High Fives: Spring flings

Brandon Funston
Yahoo! SportsApril 1, 2010

The opening of the 2010 MLB season is just days away and I think all fantasy baseball owners would agree, that fact definitely deserves a high five of the hand slap variety. And I got to thinking that a High Fives of the Yahoo! variety wouldn't be a bad idea, either. In our version of High Fives, myself and fellow experts Brad Evans and Scott Pianowski reveal the players that are growing on us, the ones that we're growing apart from, the cream of the Yahoo! waiver basement, the farmhands that we need to have on the radar and some fools in honor of April Fool's Day. Play ball!

Top five players I'm growing more fond of as opening day nears
Brandon Funston Says: Scott Pianowski Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. Ricky Nolasco(notes) – Spring training stats don't matter, unless you post a 21:1 K-to-BB ratio.
  2. Aubrey Huff(notes) – The Giants cleanup hitter has logged three seasons of at least .297/29/104, he's only 33 and he's raking this spring.
  3. Jason Kubel(notes) – One of the cheapest legit shots at .300/30/100 that you'll find on draft day.
  4. Mike Aviles(notes) – Like many pitchers, has returned from Tommy John surgery looking no worse for the wear (hitting nearly .500 this spring).
  5. Sean Rodriguez(notes) – Spring training stats don't matter, unless you slug nearly .900.
  1. Ricky Nolasco – He ended 2009 with a 16-whiff masterpiece and it's been more of the same this spring (1.78 ERA, one walk, 21 Ks).
  2. Grady Sizemore(notes) – You'll never get him this cheap again, enjoy it. He's looked super this month (.378/.521/.595).
  3. Jorge De La Rosa(notes) – We fear Coors Field no longer. De La Soul's stuff is almost as nasty as Ubaldo's.
  4. Jayson Werth(notes) – A very bankable four-category stud, but surprisingly he's not that expensive at the table.
  5. Ryan Zimmerman(notes) – He can do everything Evan Longoria(notes) can do, except one thing – command a lofty ADP. The Washington screen provides a nifty discount.
  1. Francisco Liriano(notes) – Fransucko no more. With his slider biting once again, his 14.14 K/9 this spring is a positive omen.
  2. Carlos Quentin(notes) – Entering power prime, hitting in a loaded lineup, healthy – injury marred '09 will be easily forgotten. "San" Quentin is ready to punish.
  3. Billy Wagner(notes) – Ignore his advanced age, he's smoking the gun again in the high-90s and has little competition.
  4. Conor Jackson(notes) – No longer plagued by the Valley Fever, he is poised for a breakout campaign batting in top third of D-Backs lineup.
  5. Miguel Tejada(notes) – Seems like he's an octogenarian but still incredibly useful SS/3B qualifier – .313-14-83-83 year a season ago
Top five players I'm growing less fond of as opening day nears
Brandon Funston Says: Scott Pianowski Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. Ian Kinsler(notes) – No doubt, he's a fantastic roto asset when healthy, but he's already looking at a DL stint (ankle) for a fifth straight year.
  2. Nate McLouth(notes) – Sure, I noticed his 1-for-35 spring start, and no denying the bloom seems to be off the rose from '08.
  3. Wade Davis(notes) – Has posted a 2.11 WHIP this spring and, with Jeremy Hellickson(notes) waiting in Triple-A, there's not a lot of margin for error in the TB rotation.
  4. Brandon Webb(notes) – He's been set back another month as he tries to come back from the always sketchy shoulder surgery.
  5. Casey McGehee(notes) – There was a good amount of luck built into last year's .301 BA, and his spring has been dysmal (.172).
  1. Nate McLouth – Slow adjustment period to contact lenses (.120 average, 16 whiffs this month). Gaps in his skill set could lead to platoon down the line.
  2. Brian Roberts(notes) – Just typing his name makes my back cranky. His specific game won't translate well to playing hurt.
  3. Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) – It's the wrong year to pay a premium for heavy-speed guys, and context clues point to Ellsbury not being rooted in The Hub.
  4. Cliff Lee(notes) – He'll certainly miss the NL environment and the womb of the Phillies (lots of runs, outstanding defense), and now he's hurt to boot.
  5. Shane Victorino(notes) – Like the player, hate the batting slot; stats will take a tumble from the No. 7 position.
  1. Lance Berkman(notes) – Bum knee and dwindling power trend in five consecutive seasons say Big Puma is more Little Garfield
  2. Jacoby Ellsbury – Early round investment hard to justify when there are so many quality BA/SB/R producers available much later.
  3. Rick Porcello(notes) – Everyone projects a production leap, but sinkerballer's undesirable K/9 suggests otherwise. Could be Fausto Carmona(notes) part II.
  4. Jose Reyes – Thyroid condition and balky hamstrings are frightening. Has the best chance to get mauled by a runaway Grizzly of any big leaguer.
  5. Ryan Franklin(notes) – Shaky peripherals and underwhelming dominance says bushy Civil War general will fall on a bayonet. Simply don't trust him.
Top five players owned in 25 percent or less of Yahoo! leagues
Brandon Funston Says: Scott Pianowski Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. Conor Jackson – It's time to forget the Valley Fever, he's over it. It's time to remember he's a solid 15/15 bet with a strong batting average and a top of the lineup perch to work from.
  2. Drew Stubbs(notes) – He's a legit 15/30 candidate now and maybe 20/40 further down the road.
  3. Mat Latos(notes) – 6-foot-6, fastball that touches 98 mph, Petco Park … he's certainly not available in any of my leagues
  4. Chris Young (SD) – Just a year (and a fairly minor shoulder surgery) removed from being a K-per-IP, mid-3 ERA type and his spring has been impressive.
