Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Opening Night Revelations
Derek Lowe: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In an effort to make Fantasy Clicks bigger and better than ever, we'll spotlight each Sunday's most intriguing MLB game in an NFL-style Fantasy Revelations. This week's choice -- Atlanta at Philadelphia -- was an easy one, given its schedule exclusivity and the offensive fireworks normally associated with games involving Brett Myers.

What I Liked: Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur and hotshot rookie Jordan Schafer all launched homers off Myers early in the game. It was a sight to behold for a team that looked dead in the water for long stretches last season; in fact, of the five Atlanta games I attended in 2008, I don't recall the club scoring more than three runs at anytime. Yikes!

What I Loved: Newly minted Braves ace Derek Lowe had a phenomenal game, surrendering only two hits and zero walks in eight scoreless innings (along with four strikeouts). In fact, according to SI.com writer extraordinaire Tom Verducci, no starting pitcher, in the short history of Philly's Citizens Bank Park, has gone at least eight innings while allowing two or few baserunners. Obviously, that deserves a "wow" (thank you, Chris Myers).

What Made Me Laugh Uncomfortably: The madness of owning Braves closer Mike Gonzalez was encapsulated in one longer-than-expected inning last night. He looked shaky against righties, giving up a double and single to Eric Bruntlett and Jayson Werth, respectively; and then after walking Chase Utley, he struck out powerful lefties Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez to close the game in dominating fashion -- even though it was a non-save opportunity. I only have this to say about that harrowing experience: Fasten your seatbelts in '09, Gonzo owners ... because it's going to be a bumpy ride!

What Makes Me Nervous: If I owned any Phillies starting pitcher in fantasyland this season -- Myers, Joe Blanton, Chan Ho Park, Jamie Moyer and even Cole Hamels (balky elbow) -- I'd be praying to the god of skinny punks for a waiver-wire full of viable alternatives -- like Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto, Washington's John Lannan or San Francisco's Jonathan Sanchez (a potential top-20 stud this season). The way I see it, the four Philly starters (save Hamels) are replaceable assets -- no matter what time of season.

Fantasy 2-Pack: Pitchers

The following is a list of pitchers who are scheduled for two starts in Week 1 (April 5-12). These guys are potential gold in weekly leagues:

CC Sabathia, Yankees
Johan Santana, Mets
Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks
Josh Beckett, Red Sox
Roy Halladay, Blue Jays
Cliff Lee, Indians
Tim Lincecum, Giants
Roy Oswalt, Astros
Dan Haren, Diamondbacks
Joe Saunders, Angels
Justin Verlander, Tigers
Carlos Zambrano, Cubs
Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Jake Peavy, Padres
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Ryan Dempster, Cubs
Jair Jurrjens, Braves
Kyle Lohse, Cardinals
Ricky Nolasco, Marlins
Aaron Cook, Rockies
Edwin Jackson, Tigers
Josh Johnson, Marlins
James Shields, Rays
Erik Bedard, Mariners
Aaron Harang, Reds
Francisco Liriano, Twins
Kevin Millwood, Rangers
Scott Olsen, Nationals
Nick Blackburn, Twins
Mark Buehrle, White Sox
Wandy Rodriguez, Astros
Randy Wolf, Dodgers
John Lannan, Nationals
Jeff Suppan, Brewers
Gil Meche, Royals
Ian Snell, Pirates
Randy Johnson, Giants
Trevor Cahill, Athletics
Paul Maholm, Pirates
Dallas Braden, Athletics
Chris Young, Padres

The Obligatory Weather Rant

In case you haven't heard, MLB officials postponed the Royals-White Sox Monday opener at Comiskey Park, due to a snowy forecast for the Windy City. On the surface, I'm fine with this ruling, since it prevents a ton of fans from making the needless trek to the stadium. However, my larger issue -- or resentment -- rests with WHY Major League Baseball even has Kansas City playing in Chicago ... or the Dodgers visiting San Diego ... or Tampa Bay at Boston ... or Oakland visiting the Angels? Last I checked, the Dodgers and Athletics were warm-weather teams (insert "Bay Area in the springtime" joke here); and the Rays, from what I recall back in October, play in a domed stadium in lovely St. Petersburg. Translation: Baseball should do everything in its power to have its warm-weather clubs hosting cold-weather ones during the season's opening week. Oh sure, it won't solve all the problems that come with April games (more matinees, please) ... but at least it will preclude soapbox-standers, like me, from wondering aloud, 'Isn't Kansas City usually a warmer spot for baseball on April 5 than Chicago?'

