Ben Zobrist: Baseball’s Swiss Army Knife

Zobrist is ten feet all, weighs a ton, and breathes fire.

Zobrist is ten feet tall, weighs a ton, invented electricty and breathes fire.

Tampa Bay All-Star second baseman Ben Zobrist came into 2009 with little fanfare and even less chance of getting steady at-bats. After all, the Rays already had two solid middle-infielders in Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura and an outfield that featured B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford and the Gabes (Kapler and Gross) platooning in right-field. Zobrist had shown good pop in a limited trial during 2008 (12 HRs in 198 ABs), but the utility man didn’t figure to play more than a few times a week for the reigning AL champs.

Yet despite all these hurdles, Zobrist kept hitting whenever he got the chance, and as luck would have it the Gods of Baseball decided to give the former Astros farmhand a chance to shine. When Iwamura went down with a knee injury in late May, Zobrist became the Rays’ everyday second baseman and quickly proved that he had deserved a starting role all along; the legend of “Zorilla” was finally born.

The 28-year-old, who once got more recognition for his wife than his play on the field, is now one of the game’s rising stars and a favorite in fantasy baseball circles. Zobrist is capable of playing second and shortstop as well as any of the three outfield positions, making this jack-of-all-trades nearly indispensable to Tampa Bay. In addition to his versatility, Killer-Z also wields a mean stick at the dish.

Coming into the All-Star break Zobrist was hitting .297 with 17 HRs and 52 RBIs in only 246 ABs. The switch-hitter also shows a keen eye at the plate, drawing 49 walks against 55 Ks, leading to his robust .414 OBP. Zobrist has even developed as a base-stealer, swiping 11 bags while only getting caught three times. The pride of Eureka, Illinois is second in the league in SLG (.598), third in OBP and second in OPS (1.012). Is there anything on a baseball diamond this guy can’t do?

The grass is always greener on the other side, unless Zorilla has been there. In that case the grass is most likely soaked in blood and tears.

The grass is always greener on the other side, unless Zorilla has been there. In that case the grass is most likely soaked in blood and tears.

As the season progresses, this former 6th-round pick continues to develop into one of the best all-around talents in the game. The addition of Zobrist to the everyday lineup has reignited the Rays, helping them recover from a slow start and stay in contention in the brutal AL East. At 48-41, Tampa Bay is only 6 1/2 games back in the division and 3 1/2 games behind New York in the wild card race.

The Rays, already one of baseball’s deepest teams, continue to show that they have one of the best farm systems and scouting departments in the game today. Last year’s World Series runner-ups are even better this season with baseball’s biggest surprise leading the charge.

If Zobrist can prove that the first half of the season was no fluke and return the Rays to the post-season he will likely find himself in the AL MVP discussion at the end of the year. Not bad for a guy that once got traded for Aubrey Huff and came into the season with a career .222 average.

The Zorilla strikes again.

 

 

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Twin City Thunder: Is Joe Mauer the Best Player in Baseball?

The Man. The Myth. The Sideburns.

The Man. The Myth. The Sideburns.

Joe Mauer is as American as apple pie. He wins over the ladies with his matinee idol looks and the men with his talented play. He hits well, runs well, throws well and plays exceptional defense at a premium position. He’s got sideburns that would make Joe Dirt Elvis blush and fittingly  he stars for his hometown team, the Minnesota Twins. Oh yeah, and he just discovered his power stroke, begging the question: is Joe Mauer the best player in baseball?

Since being recalled from the disabled list on May 2, Mauer has been hotter than Roy Hobbes after he got back with Glenn Close in The Natural (yes the same Glenn Close who cameoed as a pirate in Hook; say what you will about Roy’s choice in women, but the man sure could hit a baseball). In just 25 games and 87 at-bats, Mauer has hit at a ridiculous .425 clip, to go along with 11 HRs, 32 RBIs and 26 runs. Eleven longballs in one month is a lot for anyone not named Sammy Sosa, let alone someone who only smacked 9 HRs in all of 2008.

It’s no secret to the league that Joe Mauer can hit (.322 career BA), but he’s mainly been a doubles and singles guy in his first 5 years in the league. Now that he has begun to flex his muscles, pitchers are grappling to find any weakness in Mashin’ Mauer’s game. His career high in homeruns (13) is already in sight, a year (2006) in which he went deep once every 40 ABs. This season Mauer is sending a ball into the bleachers every 7.6 ABs; that’s Barry Bonds circa 2001 territory. Besides providing fans with ample souvenirs thus far, he is also establishing himself as one of baseball’s elite players.

