- The Season's Over -

Texas Rangers Bolster Bullpen with Stellar Koji Uehara and Mike Adams

August 2, 2011

Mike Adams Traded to Texas Rangers

Mike Adams photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

By Andrew Thell
The Orioles give Koji Uehara to the Rangers for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter; The Padres give up Mike Adams to the Rangers for Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin.

Let’s just get this out of the way first: this really sucks for everybody who owns shares in Mike Adams this season and beyond. I feel for you, I’ve been holding onto Adams in my keeper league for months assuming he would be the closer today. Not only does he get traded instead of Heath Bell and get shafted for the closer’s job in San Diego, Adams also goes from a pitcher’s paradise and a manager who ran a crisp bullpen to a hitter’s haven and a manager who struggles to keep his sock drawer in order. It makes no sense to me from the Friars’ perspective either: Adams is better than Bell, he’s younger than Bell and he’s under team control for a year longer than Bell. Boo-urns.

Let’s also say this: kudos to the Texas Rangers for landing two absolutely dominant and underrated relievers. This is how you shore up a bullpen at the trade deadline. On a per-inning basis, Uehara and Adams are now the Rangers best two pitchers. Hell, they might be the best one-two punch this side of Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel. Paired with 2010 AL ROY Neftali Feliz they should allow Texas to go into absolute lockdown mode after the 6th inning. That’s a scary thought paired with this team’s elite offense and decent starting pitching.

If I was gambling on either Adams or Uehara against Neftali I’d take either of the former to be closing out games by the end of the month. I don’t know what’s up with him, but with a 4.66 BB/9, 6.28 K/9 (only 6 Ks versus righties all year!) and 4.73 xFIP on the season Neftali is not closer material right now. The problem is, Texas got Adams and Uehara, and I have no idea which one will take over for Feliz if he continues to falter as I expect. In his second season in the MLB Koji Uehara has has posted an otherworldly set of numbers: 1.69 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 12.00 K/9, 1.50 BB/9. Damn. Still, he’s been a bit lucky with a .192 BABIP and 97.6% LOB this year and his track record isn’t lengthy with just 99 career appearances. In 271 appearances Mike Adams boasts a 2.11 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 9.29 K/9 – and over the last three years he’s been even better. With both under Rangers’ control for 2012, it’s that experience gap in favor of Adams and and old-school manager in Ron Washington that leads me to think Adams should have the inside track for the job if/when Felix falters.

There’s also one interesting piece on the Baltimore side of the equation. Chris Davis has made a name for himself as a prototypical quad-A player, and I don’t have anything to dispel that notion baseball fan, but he makes headlines once again. As per his usual, Davis has crushed minor league pitching this season to the tune of 24 HRs with a .405 OBP and .824 SLG (!). We’ve seen this picture before, though. Stellar in the minors, strikeout machine in the majors. Maybe the change of scenery helps, maybe it doesn’t. He’s not moving into a better lineup or park, and Texas doesn’t exactly discourage offense. A speculative play on Davis isn’t crazy given his prodigious power and gaudy minor-league totals and the fact that he should get all the playing time he can handle, I made the move in one deep league, but there’s no reason to have much faith in a career turnaround at this point.

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 2, 2011 at 2:16am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Colby Rasmus Traded to Toronto Blue Jays; Edwin Jackson to St. Louis Cardinals

August 2, 2011

Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays

Colby Rasmus photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

By Andrew Thell

The White Sox trade Mark Teahen and Edwin Jackson to Toronto for Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart; the Blue Jays send Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Corey Patterson and Marc Rzepczynski to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters.

