Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Draft Rules To Live By
Ryan Howard: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

For a good chunk of fantasyland owners ... welcome to the biggest seven-day period of your life (figurative hyperbole), also known as Fantasy Baseball Draft Week. What's it going to take to succeed during this gut-wrenching, mind-numbing time of Pujols-or-Hanley at No. 1? ... Kinsler-or-Pedroia-or-Utley? ... Howard-or-Morneau in Round 2? ... or Can I get A-Rod in Round 5? Well, here are four unimpeachable draft rules to live by:

1. DO NOT take a pitcher in Round 1: This rule is remarkably similar to the principle of NEVER grabbing a QB in Round 1 of NFL fantasy drafts. The reasoning is simple: You have a small window of selecting four- or five-category offensive monsters ... so don't blow off Grady Sizemore, Ian Kinsler or Ryan Braun right away just because Tim Lincecum might rack up 265 strikeouts this season. It's not worth the gamble -- no matter how many times Lincecum's doppleganger commercial cracks you up.
2. Draft four outfielders in the first six picks: Most fantasy leagues call for five starting outfielders -- by far, the largest contingent of non-pitching starters. So, it's imperative that you come strong at this position. I've participated in approximately 40 drafts in the last month, and I can say -- with full confidence -- that you'll love your team when adopting this predraft strategy. In fact, with the eighth pick in a mixed-league draft, you could easily land Sizemore/Braun in Round 1, Alfonso Soriano or Manny Ramirez in Round 3, Matt Kemp, Alex Rios, Nick Markakis or Carl Crawford in Round 4 ... and Jacoby Ellsbury, Nate McLouth or Corey Hart in Round 6. And come Round 22 or so, you could take a high-end flier on Elijah Dukes, Adam Jones and/or Nelson Cruz to complete your league-best corps of outfielders.
3. Be prudent with middle infielders: If you have a shot at SS Hanley Ramirez or the Big Three of Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia or Chase Utley at second base, by all means, grab them ASAP and be happy! But if you're willing to fill the SS and 2B/SS holes at the bottom of the draft, Yunel Escobar and Elvis Andrus should provide excellent value at shortstop; and Aaron Hill and Kelly Johnson will likely be lights-out at the 4-spot. But it's important to stick to the game plan here ... don't reach!
4. You can never have enough closers: While I'm not recommending that you rush to grab Jonathan Papelbon or Joe Nathan in Rounds 4 and 5, respectively ... I am begging you to select at least four closers between Rounds 10 and 18 -- while taking two more, for good measure, in Rounds 23 and 24. This is the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to ensuring victory in ERA, WHIP and saves. Cha-ching!

It's All About The Slot: #12

Some people consider having the No. 12 pick in a 12-team draft a mixed blessing. Yes, you get a free shot at two of baseball's 13 biggest studs ... but you also have to wait 23 looooooong slots just to add a third player to the roster. (Seems a little unfair, eh?) Well, have no fear or ambivalence ... because here's a great strategy for nailing your mixed-league draft when owning the 12th and 13th picks:

Round 1, Pick 12: Motive -- Best overall player or best player at scarce position
1st option: 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies ... 2nd option: OF Josh Hamilton, Rangers

Round 2, Pick 13 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or No. 1-ranked starting pitcher
1st option: OF Josh Hamilton, Rangers ... 2nd option: SP Tim Lincecum, Giants

Round 3, Pick 36 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or outfielder
1st option: SP CC Sabathia, Yankees ... 2nd option: OF Nick Markakis, Orioles

Round 4, Pick 37 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or A-Rod
1st option: OF Nick Markakis, Orioles ... 2nd option: 3B Alex Rodriguez, Yankees

Round 5, Pick 60 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or No. 1-ranked relief pitcher
1st option: OF Nate McLouth, Pirates ... 2nd option: RP Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox

Round 6, Pick 61 overall: Motive -- Top-ranked closer or best available infielder
1st option: RP Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox ... 2nd option: 3B Chipper Jones, Braves

Round 7, Pick 84 overall: Motive -- Best available infielder or best outfielder
1st option: 3B Chris Davis, Rangers ... 2nd option: OF Jermaine Dye, White Sox

Round 8, Pick 85 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or best starting pitcher
1st option: OF Jermaine Dye, White Sox ... 2nd option: SP Yovani Gallardo, Brewers

