Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Welcome to Adventureland
Josh Hamilton: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Forget the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Phillies, Braves, Dodgers, my hometown Tigers or even the dysfunctional-come-September Mets. For my money, the Rangers are the only must-see-TV, drop-everything-you're-doing-to-watch-'em team on the DirecTV Extra Innings package. With stars like Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and budding studs like Chris Davis, Marlon Byrd, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Hank Blalock, Taylor Teagarden and now SS Elvis Andrus, Texas obviously offers a full serving of fantasy goodness every week. But the real attraction, nay, obsession comes in the form of how every Rangers player -- no matter how big or small -- looks like Paul Bunyan on the club's local TV broadcasts ... and they all possess powerful uppercut-swings, as if they were handling underhanded tosses on a random beer-league softball team instead of 90-mile-an-hour heaters from established major leaguers (Cliff Lee, for one).

This week, the Rangers swept the Indians at The Ballpark, amassing 29 runs, 37 hits and six home runs in the three-game demolition. It's this kind of offensive assault that prompts one to adjust their preseason pick for the AL West: Call me crazy, but I think Texas will win 51 or 52 home games this season (out of 81) and eke out the division title -- even if it only goes 38-44 in road games (kind of like the 1991 Twins). Let's be honest: With the Angels' injury concerns with pitching (along with Nick Adenhart's death -- more on that later), the AL West is ripe for the picking ... and who better than America's favorite beer-league smashers to capitalize on all the madness.

You'll Thank Me Later

Yes, the season's only five days old ... but have you executed a waiver-wire pickup yet? Have you already wasted your top spot on the waiver-priority list in the name of grabbing Mark Teahen before anyone else realized he's the Royals' new second baseman? Have you offered a trade to another owner yet in knee-jerk response to Jacoby Ellsbury's tepid start? Even worse, has another owner sent you a lopsided trade (in his/her favor) on the assumption that you're despondent over CC Sabathia's zero-strikeout Yankees debut?

If you've answered "yes" to any of the above questions, no doubt you're a serial watcher of your fantasy league's "Live Scoring" component. You're also extremely vulnerable to making irrational decisions based on your (temporary) ninth-place standing in a 10-team league. My advice: Spend time each day building a better mousetrap, of course ... but please don't accept a fantasy trade for the next two weeks (through April 24) -- unless it's a colossal blowout in your favor. Let the season breathe -- which, in turn, allows you to sneak in the occasional exhale, as well.

Great First Impressions

Making any judgments on players right now -- good and bad -- seems like an exercise in futility. Nevertheless, here's our fantasy all-star team for Week 1:

C Brian McCann, Braves
1B Joey Votto, Reds
2B Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins
SS Hanley Ramirez, Marlins (off to an MVP-caliber start)
3B Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
DH Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (check out his loooooong grand slam vs. Texas)
OF Nick Markakis, Orioles
OF Adam Dunn, Nationals
OF Nelson Cruz, Rangers
OF Marlon Byrd, Rangers
OF Adam Lind, Blue Jays (to be fair, his 7 RBIs came against Detroit pitching)
SP Josh Beckett, Red Sox
SP Dan Haren, Diamondbacks
RP Francisco Rodriguez, Mets
RP Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers

Worst Week

On the flip side ... here's an all-star team of slow starters in Week 1:

C Russell Martin, Dodgers (hitting .125)
1B Derrek Lee, Cubs (.154, 1 run, 2 RBIs)
2B/SS Alexei Ramirez, White Sox (hitless in 10 at-bats)
SS J.J. Hardy, Brewers (1-for-13, 1 run)
3B Chris Davis, Rangers (.091 average, 2 runs)
OF Carlos Lee, Astros (1-for-12, no runs, HRs or RBIs)
OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox (.154 average, 1 stolen base)
OF Carlos Quentin, White Sox (hitting .125)
OF Jay Bruce, Reds (.167 average, zero HRs)
OF Jayson Werth, Phillies (.091 average, zero steals)
SP Cliff Lee, Indians (got rocked against Rangers)
SP CC Sabathia, Yankees (zero Ks against Orioles)
RP Brian Fuentes, Angels (blown save against A's)
RP Brandon Lyon, Tigers (for obvious reasons)

Gone In 14 Seconds

Speaking of Mr. Bonifacio, the Marlins' highly versatile, lightning-quick infielder (2B/3B eligible) ... did you happen to catch his blazing inside-the-park HR on Monday against the Nationals? By my count, Bonifacio went from home plate ... to, uh, home plate in 13.8 seconds; and even if it's not an MLB record (but then again, who'd ever keep track of such things?), it was easily the greatest demonstration of speed I've seen in a baseball game. Now, of course, one uber-productive day (he scored four runs against Washington) doesn't make a season -- or enhance one's long-term fantasy viability -- but I'm already regretting my waiver-wire swap on Sunday night, grabbing Kansas City's Mark Teahen and releasing Bonifacio into the wild (he's a lock for 45 steals in '09). Once again, I've been blinded by the immense potential -- but eventual lackluster production -- of a Royals position player.

