Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Sunday Afternoon Revelations
Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Luke Scott: AP

In the interest of making Clicks bigger and better than ever, we'll spotlight each Sunday's most fantasy-friendly game, NFL Revelations-style. This weekend's primary options included the Red Sox' 4-1 win over the Yankees, featuring Jacoby Ellsbury's amazing steal of home ... or the Orioles' 8-5 victory over the Rangers, in a game more reminiscent of beer-league softball than one where pitchers are actually paid gobs and gobs of money to get the hitters out. Naturally, I chose the Texas-Baltimore game.

What I Liked: The Orioles' 1-2 punch of Brian Roberts (4 hits, 3 runs, 1 RBI, 1 HR) and Adam Jones combined for seven hits, five runs and four RBIs. Poor Nick Markakis. He had a decent day (2 hits, 2 RBIs) ... but he could've knocked in seven runs -- if Jones and Roberts hadn't each belted a homer.

What I Liked, Part II: Congratulations are in order for Rangers outfielder David Murphy for launching his first home run of the season.

What I Loved, Part II: Yes, he's only hitting .213 right now, but does anyone really believe Rangers first baseman Chris Davis won't be flirting with .300 by June 1? The dude can flat-out rake, something Orioles rookie pitcher Bradley Bergesen knows all too well, after surrendering a Davis HR in the 5th. On the day, Bergesen yielded three home runs and 10 hits in just four-plus innings. But he's still a decent play in AL-only leagues ... if for no other reason than Baltimore won't see Texas again this season (after Monday).

What Makes Me Cringe: Remember that David Murphy HR from above? Well, that blast was also his first base hit of '09. Yikes!

What Makes Me Cringe, Part II: Rangers starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy has surrendered at least one HR in all four starts this season. The upside of this, ahem, consistency? Each mediocre outing simply accelerates the timetable of Netfali Feliz and Derek Holland, arguably the best pair of under-23 young guns from any organization.

What Makes Me Laugh (Uncomfortably): Orioles closer George Sherrill has four saves ... and a 5.19 ERA. D'oh!

Fantasy 2-Pack: Pitchers

These pitchers are scheduled for two starts in Week 4 (April 27-May 3). Hence, they're potential gold in weekly leagues:

CC Sabathia, Yankees
Chad Billingsley, Dodgers
John Danks, White Sox
Ted Lilly, Cubs
Cliff Lee, Indians
Jair Jurrjens, Braves
Gil Meche, Royals
Ricky Nolasco, Marlins
Joe Saunders, Angels
Chris Young, Padres
Justin Verlander, Tigers (he's starting to lose his ace-like aura)
Johnny Cueto, Reds
Kevin Millwood, Rangers
Randy Wolf, Dodgers
Kyle Lohse, Cardinals
John Maine, Mets
Edwin Jackson, Tigers
Brad Penny, Red Sox
Joe Blanton, Phillies
Scott Baker, Twins (things have to turn around for him, right?)
Tim Wakefield, Red Sox
Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles
Anibal Sanchez, Marlins
Dave Bush, Brewers
Joel Pineiro, Cardinals
David Purcey, Blue Jays
Phil Hughes, Yankees
James Shields, Rays
Roy Oswalt, Astros
Carlos Zambrano, Cubs
Scott Richmond, Blue Jays
John Lannan, Nationals
Brett Anderson, Athletics
Barry Zito, Giants
Brian Bannister, Royals
Shairon Martis, Nationals
Jason Hammel, Rockies
Yusmeiro Petit, Diamondbacks (I just cannot give up the ship on this stud-in-waiting)
Jeff Karstens, Pirates
Chris Jakubauskas, Mariners
Josh Geer, Padres
Matt Harrison, Rangers
Dan Haren, Diamondbacks

Today's Special

For every baseball Clicks, I will select the best mixed-league pitching prospect -- likely available on the waiver wire -- who's also taking the mound that day/evening. The intent, of course, is to provide a quick boost in your hunt for a fantasy title ... just don't send me any threatening emails after the featured hurler flames out, like all Schleprocks are prone to do sometimes. After all, there's a reason why David Purcey can be had in any mixed league around the world right now:

Joe Blanton, Phillies vs. Nationals
Pros:
**Has a strong 16/4 K-BB ratio in three starts
**Possesses the capacity for 150 strikeouts in a full season
**Has allowed only three runs in his last two outings
**Will never kill your WHIP, due to a low walks rate

Cons:
**Owns a 1-2 career record and 5.33 ERA vs. Nationals
**Adam Dunn, Elijah Dukes and Ryan Zimmerman could have a field day against Hampton at the Citizens Bank bandbox

Positional Assumptions

In most leagues, a player becomes eligible for a new position once he's played five games at that spot in the current season. Here's a list of players who have either earned new-position eligibility ... or are on the cusp of accomplishing this often-overlooked and underappreciated status:

3B Chris Davis, Rangers (now 1B-eligible)
2B Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins (now 3B-eligible)
DH Jason Giambi, Athletics (now 1B-eligible)
2B Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians (will be SS-eligible by mid-May)
3B/1B Carlos Guillen, Tigers (now OF-eligible)
1B Conor Jackson, Diamondbacks (should be OF-eligible by mid-May)
1B Pablo Sandoval, Giants (now 3B-eligible)
2B Mark DeRosa, Indians (now 3B-eligible)
OF Felipe Lopez, Diamondbacks (now 2B-eligible)
OF Skip Schumaker, Cardinals (now 2B-eligible)
3B Garrett Atkins, Rockies (should be 1B-eligible sometime by June 1)
OF Adam Dunn, Nationals (should be 1B-eligible by the All-Star break)
2B Mark Teahen, Royals (now 3B-eligible, thanks to Alex Gordon's injury)
SS Michael Young, Rangers (now 3B-eligible)
3B Jorge Cantu, Marlins (now 1B-eligible)
2B Alexei Ramirez, White Sox (now SS-eligible)
C Victor Martinez, Indians (should be 1B-eligible by May 1)
OF Kendry Morales, Angels (now 1B-eligible)
SS Ben Zobrist, Rays (now OF-eligible)
OF Nick Swisher, Yankees (should be 1B-eligible by May 1)
3B Ian Stewart, Rockies (should be 2B- AND OF-eligible by mid-May)

The Road To Wellville

These hitters should fare remarkably well against average-to-subpar pitching throughout Week 4 (April 27-May 3):

Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (@ Astros, @ Rockies)
Magglio Ordonez, Tigers
Placido Polanco, Tigers
Curtis Granderson, Tigers
Brandon Inge, Tigers
Carlos Guillen, Tigers
Gerald Laird, Tigers
Joey Votto, Reds (vs. Astros, @ Pirates)
Jay Bruce, Reds
Edwin Encarnacion, Reds
Ramon Hernandez, Reds
Brandon Phillips, Reds
Jerry Hairston Jr., Reds
Ryan Howard, Phillies (vs. Nationals, vs. Mets)
Chase Utley, Phillies
Raul Ibanez, Phillies
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
Shane Victorino, Phillies
Jayson Werth, Phillies
Matt Holliday, Athletics (@ Rangers, @ Mariners)
Ryan Sweeney, Athletics
Kurt Suzuki, Athletics
Jason Giambi, Athletics
Orlando Cabrera, Athletics
Jack Cust, Athletics
Bobby Abreu, Angels (vs. Nationals, vs. Mets)
Chone Figgins, Angels
Kendry Morales, Angels
Howie Kendrick, Angels
Torii Hunter, Angels
Mike Napoli, Angels
Gary Matthews Jr., Angels (at least until Vlad comes back)

Tough Road Ahead

On the flip side, these hitters are likely headed for a mini-slump in Week 4 (April 27-May 3), due to poor pitching matchups. I'm not saying "Don't start 'em" ... just be wary of these guys facing at least four top-end hurlers during this period:

