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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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

2011 fantasy football rankings: Running backs

If you missed the first position rankings of the season, click here for a breakdown of the quarterbacks.

On to the players most of us can't live without in the first round of our draft: the running backs.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Chris Johnson ending his holdout, combined with concerns over Arian Foster's hamstring injury, have resulted in a shakeup of our original top six running backs.

Now that Johnson is no longer a threat to miss any games, and Foster is, we have Johnson at No. 2, followed by Ray Rice and Jamaal Charles. We dropped Foster to No. 5, one spot ahead of Maurice Jones-Drew.

If the injury is a threat to keep Foster out of the regular-season opener, it's a threat to bother him all year, which is a huge concern, obviously, for a player we considered No. 1 overall a few weeks ago. We'll have more on the values of Foster and Johnson on Saturday in a column in the print editions and at

Rank, player, team GP-Yds-TD-Rec
1. Adrian Peterson, Min 15-1,298-13-36
2. Chris Johnson, Ten 16-1,364-12-44
3. Ray Rice, Bal 16-1,220-6-63
4. Jamaal Charles, KC 16-1,467-8-45
5. Arian Foster, Hou 16-1,616-18-66
6. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac 14-1,324-7-34
7. LeSean McCoy, Phi 15-1,080-9-78
8. Rashard Mendenhall, Pit 16-1,273-13-23
9. Frank Gore, SF 11-853-5-46
10. Michael Turner, Atl 16-1,371-12-12
11. Steven Jackson, StL 16-1,241-6-46
12. Matt Forte, Chi 16-1,069-9-51
13. Darren McFadden, Oak 13-1,157-10-47
14. Peyton Hillis, Cle 16-1,177-13-61
15. Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG 16-1,235-8-47
16. LeGarrette Blount, TB 13-1,007-6-5
17. DeAngelo Williams, Car 6-361-1-11
18. Felix Jones, Dal 16-800-2-48
19. Ryan Mathews, SD 12-678-7-22
20. Jahvid Best, Det 16-555-6-58
21. Knowshon Moreno, Den 13-779-8-37
22. Ryan Grant, GB 1-45-0-0
23. Shonn Greene, NYJ 15-766-2-16
24. Beanie Wells, Ari 13-397-2-5
25. Cedric Benson, Cin 16-1,111-8-28
26. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, NE 16-1,008-13-12
27. Joseph Addai, Ind 8-495-4-19
28. Tim Hightower, Was 16-736-5-21
29. Daniel Thomas, Mia ROOKIE
30. Marshawn Lynch, Sea 16-737-6-22
31. Mark Ingram, NO ROOKIE
32. Fred Jackson, Buf 16-927-7-31
33. Jonathan Stewart, Car 14-770-3-8
34. Pierre Thomas, NO 6-269-2-29
35. James Starks, GB 3-101-0-2
36. Mike Tolbert, SD 15-735-11-25
37. LaDainian Tomlinson, NYG 15-914-6-52
38. C.J. Spiller, Buf 14-283-1-24
39. Michael Bush, Oak 14-655-8-18
40. Brandon Jacobs, NYG 16-823-9-7
41. Ryan Torain, Was 10-742-6-18
42. Willis McGahee, Den 15-380-6-14
43. Ricky Williams, Bal 16-673-3-19
44. Reggie Bush, Mia 8-150-1-34
45. Thomas Jones, KC 16-896-6-14
46. Danny Woodhead, NE 14-547-6-34
47. Ben Tate, Hou DID NOT PLAY
48. Javon Ringer, Ten 16-239-2-7
49. Donald Brown, Ind 13-497-2-20
50. Jerome Harrison, Det 12-330-1-12

Note: Yds are rushing yards only, TD are the back’s combined rushing and receiving touchdowns, and Rec stands for receptions. ... Statistics are from the 2010 season.

Quick slants: The electric Charles has totaled 2,587 yards rushing, 85 receptions, 765 yards receiving and 16 TDs the last two seasons. He has averaged 6.2 yards per carry in that span. ... Gore has missed a total of nine games the last three years. ... In three years with the Falcons, Turner has a combined 39 TDs, but only 23 receptions. ... The Rams' Jackson, who really has only had one big season, has a combined 10 TDs the last two years. ... The Panthers' Williams had a huge 2008, but has eight TDs in 19 games since. ... The Lions' Best had five of his six TDs in his first two games as a rookie. ... A possible sleeper is the Packers' Starks, who rushed for 315 yards in four playoff games last season. He could take over for Ryan Grant as the featured back at some point this season.

