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Capps replaces Nathan as Twins’ closer

The Twins have decided to at closer according to Kelsie Smith via Twitter.

From Rotoworld.com:

Nathan apparently said that he was hurting the team by trying to close and will attempt to regain his form. Maybe with less pressure and more time to recover from his 2010 Tommy John surgery, he will return to his old position and continue to close out games for the Twins. It wasn’t that long ago that Nathan was viewed as the best closer in the game.

Time is running out: Beat me in fantasy baseball and have the chance to win $200

Time is running out: Beat me in fantasy baseball and have the chance to win $200

Here's the deal folks, if you haven't signed up for the , you're a fool. I hate to be harsh, but the truth hurts sometimes.

As of this post, we have eight entries and seven of those contestants are going to at least quadruple their money, just for playing one day of fantasy baseball. Not a season, not a month, not even a week: ONE DAY. This Friday, April 1st. Are you telling me you don’t have the cojones to take me on in fantasy baseball for the chance to win $200? I don’t care if you play fantasy baseball or not; as of right now you have the chance to turn $5 into $200 all for filling out a lineup so what are you waiting for? Sign up today! (Details are below.)

Sign up at FanDuel.com and enter the . It’s easy to sign up and the entry fee is only $5. Once you’re signed up, FanDuel will give you the opportunity to select nine players from the following April 1 MLB games (click here for more , or see below). If you beat me and fellow TSR members (and longtime fantasy baseball enthusiasts) Jamey Codding and David Medsker, you'll win $5. If you finish in the top 7, you'll win even more cash, up to $200.

- Each player has a salary, and you only have $35k to spend. - You must pick the following positions: P, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF - The game starts Fri 1st Apr at 1:05pm EDT so enter before then. - Again, if you manage to finish above our three experts you win an extra $5

Once you’ve selected your team, they’ll be awarded these points in these categories: Hitters: 1B = 1pt, 2B = 2pts, 3B = pts, HR = 4pts, RBI = 1pt, R = 1pt, BB = 1pt, SB = 2pts, Out = -.25pt Pitchers: W = 7pts, ER = -1pt, SO=1pt, IP = 1pt.

Yes, $100, as well as for third place ($75), fourth place ($50), fifth place ($30), sixth place ($25) and seventh place ($20). So for signing up for a $5 contest, you could win $20 as long as you come in seventh. You can finish in at least seventh place right? Right? Right?!

No catch. Sign up is easy, the entry fee is only $5 and all you have to do is beat me in fantasy baseball for one day...ah, so there’s the catch.

Are you good enough to beat me in fantasy baseball? If so, you could win $200.

Brian Wilson injures ribcage, will auction off green shoes to help relief efforts in Japan

A headline like that can only involve Brian Wilson.

The 2010 MLB saves leader wore a pair of green shoes during a spring training game against the Angels on Thursday to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. He will auction off said green spikes, with all the proceeds going . (Visit for the deets.)

In a small twist of irony, the green kicks didn’t bring him much luck. in the same game and might miss Opening Day now. He will be re-evaluated on Monday and if he’s out for an extended period of time, there's reason to believe he could start the season on the DL.

Owners trying to prepare for their upcoming draft can probably draft Wilson with confidence, although it might not be a bad idea to snag Sergio Romo or Jeremy Affeldt with one of your last picks because they would fill in for the breaded one if need be. Affeldt collected four saves last year for the Giants, but Romo is actually the more logical choice to take over the ninth inning duties. He was lights out down the stretch last year as Wilson’s setup man, finishing with an impressive 2.18 ERA and a 5.00 K/BB ratio.

Beat The Scores Report staff in Fantasy Baseball and win a cash prize!

We Got Game: The MLB All-35+ Draft

If you’re anything like me, I hate it when my favorite team signs an aging veteran free agent. I’ve uttered the phrase, “Please God don’t let them sign that crusty old vet,” too many times to count.

