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Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch: New York Yankees’ Jesus Montero

We’ve tried to fill the offseason gap in fantasy baseball with our series of prospect reports, which started with Dustin Ackley back in early-December.

Now on the cusp of Spring Training starting (pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks), it is time to put a wrap on the prospect series so we can get right into the swing of things prepping for our, and your, fantasy baseball drafts.

We hope you enjoyed the series. Here is the last one, discussing New York Yankees’ catcher of the future, or perhaps DH of the future, Jesus Montero.

When is the best catching prospect in baseball not a catcher? When he’s a guy whose catching skills are a negative and he is better suited to play other positions that won’t hurt his team. Of course, a player this bad defensively, has to be a monster with the bat.

The best bat in the New York Yankees farm system belongs to Jesus Montero. The 20-year-old native of Venezuela is the real deal and will be a fixture in the heart of the Bronx Bombers batting order for the next decade. No one questions how well he’ll hit, they only question what defensive position he will play.

Montero has been a catcher throughout his minor league career, but he has some serious deficiencies at the position. He’s big and slow and can’t throw out base runners.

Of course, the Yankees have employed Jorge Posada at that position for the last 15 years, so they aren’t averse to starting a poor defensive catcher as long as he has a good bat.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Montero play a few games each week behind the dish while playing DH the rest of the time, but short of significant improvement behind the plate, it is hard to imagine him becoming the everyday catcher.

Montero could also end up playing the outfield in the near future and maybe first base somewhere down the road. At this point however, the Yankees are still working with him as a backstop, even if no one else in the free world sees him as such.

Montero’s bat is the real deal, but the Russell Martin signing and the move to DH for Posada means there’s no place for Montero in the immediate Yankee lineup. If Posada’s knees don’t hold up, Montero could get a call up this season. Otherwise, expect another season in triple-A, where Montero hit .289/21/75 last year.

Montero’s 2010 stats seemed like a setback after a torrid 2009 in high-A and double-A which saw him go .337/17/70. He started off slowly in triple-A, but caught fire in the second half hitting .340/15/43 from July to the end of the season.

Montero checks in at 6’4”, 230 pounds and has some serious power. He has room to pack on some bulk as he continues to physically develop. His bat will still play if he has to DH or play first base.

His OPS as a 20-year-old in triple-A was .870, so he has some ability. His walk rate increased slightly, but his strikeout rate increased significantly, so a little more minor league seasoning won’t hurt him.

A .285 average with a dozen homeruns is likely if given 200+ at bats at the Major League level in 2011. The Yankees won’t call him up to sit him on the bench and only get 5-10 plate appearances per week though. Look for Montero to start the season in triple-A and get a call up in the summer or when Posada gets hurt, whichever comes first.

Montero’s bat is so good that no one will care about his glove in about five years, so it really doesn’t matter where he plays. Of course, fantasy players will appreciate at least 20 games a season at catcher, but he’s a keeper no matter where his glove lands.

He’s likely to see some at bats this season, so a late round pick and a seat on your bench is worth your while. Keeper league players should undoubtedly pounce if he is still available.

Rick Milleman is the head fantasy baseball contributor at Check his annual player projections included in the Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy to help draft your championship team.

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Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

The MLB Hot Stove is starting to cool as we get ready for Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers report in less than three weeks. So let’s stoke that fire a bit with more prospect talk. This series on prospects will cover a wide range of players as well as positions. We’ll cover sleepers as well as some of the more obvious stars of the future.

If you’re like me, you are looking around the baseball world and wondering where your shortstop is going to come from for your 2011 fantasy squad. Mostly what we see is the 1980’s approach: good glove, no stick. Once Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki are gone from your draft, you’re left with a lot of, “who cares?”

That leads us to the next big thing, Manny Machado. The Orioles prospect reminds many of Alex Rodriguez. Before we try to compare a kid who has never played above low-A ball to the greatest hitting shortstop of the modern era (A-Roid isn’t in the same class as The Flying Dutchman), let’s clarify. He’s built like Rodriguez, was drafted from a Miami high school and has a ceiling that could put him in Alex Rodriguez territory with a little less power, leading some to call him “A-Rod Light”.

He was drafted with the third pick of the 2010 draft, and at 6’3”, 185 pounds, there is reason to worry that he will grow out of the position. But most scouts project him to remain at shortstop which is why he is so highly regarded. Though Machado is not on par with Rodriguez, he is still a potential five tool player.

