Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
With a little less than a week remaining until the umpire yells "play ball" for the first time in 2010, we continue our travels around the six divisions, looking for interesting players and fantasy situations.
In Part Five of six we head to the National League Western Division.
Los Angeles - In a rarity, the question marks surround the club's veterans, not its core of youngsters. Matt Kemp (ADP 7.3), Andre Ethier (ADP 58.2) and James Loney (ADP 139.4) should continue to improve and produce. The most important fantasy questions involve shortstop Rafael Furcal, outfielder Manny Ramirez and catcher Russell Martin. Furcal battled through back pain last year and his numbers showed it. It's possible that he'll never return to his 2003-06 form. Ramirez had a horrible second half of the season after returning from a 50-game drug suspension. Was that a coincidence? Fantasy owners apparently don't think so because his current ADP is 76.9, or a seventh-round pick. For a guy who hit 37 HR and knocked in 121 runs just two years ago, that's a huge drop. He could be a bargain if he returns to "Manny being Manny." Martin might be the most difficult fantasy decision this year. If he is the .290 hitting catcher who steals 20 bases, he's extremely valuable, but if he is last year's disappointment, then he's not worthy of a starting spot in your lineup. I don't like that he's batting near the bottom of the Dodgers lineup, or that he already suffered a groin injury slowing his ability to run and tend to think he's going to have a year similar to 2009.
Colorado - The most exciting player on the Rockies, outside of Troy Tulowitzki (ADP 12.5) is leadoff hitter Carlos Gonzalez. Obtained in the Matt Holliday deal, Gonzalez (ADP 122.9) showed glimpses of what he can do by hitting 13 homers and stealing 16 bases in just 278 at-bats last year. Assuming a full season of work, he's a 25-30 guy waiting to happen who can be chosen with just a 10th-round pick. That would make him a top candidate for the 2010 TSN Best Bargain Award. Do you know how many second basemen hit more than the 23 homers Clint Barmes hit and stole at least a dozen bases as he did? Three, yet Barmes is being selected in the 25th-round, if at all. He is an inexpensive solution to your second base position that leaves you plenty of money to use elsewhere. Brad Hawpe (ADP 138.3) had an All-Star first half (OPS .973) and a poor second half (OPS .813). Overall he should be good for 80 runs, 25 HR, 85 RBI and a .290 batting average which makes him a good choice in the 12th round where he is being selected. I might be tempted to pick him a little sooner than that.
San Francisco - The Giants pitching staff has plenty of fantasy-worthy talent, not limited to just Tim Lincecum (ADP 13.7), Matt Cain (ADP 89.2) and closer Brian Wilson (ADP 131.9). There is also Jonathan Sanchez and youngster Madison Bumgarner who will start the year in Fresno, but shouldn't stay there for very long. Offensively, the team struggles to score runs, but the addition of Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa can't hurt. Pablo Sandoval (ADP 28.7) was a star last year when he was catcher-eligible, but unless your league allows that with just three games played, his value will drop a little as only a third or first baseman. Bengie Molina had solid numbers last year at catcher, but beware the Giants have a star in the minors just waiting for an opportunity to play (Buster Posey) and Molina could end up at first base or traded.
San Diego - It's hard to find good fantasy value in the most pitching-friendly park in the majors, but Adrian Gonzalez has put up great numbers despite the "handicap." Too bad he doesn't have any help. On the other hand, whenever you need a pitcher, starting in Petco Park can always help which explains why even on the Padres mediocre staff, you will see at least three pitchers drafted (Kevin Correia, Mat Latos, Heath Bell).
Arizona - The Diamondbacks are very young, very talented and play in a hitter- friendly park. Mark Reynolds (ADP 31.5) is that rare combination of 40+ HR power and speed, but he scares you with his strikeout total which would be great for a pitcher, 200+, but isn't very pretty for a third baseman. The best player on the D'backs is Justin Upton (ADP 18.5) who doesn't yet have Reynolds' power, but should be a 30-30 guy this year with a .300 batting average. Stephen Drew (ADP 142.4) took a step backwards in 2009, but in the leadoff role for this lineup should do well enough to make his being picked in the 11th round worthwhile. I'm not ready to jump on the Miguel Montero (ADP 110.9) just yet, I've seen too many players have a good half or 3/4 of a season. At this point I'd still rather have Kurt Suzuki (ADP 136.4) or Jorge Posada (ADP 145.5). Late selections of Adam LaRoche or Conor Jackson have some upside. LaRoche is a consistent 25 HR guy and Jackson is a solid .300 hitter if he has recovered from his bout with Valley Fever.