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Fantasy Baseball 2013: The Love List

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A working-class Prado is something to be (AP)

The snarky comments will have to wait for another day. The red pens won't come out of the desk drawer today. It's time to get shiny, happy and target-driven on blog, unveiling a handful of players we can't wait to point-and-click on. Make sure you've got these guys queued up.

Thursday we didn't care about you, but Friday we're in love.

[Baseball 2013 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

In the Infield

Martin Prado – If Prado stays healthy, he's going to score 90-100 runs leading off for the D-Backs. You can count on him to push .300 (.295 career hitter) and deliver somewhere around a dozen home runs. Whether he steals another 17 bases (his '12 total, which was 12 more than his previous career high), is the difference between a sundae with a cherry on top and one without a cherry – the sundae's going to be good either way. But that you can use him at four different positions, including shortstop, is really the cherry on top. -Funston

Paul Goldschmidt – I’ve driven the bandwagon on Goldy since this time last year. He’s a unique talent at an overloaded position primed to deliver sounds results across five categories. Many will say the buzz surrounding him has overly inflated the price tag, but if he reaches his projected .280-30-100-90-15 output, The Schmidt will indeed be worth every penny. Dreamy. -Evans

Troy Tulowitzki – Take the injury-risk discount while you can, gamers, because it won't be there next year. (Related: I'm gonna need someone to explain to me why Tulo is an injury risk, but Reyes is suddenly not). Troy is easily the most useful fantasy shortstop, arguably in a tier of his own. From 2009 to 2011, this was his average season: 90 R, 30 HR, 97 RBIs, 13 SB, .304 AVG. Don't over-think this player. Draft and enjoy. -Behrens

Jason Kipnis – Expected to hit No. 3, with Michael Bourn now out in front of him, Kipnis is a favorite among the 2B crowd to finish top 5 in RBI, Runs and Steals, and he has 20-HR upside, to boot. From a fantasy standpoint, he's basically a cheaper version of Ian Kinsler. -Funston

Evan Longoria – Here's another post-injury gift. Longo is hitting .372/.429/.628 this spring and he's now healthy, yet he's routinely available at the very end of Round 2 (ADP 22.1). I'm begging you not to let Evans talk you out of a Longoria investment. -Behrens

Josh Rutledge – Someone has to stick up for Rutledge against the relentless Behrens bullying that has gone on this spring. When I look at Rutledge, I see someone slated to hit between Dexter Fowler (6th in the NL with a .389 OPB in '12) and Carlos Gonzalez/Troy Tulowitzki, two of the best hitters in the NL. It's an undeniably cushy spot for a guy that more than held his own in his '12 MLB debut – he was a top 15 fantasy middle infielder over the second half of '12, better than Starlin Castro, Ian Desmond, Ian Kinsler and many others over that span. Complain about his K/BB ratio if you want, but then try to explain why he's going 42 picks later than Danny Espinosa. Give me Rutledge over Espinosa, and every other SS outside the top 10 in Yahoo! ADP. -Funston

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My name is . . . (USAT)


In the Outfield

Austin Jackson – The industry considers him a Top 25-30 outfielder, but Action Jackson truly belongs in the Top 20. His walk and strikeout rates both moved in the right direction last year while his slugging percentage spiked 105 points. It was disappointing to see Jackson's running game stall out, but a more-regular green light from Jim Leyland this year should smooth things out. You're also getting a 26-year-old ascending talent (#papaya) triggering one of the best American League offenses. You might be able to steal Jackson as your third outfielder in some pools. Go get the Wizard of Woodward. - Pianowski

Starling Marte – It’s puzzling the Pirates’ top prospect hasn’t attracted more attention. Last year, he looked marvelous in his brief stint with the senior club slashing a .257-5-17-18-12 line over 167 at-bats. Penciled in as Clint Hurdle’s leadoff man, the 23-year-old is slated to greatly outproduce his current 181.3 ADP. His free-swinging ways are worrisome, but it would be no shock if he finished 15-30 with 85-plus runs in his first full season. Value. -Evans

Nick Swisher – This is the epitome of an Ibanez All-Star, an established but boring veteran that sneaks into a profit pocket. No one dreams of Swisher's upside anymore, which leads to missing out on a player who's been remarkably consistent and durable over the past seven seasons. You'll get position flexibility, three solid categories and a passable average here, and it's downright affordable at the table (ADP: 151). Nicely done, Cleveland. - Pianowski