Joltin' Joe Mauer is the best player in baseball right now.

Joltin' Joe Mauer is the best player in baseball right now.

Joltin’ Joe has always been viewed as one of the rising stars of the game, an abnormally large and athletic catcher who could handle a pitching staff (2008 Gold Glove) and make solid contact at the dish (2006 and 2008 AL batting champ). He also flashed good speed for a backstop (28 SBs between 2005-07) and a keen batting eye (career 309/246 walk-to-strikeout ratio). Even though he is entering his sixth year in the league, Mauer is still just 26-years-old, and it appears that his continued maturation as a hitter has allowed him to discover which pitches to drive and how to make pitchers pay for leaving balls out over the plate.

Extrapolated over the rest of the season his current stat-line suggests that Mauer is on pace for 61 HRs and 178 RBIs. While he probably won’t finish with those otherworldly numbers, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he finishes with 30+ bombs to go along with his usual .300 BA. This new facet of Mauer’s game should put him the same breathe as Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera. Yes, he’s that good. In fact, if this recent power surge is for real (and there is every reason to believe it is), Joe Mauer may just be the best player in game, hands down. Offensively, defensively–you name it, Mauer is firing on all cylinders at a time when the sport desperately needs a face lift.

Baseball’s savior has arrived…and his name is Joe Mauer.

R.I.P. Dontrelle Willis: You Will Be Missed, But Not Forgotten

The brightest stars always burn out the fastest. Goodbye Dontrelle, you will always live on in our hearts.

The brightest stars always burn out the fastest. Goodbye Dontrelle, you will always live on in our hearts.

Just to clear things up, Dontrelle Willis is not actually dead (although some fantasy owners from last year may wish that upon him), but his career as a starting pitcher in the major leagues did pass away last night at the tender age of seven (2003-2009). Willis’ starting pitching career is survived by his teammates, coaches and those who invested a fortune in his rookie cards. Services will be held at the rest of Willis’ starts in the major leagues, minor leagues and old-men’s softball games. The family has requested that there be no flowers, but instead simply ask that fans don’t boo Dontrelle and further damage his fragile psyche; he may no longer be a starting pitcher, but he’s still a human being afterall.

Dontrelle the starting pitcher was born on May 9, 2003 to the Florida Marlins. His first year was a season that no one would ever forget as the phenom jumped from Double-A to the majors and never looked back (until of course now, that is). The young southpaw burst onto the scene and electrified the baseball world with his big smile, herky-jerky motion and passion for the game. His meteoric rise was added by the fact that every announcer and radio personality (Don Imus was credited as the first to coin the phrase) could finally say “whatcu talkin’ bout Willis” without getting a call from Gary Coleman’s lawyer. Dontrelle would go on to win the NL Rookie of the Year award after posting a 14-6 record and 3.31 ERA. The dream season culminated with a World Series title, as the Florida Marlins defeated the New York Yankees in six games. The burgeoning star was truly the crown prince of baseball and the world had become his oyster (which should have raised some red flags at the time because of Willis’ shellfish allergy).

Although he struggled the next season (10-11, 4.42 ERA), Dontrelle bounced back in a big way in 2005, finishing 2nd in the Cy Young voting to Chris Carpenter and going 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA and 170 Ks. He was selected to the All-Star game for the second time that year and even hit .261-1-11 at the plate. The boy had officially become a man, and Willis looked poised to become the black Fernando Valenzuela next poor-man’s Sandy Koufax. But even the best laid plans of mice and men go awry.

Things began to unravel in 2006 as Dontrelle struggled with control (of the ball and his emotions) leading to an underwhelming 12-12 record and 3.87 ERA. The league had finally figured out Willis, and the suddenly old starting pitcher knew that his best was already behind him. But there was no quit in Dontrelle and although he realized his days were numbered, he fought on valiantly. Unfortunately, Willis managed just 10 wins in 2006, and his ERA skyrocketed to 5.17. Dontrelle was aging faster than that guy in Indiana Jones who drank out of the wrong grail, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

Dontrelle the starting pitcher, seen here throwing one of his last pitches, was only seven.

Dontrelle the starting pitcher, seen here throwing one of his last pitches, was only seven-years-old.

The Florida Marlins, desperate to see their golden child succeed, shipped him off to Detroit along with Miguel Cabrera in hopes that a change of scenery might reignite his career. But things went from bad to worse in the Motor City for the fading star; Willis struggled with injuries, walked twice as many batters as he struck out, and posted a 9.38 ERA in 2008. Dontrelle started this year on the DL due to what was being called an “anxiety disorder“, but everyone knew it was merely a cover up. Willis was dying, and quickly.

