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Di Fino: These guys putting on quite an act

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Not every bit of baseball advice can be neatly packaged and explained using just numbers and MLB history.

Sometimes, Fantasy advice can be given best by drawing a parallel to something outside of sports. Fantasy is, after all, a game. And games are supposed to be fun.

In our annual lists of most popular and best team names, for instance, names are drawn from TV shows, movies and comic books. So it makes sense to take a quick peek outside of baseball to bring in some startingly similar parallels between pop culture figures and some of the game's more intriguing players.

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Chipper Jones as Darth Vader ... Jones, who turned 40 on Tuesday, has already made it known that this will be his last season in the major leagues, making 2012 a farewell tour for the third baseman. While Jones has been all but written off by many owners on CBSSports.com (he's owned in 41 percent of leagues, started in 18), there's a case to be made that he has some Fantasy value left.

Consider his 2012 season. As of Thursday morning, Jones has a .278 batting average, with three home runs and 10 RBI. His career batting average is .304, although he has dipped to the .270 range over the past four seasons. Jones hasn't played in 162 games in his career; in fact, beginning in 1995, Jones has averaged about 140 games per season. His power has also dropped off -- with an average of 15 home runs over the last three years. But Jones does have some good left. He can lift a Fantasy team's average. He will supply some power. He's not a viable starting third basemen in mixed leagues with less than 14 teams, but he is a very solid bench player; someone you can plug in when a player like Alex Rodriguez or Kevin Youkilis hits the disabled list. Add the fact that Jones will be motivated to put up a good performance in his last year in the majors on top of all this, and it wouldn't be out of hte question to expect a 20 home run/.290 season.

This isn't meant to be a fiery defense of Chipper Jones -- like Vader, he has done some damage to good people (missed myriad games with injury/blown up Alderann, for instance) over the years. But he shouldn't be fully written off as hopeless just yet.

Jamie Moyer as Thornton Mellon ... In Back to School, Rodney Dangerfield's millionaire tycoon returned to college just for the heck of it. As old as he was, Mellon showed that he could still hang with a group of kids many years his junior. He passed all his exams, he threw bigger parties, re-did the dorms, and won a diving meet with a mix of creativity and natural talent. Jamie Moyer may not be the most exciting pitcher in the majors, but he is smart and has enough finesse to win games. He won't miss many bats, but in his return from Tommy John surgery this season, he built on his recent success as an ageless wonder and has put up a 2.28 ERA in four starts.

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Moyer is currently owned in six percent of leagues and is started in just three. While he won't keep up the 2.28 ERA, it's hard to forget that, from 1996 to 2003, he rattled off seven seasons of sub-4.00 ERAs. His career ERA is 4.22, with a 1.32 WHIP, but he's such an aberration, that may not even be the most relevant bit of information with him. He's 49 years old and, in his only win so far this season, none of his pitches topped 79 mph on the gun. But he told the Washington Post's Cindy Boren that he feels like he has a new arm. "It's like when you buy something new," Moyer said. "It's that kind of feeling." Combine the "new arm" with several years of success and the wisdom and craftiness that comes with having faced hundreds of batters over the years, and Moyer could pitch his way -- slowly and methodically -- into eventual mixed league relevance.

Albert Pujols as Daenerys Targaryen ... So far in the second season of HBO's Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen, and her slow-moving plotline, have been fairly absent. This is fairly disappointing, as, up to this point, she had been an All-Star of sorts -- showing an ability to withstand fire, serving as "mother" to three baby dragons, and learning a new language while leading the Dothraki people. She's currently in a desert; hungry, thirsty, and losing followers. She is, in effect, Albert Pujols -- in a strange land and simply adjusting.

He has yet to hit a home run this season, and his batting average is an almost-unbelievably low .222. His Average Draft Position was 2. He went no lower than sixth in our drafts. And, now, Milwaukee backup catcher George Kottaras has twice as many runs batted in (8-4), and is batting over .100 points higher.

But Fantasy Baseball isn't about now. It's about a month from now. It's about the last four years. Pujols has never hit fewer than 32 home runs in his career. "Fine," you might say, "Adam Dunn had a similar claim before last year, then switched leagues and saw his power drop." But the difference is that Dunn has never finished a season with an average above .267 or an OBP above .417. Pujols has never hit below .299, and his career OBP is .419.

We have the luxury of knowing what happens to Targaryen thanks to the novels that provide the source material for the HBO show; all we can go on with Pujols is this: his past suggests that he will have success. There is no real precedence to point to for this situation, outside of the tried-but-true mantra of, "don't panic." Dunn's situation doesn't apply. Prince Fielder's success in Detroit provides a stark contrast to the, "he switched leagues and it takes time to adjust," argument. Pujols didn't just sign a playing contract with the Angels -- once his contract expires, he has a 10-year personal services contract with the team. He will be, in effect, the face of the franchise for a long time. It's not time to worry. If anything, it's time to act and see if a frustrated Pujols owner is ready to part with the slugger for a discount. Because as unbelievable as it is to see him be homerless through 72 at-bats, it's equally believable to be reading a story a month from now with the headline, "Pujols Homers In Ninth Straight Game." You'll want him on your team once he, figuratively, releases his dragons on everyone else.