I’m a Rasmus fan, I think that kid has all the tools to be an impact player and All-Star calibre contributor on both offense and defense as he enters his prime the next few seasons. After a blistering start to April in which it looked like the 24-year-old center fielder was poised to cash in on all his promise, Rasmus’ OPS has gone dramatically south in each successive month, falling to an unsightly .684 in June and abysmal .544 mark in July. You hate to see him leave a lineup with protection built in like Pujols, Holliday and Berkman, but with the youngster privately and publicly clashing with Tony La Russa over the last two seasons there’s no doubt in my mind a change of scenery was needed. The kid goes into a better hitters park, a more offensive-oriented division, joins a hitting coach that has seriously tapped into the power of his students and should be in line for everyday playing time from here on out. I think this is a big win, and could be the spark Rasmus needed to rouse him from the mid-season doldrums he’s been caught up in.

On the other side, the Cards pick up the talented-but-perpetually-frustrating Edwin Jackson. The stuff is there, and Jackson has shown plenty of “flahses” to inspire confidence in his abilities, but I think we’ve gotten to a point where he can safely be labeled a head case with bad control. I never like relying on that kind of arm. Still, Jackson moves to a decent pitcher’s park and will now study under the immortal Dave Duncan, who could probably still turn Carlos Silva into a decent 4th starter. There’s reason for optimism here, but I’m done relying on Jackson. He’s the kind of guy who will consistently tease you and post peripherals that grab your attention only to break your heart every Friday night.

The mover is potentially bad news for Rajai Davis, Eric Thames, and Travis Snider – all of whom have fantasy relevance and all of whom figure to get squeezed out of playing time in the near future. My money is on Thames being sent back down (he’s younger), Rajai being used as a defensive and base-running replacement (he’s been successful as such) and Snider being given a long look in left as long as he can continue to hit. There were also a number of relief pitchers and unexciting prospects involved in the deal. I don’t really feel like talking about them, but I do think Marc Rzepczynski is a decent young lefty to keep an eye on in Holds leagues – he qualifies at SP in Yahoo! leagues, which is always nice. Deep leaguers might also want to add Jon Jay to the Watch List, but I wouldn’t expect much in the way of roto value; he doesn’t really have much category juice.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 2, 2011 at 1:54am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

The Cleveland Indians Nab Ubaldo Jimenez

August 2, 2011

Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians

Ubaldo Jimenez photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

By Andrew Thell

The Rockies send Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians for prospects Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Joe Gardner and Matt McBride.

The Indians flipped a couple of solid pitching prospects for the name-brand Ubaldo, but the move really doesn’t move the needle much for me. I know Jimenez was the odds-on favorite for the NL Cy Young at this point last year, but a quick look at his peripherals even then showed he was playing over his head. Since then we’ve seen him collapse in the second half of 2010 and then perform like a thoroughly mediocre starter in 2011. It’s looking more and more like that first half of 2010 was the outlier in his career, and with Ubaldo losing a few ticks of velocity this season I’m not hopeful for a dramatic turnaround.

Most people point to his departure from Coors Field as a reason for optimism, and it is, Coors field is still brutal, but that is largely mitigated by going to the AL in my book. On top of that the Indians field a less capable defense behind Jiminez and their offense isn’t any better than Colorado’s. I think his value pretty much stays the same.

I feel like the Indians paid for the name and not the numbers here, giving up two very solid pitching prospects in the Drew Pomeranz and Alex White. White is a solid groundball pitcher who could plug a rotation spot, while Pomeranz may take some more seasoning but has flashed front-of-the-rotation talent in the minors. They were the consensus top lefty and righty, respectively, in the Indians system. Both figure to take a hit going forward pitching in that thin air of Colorado.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 2, 2011 at 1:45am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Bedard Brings his Curve Back to the AL East

August 2, 2011

Erik Bedard to Red Sox

Erik Bedard photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

By Andrew Thell

Bedard and Josh Fields traded to the Boston Red Sox for Trayvon Robinson and Chih-Hsien Chiang as part of a three team deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Consider me conflicted on this one. I actually love Bedard’s talent, and I’m glad to see him finally put it together and stay reasonably healthy after so many years of injury woes. I know the guy is a noted curmudgeon, but so am I. We have a kinship. On top of that, Bedard has one of my favorite curveball-changeup combos of the last decade. The guy can make people look downright foolish when he’s on and it’s fun to watch. Health will always be a concern, but when he’s on the mound Bedard can be a difference-maker in fantasy and a pennant race.