Dontrelle made his final start last night against the Minnesota Twins, and scouts say he passed away peacefully after allowing a 2-R HR to Justin Morneau. He went 4 2/3 innings, giving up 8 hits, 4 Rs and 0 Ks. Although Dontrelle seemed upbeat after the game, the final nails had been hammered into the coffin of his career as a starting pitcher. Willis was seven-years-old.

But let’s not remember Willis as the decrepit pitcher of the past few years, a man who had a more trouble time finding the strike-zone than Angelina Jolie does finding a baby she won’t adopt. Instead, let’s think back to young Dontrelle’s days on the mound in sunny Florida, kicking that leg up to the sky and mowing hitters down like very few ever could. Willis was a once in a lifetime talent personality and we should be thankful for every moment he graced us with; baseball could sure use more players like Dontrelle (not that fans don’t love the Paul O’Neills and Gary Sheffields of the world)  His time on this earth was far too short, but he did more with it than most could ever dream of.

Dontrelle Wayne Willis may be gone, but he will live on forever in our hearts and minds. Goodbye sweet Dontrelle, we hardly knew thee…

April’s Fantasy Sizzlers and Fizzlers: Who’s Hot? Who’s Not?

Is Grienke this year's Cliff Lee?

Is Grienke this year's Cliff Lee?

The Royals are leading the AL Central! Jorge Cantu is on pace to drive in 203 runs! Swine Flu will destroy us all!Alberto Callaspo is hitting .379! Although a strong April doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good season (yes I mean you Chris Shelton), it’s never too early in the season to be on a roll (or in the midst of a horrific slump). The following players may be posed for a breakout year or a fiery, violent return to earth (Nate McLouth’s torrid start and following crash last season is thought to be the real reason dinosaurs went extinct). Regardless of which way their season goes it’s worth noting how good or bad these players performed in the first month, speculating on whether they can keep things up or turn them around, and what effect this will have on your fantasy squad. Should you sell ’em while their hot or keep them all season for a shot at the title? Read on to find out!

SIZZLERS

1) Zack Grienke (SP-Royals): Everyone who had a Royal’s pitcher on your short list of Cy Young candidates coming into the season, raise your hand, because those who bought into Grienke during spring training are being richly rewarded thus far. He is looking like this year’s version of Cliff Lee after posting a 5-0 record, 0.50 ERA and 44 Ks in April. Grienke has always had the stuff to be an ace, but has struggled with command and confidence issues. After finishing last year on a tear it looks like the 25-year-old is finally putting everything together for a monster season. Although he won’t repeat Bob Gibson’s 1968 otherworldly performance, look for KC’s defacto ace to mow down hitters all season long. Sell high, but expect a consistently strong season from ZG; somewhere in the neighborhood of 17-19 wins, sub 3.50 ERA and over 200 Ks.

2) Kevin Youkilis (1B-Red Sox): Beantown’s big fella has been crushing the ball in the early going to the tune of a .405 BA, 5 HRs and 15 RBIs. Additionally, the Greek God of Walks has drawn 14 bases on balls for a ridiculous, Barry Bonds-esque .516 OBP. Somebody call the HGH hotline!! After a MVP-like 2008, it is time to take Yook seriously as a fantasy threat. As part of one of the best lineups in baseball, Youkilis should be a constant source of RBIs and a high batting average all season long. Expect the handsome devil to post career highs in most offensive categories, finishing with a BA in the neighborhood of .320, 30 HRs and 120 RBIs.

Aaron Hill has spearheaded the surprising Jays.

Aaron Hill has spearheaded the surprising Jays.

3) Aaron Hill (2B-Blue Jays): The spunky secondbase for Toronto has made everyone forget about his injury plagued 2008 campaign and is a big reason why the Jays have raced out to an early lead in the division. Hill may be short in stature, but he has been towering over the competition in the AL East so far, hitting .365 with 5 HRs and 20 RBIs. He will have his ups-and-downs throughout the season, but should be a solid contributor at a position that is usually lacking depth. Look for Hill to hit .300-20 HRs-90 RBIs, not shabby numbers for a pint-sized middle infielder.