From Dusk 'Til Dawn

The following is a message for those who work nights and weekends (like me) ... or live the college-boy lifestyle of going to bed at 6 a.m. and sleeping until 2 p.m. (also me): If you're in a daily fantasy league ... please, please, please set your lineups before turning off the TV at sunrise. Otherwise, you'll miss out on Nelson Cruz collecting two hits, two runs, two homers, three RBIs and one steal in one early-afternoon game (Wednesday vs. Cleveland) -- but get ahem, "credit" for Elijah Dukes' DNP (manager's decision).

Reader-Driven Choose Your Own Adventure

I am asking the loyal Fantasy Clicks reader to weigh in on the following conundrum: For my SI.com & Friends team, I have a stacked offensive lineup, solid starters and decent bullpen. That said, which trade offer, at face value, should I accept from the same owner? Or should I pass altogether?

**Giving up Ian Kinsler for Alexei Ramirez/Travis Snider (1-for-2 deal)? ... OR
**Giving up Ian Kinsler for Alexei Ramirez/Jose Valverde?
**Giving up Ian Kinsler for Alexei Ramirez/Carlos Pena?
**Giving up Ian Kinsler for Alexei Ramirez/Geovany Soto?

I'd appreciate your feedback here. Thanks, in advance.

Jedi Mind Tricks: Bait-and-Switch Trading
Zack Greinke: Vernon Bryant/AP

Are you in the market for a starting pitcher in a deep mixed league ... but don't want to appear too desperate to the other owners, even though that position has been absolutely picked clean on the free-agent wires? Here's how you turn a frustrating negative into an overwhelming positive:

First, identify a team with a surplus of solid, yet non-superstar-like staring pitchers.

Second, identify that owner's favorite MLB team, the one club that he/she obssesses about eight days a week. (For the sake of discussion, let's pretend you're chasing a fantasy team with Kansas City's Zack Greinke and San Francisco's Matt Cain ... and Owner B is a diehard Giants fan.)

Third, offer an even-handed blockbuster deal (2-for-2, 2-for-3, 3-for-3) to the owner -- a swap that calls for him losing a beloved Giant, like Cain. Assuming the owner rejects the deal, more out of San Fran loyalty than anything else, keep sending thoughtful, non-condescending emails explaining why it'd behoove he/she to take the deal.

Eventually, the other owner will relent and strike a compromise: As a token of good faith, he/she will offer you an easy-breezy deal involving Greinke -- the pitcher you quietly coveted all along -- as a way of saying, "I appreciate the way you conducted yourself during trade negotiations, and I like how you respect my desire to keep Matt Cain. So, just so you don't go away empty-handed, here's a win-win deal for now ... in case we want to do a blockbuster swap down the road."

Obviously, the other owner doesn't realize that you've already landed your prized pig in the switch (Greinke -- 7 Ks, 0 runs, 3 hits allowed vs. Chicago on Wednesday) -- especially since he/she handed the Royals ace over to you on a silver platter.

Predictions, Part Deux

You didn't think we'd go seven looooong weeks of exhibition Clicks without seasonal predictions, did you? After all, what good comes from having a fantasy column (warning: rhetorical question alert) ... if you're not being exposed for six subsequent months of public ridicule and embarrassment? That aside, the SI.com Predictionator 5000 has churned out the following picks:

American League
Playoff Teams
1. Boston -- 96-66
2. Minnesota -- 89-73
3. Texas -- 89-73 (an amendment from Monday's AL West prediction)
4. Tampa Bay -- 93-69 (Wild Card)

Cy Young
Roy Halladay, Blue Jays

MVP
Josh Hamilton, Rangers

Home Run King
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

Prince of Thieves (most steals)
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox

Victory Lane King
Roy Halladay, Blue Jays

Best Fantasy Breakout
Pitcher: Kevin Slowey, Twins
Hitter: Chris Davis, Rangers

Relief Pitcher of the Year
Joe Nathan, Twins

AL Playoffs
Boston over Texas
Minnesota over Tampa Bay
ALCS: Boston over Minnesota

National League
Playoff teams
1. Chicago -- 92-70
2. Phillies -- 91-71
3. San Francisco -- 88-74
4. Florida -- 90-72 (Wild Card)

Cy Young
Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks

MVP
Hanley Ramirez, Marlins

Home Run King
Ryan Howard, Phillies

Prince Of Thieves (most steals)
Jose Reyes, Mets

Victory Lane King
Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks

Best Fantasy Breakout
Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
Hitter: Matt Kemp, Dodgers

Relief Pitcher of the Year
Francisco Rodriguez, Mets

NL Playoffs
Florida over Chicago
Philadelphia over San Francisco
NLCS: Florida over Philadelphia

World Series
Boston over Florida in 7 games

R.I.P. Nick Adenhart

The baseball world was stunned and saddened by the loss of Angels starting pitcher Nick Adenhart, who was killed in a felony hit-and-run accident in southern California early Thursday morning -- just hours after his six-scoreless-inning gem against the Athletics (he didn't get the win, in lieu of Oakland's comeback). Adenhart had been one of L.A./Anaheim's top pitching prospects for years and had finally gotten his chance to shine as an established member of the team's rotation (given injuries to John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Kelvim Escboar). This is a tragic loss for everyone associated with the franchise -- including my fantasy friend and noted Angels honk Brandon Marcus -- and I'm sure the Angels will honor their fallen teammate with a tremendous season in '09.

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