But those “crusty old vets” hold a ton of importance to a team’s success, especially in baseball where World Series-winning rosters usually have a mixture of both youth and veteran experience. Take the World Champion Giants for example. They won because of their young pitching, but it wasn’t Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner who wound up holding the World Series MVP Trophy at the end. It was 35-year-old Edgar Renteria, who was cursed by the SF faithful for being yet another horrible Brian Sabean signing, but wound up being a Fall Classic hero.

Today’s media doesn’t pay enough homage to the older MLB players. In fact, when fellow TSR contributor David Medsker and I were brainstorming ideas for a new feature, the first thing I brought up was that we should do an all 24-and-younger MLB team comprised of…well the idea is pretty self explanatory.

It wasn’t until David and I exhausted that idea before he sent me an e-mail that simply read:

Perfect. The moment I read it I burst into laughter. Could you imagine compiling a team of players that were only 35 years or older when present day teams usually build around youth? I love it.

Unfortunately, the guys over at beat us to the punch by compiling their own 35-plus year old team, so David and I decided to actually hold a live draft in order to make two teams. (Take that OBP.)

Below is a round-by-round breakdown of our all 35-and-older MLB draft. We selected a player for every infield position, plus three outfield positions, four starting pitchers (we only had eight to choose from), three relievers, one DH and two bench spots. Once the draft started, David and I quickly developed different strategies for building our rosters, so it was interesting to see how the draft played out. Take a look and let us know if you would have gone a different route.

GM of team “Springfield Geezers” GM of team “He’s Still in the League?”

A-Rod was unquestionably the best position player on the board, and while starting pitching was scarce, I remembered the one time I took a pitcher in the first round (Jason Schmidt, 2005). Never again.

I’ll admit it: I screwed the pooch by not taking Ichiro with the first pick. That’s not to say I don’t like Jeter (whom I believe will bounce back this season at the plate), but Ichiro has been the poster child for consistency his entire career. My first pick of my first 35-and-older MLB draft and I screwed up. Bow + Head = Shame.

I knew Carpenter would be one of my first two picks because after David chose A-Rod, I wasn’t going to build my team around offense. Pitching still wins championships and Carp was clearly the best starter available. Again, I blew it by not taking Ichiro with one of my first two picks but just let it go, okay? Back off.

Had I picked second, Ichiro would have been one of my first two picks, so seeing him "fall" to me in the second round was a bonus. Anthony took the best pitcher on the board, and when I see a run starting, I tend to do the opposite - time to get another bat.

Thirty-nine dingers last year. Pauly still has some pop, plus he is by far the best first baseman of this group.

This is when I really started to hate my draft and I wanted to beg David for a re-do. I’ll gladly take the 20-25 home runs from Soriano, but his numbers are clearly in decline and he plays an awful left field. There’s no doubt that the Ichiro blunder was still fresh on my mind.

But I quickly righted the ship with the selection of Hudson. Now I have the top two pitchers from the available talent pool and I’m completely invested in my pitching staff. As long as I didn't directly look my offense in the eye I was okay with the way my team was shaping up.

And now I'm in trouble. Anthony now has the two best pitchers on the board, so I may as well take one more hitter before drafting my first pitcher. Abreu is a perennial member of my real-life fantasy team (it's a points league, and his high walk rate is gravy), so this one was a no-brainer.

Sigh. Lilly is by no means a #1 starter, but I couldn't afford to let Anthony take him as his #3 starter. Definitely a defensive maneuver. I would much rather have taken Vlad the Impaler here, but there is great depth at the DH slot. I can make it up in the next round.

Finally one of my draft moves paid off. As David noted above, my selection of Hudson caused him to grab Lilly and therefore, Vlad “fell” to me. With this pick, I’m starting to feel a little more optimistic about my offense.

And now I feel a little better about my defense, too. Hunter obviously isn’t the same player he was earlier in this career but he’ll anchor things in the outfield. I don’t expect much of a drop-off from the offensive numbers he put up last year either (.281 average/76 runs/23 home runs/90 RBI/9 SBs).