4) Dan Haren (SP-Diamondbacks): Despite dismal run support Haren has been the class of NL starting pitching in April. Don’t let the 2-3 record fool you, the rest of his numbers are spot on—1.54 ERA and 36 Ks in 35 innings. Haren has shown consistent improvement season to season throughout his short career, including decreasing his walks and increasing punchouts over the past two years. If the D-backs offense decides to wake up, Haren should break his career high of 16 wins. Enjoy this run while it lasts though, and prepare to sell him off at the All-Star break because Danny boy has historically struggled in the dog days of summer (2006-2008: Pre-All Star ERA-2.85; Post-All Star ERA-4.42).

FIZZLERS

There haven't been many reasons for Teixeria to smile in April.

There haven't been many reasons for Teixeria to smile in April.

1) Mark Teixeria (1B-Yankees): Sexy Texy has been anything but in the early going, stumbling out of the gate with a paltry .200 BA, 3 HRs and 10 RBIs. Those numbers might be OK if you play first base for the Washington Nationals, but not if you just signed an 8-year, $180 million dollar deal to play for the Yankees. Teixeria has shown good patience at the plate, drawing 16 walks against 11 Ks, but hasn’t been striking the ball with his usual authority (only 5 extra base hits). He can’t be this bad all season long (his BABIP suggests bad luck in the early going), so buy now before he starts playing like he’s worth $20 million a year.

2) Jake Peavy (SP-Padres): Although the Padres have been red-hot in the first month of the season (granted “red-hot” by San Diego standards isn’t saying much), their best pitcher has spent all of April getting knocked around. Peavy has been uncharacteristically wild, leading to a 2-3 record, 5.74 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. It hasn’t been all bad though, as he is still striking out around a batter an inning. He struggled with an arm injury last year and many are wondering if there aren’t some health issues for Peavy once again. Keep a close eye on him and be prepared to sell if he continues to struggle with control and coughing up gopher balls.

3) Lance Berkman (1B-Astros): The Big Puma has been playing much more like a housecat in April, hitting .162 with 5 HRs, 10 RBIs and no SBs. Berkman struggled down the stretch last season (he hit .347 before the break last year and .259 after) and it appears whatever issues he was having at the plate have carried over into 2009. Berkman is only 33 and has been incredibly consistent throughout his career so this prolonged slump should raise some red flags. He ran more than usual last year, stealing 18 bases but only 3 of them after the All-Star game, leaving some doubts about the condition of his lower body. Although Berkman will almost certainly turn things around, he is no longer the prolific fantasy producer he once was; wait for him to get on a hot streak and then sell high.  

C.C. has struggled in April, but he should turn things around soon.

C.C. has struggled in April, but he should turn things around soon.

4) C.C. Sabathia (SP-Yankees): The hefty lefty hasn’t been carrying his weight so far, with a record of 1-2, a 4.73 ERA and a pedestrian 19/14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. As the face of the new Yankee Stadium, he has been a disappointment in the early going and is major reason why New York’s pitching is sporting an atrocious 5.79 ERA. It’s a little early for fantasy owners to hit the panic button though, because Sabathia has a track record for slow starts (He posted a 7.76 ERA in April last year but finished the year with a 2.70 ERA). Try to buy low now, because Sabathia is too talented of a pitcher to struggle for much longer, and won’t finish the season ranked lower than Frank Francisco and Kyle Loshe.

Baseball’s Creamy Centers: The Surprise Players of 2009

Adam Jones is the nougat in a Baby Ruth.

Adam Jones is like the nougat in a Baby Ruth.

We’ve all had the experience before. You grab a chocolate and expect just that, chocolate, nothing more and nothing less. Yet when you bite into that delicious little piece of heaven an unsuspected but more than welcome guest is waiting there for you. Is it caramel? Peanut butter? Coconut? Nougat? Who cares? Either way, it’s a wonderful addition to something you already love. Much like strawberry filling in a chocolate, the following players will make the 2009 MLB season just that much sweeter. These soon to be studs are flying under the radar now but as the heat of summer increases their milk chocolate shells will disappear, leaving these surprising players in higher demand than one of Wonka’s golden tickets.

Adam Jones–CF–Baltimore Orioles: Unlike his football counterpart who shares the same name, this Adam Jones prefers hitting homeruns to hitting bodyguards and would much rather make the playoffs than make it rain. Jones came to Baltimore last year and started for the Orioles in centerfield as part of the historically bad trade that sent Erik Bedard to Seattle (*Bill Bavasi slaps forehead*). After struggling early in the season Jones came on strong in the second half and showed the exciting combination of speed and power that will make him a cornerstone of Baltimore teams for years to come. He plays centerfield with aplomb and a 20HR-20SB season is not out of the question for Jones in 2009; this kid’s upside is through the roof.

