Forget that "other" version of March Madness and set down those brackets for a minute, will you? Because real insanity is trying to figure out whether a hot spring training for a middle-of-the-road player is a sign of a breakout season or just a mirage under the March sunshine.
When it comes to those mid- and late-round "tweeners" you have to make a call on at fantasy drafts, spring training can often mean everything when trying to predict which guys will become your pet sleepers, and which will become pet peeves.
Below is a look at some players who are burning things up right now, and what it may - or may not - mean for your fantasy squad.
Cory Lidle, starting pitcher, Reds. For a guy who is traditionally a second-half pitcher, what is Lidle doing using his best stuff in the spring? In his first 10 innings of March, he allowed only two earned runs and looked very sharp for the Reds, who are desperate for quality in the starting rotation. Maybe it's time for a role reversal, with 2004 seeing the 32-year-old righty coming out of the gate quick, but fading after the All-Star break. Anyone who owned him during the second half of 2001 knows what Lidle is capable of, and that means he should merit consideration as a middle-to-back of the rotation guy.
Enrique Wilson, second baseman, Yankees. A-Rod, Jeter, Giambi ... and Enrique? Quit laughing, because the 30-year-old utility man is the leading candidate to start at second base for New York. He hit .500 (13-for-26) to start the spring with a nine-game hitting streak and would have to implode to lose the gig to Miguel Cairo or Homer Bush. Still, his sizzling spring aside, Wilson remains a career .253 hitter in seven big-league seasons. Hardly a super sleeper, but worth keeping on your radar screen, especially as a guy to nab off waivers should his hot hitting carry into April.
Peter Bergeron, outfielder, Expos. Last spring, Bergeron got off to an 0-for-20 start in spring training and was sent packing to Triple-A Edmonton. This March, he's hitting over .400 with an eight-game hitting streak. While he's not yet a lock to be starting in the outfield on opening day, he at least appears to have the horrors of 2002 (.187 batting average) behind him. He's always had the skills to be a great player, and while you shouldn't jump all over him in your draft, consider using a late pick or watch the waiver wire for his name.
Terrmel Sledge, outfielder, Expos. Montreal's prize prospect reached base 14 times in his first 22 plate appearances of the spring, helping keep him on the fast track to win the left-field job. After his big season at Triple-A Edmonton last year (.324, 22 home runs, 92 RBI), there's just one problem: Sledge tested positive for steroids in October while at a U.S. Olympic training camp. Given how lax MLB is on this issue, the bigger worry is how Sledge's power numbers will dip if he stays clean. Regardless, he's another guy who probably won't be drafted in too many leagues, but could become a hot waiver-wire commodity should he start fast.
J.D. Drew, outfielder, Braves. Worth mentioning here because his ridiculous spring continues. Coming into this week, Drew had gone 8-for-11 with five home runs and 14 RBI. At this point, somebody in your league is likely to buy the hype and grab Drew earlier than he should. But if - and it's a big if - Mr. Drew stays healthy and plays 150 games in Atlanta's lineup, he'll be in for a monster season.
Pick him up: Larry Walker, outfielder, Rockies. OK, OK, he's no spring chicken. He's coming off elbow and shoulder surgeries, he grows that annoying goatee and Clint Hurdle is talking about having him bat leadoff. But he still plays at Coors Field, he appears healthy - for the moment - and he's still Larry Walker. He'll probably slide further than he should in most drafts.
Sit him down: Mark Redman, starting pitcher, Athletics. After getting hammered for seven runs in three innings last weekend, Redman sported a 17.61 ERA for the spring. He's a notoriously slow starter whose ERA and WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched) won't win him many admirers in fantasy leagues.
Keep an eye on: Jolbert Cabrera, outfielder, Dodgers. Cabrera has a pair of two-homer games this spring after hitting only six in 347 at-bats last year. Fluke? Surely, but he merits more watching if you're shopping for outfield sleepers in 2004.
John Nemo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
MND wins state title with national upset
Rams run out of surprise wins
Leininger named Indiana Miss Basketball
Youngstown Ursuline, Minster capture titles
Big Blue back at state for first time in 50 years
Brookhaven returns favor
After hot start, Devils fall short
CovCath runs out of clock
Brock shoots Dragons to title
Groeschen: Season has been one for the ages
Ernst: Maysville 'Punk' Sweet 16 legend
Prep sports results, schedules
BENGALS / NFL
Bengals stunned Sapp-less
'We want a lease that's fair'
Curnutte: Buffalo fit the bill for CB Vincent
Steelers keep Logan for reworked secondary
REDS / BASEBALL
Kearns eager to play the field
Inside Reds camp
Acevedo endures rough outing
Kelly: Benevolent Devil Rays want McGriff to be seen
Fantasy BB: Lesser-known players make for key picks
Astros court postseason success
Molitor not intimidated with tasks as hitting coach
Relieving is Riske's business
Illini view Bearcats as bullies
Daugherty: With no guards, UC has no chance
Huggins doesn't use Tourney failures to motivate his team
Johnson's comeback miracle in the making
XU seeks new 2nd-round tune
Matta looks for more from Muskie rookies
Fired-up Blazers ready to put heat on Kentucky
Air back in sails of Redick, Blue Devils
Defending champs nearly lose grip
Demon Deacons, frosh Paul hold off upstart Manhattan
No. 2 Gonzaga gets what comes around
Connecticut coach departs game early
NCAA men's tournament at a glance
Wilmington wills its way to first title
Ohio State holds off West Virginia, will play BC
Other women's regional games
NCAA women's tournament at a glance
Sinister G's Lane's End victory muddles Derby
PAGE TWO: GOOD SPORTS
XU grad finds place at the table
What's up with that?
A quick chat with ... Julie Isphording
Bolten, Hewitt headed to NCAAs
Local women push teams toward hoops glory
This week's poll question
MORE SPORTS HEADLINES
Sports today on TV, radio
Return to Reds front page...