Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Revenge Of The Cyst
Alex Rodriguez: Jeff Zelevansky/Icon SMI

I don't know what to make of Alex Rodriguez's ever-changing status involving his torn labrum in the right hip and super-sized cyst in the same area. Will he opt for immediate surgery, thus sitting out anywhere between six weeks to four months? Will he try to play through the pain this season, before having the torn-labrum surgery in late 2009? It's all a bunch of speculation right now ... and it's darn-near impossible to write a definitive Clicks diagnosis for fantasyland purposes. So, in the interest of brevity -- and my sanity -- here's how we're going to handle A-Rod's medical soap opera. Think of it as a Choose Your Own Adventure book for wishy-washy superstar athletes:

Scenario #1: A-Rod is out until mid-May (cyst surgery)
Taking away his record-setting April of 2007 (14 HRs, 34 RBIs, 27 runs, .355 average), A-Rod is averaging 5.5 homers, 15.1 RBIs, 17 runs, 2.1 steals and a .286 BA during baseball?s opening month as a Yankee -- good numbers for Garrett Atkins, Carlos Guillen and Adrian Beltre ... but nothing in the class of David Wright, now the gold standard of third basemen. And if you factor in the loss of two weeks in May (historically, one of A-Rod's best months), all told, Rodriguez stands to lose approximately 11 HRs, 28 RBIs, 29 runs and 2 steals off his seasonal projections. Verdict: I'd rank him somewhere in the top-7 at his position in mixed leagues -- depending on how much you like Chris Davis and Chone Figgins.

Scenario #2: A-Rod has cyst/labrum surgeries, sits out until mid-July
Factoring in his usual August/September numbers as a Yankee (from 2004-08), a slight downturn of production from four months of baseball inactivity and the pressurized fallout from "A-Roid-gate," you're looking at conservative totals of 15 HRs, 51 RBS, 43 runs, 5 steals and a .288 average. Verdict: He's nothing more than a top-16 pick among third basemen.

Scenario #3: A-Rod attempts to play through pain all season, blowing off surgeries
There's no way you can ignore the tremendous pain that A-Rod would be feeling every morning of every day during this period. And, oh yeah, he's still going to get hassled in visiting ballparks everywhere for the steroids scandal. In a full season, we'd be looking at projections in the neighborhood of 30 HRs, 98 RBIs, 86 runs, 6 steals and a .289 batting average. Verdict: He'd rank firmly at No. 5 overall, trailing only Wright, Aramis Ramirez, Evan Longoria and Chipper Jones.

Rank & File

Here's my revised list of the top 20 third basemen in 5x5 American League-only drafts (HRs, RBIs, batting average, steals, runs). I'm going on the assumption A-Rod will miss only 50 games, maximum, at this juncture.

1. Evan Longoria, Rays
2. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
3. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
4. Chris Davis, Rangers
5. Carlos Guillen, Tigers
6. Chone Figgins, Angels
7. Alex Gordon, Royals
8. Adrian Beltre, Mariners
9. Mark DeRosa, Indians
10. Hank Blalock, Rangers
11. Aubrey Huff, Orioles
12. Melvin Mora, Orioles
13. Josh Fields, White Sox
14. Joe Crede, Twins
15. Brandon Inge, Tigers
16. Mike Lowell, Red Sox
17. Willy Aybar, Rays
18. Scott Rolen, Blue Jays
19. Mark Grudzielanek, Free Agent (could be a Yankee, though)
20. Willy Aybar, Rays

Note: If Rangers shortstop Michael Young becomes the immediate full-time third baseman, as expected, he'll have 3B eligibility around April 15 and would warrant a mid-April ranking at Nos. 4 or 5 at the hot corner.

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 third basemen in mixed leagues:

Tier I
David Wright, Mets
Evan Longoria, Rays
Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
Chipper Jones, Braves

Tier II
Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
Chone Figgins, Angels
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (assuming he sits out until mid-May)
Carlos Guillen, Tigers
Alex Gordon, Royals
Adrian Beltre, Mariners
Chris Davis, Rangers
Garrett Atkins, Rockies

Tier III
Edwin Encarnacion, Reds
Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
Pablo Sandoval, Giants (hot-shot rookie deserved of Tier II status)
Aubrey Huff, Orioles
Troy Glaus, Cardinals
Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks
Jorge Cantu, Marlins
Melvin Mora, Orioles

Tier IV
Mark DeRosa, Indians
Casey Blake, Dodgers
Kevin Kouzmanoff, Padres
Mike Lowell, Red Sox
Ian Stewart, Rockies
Blake DeWitt, Dodgers
Pedro Feliz, Giants

Tier V
Joe Crede, Twins
Scott Rolen, Blue Jays
Andy LaRoche, Pirates
Brandon Inge, Tigers
Eric Chavez, Athletics

Wanna Join Our League?

