High Fives: Springing forward

Brad Evans
Yahoo! Sports

After weeks of spring training and WBC action, it's time to reassess the fantasy baseball landscape. In this edition of High Fives, our experts, Andy Behrens, Brad Evans and Scott Pianowski, reveal the players that are gaining and falling out of favor, select their favorite Mr. Irrelevant candidates, speculate on closers in the rough, and identify fantasy's men of mystery.

Top five players who you are growing more and more fond of this spring
Scott Pianowski Says: Andy Behrens Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. Adam Jones – Don't call him Pac Man but he's gobbling up bases; seven this month
  2. Jason Motte – He's mowing them down in camp (1.23 ERA, 12 Ks, 1 BB); Cardinals are crazy if they don't give him the ninth inning
  3. Coco Crisp – Has his joie de vivre back and play reflects it (.371/.521/.514); Royals won't jerk him in and out of lineup
  4. Jon Lester – Hit the ground running, could be Boston's true No. 1
  5. Javier Vazquez – The most affordable 200 strikeouts you can buy; new environment will trim the ERA
  1. Felipe Lopez – Consciously, I really don't feel any different about him. But my draft and auction results tell a different story
  2. Mark Reynolds – A sneaky late-round corner infield option capable of a Dunn-ish line at a much lower price
  3. Jason Motte – If he closes, which seems increasingly likely, this guy has the stuff to enter 2010 as a top-tier RP
  4. Kendry Morales – Hitting .400/.432/.625 this spring, and the minor league track record is outstanding
  5. Manuel Corpas – Apparently I think so highly of him that he's worth six percent of my salary cap in an NL-only league. (Expletive) closers
  1. Magglio Ordonez – Constantly overlooked due to advancing age, but should be a consistent four-cat producer hitting behind Miggy
  2. Kevin Slowey – Spectacular spring combined with strong second-half says a major step forward should be expected
  3. Kevin GreggCarlos Marmol's meltdown in the WBC and Gregg's sensational spring (6 IP, 0 ER, 6:1 K:BB) has goggle-eyed stopper on verge of winning closer's job
  4. Mike Fontenot – Prime bargain material with 300-plus ADP; clear-cut starter with 20-HR upside
  5. Jason Motte – Rocket arm, growing confidence/command and Chris Perez's injury setback means he could runaway with Cards' closing job
Top five players who you are growing less and less fond of this spring
Scott Pianowski Says: Andy Behrens Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. Joe Mauer – Ordinary power, disappearing bags, injury concerns, why cut the big check?
  2. Justin Verlander – Twelve walks against seven strikeouts? Panic in Detroit
  3. Scott Baker – Eight homers in 13 innings, maybe it's time to stop paying the expectant price
  4. Travis Hafner – Indians are whistling a happy tune but it's been a messy spring. I'm not a fan of the DH lock-up, either
  5. Scott Olsen – There isn't a format where I'd take him, even for free
  1. Joe Mauer – The next good news about his back will be the first good news. You can't pay a premium price, not now
  2. Vladimir GuerreroJust made his '09 debut, and the old-man knees will be a worry all year
  3. Francisco Cordero – You hate to fret too much about spring stats … but you hate to see an ERA in the teens, any time of year
  4. Vernon Wells – New year, same old hamstrings
  5. Cole Hamels – He talks a good game for a guy with an inflamed elbow, but he's dropped a few spots on my cheat sheet
  1. Max Scherzer – Mad Max will be a dynamite strikeout pitcher if shoulder holds up; just not convinced it will
  2. Chris Davis – Crush has beastly power and the Texas lineup is conducive for appreciable RBI totals, but hype has swelled ADP into top 60;
  3. Derrek Lee – Evaporating power still evident this spring; Votto, Atkins, Delgado more desirable
  4. Cole Hamels – Elbow inflammation feeds into injury downside; too much to risk in the top 50 when Webb, Peavy, Halladay are going around the same time
  5. David Price – Former top pick will eventually be unhittable, but likely start at Triple-A waters down value
Top five X-factor players for the 2009 season
Scott Pianowski Says: Andy Behrens Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. Alex Rodriguez – The biggest X-factor of our generation
  2. Tim Lincecum – Abused arm at a young age, or physical freak of nature?
  3. Rich Harden – Upside: Cy Young; Downside: "Dr. Andrews will see you now."
  4. Carlos Marmol – No one disputes electric stuff, but does Lou Piniella prefer him in the Houdini role?
  5. Max Scherzer – Unreal repertoire versus loud mechanics; do you feel lucky?
  1. Alex Rodriguez – It's going to take a pick in the 20-30 range. That's also the range for the number of games he's guaranteed to miss
  2. Mark Reynolds – Yeah, it's his second appearance here (see above). As much as you like the power potential, you can't deny the .235 possibility
  3. Tommy Hanson – Spectacular AFL numbers and now an excellent spring, but how long can you afford to stash him?
  4. Ubaldo Jimenez – Frightening stuff and only 25, but he's been a little WHIP-challenged so far. The ratios could destroy his value
  5. Todd Helton – He's healthy, but no one expects that to last. He's just one year removed from a .320/.434/.494 season
  1. Matt Wieters – Presumed two-month stint in the minors may lead to avoidance, but mammoth offensive potential
  2. Carlos Marmol – He's equipped with the best stuff in the Cubs pen, but WBC setback and Sweet Lou's growing confidence in Gregg screams risk at ADP 134
