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2012 Draft Prep: Names to know for Draft Day

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Some of you reading this column may know me from my random role in the novel Fantasyland. Others might know me from my days at ESPN, or The Wall Street Journal.

There's a select group who fondly remember me as "the calm one" from MLB Network's Fantasy 411 earthquake video last season (check it out). Still, plenty may remember me from the short-lived web series, The A--hole Who Listed Off Fancy Places He's Worked In A Fantasy Sports Column.

But if you've ever played against me in a draft or auction, you probably know me as, "that guy who refuses to use a laptop."

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I'm a list guy. I love my research, and I love making lists. Every March, I have a notebook and I'll scribble notes like a madman in it. This year's notebook has everything from "Sean Burroughs/Steve Pearce on MIN" to "OLIVER PEREZ in Seattle." But it's not just non-roster invitee, blast-from-the-past types. Notes like "A-Rod going late" and something as simple as "Hanley" with an up arrow next to him dot the pages as well.

Eventually, I take the crazy scribbles and whittle them down to a smaller list. Maybe 20 or 30 players who I simply really like -- there's no set number or rhyme or reason to it. Last year's list included Jered Weaver, Curtis Granderson, J.J. Hardy and Brandon League. Just to show that the list isn't without its flaws, I should note that it also included Brandon Wood and Julio Borbon. Still, it had more hits than misses, and sticking to my guns eventually led to success in plenty of leagues. Sometimes it's as simple as "I like this dude;" other times, there might be some statistical hiccup that people are overlooking (or, conversely, I'm obsessing over). Regardless, it's part of the reason why I still use paper in my drafts -- I need to be scribbling. And the strategy has worked so far. Plus, scribbling on a laptop just isn't cost-effective.

The beauty of the scribbles, however, is that they can be easily transcribed to share with the masses, including the legions of laptop users. So, as a way to mark my first column here at CBSSports.com, I give you a randomly-selected group of players from my list. They're not quite sleepers and not exactly value deals. Just a bunch of players I'll go the extra mile for to get on my team in 2012 ...

Mark Buehrle, SP, Marlins: A lot of people are pointing to Buehrle's move to the National League -- and, in turn, a friendlier park -- as his strongest asset, but they're overlooking the best part about him: his consistency. For his career, Buehrle has a 3.83 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. He hasn't pitched fewer than 201 innings, or made fewer than 30 starts, since 2000. Let that sink in -- Bill Clinton was still President when Buehrle pitched less than 200 innings in a season. He'll come cheap in auction leagues and go late in drafts and is essentially a guarantee to get those solid numbers over the course of 200-plus innings, creating a rotation anchor that allows owners to take some gambles on other, less-steady players.

Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers: His average dropped 44 points from 2010 to 2011, which got him slapped with the "disappointment" label. But he more than doubled his home run output and will likely reap the benefits of Prince Fielder and Delmon Young being added to an already-potent lineup behind him. My new colleague, Al Melchior, agrees with me on Jackson, though his reasons are a little more abstract.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs: All this debate about whether or not he'll start at first base seems a little disingenuous to me. Rizzo hit a miserable .141 in 128 at-bats last year, but he managed an absurdly-high eight doubles in that span (over a full season with that rate, he'd challenge for the league lead) and his .281 OBP almost doubled his average. The most telling sign that he'll likely get the nod at first? Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, who drafted Rizzo as part of the Red Sox front office in 2007, traded for Rizzo under three months into their reign as President and GM, respectively, of the Cubs. Even if he starts in Triple-A, Rizzo will likely be up soon and make an impact in Wrigley's smaller confines.

Ricky Romero, SP, Blue Jays: The former first-round pick finished 2011 with 15 wins, a 1.14 WHIP, and a 2.92 ERA. He's progressively gotten better with every full season. Jered Weaver and Felix Hernandez took a very similar route before their breakout seasons.

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Erik Bedard, SP, Pirates: Bedard quietly threw together a really solid season in 2011 before his trade to Boston. He's good for about a strikeout per inning and his low WHIP is seriously overlooked. Injury history aside, Bedard has two major things going for him: a move to the DH-less National League and the opportunity to work with Ray Searage, who is one of the game's best pitching coaches (Pittsburgh's team ERA dropped from 5.00 in 2010 to 4.04 in 2011 when he took over).

Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins: He's going at No. 22 overall in drafts, according to our current Average Draft Position data on CBSSports.com. That's embarrassing. For drafters. I wouldn't hesitate to take him in the top eight. If I'm sitting in the No. 7 spot in my draft, I might even consider taking him there (although it looks like I can get him on the way back). Ozzie Guillen shouting in one ear, the influence of Eduardo Perez in the other, and he was playing hurt in 2011. Plus, he'll be eligible at both shortstop and third base about a week into the season in most leagues. Are we forgetting the arguments we had the last two years about him being the overall No. 1 pick? One bad, injury-affected year, and he's dropped 21 slots?

Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays: The "change of scenery" argument had holes poked in it after a sub-par run in Toronto last year, but Rasmus is more of the player we saw in 2010 than the one we saw in 2011. I like where he's going in drafts, and I wouldn't be afraid to snag him 20 picks earlier.

Mike Leake, SP, Reds: I have him all in CAPS in both my scribbles and my final list. I'll probably triple-highlight him on my draft sheets. I'm a believer. He posted a 1.17 WHIP last year, his second year in the majors. I wouldn't be surprised if the strikeout rate came up a little bit from 2010 and 2011, with the pitch counts not being such a huge problem any longer.

Jason Bay and Adam Loewen, OF, Mets: This may be the last chance many owners give Bay, but with the fences moved in at CitiField, there's at least an argument beyond, "he hit 36 homers three years ago," for liking him. Loewen, meanwhile, is an intriguing play. In really deep leagues, the former pitcher could find some value. It's entirely possible he could play his way into a starting job, beating out Scott Hairston and Lucas Duda. Loewen could be a cheap source of some power, speed, and average.

Josh Fields, 3B, Dodgers: He'll probably start 2012 in the minor leagues, but the former White Sox prospect is worth keeping an eye on, as he has been destroying the ball in spring training for the Dodgers and has just Juan Uribe blocking his path to completing the feel-good story. Even though it's not likely, this has all the makings of one of those situations where Fields grabs the job out of camp and puts together a really solid season out of nowhere.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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