Ian Stewart-2B-Colorado Rockies: Stewart won’t be able to hide out in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains for much longer; this middle-infielder is a legitimate 30-HR threat. One of the Rockies top prospects last year, Stewart justified that title by bashing 10 HRs and driving in 41 runs in only 266 ABs during the 2008 season. Although he still strikes out at an astonishing rate, his power potential and ability to play any spot in the infield make him one to watch in 2009.

Shin-Soo's choo-ey caramel center may surprise you.

Shin-Soo's choo-ey caramel center may surprise you.

Shin-Soo Choo–OF–Cleveland Indians: Not surprisingly, Choo is a former Mariner prospect who flourished once he left Seattle. Choo absolutely tore the cover off the ball once he started getting at-bats last season, hitting .343 after the All-Star break. The South Korean Sultan of Swat should continue his assault on AL pitching in 2009 and coupled with Grady Sizemore give the Indians a potent offense. Look for Choo to hit around .300 with 20-25 HRs and 85-90 RBIs, not bad numbers for a guy that couldn’t stick in the Mariners’ outfield.

Chris Davis–1B-Texas Rangers: Chris “Crush” Davis earned his nickname in the minors because of his repeated tattooing of baseballs; he did nothing to change that reputation after his call-up last season. In just under 300 ABs Davis drilled 17 HRs, 23 2Bs and had 55 RBIs and 51 runs. Playing a full season in the bandbox that is the Ballpark at Arlington gives him a legitimate shot at 40 HRs, no small feat in the post steroid era (only 2 players hit more than 40 HRs last year, Adam Dunn and Ryan Howard). AL West pitchers, handle with caution.

Elijah Dukes–OF-Washington Nationals: Sure he’s got more bats in his belfry than Charles Manson, but this guy knows how to hit a baseball. After being castoff from Tampa Bay for repeated bad behaivor, Dukes found a place to play that has no trouble turning a blind eye to criminals: Washington D.C.! He was an instant asset to the Nationals on both sides of the ball and if he can stay out of trouble, could contend for the coveted position of the one player that the team gets has to send to the All-Star game (sorry Dmitri Young). Dukes has the potential to hit 25 HRs and steal 20 cars bases in 2009.

Matt Cain is the peanut butter in baseball's Reese's.

Matt Cain is the peanut butter in baseball's Reese's.

Matt Cain-SP-San Francisco Giants: Matt Cain has looked ready to break out for the past couple of seasons only to struggle with control issues and poor run support. Last season, he went 8-14 despite a 3.78 ERA and 186 Ks, mainly due to an anemic Giants’ offense that batted Bengie Molina in the cleanup spot (that’s like having a “Best of the ’80s” concert headlined by Banarama). The Giants have made significant strides during the offseason, and if Cain can cut down on his walks he should increase his win total and get some of the recognition that’s given to San Fran’s other ace, Tim Lincecum.

Johnny Cueto–SP–Cincinnati Reds: Although the words “Cincinnati Reds” and “quality pitcher” generally go together about as well as “Mark McGwire” and “honest”, the team has actually managed to assemble a stable of young, talented hurlers. Cueto struggled at times during his rookie year, and was overshadowed by the stellar season of his teammate Edison Volquez, but has some of the best stuff of any pitcher in the NL. Cueto showed flashes of brilliance last season, including striking out nearly a batter an inning after the break, and he should improve considerably in his sophomore campaign. Still just 23-years-old, Cueto has the potential to win 10-12 games and post an ERA under 4.00 with tons of Ks in 2009; buy now while the price is low.

Not Just For the Sad and Lonely: A Defense of Fantasy Baseball

Hong-Chih Kuo doesn't exist unless you play fantasy baseball.

Hong-Chih Kuo doesn't exist unless you play fantasy baseball.

Playing fantasy baseball is a lot like watching the English Patient. It’s long, tedious and in the end you really aren’t sure if it was worth all the trouble. It’s the overlooked little brother of fantasy football; kind of nerdy and viewed with all the same skepticism of Dungeons and Dragons(by the way Randy Johnson has a nice slider +5, but you have to equip him with the enchanted Hands of Tyman first). Sure there aren’t 20-sided dice, but fantasy baseball isn’t exactly something you want to bring up on a first date. The season drags on from March through September, or roughly the gestation period of an American Black Bear. Unlike football, where you have to check your roster about once a week, fantasy baseball requires that you look at your roster every day for seven months to avoid the embarrassment of leaving Ty Wigginton in your lineup even though every else in the league knew that he was out with a pulled hamstring (not something that is easily lived down). I mean you could go on a three-day vacation and by the time you come back, your whole season could be shot! Kaput! Gone in the blink of an eye.