Big Papi is not a bad consolation prize in the DH slot. Plus, as much as Baltimore’s offense has improved this offseason, Ortiz is still going to have far more run-scoring opportunities than Vlad, even if he lands in the 6-hole like he's projected to.

All right, so I didn't get the two best pitchers. But I definitely have the best closer, and a ton of offense to give him loads of save opportunities.

I don’t know if he meant to or not, but David read me like a book here. I wanted Rivera to pair with my solid starting pitching, but he snagged him a pick before I was going to take him. Lee’s thumb is a concern but if he stays healthy he should be more productive than he was a year ago.

I was somewhat worried that David would take the top two relievers, so I grabbed Nathan while he was still available. Hopefully he’ll return to form and I’ll have a top-notch closer to go with my solid rotation.

There are lots of over-35 catchers, but there is only one who's still producing at the plate, and that is Posada. I never take catchers this early in a fantasy draft, but given the position scarcity, this seemed like the one to take the plunge on.

He's only one year removed from 34 homers and almost 100 runs batted in, and he's one of the most well-liked players in baseball. Can't think of a better guy to round out my outfield. And with Anthony taking one of the two second basemen on the board, I can now punt on the position until the last round.

I’ll be honest, I just didn’t want to wind up with Craig Counsell, so I scooped up DeRosa while he was still available. A wrist injury ruined his 2010 campaign, but when he’s healthy De-Ro can play multiple positions and is the ultimate clubhouse guy. I’m happy to have him on my team…as long as it's not Craig Counsell.

And boom goes the dynamite. I now have three quality starters while David is stuck with Ted Lilly as his No. 1. I may average 0.5 runs a game but hopefully my pitching will match up with his offense.

Anthony now has three starters and I have one, so it's time to pick off another scarce infield position and then go pitcher-crazy. Tejada is no one's first choice these days, but he still has some pop.

Choosing my second pitcher was like choosing between an anvil on my head and a baseball bat to the kneecaps. In the end, I went with the guy with the best combination of low ERA and high strikeout numbers, plus a dandy 1.19 WHIP.

Since David took all the best bats and I went with all the good pitching, I'm now left with a team full of defensive liabilities and injury concerns. That said, Maggs still hit .303 with 12 home runs last year in 84 games. I’ll take it at this point.

Had to do it. At this point, pitching is my strength so I rounded out my rotation with the best arm available in Pavano. Hopefully my franchise is nowhere near New York and I should be fine.

Anthony has now taken his fourth pitcher, which means I can now punt on this position as well since he's capped. May as well bulk up wherever I can, which means relievers. CoCo seems like a better bet than the guy that was just talking about retiring.

Godzilla hit 21 home runs in what was considered an off year for him, plus he can serve as a fourth outfielder, though now that I think about it, my entire outfield is left-handed, as are my catcher and DH. Should match up well against Anthony's starters.

Franklin gives me another closer option if Nathan is hurt all year again. I probably should be adding more offense so that David doesn’t keep loading up on bats but at this point, my pitching is what will make or break me.

Thome was the best bat available, so there you have it. At this point, I was concerned about not adding more infield depth but I address that later.

My last three picks are already spoken for, so I may as well bulk this team up any way I can. Rolen might be worried about playing time when players report to camp, but I have a plan that I think he will find most agreeable.

This was tough. I flirted with taking Saito, but ultimately decided to get at least one lefty in the bullpen, and Oliver's numbers last year were shockingly good.

I would have loved to have Oliver, so nice pick, David. I went with Saito, whom I’m happy with.

Again, another injury prone bat to throw into the mix. I’m a Giants fan and therefore hate Casey Blake, so I went with Chipper. I don’t feel good about the decision, but I feel better than if I would have said the name “Casey Blake.”

And so begins my default picks. Livan's a horse, I'll give him that, but then I remember watching him as a rookie dazzle in the NLCS against Atlanta, where he recorded his 15th strikeout on a called third strike to Fred McGriff that was a good 10 to 12 inches off the plate. Haven't liked him since then.