NEXT: Wide receivers

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Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 fantasy football rankings: Quarterbacks

A quick note before we get to our first set of fantasy football rankings this preseason: The fact the Colts activated Peyton Manning from the physically unable to perform list Monday is enough for me to place the Colts quarterback in the top six at his position.

Yes, it might be a bit of a risk to take Manning in the third round of a 12-team league, but if you're hesitant to draft the player who has started 208 consecutive games, ask yourself the following questions:

Would you rather have Manning coming off neck surgery than Tony Romo, who played six games last year?

Would you rather have Matt Schaub, who threw for 4,370 yards in 2010 but finished nine TDs shy of Manning's 33?

Do you prefer Ben Roethlisberger, who averaged 250 yards passing per game last season, but only 1.4 TD tosses per contest?

I'd rather select Manning, even if there is a slight chance he will miss a game or two. He's 35, but still ranked in the top two of the league in yards passing (a career-high 4,700) and TD passes (33) last year.

Rank, player, team GP-Yds-TD-Int
1. Aaron Rodgers, GB 15-3,922-28-11
2. Michael Vick, Phi 12-3,018-21-6
3. Drew Brees, NO 16-4,620-33-22
4. Philip Rivers, SD 16-4,710-30-13
5. Tom Brady, NE 16-3,900-36-4
6. Peyton Manning, Ind 16-4,700-33-17
7. Tony Romo, Dal 6-1,605-11-7
8. Matt Schaub, Hou 16-4,370-24-12
9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pit 12-3,200-17-5
10. Matt Ryan, Atl 16-3,705-28-9
11. Josh Freeman, TB 16-3,451-25-6
12. Eli Manning, NYG 16-4,002-31-25
13. Joe Flacco, Bal 16-3,622-25-10
14. Kyle Orton, Den 13-3,653-20-9
15. Matt Cassel, KC 15-3,116-27-7
16. Sam Bradford, StL 16-3,512-18-15
17. Matthew Stafford, Det 3-535-6-1
18. Jay Cutler, Chi 15-3,274-23-16
19. Kevin Kolb, Ari 7-1,197-7-7
20. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buf 13-3,000-23-15
21. Mark Sanchez, NYJ 16-3,291-17-13
22. David Garrard, Jac 14-2,734-23-15
23. Jason Campbell, Oak 13-2,387-13-8
24. Donovan McNabb, Min 13-3,377-14-15
25. Colt McCoy, Cle 8-1,576-6-9

Note: Statistics are from the 2010 season.

Quick slants: Rodgers has averaged 4,131 yards passing and 33 total TDs (passing and rushing) the last three seasons. ... Vick reached 3,000 yards passing for the first time in 2010. ... In five years with the Saints, Brees has norms of 4,584 yards passing and 31 TD tosses. ... Rivers has norms of 4,324 yards and 31 TD passes since 2008. ... Brady has averaged 4,149 yards passing and 32 TDs since 2009. ... Peyton Manning has thrown for 4,000 or more yards in five consecutive seasons. His brother, Eli, has averaged 4,012 yards and 29 TD tosses the last two years. ... Prior to his injury-marred 2010, Romo averaged 4,047 yards and 29 TD tosses from 2007-09. ... Schaub has norms of 4,570 yards and 27 TD passes since 2009. ... Orton -- who has thrown for 7,455 yards and 41 TDs in 29 games since 2009 -- is underrated by many sites.

NEXT: Running backs

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fantasy football: Can you take Michael Vick in Round 1?

When I ranked the top 12 players in fantasy football in a News-Herald column not long after the lockout ended, I placed Eagles quarterback Michael Vick ninth.

As fate -- or cruel luck -- would have it, I landed the ninth pick in a random draw for the fantasy league in which I take the most pride. (I'm as goofy about fantasy as the most addicted guy or gal you know, but I want to win this league more than any other because of the amount of family who participate. And what is more fun than taking money from your brothers, even as you approach 40?)

Now I'm asking myself: Can I take Vick ninth overall? Can I pass on a running back, a draft route I select in the first round 99 times out of 100?

The short answer is no. The long answer is I'm confident I won't have to make that choice, because Vick is such a tempting choice he probably will be long gone before No. 9, since passing touchdowns also count as six points in this league.

In what amounted to 11 games of work last season, Vick threw for 3,018 yards and 21 touchdowns, and he ran for 676 yards for nine TDs.

That's 30 total TDs in about 44 quarters of work.

