2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Relief Pitchers

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There are two general schools of thought when it comes to selecting relief pitchers. Some owners zero in on a stud and are willing to select one in the first couple rounds, while others don’t mind cruising the wavier wire on a regular basis during the season after they waited to address the position late in their draft.

Neither approach is bad, although each has its drawbacks. K-Rod racked up 62 saves last season, but switching clubs and leagues this year leads to some uncertainty, plus outside of saves, his ERA and WHIP numbers have been on the decline for years. If you’re the type that burns a high draft pick on a top reliever and a guy like K-Rod fizzles, you obviously would have cost yourself an opportunity to select a position player that could have given you great value at that spot.

Conversely, if you wait until the later rounds of your draft to address your stopper(s), then you run the risk of playing Russian Roulette with the position throughout the regular season, possibly costing you wins/points in not only saves, but strikeouts, ERA and WHIP as well.

If we could offer some advice, we recommend finding a happy medium between those that make finding a reliever one of their top priorities, and those who avoid it like the dentist. Find that next wave of relievers after names like Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon and Mariano Rivera come off the board. Chances are you’ll get a nice combination of saves, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP without burning a high draft pick on one of the studs.

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2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Starting Pitchers

Admit it, you passed on Tim Lincecum last year. You took one look at his 2007 record (7-5), his ball boy-type frame (he only stands 5’11” and is 170-pounds soaking wet) and the fact that he played on a team with one of the worst offenses in baseball and you said, “no thanks.”

But there was one owner (the smart one) in your league that bought into the hype, took a shot and reaped the benefits of Lincecum earning the NL Cy Young Award while going 18-5 with a major league-leading 265 strikeouts and 2.62 ERA.

Don’t feel bad; you weren’t the only fantasy owner last year that just couldn’t pull the trigger on Lincecum. Truth be told, he was a bit of a risk last season given his inexperience and the fact that the Giants weren’t expected to give him much run support. And assuming you’ve played a fair share of fantasy baseball, you’ve probably been burned once or twice in the past by taking a risk on that perfect young sleeper that everyone is gaga for in spring training, yet fizzles once the season starts.

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Alex Rodiguez has torpedoed my fantasy draft strategy

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The collective groan you heard when Alex Rodriguez announced that he would have “hybrid” surgery to repair his injured hip was not solely the work of the Yankee faithful. The ramifications in fantasy circles are staggering, especially if you, like me, happen to have the fifth pick in your draft.

Just a few days ago, I thought I had my draft strategy all figured out. The first round would simply be a matter of which of the Big Five (Hanley, Reyes, Pujols, A-Rod, Wright) fell to me. The mock drafts I conducted a few weeks ago indicated that Wright would be my guy, which was fine with me. The post-surgery view from the five-hole, however, is bleak. The Big Five is now the Big Four – Rodriguez is currently sitting at #49 in my draft room – and whichever player I take with my first pick now feels like a reach. However, after doing some stat sorting, I found my guy. He’s a former MVP with pop and speed. So why don’t I want to take him?

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2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Second Basemen

Dustin Pedroia

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Second base is home to one of the biggest draft-day dilemmas: What to do with Chase Utley? I covered Utley’s situation in more detail here, but as you’ll see in the rankings below, I’m not concerned enough about his recovery from hip surgery to drop him from the top slot at second base. Reports out of spring training have all been positive and Utley maintains that he’ll be ready for Opening Day. As long as he doesn’t suffer a setback between now and my draft, that’s good enough for me.

Of course, my refusal to drop Utley’s ranking has as much to do with his talent as it does the general lack of depth at second base. Sure, there is some talent at the top of the list but once you get eight or 10 deep, things start looking rather bleak. Fortunately, there is a fair amount of upside to be harvested here, with several 28-and-under guys who could outperform expectations this season. You’ll have to pay a premium for some (like the reigning AL MVP) while others can be snagged in the mid- to late-rounds (like Arizona’s new potential leadoff man), but they all have the kind of upside that I look for on draft day. And while upside alone won’t win you a fantasy title, it’s a convenient tiebreaker that makes a guy like Brandon Phillips a little more attractive than the steadier but older Brian Roberts.

With that in mind, here is some of the young talent you’ll want to consider this season, and see below for my top-25 second basemen.

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What to do with Chase Utley?

Chase Utley

All 2009 Fantasy Articles | 2009 Position Rankings

While Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler both broke out in a big way last year, there is no second baseman I’d rather own than Chase Utley. That said, Utley is one of the toughest players to get a read on heading into draft season. There’s no doubting the Philly slugger’s studliness — his average season since 2005 is a cool .305-29-103-110-13, and there are few cushier gigs in baseball than hitting third in Philly’s stacked lineup. But after belting 25 homers before the break last season, Utley’s power evaporated in the second half thanks to a hip injury that required offseason surgery. He says he’ll be back in time for Opening Day and early spring training reports have been positive, but owners are still understandably concerned. When healthy, Utley is not only a surefire first-round selection but, considering the lack of depth at second base, he’s also a likely top-five pick in most drafts. How dramatically should the injury concerns affect his draft stock? I suppose that depends on how lucky you feel. Punk.

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