Manny Ramirez, Dodgers (@ Giants, vs. Padres)
Matt Kemp, Dodgers
Rafael Furcal, Dodgers
James Loney, Dodgers
Orlando Hudson, Dodgers
Andre Ethier, Dodgers
Russell Martin, Dodgers
Adrian Beltre, Mariners (@ White Sox, @ A's)
Russell Branyan, Mariners
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
Yuniesky Betancourt, Mariners
Wladimir Balentien, Mariners
Jose Lopez, Mariners
Endy Chavez, Mariners
Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners

The Obligatory A-Rod Update

Alex Rodriguez reportedly might begin his rehab assignment next week in the minor leagues. This justifies A-Rod's mid-May return to the Yankees, but it also has no effect on my seasonal projections of 24 HRs, 84 RBIS and 81 runs. However, I'd be shocked if A-Rod registered six steals in '09, since the Yankees would be crazy to green-light any "straight steal" opportunities. Apparently, Joe Girardi likes his job and doesn't want to get fired, Costanza-style.

Necessary Brandon Wood Rant

Seriously ... what did shortstop Brandon Wood ever do to Angels manager Mike Scioscia or GM Tony Reagins to justify being jerked around for the last two or three years? Did he forget to say "bless you" or "gesundheit" to Reagins at spring training one time? Does he wear his uniform stirrups in a manner that Scioscia finds utterly reprehensible? What's the deal here?

For those unaware of his lingering plight ... Wood, at age 20 in 2005, racked up 43 HRs, 115 RBIS, 109 runs, 7 steals and a .321 at the High-A level and, predictably, rocketed up all the prospect charts the following season -- including a No. 3 overall ranking in Baseball America's 2006 studs list. Wood then flourished at the AA-level (25 HRs, 83 RBIs, 19 steals in 2006) and AAA-levels (23 HRs in 2007; 31 HRs in 2008), essentially erasing any doubts about his long-term viability as a major leaguer. So, how did the Angels reward their highly regarded slugger when he earned his major-league callup last week (his third MLB promotion in two years), after mashing four homers and hitting .346 to start the season in the minors? In six games, he's tallied just five at-bats and one start. Even worse, Scioscia has seemingly gone out of his way to knock Wood (or deflate him) at every turn -- even though the shortstops currently headlining the team's depth chart (Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis) are getting a free pass for their mediocre contributions, to date.

Listen, I know Scioscia has forgotten more baseball than I'll ever know. I also realize that Aybar and Izturis are quality major leaguers. But we're talking about an extraordinary talent who's wasting away in the minors and/or the Angels bench for no definitive reason. At the bare minimum, Wood's the next J.J. Hardy; at best, he's a shade below Cal Ripken Jr.. Don't believe me? Well, to reference that Baseball America list again ... Chad Billingsley, Justin Verlander and Matt Cain rated behind Wood in the top 10. Carlos Quentin, Nick Markakis, Jon Lester, Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez struggled to crack the top 30. Heck, even Jonathan Papelbon (No. 37) and Ryan Braun (No. 49) were considered longer shots for stardom than Wood -- in the not-too-distant past.

Without a doubt, major league baseball is a results-oriented business, and Wood needs to hit better than .200 with the parent club to earn a full-time starting slot. But if this kid really is a can't-miss wunderkind, then why hasn't Anaheim moved heaven and earth to help Wood's cause? Why isn't he getting a legitimate shot to prove that his out-of-this-world numbers in the minors are realistic in the bigs, as well? And if Aybar and Izturis are indeed the Angels' shortstops of the present and future, then why hasn't Wood been traded to a shortstop-deficient team, one that would provide him with an instant opportunity to start? By my count, at least 20 teams would kill to have a Wood-like talent playing shortstop every day.

The Untouchables

Gut feelings or no gut feelings, these stars should NOT be dealt in any garden-variety 1-for-1 or 2-for-2 swap this season: (If you're using these guys as a means to a historically lopsided trade in your favor ... then, by all means, do the deed!)