2011 Fantasy Outlook: What to make of Chase Utley’s knee

2011 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Relievers

Ah, the fantasy closer. They’ll screw with you just as bad as that hot chick you used to have a thing for back in high school.

And the cycle continues year after year.

Look, no matter how you want to tackle the conundrum that is the fantasy closer, just make sure you have a plan of attack. If you want to take one of the top guys in the sixth or seventh round, fine. Just know going into your draft whether or not you’re going to invest in saves or take your chances with two or three guys that you select later in your draft. (Or, punt the stat altogether and load up on offense and starters.)

If you want our advice, draft two or three closers in the 12th round and beyond and call it a day. Maybe the combination of Brian Wilson and Huston Street will get you 80 saves, but a trio of Francisco Rodriguez, Leo Nunez and Joel Hanrahan could rack up the same amount and here’s the kicker: you wouldn’t need to invest picks in the seventh and 13th rounds to acquire K-Rod/Nunez/Hanrahan (who can all be had in the 14th round or later).

If you want to take our advice and select closers later in your draft, here are five pitchers to keep an eye on. All of them are projected to go in the 13th round or later in 12-team leagues.

Is he a little whacked? Sure, but who isn’t? Is his stuff the same as it was earlier in this career when he was with the Angels? No, but K-Rod has adapted well by ditching his slider and relying on his fastball and changeup to get hitters out. He’s a 35-save man these days and he’ll chip in 70 strikeouts while keeping his ERA in the 3.20-range and his WHIP below 1.20. As previously mentioned, pair Rodriguez with guys like Leo Nunez and Joel Hanrahan and you’ll be fine. (It’s also comforting to know that this is a contract year for K-Rod and thus, he better be on his best behavior.)

Elbow injuries in the second half of the year ruined a solid first half for Valverde in 2010. But if he’s healthy and can hold of Joaquin Benoit for the closer job, he should muster 30-plus saves and 60-65 Ks. Just keep an eye on him in spring training. If it looks like he’s having health issues, cross him off your list and move on. There are plenty of other options late in your draft.

While Trevor Hoffman collapsed last year, Axford came out of nowhere to thrive. He struck out 11.79 batters per nine innings and actually improved bumped that rate to 12.38 after the All-Star Break. His ground ball percentage of 48.1 has us encouraged about his potential in 2011. He certainly doesn’t have the makeup of a traditional closer, but that shouldn’t bother you. It’s probably reasonable to expect 25-30 saves, 80-85 Ks and an ERA around 3.20.

We think Broxton has major comeback potential this season after imploding in 2010. Will he be one of the top closers in the game again? Maybe not, but at the very least he should a) hold onto his job the entire year and thus, b) greatly improve his production in 2011. After compiling just 22 saves and 73 Ks with a 4.04 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP last year, you can probably expect a line of 32-85-3.40-1.30 from Broxton in 2011.

Nathan’s an interesting case study because some owners will either treat him like the plague or count on him being one of their late-round sleepers. He probably won’t be 100% by the start of the season as he continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery, but the key is that he’s making progress. If you can nab a couple of closers in rounds 12-17, Nathan might be there in 18th and you can shelve him until he’s ready. Then, assuming he returns to full health, you’ll reap the rewards of being patient and planning ahead on draft day.