The hasty analysis is to say this kills Bedard’s value as he moves from a pitcher’s haven in Safeco to a pitcher’s nightmare in Fenway, and that’s true, but let’s also note this: Bedard has been just fine on the road this season. In fact, he’s been significantly better than he’s been at home: 3 Wins, 2.16 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, .203 BAA and 41 Ks in 41.2 innings on the road against 1 Win, 4.53 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .245 BAA and 46 Ks in 49.2 innings at home. So his spacious home ballpark has not exactly been a crutch for Bedard. Still, Safeco has been the 4th hardest place to score runs this year and Fenway has been the 3rd easiest. So yeah, the numbers may take a hit and fantasy owners are going to be benching Bedard a few more times against tough AL East offenses at home. But Bedard also goes from the worst run support in the league to the best. The Red Sox have scored 140 more runs than the Mariners this year, and that should easily translate into a couple more Ws down the stretch.

All is not lost, Bedard owners.

Trayvon Robinson is the big get in Seattle side of the trade. He’s a prototypical “toolsy” outfielder who brings some pretty decent speed and mediocre plate-discipline and on-base skills to the table, but he doesn’t register on the fantasy radar just yet. After a few years down on the farm working with the pitching machines he could end up being an impact top-of-the-order type of bat for the Mariners though, which isn’t bad considering Bedard was ready to walk after this season. It seems like a win-win situation for Seattle and Boston and no fantasy owners are left out in the cold either.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 2, 2011 at 1:28am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Floatsam and Jetsam: Miscellanea from the 2011 MLB Non-Waiver Trade Deadline

August 2, 2011

Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes

Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images North America

By Andrew Thell

Those of us who get excited for trade season are usually left crestfallen as trade deadlines come and go with little fanfare. 2011 wasn’t too shabby though, I give it a 6 (on a scale that doesn’t really have any meaning, but let’s say it goes to, oh, 10). I’m not going to say the non-waiver trade deadline that passed on Sunday was some kind of wild, raucous, landscape-altering affair, but there were definitely some doin’s a’ transpirin’ in the MLB over the last week and there are plenty of implications in both real life and fantasy that deserve our attention. We might not have seen a high volume of superstars trade places, but the proceedings were many and they will have an impact on pennant races and imaginary trophies alike. I’m doing a small series of posts on the biggest moves, but let’s take a few minutes and break down the second-tier headlines as succinctly as possible:

Carlos Beltran Makes a Move to the Bay

The Mets send Carlos Beltran to the Giants for pitching prospect Zach Wheeler.

It’s a major move in real life, but we can still keep this brief: Carlos Beltran moves from a shitty NL hitting environment with an injury-bitten, mediocre offense around him to a shitty NL hitting environment with an injury-bitten, downright-bad offense around him. Zach Wheeler is a major coup for the Mets: he’s a top-50 pitching prospect with good groundball and strikeout numbers who should be great in Citi Field in two years.

The Giants needed to add a big bat, and Beltran is certainly that. He’s proving he has plenty left in the tank with 15 HRs, 67 RBIs, an excellent .904 OPS and a league-leading 30 doubles thus far. The Giants have a fantastic pitching staff and could make noise with that alone in the postseason, but they know they still need to score some runs to hold onto the NL West and be serious competitors. Beltran should keep doing what he’s doing and instantly becomes the Giants’ best offensive player, but there’s not going to be any Jose Reyes to knock in every time he sends a ball to the outfield and teams will be even more inclined to pitch around Carlos. It seems like a minor downgrade to me. Back in the NYC, Lucas Duda figures to see regular playing time in right. I have no sympathy for you if you click that add button.