Machado’s best tool is bat contact. He has excellent bat speed and hand-eye coordination, which should lead to consistently high batting averages. He has a very nice, level swing and the ball jumps off his bat. His swing does occasionally get long but he has a quick bat and strong wrists.

His broad shoulders have many projecting average to above average power down the road, meaning 20-30 homers per season is a reasonable expectation. At his height, he may have the upside for even more power than that, but the flipside is the aforementioned concern of him outgrowing the position.

He appears to be above average with the glove, as he has good range, solid footwork, soft hands and a strong arm. He’s an instinctual shortstop who can make plays to both sides look easy while showing the kind of actions usually found only in older players. His arm is slightly above average but he has below average speed for a shortstop. If he were to outgrow the position, he could be a plus defender at third base given his strong throwing arm and good instincts and his bat would still play well.

Machado has the potential to be the best shortstop drafted since the Mariners selected Rodriguez in 1993. Machado is currently the best shortstop prospect in professional baseball, despite being two to three years away from The Show because there is no other prospect that has as high a ceiling. In Machado, Baltimore looks to have a future star on their hands.

He is everything you could want in a shortstop, he just needs the experience. He should begin the season in low-A ball and should reach high-A before long, playing most of the season as an 18 year old. His Major League ETA is late 2013. Nonetheless, he is a special talent that could move through the minors very quickly.

He barely reached Class A last year, putting him a few years away from helping your fantasy squad, but he’s a no-brainer to own in long term deep keeper and dynasty leagues. Given the shortage of offense at shortstop, he’s almost certain to become an impact player in fantasy once he comes of age. Look around the league and you’ll see just how difficult it is to find a shortstop like that.

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Rick Milleman is the head fantasy baseball contributor at Check his annual player projections included in the Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy to help draft your championship team.

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Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim CF

The hot stove is starting to cool, as we are less than a month from pitchers and catchers reporting. So, let’s stoke that fire a bit with more prospect talk. This series on prospects will cover a wide range of players as well as positions. We’ll cover sleepers and even some of the more obvious stars of the future.

The next prospect in this series is a player the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are already clearing a spot for, even though he won’t be up to stay until next season. Mike Trout is a legitimate center fielder who brings all five tools to the game along with a makeup that seems to be missing in last week’s featured prospect, Bryce Harper.

Trout has a big league-ready approach to go with outstanding hands and bat speed. He makes consistent, hard contact to all fields and has a great approach at the plate. He has an advanced batting eye, a natural feel for hitting, and great plate discipline.

His best tool is his speed. He grades out at a pure 80, meaning his speed would likely be a waste anywhere but in center field. That fantastic speed already translates into big stolen base numbers, ripping off 56 bases in 2010.

He is likely to hit for a high average and get on base at a high rate in the Majors, similar to his 2010 season in Single-A where he hit .341 and got on base at a .428 clip. His 6’1″, 217-pound frame is likely to develop, enabling his power to continue improving in the coming years. As his body continues to fill out, there are fair concerns about him remaining a burner, but he’ll always have at least plus speed.

The weakest of his five tools is his arm. This will make a difference in his future days as a corner outfielder, but will not affect your desire to draft him for your fantasy squad.

To keep Trout’s body from aging much faster than desired and becoming the next Andruw Jones, he may end up in left field sooner rather than later. The less wear and tear on his body would be a big benefit for his bat long term.

Growing up in New Jersey, Trout snuck up on many people because he was a high school player from a cold weather state. He didn’t get the exposure players in the south at major colleges and universities do.

Trout replaced the injured Domonic Brown in the first inning of the Futures Game in July and ended up on base five times in four plate appearances.  Getting on base any way possible and finding ways for his team to score runs seems to be Trout’s game.

Trout has a rare combination of tools and baseball aptitude for a teenager and is a treat to watch. One scout said of Trout, “He does it all, and does it with a smile on his face…he just seems to love playing the game.” He looks like the rare kind of player who can be a game changer.

No one argued whether Trout was a prospect or not entering 2010, but few people expected the 25th overall pick in the 2009 draft to make the kind of impact he did. He had stretches where he looked like the best player in the minor leagues.

He will likely start 2011 at Double-A. It will be interesting to note how well he fares against better pitching to see just how good his approach is. If he does as well as expected, a September call-up is a reasonable expectation, giving him a chance to turn 20 first, and he should be up for good to start 2012. He’s a must-own in long-term keeper leagues and worthy of stashing in AL-only formats.

