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Fantasy Intelligence Report: Baseball Edition

Admit it. You were pulling your best “Oh Yeah” Vector (Despicable Me) impersonation upon hearing the news that was expanding its product offering to baseball owners as well. I know I was.

Next to football, baseball is as close to my heart as ice cream is to Chunk in the movie The Goonies. Now it’s only right that I bring some of my baseball knowledge to the diamond side of things.

In this first edition of the Fantasy Intelligence Report I’m breaking down some recent news, and starting a list of my favorite dusty and grass-stained flavors.

B.B.W. – Bye Bye Wainwright

The latest out of St. Louis is that Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright’s 2011 season may be lost to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. This is a huge blow for the Cardinals and those fantasy owners who were counting on the top five 20-game winner.

With Wainwright likely done, the best pitcher in a now weak National League Central clearly has to be Zack Greinke, who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder and plenty of firepower behind him. And it’s not unreasonable to believe he could mirror Wainwright’s numbers from 2010, especially in a division that features strikeout prone lineups in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Houston, with the Cardinals teetering.

If I had to look elsewhere for starting pitching though, I would immediately turn towards San Francisco, San Diego or Philadelphia, who has four starters in the Top 125 overall. All three teams have one thing in common – they were in the Top 6 in fielding percentage in 2010.

Fantasy owners will be safe taking Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay and even Padres ace Matt Latos. Latos finished the 2010 season with a 14-10 record, a 2.92 earned run average, 21 quality starts and a strikeout-per-nine innings average of 9.21 (fifth in the National League).

The deep sleeper for the Padres though, is former Reds starter Aaron Harang, who returns to his hometown for a fresh start. Harang has found a comfort zone pitching at PETCO Park, as he has a lifetime 3.49 earned run average and 38 strikeouts in 38 innings pitched at the pitcher-friendly ballpark.

K.F.W.L. – Kung Fu’s Weight Loss

San Francisco Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval has taken the “Kung Fu Panda” label he received a few years back in stride … almost too much. To be blunt, last season he was fat, had a slow swing and his numbers were about as bad as Charlie Sheen’s haircut in the movie Major League. However, according to

CSN Bay Area, Sandoval has been working hard to slim down thanks in large part to Barry Bonds.

“I’ve been working a lot with Barry,” Sandoval said. “I don’t want to say how much weight I lost, but it’s a lot.”

Rumor has it that “Kung Fu Panda” has lost about 45 pounds. He also has improved his bat speed and has been hitting the ball well as of late. He’s batting .462 with two homers and six RBI through just 13 at-bats this spring. If he keeps this up, and continues to keep of the weight. he will be one ‘helluva’ of steal come draft day for fantasy owners.

K.M.W. – Kendry Morales Watch

Kendry Morales is one of the more pure hitting first basemen in the American League, and with a weak crop besides him AL-Only League owners will need his services in 2011, and they should get them right away.

According to the

Los Angeles Times, Angels manager Mike Scioscia believe Morales should be ready to play when their season opens on March 31 in Kansas City.

“He has some work to do as far as running, but there’s enough time to get through this process and have him ready for the season,” Scioscia said. “We’re very comfortable with him being with us on Opening Day.”

If Morales is indeed ready and can stay healthy throughout the entire 2011 season he’s capable of mirroring his 2009 numbers – .306, 34 home runs and 108 RBI. What’s intriguing is that through his 193 at-bats he took last season he increased his line drive percentage from 16.8 percent in 2009 to 20.9 percent, and lowered his strikeout percentage from 20.7 percent to 16.1 percent.

If Morales misses any time, look for Mark Trumbo to quickly emerge as a hot name in fantasy circles. The 25-year old batted .301 with 36 homers and 122 RBI last season playing for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate Salt Lake.

G.S.D.M. – Grass-Stained Dirt Marks

Here are a few players worth getting down and dirty for.

SP Jake Westbrook –

The other day a friend of mine commented on the Cardinals’ loss of Wainwright with these words, “Well, I’m sure some Cardinals pitcher will emerge and be a fantasy star. It’s a given.” Then I did a little digging, and discovered that in Westbrook’s 12 2011 late-season appearances with St. Louis he recorded a 3.48 earned run average (ERA) and 10 quality starts. Yes, I know he isn’t a strikeout pitcher, but he’ll keep his ERA and walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP) down, and should give fantasy owners at least 12-15 wins if he can stay healthy.

C Buster Posey –

The catcher position is to fantasy baseball what tight ends are to fantasy football, and Posey is like Jermichael Finley. He has exceptional offensive potential, and will be the feature presentation in the Giants starting lineup. The best part is that his current average draft position indicates he can be had between rounds three and four in mixed leagues, and his additional eligibility at first base makes him well worth the pick. Like tight ends, I use to think catchers weren’t worth early picks, but with so few good ones fantasy owners will have a clear advantage when selecting Posey. And if that’s not convincing enough consider Posey’s .351 batting average on the road last season.

OF Michael Stanton –

Last season Stanton hit a homerun every 16-plus at-bats. If he keeps up that pace this season and records at least 600 at-bats he’ll go yard 35-40 times. Buyer beware though – Stanton’s .259 batting average will require you to find some balanced help in that department. Overall though, it’s hard to find the Jose Bautista-like numbers that Stanton has the potential of posting in just his second season of his Major League career, especially where he’ll rank among outfielders pre-draft in mixed leagues (25-35).

2B Rickie Weeks –

If this were two years ago Weeks would be nowhere near this prestigious list. However, new manager Ron Roenicke has already made it clear that his runners will have active legs on the base paths. Seeing that Weeks is the leadoff hitter and one of the fastest players on the team, fantasy owners should expect possibly three or four times the number of steals the Brewers second baseman had last season (11) if he can stay injury free. Add that hot number to 25-30 home runs and a .270 batting average, and you’ll get a hot steal outside of the Top 5 second basemen.

Eric Huber is a staff writer for

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