Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Catch A Rising Star
James Shields: AP

There are two types of people in fantasy baseball: Those who spend countless hours creating intricate cheat sheets for starting pitchers ... and those who simply rely on the preseason mags come draft day -- since they have no intention of taking a pitcher in the first four rounds anyway. Unfortunately, I am that first guy -- you know, the one who forsakes watching Season 7 of Curb Your Enthusiasm on a lazy Sunday OR passes on all-day trips to northern Georgia wine country ... all in the name of finding happiness with my rankings involving pitchers immediately AFTER The Big 5 of Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia, Johan Santana, Roy Halladay and Diamondbacks ace Brandon Webb. (deep sigh) But just for fun, just for kicks, I'll let the good people at Fantasy Baseball Index take the podium in deciding amongst the young-guns quartet of Dan Haren, James Shields, Yovani Gallardo and Kevin Slowey.

1. Haren, 16
2. Gallardo, 15
3. Shields, 13
3. Slowey, 13

1. Haren, 3.31
2. Gallardo, 3.37
3. Shields, 3.73
4. Slowey, 3.79

1. Haren, 1.14
2. Slowey, 1.15
3. Shields, 1.16
4. Gallardo, 1.23

1. Haren, 199
2. Shields, 172
3. Gallardo, 163
4. Slowey, 123

Verdict: Based on his 1-1-1-1 sweep in the rankings, Haren is the obvious winner in the eyes of FBI (not necessarily the F.B.I.). And second place would equally be divided between Gallardo and Shields, based on their 11 score overall. And bringing up the rear, respectfully though, we have Mr. Slowey, who -- regardless of this publication's conservative projections -- is primed to make a Halladay-like leap (circa 2002) up the fantasy charts this season.

It's What To Look For

Are you having trouble making sense of the 839 publications -- give or take a few -- devoted to fantasy baseball this spring (print and online)? More specifically, can you tell the difference between a draftable and non-draftable starting pitcher? Well, here are my across-the-board, minimum requirements for selecting pitchers in terms of their '09 projections:

Mixed Leagues
WHIP: 1.29 (those 1.40-plus guys will absolutely kill you)
Strikeouts: A 2.5-to-1 K/BB ratio (sorry, Jamie Moyer)
ERA: 4.03 (don't let any 4.10-plus pitcher off the hook in mixes)
Wins: 14 (I'm the least militant about this one -- since pitchers have little control over wins)

AL- or NL-Only Leagues
WHIP: 1.34
Strikeouts: A 2.25-to-1 K/BB ratio
ERA: 4.16
Wins: 12

Rank & File

Here's my revised list of the top 20 starting pitchers in 5x5 American League-only drafts (ERA, WHIP, Ks, wins and saves). Note: Just because Kevin Slowey ranks so highly with me ... I'm not suggesting you reach for him on drafts (although you wouldn't be disappointed in the long run). No, great drafting is still about value ... and right now, Slowey will give you second-round numbers for 6th-round value. So enjoy his last season as a "dime-a-dozen" fantasy talent.

1. Roy Halladay, Blue Jays
1. CC Sabathia, Yankees
3. James Shields, Rays
4. Kevin Slowey, Twins
5. Cliff Lee, Indians
6. Josh Beckett, Red Sox
7. Justin Verlander, Tigers
8. John Lackey, Angels
9. Joba Chamberlain, Yankees
10. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox
11. Ervin Santana, Angels
12. Scott Baker, Twins
13. Matt Garza, Rays
14. Jon Lester, Red Sox
15. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
16. Zack Greinke, Royals
17. Erik Bedard, Mariners
18. Francisco Liriano, Twins
19. Scott Kazmir, Rays
20. David Price, Rays (I'm not scared off by his likely mid-May seasonal debut with Tampa's big club)

Rank & File, Part II

... And here's the top 20 starting pitchers in 5x5 National League-only drafts (ERA, WHIP, Ks, wins and saves).

1. Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks
2. Tim Lincecum, Giants
3. Johan Santana, Mets
4. Jake Peavy, Padres
5. Dan Haren, Diamondbacks
6. Cole Hamels, Phillies
7. Roy Oswalt, Astros
8. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
9. Ricky Nolasco, Marlins
10. Chad Billingsley, Dodgers
11. Rich Harden, Cubs
12. Matt Cain, Giants
13. Javier Vazquez, Braves
14. Josh Johnson, Marlins
15. Derek Lowe, Braves
16. Aaron Harang, Reds
17. Paul Maholm, Pirates
18. Jair Jurrjens, Braves
19. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
20. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals

Tiers Of A Clown

In auction drafts, fantasy owners seldom haggle over a buck or two when plotting their pre-draft strategies. Instead, they rely heavily on the tier system to get through the exhaustive process of bidding for talent. So, in deference to these way-too-patient experts, here are the five classifications of starting pitchers in mixed leagues:

Tier I
Tim Lincecum, Giants
Johan Santana, Mets
CC Sabathia, Yankees
Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks
Jake Peavy, Padres
Roy Halladay, Blue Jays

Tier II
Dan Haren, Diamondbacks
Cole Hamels, Phillies
James Shields, Rays
Roy Oswalt, Astros
Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Josh Beckett, Red Sox
Roy Oswalt, Astros
Rich Harden, Cubs
Ricky Nolasco, Marlins
Justin Verlander, Tigers
Joba Chamberlain, Yankees
Ervin Santana, Angels
Chad Billingsley, Dodgers

Tier III
Kevin Slowey, Twins
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox
Francisco Liriano, Twins
Jon Lester, Red Sox
Carlos Zambrano, Cubs
Matt Cain, Giants
Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
Matt Garza, Rays
Javier Vazquez, Braves
Scott Kazmir, Rays
Zack Greinke, Royals
Josh Johnson, Marlins

Tier IV
Derek Lowe, Braves
Scott Baker, Twins
A.J. Burnett, Yankees
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles
Erik Bedard, Mariners
Ryan Dempster, Cubs
John Danks, White Sox
Aaron Harang, Reds
Edinson Volquez, Reds
Jered Weaver, Angels
Jonathan Sanchez, Giants
Paul Maholm, Pirates
Jair Jurrjens, Braves
Mark Buehrle, White Sox
Randy Johnson, Giants
Gil Meche, Royals
Chris Young, Padres

Tier V
David Price, Rays
Ted Lilly, Cubs
Max Scherzer, Diamondbacks
Johnny Cueto, Reds
Huroki Kuroda, Dodgers
Jeremy Bonderman, Tigers
Brandon Morrow, Mariners
Justin Duchscherer, A's
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Clay Buchholz, Red Sox
Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
Andy Sonnanstine, Rays
Huroki Kuroda, Dodgers
Fausto Carmona, Indians
John Lannan, Nationals

Cain Enabler

Man-crush aside, I have sufficient reasons for listing Matt Cain as the No. 23 overall starting pitcher -- even though he could easily be the Giants' fourth-best hurler in '09. In just three seasons, the 24-year-old Cain has surpassed each of the following major indicators of future success -- albeit in separate years:

**200 innings: Twice (2007, '08)
**13 wins: Once ('06)
**3.65 or less ERA: Twice ('07, '08)
**1.28 or less WHIP: Twice ('06, '07)
**180 or more strikeouts: Once ('08)
**8.5 or higher K/9 rate: Once ('06)

Verdict: Even if Cain remained with the Giants for the next 10 seasons, he may never trump the expected greatness of reigning Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum (18-5, 2.62 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 265 Ks in 2008) and future ace Madison Bumgarner ... but he still has top-10 potential, and someday soon he'll get his fantasy due. (I'm guessing 2009.)