Round 9, Pick 108 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or top-end closer
1st option: SP Cliff Lee, Indians ... 2nd option: RP Carlos Marmol, Cubs

Round 10, Pick 109 overall: Motive -- Top-end closer or best outfielder
1st option: RP Carlos Marmol, Cubs ... 2nd option: OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks

Round 11, Pick 132: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or best corner infielder
1st option: SP Ricky Nolasco ... 2nd option: 3B Alex Gordon, Royals

Round 12, Pick 133: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or top-end closer
1st option: SP Zack Greinke, Royals ... 2nd option: RP Francisco Cordero, Reds

Round 13, Pick 156: Motive -- Best closer or corner infielder
1st option: RP Matt Capps, Pirates ... 2nd option: 3B Adrian Beltre, Mariners

Round 14, Pick 157: Motive -- Best outfielder or best closer
1st option: OF Nelson Cruz, Rangers ... 2nd option: RP Brian Fuentes, Angels

Round 15, Pick 180: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or best outfielder
1st option: SP Erik Bedard, Mariners ... 2nd option: OF Elijah Dukes, Nationals

Round 16, Pick 181: Motive -- Best middle infielder
1st option: SS Yunel Escobar, Braves ... 2nd option: 2B Kelly Johnson, Braves

Round 17, Pick 204: Motive -- Best available player
Only option: 3B/1B/OF Carlos Guillen, Tigers

Round 18, Pick 205: Motive -- Best outfielder
Only option: OF Shin-Soo Choo, Indians

Round 19, Pick 228: Motive -- Best reliever or best catcher
1st option: RP Heath Bell, Padres ... 2nd option: C Max Ramirez, Rangers

Round 20, Pick 229: Motive -- Best catcher, corner infielder or second baseman
1st option: Ramirez ... 2nd option: 3B Pablo Sandoval, Giants ... 3rd option: 2B Aaron Hill, Blue Jays

Now Batting 13th and 14th ...

After perusing more than 120 submissions -- some sarcastic, some begging for inclusion -- regarding the 14th opening in the & Friends baseball league, I have finally come to a decision (actually two). The league's newest members (since one of our regular owners unexpectedly dropped out) are ... Tim Dwyer and David K. of parts unknown (and yes, DK's surname and location are being withheld to protect his identity -- from work and his girlfriend).

David, a 26-year-old accountant, drives a Volvo and is on the verge of moving in with his girlfriend. He also has an insatiable passion for fantasy baseball and executing lopsided trades, dating back to his junior-high days: In our inaugural draft, I traded the number 1 pick in the draft for the number 2 pick and his second-round pick. Needless to say, I won the first four seasons pretty easily. Since then, it's been two baseball, two football leagues and a basketball league every year. And yet, I still miss the days when standings would come out once a week, in a paper newsletter, distributed every Friday during middle school lunch.

Tim, a University of Kansas student and Jayhawks baseball beat reporter for The Daily Kansan, has a similar affinity for fantasy sports: All little boys have dreams. Some dream of going to the moon, some dream of being president, some dream of being general manger of the World Series champions. Then there's me. I go for more attainable goals, the kind that make you feel good about yourself because you can actually attain them. I want to be general manager of a fantasy league champion. The good news is, it's been crossed off the to-do list of life (next stop: meeting Erin Andrews). ... I'm writing this e-mail at 2 in the morning because in the last four hours I've finished an article, a speech and a paper on Paradise Lost. I don't even follow hockey, but (darn-it-all) if I didn't just make a trade in my fantasy hockey league. I'm on top of my game this time of night. So consider this the throwing down of the gauntlet.

Welcome to the league, guys. Now get out of my way -- I have a trophy to win.

Rank & File

Here's my revised list of the top 20 shortstops in 5x5 American League-only drafts (HRs, RBIs, batting average, steals, runs).

1. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox (Chicago's opening day starter at SS)
2. Michael Young, Rangers (will have 3B eligibility by mid-April)
3. Derek Jeter, Yankees
4. Mike Aviles, Royals
5. Jhonny Peralta, Indians
6. Orlando Cabrera, Athletics
7. Jed Lowrie, Red Sox
8. Erick Aybar, Angels
9. Jason Bartlett, Rays
10. Elvis Andrus, Rangers
11. Nomar Garciaparra, Athletics
12. Yuniesky Betancourt, Mariners
13. Marco Scutaro, Blue Jays
14. Cesar Izturis, Orioles
15. Julio Lugo, Red Sox (would be higher if not injured)
16. Nick Punto, Twins
17. Brendan Harris, Twins
18. Brandon Wood, Angels
19. Adam Everett, Tigers
20. Carlos Triunfel, Mariners (19-year-old phenom could be Next Big Thing)

Rank & File, Part II

... And here are the top 20 second basemen in 5x5 National League-only drafts (HRs, RBIs, batting average, steals, runs).

1. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
2. Jose Reyes, Mets
3. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
4. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
5. Yunel Escobar, Braves (also has 2B eligibility)
6. Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks
7. Rafael Furcal, Dodgers
8. Miguel Tejada, Astros
9. J.J. Hardy, Brewers
10. Cristian Guzman, Nationals
11. Ryan Theriot, Cubs
12. Emmanuel Burriss, Giants
13. Edgar Renteria, Giants
14. Alex Gonzalez, Reds
15. Jack Wilson, Pirates
16. Jeff Keppinger, Reds
17. Khalil Greene, Cardinals
18. Clint Barmes, Rockies
19. Luis Rodriguez, Padres
20. Alcides Escobar, Brewers (Milwaukee's dynamic SS of the future)

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 shortstops in mixed leagues:

Tier I
Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
Jose Reyes, Mets
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies

Tier II
Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
Michael Young, Rangers
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks
Derek Jeter, Yankees
Mike Aviles, Royals
Yunel Escobar, Braves

Tier III
Rafael Furcal, Dodgers
Miguel Tejada, Astros
J.J. Hardy, Brewers
Jhonny Peralta, Indians
Cristian Guzman, Brewers
Ryan Theriot, Cubs
Nomar Garciaparra, Athletics
Orlando Cabrera, Athletics

Tier IV
Jed Lowrie, Red Sox
Erick Aybar, Angels
Emmanuel Burriss, Giants
Alex Gonzalez, Reds
Edgar Renteria, Giants
Jason Bartlett, Rays
Julio Lugo, Red Sox

Tier V
Elvis Andrus, Rangers
Yuniesky Betancourt, Mariners
Jack Wilson, Pirates
Marco Scutaro, Blue Jays
Jeff Keppinger, Reds
Cesar Izturis, Orioles
Khalil Greene, Cardinals
Brendan Harris, Twins
Macier Izturis, Angels
Brandon Wood, Angels

Tulo vs. Drew

What's more to your liking: a tough-talking, hard-swinging shortstop who enjoys the rareified air of Coors Field for 81 games per season ... or a smooth-swinging, soft-talking shortstop who mashes for a young club on the verge of greatness? When it comes to Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki and Arizona's Stephen Drew, I'm having trouble deciphering which hitter will have the better fantasy season. In fact, from my seat in the dugout, the race is too close to call right now ... which is why have solicited the help of preseason annuals in declaring the eventual winner:

Fanball magazine
Tulowitzki: 20 HRs, 85 RBIs, 90 runs, 6 steals, .293 average
Drew: 22 HRs, 79 RBIs, 95 runs, 6 steals, .307 average

Tulowitzki: 21 HRs, 81 RBIs, 93 runs, 6 steals, .294 average
Drew: 20 HRs, 77 RBIs, 84 runs, 8 steals, .290 average

Fantasy Baseball Index
Tulowitzki: 22 HRs, 95 RBIs, 100 runs, 3 steals, .283 average
Drew: 18 HRs, 65 RBIs, 79 runs, 6 steals, .278 average

Yahoo! magazine
Tulowitzki: 20 HRs, 80 RBIs, 87 runs, 4 steals, .280 average
Drew: 20 HRs, 71 RBIs, 84 runs, 2 steals, .316 average

Verdict: Looking at the numbers, Drew seems like the safer choice for those coveting steals and batting average. But I'm going to lean on Tulo's potential in HRs, RBIs and runs -- especially if Fantasy Baseball Index is on the money with its 100-runs forecast. I'd take that in a heartbeat!

Start Me Up!