The Road To Wellville

The following is a list of hitters who should fare remarkably well against average-to-subpar pitching throughout Week 1 (April 5-12):

Ian Kinsler, Rangers (vs. Indians, @ Tigers)
Josh Hamilton, Rangers
Chris Davis, Rangers
Nelson Cruz, Rangers
Michael Young, Rangers
David Murphy, Rangers
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (@ Blue Jays, vs. Rangers)
Magglio Ordonez, Tigers
Curtis Granderson, Tigers
Carlos Guillen, Tigers
Gerald Laird, Tigers
Joey Votto, Reds (vs. Mets, vs. Pirates)
Jay Bruce, Reds
Brandon Phillips, Reds
Edwin Encarnacion, Reds
Ramon Hernandez, Reds
Mark Teixeira, Yankees (@ Orioles, @ Royals)
Robinson Cano, Yankees
Derek Jeter, Yankees
Xavier Nady, Yankees

Tough Road Ahead

On the flip side ... here's list of hitters who are likely headed for slow starts in Week 1 (April 5-12), due to poor pitching matchups. I'm not saying "Don't start 'em" ... just be weary of these guys facing at least five top-end hurlers during this period:

David Wright, Mets (@ Reds, @ Marlins)
Jose Reyes, Mets
Carlos Beltran, Mets
Carlos Delgado, Mets
Ryan Church, Mets
Ryan Braun, Brewers (@ Giants, vs. Cubs)
Prince Fielder, Brewers
Corey Hart, Brewers
Rickie Weeks, Brewers
J.J. Hardy, Brewers
Adam Jones, Orioles (vs. Yankees, vs. Rays)
Nick Markakis, Orioles
Mevlin Mora, Orioles
Ty Wigginton, Orioles
Luke Scott, Orioles

April Showers ... Bring A-Rod Glowers

According to the New York Post, Alex Rodriguez is planning a return to the Yankees lineup sometime in late April, belying the predictions that he wouldn't rejoin his teammates on the field until mid-May. As a non-A-Rod owner in all six of my fantasy leagues, I cannot help but chuckle at yet another twist in this needless soap opera of speculation: If he comes back earlier, obviously he has more time to attain the ambitious projections of 100 RBIs. But even if he's back on, say, April 26 -- a nationally televised Sunday night game against Boston -- he's still a viable lock to fall short of 15 steals (not on that hip), 30 homers and a .280 batting average this season. In other words, Adrian Beltre remains the better choice among hot cornermen in 2009.

I'm Jay ... And I'm A Trade-aholic

There are two kinds of people in fantasyland baseball -- those who stand pat with their roster after the draft (aside from incidental changes) ... and those who are ready to make big and small trades, even if they're relatively satisfied with the original squad. I would fall under the second category, which should explain my rationale (read: insanity) for the next two sections.

Anyone Want An MVP?

The Red Sox haven't played one inning of their season yet (at the time of this writing) ... and I'm already exploring fantasy trade options involving reigning American League MVP and noted commercial actor Dustin Pedroia. Here's the deal: In my most important AL-only league draft last week, I took Pedroia in Round 1 (No. 7 overall), Rays outfielder Carl Crawford in Round 2 and Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury in Round 3. The connecting thread amongst the trio, of course, is speed -- which usually leads to a high concentration of runs and stolen bases. But at the same time, I have left my somewhat-balanced unit of 29 guys with one gaping hole in the HR department. One solution is to wait for this year's Carlos Quentin to emerge and hope that I beat everyone to the waiver-wire punch. My second course of action -- the preferred one -- is to deal my most marketable player (Pedroia) for a prominent power hitter.

