Fantasy Clicks
BY JAY CLEMONS
Green Light Goodness: Pitchers
Jon Lester: Seth Wickersham/Getty Images

In the last two Fantasy Clicks, we conjured up statistical red flags for hitters and pitchers. So now, it only makes sense to spin things the other way ... with sensory-pleasing trends from 2009 to build upon when evaluating veterans for this season. In lay terms, we're guaranteeing the following pitchers will equal or eclipse these thresholds:

Starting Pitchers
Roy Halladay: Expect ... 1.13 WHIP
Dan Haren: Expect ... 223 strikeouts and 3.14 ERA
Jon Lester: Expect ... 15 wins and 3.41 ERA
Zack Greinke: Expect ... 16 victories
Adam Wainwright: Expect ... 19 wins
Felix Hernandez: Expect ... 217 strikeouts and 1.14 WHIP
Josh Johnson: Expect ... 191 strikeouts
Clayton Kershaw: Expect ... 185 strikeouts and 2.79 ERA
Johan Santana: Expect ... 13 victories
Tommy Hanson: Expect ... 11 victories and 1.18 WHIP
Yovani Gallardo: Expect ... 13 wins/204 strikeouts/3.73 ERA
Jered Weaver: Expect ... 16 victories and 3.75 ERA
Josh Beckett: Expect ... 3.86 ERA and 1.19 WHIP
Matt Cain: Expect ... 14 victories and 1.18 WHIP
Matt Garza: Expect ... 189 strikeouts/3.95 ERA/1.26 WHIP
Carlos Zambrano: Expect ... 3.77 ERA
Chris Carpenter: Expect ... 17 victories and 2.24 ERA
Jake Peavy: Expect ... 3.45 ERA and 1.12 WHIP
Wandy Rodriguez: Expect ... 14 wins/193 Ks/3.02 ERA/1.24 WHIP
Jorge de la Rosa: Expect ... 193 strikeouts
Mark Buehrle: Expect ... 13 wins and 3.84 ERA

Relief Pitchers
Joe Nathan: Expect ... 89 strikeouts and 2.10 ERA
Jonathan Broxton: Expect ... 114 strikeouts/2.61 ERA/0.96 WHIP
Jonathan Papelbon: Expect ... 38 saves and 1.15 WHIP
Jose Valverde: Expect ... 25 saves
Joakim Soria: Expect ... 30 saves and 2.21 ERA
Trevor Hoffman: Expect ... 48 strikeouts and 1.83 ERA
Frank Francisco: Expect ... 57 strikeouts
Chad Qualls: Expect ... 3.63 ERA
Rafael Soriano: Expect ... 102 strikeouts and 2.97 ERA
Ryan Franklin: Expect ... 44 strikeouts and 1.20 WHIP
Leo Nunez: Expect ... 26 saves

Rank & File

Here's my early list of the top 15 designated hitters in 5x5 mixed leagues. Obviously, there are only 14 American League teams and only one designated hitter slot per game ... which calls into question some kind of fuzzy math here. Remember, though, Jim Thome was with the White Sox in 2009 before getting shipped to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. And now, he's taking his borderline Hall of Fame act to the Twins and (snowy in April?) Target Field:

1. Adam Lind, Blue Jays
2. Jason Kubel, Twins
3. Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers
4. David Ortiz, Red Sox
5. Jose Guillen, Royals
6. Hideki Matsui, Angels
7. Luke Scott, Orioles
8. Pat Burrell, Rays
9. Travis Hafner, Indians
10. Jim Thome, Twins
11. Carlos Guillen, Tigers
12. Ken Griffey, Jr., Mariners
13 Nick Johnson, Yankees
14. Andruw Jones, White Sox
15. Jack Cust, Athletics

Mock Madness

Using Sunday's CBS Sports mock as the lone reference point, here's a general framework of the designated hitters' predraft value:

Round 6 -- Adam Lind, Blue Jays (61st overall)
Round 12 -- David Ortiz, Red Sox (138th overall)
Round 13 -- Jason Kubel, Twins (148th overall)
Round 14 -- Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers (157th overall)
Round 16 -- Nick Johnson, Yankees (188th overall)

The Fantasy World Changes In 5 Days

On Feb. 22 (at least that's our tentative date), SI.com will roll out its all-encompassing, not-to-be-missed Fantasy Baseball Preview for the 2010 season ... featuring expansive positional breakdowns (rankings/commentary), the Top 250 overall list, along with plenty of supplementary pieces from our friends at RotoExperts. And before you ask, yes, Kevin Slowey will once again grace the top-25 starting pitchers -- so feel free to get an early jump on the condescending Tweets for my Twitter account. Batter up!

