Fantasy Clicks
BY JAY CLEMONS
In Case Of Emergency: Joe Nathan Plan
Joe Nathan: Lisa Blumenfield/Getty Images

So here we are, yet another Clicks opening with the plight of Twins closer Joe Nathan, who reportedly has a torn ligament in his right elbow and may require season-ending surgery in a few weeks -- once the swelling subsides. Now, the initial reaction is to assume that Nathan (2.10 ERA/0.93 WHIP/47 saves in 2009) won't make one more pitch this year and will be sidelined until next April (if he's lucky) ... and that Minnesota will make a battlefield promotion in the bullpen, giving Jon Rauch first crack at the fireman's role. But I have compiled a list of pitchers -- some obvious, some not-so-obvious -- who better represent the ideal short-term stopper for a playoff-contending, if not title-contending club:

1. Kerry Wood, Indians
Analysis: Let's face the facts. Cleveland has the worst starting rotation in the American League and realistically won't compete for the Central title in 2010 -- which is unfortunate, given the offense's great potential for the next 5-7 years (Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Matt LaPorta, Jhonny Peralta, Carlos Santana, among others). All this makes Wood, a free agent at season's end, a viable candidate for trade, perhaps immediately. One last thing: The Indians wouldn't necessarily feel the loss of Wood in the bullpen ... given the unlimited upside of fireballers Chris Perez and Tony Sipp. Either one could end up as the long-term closer.

2. Heath Bell, Padres
Analysis: Just like Kerry Wood from above, Bell's Padres are going nowhere in the National League West this season -- with or without him in the mix. And it just so happens that San Diego desperately needs another infusion of developmental talent, via trade, but may already have its future closer in-house, Luke Gregerson (11.2 K/9 and 3/1 K-BB ratios in 2009).

3. John Smoltz, Free Agent
Analysis: I realize the 42-year-old Smoltz sees himself as a starter and would prefer to avoid American League hitters, if possible, but this seems like the perfect one-year marriage for both parties. Yes, Smoltz (213 career victories) might need another seven or 12 wins to solidify his standing as a Hall of Famer around 2016 (although I think he's in); but as a practical matter, this is a golden chance to cap his career with a championship ... which ALWAYS looks good when Cooperstown comes calling. (Ahem, Jack Morris.)

4. Brian Wilson, Giants
Analysis: If Nathan had injured his elbow this time last year, Wilson (ghastly WHIP/ERA in 2008) would've been an easy trade target for the Twins. But after rebounding in a big-time manner in '09 (2.74 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 38 saves), the Giants are probably less keen about parting with an All-Star who won't see free agency for a few years. Actually, Wilson's resurgence might be a good thing for Minnesota ... serendipitously carving a path for the No. 5 guy on this list.

5. Sergio Romo, Giants
Analysis: What's not to like about this kid's two-year résumé in the majors? A K/9 ratio of 9.8, a scintillating 74/19 K-BB ratio and 0.96 WHIP. But at "only" 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, there's a chance the Giants don't see him as a dominant long-term closer. That aside, before you think the club would never part with a potential gem like Romo, via trade -- please remember the Twins literally stole two cornerstones from San Francisco seven years ago ... for catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
The two unknown hurlers acquired in that Nov. 14, 2003 trade: Francisco Liriano and some random stiff named Joe Nathan.

Auction This

Perhaps it was the abnormally light workload at the SI.com office on Monday night (or lack of Grade-3 quality balls for our lightning-fast ping pong table), but I just couldn't resist the notion of joining a real auction league -- without any knowledge of the other owners or sufficient time to prepare for the 10-team buying frenzy (roto mixed league with $260 salary cap). My philosophy: Buy one superstar early ... and then wait approximately 30 players before hitting the scene again full-bore. Here are the results:

Phase I -- Spending Spree
OF Ryan Braun, Brewers -- $32

Phase II -- Implusive Shopping (after loooooooooooooong wait)
3B Gordon Beckham, White Sox -- $14
OF Grady Sizemore, Indians -- $26
1B Joey Votto, Reds -- $14 (he'll be a $27 value this time next year)
SS Jose Reyes, Mets -- $19 (a steal if thyroid problem is minor)