Here are my initial 2-for-2 trade options in that particular league:

Pedroia/Vernon Wells for Matt Holliday/Mark DeRosa
Pedroia/Luke Scott for Magglio Ordonez/Brian Roberts
Pedroia/Kendry Morales for Carlos Quentin/Aaron Hill
Pedroia/Luke Scott for Placido Polanco/Jermaine Dye
Pedroia/Kendry Morales for Mike Aviles/Jason Bay
Pedroia/Vernon Wells for Alexei Ramirez/Adam Jones

Radical Reconstruction

If your post-Opening Day fantasy league allows for pre-draft trading of actual picks -- not just slots -- may I suggest a radical path to an unprecedented roto-style championship, tailor-made for owners who steadfastly refuse to take a pitcher in the first four rounds of a 10-team mixed-league draft: Trade picks in Rounds 1, 2 and 4.

The Strategy
Step I -- Trade Round 1 (No. 5 overall) AND Round 16 (No. 156) picks to the owner in the 9th slot ... in exchange for his/her picks in Rounds 5 (No. 49 overall) and 6 (No. 52).
Step II -- Trade Round 2 (No. 16 overall) and Round 14 (No. 136) picks to the owner in the 2nd slot ... in exchange for his/her picks in Rounds 6 (No. 59 overall) and 7 (No. 62).
Step III -- Trade Round 4 (No. 36 overall) and Round 12 (No. 116) picks to the owner in the 10th slot ... in exchange for his/her picks in Rounds 7 (No. 70 overall) and 8 (No. 71).

The New Bounty
**Fifteen high-value picks between Nos. 25 and 125
**Three picks in Round 6
**Three chances for quick-turnaround picks in Rounds 5/6 (49, 52), Rounds 6/7 (59, 62), Rounds 7/8 (70, 71)
**Two picks in Round 5

Meet Your Core (courtesy of Mock Draft Central's ADP rankings)
#25: OF Carl Crawford, Rays
#45: SP Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks (my No. 1-ranked pitcher)
#49: RP Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox (my top-ranked closer)
#52: 3B/1B Chris Davis, Rangers (a top-10 pick in 2010 drafts)
#56: OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox (pardon the pun ... what a steal!)
#59: OF Nate McLouth, Pirates
#62: 2B Dan Uggla, Marlins (a mortal lock for 30 HRs, 95 RBIs)
#65: SP James Shields, Rays
#70: RP Mariano Rivera, Yankees
#71: 1B Joey Votto, Reds
#76: SP Felix Hernandez, Mariners
#85: C Joe Mauer, Twins
#96: OF Jay Bruce, Reds
#105: SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
#125: SP Javier Vazquez, Braves (enjoy your latter-round fantasy gold)

Verdict: Tell me you wouldn't kill for that team right now, huh? I thought so ... and you're welcome!

The Missing Links
Carlos Guillen: Andy Altenburger/Icon SMI

Need a helping hand with your fantasy baseball research? Well, here are the Web sites that I check every morning (and night) -- all in the name of 24/7 roster improvements:

**Baseball America
**Baseball America's 2009 Top Prospects
**Rotowire Player Search Database (great for targeting prospects)
**MinorLeagueBaseball.com's Stats page
**MLB.com's Fantasy Page
**Baseball-Reference
**Baseball Prospectus
**Accuscore.com
**Retrosheet
**The Hardball Times
**Dallas Morning News' Rangers blog (co-writers Richard Durrett, Jeff Wilson)
**Seattle Times' Mariners blog (Geoff Baker, author)

Postscript: It goes without saying ... once your drafts are over, you MUST become a regular subscriber (or at least make it a "Favorite" on your desktop) to your players' team blogs in respective newspapers (like Detroit News writer Tom Gage's engaging insight on Tigers Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Justin Verlander, etc.). These sites should be your daily lifeline when conducting research. And for those playing in AL- or NL-only leagues, your absolute best friend from April to September should be the ever-changing depth charts running on MLB.com's team pages.

