by Moonlight Graham

No position has undergone more change over the last decade than the Middle Infield. Long a collection of slap hitting, base stealers and the occasional power guy, it saw drastic change with the emergence of big guns like Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Jeff Kent and Barry Larkin.  Even marginal, late round options like Jose Valentin were good for better than 20 HR.

However, retirement, injury and position change have all been factors in depleting the ranks of the Middle Infielders that’ll give you a boost in the power department.  While some do remain, (Hanley Ramirez and Chase Utley will cost you a first rounder), for the most part, many Fantasy Baseball owners will settle for the mid-round options that produce low, double-digit HR’s, a solid BA and a decent number of SB.  The trick is, to find that one player who could break the mold and give you a top tier performance for a second tier price.

Fantasy Stars

-  Unless you’ve got one of the first two picks, you can forget Hanley Ramirez.  After that, Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes top the Shortstop list but neither is a sure thing. Tulo comes off a terrific season but Fantasy Baseball owners still bear the burn marks from his disastrous ’08 season.  New York Mets’ star, Reyes, is not only coming off of a campaign lost to injury but was just cleared to play after a thyroid condition sidelined him for most of camp.  Don’t reach for either.  On the other side of the bag, Utley and Ian KInsler are the cream of the crop but Cincinnati Reds’ second sacker, Brandon Phillips, may be the best value.  He’s a guaranteed 20-20 from a position where that’s rare and he bats cleanup.  Going with that theory, we’d also have to add Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees, as he’s been moved to the five hole of that very potent lineup. Continue reading »

by Moonlight Graham

The Case for Albert Pujols

In New York, Carlos Delgado has become the feel good story of the fantasy baseball season, riding a hot streak through the second half and leading the Mets to the top of the NL east. His 33 HR and 100 RBI are numbers that were not only deemed unreachable at the beginning of the season but seemed just as impossible not two months ago. His resurrection has prompted many conversations about the possibility of the big first baseman taking home MVP honors at the end of the year. While there are some reasons for Delgado to warrant consideration, it is not entirely clear that he is even the Mets’ MVP let alone the league’s. Many will point to Jose Reyes or David Wright as the best the Mets have to offer. Regardless, any conversation regarding the NL MVP should begin and end with Albert Pujols.

The St. Louis first sacker came into the season having already acknowledged that he would have to undergo elbow surgery. Not wanting to miss any time, he vowed to play for as long as he could stand the pain. This revelation caused him to drop out of the first round of many Fantasy drafts. The Moonlight Fantasy preview advised against using a top ten pick on him. Many also wondered why he would postpone surgery during what was to be a down year for the Cards. Albert has made fools of us all.

Heading into this week, Pujols had a .360 BA and an impossible .466 OBP. His 32 HR and 95 RBI are very impressive but not as eye popping as his DiMaggio-like K total of just 48. On top of everything else, despite losing three of their top 5 starters and their closer, the Cardinals have been able to stay in playoff contention throughout the year.

Anything can happen, as evidenced by last year’s travesty that saw Jimmy Rollins get the award over the more deserving Matt Holliday, but if Delgado beats Pujols, the voting system should be changed.

RISING

Adam Dunn has been gotten some starts at 1B for the D’Backs and may qualify there in your fantasy league. He has been hot of late with a terrific OBP. Bronson Arroyo was recently named NL Player of the Week and is a free agent in many leagues.

FALLING

Brandon Webb has failed in three straight attempts to gain his 20th win. The Arizona ace may be feeling the effects of a long season.

GRAB BAG

3B Dallas McPherson was called up to the Marlins after belting 42 HR at AAA Albequerque and could provide a late power boost.

DROP ZONE

Jeff Kent underwent knee arthroscopic knee surgery last week and could return to the Dodgers just before the playoffs; too late to help Fantasy owners.

SICK BAY

Cubs’ starters Rich Harden and Carlos Zambrano have been shut down due to shoulder ailments. Cleveland DH Travis Hafner returns this week, more so the Indians can evaluate his progress than to contribute. His shoulder is still not 100% so, don’t expect any power. Billy Wagner’s season appears over as elbow problems persist.

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