  3. Max Scherzer – Shoulder worries enhance risk, but 10.61 K/9 and improved command of secondary pitches very attractive
  4. David Price – Expected three-week stint at Triple-A cools immediate value but should be a superb mixed-league No. 4 at some point this year
  5. Jordan Schafer – Electric spring (.419 BA) and Josh Anderson's limited offensive tools suggest rookie could make a deep league impact
Top five players that will finish the season with the most saves among pitchers not expected to have a closer job to open the season
Scott Pianowski Says: Andy Behrens Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. Chris Ray – No one has long-term faith in George Sherrill, and a mid-season trade makes sense.
  2. Jensen Lewis – One season does not make Kerry Wood bulletproof
  3. Leo Nunez – Future is now if Matt Lindstrom can't get right
  4. Brad ZieglerJoey Devine shouldn't be considered a sure thing, even with that nasty 2008 line
  5. David Aardsma – Crazy gridlock in front of him but I'm playing a hunch here
  1. Chris Ray – The awkward transition might already be underway
  2. Brad Ziegler – It's OK to love Joey Devine, but not trust his elbow
  3. Leo Nunez – Lindstrom (shoulder) is already dinged, and he's something less than proven
  4. John Grabow – Or some other Buc. The point is, Matt Capps seems like a trade chip
  5. Chad Cordero – No one seems like a threat to run away and hide with this job. Please note: This is not an official recommendation of any Seattle closer
  1. Jason Motte – Triple-digit heat, mound moxie and standout spring means Motte could be biggest closer bargain of year
  2. Kevin Gregg – Specs are Kent Tekulve-esque, hopefully bullpen returns will be too
  3. Grant Balfour – When Troy Percival eventually strains his hip, Balfour will inevitably wrestle away the closer's job from Dan Wheeler; career 11.09 K/9
  4. Chris Ray – George Sherrill's shaky control and tenuous grip on job should open door for revitalized Ray; 0.00 ERA, 7:1 K:BB in six spring IP
  5. J.J. Putz – K-Rod's downward sliding peripherals could vault Putz back into ninth-inning if injury/ineptitude strikes
Top five players that you could reasonably expect to land after pick No. 250
Scott Pianowski Says: Andy Behrens Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. Paul Maholm – A tidy 0.66 spring ERA, first-round pedigree, hidden in small-market Pittsburgh
  2. Jordan Zimmermann – His brilliant spring speaks for itself (12.1 scoreless innings, eight baserunners, 16 strikeouts)
  3. Gary Sheffield – Power has dropped off but the batting eye and the running instincts are still there, and the supporting cast doesn't hurt
  4. Mike Pelfrey – Heavy sinker, high-end pedigree, new park is expected to play big
  5. Mark Ellis – If he can get the shoulder right, there's legitimate 15-15 potential
  1. Brandon Lyon – He's buried deep in the pre-ranks, so many will miss him
  2. Felipe Lopez – Qualifies all over the diamond, likely to bat leadoff, and the O-rank is 257
  3. Skip Schumaker – It only takes five starts to gain 2B eligibility
  4. Fred Lewis – He's 20-plus steals without the pain of a disastrous average
  5. Kendry Morales – Another repeat customer on my High Fives … sorry. Let's just make my fondness for Kendry perfectly clear. His ADP is 243.3
  1. Elijah Dukes – Not daughter-dating material, but a potential 20-20 fantasy dreamboat; Spring stats: .320 BA, 3 HR, 12 RBI, SB, 8:3 K:BB in 25 at-bats
  2. Carlos Gomez – Showing more patience and power this spring; could compile 10-plus HRs, 35-plus SBs
  3. Shin-Soo Choo – 15-15 capability with .300 BA upside is very hard to find deep in drafts
  4. Paul Maholm – Pirates' Captain Hook forcing opponents off the plank this spring – 13.2 IP, 1 ER, 7 HA, 8:1 K:BB
  5. Billy Butler – Pair of doubles/homers along with .343 BA in 35 spring at-bats a sign the Chub of Club could finally unlock muscle
If you were a major leaguer, top five songs you'd want playing on the stadium loudspeaker prior to your at bats
Scott Pianowski Says: Andy Behrens Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. "Low Rider" (War) – If it's good enough for Mark Loretta and Richard Linklater, it's good enough for me
  2. "Orange Crush" (R.E.M.) – But it has to be Michael Stipe on the lyrics, not Andy Behrens
  3. "Ziggy Stardust" (David Bowie) – A tune I could never get sick of
  4. "The Immigrant Song" (Led Zeppelin) – Can't go wrong with their catalogue; this is just a Led Zep placeholder
  5. "Cut Your Hair" (Pavement) – Always puts me in a good mood
  1. "Carcass of Ernie Banks" (Johnson & Tofte) – In this scenario, we're assuming that I'm a Cub. These lyrics are simply golden
  2. "Snowbird" (Anne Murray) – That (expletive) fires me up! Wooooo! (expletive) yeah!
  3. "The Six Million Dollar Man Theme" – For obvious reasons
  4. "Unsatisfied" (The Replacements) – This song should probably follow my at-bat, actually
  5. "Fiesta" (The Pogues) – OK, this isn't even a joke. This would be the song. And there would be a pre-at-bat dance, obviously
  1. "Thunderstruck" (AC/DC) – Any AC/DC song would do, but Angus' thunderous guitar work on this track could convince the Noise to jump through a sliding glass door, Hunter Pence-style
  2. "Tha Shiznit" (Snoop Dogg) – Because deep down, we all like to sip on 40s of O.E.
  3. "Paradise City" (Guns n' Roses) – Axl's shrieking would crack Eric Gagne's glasses
  4. "Big Mouth Strikes Again" (The Smiths) – A sense of depression and bewilderment would instantly burden the opposing pitcher
  5. "Do you really want to hurt me" (Culture Club) – When you need to get plunked to extend the game