If his power fully develops, he will be the complete package. If not, he will still be an excellent player, one that could help your fantasy team for the next decade. He most closely compares to a Grady Sizemore with a better average and, hopefully, fewer injuries.

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Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch: Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals

The hot stove is starting to cool as we ready for spring training. I know we are still six weeks away, but I can dream. So let’s stoke that fire a bit with more prospect talk. This series on prospects will cover a wide range of players as well as positions. We’ll cover sleepers as well as some of the more obvious stars of the future.

The next prospect in the series was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. Bryce Harper was selected by the Washington Nationals with the intention of turning him into a power-hitting corner outfielder. His power was never in question, but he’d end up sitting once or twice a week if he continued as a catcher, not to mention the constant wear on his body.

The 6’3” Las Vegas native weighs in at 205 pounds. He’s just 18 years old and seems to have a very bright future ahead of him. But will he realize that potential?

Harper followed an unconventional path to the pros by earning a GED after his sophomore year of high school and then enrolling at College of Southern Nevada for a season. At CSN, Harper posted a slash line of .443/31 HR/98 RBI/20 SB in 66 games. After he dominated lesser competition, the Nationals invested in Harper and made him the offensive face of the franchise.

His first professional action was in the 2010 Arizona Fall League. There, he posted a .343/1 HR/7 RBI/6 R/1 SB line in just 35 at-bats. He is likely to start 2011 in Single-A, and if all goes well, finish in Double-A Harrisburg.

By leaving high school so early, Harper showed a willingness to challenge himself and his skills. His youth and brashness are perceived by many as arrogance and entitlement. Many see him as the kind of guy who could be a negative entity in the clubhouse. But his baseball skills are unquestionable.

As a high school freshman, Harper hit .599/11/67 and as a sophomore he hit .626/14/55. After his sophomore season, Harper was the first-ever sophomore named Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year award and Sports Illustrated called him, “the most exciting prodigy since LeBron James.” Then, after dominating JUCO, Sports Illustrated dubbed him “baseball’s chosen one.”

That’s the kind of stuff that makes any teenager get a big head.

By trading away two years of high school for a chance to fly to the top of the draft board, Harper gave up the chance to grow up under normal circumstances, which could explain why he lacks the social skills to be a good teammate. Many professional scouts see this as a serious flaw in his makeup. Some call him a bad guy and others call him a jerk. These aren’t just a few stray opinions; they are founded in the fact that he taunts opponents on the field and shows a serious heir of entitlement.

The makeup issue is one that makes you wonder if Harper has the work ethic to succeed at the major league level. Others have fallen by the wayside as players who were just too arrogant and have flopped as pros.

But does a player have to be a good guy or a clubhouse leader to be successful on the ball field? The stories of Ty Cobb’s antics still live on almost 100 years after his retirement, Albert Belle was considered the scariest guy of his era, and Manny Ramirez has been called a cancer by almost every team he played with—but they are all considered to be amongst the elite of their day.

The issue also comes up about the personality trait that drives him. As long as he has that edge, he will likely continue to push himself to be better. But what happens if he becomes a nice guy and a clubhouse leader? Will that drive still push him? As long as he has the willingness and ability to work at becoming a better ball player, his personality will likely not come into consideration.

Another question to ponder is whether he will flame out early. With such a drive at an early age and groomed by his father to be superstar baseball player, will he burn out before reaching his full potential, a la Todd Marinovich?

Bryce Harper is a teenager with a ton of talent and an attitude to match. Can he use that attitude to make himself better like his hero Pete Rose, or will he let it consume him? The Southern Nevada coaching staff had no problems with his behavior on the field, so his fantasy outlook should be fine, but he may in time turn out to be another Manny Ramirez and wear out his welcome long before his talents do.

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Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch: Toronto Blue Jays’ Marc Rzepczynski

With free agents flying off the board and the Cliff Lee bombshell dropped on Philly, the hot stove is sufficiently stoked. So let’s keep that fire roaring with more prospect talk.

This series on prospects will cover a wide range of players as well as positions. We’ll cover sleepers as well as some of the more obvious stars of the future.