The ultimate prize. Was it worth seven months of your life?

The ultimate prize. Was it worth seven months of your life?

Additionally, there are numerous other traps that first time fantasy baseball players can fall into. Wanting to get as many starts as possible, an owner may pick up pitchers every day and plug them into their rotation. This seems like a good idea until you realize that there is a maximum number of innings allotted to a team’s pitchers and once you cross this threshold you no longer accumulate stats. You then wrap your mind around the horrific truth that you have banked your playoff hopes on pitchers like Jeff Weaver and Livan Hernandez, the only ones available on the waiver wire, and burst into bitter tears. By gosh you could burn out your pitching staff on mediocre starts by July if you really worked at it, and where would that leave you? In a quite a pickle, that’s where. Also, a number of players that seem valuable in real life, like Derek Jeter or Bobby Abreu, aren’t nearly as much of an asset on your fantasy squad, and are overvalued year after year by new fantasy players (you get exactly 0 points for leadership or clutch hits). Stats like steals mean just as much as homeruns in most leagues, leaving baseball fans turned fantasy players wondering if Willy Taveras is really as valuable as Ryan Howard (not quite).

With all that said, why would anyone in their right mind want to commit to a season of fantasy baseball? Well, the reasons are as endless as the hairs on David Hasselhoff’s chest.

The Crown Prince of Fantasy Baseball

The Crown Prince of Fantasy Baseball

First and foremost, baseball has always been the most stat driven of all sports. Even most casual fans can identify the significance of such numbers as 61 (Roger Maris’ single season HR record), .406 (Ted Williams average–the last man to hit .400) or .304-56 HR-147 RBI (Ken Griffey Jr’s 1997 MVP season). Fantasy baseball gives fans a chance to see these numbers or records as they are actually happening; certainly any fantasy baseball owner won’t forget Lance “the Big Puma” Berkman setting a career high with 18 stolen bases last year because it may have helped them knock off a hated rival to win their league, but just about everyone else outside of Houston will. Fantasy baseball also allows fans to understand the importance of such complex statistics as WHIP (walks + hits/# of innings pitched, a great way to gauge the efficiency of a pitcher) or BABIP (batting average on balls in play, the league average is around .300). For example, a player with a low BABIP, say .280, is probably suffering from bad luck and is due for a breakout, which is something a casual fan will probably overlook. Following this principle, expect Evan Longoria’s average to improve this coming season.

Moreover, fantasy baseball allows you to discover players that normally go unheralded. For instance, Hanley Ramirez and Ian Kinsler are two of the top 10 players in fantasy baseball (thanks to their combination of speed, power and high average) but they normally get lost in the shuffle of higher paid players in large media markets. Think of Ramirez and Kinsler as the indie music of baseball, they’re so great because no one else knows about them (but thankfully, they don’t wear flannel, slackline or drink out of mason jars). Playing fantasy also allows you to discover the next crop of young players. Many owners will draft prospects who are in Triple-A at the beginning of the year and then salivate (like dogs after bacon) over their minor league stats until they are finally called up. Names like Max Scherzer, Travis Snider and Andrew McCutchen might not mean much to you unless you play fantasy baseball; it’s a great way to learn about the future all-stars of the game before anyone else does.

Did Pete Rose have it right all along?

Did Pete Rose have it right all along?

The MLB season is a long one; no one will contend that point. So why not add a little spice to a 162-game season by having a little something riding on each game? Of course Pete Rose thought the same thing and look where that got him, but I digress. No longer will a July series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres be as pointless as another installment of The Land Before Time series. Owners of Nate McClouth and Adrian Gonzalez will have no choice but to pay attention to the games and chart their players’ performances. It’s not quite turning water into wine, but the ability to turn something meaningless into something meaningful, now that’s fantasy baseball’s true gift to mankind.

So the next time your friend mentions an upcoming fantasy baseball draft,  don’t call him a pale worthless excuse for a human being (sticks and stones may break but bones, but words will hurt forever). Instead, ask him if you can join and tell him you know all about WHIP and BABIP. After all, you do get a shiny little trophy if you win; isn’t that worth seven months of your life?

Best site for fantasy baseball: http://sports.yahoo.com/fantasy