Phase III -- Extremely Smart Shopping
SP Justin Verlander, Tigers -- $16 (an absolute heist for under $20)
1B/2B/3B Martin Prado, Braves -- $5 (my super-utilitarian of choice)
3B Michael Young, Rangers -- $10
OF Bobby Abreu, Angels -- $11
SP Yovani Gallardo, Brewers -- $16 (a top-3 candidate for NL Cy Young)
SS Elvis Andrus, Rangers -- $9
SP Josh Johnson, Marlins -- $12 (Joel Pineiro went for $11 early on)
SP John Lackey, Red Sox -- $9
SP Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers -- $7 (got bumped by Joe Nathan in the above Clicks pictorial)
RP Rafael Soriano, Rays -- $6
SP Jake Peavy, White Sox -- $8
2B/3B Ian Stewart, Rockies -- $4
OF Juan Pierre, White Sox -- $8 (Buster Olney hints at 75-80 steals))
OF Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies -- $7 (a reliable 20/20 threat for that price?)
C Jorge Posada, Yankees -- $5

Phase IV -- Guilty Pleasures
OF Magglio Ordonez, Tigers -- $5 (slimmed-down and ready to be an RBI machine again)
SP Wade Davis, Rays -- $3 (perhaps the best No. 5 pitcher in all of baseball)

Phase V -- Bargain Bins
1B/OF Garrett Jones, Pirates -- $3 (did you see his blast off CC Sabathia?)
OF Corey Hart, Brewers -- $5
RP Brad Lidge, Phillies -- $4

Verdict: I realize every auction draft is different, and that a lot of one's luck is directly tied to the intelligence -- or stupidity -- of the other owners. But I absolutely nailed this draft -- spending $258 of the allotted $260 -- without ever feeling the full effect of budgetary restraints (unlike many of my free-spending compadres). The lesson here is simple: Be extremely frugal with your money early on, forsaking the occasional run of superstars, and then go for the kill when the monies run dry down the stretch. In 10- or 12-team leagues, it's a no-lose proposition.

Auction That

In case you care, these 28 superstars garnered bids of $24 or more in Monday's mock:
1. SP CC Sabathia, Yankees -- $34
2. SS Hanley Ramirez, Marlins -- $34
3. 1B Albert Pujols, Cardinals -- $34
4. SP Roy Halladay, Phillies -- $33
5. 3B Alex Rodriguez, Yankees -- $33
6. C Joe Mauer, Twins -- $32
7. OF Ryan Braun, Brewers -- $32
8. SP Zack Greinke, Royals -- $32
9. 1B Prince Fielder, Brewers -- $32
10. OF Carl Crawford, Rays -- $32
11. 3B Evan Longoria, Rays -- $32
12. 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies -- $31
13. 1B Mark Teixeira, Yankees -- $31
14. 2B Chase Utley, Phillies -- $30
15. OF Matt Kemp, Dodgers -- $30
16. SP Felix Hernadez, Mariners -- $29
17. 1B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers -- $29
18. SS Jimmy Rollins, Phillies -- $28
19. 2B Ian Kinsler, Rangers -- $28
20. OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox -- $27
21. 3B David Wright, Mets -- $27
22. OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks -- $27
23. SP Tim Lincecum, Giants -- $26
24. 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Padres -- $26
25. OF Grady Sizemore, Indians -- $26
26. OF Adam Jones, Orioles -- $26
27. SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies -- $24
28. OF Matt Holliday, Cardinals -- $24

Rank & File

Here's something that didn't make the Preview's first cut -- the top 20 NL-only second basemen:
1. Chase Utley, Phillies
2. Dan Uggla, Marlins
3. Ian Stewart, Rockies
4. Brandon Phillips, Reds
5. Rickie Weeks, Brewers
6. Casey McGehee, Brewers
7. Placido Polanco, Phillies
8. Martin Prado, Braves
9. Skip Schumaker, Cardinals
10. Akinori Iwamura, Pirates
11. Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks
12. Adam Kennedy, Nationals
13 Clint Barmes, Rockies
14. Eugenio Velez, Giants
15. Freddy Sanchez, Giants
16. Kazuo Matsui, Astros
17. Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins
18. Luis Castillo, Mets
19. Mike Fontenot, Cubs
20. Ronnie Belliard, Dodgers

Wanna Join Our Baseball League?

Back by popular demand, we've decided to admit at least one lucky Fantasy Clicks reader into the SI.com & Friends fantasy baseball league. Up until March 21, we'll be accepting short-essay submissions (limit 1-2 paragaphs please) for the final slot in our small, but prestigious league (kind of like George Costanza). The requirements are simple: Outside of having reliable computer access for Draft Day (either March 31 or April 1), you must demonstrate passion for fantasy baseball (hence, the short essay) and derive regular pleasure from posting humorous retorts on our league message board.

