High Fives: Buzz cuts

Yahoo! Sports Staff
Yahoo! Sports
Brandon Funston
Matt Buser
Brad Evans
With opening day just around the corner, the Yahoo! Sports fantasy experts offer their thoughts on how things have shaken out this spring.

Topics include: Bulls and bears, risky business, diamonds in the rough and Frank the Tank.

Top five players that you're growing more fond of as the season nears?
Brandon Says: Andy Says: Brad Says:
  1. Josh Hamilton – Hasn't stopped amazing since making MLB debut last season. I'm getting the feeling that I'm going to regret not being more invested in him in '08
  2. Ryan Zimmerman – Seems perfectly primed for a real breakout, and excellent spring has done nothing but support that assumption
  3. Javier Vazquez – Finished as No. 12 starter in Y! game in '07, and having a fantastic spring. This said, he's going No. 23 among starters in Y! default leagues.
  4. Yunel Escobar – A little speed, and even less power but, with a spot at the top of Braves order, he's looking like a potential cheap .300, 100 R candidate with handy three-position eligibility.
  5. Chris Snyder – Nice sleeper catcher with power potential, a No. 5 spot in the order (as of now) and little competition as Miguel Montero is dealing with a fractured finger
  1. Lastings Milledge – He's hitting .333/.417/.500 in 42 at bats this spring, and he's stolen five bases. He should open season batting second. A useful source of power and steals, and he's available in just a ton of leagues right now (see below)
  2. Johnny Cueto – Began spring as an interesting prospect in NL-only dynasty leagues; he'll leave it as a player who needs to be drafted in the late rounds in mixed leagues. If you don't believe me, here's what Jim Leyland told the AP: "That's one of the best-looking young pitchers I've seen all spring …"
  3. Kazuo Fukumori – No Rangers' pitcher has had a better spring than the new guy. This guy will be in the closer mix if C.J. Wilson (biceps) can't get himself right
  4. Pedro Martinez – No, he isn't throwing 97 mph anymore, but it was never just about velocity with Pedro. He's clearly a safe bet at his current ADP (137.2)
  5. Josh Hamilton – Most of the fantasy community was bullish on Hamilton in February, before the streak. He reached base safely in 13 consecutive spring plate appearances, and he's hitting an impossible .594/.639/1.063
  1. Steven Pearce – Although recently demoted to Triple-A, the Buccos crusher launched four homers and drove in 10 this spring. In power terms, he could be Rick Ankiel, part II after the All-Star break
  2. Corey Hart – I've always had inappropriate thoughts about the guy and his two homers, 12 RBIs and three steals this spring makes me think he'll be at least a 25-25 player this year
  3. Carlos Pena – Punishing the baseball this spring with two homers, seven RBIs and nine hits in 24 at-bats – last year was no fluke
  4. Kelly Johnson – Expected to bat leadoff for a potent Braves lineup, there's a real chance he'll finish with 100-plus runs, 18-22 homers, 60-65 RBIs and 10-plus steals – those are sweet projections for a player currently drafted in the mid-160s
  5. B.J. Ryan – His spring debut went very smoothly, converting a 1-2-3 inning on just 12 pitches, including a strikeout – if he doesn't suffer a setback, 30-plus saves is a certainty
Top five players that you're growing less fond of as the season nears?
Brandon Says: Andy Says: Brad Says:
  1. Jeremy Hermida – The only thing I'll add to my statement in the last High Fives – "His 25/25 talents are always touted this time of year, then the season starts and he doesn't run, but does get hurt." – is that he's below the Mendoza Line this spring
  2. Eric Gagne – 6.57 ERA post AS break last season and a rough spring, so far. Seems to me that Brewers' backup closer candidates deserve more attention
  3. Juan Pierre – Ethier's presence and new manager (Torre) put heat on Pierre heading into spring. Pierre's answer? Below the Mendoza Line in first 51 ABs. Meanwhile, Ethier is raking (.354, 5 HRs)
  4. Joey Votto – .158 BA in first 38 spring ABs isn't going to help him win over vet-lover Dusty Baker; Could start season back in minors
  5. Jeremy Bonderman – Really wanted to buy into him as a great bounce-back candidate, but he's giving me nothing to go on
  1. Todd Jones – And no one liked him all that much before. But if you were hoping he could just keep his spring ERA under 10.00, well … he's not even close
  2. Homer Bailey – After a messy spring, it appears he's been passed by Cueto and Edison Volquez. Looks like it's back to the Louisville Bats for Homer
  3. John Lackey – A strained triceps will sideline Lackey until mid-May, it appears. Let's hope it's just a strain, and just the triceps. A few weeks ago we were hearing "elbow."