1. Brian Wilson, Giants 2. Heath Bell, Padres 3. Joakim Soria, Royals 4. Mariano Rivera, Yankees 5. Neftali Feliz, Rangers 6. Carlos Marmol, Cubs 7. Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox 8. Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers 9. Francisco Rodriguez, Mets 10. John Axford, Brewers 11. Andrew Bailey, A’s 12. Chris Perez, Indians 13. J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks 14. Jose Valverde, Tigers 15. Huston Street, Rockies 16. Brad Lidge, Phillies 17. Ryan Franklin, Cardinals 18. Drew Storen, Nationals 19. Francisco Cordero, Reds 20. Joe Nathan, Twins 21. Craig Kimbrel, Braves 22. Matt Thornton, White Sox 23. Leo Nunez, Marlins 24. Frank Francisco, Blue Jays 25. Brandon Lyon, Astros 26. Fernando Rodney, Angels 27. Kevin Gregg, Orioles 28. Hong-Chih Kuo, Dodgers 29. Ryan Madson, Phillies 30. Joel Hanrahan, Pirates 31. Chris Sale, White Sox 32. Jake McGee, Rays 33. Evan Meek, Pirates 34. Sergio Romo, Giants 35. Daniel Bard, Red Sox 36. Octavio Dotel, Blue Jays 37. Rafael Soriano, Yankees 38. Luke Gregerson, Padres 39. Rafael Betancourt, Rockies 40. Jonny Venters, Braves

2011 Fantasy Baseball All-Contract Year Team

2011 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Starting Pitchers

There seems to be two types of fantasy owners when it comes to drafting starting pitchers:

Fantasy Owner #1: Hello Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum or Felix Hernandez in the early rounds. I’m going to draft at least one stud early and wish the dopes that wait to grab pitchers in the middle to late rounds good luck. Hope they like playing Russian Roulette.

Fantasy Owner #2: While the morons are grabbing supposed studs in the first couple of rounds, I’m loading up on offense since it’s more predictable than figuring out what starters won’t have Zack Grienke-type 2010 campaigns. I’ll grab my pitchers in the middle rounds and be just fine.

No matter which fantasy owner you are, the No. 1 factor when it comes to drafting pitchers is understanding how the scoring system is set up in your league. If you play in a rotisserie league, then you’re probably fine employing Fantasy Owner #2’s philosophy and then making adjustments throughout the year depending on what you need (i.e. trading away saves for strikeouts, or speed for wins and ERA).

On the flip side, if you’re in a head-to-head league where you know a pitcher like Halladay can be the difference between winning and losing a couple of categories, then you may want to think about nabbing a starter early. Again, it’s all about understanding how the scoring is set up in your league.

If you fall into the mindset of Fantasy Owner #1, then you’re well aware of what guys like Halladay, “The Freak,” “King Felix,” Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia bring to the table. Thus, we won’t waste your time waxing poetically about what those starters can do for your team.

Instead, we’ve compiled a group of pitchers that will be available in the middle or late rounds that are skilled in a couple of important categories: Innings, strikeouts and ground balls. Why those categories you ask? We like to keep things simple around here, so here’s our basic philosophy when it comes to pitchers: The more innings they pitch, the more likely they are to pick up wins. The more hitters they strike out, the less the ball is in play where a number of different factors enter into the equation (i.e. defense, the type of park it is, whether or not the shortstop is looking at the hot chick in the third row behind the dugout instead of getting into the correct position, etc.). Finally, the more ground balls that a pitcher can induce, the less likely he is to give up home runs or extra base hits.

With those three factors in mind, here are several names you’ll want to keep an eye on in the middle rounds.

Seeing as how he’s going in the seventh round of most 12-team leagues, don’t wait too long to draft Liriano if you want him. There are rumors that he may get traded to the Yankees, which may only up his fantasy value (assuming owners aren’t scared off by whether or not he can pitch in the Bronx Zoo) so again, don’t fall asleep on him come draft day. His strikeout and walk rates were outstanding last year, but the return of the ground ball has us most excited about his potential this season. After having Tommy John surgery over three years ago, Liriano is back among the elite.

Innings are always a concern with Scherzer but strikeouts never are. After the Tigers sent him to the minors in the middle of the season, Scherzer returned to punch out a batter per inning over his final 23 starts while keeping his ERA below 2.50. He’s a health concern, but if he can avoid the DL there’s a chance he could rack up 190 Ks and 15 wins.