The next prospect in the series is a guy who has already seen some big league time and just like Dustin Ackley, Marc Rzepczynski dominated the Arizona Fall League. The Toronto Blue Jays pitching prospect was 4-0 in seven starts with 1.16 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 31.0 innings pitched with a 27/9 strikeout to walk ratio in the 2010 AFL. That’s good stuff in a league that is full of up and coming hitters. He led the league in wins, ERA, IP and was fourth in strikeouts and WHIP for starting pitchers.

Rzepczynski was Toronto’s fifth-round pick in the 2007 MLB Draft. He’s a lefty who stands 6’1” and was drafted out of the University of California-Riverside.

His repertoire includes an 88-92 mph fastball with good sink, a plus slider, an above average changeup, and an average curveball. He lacks a true out-pitch, but still gets a lot of strikeouts.

The big lefty has 23 MLB starts and 125 innings under his belt, so he is not considered a rookie, and has about a full season of Major League experience. In the majors, he is 6-8 with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. That’s nothing to get excited about, but his minor league stats lead one to believe that he can become quite successful at baseball’s highest level.

Before being called up to Toronto in July 2009, “Zep” posted a 21-11 record with 9.8 K/9 and a 61 percent groundball rate in two-and-a-half seasons at four different minor league levels. Those numbers are promising, but for a guy with groundball and strikeout talent, he has average control (3.5 BB/9). His 8.4 hits per nine against hitters who are inferior to MLB hitters and 1.32 WHIP may lead one to wonder how well he will actually perform as a regular in the big league.

Helping his cause, Rzepczynski gets a good number of pop-ups. The large number of pop-ups combined with his high groundball rate leads to a very low line-drive rate (12.7% minor league rate) which keeps batters’ ability to hit for average low. He walked too many in general, but he has always posted good strikeout numbers and also has good groundball stuff so the rallies will be minimized.

As a 25 years-old, he has a lot of promise heading into next season. He will need to find a way to keep the ball in the park at the Rogers Centre. Seven of the eight home runs allowed by Rzepczynski came at home in 2010.

This newfound “gopherballitis” is a bit troublesome considering he gave up just five homers in more than 250 innings pitched before his 2009 MLB debut. Since then, he has given up 25 gopher balls in 192 innings pitched.

Is this because the hitters are better at the highest levels or did Zep finally hit a wall?

Probably more the former than the latter.

So now it is time for the big lefty to adjust. Rzepczynski started his 2010 Major League stint a bit shaky but finished strong, posting a 2.31 ERA over his last four starts, fanning 26 batters over 23 1/3 innings and winning his last three decisions.

His dominance in the minor leagues combined with his strong finish to 2010 should give fantasy owners the confidence to draft Rzepczynski as an upside middle to back end of the rotation starting pitcher in 2011.

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Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch: San Diego Padres Casey Kelly

Even though the Winter Meetings are coming to a close we can still stoke the fantasy hot stove with more prospect talk. This series on prospects will cover a wide range of players as well as positions. We’ll cover sleepers as well as some of the more obvious stars of the future.

The first time out we discussed the Seattle Mariners’ Dustin Ackley. The second prospect in the series looks like a sure thing, as he was the center piece of the Adrian Gonzalez-to-Boston trade.

Casey Kelly wasn’t the only Red Sox farmhand shipped off to San Diego last week, but he was the best. That is no slap on Anthony Rizzo or Reymond Fuentes, as all three players are young with high ceilings, but Kelly was the man San Diego had to have in this deal.

Kelly is probably a better fit at San Diego’s spacious PetCo Park than Boston’s Fenway Park due to his fly ball tendencies. As a 20 year old, Kelly pitched in double-A this season. The Red Sox just converted him to a full time pitcher, playing his first pro season as a pitcher and shortstop. When his bat didn’t develop, the Red Sox moved him to pitching full time.

Kelly spent last season at double-A, quite a place to begin as a full-time pitcher for a 20 year old. While he struggled in 2010, his velocity went up. He was pitching in the high 80’s and touching the low 90’s at times in 2009, he finished 2010 sitting in the low 90’s and touching 94-95 at times.

He didn’t blow the hitters away in 2010 and gave up a lot of hits, which isn’t close to elite. But this lack of domination could be attributed to a fingernail problem, which affected the command on his fastball and the bite on his curveball. Kelly is still learning how to be a full-time pitcher and to find a routine between starts that works for him.