Running With Scissors

Moving on to hitters ... here are Rotoworld's top 30 steals projections for the coming season (if I haven't said it enough already, Rotoworld is a must-read before all baseball drafts -- regardless of league format):

1. Jose Reyes, Mets -- 58 steals
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox -- 55 steals
3. Willy Taveras, Rockies -- 54
4. Carl Crawford, Rays -- 45
5. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies -- 44
6. Michael Bourn, Astros -- 44
7. Chone Figgins, Angels -- 41
8. Brian Roberts, Orioles -- 37
9. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins -- 37
10. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners -- 35
11. Carlos Gomez, Twins -- 35
12. Cameron Maybin, Marlins -- 34
13. Juan Pierre, Dodgers -- 34
14. Shane Victorino, Phillies -- 33
15. Coco Crisp, Royals -- 32
16. B.J. Upton, Rays -- 32
17. Rafael Furcal, Dodgers -- 31
18. Ian Kinsler, Rangers -- 30
19. Grady Sizemore, Indians -- 30
20. Nyjer Morgan, Pirates -- 28
21. Brandon Phillips, Reds -- 27
22. Nate McLouth, Pirates -- 26
23. Lastings Milledge, Nationals -- 26
24. Matt Kemp, Dodgers -- 24
25. Denard Span, Twins -- 24
26. Kazuo Matsui, Astros -- 24
27. Bobby Abreu, Angels -- 24
28. Alfonso Soriano, Cubs -- 24
29. Johnny Damon, Yankees -- 24
30. Rickie Weeks, Brewers -- 23

Mi Casa, Su Casa; Su Dinero, Mi Dinero

If you're ever looking to win an easy fantasy public league on ESPN, CBSSports, Sporting News, etc., without really trying, simply join the one where its commissioner advertises something in the vain of "Reds Fans Only," or "Die-Hard Astros Honks Only" or "You Must Know that Keith Hernandez won the MVP in '79 with ST. LOUIS to play here." Think about it: These commissioners aren't trying to entice the savviest fantasy owners from all parts of the world -- or at least the nation. No, these chuckleheads are looking for someone to vent with in the chat rooms, IF Wandy Rodriguez ever realizes his "ace" potential or WHEN Reds outfielder Jay Bruce goes into a mid-June swoon (rhyme intended). In other words, they're looking for a friend, a faceless companion to lean on during, uh, those lean times of a season (pun intended). But really, that's the best kind of league to join -- you get inside the heads of apologists and myopians, who will undoubtedly reach for their preferred players, while killing them slowly over a loooooong season with sound, rational decisions about players -- who may or may not be wearing your own favorite team's jersey (winning intended).

Permission To Talk Fantasy Hoops ...
Stephen Jackson: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Switching gears to the NBA's regular-season product, here are three substantial rotisserie lists for fans of NBA fantasy cross-pollination, dating back to Feb. 23:

15.5 points per game, 5.1 assists
Chris Paul, Hornets
Steve Nash, Suns
LeBron James, Cavaliers
Baron Davis, Clippers
Kobe Bryant, Lakers
Richard Hamilton, Pistons
Chauncey Billups, Nuggets
Dwyane Wade, Heat
Tony Parker, Spurs
Nate Robinson, Knicks
Andre Iguodala, 76ers
Deron Williams, Jazz
Devin Harris, Nets
Russell Westbrook, Thunder
Joe Johnson, Hawks
Derrick Rose, Bulls
Hedo Turkoglu, Magic
Caron Butler, Wizards
T.J. Ford, Pacers
Brandon Roy, Blazers
Stephen Jackson, Warriors
Andre Miller, 76ers

5.6 Rebounds/1.2 steals per game
Chris Paul, Hornets
Dwyane Wade, Heat
Thabo Sefolosha, Thunder
Jason Kidd, Mavericks
LeBron James, Cavaliers
Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
Marvin Williams, Hawks
Gerald Wallace, Bobcats
Andre Iguodala, 76ers
Kevin Durant, Thunder
Russell Westbrook, Thunder
Al Horford, Hawks
Al Harrington, Knicks
Al Thornton, Clippers (That's Al, folks!)
David Lee, Knicks
Nene Hilario, Nuggets
Antawn Jamison, Wizards
Carlos Boozer, Jazz
Caron Butler, Wizards
Rajon Rondo, Celtics
Tyrus Thomas, Bulls