Compare & Contrast

Choosing between four 5x5 studs -- all with similar home-run potential -- isn't as easy as it appears. In fact, where you look might be the deciding factor in choosing Adam Jones over Josh Hamilton on draft day ... or vice versa. The same applies when pitting Shin-Soo Choo (perhaps the most underrated talent in fantasy baseball) against Torii Hunter (perhaps the most overlooked fantasy stud of the last 10 years). Here are four prominent projections for Choo, Hunter, Jones and Hamilton:

Fanball magazine
Choo: 21 HRs, 97 RBIs, 95 runs, 14 steals, .296 average
Hunter: 21 HRs, 83 RBIs, 78 runs, 19 steals, .276 average
Jones: 15 HRs, 61 RBIs, 73 runs, 12 steals, .272 average
Hamilton: 21 HRs, 72 RBIs, 68 runs, 8 steals, .289 average

Fantasy Baseball Index
Choo: 20 HRs, 94 RBIs, 97 runs, 9 steals, .292 average
Hunter: 24 HRs, 89 RBIs, 83 runs, 18 steals, .281 average
Jones: 16 HRs, 66 RBIs, 77 runs, 10 steals, .276 average
Hamilton: 28 HRs, 99 RBIs, 90 runs, 9 steals, .293 average

Rotowire
Choo: 23 HRs, 107 RBIs, 101 runs, 21 steals, .298 average
Hunter: 23 HRs, 89 RBIs, 81 runs, 17 steals, .289 average
Jones: 25 HRs, 83 RBIs, 92 runs, 12 steals, .280 average
Hamilton: 21 HRs, 86 RBIs, 69 runs, 8 steals, .288 average

The Sporting News
Choo: 18 HRs, 83 RBIs, 82 runs, 19 steals, .299 average
Hunter: 23 HRs, 82 RBIs, 82 runs, 17 steals, .276 average
Jones: 24 HRs, 80 RBIs, 88 runs, 14 steals, .281 average
Hamilton: 24 HRs, 81 RBIs, 70 runs, 8 steals, .280 average

Verdict: If you're looking for a consensus pick for across-the-board excellence, Choo is the runaway favorite. If you're seeking the most unassuming breakout of 2010, Jones is The Man. If you plan to emphasize steals with all outfielders, Hunter's the guy. And if you're targeting the greatest upside ... check out Fantasy Baseball Index's Hamilton line -- 28 HRs, 99 RBIs, 90 runs, 9 steals, .293 average. That's almost Round 1 territory in mixed-league drafts. Boom!

The Missing Links

Need a helping hand with your research? I check these sites every day ... in the name of 24/7 roster improvements:
**Baseball America
**Baseball America's 2010 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 Evan Grant, author)
**Seattle Times' Mariners blog (Geoff Baker, author)

It's All About The Slot: #1
Grady Sizemore: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Some people would consider the No. 1 pick in a 12-team draft to be a two-hour exercise in futility -- after the first three selections (Nos. 1, 24 and 25) -- due to the 23-slot wait between flurries. But who could possibly turn down the chance to have three of the best 25 players ... assuming you've done your homework? To wit, here's an excellent strategy for nailing your draft:

Round 1, Pick 1: Motive -- Best overall player
1st option: 1B Albert Pujols, Cardinals ... 2nd option: SS Hanley Ramirez, Marlins

Round 2, Pick 24 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or 5x5 everyday player
1st option: OF Grady Sizemore, Indians ... 2nd option: SS Jimmy Rollins, Phillies

Round 3, Pick 25 overall: Motive -- Best everyday player
1st option: SS Jimmy Rollins, Phillies ... 2nd option: OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks

Round 4, Pick 48 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or middle infielder
1st option: SP CC Sabathia, Yankees ... 2nd option: 2B Brian Roberts, Orioles

Round 5, Pick 49 overall: Motive -- Best middle infielder of 5-tool outfielder
1st option: 2B Brian Roberts, Orioles ... 2nd option: OF Shin-Soo Choo, Indians

Round 6, Pick 72 overall: Motive -- Best power hitter
1st option: OF Josh Hamilton, Rangers ... 2nd option: C Brian McCann, Braves

Round 7, Pick 73 overall: Motive -- Best player -- emphasizing speed
1st option: OF Adam Jones, Orioles ... 2nd option: OF B.J. Upton, Rays

Round 8, Pick 96 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or starting pitcher
1st option: OF Curtis Granderson, Yankees ... 2nd option: SP Yovani Gallardo, Brewers

Round 9, Pick 97 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher
1st option: SP Yovani Gallardo, Brewers ... 2nd option: SP Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Round 10, Pick 120 overall: Motive -- Best available player
1st option: C Russell Martin, Dodgers ... 2nd option: SP Chad Billingsley, Dodgers