Kelly spent a lot of 2010 working on his secondary pitches, which is part of the reason why his strikeout rate was somewhat lower than expected and his base on balls rate was higher. The increased velocity this year was shown on a consistent basis and he made huge strides in delivering his secondary pitches more frequently and for more strikes, especially as the year progressed.

The vultures are circling over Kelly’s head about his lackluster 2010 season, but there is no denying his skills. He has three plus pitches (fastball, curveball, change up), plus control, plus command, and good velocity. He is extremely athletic, has a very strong arm, and repeats his delivery very well. With those tools, it’s easy to envision him as an ace starting pitcher.

But will Kelly realize that potential?

This past year, he grew up a bit, his velocity greatly improved, and he added some weight. However, at the same time, he still maintained his athleticism and was able to repeat his delivery effortlessly. His command and polish diminished from 2009 but his stuff looked a lot better.

Kelly was so incredibly polished in 2009 that you couldn’t really take his statistics seriously. He seemed like a man among boys during his first professional year.

At times during 2010, the polish of the year before would shine and he looked like an elite prospect. But at other times, it abandoned him and it seemed as if his effort was waning and he looked bad. Still you have to remember he is young for his league and the massive number of changes he experienced over the last year.

He’s a bit of project, but it’s easy to imagine him as a front line starter. When he’s on, he gets a lot of ground balls but his groundball rate has dropped each time he’s been promoted.

Be patient. He should be ready by late 2011. He will be a star.

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Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch: Seattle Mariners Dustin Ackley

As we anxiously await the beginning of the Winter Meeting and the possibility of our favorite Major League Baseball teams adding that one significant piece to take them to the next level, let’s stoke the fantasy hot stove with some prospect talk. This series on prospects will cover a wide range of players as well as positions. We’ll cover sleepers as well as some of the more obvious stars of the future.

The first prospect in the series is not much of a sleeper. Dustin Ackley was taken second in the 2009 MLB Draft, right after the much ballyhooed Stephen Strasburg. Seattle drafted the University of North Carolina outfielder/first baseman with the intention of moving him to second base. The transition seems to be going well, with health being the only real concern for Ackley.

Ackley was moved from outfield to first base at UNC because of an elbow injury that resulted in Tommy John surgery in the summer before his junior year of college. Since Ackley is so athletic, the transition to second base hasn’t seemed to be a problem and the throw won’t put a lot of strain on the surgically repaired elbow. As a former centerfielder, Ackley seems to have the range and quickness needed to handle the defensive side of the job.

For position players, the most important tool is the bat and there are no questions that Ackley can hit. When drafted, then Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu referred to Ackley by saying, “his bat is special.” Ackley batted over .400 in each of his three college seasons, being named All-America in each season. He began his professional career by playing 20 games in the 2009 Arizona Fall League and batting .315. In 2010, he posted a .267/7 HR/51 RBI/10 SB line in 134 games in Double and Triple-A.

Ackley scorched the Arizona Fall League, posting a .424/4 HR/19 RBI/5 SB/28 R line for the season. He lead the AFL in AVG, OBP (.581), SLG (.758), OPS (1.338), and runs scored, while finishing one behind the league leader in doubles and homers, despite missing a week with a sprained finger. There is little left to prove for Ackley and a position in Seattle’s starting lineup seems inevitable.

Ackley looks like a high batting average, high on base percentage type of player. He has a little pop in his bat, but the deep power alleys at Safeco Field seem a good fit for his doubles power. He also has decent wheels, so look for stolen bases as well. He looks to be a Dustin Pedroia-type player with a few more doubles and a few less homers.

As it stands right now, the Seattle Mariners appear to be opening up third base without the intention of filling the position externally. That leaves us to assume that Chone Figgins will be moved back to third base (he wasn’t a good fit at second base with a -12.3 UZR in 2010) and open up the keystone for Ackley.

The only questions left to answer are up to the big league club. Will they trade away Jose Lopez and move Figgins to third base? Will they allow Ackley to start the season with Seattle and start his Major League service time now or wait until June and hope to get an extra year out of him?

With a fairly weak crop of second basemen across the Majors, it seems like Ackley will be an above average or better fantasy player. He will produce in all fantasy areas and be an asset to your club. Don’t expect a huge season in 2011, but a .300/6 HR/70 RBI/15 SB/80 R line seems very realistic. In a few years, you can expect to see him putting up .325/15 HR/90 RBI/20 SB/100 R seasons with regular occurrence.