The Phightin’ Phillies Bag Hunter Pence

The Astros ship Hunter Pence to the Phillies for Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid and a PTBNL.

I like Hunter Pence, but I can’t help but think the guy is a little overrated. Made the centerpiece of the Astros offense going into the season Pence has been decent, but his 11 HRs and .828 OPS don’t scream “star” to me. That’s what Houston advertised him as though, and in a market that was desperate for offense he generated plenty of interest. The Phils gave up a couple of middling prospects and Jarred Cosart, who has the stuff to pitch near the top of a rotation someday. That seems fair to me. I’m just not sure Pence is a huge upgrade over Dominic Brown, who Philly sent down to make room for Pence in the lineup. That makes Dom Brown and his owners the real losers in this deal. Que sera. He’ll be back soon enough. Pence has been a bit lucky in the BABIP dept this year, he no longer runs much, his power is just OK and the Philly lineup isn’t anything special these days, so while he should be a solid outfielder for the Phillies I’m not expecting anything dramatic in the second half.

Bourn to Braves and Ludwick to Pittsburgh, after the jump …

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No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 2, 2011 at 1:00am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Fantasy Baseball Busts – Buy, Sell, or Hold?

June 28, 2011

Adam Dunn White Sox

Adam Dunn asleep at the bat photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

By Andrew Thell

We do our best in February and March. We spend countless hours crunching numbers, reading blogs, poring over spreadsheets and cheat sheets, picking our friends’ brains and buying draft guides. We do it all not just in the name of finding the big breakout candidates, but also to avoid the coming season’s big busts. It’s hard to win a league in the first ten rounds, but you sure can lose one. Despite these efforts, we end up those busts on rosters anyways. Every year, on nearly every roster, it happens to the best of us.

If you’re languishing in your league’s standings, odds are you have several big busts driving you batty, and as we approach the halfway point you’re wondering if it’s time to throw in the towel. In another month or so it might be time to wash your hands of the whole mess and turn to the poker table for your competitive fix … well, even more than you already have been. But it’s not too late to make a run in any league, even if it’s just a surge in the standings for the sake of pride. There are few things more satisfying than turning a disaster campaign around, and what is likely to define this effort is how you handle the busts, both yours and those of your league mates. In the words of Charles Bukowski, what matters most is how well you walk through the fire.

Let’s take a look at the most epic busts of the season thus far and talk about what’s to be done with them. We’ll define them as guys who came into the season as consensus top-100 picks that are currently ranked at least 75 spots below where they started in standard scoring leagues. I’ve looked extensively at the numbers, both traditional and Sabermetric, for all of the below (several of which because they’re on more than one of my rosters), but I’ll keep the comments on each brief and the stats few. It’s been a tough year, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

Today we’ll work on hitters, later this week we’ll get to the pitcher duds.

Which fantasy baseball big names to buy, sell and hold, after the jump …

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No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jun. 28, 2011 at 10:30pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Major League Baseball’s Best 1-2 Punches

June 8, 2011

Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda

Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

By Andrew Thell

In the twilight of Major League Baseball’s Steroids Era we have entered into a period of pitching dominance. Home runs per game are at their lowest mark since 1992, scoring is down across the board, and pundits are tabbing 2011 the Year of the Pitcher. It’s not just that power is down on the offensive side, either. Franchises are doing a better job of handling their young talent these days. Developing arms are treated with more care than ever before, and despite what the willfully ignorant old guard might espouse nightly on local broadcasts across the country, pitch counts are having a positive effect on player health across baseball. With fewer and fewer Dusty Bakers and Joe Torres around, more young talent is staying healthy enough to not only blossom at the professional level but stick around.

When young pitchers do get injured, advances and refinements in the medical procedures are making full recovery an almost assumed outcome. Tommy John surgery is no longer seen as a death sentence for a young arm, but a mere bump in the road. And while the recovery rate isn’t 100% yet, many pitchers have come back from the procedure even stronger than before. The result is more quality young talent taking the mound in the MLB on a nightly basis than perhaps ever before.

