Key positional battles in fantasy baseball

by Tim Heaney on April 2, 2009 @ 00:00:00 PDT


NEW - Baltimore Orioles closer

Candidates: George Sherrill | Chris Ray | Jim Miller | Jim Johnson

Winner: Sherrill

Sherrill was named the closer to start the season, but he's a lefty specialist at heart. Ray: better stuff. Sherrill recently admitted he wouldn't mind setting up the more talented Ray if the latter is ready to shut the door. It's a good idea to draft Ray first.

Boston Red Sox shortstop

Candidates: Jed Lowrie | Julio Lugo

Winner: Lowrie

Well, this was solved the old-fashioned way. Lugo (knee) will miss three to four weeks after surgery Tuesday, March 17, to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Lowrie had wrist issues in the second half that could have resulted in a power loss. He can give you an above-average RBI total from a fantasy middle infielder spot, but counting on more than that and a solid (unspectacular) average is a mistake.

NEW - Chicago White Sox center fielder

Candidates: Dewayne Wise | Brian Anderson | Jerry Owens

Winner: Wise

Wise has won the center field job and leadoff spot, but Anderson will probably play that role against lefties. Owens was sent down to Triple-A Charlotte after clearing waivers.

Wise offers speed potential but not much else - he doesn't have a track record. Mixed leaguers don't need to worry about him for now, but he's a bench option for AL games.

Though the Sox are trying to trade him, Owens remains in the Sox's system, so don't write him off for the entire season. AL managers should keep his name on their watch lists for prospective free-agent steals.

Chicago White Sox second baseman

Candidates: Chris Getz | Brent Lillibridge | Jayson Nix | Gordon Beckham

Winner: Getz

Ring the bell. Getz was named the starting second baseman for the 2009 season. 

He's most worthy of consideration in AL leagues, where playing time automatically equals value in many cases. He could be a cheap source of double-digit swipes in deep mixed, too.

With Nix (quadriceps) out indefinitely, Lillibridge might make the roster, too, so keep an eye on him steals.

Beckham, the team's top draft pick last year, was flirting with this job but will probably be sent down to the minors to play every day. It'll probably be his job sometime next year, though.

NEW - Colorado Rockies closer

Candidates: Huston Street | Manny Corpas

Winner: Street

After allowing just one run in his last nine outings, Street was announced as the stopper Thursday, April 2. He improved as his right quadriceps healed.

Corpas, on the other hand, will land in the eighth-inning role, but there are concerns about his velocity - especially for his sinker, which has been clocked at 2 mph slower than usual. A mechanical flaw is the likely cause.

Street ranks as a high-end No. 3 or a low-end No. 2 fireman. He still contributes in strikeouts - just beware of his flyball trend, which doesn't favor his move to Coors Field.

Corpas remains a sound speculative investment as a No. 4 fantasy reliever, especially since he'll fall now that Street has been given the job. It's possible Street's trade value will grow if he performs in the role, meaning Corpas would be closer if Street were to be swapped.

Colorado Rockies left fielder

Candidates: Seth Smith | Carlos Gonzalez | Ian Stewart

Winner: Smith

The Rox are impressed by Smith's contact rate, and he has slimmed down to improve his defense. Can he be more than a pinch hitter? The athletic Gonzalez was sent down to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Infielder I-Stew is a long shot to log time in left, but the team will be keeping him on roster after camp, and they may still give him some reps there.

NEW - Detroit Tigers closer

Candidates: Fernando Rodney | Brandon Lyon | Joel Zumaya | Ryan Perry

Winner: Rodney

After Lyon's disastrous spring, Rodney has the role ... for now. Manager Jim Leyland wouldn't commit to Rodney as the full-time ninth-inning warrior, and F-Rod has had his bouts with injury and unpleasant performance.

Zumaya (shoulder) will start the season on the DL. Perry remains intriguing in deep leagues; the former University of Arizona closer has nasty - NASTY - stuff. We assure you this isn't the last we'll hear from this back end.

NEW - Los Angeles Dodgers No. 5 starting pitcher

Candidates: James McDonald | Claudio Vargas | Eric Stults | Ramon Troncoso | Eric Milton | Shawn Estes

Projected winner: McDonald

Prospectors may have received some good news. The exciting McDonald has all but won the fifth starter spot. "I don't see anybody else jumping up," manager Joe Torre recently said regarding the young righty's place in the race.

McDonald, a polished 24-year-old, screams potential with his deep arsenal and career farm K rate (9.74 per nine innings). For fantasy purposes, it's exciting to see a promising righty emerge from a sea of scrubs - especially on a Torre-managed club.

Take a chance on McDonald in the last few rounds of deep mixed setups - he'll be worth a bit more in NL-only.

NEW - Philadelphia Phillies No. 5 starting pitcher

Candidates: J.A. Happ | Chan Ho Park | Carlos Carrasco

Winner: Park

Park triumphs in this backend battle, but Happ will probably remain with the team as a reliever. Carrasco was already sent to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

We can expect this role to cycle throughout the season. Consider Park and Happ uninspiring but feasible $1 or end-game players in deep NL drafts.

NEW - San Francisco Giants second baseman

Candidates: Emmanuel Burriss | Kevin Frandsen

Winner: Burriss

Burriss' .359 spring average, speed and switch-hitting capability worked in his favor. The Giants sent Frandsen down to Triple-A Fresno and will probably keep Juan Uribe as their utility infielder.

Burriss remains a sleeper for steals and could be had in the late rounds of deep mixed leagues. He has eligibility at both second base and shortstop - another valuable bench resource.

NEW - Seattle Mariners closer

Candidates: Brandon Morrow | David Aardsma | Chad Cordero | Mark Lowe | Tyler Walker | Miguel Batista | Roy Corcoran | Shawn Kelley

Projected winner: Morrow

Morrow's (forearm) move to the bullpen sounds like a symphony to the ears of those who drafted him. The team won't call him the closer yet, but once he's ready to go, you can bet they'll push that move forward.

This battle was a mess all preseason with many of these candidates briefly emerging. In mixed leagues, Morrow should be your only target from here, though you'll probably have to overpay a few rounds to snag him. His hype machine remains powerful.

In AL setups and for mixed waiver pools, Cordero remains a plausible target. Aardsma and Lowe are slightly intriguing for bottomless Junior Circuit leagues, but there are questions about their control and performance.

NEW - St. Louis Cardinals closer

Candidates: Chris Perez | Jason Motte | Ryan Franklin | Josh Kinney | Brad Thompson

Winner: Motte

The Cards sent Perez down to Triple-A Memphis. He had a disappointing spring, experiencing arm and foot injuries along with erratic performance on the mound.

Motte's heat should receive the bulk of the work, but it's hard to actually CALL him the closer. Knowing what happened last year under manager Tony La Russa, he could change his mind at any point when it comes to a closer.

Franklin would be a nice bench pickup in NL leagues. La Russa stuck with him for a while last season as he was adequate in an interim role.

St. Louis Cardinals second baseman

Candidates: Skip Schumaker | Brendan Ryan | Brian Barden

Winner: Schumaker

The club is certainly hoping the Schu fits here, and he's making it easier for them as his defense has improved after transitioning from the outfield. Chalk him in this battle and sneak him onto your roster in the late rounds of deep leagues.

NEW - Texas Rangers outfielder

Candidates: Nelson Cruz | David Murphy | Andruw Jones

Winners: Cruz and Murphy

Jones will stick with the Rangers to start the regular season, but he may be used as trade bait. He doesn't have much value outside of a bench spot in cavernous AL leagues.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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