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Fantasy Baseball Offseason Trading: Draft Picks for Sale

I know baseball is officially in the offseason, but now is the time to make some trade moves in your keeper and dynasty fantasy baseball leagues. Be proactive, so you can shore up your fantasy team for the upcoming season.

Since the draft is the most exciting time of the season, most owners will do all they can to improve their quantity and quality of draft picks. There is a lot of uncertainty in the draft and that is what helps build that excitement, but also makes it a risky venture investing heavily in high draft picks at the expense of established veterans. Using your picks now, trading them to get the players you want and need, helps you build a better overall team.

Right now, you have about four months to get your team together before your draft. That will allow you the proper time to slowly feel out your fellow owners for their needs as well as who is willing to part with proven commodities for the unknown of the draft.

At draft time, you are forced to shoot from the hip and take the best player available and still squeeze in a player at every position. What you cannot put together in the draft, you will have to acquire in post-draft trades where everyone can see your desperation at a particular position (or positions) and make you pay more than you want to fill your deficiencies.

In my dynasty league, I recently traded for Justin Upton, Johan Santana and Nick Markakis while trading away the vast majority of my high draft picks over the last month. There is no way that I could get this quality of player with the picks that I had, but I found people who were looking for the one-day thrill of the draft and were willing to part with their stars for what they eventually hope to be the next big thing.

I still have a few picks left to fill in the backup positions, but the meat of my team is set. Knowing what few slots I have to fill allows me to zero in on a few targets to get what I need and not worry about a myriad of positional holes to fill.

Yes, the draft is exciting. It is the best part of the entire season. But, think how exciting the six months following the draft will be if you can manipulate those picks into more value by trading for quality players ahead of time.

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David Price, Wade Davis and Other MLB Fantasy Week 26 Two-Start Pitchers

In the last week of the season, you will see a lot of things happening that didn’t happen over the first 25 weeks. You will see teams who have already locked up playoff berths sit their starters to make sure they are fresh for the playoffs.

Starting rotations will be jumbled as aces will be bumped a day or two to position them for specific days of playoff action. Rookies will get more playing time and vets will sit as teams out of contention look to the future.

There is no rhyme or reason to some of the decisions made, just be prepared to watch your pitching matchups vanish into thin air or your stud hitter watch more games from the bench then from his usual fielding position.

This week, Cleveland, New York (AL), Arizona, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Houston, Los Angeles (NL), Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington are all on the docket for six. All others are scheduled for seven games this week.

Now, the projected two-start pitchers for this week. For those of you in leagues who require you to set your lineup at the beginning of the week, these are guys you should strongly consider:

American League
BAL Brain Matusz, Brad Bergeson
BOS Clay Buchholz, John Lackey
CWS Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson
CLE Carlos Carrasco
DET Armando Galarraga, Max Scherzer
KC Kyle Davies, Sean O’Sullivan
LAA Ervin Santana, Dan Haren
MIN Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn
NYY A.J. Burnett
OAK Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden
SEA David Pauley, Felix Hernandez
TB Wade Davis, David Price
TEX C.J. Wilson, Cliff Lee
TOR Marc Rzepczynski, Kyle Drabek
National League
ARI Rodrigo Lopez
ATL Tommy Hanson
CHC Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster
CIN Edinson Volquez
COL Ubaldo Jimenez, Jeff Francis
FLA Alex Sanabia, Anibal Sanchez
HOU Wandy Rodriguez
LAD Ted Lilly
MIL David Bush, Randy Wolf
NYM Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese
PHI Roy Halladay
PIT Charlie Morton, Brian Burres
SD Tim Stauffer, Mat Latos
SF Jonathan Sanchez
STL Kyle Lohse, Jeff Suppan
WAS John Lannan

Rick’s Picks

Five best bets for double-start pitchers this week

1. David Price gets Baltimore on the road then Kansas City at home. He will most likely start two games this week as the Rays are in contention for the division title and top record in the American League. The opponents are already making off-season plans, so Price should be in for a big week.

2. Wade Davis’ week looks just like Price’s above. Davis problem has been a sore shoulder that landed him on the disabled list last month. He has been very good since returning, so it looks like the rest did him well.

3. Jonathan Sanchez gets two weak offenses at home (vs ARZ, vs SD) as the Giants look to lock up the division and head for the playoffs. Since Sanchez is unlikely to be on the front end of the Giants playoff rotation, he will almost assuredly get both starts this week.

