April 19, 2010

Whether you call it luck or skill, the key to winning a fantasy league is to strike gold in an unexpected location. In other words, you need to acquire talented players in places most owners don't know to look. In 2009, Adam Lind, Kendry Morales and Pablo Sandoval were these hidden gems. In 2008, they were Cliff Lee, Josh Hamilton and Geovany Soto. To find them this year, I find it easier to categorize players into three groups:

In honor of the overlooked actor who plays red-haired Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series, these are the prospects few people are gushing about. They may not have the paparazzi chasing them like Dan Radcliffe and Emma Watson do, but they could make a big splash soon:

Casey McGehee, 3B/2B (Brewers) -- Plucked off waivers by Milwaukee after the Cubs discarded him, McGehee had a solid '09 rookie season (.301, 16 HR, 66 RBI). He's off to a fast start this year (.400, 4 HR, 10 RBI) while hitting in the shadows of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. His multi-position eligibility is an added bonus.

Chase Headley, 3B (Padres) -- Headley switched from the outfield to his more natural 3B position after San Diego traded Kevin Kouzmanoff to the Athletics and the move seems to be agreeing with him. He's batting .375 through Sunday's games and his first homer of the year was a dramatic walkoff against the Diamondbacks. Skeptical fantasy owners might point to last year's .208 batting average at Petco Park, but he's bound to improve on those home numbers.

Garrett Jones, 1B/OF (Pirates) -- Andrew McCutchen gets all the attention in Pittsburgh but Jones is worth keeping an eye on. He hit .293 with 21 HR and 44 RBI in 82 games last season.

You might know Haley better as the rebel motorcyclist Kelly Leak from The Bad News Bears. After a couple of bad sequels, he disappeared from the spotlight and then surprisingly returned 30 years later with an Oscar-nominated performance in Little Children. In his honor, these are the former prospects that floundered and are now largely ignored by owners:

Chris Young, OF (Diamondbacks) -- Young was a hot commodity after his '07 rookie season (32 HR, 27 SB) but that feels like ages ago. He lost both his power stroke and his base running mojo, and he seems to have regressed in his plate discipline. Still, Young is just 26 years old and he's off to a good start this season (.277, 3 HR, 15 RBI). Most owners have given up on him, but there is still some talent here.

Juan Uribe, 2B/SS/3B (Giants) -- Uribe's best years were with the White Sox, helping them win a World Series in 2005 but things have gone downhill since then. He lost his starting shortstop position to Orlando Cabrera, faced criminal shooting allegations in his native Dominican Republic and is now remembered for bobbling a ground ball in the eighth inning of Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter that cost the Giants pitcher a perfect game. Things are looking up for Uribe this season (.326, 1 HR, 10 RBI) and he should be able to get you decent power numbers for a middle infielder.

Brett Myers, SP (Astros) -- He fluctuated as a starter and reliever in Philadelphia, finding some success but eventually flaming out. Myers signed a one-year contract in Houston and while wins will be hard to come by, the strikeout pitcher is worth a roster spot.

Named after the bald character actor who you've seen in everything (a gangster in Road to Perdition, Julia Child's husband in Julia and Julia, a serial killer in The Lovely Bones), these are the veterans who often get overlooked but who can still deliver an excellent performance:

Michael Young, 3B (Rangers) -- He's got the easiest name to say but most owners overlooked him on draft day. Maybe it's because Young no longer qualifies at shortstop or because he's creeping up in age (33). He's still a .300 career hitter who plays in an excellent hitter's ballpark within a loaded lineup (Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Vladimir Guerrero, Josh Hamilton). Don't be surprised if Young gets back to his glory days of 200 hits, 20 HR and 90 RBI.

Livan Hernandez, SP (Nationals) -- It seems like Hernandez has been around forever. He's fourth among active pitchers in innings pitched (2750.7) and wins (158) and second in complete games (48). Did you know he started this season 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 16 innings pitched? Would you rather take a chance on a 35-year old Hernandez or a 47-year old Jaime Moyer?

Casey Blake, 3B, (Dodgers) -- Blake is an afterthought in Los Angeles with so many bigger names around (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez). However, third base is a shallow position this season and you could do worse than his usual numbers (.280, 20 HR, 80 RBI).

You May Like