Allen Craig – As a devout Cubs fan, I am supposed to view any player associated with St. Louis as the epitome of evil. But the Noise is sleeping with the enemy. Last year, Craig finally earned a chance to flex his muscle, an opportunity he took advantage of. The fiery bat notched the 14th-best per game value in virtual baseball, one spot behind Carlos Gonzalez. Nicks and scrapes are always a concern, but if he collects 550-plus at-bats, he should finish in range of .300-30-100-100. In other words, he’s a cheaper Albert Pujols with more flexibility. -Evans

[Also: Tigers ace Justin Verlander signs record five-year extension]

Billy Hamilton – Vince Coleman’s illegitimate son may get the call sooner than the majority thinks. Many feel Shin-Soo Choo doesn’t possess the leather needed to play an adequate centerfield. More encouraging for the speedster, it seems unlikely Ryan Ludwick will come anywhere close to duplicating his 26-HR campaign from 2012. If a shoe drops, blazing Billy should get the call, possibly before the All-Star break. That happens, and whoever owns him will receive a game-changing boost in steals. Stash. Stash. Stash. -Evans

Ed. Note: Craig and Swisher obviously qualify at first base as well, and Hamilton won't have outfield eligibility until he plays five games there in The Show. Understand we're trying to balance out the piece, for your eye and for your utility.

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How soon is now? (USAT)


On the Mound

Gio Gonzalez – He's averaged more than 17 wins, 190 K and a 3.08 ERA over his past three seasons. At age 27, mileage is of no concern. He pitches in the right (National) league, for arguably its best team. And he gets to hide behind the shadow of Stephen Strasburg. Y! ADP says he's the No. 15 starter, but he's top 10 in my book. -Funston

Alex Cobb – He's become a bit trendy I suppose, perhaps the Salvador Perez of the mound position. But I'll still try to land Cobb where I can. He misses bats, throws strikes and induces ground balls by the bushel, and he's working in front of Tampa Bay's outstanding defense. And the AL East is no longer hell on earth for a pitcher; the Yankees and Red Sox can't bludgeon teams with their lineups and wallets anymore. Cobb's second-half ratios from 2012 (3.40/1.20) are the genesis of my 2013 bid. Meet me under the catwalk. - Pianowski

Julio Teheran – No pitcher, anywhere, has had a better spring. Teheran was an elite prospect just a year ago, and he's enhanced his arsenal. You want this guy — you may not have fully accepted this fact just yet, but you want him. -Behrens

Matt Harvey – Young guns Kris Medlen, Chris Sale and Matt Moore may be the apple of most owners’ eye, but Mr. Met also deserves serious consideration. A season ago, his walks yield was a bit unsightly (3.94 BB/9), but his 2.73 ERA and 10-plus K/9 certainly moved the meter. Blessed with three plus pitches – mid-90s fastball, slider, change – and a bulldog attitude, he’s a bargain buy who could flirt with 200 Ks. You’re fleecing fools at his current 194.2 ADP. -Evans

Brandon League – He's a whipping boy all over the Internet, a target of the skills-over-roles police. But here's the sneaky thing from the bullpen: the best pitcher doesn't have to close on any given team. When it comes to chasing saves for your fake baseball club, you've better off focusing on roles over skills. League averaged a strikeout per inning with the Dodgers late last year (over 27.1 frames) and even with a bit of wonky control, he still posted a 2.30 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. He was a perfect 6-for-6 on ninth-inning conversions. Add it all up and here's the cheapest 30 saves you can find on draft day; League's handshakes are just as good as anyone else's. -Pianowski

Behind the Plate

Mike Napoli – You guys, he's a first baseman who's catcher-eligible. He's just a year removed from a 30-homer, .320-average season. This is an easy top-5 fantasy setup. Why pay for the top-tier backstops when Napoli is waiting for you in Rounds 11-13? -Behrens

Carlos Santana – Generally I don't chase after designer catchers, but Santana presents an interesting temptation (reasonably priced at ADP 80). An early-season concussion and the pressure of a jumbo contract might have held Santana back in the first half of 2012, but he was the AL's best backstop after the break (.281-42-13-47-1). Sure, it's a cherry-picked sample, but the timing seems right for a step forward in the Age-27 season. Bang the drum with me. -Pianowski

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