Sunday, April 18, 2004
Allow me to take a break from bemoaning tweaked hamstrings (Troy Glaus and J.D. Drew owners, you feel my pain) and spend this column taking a look across the diamond toward third base.
Fantasy insider: Finding gems at third base
A-Rod is obvious choice, but others have excelled, surprised
Everybody knows Alex Rodriguez remains the guy in fantasy baseball (Albert Pujols owners would argue otherwise), slow start or not. And while A-Rod struggles to get comfortable in pinstripes, all anyone can talk about when it comes to the hot corner is St. Louis' Scott Rolen, whose jaw-dropping stats (.367-7-19) through the first 12 games have his owners beaming from ear to ear and guys like me wishing we would have seen this coming. Yeah, Rolen has always been solid at the plate, but this is ridiculous. He has to cool down at some point, but you may as well enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Owners of Adrian Beltre also have to be beaming. The Dodgers third baseman also started 2004 on a tear, hitting .462-3-8 through the first few weeks of April. Expect him to continue that in spite of a sore right shoulder. San Diego's Sean Burroughs started the season with a seven-game hitting streak and his small-ball style (minus the stolen bases) seems to be working if you need help in the batting average and hits categories. The good news is he's only 23 and will continue to grow as a hitter.
In Texas, Hank Blalock finally found his bat (.394-2-9) except when it comes to hitting lefties (0 for 9 through the first few weeks). Even though he may spend some time sitting against lefties, don't decrease his value too much. He's still a stud.
Cleveland's Casey Blake (.314-1-5) has been a pleasant surprise for many fantasy owners and will again qualify at first base.
Speaking of versatility, Baltimore's Melvin Mora has made the switch to third base this season after playing outfield and shortstop in 2003. While his bat (10-for-30 to start the year) has been solid, his shaky play in the field is going to penalize owners in leagues where errors count against you.
Glaus, who had back-to-back 40 homer seasons in 2000 and 2001, seemed off to a solid start until his hammy acted up, and he missed a pair of games earlier this week. The good news is the injury is supposed to be day-to-day and he's not expected to miss significant time. Oakland's Eric Chavez signed the big contract during spring training and appears to be revving things up. He should once again be on pace to finish around .300-35-110.
If you're looking for somebody who may fall under the radar right now at third base, try Milwaukee's Wes Helms. He broke out in 2003 (.267-23-67) and has started 2004 off nicely (.360-1-5). He should continue to thrive in hitter-friendly Miller Park.
Another interesting situation is developing in Cincinnati, where Ryan Freel took over the everyday third base job while Brandon Larson is on the DL. Freel has gotten off to a nice start (8-for-24 to start the season) and could be a real sleeper should he continue to be an everyday player. He's got the speed (nine steals in 43 games last season) to give owners a huge boost at third.
I'll end with a bit of trivia: What do Mike Lowell, David Bell, Aramis Ramirez, Willie Bloomquist, Vinny Castilla, Eric Hinske, Bill Mueller, Edgardo Alfonso, Joe Crede, Pedro Feliz, Keith Ginter and Eric Munson have in common? All have more hits than A-Rod (5-for-29 to start the season) coming into this week.
Pick him up: Danny Graves, RP, Reds. I had no problem in my 12-team league plucking him from the waiver wire, and I can't stop beaming as Graves has racked up five saves to start the season, including Saturday's 3-2 win against the Cubs. If you're in need of a closer, look no further.
Sit him down: Chan Ho Park, SP, Rangers. I snagged him off waivers for a spot start this week. After he managed to get shelled by Anaheim and single-handedly destroy my team's ERA, I realized he was on waivers for a reason. Don't be dumb and/or greedy like I was. Leave Chan Ho where he belongs - off your roster.
Keep an eye on: Jack Wilson, SS, Pirates. Most fantasy pundits sneer at Wilson's hot start (.414-1-4, plus two steals) because he's never hit better than .256 in a full season. He's only 26 though, and maybe this is the season he finally puts it all together.
John Nemo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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PAGE TWO / GOOD SPORTS
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