Hitters
Ian Kinsler, Rangers
Evan Longoria, Rays
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Carlos Quentin, White Sox
Matt Kemp, Dodgers
Victor Martinez, Indians
Carlos Pena, Rays
Jermaine Dye, White Sox (I'm starting to think he'll surpass 30 HRs this season)
Marco Scutaro, Blue Jays
Grady Sizemore, Indians
Alfonso Soriano, Cubs
Nelson Cruz, Rangers (never wake a hibernating bear ... and NEVER trade a scalding-hot hitter)
Andre Ethier, Dodgers
Adrian Gonzalez, Padres
Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Justin Morneau, Twins
Chase Utley, Phillies

Starting Pitchers
Johan Santana, Mets
Roy Halladay, Blue Jays
Zack Greinke, Royals (his earned-run scoreless streak is at 42, I believe)
CC Sabathia, Yankees
Ricky Nolasco, Marlins (don't let the slow start fool ya)
Erik Bedard, Mariners
Tim Lincecum, Giants
Chad Billingsley, Dodgers (Billz/Kershaw ...a match made in blue heaven)
Josh Johnson, Marlins
Dan Haren, Diamondbacks
Jake Peavy, Padres
James Shields, Rays

Relief Pitchers
Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox (I just traded Johnny Cueto and Kyle Davies for him)
Joe Nathan, Twins
Francisco Rodriguez, Mets
Matt Capps, Pirates
Francisco Cordero, Reds
Mariano Rivera, Yankees
Heath Bell, Padres
Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers
Joakim Soria, Royals

Total Bases Recall
Albert Pujols: Doug Benc/Getty Images

For the loyal Clicks readers of 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 from doubles. It's also a stellar indicator of future success. Here are the top 30 leaders (with ties) in total bases (through April 26):

1. Ian Kinsler, Rangers -- 58
2. Aaron Hill, Blue Jays -- 54
3. Victor Martinez, Indians -- 51
4. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox -- 50
5. Torii Hunter, Angels -- 49
6. Albert Pujols, Cardinals -- 48
7. Evan Longoria, Rays -- 47
8. Robinson Cano, Yankees -- 45
9. Freddy Sanchez, Pirates -- 45
10. Carlos Pena, Rays -- 44
11. Grady Sizemore, Indians -- 44
12. Joey Votto, Reds -- 44
13. Raul Ibanez, Phillies -- 43
14. Adrian Gonzalez, Padres -- 43
15. Brandon Inge, Tigers -- 43
16. Adam Lind, Blue Jays -- 43
17. Nick Markakis, Orioles -- 43
18. Brian Roberts, Orioles -- 43
19. Alfonso Soriano, Cubs -- 43
20. Andre Ethier, Dodgers -- 42
21. Orlando Hudson, Dodgers -- 42
22. Michael Young, Rangers -- 42
23. Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs -- 41
24. Adam Jones, Orioles -- 41
25. Jason Kubel, Twins -- 41
26. Adam LaRoche, Pirates -- 41
27. Justin Morneau, Twins -- 41
28. Carlos Beltran, Mets -- 40
29. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers -- 40
30. Matt Kemp, Dodgers -- 40

Welcome To The Show, Rookie

I seldom endorse banking on first-year players in standard mixed leagues. However, if you're going to dip into the rookie pool, these guys likely have staying power -- at least until the obligatory post-All-Star swoon:

C Matt Wieters, Orioles (yes, he's still in the minors ... but be patient, Grasshopper)
1B Pablo Sandoval, Giants (had one HR and four hits on Sunday)
2B/3B Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins (it's awfully hard to score when you can't get on base)
SS Elvis Andrus, Rangers
OF Dexter Fowler, Rockies
OF Cameron Maybin, Marlins (a virtual lock for 25 steals/80 runs)
OF Jordan Schafer, Braves
OF Daniel Murphy, Mets
OF Travis Snider, Blue Jays (has 25-HR potential this season)
U Colby Rasmus, Cardinals
SP Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (don't be too discouraged from his brutal Week 3)
RP Jason Motte, Cardinals
P David Price, Rays (if you don't know who he is ... you shouldn't be playing fantasy baseball)

