Wednesday, August 16, 2006

FANTASY BASEBALL ... LATE-SEASON DIFFERENCE MAKERS!

Those of you who are staring up in the fantasy Baseball standings are eagerly preparing for Football's draft day. Yet... we're in the throes of Baseball's "dog-daze'," and countless owners are making a late-season push to win... place... or show in their leagues.

But we're not the only ones! Fantasy Baseball mimics life... and Major League Baseball, right now, is stopping for a cup o' coffee. With players starting to drop like flies, I.E. Placido Polanco (his loss could easily prove to be a devastating blow), and, at the very least, needing a late-season breather, clubs are starting to bring up the youngsters. Those already out of contention are auditioning for next season... and those who remain in the thick of the hunt are eye-balling athletes who just might be worth sticking on an expanded post-season roster.

Let's take a look at some potential difference-makers!

Catcher:
Dodgers, Russ Martin: Man oh man, do I have a fantasy man-crush on the promising young Trolley-Dodger (as they were called when the club played in Brooklyn, back when my DAD was but a gleam in Grandpappy's eye!). Martin possesses remarkable poise, can spray the ball to all fields, and has actually surprised his own club. L.A. thought the backstop position was going to be a real problem... and even went so far as to trade for former Yankee Dionner Navarro a couple of seasons ago. But in Martin the team saw po'... and the 23 year-old receiver has affirmed the club's faith. A disciplined hitter (40 Ks out of 284 plate appearances), R-Mart' is 6-14 over his last 4 games and is hanging a line of .306/6/47/43 on the year. In addition, he's thieved 8 bags... and speed is a rare commodity in Catchers. Assuming he continues his hot-hitting ways, Russ Martin will be a covetted Catcher come next season... and if, by chance, he's on your leagues' Waiver Wire? I would both examine my competition and snatch him up in a heart-beat!

1st Basemen:
Devil Rays, Lyle Overbay: At 29, the D-Ray finally seems to be putting it all together. Overbay may still be available since he's really gone on a post-All-Star Break tear. Hitting a not-so crappy .294 prior to the sport's star studded cavalcade, "Overbay the Devil Ray" is crushing all offerings at a .341 clip.
Other young 1st Baggers of consequence:
Howie Kendrick: Hitting .331 with 14 XBH out of 42 total hits
Greg Norton: Another D-Ray, Norton has hit 4 HRs and 3 Doubles over his last 10 games.

2nd Basemen:
Rangers, Ian Kinsler: I don't mean to repeat myself, but Kinsler was my "Breaking Down Fantasy Baseball's 2nd Basemen; Breakout Player of the Year." As consistent as a Swiss watch, Kinsler's reached base in 15 straight games, is a VERY tough K (just 44 Ks in 275 ABs), and is hitting .302/8/37, with 8 SB. Although the Rangers boast some big bats in Mark Teixeira, Gary Mathews Jr., Hank Blalock and Mark DeRosa... Kinsler's steady-eddie player and above-average speed are valued by Texas.

3rd Basemen:
Royals, Mark Teahen: A Royal? Yeah, a Royal. I'm an equal-opportunity Blogger... and Teahen's breakout season and potental 'Wire availability demands mentioning.
Another late emerging prospect, the KC Cornerman is posting excellent numbers; .281/14/56/57, with 16 Doubles, 7 Triples and a SLG % of .513. Given the fact that the lineup around him is positively anemic, Teahen's performance is all the more notable. A solid addition to any roster as a 2nd 3B or "Flex" play.
Reds, Edwin Encarnacion is another notable 'Wire grab should he be available.

Shortstops:
Diamondbacks, Stephen Drew: Again, another player I wrote about in my pre-season rankings, Drew has lived up to his more than ample hype. As of today, dude's over his minor hand injury and is continuing a borderline "NL Rookie of the Year" campaign.
Drew's power is still developing and as a 23 year-old he's still a baby, but a .330 BA and a Slugging % of .583 bode awfully well for the future. A definite "Keeper" candidate if you're in need of such, Drew doesn't steal much but 4 Triples attest to his speed.

Outfielders:
Indians, Shin-Soo Choo: I mentioned the 24 year-old South Korean export in a recent Blog posting... and since that time he's done nothing to disappoint. The impressive number of impact Indian prospects is a testament to the club's fab' foresight and ability to assess talent.
Swatting a very cushy .386 over his last 12 games, Choo's hit 6 Doubles and plated 14 teammates over that same span. Although his 60 AB sample doesn't give owners much to go by, Choo should be picked up by those in need of an extra Outfielder. I'd ride him like a $10 mule while he's hot!

Cardinals, Chris Duncan: The Card' 1B/LF is pitching coach may be Dave Duncan's son but he's earning his Major League ABs on his own merit. Currently hitting .315 on the season, Duncan's got nice pop and his ability to play both 1st Base and Outfield increases his value. Consider the lineup surrounding him, too; bone-crushingly potent.

Cubs, Matt Murton: The Cubs, 12 1/2 games back and coached by a semi-delusional Dusty Baker, don't boast a whole lotta' power; 3B Aramis Ramirez is enjoying a white-hot 2nd half and has hit nearly a dozen Homers' since the All-Star Break, and RF Jacques Jones is on a power-trip of his own. But after those 2 only one player, NO player brags more than 19 HRs.
Murton, at .296/8/44, was a virtual unknown entering the season. Now, though, the Cubby' is hotter than Texas asphalt on an August afternoon. A real talent, Murty' (to his friends, of which I am not one) crushed 4 Doubles in one game (8/3) and seems to have secured a spot for himself in Leftfield. Kid should only get better as the lineup around him improves.

Starting Pitchers:
Pirates, Tom Gorzelanny: I included Gorzelanny in Monday's Blog... and all the kid did was go out and toss a 7 inning, 1 earned run, 5 K gem against Prince Fielder and his talented young Brewer teammates. Although he's struggled with control, the Bucc' Lefty' has improved with each successive start and has whiffed 27 and allowed just 7 ERs over his last 5 starts. A "must-start" Pirate, you ask? A "must-start Pirate" I respond and no, I am NOT medicated. Currently, anyway.

TOMORROW... IT'S BACK TO FANTASY FOOTBALL AS WE LOOK AT IMPACT ROOKS'!

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