1.8 3-pointers made/84% Free Throws
Mo Williams, Cavaliers
Chauncey Billups, Nuggets
Jason Terry, Mavericks
Vince Carter, Nets
Steve Novak, Clippers
Peja Stojakovic, Hornets
Steve Blake, Blazers
Roger Mason, Jr., Spurs
Hedo Turkoglu, Magic
Ben Gordon, Bulls
Rashard Lewis, Magic
Andrea Bargnani, Raptors
Jamal Crawford, Warriors
Eric Gordon, Clippers
Nate Robinson, Knicks
Steve Nash, Suns
Ray Allen, Celtics
Kevin Martin, Kings
Troy Murphy, Pacers

Five Guys I'd Consider Picking Up ASAP

I would highly recommend grabbing these specialists in deeper fantasy leagues:
1. Will Bynum, Pistons (getting a ton of PT and assists lately)
2. Craig Smith, Timberwolves (hot/cold scorer who gets his share of rebounds, blocks)
3. Kyle Korver, Grizzlies (will bring fantasy goodness in points, 3-pointers, FG%, FT%)
4. Bobby Jackson, Kings (playing well ... with a fractured cheekbone)
5. Thabo Sefolosha, Thunder (I accidentally cut him last week ... and spent the next 48 hours waiting to re-acquire him)

Five Guys I'd Consider Dropping ASAP

1. Luol Deng, Bulls (it's almost Operation: Shutdown with him for the season)
2. Quentin Richardson, Knicks (slowly playing his way OFF this list)
3. Joey Graham, Raptors (the on-again, off-again flirtation is, uh, kaput -- for now)
4. Michael Finley, Spurs (decent scorer, wretched FT shooter)
5. Chris Wilcox, Thunder (don't get seduced by his "tools" talent ... and 4-game week)

Fantasy 5-Pack

Talk about a huuuuge playoff advantage ... the Bulls and Suns have five -- count 'em, FIVE! -- games from Monday-Sunday (March 23-29). In fact, I believe this is the first time all year that any team has enjoyed a five-game week. So, it goes without saying: If any of these players below are healthy and on your roster ... play 'em, no matter what!

PG -- Steve Nash, Suns
SG -- Ben Gordon, Bulls
G -- Derrick Rose, Bulls
SF -- John Salmons, Bulls
PF -- Tyrus Thomas, Bulls
F -- Grant Hill, Suns
C -- Shaquille O'Neal, Suns
C -- Brad Miller, Bulls

Fantasy 4-Pack

The & Friends league is a head-to-head weekly, where owners carefully choose their starters every Monday and live with the results -- good or bad -- all the way to Sunday night. So, in the spirit of economizing/maximizing starter picks, here is my dream team (1 PG, 1 SG, 1 G, 1 SF, 1 PF, 1 F, 2 C) of Week 21 stars, all of whom have four games from Monday-Sunday:

PG -- Tony Parker, Spurs
SG -- Dwyane Wade, Heat
G -- Kobe Bryant, Lakers
SF -- Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
PF -- Antwan Jamison, Wizards
F -- Tim Duncan, Spurs
C -- David Lee, Knicks

Fantasy 2-Pack

On the flip side ... here is my list of eight stars (1 PG, 1 SG, 1 G, 1 SF, 1 PF, 1 F, 2 C) with only two games for Week 21: (None of these guys, outside of Yao, Martin, Artest and maybe Udrih, should be in your lineup this week ... it's too risky)

PG -- Beno Udrih, Kings
SG -- Kevin Martin, Kings
G -- Aaron Brooks, Rockets
SF -- Ron Artest, Rockets
PF -- Luis Scola, Rockets
F -- Jason Thompson, Kings
C -- Spencer Hawes, Kings
C -- Yao Ming, Rockets

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