Guessing is okay

Matt Romig
Yahoo! Sports

I have absolutely no clue what this guy is going to do this year.

It's not the most reassuring of scouting reports, but it's part of the reality of fantasy sports. When you pack 21 rounds and roughly 250 total player selections into a 90-minute draft, you're going to have to make a reach or two.

It's when your roster is littered with mystery men that the alarms go off. This was my reality on opening day. I'm not going to say I was in full panic mode, but I did consider pouring a Bud Light over my corn flakes to kick-start the morning.

David Ortiz? No clue. Richard Hidalgo? You tell me. Tim Salmon? Rich Aurilia? I feel like the guy who bought Seabiscuit. In six months I could be running away from the field or I might be institutionalized. When was the last time a mental hospital admitted a patient who was muttering to himself about Josh Phelps?

As much as we'd all like to have a roster full of meal tickets, it's the guys who take the field under a cloud of uncertainty that make fantasy sports what it is. Anyone can grab Albert Pujols in the first round; it's finding 35 homers and 115 RBIs in the 16th round that keeps the message boards alive.

There are two extremes in the free agent pool. At one end, you have your completely worthless players – your platoon guys, backup catchers and slap-hitting middle infielders. Out of respect to the profession I won't name any names here, but Carlos Baerga would be a good example. At the other end you have your top picks, the guys that have to produce to keep your team afloat.

Somewhere in between can be found the topic of today's discussion. I'm going to take a look at one player from each team who is capable of just about anything this season. Think: Phil Mickelson at the final round of a major – they may put forth a championship effort or they may break your heart. You just don't know.

Each player comes with a corresponding buy rating. Is it too early to make snap judgments based on one week of play? Absolutely. Will managers in your league overreact? Probably. It's your job to take advantage of that fact. This is a great time to float out some offers and see what kind of owners you are dealing with.

A sell rating can mean two things: Either its time to give up, or a player is off to a hot start and will never be move valuable. Buy ratings generally mean this is a good time to make a play for a guy. The hold category here is full of wait-and-see guys.

Strong Buy
Jeromy Burnitz, Colorado Rockies: Burnitz was dropped in more than 4,000 Yahoo! Sports leagues on Saturday and another 1,500 or so on Sunday. I guess with only one homer in his first four games, it's clear the Coors Field-effect is overrated. A subtle reminder to fantasy managers: HE HASN'T PLAYED A HOME GAME YET.

Adrian Beltre, Los Angeles Dodgers: Complain all you want about the move to seventh in the batting order, just keep hitting home runs Adrian.

Miguel Cabrera, Florida Marlins: Sophomore jinx? Too much hype? I don't think so. He took Kevin Millwood deep Sunday for his third homer in six games.

Tom Glavine, New York Mets: Glavine, now 2-0 after Sunday's win, was drafted in only 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Remember, he's only one year removed from 18 wins and a sub-3.00 ERA season.

Aramis Ramirez, Chicago Cubs: Now might be a good time to trade for Ramirez at bargain prices. He's a perennial slow starter who usually displays his power in the summer months.

Scott Podsednik, Milwaukee Brewers: He's like Dave Roberts and Alex Sanchez, only he can hit for average. It's time to give this career minor leaguer the respect he certainly didn't get on draft day.

David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox: He topped 100 RBIs in only 128 games last year and is maintaining that pace in 2004 with eight RBIs in the club's first seven games. Ortiz owners have no problem with Kevin Millar's slow start.

Jose Cruz, Tampa Bay Devil Rays: His back-to-back 30-homer seasons seem like a distant memory. Now back in the American League, I like his positioning behind Crawford, Baldelli and Huff.

Javy Lopez, Baltimore Orioles: Homered off Pedro Martinez in the opener to spite me for calling him the most overvalued player on the draft board. I'm sold for now, Javy.

Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox: Still not producing runs, but with an 8-for-22 start it looks like we won't have to wait until July for his bat to wake up this year. That wasn't a misprint fantasy owners: Konerko did steal a base on opening day, his first since 2001.

