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 Poison Ivy. Chokeberries. Candy apples. Bright turquoise Lycra shorts. Andy LaRoche.
What do these things have in common?
The first four are shiny objects that should be avoided. If you're a fantasy baseball owner, so is the last.
There are exceptions. A handful of people can pull off wearing stretchy shorts; candy apples are good for teaching children valuable lessons about the pain of losing teeth; and if you're in a keeper fantasy league, LaRoche is a prospect to hold on to for sure.
Otherwise, rookie phenoms such as LaRoche, Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence are best to avoid.
Sure, it's thrilling to have a young player come of age while he's on your team. And these players are undoubtedly future stars. But if you want to win a standard mixed league this year, just-called-up players rarely are valuable.
More reliable players such as Raul Ibanez, Brad Hawpe and Pedro Feliz might be available in your league. Each could hit 20 home runs the rest of the way and be considered a disappointment. Pence and LaRoche, on the other hand, would be rookie of the year candidates if they hit 15.
Occasionally, an Albert Pujols or Francisco Liriano will hit the majors and dominate immediately. More often, players with enticing minor league credentials will take some time to get acclimated. For every Pujols, there are 20 Andy Martes.
If you already picked up a LaRoche or Pence, it's very possible you'll find an owner willing to trade too much for the excitement of owning the next big thing. Make that trade.
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THIRD BASE
Fun Pick: LaRoche, Dodgers
He wasn't supposed to be up this quickly, but Wilson Betemit's anemic batting average and lack of production forced the Dodgers' hand. The younger brother of the Pirates' Adam LaRoche has good power, and will be given every chance to become the Dodgers' third baseman of the present and future. The 23-year-old was struggling at Triple-A, however, hitting .235 with three homers and 11 RBIs after failing to impress in spring training. It's hard to imagine he's ready to make a huge impact at this point.
Winning Pick: Feliz, Giants
sn't able to draft one of the elites.
OUTFIELD
Fun Pick: Pence, Astros
Experts have been gushing over Pence for the last few years, and with good reason. Pence hit 59 home runs combined in 2005-06 in the minors, and was hitting .341-3-19 in 22 games at Triple-A Round Rock when he was called up April 27. The Astros are counting on him to help pick up a sagging offense, so the opportunity for big production right away exists. But while his ceiling is high, he's looked overmatched at times in his first two weeks in the big leagues.
Winning Pick: Andre Ethier, Dodgers
He's a less sexy pick because his upside is limited, but since being called up last May, Ethier has shown he can be a good major league hitter now. In 156 games, the 25-year-old is hitting .306-14-70 with five steals and while his numbers have been about the same this year as last, his strikeout rate has fallen from 19.4 percent last year to 13.8. He may well be available in your league. A 20-homer season isn't out of the question, and a high batting average is likely.
PITCHER
Fun Pick: Lincecum, RHP, Giants
, but he's certain to have some great moments this season. Give him a shot for the entertainment, knowing your ERA and WHIP could be up for a rollercoaster ride.
Winning Pick: Oliver Perez, LHP, Mets
A name that makes fantasy owners shake. The young southpaw has Cy Young-caliber upside, but his last few seasons have been awful. After striking out 239 in 196 innings with a 2.98 ERA in 2004 with Pittsburgh, Perez looked lost the last two years, walking nearly six batters per inning with an ERA well above 6.00. Still, he's safer than Lincecum because he's already struggled and appears to be on the rebound. He has a 3.48 ERA in his first six starts, and in three of those starts, he didn't walk a batter. The Perez rollercoaster should include higher highs and fewer lows than that of Lincecum.
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QUICK HITS: Through Wednesday, three players on pace for 500 plate appearances had yet to hit a home run or steal a base. If you own Pirates IF Freddy Sanchez, Phillies 3B Wes Helms or Angels 1B Shea Hillenbrand, you're pretty unhappy about now. So far, only Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins, Twins OF Torii Hunter and Reds 2B Brandon Phillips are on pace for 30-30 seasons. Most surprising stat of the season: Devil Rays RHP James Shields is sixth in baseball with 49 Ks, fourth with an 0.92 WHIP.
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