And while pitching is thriving in the regular season this year, it’s the postseason where a couple of truly elite starters can dominate a series and put a team on their back for a World Series run. There are few things more frightening to an opponent than knowing they’ll be seeing a true ace on the mound for two games, and one of them is knowing they’ll be seeing two aces for potentially four games. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best 1-2 punches in Major League Baseball this season.

The top pitching duos in baseball, after the jump …

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No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jun. 8, 2011 at 3:23pm in MLB

A Word on BABIP, FIP and Bad Luck and Six Fantasy Baseball Players to Buy Low On

May 11, 2011

Chewbacca on the mound

Chewbacca’s BABIP is driving him nuts

By Andrew Thell

As the statistical arsenal of the fantasy baseball player grows more complex by the year more and more owners are turning to metrics like BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) and FIP or xFIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, or expected ERA given only the profile of the pitcher’s interaction with the batter and not the actual result). These statistics can help us determine the true performance and expected value of pitchers and batters by assessing the level of good or bad luck they have experienced to this point. Articles detailing who’s been lucky or unlucky based on these stats are commonplace, but we need to take them with a grain of salt. I’m going to make some recommendations based on these numbers, but I first want to address a few necessary caveats that far too many writers are ignoring in their analysis. These stats are extremely useful, but they only paint a part of the larger picture.

In employing these metrics we need to be careful in how we project regression to the mean. Because a given player has been extremely unlucky to this point does not mean that he is “due” for a stretch of good luck, it simply means that we should not expect the bad luck to continue. We should expect them merely to perform at their expected level going forward. Although it often happens incidentally, bad luck is not necessarily followed by good luck, or vice versa. If you flip a coin 10 times and it comes up heads 9 times, that doesn’t mean we can expect it to come up tails 9 of the next 10 flips – we go into each flip with a 50/50 expectation of either equally probably outcome.

The all-important issue of sample size must also be taken into account. With this level of complex statistical analysis we need extremely large sample sizes to draw any meaningful conclusions, and one month of data simply isn’t enough. Sometimes a year or more of data isn’t enough, as players have full seasons of bad luck (or, quite often, seasons with nagging injuries that show up on the purely linear spreadsheet as “bad luck”).

On top of that, we also need to keep in mind that there are players and playing styles that will consistently stray from “normal” expectations in BABIP or the relationship between FIP and ERA. We know that in general, when a Major League Baseball player puts a ball into play it will drop for a hit about 30% of the time, or the league average BABIP will be approximately .300 (Thanks, Voros McCracken). Players with exceptional speed, line-drive rates or (in very rare cases) bat control can consistently post higher than average BABIP while slower players or players with unusually high infield fly ball (pop up) rates will consistently underperform league averages in BABIP. Likewise, pitchers who struggle from out of the stretch, are given to mental breakdown or suffer from unusual proneness to home runs can consistently post ERAs well above the ERA we would expect given their FIP. These are just a few examples of what can spoil a simplistic BABIP or FIP analysis that seems to indicate good or bad luck on the surface.

The point is, these metrics can only tell us some of what has happened and give us a basis for making an educated guess about the future. And even in that endeavor, they’re only a part of the complete picture. No player is owed anything going forward based on previous luck, and some players consistently make their own luck. With all of that in mind, here are a few of my favorite sell high and buy low trade targets right now based on BABIP and FIP:

Six players you should be targeting in your fantasy baseball league, after the jump …

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1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on May. 11, 2011 at 4:50pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Transcendent Roy Halladay Throws Second No-Hitter in MLB Playoffs History

October 6, 2010

Photo credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Oct. 6, 2010 at 8:13pm in MLB