One last thing: It certainly helps to 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 SI.com employees. You can also hit me up on Twitter for this contest ... although it'll be hard to meet the above requirements in 140 characters or less. Good luck!

Rank & File, Part II

What's good for the goose is good for the gander ... the top 20 AL-only second basemen:
1. Ian Kinsler, Rangers
2. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
3. Brian Roberts, Orioles
4. Robinson Cano, Yankees
5. Aaron Hill, Blue Jays
6. Ben Zobrist, Rays
7. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
8. Howie Kendrick, Angels
9. Jose Lopez, Mariners
10. Scott Sizemore, Tigers
11. Mark Ellis, Athletics
12. Maicer Izturis, Angels
13 Orlando Hudson, Twins
14. Alberto Callapso, Royals
15. Sean Rodriguez, Rays
16. Chris Getz, Royals
17. Luis Valbuena, Indians
18. Willy Aybar, Rays
19. Jayson Nix, White Sox
20. Ramon Santiago, Tigers

Take The Long Way Home: Outfielders
Carlos Quentin: Ron Vesely/Getty Images

Here are CBSSports.com's projections for outfielders with 25 home runs or more this season (conspiculously absent: Braves rookie wunderkind Jason Heyward):

1. Adam Dunn, Nationals -- 40 homers
2. Ryan Braun, Brewers -- 37 homers
3. Adam Lind, Blue Jays -- 33 homers
4. Carlos Quentin, White Sox -- 32
5. Nelson Cruz, Rangers -- 32
6. Andre Ethier, Dodgers -- 30
7. Jayson Werth, Phillies -- 30
8. Nick Swisher, Yankees -- 30
9. Michael Cuddyer, Twins -- 30
10. Raul Ibanez, Phillies -- 30
11. Jay Bruce, Reds -- 30
12. Ben Zobrist, Rays -- 28
13. Curtis Granderson, Yankees -- 27
14. Manny Ramirez, Dodgers -- 27
15. Garrett Jones, Pirates -- 27
16. Kyle Blanks, Padres -- 27
17. Jason Bay, Mets -- 26
18. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks -- 26
19. Carlos Lee, Astros -- 26
20. Matt Holliday, Cardinals -- 25
21. Matt Kemp, Dodgers -- 25
22. Grady Sizemore, Indians -- 25
23. Brad Hawpe, Rockies -- 25
24. Josh Hamilton, Rangers -- 25
25. Jason Kubel, Twins -- 25
26. Hunter Pence, Astros -- 25
27. Juan Rivera, Angels -- 25
28. Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals -- 25
29. Alfonso Soriano, Cubs -- 25
30. Jack Cust, Athletics -- 25

Depth Of Knowledge

For AL- and NL-only leagues, there is no greater draft-day resource than the official (and up-to-date) depth charts for each MLB club. In no particular order ...

National League
East
Marlins | Braves | Mets | Phillies | Nationals

Central
Reds | Pirates | Cubs | Brewers | Cardinals | Astros

West
Dodgers | Diamondbacks |Padres | Rockies | Giants

American League
East
Red Sox | Orioles | Rays | Yankees | Blue Jays

Central
White Sox | Tigers | Indians | Royals | Twins

West
Rangers | Angels | Athletics | Mariners

Preview Observations: Second Base

Thoughts from the second base portion of the SI.com Fantasy Baseball Preview ...

**Strange but true: It's my professional opinion that Ian Kinsler has generated the least fantasy hype of his last three preseasons --despite posting career highs in HRs, RBIs, steals and games played last season. Perhaps it's the realization that Chase Utley is theunquestioned Albert Pujols of the second basemen.

**Conventional thinking won out when picking Dustin Pedroia (No. 3) over Brian Roberts, but it may not last through springtraining. Bottom line: As great as Pedroia is, he'll need to hit comfortably over .300 to post better pound-for-pound numbers over Roberts, who improvedgreatly in HRs/RBIs last year.

**Second base is seemingly deeper now than at any point in the last five seasons, which makes the case of Dan Uggla particularly interesting.Do fantasy owners take a calculated gamble and wait to fill this position last amongst everyday players, or will they opt for Uggla's rumber-stamped goodness(30 HRs/91 RBIs/93 runs) ... and badness (batting average somewhere between .243 and .260?)