Moons Over My Hammel

In case you missed the memo, the Rays traded promising pitching prospect Jason Hammel to the Rockies on Sunday, thus enabling Jeff Niemann to grab hold of Tampa Bay's No. 5 pitching slot -- at least until phenom David Price earns a permanent spot in the rotation next month. What does this mean for Hammel? To be frank, I was really hoping that he would've been traded to San Diego and its spacious lair, Petco Park. Instead, Hammel may have drawn the worst assignment in the majors -- even if balls no longer fly out of Coors Field at an alarming rate. And get this ... early indications have the Rockies using Hammel as a long reliever -- failing to realize that Hammel (192 Ks/66 walks in 204 innings in 2006-07 -- minors) already has the stuff to be the Rockies' No. 2 starter (behind Ubaldo Jimenez) ... and would be wasted in the bullpen. Verdict:Even if Hammel is "grandfathered" in with AL-only leagues (at least for the guy who drafted him), he holds essentially zero fantasy value as a long reliever in Colorado. Dump him for Twins setup man Jesse Crain, who could be one of fantasyland's ultimate deep sleepers this year.

The Almighty 'Autopick' Dilemma

Last week, we had the SI.com & Friends fantasy draft (featuring Clicks readers Mike Bernaiche, Tim Dwyer and David Katz); and for the most part, the 14-team, 25-round online draft went smoothly -- except that fellow SI.commer Lonny Krasnow got booted from his home Internet connection just seconds before the event ... and had to settle for ESPN.com's merciless "autopick" feature for all 25 picks. Lonny's situation, while unfortunate, is a common occurrence in fantasy drafts, which begs the following questions:

**In a league where there's a common thread of association (aka ... "friends" OR "friend of a friend"), should the other owners each sacrifice one good player to the disgraced manager -- in this case, Lonny -- who had a legitimate reason for fielding a miserable team? (His autopick team was NOT pretty)

**Should a draft be postponed, in its entirety, when an owner has a certifiable reason for missing the draft -- and cannot find someone to draft in his/her stead? (For ESPN.com drafts, the commish cannot draft for another owner -- unless he's logged in as the absentee)

**And what is the disgraced owner's responsibility in a friends league -- knowing that he/she likely has a bottom-feeder club to start the season? Should he/she feel obligated to make the necessary trades and free-agent pickups ... in the name of fielding a competitive team? Should the other owners care if he/she just "tanks" the season, thus neglecting a team for which they, technically, never drafted?

I wouldn't mind some Clicks feedback on this discussion ... or any other fantasy topic that crosses your mind.

At Long Last ... Predictions

You didn't think we'd go seven looooong weeks of exhibition Clicks without seasonal predictions, did you? After all, what good comes from having a fantasy column (warning: rhetorical question alert) ... if you're not being exposed for six subsequent months of public ridicule and embarrassment? That aside, the SI.com Predictionator 5000 has churned out the following picks:

American League
East
1. Boston -- 96-66
2. Tampa Bay -- 93-69
3. N.Y. Yankees -- 90-72
4. Toronto -- 75-87
5. Baltimore -- 73-89

Central
1. Minnesota -- 89-73
2. Cleveland -- 88-74
3. Kansas City -- 84-78
4. Detroit -- 82-80
5. Chicago -- 81-81

West
1. L.A. (Anaheim) -- 90-72
2. Texas -- 83-79
3. Oakland -- 78-84
4. Seattle -- 61-101

National League
East
1. Phillies -- 91-71
2. Florida -- 90-72
3. Atlanta -- 89-73
4. N.Y. Mets -- 89-73
5. Washington -- 77-85

Central
1. Chicago -- 92-70
2. Milwaukee -- 89-73
3. Cincinnati -- 84-78
4. Houston -- 82-80
5. St. Louis -- 81-81
6. Pittsburgh -- 71-91

West
1. San Francisco -- 88-74
2. Arizona -- 87-75
3. L.A. Dodgers -- 86-76
4. Colorado -- 82-78
5. San Diego -- 68-94

Note: I'll have more picks (MVP, Cy Young, etc.) on Wednesday.

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