The bad: It was his first 3,000-yard passing season, and the first time he had more than 20 touchdown passes.

We know Vick will put up numbers, and if he stays healthy, he will be among the top scorers in a fantasy league regardless of format.

Will he stay healthy? Can you take that risk in the first round?

As much as I like what Vick could bring to my fake team, I'm hoping I don't have to make the decision.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fantasy football: How Peyton Manning's injury affects his value

It's odd to have doubts about Peyton Manning from a fantasy perspective.

You can question whether or not he's clutch. You might think he's overexposed and want to harm Jim Nantz after seeing that Sony commercial 1,000 times (is it just me?).

In fantasy, the only complaint you might have with Manning is when the Colts decide to stop playing in Week 15 or 16 every year.

This season, Manning is recovering from neck surgery that will keep him out for the entire preseason. He told he will need "every single second" of the next two weeks to get ready for the regular-season opener.

Coming from a player who has never missed a game in 13 years, that's saying quite a bit.

It's also going to have a dramatic effect on his fantasy value.

In my mind, there are five quarterbacks you have to take ahead of Manning on draft day -- Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady.

We've seen Manning ranked ahead of Rivers on some sites, but I wouldn't make that pick. Granted, Manning threw for a career-high 4,700 yards and had his second-best total in terms of touchdown passes (33) in 2010 (all with Austin Collie and Dallas Clark missing significant time with injuries), but Rivers is sensational, and injury-free.

The Chargers' QB threw for 4,710 yards and 30 TDs last season, and he's averaged 4,324 yards and 31 TDs the last three seasons.

That puts Manning sixth at QB, ahead of the likes of Tony Romo, Matt Schaub and Ben Roethlisberger.

ESPN has Manning ranked fifth at QB and 22nd overall, seven spots ahead of Rivers (No. 6 QB, No. 29 overall). CBS' two fantasy writers rank Manning fifth and sixth at QB, and 19th and 29th overall. The average ranking of Manning by Yahoo's writers is seventh at QB -- and a whopping No. 40 overall.

The latter number is way too low. You can be worried about Manning, but you shouldn't doubt that he will play most, if not all, of this season.

That makes him no worse than a third-round pick in a 12-team league. I wouldn't take him in Round 2 -- which is where Manning is going in ESPN (average draft position: No. 23) and CBS (ADP: No. 18) leagues.

I'd gladly take him in Round 3, after the top six QBs are off the board.

At that point, he provides very good value, and could be considered a steal.

An added bonus: It would prevent us from seeing countless shots of him on the sideline wearing jeans.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fantasy football: Peyton Hillis analysis

If you're a Browns fan, you probably love Peyton Hillis.

If you're just a fantasy football fan (and how can you not be?), you appreciate Hillis' unlikely rise to a featured role in an NFL backfield after serving as a blocking back for Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at Arkansas.

You also have to love the video below, whether you like the Browns or Steelers.

Take away the feel-good story and the YouTube video, though, and you have a bruising back who took a lot of punishment last season and already is dealing with a hamstring injury during the 2011 preseason.

Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 61 passes for 477 yards and two TDs last season. He had 331 touches in 16 games, an average of 20.7 per contest.

Look a little deeper at the numbers, though, and you get this:

  • First 11 games: 199 carries, 905 yards, 4.5 average, 11 TDs, 46 receptions for 414 yards, two TDs. TOTALS: 245 touches for 1,319 yards and 13 TDs (5.4 yards per touch).
  • Last five games: 71 carries, 272 yards, 3.8 average, zero TDs, 15 receptions for 63 yards, zero TDs. TOTALS: 86 touches for 345 yards and zero TDs (4.0 yards per touch).

Clearly, Hillis wasn't the same player in the last five weeks of the season.

Clearly, that's a concern if you're planning on investing a second-round pick on him on draft day.

A few words of advice: Don't -- in Round 2.

The addition of Brandon Jackson and the return to health of Montario Hardesty (at least that's what we're led to believe on the latter) should mean fewer carries for Hillis, which might keep him fresh in December.

It also could lead to a decline in his yardage and TD totals. If you're in a point-per-reception league, you have to wonder if Jackson, who had 43 catches for the Packers last season, will be the primary third-down back and help keep Hillis' catch total below 40.

In its preseason rankings, ESPN has Hillis No. 13 among running backs and No. 25 overall. CBS has him No. 17 at running back and No. 33 overall, and Yahoo is similar to CBS with rankings of 15 at running back and 32 overall.