4. Edinson Volquez is trying ot prove that he belongs in the playoff rotation and will have two home games (vs HOU, vs MLW) this week to show his stuff. Look for Volquez to have a big week.

5. Tommy Hanson has scuffled in his sophomore season, but is still a good pitcher. With the Braves fighting for their playoff lives, they get the Marlins and Phillies at home. The Marlins are playing out the streak and the Phillies will be resting their starters for the upcoming playoffs, so Hanson is a good bet this week.

Note: If Roy Halladay gets two starts this week, he is easily the No. 1 choice for the list. But since the Phils will likely bump him from his second start to allow him to start game 1 of the NLDS, don’t count on him taking the mound twice this week.

Rick Milleman is the head fantasy baseball contributor at Check his annual player projections included in the Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy to help draft your championship team.

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MLB Fantasy: Wainwright, Lowe, Arroyo and Other Week 24 Two-Start Pitchers

Now is the time to prey upon unsuspecting owners if you are in a keeper league.

If you are out of it or just want to get a better keeper for the 2011 season, now is your time to find that guy. While most owners are either fighting for their playoff lives or have turned their attention the beginning of the football season, you can find that key player to next year’s squad.

My favorite targets are pitchers experiencing the sophomore slump.

I have a theory about young pitchers that come up and do very well in their first year, slump in their second year, then put it all together for strong careers starting in year three. That second year slump is a result of the hitters catching up to the pitcher who they now have game film on and have a better grasp on their stuff.

Rick Porcello is the perfect example of a very young player with a ton of talent who is on the wrong side of a learning curve right now that he will almost assuredly fix next season. His teammate Max Scherzer seemed to come out of his slump in the middle of the season, but his Major League timeline actually correlates to that being the beginning of the his third MLB year.

Tommy Hanson is another young pitcher that will likely take that next step forward after a difficult sophomore season.

This week, Detroit and Texas will only play five games while Arizona, Cincinnati, New York (NL), Pittsburgh, San Diego and San Francisco are all on the docket for seven. All others are scheduled for six games this week.

Now, the projected two-start pitchers for this week. For those of you in leagues who require you to set your lineup at the beginning of the week, these are guys you should strongly consider:

American League
BAL Brian Matusz
BOS Jon Lester
CWS John Danks
CLE Josh Tomlin
DET none
KC Luke Hochevar
LAA Trevor Bell
MIN Francisco Liriano
NYY C.C. Sabathia
OAK Bob Cramer
SEA Doug Fister
TB David Price
TEX none
TOR Marc Rzepczynski
National League
ARI Barry Enright, Daniel Hudson
ATL Derek Lowe
CHC Carlos Silva
CIN Bronson Arroyo, Travis Wood
COL Jeff Francis
FLA Andrew Miller
HOU Brett Myers
LAD Clayton Kershaw
MIL Chris Narveson
NYM Dillon Gee, R.A. Dickey
PHI Joe Blanton
PIT James McDonald, Zach Duke
SD Cory Luebke, Jon Garland
SF Jaime Garcia, Barry Zito
STL Adam Wainwright
WAS Yunesky Maya

Rick’s Picks

Five best bets for double-start pitchers this week

1. Adam Wainwright. No explanation necessary at this point.

2. Derek Lowe is an innings eater who gives you a bunch of wins with a mediocre ERA and WHIP. He’s not an ace on his real team or your fantasy team, but he’s a great pick this week at home against Washington and at New York against the Mets.

3. Bronson Arroyo is in the Derek Lowe mold and gets the Diamondbacks at home and the Astros on the road. With his team trying to lock down a division title, they should be ready to beat up on a few teams just playing out the season.

4. C.C. Sabathia starts the week off against new arch-rival Tampa Bay. Because he finishes against Baltimore, he makes the list. If you can spot start your pitchers, it might be wise to sit him at the Rays.

5. Joe Blanton isn’t a guy I’d normally recommend as a Double Dipper, but when you are in the heat of the pennant race and get the Marlins and Nationals as opponents, you have to go with it.

Stay away from the Padres this week. They have been combustible in the last few weeks and are playing on the road against the Rockies (winners of 10 in a row) and the Cardinals. Their pitchers are likely to give up a lot of runs and their offense might struggle against two contending teams.

Rick Milleman is the head fantasy baseball contributor at Check his annual player projections included in the Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy to help draft your championship team.

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