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By the Numbers: Eight players who taught me a lesson

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Fantasy is fun but it also serves an infinite supply of humble pie.

With each season, we make new mistakes and discover new blind spots, and sometimes we'll even revisit some of the old ones. If this was one of those seasons that has left you with a bitter aftertaste, you can wash it away by looking forward instead of backwards, recognizing that the players who frustrated you most are also your greatest teachers.

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Anyway, that's what I've attempted to do here. I can stew over the fact that I was the last owner on Earth to recognize Matt Carpenter was an elite at several positions, or I can figure out how to learn from my mistake. Likewise, I can determine how to better handle players like Chase Headley, in whom I invested a lot but got little back.

Along with Carpenter and Headley, I have found six other players who could be my mentors, if I just take a little time to listen to what their performances from the past season are telling me. Just maybe they'll provide a useful lesson or two for others as well, and while I'm at it, I'm also looking ahead to see which players I can apply these lessons to for next season.

It looks like Profs. Carpenter and Uehara are about to take the podium ...

Lesson #1: Don't let a player's previous roles interfere with your appreciation for a desirable skill set.

The teachers: Matt Carpenter, 1B/2B/3B, Cardinals and Koji Uehara, RP, Red Sox

The lesson in detail: Maybe I shouldn't be blamed for shying away from Carpenter on draft day, as it wasn't clear that he would be entrusted to hold down a full-time role. However, it became apparent early on that Carpenter would settle into everyday play as well as a spot at the top of the batting order. While it would have been impossible to predict the Cardinals' absolute mastery of hitting with runners in scoring position, Carpenter's knack for getting on base alone made him a threat to be one of the best sources of runs in Fantasy (if not the runaway leader in the category).

I was far too late to the Carpenter run-scoring party, as I let my perception of him as a utility player color my expectations, even when that perception became obviously outdated. Because he lacked a steady role in 2012 and entered the 2013 season as a 27-year-old, I discounted his prior major and minor league stats. Yet nearly every thing Carpenter did this season -- which landed him among the top six first- base eligible players -- was presaged by his statistical track record. Carpenter had been good at hitting for contact, getting base hits on balls in play and drawing walks for awhile, and only his 55 doubles stand out as a stat that is likely to drop off next season.

It took Uehara longer to establish himself in a high-profile role, but once there were even whispers about him taking over as Boston's closer, I should have been pursuing him in every league. As with Carpenter, I underestimated Uehara due to his age, but he was every bit as enticing as a closer-in-waiting option as Kenley Jansen. Uehara has been putting up crazy-good strikeout-to-walk ratios throughout his career as a reliever, and between his miserly walk and BABIP rates (the latter of which is not simply a matter of luck due to his flyball tendencies), he was a lock for an ultra-low WHIP.

Players lesson could apply to in 2014: Khris Davis, Eduardo Nunez, Grant Green, Elliot Johnson, DJ LeMahieu, Brandon Kintzler.

Lesson #2: Don't hold on to preseason expectations for too long.

The teacher: Chase Headley, 3B, Padres

The lesson in detail: I bought into Headley's 2012 breakout and made him my sixth-ranked third baseman during the preseason. The months rolled by with Headley providing only a portion of the production I expected from him. Headley did finish the season strong, hitting .305 in September with five home runs, but with the news that he played all season with a knee injury, it's clear I should have given more weight to his protracted struggles, at least when they spilled over into the second half. We may not always know the reasons why a player fails to meet expectations over a period of several months, but the time to move on should probably come before August, not after. Maybe for most owners this is not news, but I am heavily biased towards giving my early-round picks a very long leash.

Players lesson could apply to in 2014: We'll see next July.

Lesson #3: Keep minor league sample sizes in perspective.

The teacher: Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros

The lesson in detail: Heading into this season, I saw an opportunity for Altuve to break out. In his first season-and-a-half, he had already shown he could steal bases and hit for a decent average, but he had yet to duplicate the power he had shown in the minors. Altuve's most impressive power numbers came in Double-A and Advanced Class A, but that experience was comprised of all of 118 games. Only 35 of those games came at Double-A, yet I gave too much weight to a small sample of games in the minors as compared to a larger sample of major league games.

Going into 2014, now I know that the smarter move is to expect Altuve to be the Astros' answer to Elvis Andrus, but with fewer walks and run-producing opportunities.

Players lesson could apply to in 2014: Anthony Rendon, Leonys Martin, Adeiny Hechavarria.

Lesson #4: Target high upside players over steady but unspectacular types.