I haven't finished all of my research for 2011, but in my mind, there are 11 running backs you have to take ahead of Hillis -- Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, Maurice Jones-Drew, LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, Rashard Mendenhall, Steven Jackson and Darren McFadden. There are two others I probably would select over Hillis -- Michael Turner and Matt Forte, though it would be understandable if you think Hillis is better than both.

That puts Hillis as a third-round pick in a 12-team league. I'd much rather have him as my No. 2 running back, not my No. 1.

Cool story and all.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fantasy football: How Chris Johnson's holdout affects Round 1

In our post-lockout look at the first round of a 12-team fantasy football league, we had Chris Johnson ranked third overall -- behind Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson.

It was a close No. 3 -- the distance between Foster and Johnson was roughly the same as the tight bond between LeBron James and Akron (he's not from Cleveland, he's from Akron, as he's told us over and over and over again).

Now, with Johnson and the Titans embroiled in a contract dispute -- albeit a mild one, since the team has publicly said it's willing to make the dreadlocked speedster the highest-paid running back in the league -- you might have a very difficult decision to make on draft day.

If Johnson still hasn't reported to the Titans by next weekend, when more and more leagues begin to hold their drafts, he has to drop at least slightly in the early drafts.

We had Ravens running back Ray Rice ranked fourth overall in the early top 12, followed by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.

Depending on your feelings about taking a quarterback in the first round, Johnson could slide to at least No. 5 if he's holding out, since Rice, especially in point-per-reception leagues, is worthy of the No. 3 overall pick.

I wouldn't take Rodgers over Johnson unless the league in question awards six points for a touchdown pass, not four. In leagues in which every TD is worth six points, Rodgers -- who threw for 289 yards or more in nine games last season and had eight games with at least two TD passes -- and Michael Vick might be the top two scorers in 2011.

As long as Johnson returns in time for the regular season, there should be little concern he will be productive without a training camp.

Even though his 2010 season didn't live up to his ridiculous numbers from 2009 (2,006 yards rushing, 5.4 yards per carry, 16 total TDs, plus 50 catches for 503 yards), Johnson still ran for 1,364 yards, caught 44 passes for 245 yards and had 12 combined rushing and receiving TDs.

ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported those close to Johnson believe he should be paid as one of the top playmakers in the league -- not just the top running back. Chris Mortensen has added that C.J. wants a contract in which he will make an average of $13 million in the first three years.

The Vikings' Peterson is the NFL's highest-paid back at $10.2 million this season, and he is scheduled to become a free agent next year and will surely get in the neighborhood of $13 million or more per season that Johnson so covets.

At 25 and with only 925 career carries, the Titans certainly should feel comfortable enough to give Johnson a huge contract, rather than risk a lengthy holdout and/or an unhappy camper.

If 28-year-old DeAngelo Williams -- who has rushed for more than 1,117 yards once in his career and is coming off a season in which he played six games -- can get a five-year, $43 million contract with $21 million in guarantees, C.J. will get paid, and paid very well.

The question is when?

The other is how long are you willing to wait if you are selecting third or fourth overall?

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Fantasy baseball: Jose Constanza analysis

What if I told you that on Nov. 23, 2010, when the Braves signed former Indians prospect Jose Constanza to a minor-league contract, you would A.) Think the Tribe was crazy to let him go; B.) Be tempted to acquire Constanza in fantasy baseball less than nine months later?

In his first 55 at-bats as a big-leaguer, Constanza is batting .382 with 13 runs scored, two home runs, eight RBI, five stolen bases and a .959 OPS. He's been so productive outfielder Jason Heyward -- who drove in 72 runs as a rookie last season and was believed to be one of the best young players in the major leagues -- hasn't been playing every day.

As of Sunday night, Constanza was owned in 13.4 percent of the leagues on

If you need help in steals and runs scored, he's an intriguing choice, even as a 27-year-old who seemed destined to be a career minor-leaguer.

Constanza batted .290 in his career down on the farm. In 2,782 at-bats, he scored 454 runs and stole 433 bases. At Triple-A Columbus in 2010 (his last season with the Indians organization before he became a free agent), he batted .319 with 34 steals and 69 runs in 404 at-bats.

(If you're a Lake County Captains fans, you probably know Constanza played in Eastlake in 2005 and '06. In a combined 67 games, he batted only .264, but had 40 runs and 21 steals in 231 at-bats.)