  5. Dexter Fowler(notes) – Nothing like cheap speed coming from the top of the Rockies lineup.
  1. Nick Johnson(notes) – No one expects a full season, but he's a perfect No. 2 fit in the AL's best offense.
  2. Troy Glaus(notes) – Sure, he's a health risk, but give him 135 games and you might see 30 homers, and you'll get him for practically nothing.
  3. Ian Desmond(notes) – Fielding could be a mess, but if he holds the job, there's a legitimate shot at 10-12 homers, 20-plus steals. The dual-position eligibility is a bonus.
  4. Brad Penny(notes) – Dave Duncan can fix anyone, and pitching for the overwhelming NL Central favorites helps the cause.
  5. Sammy Gervacio(notes) – Nasty slider could make him a closer someday. He's playing wiffle ball this spring (12 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 15 K).
  1. Nick Johnson – Sure he could strain an oblique playing air hockey but a plus pop lefty in the Bronx Bandbox who's also slated to bat second shouldn't be passed up.
  2. Conor Jackson – Back at full strength, he could be a real diamond-in-the-rough hitting near the top of 'Zona lineup.
  3. Matt LaPorta(notes) – Once stalked top prospect crushing the ball in spring. Russell Branyan's(notes) DL derailment swings open the door of opportunity.
  4. Homer Bailey(notes) – Perplexed hitters down the stretch in '09 racking a 2.09 ERA. Still just 23, the potential is still there.
  5. Franklin Morales(notes) – Cheap early season saves source. Whether or not he's unproven he needs to be owned with Huston Street(notes) sidelined.
Top five minor leaguers-in-wait
Brandon Funston Says: Scott Pianowski Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. Stephen Strasburg(notes) – I'm assuming you've heard of this guy.
  2. Buster Posey(notes) – I'm guessing he'll open in Triple-A, but he once played nine positions in a game for FSU and the Giants are likely to be quick in figuring out a way to get his polished bat in the lineup regularly.
  3. Jeremy Hellickson – A K-per-IP type with three quality offerings and good command (5:1 K-to-BB ratio in his professional career).
  4. Pedro Alvarez(notes)Andy LaRoche(notes) has put up nary a roadblock for the power-packed top pick of the '08 MLB draft.
  5. Eric Young, Jr. – Playing time will eventually open up in Colorado for this speed demon. In fact, manager was quoted after sending him down that he could end up being this year's Carlos Gonzalez(notes).
  1. Stephen Strasburg – This year's Tommy Hanson(notes), with maybe a little more upside. Give the people what they want, Washington.
  2. Desmond Jennings(notes)Carl Crawford(notes) clone should be a factor in pennant race; by the winter, Crawford may be headed out of town.
  3. Justin Smoak(notes) – Every Chris Davis(notes) strikeout pushes Smoak one step closer to the Arlington assignment.
  4. Pedro Alvarez – Cheer up, Pittsburgh, better days are coming soon, and you won't be stuck with Andy LaRoche forever.
  5. Michael Taylor(notes) – Didn't have the best camp, but power-speed mix will get him into the Oakland outfield soon.
  1. Stephen Strasburg – Little secret about MLB's greatest prodigy since Mark Prior(notes): he was conceived immaculately. In 120 IP, he'll punch out 140.
  2. Pedro Alvarez – Andy LaRoche is merely a placeholder for the sweet-stroking Bucco. K percentage points to mediocre average but power is very real.
  3. Aroldis Chapman(notes) – Blowing fastballs by hitters will only take you so far. Ask Kyle Farnsworth(notes). With a tad bit more polish he will humiliate the opposition.
  4. Drew Storen(notes) – Unstable Nats pen could push young flamethrower into stopper role by midseason. He could be a sneaky good source of 10-15 saves down the stretch.
  5. Eric Young, Jr. – Has elite speed and terrific contact numbers, but glove needs to be oiled. In terms of late-season speed, he's this year's Rajai Davis(notes).
In honor of April Fool's Day, top five fools
Brandon Funston Says: Scott Pianowski Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. "Foolin" – As a 13-year-old, I wore my black Def Lepard Pyromania concert tee to its grave.
  2. "A fool and his money are easily parted" – I like to use this idiom on my buddies in our fantasy football money league.
  3. Jersey Shore – This nomination isn't for the people on the show, this is for the people who watch the show.
  4. "Ship of Fools" – Always had a soft spot for this World Party song that taught me the word "avarice."
  5. Brad Evans – What an ass that dude is. Seriously.
  1. "Won't Get Fooled Again" – It was a dynamic closer in the 70s and 80s; unfortunately, the aging band looked like fools at the Super Bowl.
  2. The Knuckleball – If you want to make your friends look silly, spend some time working on the ultimate trick pitch.
  3. "The Fool on the Hill" – Can't go wrong with the second half of The Beatles catalogue.
  4. Sidd Finch – The timeless George Plimpton fooled me with his 1985 gem.
  5. The Fools – Hard-working, irreverant band out of Boston is always good for a laugh; see you at the World Dance Party.
  1. Brad Evans – What an ass that dude is. Seriously.
  2. Recent Vice Presidents – Misspelling common words, shooting a friend in the face while hunting, dropping 'F' bombs during a landmark news conference – thank goodness they're essentially powerless
  3. Rodeo Clowns – Getting routinely gored by angry bulls must make finding adequate health coverage very difficult
  4. Women who believed Ricky Martin was straight – Men of all backgrounds have known for decades he played for the other team.
  5. The Doodlebops – The byproduct of Ronald McDonald and Satan hookup, they're foolish, and wickedly evil.