For the & Friends baseball league, we've decided to avail our membership this season to one lucky Clicks reader (or unlucky -- depending on how you draft). Up until March 20, we'll be accepting short-essay submissions (limit 1-2 paragaphs, please) for the 14th slot in our small, but prestigious fantasy league (kind of like George Costanza). The requirements are simple: You need to be a passionate fantasy player (as demonstrated in the short essay), you need to have a computer (for the Java-enabled LIVE draft sometime in late March or early April), you should enjoy posting humorous retorts on our league message board ... and, perhaps above all, you must be comfortable with accepting or declining blockbuster trade proposals during the graveyard-shift period of 2-6 a.m. -- the bewitching hours for all the Atlanta-based employees. (Note: I have already received approximately 25 submissions from Clicks readers ... one from a guy in Michigan who just celebrated his 10th wedding anniversary -- congrats, Mike B. -- and another who apparently hates everything we stand for, and yet wants to join our humble league -- thanks Dennis. B. Keep 'em coming!)

Beltre vs. Gordon

What's more to your liking ... a hulking slugger from a spacious ballpark who's playing for a monster free-agent contract OR a former can't-miss-kid from a spacious ballpark who's playing for a sizable post-rookie-deal extension? When it comes to Seattle's Adrian Beltre and Kansas City's Alex Gordon, 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 I have solicited the help of preseason annuals in declaring the eventual winner:

Fanball magazine
Beltre: 24 HRs, 84 RBIs, 72 runs, 8 steals, .270 average
Gordon: 21 HRs, 81 RBIs, 94 runs, 17 steals, .272 average

Beltre: 26 HRs, 90 RBIs, 84 runs, 9 steals, .271 average
Gordon: 22 HRs, 77 RBIs, 72 runs, 10 steals, .272 average

Fantasy Baseball Index
Beltre: 25 HRs, 85 RBIs, 84 runs, 10 steals, .268 average
Gordon: 17 HRs, 65 RBIs, 70 runs, 11 steals, .259 average

The Sporting News
Beltre: 24 HRs, 79 RBIs, 72 runs, 9 steals, .273 average
Gordon: 18 HRs, 69 RBIs, 70 runs, 10 steals, .261 average

Verdict: I agree Beltre is the more palatable option in HRs and RBIs ... and that Gordon is the bigger lock for steals. But if given the choice between the Royals and Mariners offenses, on the whole, I'd rather have Kansas City's 1-9 lineup; thus Gordon should score more runs and hit for a slightly better average. So much for letting the magazines make the call. HA!

The Future Is Now

It's the grim reality of fantasy baseball, folks: To win a roto-style championship in AL- or NL-only leagues, you must have intimate knowledge of the next wave of dynamic playmakers coming from the minors. To wit, here is a listing of The Sporting News' top 20 prospects for the 2009 season:

1. SP David Price, Rays
2. SP Max Scherzer, Diamondbacks
3. C Matt Wieters, Orioles
4. OF Travis Snider, Blue Jays
5. OF Matt LaPorta, Indians
6. C/1B Pablo Sandoval, Giants
7. OF Colby Rasmus, Cardinals
8. 3B/OF Daniel Murphy, Mets
9. C Taylor Teagarden, Rangers
10. OF Cameron Maybin, Marlins
11. RP Jeff Samardzija, Cubs
12. 1B Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
13. OF Chris Dickerson, Reds
14. SP Trevor Cahill, Athletics
15. OF Josh Anderson, Braves
16. OF Brett Gardner, Yankees
17. SP Tommy Hanson, Braves
18. 3B/OF Mat Gamel, Brewers
19. OF Will Venable, Padres
20. C Lou Marson, Phillies

For a detailed listing of each franchise's top 10 prospects (courtesy of Baseball America), click here.

Something To Think About

This nugget's for all the predraft skeptics of Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez: In his first two months with Boston back in 2001, right after inking a landmark eight-year, $160 million deal, Manny tallied 16 HRs, 58 RBIs, 35 runs and a batting average of .377 in April and May. So much for Manny getting fat and happy this season after signing for only $45 million, huh?

Spring Into Action

I know it's early, and most people don't even pay attention to Grapefruit and Cactus league happenings until after St. Patrick's Day ... but here are the spring leaders in four crucial categories (through March 5):

1. SS Ryan Theriot, Cubs -- 9
2. OF Reggie Abercrombie, Astros -- 8
3. OF Corey Hart, Brewers -- 8
4. 1B Micah Hoffpauir, Cubs -- 8
5. 1B Travis Ishikawa, Giants -- 9
6. 3B Pablo Sandoval, Giants -- 8
7. 1B Scott Thorman, Brewers -- 9
8. SS Jason Bartlett, Rays -- 7
9. 2B Emmanuel Burriss, Giants -- 7
10. OF Craig Counsell, Brewers -- 7

1. SS Micah Hoffpauir, Cubs -- 8
2. OF Mitch Jones, Dodgers -- 8
3. 3B Blake DeWitt, Dodgers -- 7
4. OF Chris Duncan, Cardinals -- 7
5. OF Johnny Gomes, Reds -- 7
6. OF Joe Mather, Cardinals -- 6
7. 3B Brian Barton, Cardinals -- 6
8. C Ramon Castro, Mets -- 6
9. SS Jhonny Peralta, Indians -- 6
10. SS Jose Reyes, Mets -- 6
11. OF Brad Snyder, Cubs -- 6