Perception Is Reality

In the SI.com & Friends league last week, Carl Crawford was traded twice in the span of three hours, leading me to wonder, Where did it all so wrong? When did Crawford become the Randy Winn of American League outfielders? Just 13 months ago, Crawford was the consensus No. 2 player in AL-only drafts (behind Alex Rodriguez). He once was an annual lock for 18 HRs, 100 runs, 50 steals and a .315 average. He once stood as the hallmark of 5x5 consistency ... while hot-cold studs like Grady Sizemore and Alex Rios were too inconsistent for fantasy owners' tastes. But now, Crawford has the appearance of someone who'll never launch 20 HRs, hit 30-plus doubles or post a .420 or slugging rate again in a season. Thank god he's a lock for 40 steals (if healthy) ... and thank goodness he still carries mucho fantasy cachet on the trade market -- for now.

For Crawford owners looking to deal him while the getting's still good, here are a few 2-for-2 options to ponder:

Crawford/2B Matt Cain for Brian Roberts/Dan Haren ... OR
Crawford/3B James Shields for Grady Sizemore/A.J. Burnett ... OR
Crawford/RP John Danks for Aaron Hill/Tim Lincecum ... OR
Crawford/SP Matt Garza for Shane Victorino/CC Sabathia ... OR
Crawford/2B Erik Bedard for Vernon Wells/Zack Greinke

The Missing Links

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, 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 Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Dave O'Brien's engaging insight on Braves Chipper Jones, Kelly Johnson, Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann, 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.

Sad But True

Prior to Saturday, the team ERA in my favorite AL-only league was a hideous 5.47. But at the same time, it was lower than the team ERA (5.51) from my SI.com & Friends club (mixed league). Thank god my two offenses are prodigious -- otherwise, the chances of a fantasy title would be, percentage-wise, at 0.0.

Stock Report

In case you care, here's an update for the much-talked-about, but rarely seen SI.com & Friends fantasy league. It's your typical 14-team, 5x5, roto-style setup:

1. The Funcookers (Jeff Ritter) -- 107.5 points (top-5 ranking in seven categories -- yikes!)
2. The Brandon and Jason Show (Marcus/Schwartz) -- 96 points (across-the-board excellence)
3. The Farmer John Family (Scott Wraight) -- 92.5 points (dominant in saves and ERA)
4. Hoboken Highlanders (David Katz) -- 86.5 points (the only 5x5 offense I genuinely fear)
5. This Week's TWIB Notes (Jay Clemons) -- 83 points (rising like a phoenix from Arizona)
6. Being Kenny Powers (Bobby Kight) -- 83 points (great pitching, pedestrian hitting)
7. Packham Mortuary (Drew Packham) -- 72 points (desperately needs a boost in RBIs and steals)
8. Machota's Bums (Jon Machota) -- 71.5 points (killing the field in the almighty strikeouts)
9. Capital City Goofballs (Josh Wymer) -- 67.5 points (hot-to-trot on steals and RBIs)
9. Prestige Worldwide (Charlie Kight) -- 66 points (taking a bath in runs and HRs)
11. Hackensack Bulls (Cory McCartney) -- 65.5 points (punting saves for the betterment of wins, ERA)
12. Pete Rose's Best Bet (Tim Dwyer) -- 64.5 points (all pitching, no offense)
13. Downtown Killer B's (Mike Bernaiche) -- 52.5 points (seeking closure on his 'closer' problem)
14. Krasmanian Devils (Lonny Krasnow) -- 42 points (the world's most apathetic 'Autopick' owner)

What, No Football Clicks?

Yes, there are a million things to discuss from this weekend's NFL draft ... and we'll tackle at least 982 of the items in Wednesday's Clicks. Heck, we'll even break down Mark Sanchez's meteoric rise up the draft charts (and into the hearts of NFL GMs) -- despite playing no games in February, March and April. Or that he tallied only 395 combined passing yards and two touchdowns against the Arizona schools last season (along with four interceptions). Or that he started only 14 games in college. Or that he sat behind John David Booty -- yes, John David Booty! -- for two seasons.

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