The following is a list of starting pitchers (as of March 25) who have been lights-out during spring training (minimum: 19 innings). It's eminently possible they'll carry this momentum into the season, as well:

1. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals (19 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 10/4 K-BB ratio)
2. Paul Maholm, Pirates (19.2 IP, 0.46 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, 12/1 K-BB ratio)
3. Francisco Liriano, Twins (21.1 IP, 2.95 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 19/8 K-BB ratio)
4. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (20.2 IP, 3.48 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 20/4 K-BB ratio)
5. Sean Marshall, Cubs (19.1 IP, 1.40 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 11/1 K-BB ratio)
6. Zach Duke, Pirates (19.2 IP, 1.83 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 13/4 K-BB ratio)
7. Jair Jurrjens, Braves (20.1 IP, 2.66 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 12/5 K-BB ratio)
8. Chris Volstad, Marlins (22 IP, 3.27 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 12/5 K-BB ratio)
9. Mike Hampton, Astros (21 IP, 3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 16/3 K-BB ratio)
10. Dustin Moseley, Angels (20.0 IP, 3.15 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 15/5 K-BB ratio)
11. Josh Johnson, Marlins (21 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 18/5 K-BB ratio)

The Price Is Still Right

Here's a message to all fantasy owners of the highly emotional ilk: DO NOT OVERREACT to the news of David Price getting sent down to the minors before Opening Day. The way I see it, Price is a lead-pipe cinch to be a permanent fixture in the Rays' staring rotation come April/May -- and should still be treated like a top 25 pitcher in AL-only drafts. The same goes for Orioles catcher extraordinaire Matt Wieters -- even if the ageless Gregg Zaun should land the starting role in two weeks. Bottom line: Price (12-1, 2.30 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 109/32 K-BB ratio in his 2008 minor-league season) and Wieters (the only top minors prospect with a .600-plus slugging percentage and more walks than strikeouts in '08) will be fantasy idols this season -- even if they have to wait until mid-May for their celebrity close-ups.

A Quick Word About Dice-K

The geniuses at Fantasy Baseball Index have convinced me to steer clear of taking Daisuke Matsuzaka in all drafts this year -- unless he falls past Round 10 in shallow AL-only leagues and Round 13 in mixed leagues (which would never happen). Here's why:

**Given Dice-K's dangerously high walk rate (5.04 BB/9), he's more likely to post a 4.41 ERA (compared to last year's 2.90)
**Consequently, a high walk rate almost always leads to a mediocre B.A.B.I.P. ratio
**Only 6.1 percent of his fly balls ended up as home runs in 2008 (the MLB average is 11 percent)
**And, given his absurdly high pitch counts, Dice-K is a prime candidate for burnout in the coming years (if not sooner)

Mock Madness
Alfonso Soriano: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

By my count, I've participated in 37 mock drafts (including an "expert" league or two) in the past four weeks -- all in the name of getting ready for four paid fantasy drafts next week. Here are the results of likely my last mock draft of the 2009 preseason (think value, value, value):

12-Team Mixed League
Round 1 (Pick 4) -- 1B Albert Pujols, Cardinals (an absolute steal at #4)
Round 2 (Pick 21) -- OF Alfonso Soriano, Cubs (just two years removed from 40/40)
Round 3 -- OF Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
Round 4 -- SP Jake Peavy, Padres (I may regret this pick down the road)
Round 5 -- OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox (Fanball magazine's No. 1 outfielder in AL-only drafts)
Round 6 -- 2B Brandon Phillips, Reds
Round 7 -- OF Corey Hart, Brewers (gotta love getting 20-20 locks this late)
Round 8 -- C Russell Martin, Dodgers
Round 9 -- SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
Round 10 -- 3B Chipper Jones, Braves
Round 11 -- RP Jose Valverde, Astros
Round 12 -- RP Carlos Marmol, Cubs
Round 13 -- RP Matt Capps, Pirates
Round 14 -- SP Joba Chamberlain, Yankees
Round 15 -- 2B Howie Kendrick, Angels
Round 16 -- SP Matt Cain, Giants
Round 17 -- 3B Alex Gordon, Royals
Round 18 -- RP Joey Devine, Athletics
Round 19 -- 3B/1B/OF Carlos Guillen, Tigers
Round 20 -- RP Francisco Cordero, Reds
Round 21 -- OF Jayson Werth, Phillies
Round 22 -- SP Kevin Slowey, Twins
Round 23 -- OF Nelson Cruz, Rangers
Round 24 -- 1B Mike Jacobs, Royals
Round 25 -- RP Jason Motte, Cardinals

Verdict: Since it was a practice draft, I wanted to see the effects of taking a pitcher in Round 4 (Peavy) -- even though it goes against my game plan for the '09 season. But you know what? If I should again strike it rich with my final 10 picks -- like I did in the above draft -- then I will have no problem welcoming the sometimes-erratic Peavy into my fantasy lair. Seriously ... Cain, Gordon, Devine, Cordero, Werth, Slowey, Cruz, Jacobs and Motte all have extremely high ceilings of potential; and Guillen may be the most valuable 3-position stud in the American League this year. Grade: B+

I Never ...