**Is Ian Stewart ready to take another giant leap in this division? And if so, does he possess the upside of a fellow 'Ian' -- Kinsler?

**On the surface, Aaron Hill (No. 9) and Ben Zobrist (No.11) are getting a raw deal -- especially coming off monsterseasons. But as a staunch conservative -- aside from Ian Stewart's projections, apparently -- I need to see a greater sample size of success before ticketing Hill/Zobrist for perpetual greatness. In the fantasy biz, this is called selective bias.

Preview Observations: Third Base

**With a back-end pick in Round 1 (12- or 14-team league), I will certainly target either Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Howard or Evan Longoria at that spot --with no exceptions. In my opinion, third base has the most question marks of any everyday position ... so why not grab the stud who could realistically catch A-Rod in four categories?

**Aramis Ramirez has inexplicably lost his fantasy buzz. Oh sure, the Cubs are an erratic team, on the whole, but there is no doubting thefantasy greatness of Aram-Ram (or Derrek Lee) when they're both in the lineup. Feel free to dance a jig around your friends at the bar, uponlanding Ramirez in Round 5.

**I think it's fair to ask this about Pablo Sandoval: Will his significant weight loss in the offseason lead to more steals, hits and runs... but fewer homers?

**Unless the art of hitting has completely passed by 38-year-old Chipper Jones, I still see him as a reasonable lock for .315 and 20 homers.He might even be a good bet for 85-90 RBIs in the Braves' rejiggered (and more potent) lineup.

**If you're looking for a good bar bet with friends or frenemies ... make a wager on who'll have greater fantasy stats this year -- AlexGordon or Casey McGehee? I have Gordon (No. 14) ranked higher, but McGehee (No. 16) will post better numbers if he starts fivegames per week.

Preview Observations: Shortstop

**The biggest gamble of all the infielders? Jose Reyes and his No. 2 ranking among shortstops -- which assumes 115 runs and 66 steals.Ambitious? Yes. Crazy? Perhaps. Brilliant? No doubt about it. (cue devilish grin)

**Only three shortstops have a shot at 30 homers this season (Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, J.J. Hardy) ... but eight have a realisticchance of 30 steals (Ramirez, Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Jason Bartlett, Alcides Escobar, Emilio Bonifacio, Everth Cabrera, Elvis Andrus).

**Not even Fenway Park can help Marco Scutaro reach last year's across-the-board goodness (12 HRs, 60 RBIs, 100 runs, 14 steals, .282average), but he remains a lead-pipe cinch for 100 runs, if healthy.

**I wanted to project Derek Jeter for 20-plus homers and 70-plus RBIs, but the specter of playing 155 games -- at the second-most demandingposition (next to catcher) -- just looms too big for the Yankee wunderkind, who turns 36 in June.

**Miguel Tejada should reap the benefits of his move back to Camden Yards. And we, as fantasy owners, shall reap the benefits of onemore year of Tejada's shortstop value ... since he's making the full-time move to third base this spring. Of course, the whole experiment might be short-lived if Baltimore's highlytouted farmhands -- 3B Josh Bell and SS Mychal Givens -- get promoted sooner than later.

Positional Assumptions

Here's a list of players with multiple-position eligibility in 2010:
3B Pablo Sandoval, Giants (now 1B-eligible)
3B Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks (now 1B-eligible)
1B Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox (now 3B-eligible)
C Victor Martinez, Red Sox (now 1B-eligible)
1B Adam Dunn, Nationals (now OF-eligible)
2B Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians (now SS-eligible)
3B Jorge Cantu, Marlins (now 1B-eligible)
2B Ian Stewart, Rockies (now 3B-eligible)
2B Martin Prado, Braves (now 1B/3B-eligible)
OF Garrett Jones, Pirates (now 1B-eligible)
3B Chase Headley, Padres (now OF-eligible)
2B Maicer Izturis, Angels (now SS-eligible)
3B Mark Teahen, White Sox (now OF-eligible)
C Ramon Hernandez, Reds (now 1B-eligible)
2B Luis Valbuena, Indians (now SS-eligible)
3B Jhonny Peralta, Indians (now SS-eligible)
2B Casey McGehee, Brewers (now 3B-eligible)
SS Julio Lugo, Cardinals (now 2B-eligible)
1B Nick Swisher, Yankees (now OF-eligible)
OF Jake Fox, Athletics (now 3B-eligible)
2B Jeff Baker, Rockies (now 3B-eligible)
1B Garrett Atkins, Orioles (now 3B-eligible)
3B Ty Wigginton, Orioles (now 1B-eligible)
2B Eugenio Velez, Giants (now OF-eligible)
2B Jeff Keppinger, Astros (now 3B-eligible)
1B Micah Hoffpauir, Cubs (now OF-eligible)
2B Willy Aybar, Rays (now 1B-eligible)
SS/OF Jerry Hairston, Jr., Padres (now 3B-eligible)
OF Willie Bloomquist, Royals (now SS-eligible)
OF Ben Zobrist, Rays (now 2B-eligible)