1. 1B Carlos Delgado, Mets -- 6
2. 1B Micah Hoffpauir, Cubs -- 6
3. OF Tommy Murphy, Royals -- 6
4. OF Skip Schumaker, Cardinals -- 6
5. 2B Eugenio Velez, Giants -- 6
6. 3B Hank Blalock, Rangers -- 5
7. OF Curtis Granderson, Tigers -- 5
8. 3B Joe Mather, Cardinals -- 5
9. 1B Albert Pujols, Cardinals -- 5
10. OF Colby Rasmus, Cardinals -- 5
11. OF Jordan Schafer, Braves -- 5
12. OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks -- 5

1. OF Ryan Freel, Orioles -- 5
2. OF Michael Bourn, Astros -- 4
3. OF Eric Bruntlett, Phillies -- 3
4. OF Corey Hart, Brewers -- 3

Thanks For The Memories, Kobe
Kobe Bryant: Nick Laham/Getty Images

In a surprise to likely no one, I executed a complicated 6-man, pre-deadline trade in my Yahoo hoops league this week. But this wasn't just any old trade -- it involved Mr. All-World himself, the one and only Kobe Bryant. To set the scene, I originally had no intentions of dealing Kobe before our Friday deadline; but while at work Monday night, one of my fantasy chums, William Chadrow chimed in, via IM, to whine about his oft-injured fantasy team falling short of yet another title -- despite the amazing efforts of Dwyane Wade. Sensing Will's vulnerability to a blockbuster trade, we vociferously haggled for a few minutes before settling on a deal -- Kobe, Chris Duhon and Wizards center Andray Blatche FOR Raptors assist king Jose Calderon, Emeka Okafor (nine double-doubles in his last 13 games) and Kings sharpshooter Kevin Martin. At first (and second) blush, I believe this swap weighs heavily in my favor -- especially since Martin (24.3 points per game since Feb. 6) was a last-second addition (or dare I say "throw-in"?) to the deal. How sweet is that?

Go (Get) Westy, Young Man

So, you want to trade for the NBA's most anonymous, high-flying superstar in Russell Westbrook (18.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks, 83% FT since Feb. 6)? And you're still willing to pay a steep price to add the dynamic rookie before this weekend's trade deadline? Well, I hope you brought your proverbial fantasy checkbook ... because here are the scenarios where Owner B might part with him:

1-for-1 Trade Options
Troy Murphy (a double-double machine and six-category stud)
Chris Bosh (if you're in dire need for points/rebounding)
Yao Ming (he's a lead-pipe cinch for two double-doubles a week)

2-for-1 Trade Options
Randy Foye/Al Thornton for Westbrook
Marvin Williams/T.J. Ford for Westbrook
Lamar Odom/Wilson Chandler for Westbrook
Leandro Barbosa/Tyrus Thomas for Westbrook
Kevin Love/Rafer Alston for Westbrook

2-for-2 Trade Options
Rasheed Wallace/Boris Diaw for Westbrook/John Salmons
Shawn Marion/Nenefor Westbrook/Ramon Sessions

SWAT Teams

The All-Star festivities have come and gone, but that doesn't mean we have to stop the whole East-West competition thing. To wit, here are the biggest blocks machines, by position, in the last 30 days:

Eastern Conference
PG -- Raymond Felton, Bobcats (can you believe Charlotte's actually looking to trade him?)
SG -- Rasual Butler, Wizards (no longer considered a one-trick fantasy pony)
SF -- Danny Granger, Pacers (is there anything in fantasyland he can't do?)
PF -- Jermaine O'Neal, Heat (makes a stronger impact in fantasyland than real-world hoops)
C -- Dwight Howard, Magic (I expect at least one 17-block game before he retires)

Western Conference
PG -- Jason Kidd, Mavericks (putting up good numbers on a bad defensive team)
SG -- Kelenna Azubuike, Warriors (he and Anthony Randolph are scary shot-blockers)
SF -- Lamar Odom, Lakers (you gotta love those lightning-quick hands)
PF -- Chris Andersen, Nuggets (the NBA leader in this category since Feb. 6)
C -- Yao Ming, Rockets (an absolute stud in six crucial fantasy categories)

Anyone Feel A Draft In Here?

I don't mention this site enough in Fantasy Clicks, but is one of the best resources for NBA fans. Don't believe me? Well, check out this terrific story, chronicling the league's best and worst drafting teams in the last 20 years. In its research, 82games used a simple math equation (Rating = points/game + rebounds/game + assists/game) to illustrate its findings ... and surprise! the always-humorous Knicks brought home the gold as the worst drafters, dating back to the days of Rick Pitino. As for the highest-rated drafter ... the answer may shock you, given this club's lack of major playoff success since the days of Terry Cummings, Paul Pressey and -- going back even further -- Kareen Abdul-Jabaar, Oscar Robertson.

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