What to Make of Dan Haren’s Terrible 2010

June 3, 2010

Buy Low on Dan Haren

Dan Haren Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By: Andrew Thell

For Diamondbacks fans and Dan Haren owners Tuesday’s turn at Dodger Stadium offered a chance to come down off the ledge. 2010 has been a disaster for the ace thus far, with his ERA standing at a bloated 5.35 in 74 innings coming into Chavez Ravine. That is not what we signed up for back in May when drafting the 29-year-old ace, myself included. In fantasy you’re always supposed to wait on pitching unless the hurler in question is a true difference maker in the ratios, and Haren had proven he was just what with 216 innings of 3.33 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 206 Ks in 2008 followed by a truly elite 3.14 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 223 Ks in 229.1 innings in 2009. Coming into the season there was little question Haren had transformed himself into an ace with a strikeout rate and WHIP that had improved in each of the last five seasons.

Then this season happened.

I managed to get the Diamondbacks feed for Tuesday’s tilt and it was one of the few times in my life I was actually glad I didn’t draw the venerable Vin Scully’s mellifluous commentary for a Dodgers game. That’s because Arizona announcers Daron Sutton and Mark Grace spent a bulk of the broadcast dissecting Mr. Haren, a topic I was acutely interested in. Despite a woeful ignorance of and aversion to advanced stats, they still provided useful information in discussing a mechanical adjustment Haren had made between starts to stay on top of the ball through his motion, allowing him to better keep it down in the zone and below the belt-line – something that had been a problem resulting in an uncharacteristic 16 HRs allowed in just 12 starts (and 8 in his last 2). The results seemed to speak for themselves as Haren did keep the ball down, striking out 7, inducing grounders with regularly, not giving up any deep flies of note and putting goose eggs on the board for 8 innings.

It was an encouraging start to say the least. Less encouraging was manager AJ Hinch’s handling of his ace. Hinch sent him back out there to face the heart of a dangerous Dodgers order for the 8th inning of a tie-game, putting Haren in a position to potentially unravel the confidence he had built through 7 stellar innings and pushing the struggling star to a career-high pitch count of 127. It was a terrible decision, but it worked out – at least until Haren’s next start versus Atlanta, where I hope the excessive pitches don’t catch up with him, or later in the season, where I pray the workload doesn’t eventually shelve Haren. Throughout the season Hinch has proven himself a clown in his handling of the pitching staff, bullpen included, but that’s beside the point.

Setting concerns over Mr. Hinch’s managerial ineptitude aside, a look under the hood shows that we really shouldn’t have been that worried about Haren even before the strong performance in LA. He’s now at 83 Ks in 82 innings, good for a career-high 9.11 K/9, the best mark of his career and a strong indication there isn’t a lingering injury. Haren’s BABIP on the season is .342 and he has a 17% HR/FB, both up drastically from his career .302 BABIP and 11.2% HR/FB. Those are two more strong indications bad luck are playing a huge role in the current bloated ERA and WHIP.

Other than a not-easy schedule for the remainder of June (vs. ATL, vs. STL, @ DET, vs. NYY, @ STL) I don’t see any reason to think Haren can’t build on Tuesday’s performance and start turning in the type of quality starts (and Quality Starts) we’ve grown accustomed to over the last few years. Of course, there is the ominous late-season split Haren has built up (3.28 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .231 BAA pre-All Star break; 4.21 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, .277 BAA post-All Star break in 1,300+ career innings). But I don’t buy into that dramatic a difference at this point in his career – I think it’s something that will iron out over time, and this is likely a year where he posts an inverse split which starts that process.

Bottom line: Diamondbacks fans can exhale, owners of Haren will want to hold on to their investment and keep trotting him out there (except perhaps for that start against the Yanks), and any fantasy owner in need of front-line pitching help the rest of the way should have been trying to buy low for a couple weeks. Make your offers now, the window of opportunity is closing here. There’s no guarantee Haren won’t throw up a couple of stinkers, but there’s also no reason to think he’s not the stud fantasy owners spent that third- or fourth-round pick on.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jun. 3, 2010 at 9:52pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

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