Jermaine Dye, Oakland Athletics: The A's need a big bat to protect Eric Chavez. Why didn't they go out and get one? Maybe because they knew Dye could return to his pre-injury form. Remember, he carried Oakland to the playoffs in 2001.

Mark Teixeira, Texas Rangers: Had nearly as many strikeouts as hits in 2003, but was still a popular pick on draft day. If he keeps hitting three-run homers, we'll live with the strikeout-per-hit pace he's on again this year.

Reggie Sanders, St. Louis Cardinals: Reggie actually qualifies as a buy, sell and hold. Nobody hits homers in bunches quite like this guy. It's just a matter of getting in and out at the right time.

Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks: Two starts without a win could lower his asking prices in your league. He's still on a strikeout-per-inning pace and he would be 1-0 right now if not for Albert Pujols' bat.

Fernando Vina, Detroit Tigers: He scored a ton of runs for St. Louis and Milwaukee simply by getting on base. If he can approach a .380 on-base percentage, which he's done twice in his career, he'll be a nice pickup in deep leagues.

Juan Gonzalez, Kansas City Royals: After 50 spring training at-bats without a homer, fantasy owners have to be concerned with the lack of pop out of the gate. Only one extra-base hit through six games? We didn't draft this guy to steal bases.

J.D. Drew, Atlanta Braves: Hit 10 homers in May of 2001. Hasn't hit 10 combined homers in consecutive months since. I'll give him a few weeks to get acclimated in Atlanta, but not much longer than that.

Livan Hernandez, Montreal Expos: Last year he posted a career-low WHIP, a career-high in strikeouts and his best ERA since 1997. He's pitched in hard luck so far in 2004, but it looks like another year of solid numbers is in the cards.

Pat Burrell, Philadelphia Phillies: He's not hitting .231 like he did last April, but we'd like to see more than one extra-base hit every six games.

Brian Giles, San Diego Padres: Giles hit only 20 homers in 2003 and from the looks of it, PETCO Park is not going to be a left-handed hitter's best friend. See if you can't swing a deal, but you might want to wait until his average is above .200.

Tim Salmon, Anaheim Angels: Already relegated to seventh in the order after a poor spring, he could start losing at-bats to Jeff DaVanon after a 1-for-20 start.

Richard Hidalgo, Houston Astros: Exhilarating start, but we've seen this from him before. He cranked six April homers in both 2001 and 2002 and finished those seasons with 19 and 15 bombs respectively. It might be time to test his trade value.

Edgardo Alfonzo, San Francisco Giants: On Saturday, the Giants followed Bonds with A.J. Pierzynski, a guy who may finish the season with more consonants than homers. Alfonzo's value is tied to his position in the order.

Rich Aurilia, Seattle Mariners: Hot start came at the expense of an Anaheim team with a 7.53 team ERA through Saturday. May be no better time to find someone willing to overpay.

Ken Griffey Jr., Cincinnati Reds: See if you can trade him to someone who hasn't watched baseball for the past three years.

Kenny Lofton, New York Yankees: Was moved to leadoff and promptly went 1-for-12 with one run scored over three games. Suddenly, Bubba Crosby is swinging a hot bat.

Eric Hinske, Toronto Blue Jays: Third base isn't the fantasy wasteland it was when he earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2002. His home run Saturday was the first sign he might be putting his sophomore slump behind him.

Omar Vizquel, Cleveland Indians: It's official; 2002 was a complete fluke.

Cristian Guzman, Minnesota Twins: The shortstop pool is too deep in talent to wait for this guy to return to his .300/30-steal form of 2001.

Jason Kendall, Pittsburgh Pirates: He's never had power, he doesn't run anymore and he hasn't topped 75 RBIs since 1998. And yet we continue to draft him. I'd hang on to see if he gets traded, but at this point it doesn't matter.

So far, things are coming together quite nicely for my little band of question marks. Salmon will have to go soon, and Edgardo might follow him to the waiver wire shortly after. But other than that I'm just a few John Smoltz blown saves away from a perfect opening week.

It is, of course, a marathon and not a sprint. As for what it feels like to run a marathon I have no clue.

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