Round 11, Pick 121: Motive -- Best starting pitcher
1st option: SP Chad Billingsley, Dodgers ... 2nd option: SP Matt Garza, Rays

Round 12, Pick 144: Motive -- Best middle infielder or high-end closer
1st option: SP Matt Garza, Rays ... 2nd option: RP Rafael Soriano, Rays

Round 13, Pick 145: Motive -- High-end closer
1st option: RP Rafael Soriano, Rays ... 2nd option: RP Francisco Cordero, Reds

Round 14, Pick 168: Motive -- Best power hitter or corner infielder
1st option: OF Corey Hart, Brewers ... 2nd option: 2B/3B Casey McGehee, Brewers

Round 15, Pick 169: Motive -- Best power-hitting corner infielder
1st option: 2B/3B Casey McGehee, Brewers ... 2nd option: RP Frank Francisco, Rangers

Round 16, Pick 192: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or power reliever
1st option: SP Kevin Slowey, Twins ... 2nd option: RP/SP Netfali Feliz, Rangers

Round 17, Pick 193: Motive -- Best available player
1st option: RP/SP Netfali Feliz, Rangers ... 2nd option: RP Leo Nunez, Marlins

Round 18, Pick 216: Motive -- Best player at position of need
1st option: 2B Howie Kendrick, Angels ... 2nd option: OF Julio Borbon, Rangers

Round 19, Pick 217: Motive -- Best outfielder -- emphasis on speed
1st option: OF Julio Borbon, Rangers ... 2nd option: OF Drew Stubbs, Reds

Round 20, Pick 240: Motive -- Best closer
1st option: RP Jason Frasor, Blue Jays ... 2nd option: RP Kerry Wood, Indians

Round 21, Pick 241: Motive -- Best young player with great upside
1st option: SP Wade Davis, Rays ... 2nd option: SP Mat Latos, Padres

Performing A Public Service: UZR

There are some facets of baseball that cannot be explained without a degree from M.I.T. ... which is why I'm going to let Alex Remington of Big League Stew/Yahoo! provide a verbatim account of the sabermetrician-friendly term -- UZR.

What does it stand for? Ultimate Zone Rating. Devised by baseball statistician Mitchel Lichtman, it's based on Zone Rating, a defensive stat kept by STATS, Inc. that measures a fielder's success at getting to balls determined to be in his "zone" of the playing field.

How is UZR calculated? The baseball field is divided into 78 zones, 64 of which are used in UZR calculation. (As Lichtman explains, infield line drives, infield pop flies and outfield foul balls are ignored. Pitchers and catchers are not included.)

Here's what is calculated for each zone: The out rate and the percentage of balls in that zone that turn into outs. The league average out rate is then subtracted from the player's out rate -- if this number is negative, it means the player is worse than league average. If it's positive, it means he's better than league average.

That rate is then multiplied by the number of balls that hit in that player's zone. This yields a Zone Rating. To obtain the run value, it's multiplied by the Zone Ratings that are calculated for each zone the fielder covers, and then summed. This sum is a simple, unadjusted UZR. It is then further adjusted for park factors, batted ball speed, which side of the plate the batter was hitting from, the pitcher's groundball/flyball ratio and the number of baserunners and outs at the time. The adjustments are made because each of these variables can significantly affect the average out rate in a particular zone. Using run expectancy charts, these rates can be converted to runs.

Why we should care about UZR: It's a very easy-to-use stat -- provided, of course, that you can just look it up. While it's not the ideal defensive stat, because it conflicts with Plus/Minus and requires a large sample size, it's infinitely better than what we had before, which was essentially fielding percentage, the dubious list of past Gold Glove winners, and nothing else.

A lot of the innovations in defensive statistics are being done by the teams themselves, who have hired some of the most prominent sabermetricians in the business -- including Bill James, Mitchel Lichtman and Tom Tango -- to do proprietary work for them. So the bleeding edge of defensive stats isn't widely available. But for ease of use, wide availability, and improvement over what we had before, it's hard to beat UZR.

