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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, May 6, 2010

Fantasy baseball: Remember them?

If you finished your draft with Alfonso Soriano as your third outfielder, Vladimir Guerrero at designated hitter and Adrian Beltre at third base, your buddies might have asked you if you thought it was 2006.

Now, Soriano, Guerrero and Beltre are playing as if George W. Bush is still in office and LeBron James is driving to the hole, and Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones are ready to brick the open shot that results.

Of the three, Soriano had the highest fantasy value entering the season, but he was a lower-level starting candidate in deep mixed leagues following a 2009 season in which he batted .241 and was limited to 117 games by injury. The same went for Beltre, who had a miserable 2009 (.265, eight homers, 44 RBI, .683 OPS) but was making the move to a more productive lineup in Boston.

Guerrero, meanwhile, was a late-round candidate at age 35, due to the fact he no longer steals bases (a combined 12 since 2007) and wasn't viewed as an everyday player after batting .295 with 15 homers and 50 RBI in 100 games in 2009.

Let's break down the current value of the trio following a recent stretch in which they have played their way into many owners' starting lineups:

-- Soriano: Prior to the Cubs' game against the Pirates on Thursday, Soriano was batting .326 with seven home runs, 18 RBI and a 1.063 OPS. In his previous five games, he was 9-for-19 with seven runs, five homers and 11 RBI.

During his peak years of 2002-08, Soriano averaged 36 homers and 29 steals. The last two seasons, he has a combined 10 steals in 144 games, which significantly reduces his value.

Soriano should be viewed as a No. 3 outfielder in mixed leagues and he should help you in home runs, but he hasn't driven in more than 75 runs since 2006 and he's hit better than .280 only once since 2003. If you're skeptical, you're not alone.

-- Guerrero:
He entered Thursday batting .333 with three homers, 19 RBI, three steals and an .849 OPS in his first season in Texas.

He's no longer close to the player who, in an 11-season span from 1998 to 2008, averaged 35 homers and 112 RBI. In 2001 and '02, he stole a combined 77 bases. With three more steals this year, he would have six -- or more than he's had in a season since 2006.

Guerrero's value is also limited by the fact he isn't eligible at any other position than utility. Like Soriano, he's a starting candidate. Unlike Soriano, you don't need to worry about Guerrero's batting average dipping significantly below .300 (he's a .321 career hitter whose worst norm since his rookie season was the .295 he batted in 2009).

-- Beltre: He has the worst numbers of the three, but probably the most value.

Beltre entered Thursday batting .340 with two homers, 15 RBI and an .844 OPS. He didn't have a home run in his first 18 games with the Red Sox, but is batting .439 with two homers and eight RBI in his last 10.

Beltre's nightmarish 2009 was the worst of his 12-year career, but at 31, he's three years younger than Soriano and four younger than Guerrero. And it helps that you can play him at third instead of being forced to plug him into a utility spot.

From 2002-08, Beltre averaged 27 homers and 90 RBI. His average is destined to drop (he's a career .272 hitter and he's batted above .276 only twice), but if he hits in the .275 range with more than 20 homers and 90 RBI, he's a fantasy starter.

For the latest fantasy updates, follow Kevin Kleps on Twitter.

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