Jack Hannahan and Aramis Ramirez as Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron in Like Father Like Son ... In the 1987 classic, Like Father Like Son , Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron switch bodies after Cameron's character drinks a brain-switching formula. After 90 minutes of hilarity, the two switch back. Order is restored.

Aramis Ramirez is currently batting .191 with seven runs batted in for the Brewers. Fellow third baseman Jack Hannahan, meanwhile, is hitting .333 with 13 RBI for the Indians. This wasn't supposed to happen. Hannahan had a .218 average with nine home runs in the closest he's ever come to playing a full season (436 at-bats in 2008 with Oakland). Hannahan is climbing up the Most Added charts in our Roster Trends section, jumping from six percent ownership to 16. Ramirez, meanwhile, has seen his start percentage slide from 94 percent at the start of the season to 77 percent for next week's lineups.

Hannahan is a career .235 batter; Ramirez has a career .283 average. Hannahan has 25 career home runs; Ramirez has hit 25 home runs (or more) in nine separate seasons. It's not a declining skills thing -- Hannahan is 32; Ramirez is 33.

To be a true parallel to the movie, both men have to learn something -- they don't return to their bodies as the same people they were before. Hannahan likely has more confidence being given the every-day job in Cleveland. While he won't hit .333 for the entire season, seeing Hannahan with 12 home runs and a .275 average by season's end isn't entirely out of the question (although a sticky situation may arise if he slumps and Lonnie Chisenhall -- currently batting .317 with four homers in Triple-A -- continues his torrid pace). Ramirez, meanwhile, may just "learn" that he's not a great April player -- his numbers are markedly worse in April than they are in any other month, to the tune of a .256 batting average.

Roy Oswalt as Winston Zeddemore in Ghostbusters ... In Ghostbusters, the team of ghost hunters are run ragged, putting an ad out for reinforcement help. Winston Zeddemore shows up one day and is hired. It's not a perfect parallel, as Roy Oswalt has expereince in his field, while Zeddemore was somewhat unqualified and just wanted a steady paycheck, but the idea is the same. Some team, on the precipice of greatness, is going to need one more piece to really make a push at the end. Zeddemore was a more-than-capable replacement; Oswalt could be far more.

Oswalt is currently owned in 20 percent of leagues, a number that should rise as rumors of Oswalt talking to teams or working out for teams pop up with more frequency in the next month or two. Oswalt has had a season ERA above 4.00 just once (2009 with Houston when he battled finger, wrist, and back problems), and carries a career 1.19 WHIP. He strikes out less than a batter per inning, but can help the right team at the right time. From a Fantasy perspective, a fresh Oswalt should provide a low ERA and WHIP -- assuming the back problems are behind him -- as well as a better chance at wins thanks, obviously, to being part of a better team. As more injuries mount up, the ownership percentages for Oswalt will climb. There may not be much time left to sneak him onto a roster before whispers get louder and owners scramble to pick him up.

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 send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch admits to pressing too hard last spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:41 am ET) Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch is still pushing to earn a spot on the team's starting rotation this spring, but he knows he pushed a bit too hard last year, reports the Dallas Morning News.

"I was just trying to do a little too much," said Tepesch, who threw a scoreless inning on 14 pitches in Sunday's intrasquad game. "I was trying to make perfect pitches and staying who I am. Getting sent down allowed me to look at what made me successful and try to own those types of things. It was beneficial. I also now know that I can only control what I do. If I stay focused on that, pressure takes care of itself."


Tigers' Blaine Hardy hoping to reign in his accuracy in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Tigers pitcher Blaine Hardy is using this spring training to work on his control. Hardy struggled in 2014 with his control, walking 20 batters in 39 innings pitched.

"Last year I walked more people than I would've liked," he said to MLB.com. "That's definitely a learning point, learning the strike zone. It's a little bit different, a little bit smaller, but more consistent. With that being said, I felt like I had a good year, and hopefully I'll be able to come in and do the same thing with less walks."

Manager Brad Ausmus didn't think Hardy's season was as bad as people believe it was.

"I thought he did a good job for us, quite frankly," Ausmus said. "It kind of irks me a little bit when people want to split players' seasons up: Player X had a good year, but he really struggled in the second half. He still had a good year.

"Guys are going to struggle at some point in the season. It's probably more likely they struggle in the second half as they tire, but you can't discount what they did in the first half. Those games are just as important to win."


Rockies' Jhoulys Chacin faces hitters for first time Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin is feeling good about his health so far in camp. Good enough, in fact, that the 27-year-old faced hitters Saturday for the first time this spring.

Sunday, Chacin said he was without pain.