You bet your ass there’s some concern about a) the fact that he pitched a month longer last year as the Giants won the World Series and b) the fact that he'll be a tad overvalued on draft day. But he was one of the hottest regular season finishers of 2010, finishing 10th in ERA (2.61), 26th in WHIP (1.16) and third in strikeouts (101) among pitchers with 75-plus innings after the All-Star Break. You may see his ERA raise from 3.07 last year to around 3.60 this season, but he could also rack up 215 strikeouts and 10-15 wins while sporting a WHIP in the low 1.20s. Not bad for a guy you can get in the 13th round of a 12-team league.

Thanks to the piss-poor team that the Astros have fielded around him, Rodriguez might not win more than 12 games this season. But don’t let that keep you from drafting a guy that had a 2.11 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 9.70 punch-outs per nine innings in 14 starts after the All-Star Break last season. Too bad he didn't pitch for a better team because he'd probably find himself rated higher than #25 in our rankings.

So he’s not the ace the Dodgers expected him to be: that has nothing to do with fantasy baseball. Whether the guy is a solid No. 2 or No. 3, or the ace of a staff, that's not your concern. Billingsley produced a career-best 49.6% ground ball rate and held left-handers to .252. His WHIP (1.28) and ERA (3.57) probably won’t drop significantly (or at all) this year, but we expect him to compile 10-15 more strikeouts and maybe another win or two.

You’re right – Lewis doesn’t fit our profile as a ground ball pitcher. As a starter in Arlington, he’s prone to giving up the long ball but he fits our other categories nicely. After pitching for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in 2008 and 2009, Lewis returned last year to throw over 200 innings for the AL champion Rangers. He also racked up nearly nine Ks per nine innings and kept his ERA below 3.75. Expect similar numbers this year and perhaps a handful more wins.

Dempster certainly isn’t flashy and at 33, his numbers are starting to decline. But he’s posted three consecutive 200-inning seasons and his 8.69 K/9 ratio was his best in any season in which he qualified for the ERA crown.He's someone that could slide into the late rounds and therefore, present a ton of value as you're looking to fill your final rotation spots. You may have to play the matchup game with him more than other pitchers we’ve listed, but you could do worse than a guy that will keep his ERA below 4.00 and rack up 190 Ks and 10-15 wins.

1. Roy Halladay, Phillies 2. Tim Lincecum, Giants 3. Felix Hernadnez, Mariners 4. Cliff Lee, Phillies 5. CC Sabathia, Yankees 6. Jon Lester, Red Sox 7. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers 8. Tommy Hanson, Braves 9. Justin Verlander, Tigers 10. Zack Greinke, Brewers 11. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals 12. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies 13. Dan Haren, Angels 14. Mat Latos, Padres 15. Josh Johnson, Marlins 16. Cole Hamels, Phillies 17. Main Cain, Giants 18. Jered Weaver, Angels 19. David Price, Rays 20. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers 21. Roy Oswalt, Phillies 22. Francisco Liriano, Twins 23. Max Scherzer, Tigers 24. Chad Billingsley, Dodgers 25. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros 26. Matt Garza, Cubs 27. Ted Lilly, Dodgers 28. Shaun Marcum, Brewers 29. Brett Anderson, A’s 30. Tim Hudson, Braves 31. John Danks, White Sox 32. Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers 33. Jonathan Sanchez, Giants 34. Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks 35. Colby Lewis, Rangers 36. Clay Buchholz, Red Sox 37. Ricky Nolasco, Marlins 38. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays 39. Brett Myers, Astros 40. Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies 41. Johnny Cueto, Reds 42. Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays 43. Phil Hughes, Yankees 44. Madison Bumgarner, Giants 45. Trevor Cahill, A’s 46. Jaime Garcia, Cardinals 47. Josh Beckett, Red Sox 48. Ryan Dempster, Cubs 49. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays 50. C.J. Wilson, Rangers 51. Brian Matusz, Orioles 52. Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals 53. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks 54. Edinson Volquez, Reds 55. Jair Juerrjens, Braves 56. Bronson Arroyo, Reds 57. Wade Davis, Rays 58. James Shields, Rays 59. Johan Santana, Mets 60. Anibal Sanchez, Marlins

2011 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Outfield

2011 Fantasy Rankings: Third Basemen

Third base: it's almost as bad as shortstop.

