Fantasy baseball: Finding gems on the wire

Get the unknown pitchers before they become stars

Posted: Wednesday, June 14, 2006

• Editor's note: Welcome to the first edition of the Juneau Empire's fantasy baseball report. This new addition aims to give the legions of fantasy players an edge when looking over the waiver wire or finalizing a roster. Please send comments and suggestions to sports@juneauempire.com.

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Millions of fans across the country spend hours poring over their fantasy baseball teams, trying to win that imaginary ring that will let them take trash to their buddies all winter long.

Playing fantasy baseball is a great way to learn the teams, learn the players and enjoy the game on another level.

There are nearly as many fantasy baseball formats as there are players to choose from, but there are three vital considerations for fielding a successful fantasy team.

First, how many teams are in the league? A league with 20 or more teams would be a deep league, meaning there's only a few superstars to go around for each squad. Some leagues are American League only or National League only, limiting the available talent further.

Secondly, what is the point scoring system? A guy might be a gold glove first baseman, but if he hits .200, he's pretty much worthless. Fantasy scoring is almost always based on offense, and an adept player knows which categories count the most.

Finally, what position does the guy play? Finding a first baseman with power is relatively easy. Finding a catcher or shortstop who can hit, however, is much tougher. Therefore, catchers such as Cleveland's Victor Martinez and Minnesota's Joe Mauer are especially valuable.

Now let's get to work on overhauling that slumping roster and getting those bragging rights.

Our focus this week will be on pitchers and catchers who might be diamonds in the rough - players that may be available on the waiver wire in most leagues that could help give your team a shot in the arm.

Catchers

Ever discover a great song before radio and MTV get to it first? Then once they do get their greedy little hands on it, they play it so many times that you wish you never heard that song in the first place?

The Los Angeles Angels' Mike Napoli and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Russell Martin are not unlike that cool, new song.

They're young catchers who can hit, and if they continue to do so, they will be talked about ad nauseam.

Of the two, Martin (.294 batting, .371 on-base percentage, 24 RBI) is probably the safer bet to keep it up because of a better track record in the minors. But either will do if you're one of the sorry saps that is still starting Jason Kendall.

Starting pitchers

The St. Louis Cardinals' Anthony Reyes and the New York Mets' Alay Soler each averaged more than one strikeout per inning in the minors and are now getting regular starts in the big leagues. They've already had some good outings. But act fast before they're plastered all over the evening promos for Sportscenter.

Other young pitchers who could make a big splash include Arizona's Enrique Gonzalez, Toronto's Casey Janssen and Baltimore youngsters Adam Loewen and Daniel Cabrera.

Relief pitchers

Picking up relievers is hard. Most major league teams only have just one primary closer all year. Many times, it's ideal to have multiple on the fantasy roster.

Barring that luxury, however, pitchers who rack up the strikeouts and might be elevated from set-up guy to closer are the next best option.

Arizona's Luis Vizcaino and Detroit's Joel Zumaya could pay off big dividends if their teams' run out of patience.

If the Diamondbacks' Jose Valverde and the Tigers' Todd Jones aren't getting it done, Vizcaino and Zumaya will be thrust into the limelight.



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