Fantasy Spotlight

Welcome to the very first edition of the Fantasy Spotlight. Every week throughout the season, we'll take a look at various players around the league that you, the fantasy owner, will want to know about. In addition, we'll also talk some strategy and answer some reader questions on anything and everything relating to fantasy baseball. So, let's cut the blabber and get down to business.

Something that always surprises me year in and year out is how impatient some fantasy owners can be at the start of the season. I guess it's the months of anticipation and projecting prior to Opening Day that gets owners fed up so fast when one of their stars doesn't do what they're supposed to from day one. However, for the smart owner, this impatience can be taken advantage of.

Let's say you're in a league with a very angry Mike Mussina owner. This guy drafted Moose early, and expected him to carry the load for his staff. With such high hopes pinned in one player, he gets a jolt of reality when Mike gives up five runs in five innings to lowly Tampa Bay. Now he's pissed, and fearing the worst. This is where you, the smart and patient owner comes in. Instead of assuming all is lost, you see that it's still very early in the season and that a guy of Mussina's caliber most likely won't perform like this for very long. So, you send your disgruntled league mate an offer for Moose that he probably wouldn't have accepted prior to the season, but in his self imposed desperation, he takes it.

Though this is an extreme example, and most owners don't sour on a guy after just one outing, you get my point. It really doesn't take much more than a few weeks or month of poor play for all too many fantasy owners to develop a Chicken Little complex on a given star. All you have to do is keep an eye on who is underperforming early on, and send out some feeler offers to see which owners are tired of seeing their second round pick hit .235 after the first month of the season. Basically, this is a fantasy baseball version of the old "buy low, sell high" theory. By following this seemingly obvious strategy, it's surprisingly easy to improve your squad tremendously. Just remember, patience, patience, patience.

Chicago White Sox

If help at the corners is what you need, look no further than the South Side of Chicago. Both Joe Crede and Paul Konerko had disappointing seasons in 2003, but the smart money is on this White Sox combo rebounding in a big way. Starting with Crede, who had a line of /261/19/75 last season, fantasy owners must take into consideration the fact that the first half of his '03 season was marred by a viral infection that resulted in a 30 lbs. weight loss. Looking at his splits, the difference between his pre All-Star numbers, .225/8/38, and his post All-Star numbers, .308/11/37, clearly shows a return to his expected production, as he got healthier. This year, a fully recovered Crede should hit in the neighborhood of .285 with 25 homers and 95 RBI, which is a solid line for a third bagger.

Though Konerko did not have a viral infection last year, he still managed to play like a guy on his deathbed in the first half (.197/5/22). Unlike the Phillies' Pat Burrell, Konerko managed to keep from getting too frustrated during that horrid stretch, and was able to come out on the other side of the All-Star break with a .275 average, 13 dingers, and 43 RBI. At 28 years old, Paul is in the midst of that period where many hitters are at their prime, so picking up where he left off in the second half of last year should be expected. Look for Konerko to get back in that 25-30 home run and 100 RBI range he was in during the 2001 and 2002 seasons, to go with a .280 average.

Oakland Athletics

Jermaine Dye is a guy that dropped off the radar of many fantasy owners last year, and has yet to resurface. From '99 to '01, Dye tallied 100 or more RBI and topped 25 homers each year. Then came the injuries, which took their toll on his stats in 2002, and destroyed his 2003 campaign. Fast forward to present day, where Jermaine appears to be healthy once again, and is even scheduled to hit cleanup. Word has it the A's are very impressed with what they've seen from the former Royal this spring, so fantasy owners in need of some depth in the outfield should start to take notice as well. If Dye can remain healthy for a full season, a return to his former self and a line of .290/27/100 should be attainable. Since Jermaine went undrafted in many leagues, there's a good chance he's available on your waiver wire right now.

San Diego Padres

Going back to his days in the Phillies' system, Adam Eaton has always been described as a pitcher with a ton of potential. At 26, Eaton appears to be on the verge of fulfilling that potential. After screwing up his 2002 season by stabbing himself in the stomach while trying to open a DVD (I know I always use sharp knives to open DVDs, assuming there aren't any power tools available), Adam was able to get back on track with a 4.08 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP in 183 innings pitched last season. At 9-12, his record wasn't anything special, but with the improvements on offense for the Padres, Eaton should be in position for a few more wins this time around. Adam will only get better as he matures, so I'd say a season of 12-14 wins, an ERA in the mid 3.00s, WHIP around 1.25 and 170 strikeouts is within reach.

Philadelphia Phillies

Speaking of young players from the Phillies' farm system, next on our list is Marlon Byrd. If you're looking at your team and thinking all you need is a little more power and a little more speed, then Marlon could be your man. Though his rookie performance didn't exactly make fantasy owners drool, Byrd did show promise in the second half when he hit .313 with five homers, 27 RBI, and eight stolen bases. Starting this season at the top of the order will only help his runs scored, and the fact that he was only caught stealing once is a good representation of his instincts on the base paths. It could be tough for Marlon to repeat that .303 average he had last year because opposing pitchers will probably start to figure him out, however I see him hitting no lower than .285. A 20/20 season is possible for Byrd, but a 15/15 or 15/20 year is probably a bit more likely. The bottom line with Marlon Byrd is that he should be a solid producer across the board, and could be the deciding factor that puts a lot of fantasy teams over the top.

That's about it for this week folks. Remember, if you have a question for me; send it to qwaz21@aol.com with "Fantasy Spotlight" in the subject line. Until next time, I'm out like Nomar.

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