In retrospect, we'd like to add a twelfth , and that is Jose Bautista. Going undrafted in most leagues, he scored over 200 points more than any other third basemen in one of our leagues last season, which means he now has a giant fantasy bullseye on his chest, and if he doesn't finish in the top five among third basemen this year, he'll be considered a bust. The reason? The sixth-ranked third baseman in the draft projections is a second baseman (Martin Prado). Yikes.

But fear not, fellow roto-geeks. There are some bargain picks to be had at the hot corner once the big five (Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, and Bautista) are off the board. Obviously your best bet is to get one of them, but if that is not an option, stock up on as many other positions as you can, and with some luck, these men below will hopefully keep you competitive.

The Greek God of Walks will obviously do more than just keep you competitive, but you'll need to wait a few games (ten in most leagues) before you can play him there. Once he's set, though, just sit back and enjoy the show. And by the show, we mean the shots of Youkilis cursing at himself on the bench whenever he makes an out. Competitive bugger, that Youkilis.

The Panda lost 38 pounds this offseason, and is already tearing the cover off the ball in spring training. We love players who have something to prove, and after compiling a limp .268-61-13-63 stat line in 2010, Sandoval is that guy. But is he really sloted to bat eighth in the order? That's a little disconcerting.

Contract year, ahoy! Yes, the Cubs have an option for 2012, but it's at $16 million, and it will only be guaranteed if Ramirez wins the MVP or the Cubs go to the World Series. (In other words, it will not be guaranteed.) He looked like his old self by year's end after a putrid first half, and with the addition of Carlos Pena, the Cubs lineup has the potential to be dangerous. It could also implode at a moment's notice - witness yesterday's dugout dispute, which involved the normally laid-back Ramirez - but we expect Aramis to sing for his supper.

Talk about an ideal situation. Reynolds is currently projected to bat seventh for the new-look O's, and even there, he'll have Derrek Lee in front of him and Matt Wieters behind him. He won't have any of the pressure to produce that he had in Arizona, and one has to think that will have a huge impact on his approach at the plate. Of course, we're still avoiding him like the plague in our points-based leagues (those 200 strikeouts are death), but he's definitely worth a late flier in 5x5 leagues.

He led the Brewers in RBI last year. Let us guess - you thought that honor belonged to Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder? So did we. McGehee could stand to take a few more walks (all right, a lot more walks), but he's a damn fine hitter overall.

He's probably going to strike out a ton this year now that the teams have him on video, but he's probably also going to hit close to 30 dingers and drive in 100 runs, and can likely be had in the 17th round. Works for us.

Meet the new Mark Reynolds, same as the old Mark Reynolds? Time will tell, but he could be good for 20 homers, if you can stomach the strikeouts.

Why, again, would you play either at third base when they're eligible at second base?

Who the hell knows what he'll be eligible at next year.

Below is our official ranking of third basemen.

1. Evan Longoria, TB 2. Alex Rodriguez, NYY 3. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS 4. David Wright, NYM 5. Jose Bautista, TOR 6. Kevin Youkilis, BOS (will not be eligible at beginning of season) 7. Adrian Beltre, TEX 8. Pablo Sandoval, SF 9. Aramis Ramirez, CHC 10. Casey McGehee, MIL 11. Michael Young, TEX 12. Pedro Alvarez, PIT 13. Michael Cuddyer, MIN 14. Mark Reynolds, AZ 15. Scott Rolen, CIN 16. Chone Figgins, SEA (will not be eligible at beginning of season) 17. Chipper Jones, ATL 18. Ian Stewart, COL 19. Placido Polanco, PHI 20. Chase Headley, SD 21. Chris Johnson, HOU

2011 Fantasy Rankings: Shortstops

2011 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Second Basemen

We try to give our readers a basic strategy when it comes to our rankings and our strategy for second base is rather simple: Nab one of the top seven guys in the first 1-5 rounds or good luck sifting through the garbage later.

