|FANTASY BASEBALL: Sometimes trusty veterans are smarter picks than phenoms|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 03 April 2008 12:15|
Follow the exhibition season too closely, and you're liable to start thinking that the Giants' Eugenio Velez is the next Jose Reyes, after leading the majors in spring steals.
Jake Westbrook may never let up another run, fanatics might think, after watching the Indians pitcher hurl 18 scoreless frames in March.
This kind of excessive baseball knowledge is best hidden from spouses and potential dates, and ignored on draft day. Trying to seem too smart can lead a drafter to pick phenom Justin Upton over Jermaine Dye.
Trust me on this one.
With all the coverage on the Internet, in magazines specializing in fantasy baseball and now in newspapers, it's easy to lose track of the basics: you win fantasy leagues by having the players who produce the best, not the players who surprise by hitting better than expected.
Following are players considered surprisingly uninteresting to fantasy owners, based on where they were drafted in many leagues. This may be a good time to trade an overhyped youngster for one of these tried-and-true professionals.
Greg Maddux, RHP, Braves
Granted, Maddux isn't the pitcher he was five years ago. He's 41, and he hasn't been a major strikeout threat since 2000. However, I was in a league where Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez was chosen before Maddux. Does Jimenez have greater upside? Absolutely. However, his major league experience consists of 16 starts, and even with his impressive run last fall, he finished with a higher ERA and WHIP than did Maddux. Take the tried-and-true Maddux, who hasn't won fewer than 13 games in a season in 20 years.
Dye, OF, White Sox
He's coming off a disappointing season (.254-28-78) after hitting 315 with 44 homers the year before. So it's not surprising that some owners are shying away. But Dye has hit at least 23 homers in eight of the last nine years, failing to do so only in his injury-plagued 2003. He's a middle-of-the-order hitter for a team that has something to prove this season, and could easily eclipse 100 RBIs. Those who took Upton before Dye got a guy with tremendous upside, a must-own in keeper leagues. But it's a long shot that the 20-year-old will perform at Dye's level this year.
Khalil Greene, SS, Padres
Ask a fantasy owner who was third in home runs among major league shortstops, second in RBIs. He or she will probably guess Troy Tulowitzki. Actually, the answer is Greene (.254-27-97). True, his career average is .254 and that won't help your fantasy team, but the power numbers are elite for a middle infielder. Still, Yunel Escobar of the Braves and Stephen Drew of the Diamondbacks have gone before Greene in many drafts based on potential. Both Escobar and Drew will be good, but Greene is in his prime and who wouldn't want a shortstop who could hit 30 homers?
Casey Blake, 3B, Indians
Blake isn't flashy, but he's proven himself with five straight seasons with between 17 and 28 homers and 58 and 88 RBIs. The last two years he's hit .282 and .270, perfectly adequate for a corner infielder, yet I've seen him fall below Mark Reynolds of Arizona, who surprised with 17 home runs as a rookie, and Tampa Bay's Akinori Iwamura, who drove in only 34 runs in 491 at-bats. So what if Blake lacks the luster of some younger options? Lock in the 70 runs and 70 RBIs with a proven hitter.
Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays
In 2006, he hit .312 with 22 homers and 92 RBIs, and his swing looked good this spring. He's a very solid, dependable play at first.
Notes: Padres CF Scott Hairston, starting for the injured Jim Edmonds, has two home runs in his first three games. But the real reason to keep an eye on him is where he's hitting for San Diego - fifth. He's shown power in the past, plays on a team without a ton of outfield depth, and is far under the radar in fantasy leagues. ... Rookie Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox wasn't expected to be a starter, but the Cuban defector was extremely impressive in camp. He showcased the type of power-speed combination that makes fantasy owners drool. Ramirez started the first two games for Chicago in center field, will play some at second base, and should be watched closely. ... Nationals RHP Tim Redding will be in high demand on the waiver wire after allowing one hit in seven shutout innings against the Phillies in his debut. He's no flash in the pan; In 15 starts last season, he allowed three runs or fewer 12 times and ended the year with a 3.64 ERA. Pick him up.