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Fantasy Intelligence Report – Baseball Edition 3

D.P.I.R. – Da’ Price Is Right

For the last three seasons, right-handed flame thrower James Shields has been the Tampa Bay Rays’ opening day starter. That was before the rise of left-handed dart thrower David Price, who, according to

The

St. Petersburg Times was named the 2011 opening day hurler on Tuesday by manager Joe Maddon.

The decision caught no one by surprise, including Shields, who understands and fully supports the decision.

“He was second in Cy Young, best lefty in the league, Warren Spahn Award, figured he earned it,” Shields said. “I want to be No. 1, there’s no doubt, everybody does. But (Price) earned it, just like I earned it, when I got it. I’m happy for him. This guy had an unbelievable year last year. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game.”

Price undoubtedly has earned his ace-like status, and the overall numbers (19-6, 2.72 earned run average and 188 strikeouts) he finished with in 2010 are nothing to turn your back on. However, after a closer look I have to say that I’m more impressed with Price’s consistency.

The tall lefty finished third in all of baseball with a quality start percent of 81 percent (quality outings of six innings or more plus three earned runs or less divided by the total number of starts). Price also finished with six starts (19.5 percent of his total) where he allowed no earned runs.

So while most will set their sights on Felix Hernandez, I’m settling for the more valuable Price, who unlike King Felix still has room to grow.

F.T.S. – Feliz To Start?

Do you ever just watch an automatic revolving door and just want to hurl after about five revolutions? Yeah, that’s probably how most fantasy owners are feeling about Rangers pitcher Neftali Feliz and his continual mind games with the Texas coaching brain trust.

According to

USA Today, after saving 40 games last season for the American League pennant winners, Feliz is now considering the notion to become a part of the Rangers’ starting rotation.

“Right now, (my goal) is to start,” Feliz told reporters after a three-hit, five-strikeout performance. “That’s what we’re working toward.”

Feliz has been flip-flopping about as much as a pancake on a griddle when it comes to deciding what kind of role he would like to roll with in 2011. I also hear that Advil is calling him to become the next spokesperson for their product, as they get ready to send free samples to all fantasy owners with spiking fevers.

All kidding aside, if Feliz does indeed start this season, Brandon Webb, who has been battling shoulder problems for two seasons, would probably be sent to the bullpen along with Derek Holland. As for the closer spot, well that would remain up for grabs amongst two 40-plus year olds – Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver – and Darren O’Day, who does have the stuff and experience to be an effective closer.

Then again, according to MLB.com, manager Ron Washington wants an experienced closer magically added if Feliz moves to start status … hello Francisco Cordero?

“I have confidence in [general manager] Jon Daniels and our scouts that if that’s the case, I’m 100 percent certain they can go out and find somebody,” Washington said.

My overall suspicions are that Feliz will flip a few more times before burning fantasy owners one way or the other. Stay tuned, as we are far from drizzling any syrup on the Rangers already sticky pitching situation.

G.B.G.T. – Giants’ Belt Getting Tighter

San Francisco Giants fans have plenty to be excited over heading in to 2011 after what transpired last season. By the time that those grills are fired up on opening day, though, they may be looking for new lungs.

Why?

Well, there is this 22-year old first baseman, Brandon Belt, who is making some noise this spring and garnering respect from his teammates. And, according to

The San Francisco Chronicle, the Giants now have a hefty dilemma in front of them of, “Should he make an Opening Day appearance or be sent back to Triple-A Fresno?”

“We’re staying open-minded,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’re not looking at rosters. We’re looking at what’s best for the club. He’s playing great.”

If Belt were to start at first base the Giants would have to move Aubrey Huff to left field, a position Huff has played before, a move starting pitcher Tim Lincecum seems to be all for.

“Personally, just from the way he’s playing, yeah,” Lincecum said. “It’s all a matter of getting experience. I think this has helped him tremendously, getting through camp like this, seeing all these pitchers. He’s done nothing but impress me.”

Considering that the Giants have about as much “past their prime” firepower as a small town fireworks show, I think Belt’s presence would certainly increase the value of the whole lineup and would take some pressure off young rising star Buster Posey. It would also give fantasy owners one more intriguing starter to choose come draft day.

M.W.C. – Morse’s Washington Code

The Washington Nationals might have found themselves their version of Jose Bautista last season when Michael Morse burst on to the scene and hammered 15 home runs in 266 at-bats. In fact, according to the Washington Post, Morse is the clear leading candidate to become the Nationals’ starting left fielder.

“He’s got an opportunity, and he’s taken the bull by the horns,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “If opening day was tomorrow, he certainly would be our opening day left fielder.”

Morse is batting .469 with five homers, two doubles and 10 runs batted in through just 32 spring at-bats.

“Mike’s winning the job,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “We want somebody to take over those positions. Mike is making a statement that, ‘I’m the guy.’ We welcome that. We’re not looking to platoon. I’m just reacted to what I see. He’s just played so well.”

Currently, you won’t find Morse even near the Top 10 among outfielders, even in National League Only formats. He’s definitely a player to grab as a third or fourth outfielder in fantasy circles, especially if he continues to progress at this rapid pace.

G.S.D.M. – Grass-Stained Dirt Marks

Here are four tips that should help you along come draft day.

– Step outside your batter’s box to throw the rest of the owners drafting off rhythm. In other words, don’t conform and allow yourself to be eaten up by what your average draft position says. Change it up. You may just change the way others draft was well.

– If you find a weak position in your lineup as you draft or haven’t filled it yet, don’t overvalue a player just to fill that need. Instead, either try finding a position that is strong to make stronger so you can potentially make a big trade later on to fill the gap, or take a chance on a low value player as a starter as the draft progresses.

– Make pitching a priority. Fantasy owners saw first hand last season that snagging hitters like Jose Bautista, Angel Pagan or Omar Infante can be done with a little luck late or with one click of the mouse via free agency. However, starting gems like Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum and Heath Bell every week requires you to actually draft them.

– If you’re playing in a Rotisserie League don’t worry about consistency. Overall numbers are all that matter in leagues that rank teams based on statistical categories. In other words, go ahead and draft Dan Uggla.

Thanks for reading!

Eric Huber is a staff writer for fantasysharks.com.

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