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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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Player News
David Hale takes loss Wednesday vs. Dodgers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:47 am ET) Braves pitcher David Hale was stuck with a loss Wednesday, giving up one earned run on three hits in one-plus innings in his team's 3-2 defeat against the Dodgers.

Hale (3-3) gave up a two-out single in the ninth inning but was able to escape the frame unscatched. He then surrendered a leadoff single in the 10th and watched the runner move into scoring position on a wild pitch. The next batter delivered a walkoff single to end the game. Hale owns a 2.76 ERA and 31:26 K:BB ratio in 65 1/3 innings.


J.P. Howell picks up win Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Dodgers pitcher J.P. Howell walked two batters and struck out one while tossing a scoreless inning and earning a win in his team's 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Braves.

Howell (3-3) had issued just one walk in July coming into Wednesday, though it came one day earlier. He was able to work around his free passes to deliver a scoreless 10th inning before his team picked up a walkoff win in the bottom half of the inning. Howell owns a 1.22 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 36:18 K:BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings.


Alex Wood strikes out eight vs. Dodgers Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:41 am ET) Braves pitcher Alex Wood didn't factor into Wednesday's decision after giving up one earned run on six hits and two walks in seven innings and striking out eight in his team's 3-2 loss to the Dodgers.

Wood surrendered a solo home run in the second to tie the game 1-1, and it turned into a pitchers' duel after that. It was an excellent rebound effort after giving up 12 hits and five runs in his last outing. Wood owns a 3.30 ERA and 102:26 K:BB ratio in 103 2.3 innings. He's scheduled to face the Mariners Tuesday.


Zack Greinke strikes out 13 in no-decision vs. Braves
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:41 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke didn't factor into the decision Wednesday, giving up one earned run on five hits and one walk and striking out a season-high 13 batters in his team's 3-2 win over the Braves.

Greinke tossed seven scoreless innings while striking out 10 in his last start, and he kept on rolling Wednesday, with his only damage coming on an infield single in the second inning. He owns a 2.65 ERA and 153:29 K:BB ratio in 139 1/3 innings. Greinke is slated to face the Angels Monday.


Kenley Jansen blows save Wednesday vs. Braves
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:41 am ET) Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen blew a save opportunity Wednesday, giving up one earned run on one hit in one inning of action in his team's 3-2 win over the Braves.

Jansen hadn't allowed an earned run in 13 appearances going into Wednesday's game, but he served up a game-tying home run to Justin Upton to lead off the inning. He was able to retire the next three batters, though he didn't strike out any of them. Jansen owns a 3.27 ERA and 68:13 K:BB ratio in 44 innings.


Justin Upton slugs 19th home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:40 am ET) Braves outfielder Justin Upton had a big game Wednesday, going 3 for 4 with a double and a solo home run in his team's 3-2 loss to the Dodgers.

After the Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth, Upton came through with a no-doubt, leadoff home run in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. While it was just his third home run in July, Upton has hit .287/.354/.511 with 19 home runs, 62 RBI and seven stolen bases in 376 at-bats.


Matt Kemp homers, knocks walkoff single Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:40 am ET) One day after smacking two home runs, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp went 3 for 4 with a walk, a home run and two RBI in his team's 3-2, 10-inning win over the Braves Wednesday.

Kemp smacked a solo home run in the second inning and scored a run in the eighth before coming up big in the 10th, collecting his third hit of the game and sending his team home with a win. He has delivered three straight multihit performances and is 17 for 35 with six walks in his last nine games. His hot stretch has bolstered his line, and he's hitting .288/.353/.465 with 11 home runs, 46 RBI and five stolen bases in 343 at-bats.


Will Venable knocks fourth home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:27 am ET) Padres outfielder Will Venable went 2 for 4 with a home run and four RBI in his team's 12-1 win over the Cardinals Wednesday.

Venable was just 1 for 14 in his last five games heading into Wednesday. He put his team up 4-0 with an RBI single in the fourth inning and capped off an eight-run seventh inning with a three-run home run. Venable has hit .212/.264/.306 with four home runs, 21 RBI and six stolen bases in 288 at-bats.


Jedd Gyorko homers, drives in four in big night Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:24 am ET) Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko delivered a big performance Wednesday, going 3 for 5 with a double, a home run and four RBI in his team's 12-1 win over the Cardinals.

Gyorko slapped a solo home run in the fourth inning, but his big hit came during an eight-run seventh, when Gyorko smacked a double with the bases loaded to drive in three. He's 6 for 11 in three games since returning from a lengthy absence caused by plantar fasciitis. Gyorko has hit .181/.232/.302 with six home runs and 29 RBI in 215 at-bats.


Jesse Hahn tosses seven one-run innings in win Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:24 am ET) Padres pitcher Jesse Hahn earned a win Wednesday, giving up just one earned run on four hits and two walks in seven innings and striking out three in his team's 12-1 victory over the Cardinals.

Hahn (7-2) has given up a single run in each of his last three outings, with Wednesday's damage coming on a fielder's choice in the seventh inning. He hasn't surrendered a home run since serving up two in his debut eight starts ago. Hahn owns a 2.01 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 54:21 K:BB ratio in 53 2/3 innings. He's scheduled to face the Twins Tuesday.


 
 
 
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