Can you acquire value in guys like Ben Zobrist, Aaron Hill, Brian Roberts and Gordan Beckham later in your draft? Of course, but why not invest one of your first five picks in a top-7 player and not worry about trying to address a thin position later?

If it’s your strategy to fill your 2B spot in Rounds 11-12, then great: We don’t begrudge anyone else’s strategy. But we prefer to nab one of the top 7 players in the early rounds and call it a day. Below are the top 7 in 2011.

Cano was one of fantasy baseball’s most reliable offensive players in 2010 and it appears as though his down year in ’08 is in the rearview mirror. He finished among the top 3 at his position in batting average, home runs, RBIs and runs scored and is easily the No. 1 fantasy second baseman heading into 2011. Expect numbers similar to last season: .319 BA/103 R/29 HR/109 RBI/3 SB.

Considering he’s already banged up, Utley may scare some owners away on draft day. But he’ll still go in the second round so if you want him, don’t wait. Utley’s best days are probably behind him but he’s still a top-five option at a thin position, so don’t talk yourself out of taking him just because he’s been banged up this spring. (He did rebound nicely after coming back last year, so you don’t want to be the fool that passed on him because of his present injuries only to watch him mash later.)

Pedroia is now completely healthy after having foot surgery last season and while he might not steal a ton of bases early in the year as he gets back into game shape, he should finish with double-digit swipes when it’s all said and done. You can probably expect 100-plus runs, 15-18 dingers and a .300 average out of the BoSox second baseman in 2011.

There’s a lot to love about Uggla’s new digs this season. As a Marlin, he hit .354 in 45 games over his career at Turner Field and while that’s a small sample size, it’s hard not to get excited about his fantasy value this season. His average may drop considerably, but he’s still a consistent source of power and he should drive in 100-plus runs for his new team. Expect him to go in the fourth round of a 12-team league.

Ankle and groin problems limited Kinsler to 400 at bats last season but he’s still a top-5 player at his position. He’ll hit around .285 again this season but if he stays healthy, you can expect an increase in his home run, run, RBI and stolen base production. When he plays, he’s a 20/20 threat every year and considering most owners only base their projections off of previous year’s stats, Kinsler may slip into the fifth round and would be a steal at that point (relatively speaking).

Phillips is the only second baseman to have racked up double-digit home runs and steals in each of the past five seasons, averaging 21 dingers and 24 swipes per year during that span. He’s as consistent as they come and when you draft him, you know exactly what you’re getting. Expect numbers comparable to 2010: .275 BA/100 R/ 18 HR/59 RBI/ 16 SB.

Whether his 2010 season was all about luck or a product of staying healthy (uh, or both), there’s no doubt Weeks is a pretty good 2B option when he plays. You can probably expect a drop in production this year but he’ll still hit 25-plus home runs, cross the plate 100-plus times and give you double-digit steals. Not bad for a player at a thin position who you can pick up in the fourth or fifth.

He’s the rest of our second basemen rankings: 1. Robinson Cano, Yankees 2. Chase Utley, Phillies 3. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox 4. Dan Uggla, Braves 5. Ian Kinsler, Rangers 6. Brandon Phillips, Reds 7. Rickie Weeks, Brewers 8. Ben Zobrist, Rays 9. Brian Roberts, Orioles 10. Aaron Hill, Blue Jays 11. Martin Prado, Braves 12. Howie Kendrick, Angels 13. Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks 14. Gordon Beckham, White Sox 15. Neil Walker, Pirates 16. Chone Figgins, Mariners 17. Danny Espinosa, Nationals 18. Mike Aviles, Royals 19. Juan Uribe, Dodgers 20. Omar Infante, Marlins

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