For various reasons, I passed on the following stars in all of my 40 practice drafts (37 mock drafts plus 3 "real" freebie leagues on ESPN). It's not that I dislike these guys -- I just never moved heaven and earth to grab 'em:

Starting Pitchers
Johan Santana, Mets (love him ... but I'll never take a pitcher in Round 1 or 2)
Roy Halladay, Blue Jays (ditto for Doc)
Cole Hamels, Phillies
Dan Haren, Diamondbacks
Francisco Liriano, Twins
Felix Hernandez, Mariners (the ultimate fantasyland tease)
Carlos Zambrano, Cubs
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox (walks too many batters for my taste)
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
John Danks, White Sox
Ryan Dempster, Cubs (lives on the edge too much)
Ted Lilly, Cubs

First Base
Prince Fielder, Brewers (I usually grab Mark Teixeira or Justin Morneau ahead of him)
Derrek Lee, Cubs
Carlos Delgado, Mets (on the brink of a precipitous decline -- gut feeling)
Paul Konerko, White Sox
Todd Helton, Rockies

Second Base
Chase Utley, Phillies (I usually grab Ian Kinsler ahead of him)
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Rickie Weeks, Brewers (former man-crush just doesn't hit for average)
Jose Lopez, Mariners (love his talent ... but I can wait for Atlanta's Kelly Johnson)
Placido Polanco, Tigers
Kazuo Matsui, Astros

Jimmy Rollins, Phillies (it's either Hanley Ramirez or wait until Tulo)
Rafael Furcal, Dodgers
J.J. Hardy, Brewers (his wretched start in '08 is still a fresh memory)
Khalil Greene, Cardinals (not a big fan)
Edgar Renteria, Giants ($7 million ... for this kind of production?)
Yuniesky Betancourt, Mariners (ugh!)

Third Base
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (I would consider taking him in Round 5)
Evan Longoria, Rays (love his talent ... just never grabbed him)
Garrett Atkins, Rockies
Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals (I need to see his fantasy goodness before believing it)
Jorge Cantu, Marlins
Mike Lowell, Red Sox

Josh Hamilton, Rangers (I would take him at the end of Round 2 -- no question)
Bobby Abreu, Angels
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners (beware of 2-category producers)
Vladimir Guerrero, Angels (he doesn't steal bases anymore)
Hunter Pence, Astros
Torii Hunter, Angels
Brad Hawpe, Rockies
Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals
Willy Taveras, Reds (if you could guarantee me 50 steals in Cincy ...)
Jeff Francoeur, Braves
Juan Rivera, Angels
Eric Byrnes, Diamondbacks
Jeremy Hermida, Marlins (his dismal second-half in '08 has soured me for this season)

Total Bases Recall

For the loyal Clicks readers in fantasy football, you've heard me prattle on a thousand times about the importance of Targets -- the number of times a receiver is thrown to -- and how it's a fail-safe method for evaluating receivers. Well, I am equally passionate (fanatical?) about Total Bases in fantasy baseball. By my way of thinking, TB is the perfect convergence of coveting power hitters and on-base machines who make a living out of doubles. It's also a stellar indicator of future success -- even in meaningless spring games. To wit, here are the top five Total Base studs for each National League team in Grapefruit/Cactus league play (through March 25):

1. SS Jason Smith
2. 1B Lance Berkman
3. OF Hunter Pence
4. OF Michael Bourn
5. OF Reggie Abercrombie

1. OF Matt Diaz
2. OF Jordan Schafer
3. OF Josh Anderson
4. 3B Omar Infante
5. SS Yunel Escobar

1. OF Corey Hart
2. SS J.J. Hardy
3. 1B Prince Fielder
4. 3B Casey McGehee
5. OF Chris Duffy

1. OF Rick Ankiel
2. SS Khalil Greene
3. OF Chris Duncan
4. 2B Skip Schumaker
5. 1B Albert Pujols

1. 1B Micah Hoffpauir
2. 2B Mike Fontenot
3. 1B Jake Fox
4. OF Alfonso Soriano
5. OF Reed Johnson