It's All About The Slot: #7

Some people characterize the No. 7 pick in a 12-team draft as a two-hour exercise in futility. Basically sitting in No Man's Land for the wholeprocess, powerless to control the proceedings, while hoping that good value will consistently fall into your lap every 11th or 13th pick. Well, hath no fearor ambivalence ... here's a great strategy for nailing your mixed-league draft when owning the 7th and 18th slots:

Round 1, Pick 7: Motive -- Best overall player
1st option: 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies ... 2nd option: 1B Mark Teixeira, Yankees

Round 2, Pick 18 overall: Motive -- Best 5-category stud
1st option: 3B David Wright, Mets ... 2nd option: OF Matt Holliday, Cardinals

Round 3, Pick 31 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or outfielder
1st option: SP Zack Greinke, Royals ... 2nd option: OF Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners

Round 4, Pick 42 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or power-hitting infielder
1st option: OF Nick Markakis, Orioles ... 2nd option: 1B Joey Votto, Reds

Round 5, Pick 55 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher
1st option: SP Felix Hernandez, Mariners ... 2nd option: OF Carlos Lee, Astros

Round 6, Pick 66 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or top-ranked closer
1st option: OF Bobby Abreu, Angels ... 2nd option: RP Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox

Round 7, Pick 79 overall: Motive -- Best high-end closer or middle infielder
1st option: RP Mariano Rivera, Yankees ... 2nd option: SS Jason Bartlett, Rays

Round 8, Pick 90 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or flame-throwing starting pitcher
1st option: OF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates ... 2nd option: SP Yovani Gallardo, Brewers

Round 9, Pick 103 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or high-end closer
1st option: SP Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers ... 2nd option: 1B Billy Butler, Royals

Round 10, Pick 114 overall: Motive -- Best infielder or high-end closer
1st option: C Matt Wieters, Orioles ... 2nd option: RP Joakim Soria, Royals

Round 11, Pick 127: Motive -- Best corner infielder or starting pitcher
1st option: 3B Michael Young, Rangers ... 2nd option: SP Matt Garza, Rays

Round 12, Pick 138: Motive -- Best starting pitcher
1st option: SP Wandy Rodriguez, Astros ... 2nd option: SP Jair Jurrjens, Braves

Round 13, Pick 151: Motive -- Best outfielder or starting pitcher
1st option: OF Corey Hart, Brewers ... 2nd option: SP Roy Oswalt, Astros

Round 14, Pick 162: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or speedy infielder
1st option: SP James Shields, Rays ... 2nd option: SS Elvis Andrus, Rangers

Round 15, Pick 175: Motive -- Best middle infielder or outfielder (emphasis on speed)
1st option: SS Elvis Andrus, Rangers ... 2nd option: RP Frank Francisco, Rangers

Round 16, Pick 186: Motive -- Best closer
1st option: RP Jose Valverde, Tigers ... 2nd option: RP Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks

Round 17, Pick 199: Motive -- Best available player
1st option: SP Kevin Slowey, Twins ... 2nd option: OF Juan Rivera, Angels

Round 18, Pick 210: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or outfielder
1st option: SP Brett Anderson, Athletics ... 2nd option: OF Drew Stubbs, Reds

Round 19, Pick 223: Motive -- Best closer or high-end rookie
1st option: RP Mike Gonzalez, Orioles ... 2nd option: C Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks

Round 20, Pick 234: Motive -- Best high-end rookie or closer
1st option: OF Desmond Jennings, Rays ... 2nd option: RP Jason Frasor, Blue Jays

Round 21, Pick 247: Motive -- Best outfielder or starting pitcher
1st option: OF Julio Borbon, Rangers ... 2nd option: SP Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays

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