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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fantasy baseball top 100: Nos. 26-50

Before we get to Part III of our four-part breakdown of the top 100 on our (cue Mel Kiper) big board, we are required by fantasy law to give an Alex Rodriguez update.

Reports out of New York this week said the Yankees are sticking to their May 15 timeline for A-Rod's return from hip surgery, but there is some belief Mr. July will be back sooner.

If Rodriguez returns in the middle of May, you would have him back for Week 7 of the fantasy season, which begins Monday, May 17. If you're worried about season totals, May 15 is slated to be the Yankees' 37th game of the season -- which would mean Rodriguez would miss 22 percent of the season, assuming the hip doesn't sideline him again later this summer.

Rodriguez's average draft position in ESPN leagues is 28.3, which would place him in the upper third of the third round in 12-team leagues.

I am sticking with my stance from last week: Set a number at which you refuse to go lower to draft Rodriguez, and restrict yourself to that rule. I not-so-cleverly dubbed it the Theory of 37 because I wouldn't take the risk on A-Rod until Round 4 -- pick 37, at the earliest, in 12-team leagues.

Our 12-team News-Herald league drew for draft order this week and, naturally, I received the 12th pick, leaving my fourth-round pick at ... 37.

We'll see if I get the chance to live up to my word this Sunday.

On to Nos. 26-50, with the top 25 to be posted Friday.

50. Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles: He won’t provide much pop, but he will steal 40 or more bases, score a lot of runs and hit for average.

49. James Shields, SP, Rays: His strikeouts dropped from 184 to 160, but he won two more games and should only get better in his fourth season.

48. John Lackey, SP, Angels: If he pitches a full season, he should come close to his 2007 numbers (19-9 with a 3.01 ERA and 179 strikeouts).

47. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs: If you don’t want to take a chance on A-Rod, he’s the next-best option at the hot corner.

46. Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Mets: He set the single-season saves record, then cashed in with the Mets. Just don’t expect another 62 saves.

45. Brad Lidge, RP, Phillies:
He won’t go 41-for-41 in saves again, but he certainly doesn’t seem to be the same guy who struggled in Houston.

44. Jason Bay, OF, Red Sox: He drove in 37 runs in 49 games after being traded to the Red Sox, and it’s reasonable to believe he could reach 120 RBI batting in that lineup.

43. Russell Martin, C, Dodgers: A rare catcher who steals bases (18 last year), but Brian McCann is much better in the power categories.

42. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: He was a bit disappointing last year, but don’t discount his prolific 2007 (30 homers, 94 RBI, 32 steals, .288).

41. Brian McCann, C, Braves: The best catcher on the board has averaged 22 homers and 91 RBI the last three seasons.

40. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees: Maybe the fact he’s getting a later start will mean he’ll hit in September.

39. Cliff Lee, SP, INDIANS:
Don’t count on 22-3 and another Cy Young, but 15 to 18 wins with a decent strikeout total isn’t a stretch.

38: Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: Fantasy owners can’t wait to see what’s next after he batted .342 in 2007, then had 18 homers, 76 RBI and 35 steals in 2008, his first full season.

37. Joe Nathan, RP, Twins: Pencil him in for at least 36 saves (he has five straight seasons of reaching that number), a low ERA and more strikeouts than innings pitched.

36. Dan Haren, SP, Diamondbacks:
He’s a combined 31-17 with 398 strikeouts the last two seasons.

35. Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: His power and steal numbers dropped in 2008, but he still batted .306 with 20 homers.

34. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: If he’s healthy, which wasn’t the case last year, he’ll hit 35-plus home runs and drive in 120 runs or more.

33. Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: His 2007 (50 homers, 119 RBI, .288) was much more impressive than his 2008 (34, 102, .276). In points leagues, beware of strikeouts.

32. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays: He still has to improve in runs scored and batting average to be a fantasy force, but it’s hard to argue with 27 homers and 85 RBI as a rookie.

31. Jonathan Papelbon, RP, Red Sox: It’s difficult to select a closer this early, but he can save games much better than he can dance.

30. Kevin Youkilis, 1B, Red Sox: He can play first and third, and is a double (43) and RBI (115) machine.

29. Roy Oswalt, SP, Astros: He has a 3.13 career ERA and rebounded from a terrible start in 2008 to win 17 games.

28. Jake Peavy, SP, Padres: He would be better than the seventh-ranked pitcher if we were certain to get the 2007 Peavy (19-6, 2.54 ERA, 240 strikeouts) instead of the 2008 version (10-11, 2.85, 166).

27. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies:
Before you draft the 25-year-old who won 14 games and struck out 196 in his third season, make sure his sore elbow is of no concern. As of now, that seems to be the case.

26. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers: If he can improve upon his power numbers in his fourth season, this speedy Ranger could surpass Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley at the position.


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