jonathan Sanchez (Giants) SP - 4 teams
Ryan Dempster (Cubs) SP - 4 teams
A. J. Burnett (Yankees) SP - 3 teams
Brett Myers (Phillies) SP - 3 teams
Aaron Harang (Reds) SP - 3 teams
Bronson Arroyo (Reds) SP - 3 teams
James McDonald (Dodgers) SP/RP - 3 teams
Jeff Niemann (Rays) SP - 3 teams

Pitching is deep this year, so I took the tactic of never drafting a pitcher in the early rounds, unless Roy Halladay was still available for my third pick (Zambrano was consitently on the board as late as the 7th or 8th, and could be had for as little as $10 in auctions). As a result, my staffs are composed mainly of young breakout candidates: Jimenez, Reyes, Litsch, and Sanchez. I also liked Kevin Slowey, Hiroki Kuroda, Manny Parra, and Koji Uehara, but wasn't able to nab them as often.

J. J. Putz (Mets) RP - 4 teams
Matt Lindstrom - 3 teams

The fact that I bought into only two relief pitchers consistently indicates the extent to which I refuse of pay for saves. I will say that I bought seven mid-range closers in two leagues apiece. They were B. J. Ryan, Bobby Jenks, Matt Capps, Heath Bell, Kevin Gregg, Trevor Hoffman, and Mike Gonzalez. I never paid more than $12 for a closer or took one in the first dozen rounds of a draft. Waiver-wire option are going to be plentiful this year with the save situations in St. Louis, Detroit, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Colorado, Florida, Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Chicago (NL) still very much up for grabs. I will say that I like Putz as a late-round flier because he will provide strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, a few saves, and stands to benefit if K-Rod's decline becomes more noticeable this season.

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