The Young & The Restless

It's a grim reality of fantasy baseball, folks: To win a roto-style championship in AL- or NL-only leagues, you must possess intimate knowledge of baseball's next wave of dynamic playmakers. To wit, here are the 23-or-under players who'll likely make the greatest fantasy impact:

1. SP Felix Hernandez, Mariners
2. OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
3. SP Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
4. SS Elvis Andrus, Rangers
5. OF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
6. SP Brett Anderson, Athletics
7. SP/RP Netfali Feliz, Rangers
8. OF Jay Bruce, Reds
9. OF Travis Snider, Blue Jays
10. OF Desmond Jennings, Rays
11. SP Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
12. SP Brian Matusz, Orioles
13. SP Rick Porcello, Tigers
14. 1B Jason Heyward, Braves
15. SP Trevor Cahill, Athletics
16. OF Cameron Maybin, Marlins
17. SP Mat Latos, Padres
18. SP Chris Tillman, Orioles
19. SS Alcides Escobar, Brewers
20. SP Derek Holland, Rangers
21. RP Drew Storen, Nationals
22. RP Ryan Perry, Tigers
23. OF Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks
24. 1B Justin Smoak, Rangers
25a. OF Austin Jackson, Tigers
25b. OF Michael Taylor, Athletics

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

A Word About S-S-S-S-Slow Drafts

In the realm of covering fantasyland sports, it's common courtesy for so-called-expert writers to participate in numerous preseason mock drafts of other so-called writing experts -- as a means of networking, sharing knowledge and giving the general public something to think about before their respective seasonal drafts (baseball, football, basketball, hockey, golf, etc.). And for the last two years, I have essentially moved mountains to accommodate as many Web sites and publications as possible within this process ... because, frankly, it's just a nice way of doing business, while promoting SI.com. But that was then ... for it's finally time to publicly flog one particular style of mock drafting: The slow draft.

The concept of a slow draft is rather simple (and stupid): A group of 10 or 12 owners get togther -- via the Web or email -- to select their make-believe baseball team. But instead of the standard 60-90 seconds between picks ... each owner has up to EIGHT HOURS to make his/her selection. Now, obviously, these drafts are designed for the busy, busy, busy person who simply doesn't have time to sit at his/her computer for 90 uninterrupted minutes and draft a complete club; and, in theory, it allows everyone to acquire their preferred players without feeling the pinch of work, family, friends or time constraints tugging them in multiple directions. But to me, it's all a load of bull-loney, and the most painful way to satisfy one's fantasy fix.

In this day and age, you're either chained to your home/work computer for 14 hours a day ... or cruising around town with a BlackBerry or Droid sutured to your wrist. In other words, there are no more tolerable excuses for someone saying, I just couldn't get to a computer to make my pick. Sorry. As much I relish gauging Ryan Braun's draft status in a 12-team mixed league, OR fixating on Wade Davis's standard predraft value in 10-team AL-only leagues ... I'm especially looking forward to the whole thing being over, as well. And yet, the s-s-s-slow draft doesn't give one the option of moving on with their lives ... it lingers on longer than an energy-sucking head cold or a needless Chelsea Lately marathon on E! Television.

The lesson here: Avoid all slow drafts. You'll thank me 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)
SS/OF Ben Zobrist, Rays (now 2B-eligible)

The 'Do Not Draft' Club: Pitchers

Preparing a cheat sheet can be a daunting task for the everyday Joe or Jane -- especially when arbitrarily guessing which pitchers are on the cusp of a breakout ... or on the road to an unsettling decline. But there's an easy way of making first cuts with starting pitchers -- or guys you steadfastly refuse to draft -- based on their Strikeout/Walk ratio. Simply eliminate all non-rookies from 2009 with K/BB ratios of less than 2-to-1 ... like these, ahem, bums:

Starting Pitchers
Doug Davis -- 146/103 K-BB rate
Barry Zito -- 154/81 K-BB rate
Jason Marquis -- 115/80 K-BB rate
Carlos Zambrano -- 152/78
Manny Parra -- 116/77
Joba Chamberlain -- 133/76
Andy Pettitte -- 148/76
Jeff Suppan -- 80/74
Kevin Milwood -- 123/71
Fausto Carmona -- 79/70
John Lannan -- 89/68
Armando Galarraga -- 95/67
Livan Hernandez -- 102/67
Kyle Davies -- 86/66
Scott Feldman -- 113/65
Francisco Liriano -- 122/65
Braden Looper -- 100/64
Micah Owings -- 68/64
Joe Saunders -- 101/64
Derek Lowe -- 111/63
Jon Garland -- 109/61
Jeremy Guthrie -- 110/60
Scott Kazmir -- 117/60
Scott Richmond -- 117/59
Chris Volstad -- 107/69
Gil Meche -- 95/58
Oliver Perez -- 62/58
Aaron Laffey -- 59/57
Todd Wellemeyer -- 78/57
Gio Gonzalez -- 109/56
Matt Palmer -- 69/55

One Last, Long Incognito Weekend

There won't be any Friday Fantasy Clicks for a variety of reasons (blame Canada ... and the Olympics). Plus, it should buy myself enough time to finish the aforementioned Baseball Preview for Monday. Take care!

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