1. OF Chris Young
2. 2B Ryan Roberts
3. 1B Chad Tracy
4. 1B Tony Clark
5. SS Josh Wilson

1. OF Xavier Paul
2. 2B Juan Castro
3. OF Matt Kemp
4. C Russell Martin
5. OF Andre Ethier

1. 3B Jesus Guzman
2. 1B Travis Ishikawa
3. 3B Pablo Sandoval
4. 2B Emmanuel Burriss
5. 2B Kevin Frandsen

1. OF Jeremy Hermida
2. 3B Emilio Benifacio
3. OF Cameron Maybin
4. 2B Dan Uggla
5. OF Cody Ross

1. 1B Nick Evans
2. OF Jeremy Reed
3. OF Daniel Murphy
4. OF Ryan Church
5. 3B Fernando Tatis

1. 1B Nick Johnson
2. OF Elijah Dukes
3. SS Cristian Guzman
4. OF Austin Kearns
5. 1B Brad Eldred

1. 1B Kyle Blanks
2. OF Drew Macias
3. 2B David Eckstein
4. 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
5. OF Chase Headley

1. 1B Ryan Howard
2. OF John Mayberry Jr.
3. OF Jayson Werth
4. SS Eric Bruntlett
5. 2B Miguel Cairo

1. OF Craig Monroe
2. OF Garrett Jones
3. OF Andrew McCutchen
4. OF Nate McLouth
5. SS Brian Bixler

1. OF Jonny Gomes
2. OF Chris Dickerson
3. OF Darnell McDonald
4. OF Jay Bruce
5. 1B Joey Votto

1. OF Ryan Spilborghs
2. OF Daniel Ortmeier
3. 1B Todd Helton
4. 2B Ian Stewart
5. OF Matt Murton

Have Low WHIP, Will Travel

Sure, my draft cheat sheets have already been created ... and I could probably do a 10-team mixed-league draft in my sleep right now. But that didn't stop me from buying my ninth preseason baseball magazine the other day. So here goes, Yahoo!'s 2009 projections for top 10 WHIPs among starting pitchers:

American League
1. Kevin Slowey, Twins -- 1.14 WHIP
2. Roy Halladay, Raptors -- 1.15 WHIP
3. Cliff Lee, Indians -- 1.16
4. James Shields, Rays -- 1.17
5. Scott Baker, Twins -- 1.18
6. Rick Porcello, Tigers -- 1.18
7. Josh Beckett, Red Sox -- 1.19
8. Justin Duchscherer, Athletics -- 1.19
9. Jeff Niemann, Rays -- 1.20
10. CC Sabathia, Yankees -- 1.20

National League
1. Cole Hamels, Phillies -- 1.09 WHIP
2. Ricky Nolasco, Marlins -- 1.12 WHIP
3. Johan Santana, Mets -- 1.13
4. Dan Haren, Diamondbacks -- 1.16
5. Rich Harden, Cubs -- 1.17
6. Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks -- 1.20
7. Jake Peavy, Padres -- 1.21
8. Javier Vazquez, Braves -- 1.21
9. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals -- 1.22
10. Randy Johnson, Giants -- 1.23

R.I.P. George Kell

I lost one of my childhood heroes on Tuesday in Hall of Famer and legendary Tigers TV announcer George Kell, who died at the age of 86. Growing up in the '80s, I loved listening to Detroit announcers Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey on the radio, of course (especially for the late-night West Coast games); but on the TV side, Kell and Hall of Famer Al Kaline were so iconic that I often planned my entire Friday nights around Tigers games from ages 6 through 14. Kell, a down-home country gentleman with a sweet Southern twang, was a master at delivering game-action quips like "And they're gonna waaaaaaave him in!"; he also had a wonderful knack for holding my interest during the mundane moments -- like when he'd expertly detail why a Brewers-Tigers game was being delayed 15 minutes (late-arriving crowd at County Stadium). Kell, simply put, was everything today's breed of play-by-play announcers should aspire to be: smart, sincere, concise, insightful, funny and engaging.

But then again, what's the point? There'll never be another George Kell anyway.

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