The teacher: Marco Scutaro, 2B/SS, Giants

The lesson in detail: I wound up with Scutaro in several leagues, as I figured he would be a reliable contributor with a batting average close to .300 and at least 80 runs. Scutaro delivered on the batting average, but the Giants had a less potent lineup this season, and his run production suffered greatly. Partly because of injuries and partly because of his team's lackluster offense, Scutaro was not able to build on a solid track record.

When you choose a player with little upside because he has been steady, when the unexpected happens, you have little to fall back on. Though it would have represented greater risk, I would have been better off with less-proven middle infield options like Carpenter, Jedd Gyorko, Jean Segura, Everth Cabrera and Andrelton Simmons, all of whom were far less known quantities and available later in most drafts. At the very least, I should have drafted a higher-upside hitter and stashed him in case he panned out.

Players lesson could apply to in 2014: Mark Trumbo, Todd Frazier, Michael Brantley, Matt Garza (as the steady types to be avoided).

Lesson #5: Do your homework on managers' tendencies to give the green light on stolen bases.

The teachers: Clint Hurdle, manager, and Starling Marte, OF, Pirates

The lesson in detail: Some managers, like Mike Scioscia and Joe Maddon, are notoriously aggressive about having their players steal bases, while others, like Buck Showalter and Fredi Gonzalez, have been more cautious. Most managers are somewhere in the middle, and the likelihood that they'll be aggressive will vary depending on their personnel.

This is something I ignored when making preseason projections for Marte. Despite reasonably good accuracy in many aspects of his projection (.269 Avg, 16 HR, 79 runs, 138 K, 28 BB vs. actual .280 Avg, 12 HR, 83 runs, 138 K, 25 BB), I was way off in terms of Marte's overall Fantasy value. That's because I projected him for 22 stolen bases instead of his actual 41. While Hurdle hasn't always been prone to sending his runners, he has done so when he's had a superior base-stealer, like when he had Willy Taveras with the Rockies. The 12 steals that Marte got under Hurdle in just 47 games in 2012 should have clued me in to his potential to far outstrip the relatively modest totals he accrued in Triple-A and Double-A.

Largely as a result of shortchanging Marte by 19 steals, I projected him as the 53rd most productive outfielder in Rotisserie leagues, but he finished the season ranked 18th among outfielder in standard Roto value.

Players lesson could apply to in 2014: Junior Lake, Nick Franklin.

Lesson #6: Be patient with top-flight players returning from injury.

The teacher: Victor Martinez, 1B/DH, Tigers

The lesson in detail: Even after missing the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL, Fantasy owners had to typically invest a mid-round pick to get Martinez. If he could pick up where he left off and hit .300 with double-digit homers and 100 RBI, owners would have a bargain on their hands, but that didn't look likely three months into the season. At the end of June, Martinez did have six home runs, but he was batting .232.

This was actually a lesson I didn't have to learn the hard way, as I stuck with Martinez through the bad months, and starting him finally paid off in July. Over the final three months, Martinez batted .367, as he started hitting more line drives and fewer grounders. He also finished with 14 home runs and 83 RBI.

Martinez's case doesn't prove that one-time star players will always be able to rebound after an injury-plagued season, much less a year-long layoff, but it does show that it's possible, and that patience is warranted.

Players lesson could apply to in 2014: Matt Kemp, Corey Hart, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Ben Revere.

Lesson #7: Don't write off pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery, even if they were unsuccessful prior to the procedure.

The teacher: John Lackey, SP, Red Sox

The lesson in detail: Upon joining the Red Sox in 2010, Lackey's career went into free fall, with the descent accelerating in 2011. After having suffered through two years of disappointing stats, it was easy to forget how good Lackey was as an Angel and the role that health may have played in his decline. We were reminded of both once he returned from Tommy John surgery this season, as Lackey rediscovered his command. The possibility of a rebound season seemed remote before the 2013 season got under way, especially since he hadn't been especially effective in spring training. (Another lesson: Don't get fooled by spring training stats.)

Lackey finished as a top 60 starting pitcher and would have ranked much higher with better run support. The Red Sox's potent lineup somehow managed to give him only 3.8 runs of support per nine innings. I didn't even have Lackey ranked among the top 60 starters in the AL in my preseason projections, as I expected another season of mediocrity.

Players lesson could apply to in 2014: Joel Hanrahan, Chad Billingsley.

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

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Player News
Dodgers' Friedman on Juan Jaime: 'He can really miss bats'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:46 am ET) Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman spoke Wednesday about pitcher Juan Jaime, who was acquired from the Braves along with three others players in a six-man deal earlier in the day and assigned to extended spring training, MLB.com reports.