  4. Dusty Baker – Oh, sorry. You wanted a player? Let's just say that I dislike the entire Reds' centerfield pileup, and I don't really blame any of the players involved. You could not have invented a guy that Cincinnati needed any less than Corey Patterson
  5. Andy LaRoche – This is the unluckiest/worst player in the history of spring. He'll miss eight to 10 weeks with a thumb injury
  1. Joba Chamberlain – Love the kid's stuff, but the media hype has catapulted his draft stock to tendon-snapping levels
  2. Jason Bay – Toiling near Mendoza Line this spring and equally deplorable play in the field suggests a rebound is far from imminent
  3. John Lackey – Out for the next three weeks with strained triceps, Lackey's 198-plus innings each year since 2003 might be catching up to him
  4. Ryan Braun – Trainers are having difficulties identifying the source of his continued right Achilles pain – a sophomore slump could be in store
  5. Roy Oswalt – His 78.1 ADP is greatly inflated. Oswalt's K/9 rates have dipped in four consecutive years
Top five players with the most risk attached to their selection?
Brandon Says: Andy Says: Brad Says:
  1. Albert Pujols – Although it's probably being blown out of proportion, anyone who has read the description of what's wrong with his elbow will not want to be put in the position of having to make a decision on him on draft day
  2. Brad Lidge – He's been an adventure two years running on the mound, and now add in his current recovery from knee surgery and a new team that's not well known for a forgiving fan base
  3. Francisco Liriano – If you want him, you're pretty much required to reach for him in drafts, because few have forgot the electricity he provided before his Tommy John surgery
  4. Chipper Jones – A consensus top 70 selection in Y! default leagues who has missed an average of 40 games per season over the past four years
  5. Ben Sheets – The Chipper Jones of pitchers
  1. Carlos Beltran – So far so good this spring, but his recovery from the offseason knee surgeries – that's surger-ies, not surgery – remains a concern. You're drafting him in the mid-second round because you expect him to run
  2. Albert Pujols – He's having a terrific spring, and he's been as consistently excellent as any player of his generation. But the elbow worries will be with us all season, no matter what the Cardinals say. Pujols' ADP in Yahoo! leagues is 5.1. It's not easy to recover if you lose the fifth overall pick
  3. Joe Borowski – He has a 7.20 spring ERA, so he's basically picking up right where he left off. If you own him, you'll be worried about his job security and his ratios all season
  4. Vernon Wells – His ADP is well within the top 100, but he was really un-ownable last season. And he's coming off shoulder surgery. And he's hitting .250 this spring
  5. Andruw Jones – He's getting drafted within the first 100 picks despite hitting .212 this spring and .222 last season in Atlanta. If he can't hit 40 HR, he's not much of a fantasy asset
  1. Albert Pujols – A-Poo is undoubtedly a warrior, but with the Cardinals expected to be NL Central fodder, he might go under the knife earlier than most expect
  2. Russell Martin – He's young and energetic, but the rigors of 140-plus games behind the plate is bound to impact his numbers negatively – especially SBs
  3. Takashi Saito – The Japanese end-game beetle has devoured hitters in his brief career but numerous nagging injuries last year for the 38-year-old means the Jonathan Broxton era is about to begin
  4. Trevor Hoffman – The Hoff's K/9 rates have plummeted in four consecutive seasons and his GB% is also in decline – don't overspend
  5. Brad Lidge – Given history of mental meltdowns on the mound and with his slider not nearly as deceptive as it once was, owning Lidge is Chinese water torture personified
Top five players currently owned in 25 percent or less of Y! leagues?