"Today I feel normal -- not like before," Chacin said. "I threw everything and felt good. I need to get into games to really feel back to normal, like it did two years ago [14-10 with a 3.47 ERA in 31 starts]. I know I've got a long way to go. I don't know what my velocity was, but it'll come up a little."

Chacin injured his rotator cuff in the middle of last season, forcing him out of action for nearly half the season.


Indians P Gavin Floyd comes out of live BP session pain free
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Following his first live batting practice of spring training, Indians pitcher Gavin Floyd came away without any pain the elbow he broke last season.

With the Braves in 2014, Floyd fractured his elbow in a game against the Nationals on June 19. The injury required surgery, which ended his season. Sunday morning's batting practice marked the first time he'd thrown to a batter since that game. 

"It's just another step," Floyd said via MLB.com. "It's the first time I had a significant bullpen, cooled down for a little bit and then got back out there. I felt really good. I've just got to continue to make progress and build up strength. Usually, that's just by doing it over and over again, and using spring to do that."


White Sox's Gordon Beckham working at multiple infield positions
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Gordon Beckham's main goal this spring training is to win the White Sox's starting second baseman position. 

But for now, the White Sox are planning to use him at multiple positions in the infield during Cactus League play, according to MLB.com. This is somewhat new for Beckham, as he played second base during his first five-plus Major League seasons with the White Sox. 

Though Beckham is looking to earn the starting job at second base, he seems to be enjoying playing multiple spots so far. 

"I'm actually kind of enjoying running around," Beckham said. "I like popping around the infield. I know the coaches and the people making the decisions know I can play second base and know I can play it well. There has been an emphasis on them just telling me to get some work in other places."

Beckham actually played shortstop in college at the University of Georgia and played that position, as well as third base, after the White Sox traded him to the Angels. He was brought back to Chicago on a one-year deal. 

Beckham hit a single-season worse .226 for both the Angels and White Sox a season ago. 


Giants' Tim Lincecum to 'piggyback' starter this week
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Giants manager Bruce Bochy said pitcher Tim Lincecum will see a relief appearance early this week, according to MLB.com

Lincecum is generating rave reviews for his performance early on in spring training. However, he won't be getting a start this week. Bochy said Lincecum will "piggyback" either Madison Bumgarner (Tuesday), Jake Peavy (Wednesday), Ryan Vogelsong (Thursday) or Yusmeiro Petit (Friday) this week. 

This means Lincecum will come in and get a starter's workload in relief. 


Giants' Jake Peavy to start Wednesday for Giants
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Following Madison Bumgarner's exhibition start on Tuesday, the Giants will go with Jake Peavy to start Wednesday's Cactus League game against the Athletics, manager Bruce Bochy announced via MLB.com

Ryan Vogelsong will pitch Thursday against the Cubs and Yusmeiro Petit will go Friday against the Rangers. 


White Sox's Gordon Beckham working at multiple infield positions
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Gordon Beckham's main goal this spring training is to win the White Sox's  starting second baseman position. 

But for now, the White Sox are planning to use him at multiple positions in the infield during Cactus League play, according to MLB.com. This is somewhat new for Beckham, as he played second base during his first five-plus Major League seasons with the White Sox. 

Though Beckham is looking to earn the starting job at second base, he seems to be enjoying playing multiple spots so far. 

"I'm actually kind of enjoying running around," Beckham said. "I like popping around the infield. I know the coaches and the people making the decisions know I can play second base and know I can play it well. There has been an emphasis on them just telling me to get some work in other places."

Beckham actually played shortstop in college at the University of Georgia and played that position, as well as third base, after the White Sox traded him to the Angels. He was brought back to Chicago on a one-year deal. 

Beckham hit a single-season worse .226 for both the Angels and White Sox a season ago. 


Phillies pitcher Paul Clemens fighting for spot in bullpen
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Phillies pitcher Paul Clemens has been told he has a great arm. But Clemens, who posted a 5.51 ERA in 48 appearances with the Astros over the last two years, knows it'll take more than that.

"Some pitching coaches tell me how incredible my arm is and that I could play for a long time, so I think I've been showing some guys what I bring to the table," Clemens said. "I had a couple really good conversations with front office and some guys around here, so it's definitely motivating."

He wants to be able to pick out his spots better during spring training, knowing he has to impress as a non-roster invitee.

"Sometimes I think I get too overzealous with my fastball and I just pound it and pound it and pound it. So picking my spots more, being smarter. You can't really challenge guys at this level. Once in a while you've got to pick your spots, but you can't challenge too many guys, even the guys you don't really know their names as much. You've still got to pitch."


Athletics to ease Coco Crisp into action this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Athletics manager Bob Melvin wants to take things slow with veteran outfielder Coco Crisp this spring, reports MLB.com.

"I'll probably hold him out the first few because I'm going to cut down on his workload," Melvin said Sunday.

Crisp, who is dealing with a case of pinkeye, was held out of an intrasquad scrimmage, even though he was able to take part in batting practice.


 
 
 
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