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Beltre and Ciriaco aim for fantasy glory

By Jesse Pantuosco, Fantasy Sports Writer

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - At first glance, Adrian Beltre may seem like your typical major league third baseman. But with Beltre, there's a lot more than meets the eye. Here are a few things you should know about the Texas Rangers cleanup hitter:

- If you're ever throwing to Beltre, aim high. He's one of the few players in the sport who chooses not to wear a protective cup.

- But don't aim too high. Beltre feasts off of high fastballs. The Baltimore Orioles learned that the hard way last week.

- Never, ever touch Beltre's head. He really hates that. If you think I'm kidding just ask Beltre's former teammate Victor Martinez.

Luckily for fantasy owners, none of these idiosyncrasies have affected Beltre's on-field performance in the slightest. He enters Monday's action with 24 round-trippers and a .310 batting average.

If Beltre drives in 23 more runs this year, he'll reach the 100-RBI plateau for the third consecutive season. The last third baseman to do that was Alex Rodriguez, who saw his streak of 13 straight 100-RBI campaigns end in 2011 after knocking in only 62 runs in 99 games played.

Consistency has been the foundation of Beltre's success over the past three seasons. During that span, no third baseman in the major leagues has racked up as many hits (482), RBI (284) or home runs (84) as Beltre has. Beltre's .310 batting average since 2010 is also the best among big-league third baseman.

While Beltre's teammate Josh Hamilton can be a headache for fantasy owners because of his streaky tendencies, Beltre tends to avoid peaks and valleys. His steady approach in 2012 has produced only one subpar month. That came in July when the 33-year-old slumped to a .258 average in 93 at-bats.

That's not to say Beltre can't go on a hot streak. Just look at what he was able to accomplish last week.

Wednesday versus the Orioles, Beltre blasted three homers in five atbats, the second three-home run game of his career. Two nights later, he hit for the cycle against the Minnesota Twins, the second time he's completed the cycle in 15 major league seasons. Overall,the three-time All-Star went 12-for-18 with five jacks and nine RBI during his four-game feeding frenzy.

Beltre's transformation into one of the league's top offensive third baseman over the last three seasons (he was already one of the best defensively) is especially remarkable when you consider how poorly he played in the seasons leading up to his rise to dominance. As a Seattle Mariner between 2007 to 2009, Beltre managed just a .269 average in 403 games. He also smacked fewer homers (59 in three years) and struck out with much more frequency during his time in Seattle (268 K's in 1,600 at-bats from 2007-09 compared to 196 in 1,556 trips to the plate since 2010).

We go from a former Boston third baseman in Beltre to a current one in exciting Red Sox rookie Pedro Ciriaco. The utility infielder entered the day Monday with a stunning .360 average in 136 at-bats at the major league level this season.

"Reckless" would be the best way to describe the 26-year-old Ciriaco's style of play. The definition of a free-swinger, Ciriaco has walked only three times this year, a rate of once every 47 plate appearances.

But boy is he fun to watch. Ciriaco is a perfect nine-for-nine on steal attempts and has thrived hitting out of the leadoff spot for the new-look Red Sox. In 21 at-bats as the leadoff hitter, Ciriaco is hitting an incredible .524 with two homers and five runs driven in.

Ciriaco, who dons the No. 77 on the back of his jersey to honor Boston Bruins great Ray Bourque (or, more accurately, because the Red Sox ran out of normal numbers), has shown a flair for the dramatic by producing in high-pressure situations. In five at-bats with the bases loaded this season, Ciriaco is 4- for-5 with seven RBI. His .469 average in 32 at-bats versus the rival New York Yankees is the second-highest on the team.

Another advantage of adding Ciriaco to your fantasy roster is his unusual versatility. He currently carries second base and shortstop eligibility and it won't be long before he acquires eligibility at third as well. Ciriaco has even played a little outfield for the Red Sox this season, making one apperance in center field and two in right.

If Beltre's trademark is his unconventional home run swing (when he drops to one knee before smacking the ball into downtown Arlington), Ciriaco's signature has to be the bloop single.

Ciriaco's ability to bop balls into the corner and leg out infield hits has turned him into the league's preeminent banjo hitter. His absurd .431 batting average on balls in play is a testament to Ciriaco's penchant for cheap hits. But hey, Derek Jeter has made a career off of hitting bloop singles, so why can't Ciriaco?

Beltre and Ciriaco have certainly benefited from the home ballparks they play in. The slap-hitting Ciriaco has used Fenway's strange dimensions to his full advantage this season, compiling an impressive .373 clip in 83 at-bats. Beltre has been equally dominant at Rangers Ballpark, smacking 14 of his 24 homers at that location and hitting for a .335 batting average.

These two have found success in vastly different ways but both are appealing to fantasy owners in their own unique way. While Beltre has already reached the pinnacle of fantasy success, it might not be long before we're saying the same about Ciriaco.

And yes, as far as we know, Ciriaco won't go nuts if you touch his head.

08/27 18:19:33 ET


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