"He can really miss bats," Friedman said. "The limiting factor with him is the control. So we'll send him to Camelback and really attack the problem. If he can harness that even a little bit, we feel like we've added a really good player."

Jaime has posted a 5.93 ERA and 19:13 K:BB ratio in 13 2/3 innings with the Braves over two seasons. He has also walked nine batters in 5 1/3 innings in the minors this season after dishing out 36 walks in 41 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett in 2014.


Angels' Collin Cowgill likely headed to disabled list Thursday
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(1:39 am ET) Angels outfielder Collin Cowgill is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

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Angels option Marc Krauss to Triple-A
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:37 am ET) The Angels optioned first baseman Marc Krauss to Triple-A Salt Lake after Wednesday's loss to the Padres, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Krauss loses his 25-man roster spot to outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who was added in a trade earlier in the day. The first baseman was just 5 for 35 with one home run and five RBI with the Angels. He returns to a .281/.405/.458 line with two home runs and 17 RBI in 96 at-bats with Salt Lake.


Diamondbacks' Brad Ziegler blows save, takes loss Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:33 am ET) Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler was saddled with his second blown save and first loss of the season on Wednesday, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning in his team's 4-3 loss to the Cardinals.

Ziegler entered the ninth inning looking to protect a one-run lead but opened the frame by serving up a game-tying home run. He gave up a single before recording the first out of the inning, then walked two batters (one intentionally) to bring up Jhonny Peralta. The shortstop grounded into a fielder's choice, with the lead runner getting thrown out at home, but a throwing error by the catcher trying to record a double play brought the winning run home.

Ziegler owns a 1.25 ERA and 14:8 K:BB ratio in 21 2/3 innings.


Dodgers' Alex Guerrero knocks ninth home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:21 am ET) Dodgers left fielder Alex Guerrero went 1 for 4 with a solo home run in his team's 3-2 loss to the Braves on Wedensday.

Guerrero was hitless on the day before connecting on a ninth-inning homer off closer Jason Grilli, but his shot only reduced the lead to one run before the Dodgers eventually fell. It's the third home run in four games for Guerrero, who has hit .310/.344/.701 with nine homers and 21 RBI in 87 at-bats.


Braves' Cameron Maybin slugs fifth home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:18 am ET) Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin went 2 for 4 with a solo home run in his team's 3-2 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday.

Maybin put his team up 1-0 with his homer to center field in the third inning, his first home run since May 2. He has hit .261/.361/.435 with five home runs, 19 RBI and six stolen bases in 115 at-bats.


Braves' Jason Grilli surrenders homer, earns 14th save
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:16 am ET) Braves closer Jason Grilli served up a homer on Wednesday but was able to record his 14th save in his team's 3-2 win over the Dodgers.

Grilli needed 24 pitches to escape the outing, getting a quick out before surrendering a solo home run to cut his team's lead to one run. He then gave up a single and recorded another out to bring pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo, making his Dodger debut after opening the season with the Braves, to the plate. The closer got Callaspo to fly out to end the game.

Grilli owns a 4.41 ERA and 23:7 K:BB ratio in 16 1/3 innings.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:12 am ET) Angels left fielder Matt Joyce went 1 for 3 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 5-4 loss to the Padres on Wednesday.

Joyce was able to tie the game with his sixth-inning homer, though the Angels would immediately fall back in a hole by giving up two runs in the top of the seventh. The outfielder has hit .176/.253/.282 with two home runs and 13 RBI in 131 at-bats.


Cardinals' Matt Holliday reaches base in 43rd consecutive game
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(1:10 am ET) Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday reached base in his 43rd game played in a row during Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Diamondbacks. 

Holliday hit a single in the fifth inning, which vaulted him ahead of Albert Pujols for the club's record of consecutive games reaching base to start a season.

It also set a National League record in the same category, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"Yeah, that’s cool," Holliday said. "A lot of players have played in the National League. That’s pretty good, I guess."

Only five players have started a season reaching base in more consecutive games — Derek Jeter (Yankees, 53, 1999), Frank Thomas (White Sox, 52, 1996), Mark McGwire (Athletics, 48, 1996), Alvin Davis (Mariners, 47, 1984), Harry Heilmann (Tigers, 44, 1923). 


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke wasn't a factor in the decision on Wednesday, allowing one earned run on three hits and two walks in six innings while striking out nine in his team's 3-2 loss to the Braves.

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