Aside from the obvious question about Constanza (what if he had one fewer consonant in his last name? Baseball needs a Jose Costanza), another key issue is whether he can be trusted to be anything close to the player he has been in his first 15 games with Atlanta.

The guess here is he will hit for a quality average, steal a lot of bases and score quite a few runs. Don't expect any power -- his two homers already seem to be two too many for a player who had all of six in the minor leagues -- but you can get away with that from your No. 3 outfielder if Constanza excels in the other three categories.

Stranger things have happened. This is, after all, a player, who does this.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fantasy baseball: Updated top 100

A lot has changed since we last ranked the top 100 players in fantasy baseball.

More than four months later, 39 players have dropped out. If you go by our late-March list, the biggest busts this season, not surprisingly, are Hanley Ramirez (No. 3 preseason) and Carl Crawford (No. 4).

Both didn't make the cut this time around, but in fairness to Ramirez, he's injured. That leaves Crawford as the biggest bust, and the Tribe's Asdrubal Cabrera as one of the biggest surprises.

Cabrera didn't make the top 100 in the preseason, but he's No. 23 now, the biggest leap of any player who wasn't ranked prior to the year. The next-biggest jumps among the unranked were by Lance Berkman (now No. 24), Ben Zobrist (28), Melky Cabrera (31) and Dan Haren (37).

Of the players who were ranked in the preseason, the Yankees' Curtis Granderson made the biggest jump, from No. 90 to 2. Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is next at 62 spots (from 68 to 6), followed by Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw (from 72 to 21), Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro (from 89 to 43) and Angels pitcher Jered Weaver (from 58 to 12).

If you couldn't care less about the booms and the busts and just want to see the rankings, my apologies for the first five paragraphs. Here they are, with one caveat: Players who are on the disabled list weren't eligible, since this is meant to be a current ranking of the best in fantasy. The only exceptions were the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez and the Braves' Brian McCann, both of whom are expected to return in the new few days (McCann as soon as today).

1. Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays (preseason: 21)
2. Curtis Granderson, OF, Yankees (90)
3. Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers (34)
4. Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers (9)
5. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox (18)
6. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox (68)
7. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers (29)
8. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies (7)
9. Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers (38)
10. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies (10)
11. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox (22)
12. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels (58)
13. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers (5)
14. Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks (53)
15. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals (1)
16. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (8)
17. Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies (55)
18. Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (11)
19. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers (32)
20. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates (37)
21. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers (72)
22. Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (6)
23. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians (NR)
24. Lance Berkman, OF, Cardinals (NR)
25. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees (33)
26. Cliff Lee, SP, Phillies (31)
27. Kevin Youkilis, 3B, Red Sox (26)
28. Ben Zobrist, 2B, Rays (NR)
29. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies (70)
30. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies (49)
31. Melky Cabrera, OF, Royals (NR)
32. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies (2)
33. Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox (61)
34. Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees (28)
35. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (13)
36. Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies (64)
37. Dan Haren, SP, Diamondbacks (NR)
38. David Wright, 3B, Mets (15)
39. Victor Martinez, C/DH, Tigers (35)
40. Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals (17)
41. Michael Young, DH, Rangers (67)
42. James Shields, SP, Rays (NR)
43. Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs (89)
44. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs (71)
45. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox (82)
46. Adam Jones, OF, Orioles (NR)
47. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees (16)
48. Ian Kennedy, SP, Diamondbacks (NR)
49. Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (44)
50. Carlos Santana, C, Indians (77)
51. Brian McCann, C, Braves (43)
52. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants (14)
53. Hunter Pence, OF, Phillies (52)
54. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds (41)
55. Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox (27)
56. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals (30)
57. Michael Bourn, OF, Braves (NR)
58. Josh Beckett, SP, Red Sox (NR)
59. Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Twins (NR)
60. Jhonny Peralta, SS, Tigers (NR)
61. Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Tigers (NR)
62. Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks (NR)
63. Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks (57)
64. Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers (NR)
65. Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners (12)
66. Jeff Francoeur, OF, Royals (NR)
67. Dan Uggla, 2B, Braves (40)
68. Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies (47)
69. Carlos Beltran, OF, Giants (NR)
70. Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants (NR)
71. C.J. Wilson, SP, Rangers (NR)
72. Joe Mauer, C, Twins (19)
73. Alex Gordon, OF, Royals (NR)
74. Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves (NR)
75. Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals (NR)
76. John Axford, RP, Brewers (NR)
77. Brian Wilson, RP, Giants (78)
78. Alexi Ogando, SP, Rangers (NR)
79. Michael Morse, 1B, Nationals (NR)
80. Billy Butler, 1B, Royals (86)
81. Jonathon Papelbon, RP, Red Sox (NR)
82. Matt Cain, SP, Giants (87)
83. Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox (NR)
84. Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers (92)
85. Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles (NR)
86. Ryan Roberts, 3B, Diamondbacks (NR)
87. Ricky Romero, SP, Blue Jays (NR)
88. Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies (NR)
89. Yunel Escobar, SS, Blue Jays (NR)
90. Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins (97)
91. Drew Storen, RP, Nationals (NR)
92. Justin Masterson, SP, Indians (NR)
93. Zack Greinke, SP, Brewers (NR)
94. Jay Bruce, OF, Reds (NR)
95. Tommy Hanson, SP, Braves (93)
96. Mariano Rivera, RP, Yankees (94)
97. Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Marlins (NR)
98. Heath Bell, RP, Padres (79)
99. Michael Pineda, SP, Mariners (NR)
100. Jose Valverde, RP, Tigers (NR)

