Winning Fantasy Baseball Strategies
By Rick Morris

My goal in formulating these guidelines was to make them useful for fantasy players of all skill levels.  Some advanced players may already take some of these thoughts into consideration, but hopefully, some of these principles will be useful to them.
  1. Speed kills.  There’s a good reason that Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, Vladimir Guerrero and Bobby Abreu are ranked above Manny Ramirez, Todd Helton and Barry Bonds on my draft board.  It’s the same reason that speed specialists like Carl Crawford and Juan Pierre are well above power specialists like Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell.  The scarcity of stolen bases relative to home runs forces fantasy players to value it to what may occasionally seem to be ridiculous extremes.
  1. As Cartman would say: RESPECT MAH ELI-GI-BI-LI-TAH!  Winning a fantasy league without benefit of at least one player with dual positional eligibility is a difficult proposition.  Think about it: for each such player on your roster, that frees up another roster spot for you to select the best player available at that point regardless of need.  Championships have been won or lost on thinner reeds than this.  Three players with dual eligibility occupy spots in the Top 75 on my draft board (which I certainly recommend checking out, by the way!): Aubrey Huff (39th overall, first base and third base eligibility), Mike Piazza (48th overall, catcher and first base eligibility) and Brad Wilkerson (75th overall, first base and outfield eligibility).  Pedro Feliz (first base, shortstop and third base eligibility), Jose Uribe (second base, shortstop and third base eligibility) and Chone Figgins (second base, third base and outfield eligibility) occupy a special place this year: tri-eligibility!  Other notables include Chipper Jones (third base and outfield eligibility), Ryan Klesko (first base and outfield eligibility), Shawn Green (first base and outfield eligibility) and Ryan Freel (third base and outfield eligibility).
  1. Don’t reach for closers.  Eric Gagne is considered by many experts to have second-round value this year.  I beg to disagree.  No closer merits as high of a selection.  As a matter of fact, remain on the sidelines for quite awhile if an early run on closers materializes, as there are 11 of them worthy of anchoring a fantasy bullpen this year.
  1. The future is now at starting pitcher.  Some fantasy players will select pitchers such as Oliver Perez, Ben Sheets, Roy Oswalt and Ben Sheets in the first two rounds (I’m not even bothering to list Johan Santana with them as it is obvious to one and all that he is a first-round pick).  Some fantasy players will select Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling in the first two rounds.  Winning owners will count themselves in the former category as opposed to the latter.  While fantasy players are invariably savvier about the game than the average fan, they can still get caught up in the “name game,” and never more so than with starting pitchers.  Of the older pitchers listed here, Curt Schilling has the most value and would likely be ranked with the young guns were it not for the fact that his season will start a bit late due to his offseason surgery.
  1. The value of every player is a balance between good and bad possibilities, but especially with injury cases.  Due to offseason stupidity, fantasy star Lance Berkman won’t be ready at the start of 2005.  All of us as fantasy players monitor injury situations regularly, but it’s simply impossible to pinpoint at this exact moment in time when he’ll return to the Houston lineup and how much, if any, his production will suffer when he’s back.  So what we’re left with is what the proper balance is between the most optimistic and most pessimistic scenarios.  In this case, it amounts to Mr. Lance falling to 30th at outfield on my draft board.  As for Mark Prior and Jason Schmidt, they’d be first-round picks in any serious league in the world if we as fantasy owners could pin down for certain that the health issues of 2004 were a fluke.  We cannot, of course, ascertain that.  The acceptable balance to me puts them at 13th and 14th overall.  While Prior and Schmidt are generally presumed to be fully recovered from their ailments, Brad Penny’s situation is somewhat murkier.  He’s a Top 15 pitcher if healthy, but his late ’04 issues were scary.  What’s the balance in his case?  21st at starting pitcher on my board.  Each player needs to be evaluated on this basis, but especially those with injury questions.