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Fantasy island

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  March 19, 2009 09:37 PM

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SECOND BASE:
Dan Uggla, Florida Marlins: It was tough to come up with one to avoid at second. The Yankees' maddening Robinson Cano would seem an obvious choice, but I still like him a lot, assuming he's healthy. So I reluctantly went with the Marlins' all-or-nothing slugger, who hit 32 homers last year and whiffed 171 times. You'd think his inability to make consistent contact would catch up with him sooner rather than later, but curiously, his most similar player through age 28 is . . . Carlton Fisk. Make of that what you will, but I'm not drafting Uggla. Fisk, however, still rates among my top dozen catchers, even at age 61.

SHORTSTOP
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: What, you thought I was going to keep saying kind things about him? You know what they say about old habits. At 35, the sun is setting on Jeter's days as a productive shortstop -- he had just 11 homers and 11 steals last season (call it the 11/11 Club), and his .408 slugging percentage was his lowest since 1997. He's a $20 million singles hitter now.

THIRD BASE
Melvin Mora, Baltimore Orioles:
Actually, there's a sizable group of candidates here. Mike Lowell has to prove his hip is healthy. Garret Atkins is productive in Colorado, but I suspect he would be exposed as mediocre elsewhere. (I was hoping the Yankees would trade something good from their farm system for him.) Chipper Jones hit .364 last year, which might make some fellow owners forget he turns 37 in April, hasn't played more than 137 games since 2003, and is another injury victim of the WBC. And you know A-Rod's deal. But the one I'd avoid more than anyone else is Mora, who somehow drove in 104 runs last season after being the picture of mediocrity for a couple of years. Not. Happening. Again.

OUTFIELDERS
Matt Holliday, Oakland Athletics:
I don't mean to keep playing the Nolan Ryan to your Robin Ventura over this, but it boggles my mind that people think the Oakland version of Holliday is going to be even a reasonable facsimile of the stat-monster slugger he was in Colorado. Let's take one last shot at logic: He is a .357 at Coors Field in his career, and a .280 hitter away. He has 84 home runs at Coors Field, 44 away -- or roughly one every eight road games in his career. His OPS at home? 1.068. Away from his thin-air comfort zone: .803. And he's going to a pitchers' park and playing for a team that disregards the running game. Holliday's a quality offensive player -- think something in the range of a slightly-past-his-peak Tim Salmon and the current version of J.D. Drew -- but he is not an elite slugger.

Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays: He's just not the player his talent and salary suggest he should be. ESPN's Matt Meyers made a compelling argument that Wells is a bust based on his failure to match his sensational age-24 season (.317, 33 homers, 117 RBIs, 215 hits, 132 adjusted OPS). Plus, he's injury prone. Let him become someone else's frustration.

Ryan Ludwick, St. Louis Cardinals: Thirty-seven homers has to be a fluke . . . doesn't it? Also considered: B.J. Upton, Rays (a beast in the playoffs, but has yet to prove he can stay healthy and interested for the full 162).

STARTING PITCHER
Jake Peavy, San Diego Padres:
Victories are going to be hard-earned since the Padres' offense appears to be designed as some sort of bizarre tribute to Enzo Hernandez, and as it is Peavy has won more than 15 games just once in six full seasons. I also suspect he might end up being one of the scarred victims of the WBC.

CLOSER
Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets:
We believe this is one of the 10 (or so) commandments of fantasy baseball: Never draft a closer in the first 10 rounds. But some rube in your league will see the 62 saves next to K-Rod's name and think it was somehow representative of his abilities as a closer rather than the fact that the Angels seemed to give him a save opportunity on a nightly basis. And if you don't have a rube who makes such decisions in your league, you really should get one. They're fun.

SUPERPROSPECT
David Price, Tampa Bay Rays:
You don't need to be J.D. Drew to know he's the total package -- electric arm, intelligent, poised, and lefthanded. But before commanding the October stage, he struggled in four Triple A starts (4.50 ERA, 31 baserunners in 18 innings), and even Rays fans recognize he's far from a finished product. And overdrafting young pitching often backfires -- ask the guy who took Clay Buchholz in the sixth round in your league last year. If you must have a Rays lefty, Scott Kazmir is probably the better bet, for one more season.

* * *

As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

We don't recommend drafting Dwight Bernard, either. You know, in case you were wondering.


About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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