Five who just missed the cut: Carlos Lee, OF, Astros; Martin Prado, OF, Braves; Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners; Tim Hudson, SP, Braves; Alexei Ramirez, SS, White Sox

Top 100 by position: Outfielders 25, starting pitchers 25, first basemen 12, closers 8, third basemen 8, second basemen 7, shortstops 7, catchers 5, designated hitters 3.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fantasy baseball: More on Stephen Strasburg

Last Sunday, we wrote about the intrigue that is the possibility of adding Stephen Strasburg and stashing him on your roster for the fantasy postseason.

That option looks even better after Friday, when Strasburg threw three scoreless innings in his second minor-league rehab appearance. The big right-hander's fastball reached 99 mph, according to, and his changeup was consistently clocked at 90.

He struck out five, and 26 of his 33 pitches were strikes.

All told, Strasburg has thrown strikes on 51 of 64 pitches in his first two games since Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He has nine Ks and has allowed one run in 4 2/3 innings.

"I know I'm going to be the pitcher I was (before surgery)," Strasburg told reporters Friday.

That pitcher struck out 92 in 68 innings as a rookie last season. That pitcher likely won't be seen until 2012, when his workload increases.

Regardless, even in five-inning increments in September, the thought of Strasburg pitching once or twice a week is at worst intriguing and at best much more exciting than playing the likes of Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, Randy Wolf or (enter the name of any fringe starter here).

As of Saturday, Strasburg was available in more than 75 percent of the leagues on

If you have the roster space, it's time. He's not BACK, but he's in the vicinity, and these opportunities don't come around often.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fantasy baseball: Paging Stephen Strasburg

He wowed us last year as a rookie, striking out a ridiculous 92 batters in 68 innings for the Nationals.

Sunday, Stephen Strasburg toed the mound for Class A Hagerstown (Md.). It was big news because he threw in a game for the first time since he blew out his right elbow on Aug. 21, 2010. Thirteen days after that, the top pick of the 2009 draft had the dreaded Tommy John surgery.

A little more than 11 months following surgery, Strasburg hit 98 mph on the radar gun in his first rehab start. According to reports, he regularly threw in the mid- to high 90s. Twenty-five of his 31 pitches in 1 2/3 innings were strikes, and he struck out four of the eight batters he faced.

"(The velocity was) not where it was," Strasburg told reporters.

But it's close enough, and the appearance has captured the attention of us, the fantasy nerds.

We realize the best-case scenario is Strasburg won't pitch for the Nationals until September, and even then, he'll be on a very limited pitch count.

Regardless, we can't help but be excited about the possibility of inserting him in our lineups during the fantasy postseason, which begins the week of Sept. 5 in many leagues.

If you make the postseason in your league, chances are you have some solid starting pitching. If you need help in Ks, though, Strasburg could provide a boost -- even if he only throws five innings.

If you need anything else from him in a particular week (say, wins), you should probably look elsewhere. Depending on his pitch count, he might not last five innings in some starts.

If nothing else, Strasburg has us looking forward to drafting him next year (or keeping him, if you're in a dynasty format).

Sunday, he said he expects to be "back to normal" by next spring.

He will provide one of the more intriguing draft-day subplots in 2012.

Until then, acquire him on the waiver wire if you believe you'll need some strikeouts in the postseason -- but do so quickly.

As of Sunday night, Strasburg already was owned in 8.3 percent of the leagues on

By Monday morning, that figure likely will triple.

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