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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
Report: Orioles in 'continuous dialogue' for Chris Tillman's extension
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:10 pm ET) The Orioles and pitcher Chris Tillman are reportedly engaged in "continuous dialogue" for a long-term extension and have been for the past several weeks, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Tillman signed a one-year, $4.315 million deal in January to avoid arbitration and the discussions for a new deal are still considered preliminary, according to the report.

Tillman posted a 13-6 record in 2014 with a 3.34 ERA in 34 starts.


Tigers bullpen decision coming down to Ian Krol, Kyle Ryan
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:03 pm ET) Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is running out of time to finish off his bullpen for Opening Day. The final bullpen role will likely be a left-handed pitcher and is expected to come down to Kyle Ryan and Ian Krol, according to MLB.com.

"If I'm there, hopefully it's a good situation, whether it's long or short," Ryan said. "For them to have enough confidence in me to go into Spring Training as a reliever, and actually for them to believe that I might be able to make the team as a reliever, that makes me proud."

Ryan has given up seven runs on seven hits in 11 innings of work this spring. 

"When he throws it right, it's good," Ausmus said of Krol. "He has a tendency to occasionally slow his arm down on his cutter and curveball. He did it a couple times today. But when he doesn't slow his arm down, it's very good."


Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson continues to make his case
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:55 pm ET) Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson still doesn't know what his role will be when Opening Day rolls around, but he's showing he belongs on the roster, reports MLB.com.

"There's always stuff I need to work on, and I need to continue to impress," Pederson said after launching his fifth home run of the spring Saturday, boosting his batting average to .373.

Manager Don Mattingly remains quiet on what he will do when the decision has to be made, but Pederson is doing what he can to impress.

"[Opening Day] is out of my control," Pederson said. "It's something you dream about as a kid, playing in the big leagues, and you do anything you can to make that dream come true."


Angels P Matt Shoemaker gives up three runs in loss to Dodgers
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(10:52 pm ET) After pitching six scoreless innings in his last start, Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker struggled a bit in the team's 5-4 to the Dodgers, reports MLB.com.

Shoemaker gave up three runs on four hits in six innings, striking out two. One of the hits he surrended was to Joc Pederson on a two-run homer.

The 28-year-old completed last season with a 3.04 ERA, 124 strikeouts and only 24 walks.


Reds third baseman Todd Frazier feels ready for Opening Day
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:49 pm ET) Reds third baseman Todd Frazier feels his swing has come back and is ready to tackle the long haul ahead of the regular season, reports MLB.com.

"It comes quick, like usual," Frazier said on Saturday morning. "I get goose bumps thinking about it right now -- another year, it's crazy."

Frazier struggled early in spring training, but has rebounded to go 8 for 23 in his last seven games.

"I hit in the Minor Leagues for about 10 at-bats [on Friday], just to try and feel it back-to-back. I do, and I feel really well," said Frazier, who is batting .262 in 14 games this spring. "I feel like if I had to play tomorrow [in the regular season], I'd be ready to go. It's all about preparation, and offseason stuff. I feel like it's so far, so good."


Angels OF Mike Trout homers in loss to Dodgers
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(10:47 pm ET) Angels outfielder Mike Trout homered in Saturday's 5-4 loss to the Dodgers, reports MLB.com.

Trout, 23, robbed the Dodgers' Alex Guerrero of an extra-base hit in the first inning, making it a successful day for him, despite the loss. 

This spring he has a batting average of .477 with four home runs and 14 RBI. 


White Sox hope to have David Robertson, Jake Petricka back by Opening Day
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:45 pm ET) Two key members of the White Sox bullpen are working their way back from forearm injuries, but manager Robin Ventura is confident he'll have both back by opening day. 

Closer David Robertson is scheduled to pitch on Sunday. 

“We’re trying to make sure we’re extra careful with him,” Ventura said, per Comcast's Dan Hayes. “He doesn’t seem to be concerned about it as much as we do."

Setup man Jake Petricka isn't as far along as Robertson. He played catch on Saturday for the first time in five days.

The Sox are taking it slow, so that the team will have both pitchers for Opening Day as well as the rest of the season. 

"You’re just making sure you’re cautious enough that you feel good about when (they go) out there that there won’t be any setbacks,” Ventura said. 


Indians pitcher Zach McAllister fans nine in outing Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:30 pm ET) Indians pitcher Zach McAllister went five innings Saturday against the Brewers, allowing two runs on six hits with nine strikeouts. McAllister, who is expected to make one more start before Opening Day, touched 97 mph with his fastball in the appearance, according to Cleveland.com.

"He's been impressive and he's been doing it all spring," said Francona. "He's not just throwing strikes, he's down in the zone when he wants to and then he can elevate with some velocity. I think his hard work is really paying off."

McAllister has felt he always had the added velocity.

"Throughout my career I've always felt I've had a little more (velocity) in there if I could maintain it," said McAllister. "For whatever reason, whether it's being more consistent with my delivery or my arm action, I'm just trusting that when I let it go it's going to go where I want it to go. I'm not trying to place anything."


Pirates Pedro Alvarez looking to stick at first base
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(10:27 pm ET) Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez is hoping to stick at his new position after converting from third base, reports triblive.com.

On opening day, Alvarez will be the team's 54th first baseman in its 129-year history.

“It's a matter of getting used to seeing the field from that point of view,” Alvarez said. “I need to get the reps in so the responsibilities that come with playing that position become second nature to me.”

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington talked about the team's past efforts of platooning the position.

“You can't develop something you don't have. You can't buy something you can't afford,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “That's why we've tried to platoon. Over the last couple of years, we've realized that's a challenge for a National League manager. Platoons are much harder here than they are in the American League, especially with a one-dimensional player who can only play one position.”

The hope around the organization is that they can get quality production from Alvarez.

“Our hope that is between Pedro Alvarez and Corey Hart, we'll get quality major league production,” Huntington said.

The 28-year-old is batting .306 with two home runs, nine RBI and eight strikeouts this spring.


Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton can't find a rhythm Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:22 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton tossed six innings Saturday against the Blue Jays, allowing six hits, including two home runs and no strikeouts. Morton, who is fighting for a spot in the starting rotation, is still recovering from labrum surgery six months ago.

"Physically, Charlie is in a good place," manager Clint Hurdle said to MLB.com. "He is trying to make some mechanical adjustments in his delivery, but we don't have any health concerns about him."

Morton isn't worried about fixing mechanical issues just yet.

"Now is a tough time to put a lot of emphasis on mechanics," said Morton. "I gotta go pitch, adjustments or no adjustments."


 
 
 
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