Brandon Says: Andy Says: Brad Says:
  1. Adam Jones – Kept close tabs on him as a Seattle prospect. He made the requisite adjustments at each level, and I think he's a 20/20 candidate for the O's from the get-go
  2. Lastings Milledge – That he possesses a wealth of potential lends credence to his excellent Grapefruit League performance
  3. Billy Butler – I don't think he'll reach 95 RBI, as one Y! expert has suggested, but he's having a great spring, and he's got a phat bat
  4. Nate McLouth – I'm starting to get behind him. His strong spring has likely earned an everyday opportunity for his 20/25 upside
  5. Coco Crisp – Don't think of him as a BoSox part-timer – he's likely to be dealt soon to someone who will want to give him everyday, top-of-the-order duty
  1. Lastings Milledge – It feels like he's already a failed prospect because he's entering his third year of hype. But Milledge is still only 22, he's having a big spring, and playing time is no longer a worry
  2. Billy Butler – OK, this is beginning to look a little like Friday's Hidden Gems column. We really blew the rankings on Milledge, Butler, and a few others
  3. Franklin Gutierrez – Check the spring numbers: 6 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, .409/.458/.773. Sure, it's a small number of at bats (22), but the 25-year-old has done enough to secure the right field job. This is a 20/20 candidate (or at least a 15/15 candidate) owned in less than one percent of Yahoo! leagues
  4. Carlos Ruiz – If he weren't burdened with a tragic and inexplicable O-rank, he'd go much higher in drafts. Ruiz has a job to himself, he's had a great spring, and he'll play his home games in a hitter-friendly environment. Don't be surprised if he finishes the season as a top-12 catcher
  5. Adam Jones – He's hitting .379/.438/.621 so far this spring. You'll notice I've given you four young, useful outfielders in this segment. That's an indication of the depth at the position, and it's why I'm not spending a seventh-round pick on guys like Wells and Jones
  1. Billy Butler – KC's Mr. Belvedere may have a Miguel Cabrera approach to buffets, but he's a legit .300 hitter with 20-plus homer pop – .359 BA, 3 HRs, 8 RBIs in 39 spring at-bats
  2. Jerry Owens – A gazelle on the base paths, the former UCLA wide receiver will swipe 40-plus bags if he totals 400 or more at-bats
  3. Manny Parra – Milwaukee's top pitching prospect is a mound piranha equipped with a 92-95 mph fastball and excellent command – 15:2 K:BB split in 14 spring innings
  4. Nate McLouth – Statistically versatile, the Buccos' combo platter has a real shot at finishing with 80-plus runs, 13-16 HRs and 20-25 SBs if he can fend off Nyjer Morgan this spring
  5. Jayson Nix – Will be the Rockies opening day second basemen over Jeff Baker because of his defense. If you can stomach a .260 BA, he has 15-15 upside
Top five movies starring Will Ferrell?
Brandon Says: Andy Says: Brad Says:
  1. Wedding Crashers – It was a pinch-hit type role, but he knocked it out of the park
  2. Old School – Since watching this movie, I'm embarrassed to admit how many times I've said, "Once it hits your lips, it's so good!" upon drinking a beer
  3. Anchorman – Honestly, I didn't really care for it the first time I watched it, but it only gets funnier with each viewing
  4. Blades of Glory – Go to IMDB and look at the memorable quotes from this one. Chazz Michael Michaels was a one-liner machine
  5. Talladega Nights – "Well look, I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I'm sayin grace. When you say grace, you can say it to grown up Jesus, or teenage Jesus, or bearded Jesus, or whoever you want."
  1. Anchorman – "It's made with bits of real panther, so you know it's good."
  2. Elf – "Francisco! That's fun to say! Franciscoooo …"
  3. Old School – "Blue, do you trust that I do not want to see you die here tonight?"
  4. Talladega Nights – "We thank You so much for this bountiful harvest of Domino's, KFC, and the always delicious Taco Bell."
  5. Blades of Glory – "I could not love a human baby more than I love this brush."
  1. Old School – Weekend plans that involve a little Home Depot and Bed, Bath and Beyond would drive any man to do beer bongs
  2. Anchorman – I wonder if Bartolo Colon has ever pooped a hammer or a Cornish game hen? Surely Brick Tamland would know
  3. Wedding Crashers – The morbidity of picking up women at funerals is disturbing, yet absolutely brilliant
  4. Talladega Nights – If country bumpkins Jeff Kent and Jake Peavy donned the same threads, they would be baseball's version of Shake n' Bake
  5. Elf – Classic, heartfelt Ferrell is the Jon Rauch of Christmas elves