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April 03, 2005

ESPN Column

Opening Day Roster Brings Mild Surprises
Outfielder LAYNCE NIX will not make the trip to Anaheim with the Rangers. After a lukewarm Spring Training that left management skeptical that he could man center field every day in Texas, Nix will instead play every day for the Oklahoma Redhawks. GARY MATTHEWS, a pleasant addition last year, ascends from the wrong end of a platoon to everyday centerfielder. Meanwhile, 1B ADRIAN GONZALEZ has parlayed his torrid spring into a starting DH job in place of injured GREG COLBRUNN. Texas placed four pitchers on the DL along with Colbrunn, the only one worth mentioning fantasy-wise is setup man FRANK FRANCISCO. Fellow reliever CARLOS ALMANZAR will miss a few games after being placed on the Bereavement List.

The fantasy implications of these maneuvers are minimal in ESPN’s mixed leagues. No one mentioned above merits ownership, not yet anyway. Owners in AL-only leagues should drop Nix forthwith. Also, as just about any regular position player has value, consider Matthews and Gonzalez. Over his career, Matthews has veered between adequacy and wretchedness as a batter. Grab him if you really OF help but keep a short leash. Gonzalez has displayed only modest success above AA but has far more upside. He and ostensible fellow DH DAVID DELLUCCI are both lefthanded, so there’s no obvious platoon situation to be found. So, Gonzalez should start most of the time, but it’s hard to say exactly when or how often. Still, he’s worth owning, and he’s worth watching in mixed leagues.

Likewise, Francisco is of interest only in AL-only leagues. He is nursing a sore elbow and hopes to return by late April. His absence, along with the temporary absence of Almanzar, thins out 2004’s AL-best bullpen and perhaps could result in a few more leads lost before FRANCISCO CORDERO has a chance to close out. Cordero should still be an excellent fantasy closer, and he appears fully recovered from early March should soreness.

Soriano Hits, Then Runs
ALFONSO SORIANO stole a base in an exhibition game Sunday, his first attempt of the spring. At last, he appears healthy. He and his .324 OBP will lead off for Texas for the time being. Expect 20-25 steals, not 30-35. The question is how long he’ll remain in Texas. Tampa Bay reportedly declined his services in exchange for Danys Baez and Nick Cantu. Prospect IAN KINSLER played well this spring, and continued success in AAA will make Soriano all the more expendable, especially if Texas falls out of the playoff race.

Opening Week
Texas initiates the season with trips to the OC and Seattle. The opposing starters are not yet determined for every game, but expect the Rangers to face Colon, Washburn and Lackey in Anaheim and the three M’s (Moyer, Meche, Madristch) in Seattle. With Nix and Colbrunn gone, Texas has no lefty-righty platoons as was so common last year. In the early going, manager Buck Showalter probably will try to get every position player some action, so don’t fret if you see a bench player like Chad Allen or Mark DeRosa in the lineup in a boxscore this week. For that matter, don’t panic about an obvious winner like MICHAEL YOUNG or MARK TEIXEIRA starting off slow. If either goes 1-for-20 in August, you’d never see it. If it happens during the opening week, some owners panic. Not you, I hope.

Rotation Still Unworthy Of You
In my recently drafted 12-team ESPN league, one owner picked up starter RYAN DRESE very late, and the other starters went undrafted. That’s as it should be, and I’m not too fond of Drese either, for fantasy purposes. He and KENNY ROGERS have similar a similar fantasy repertoire: good production in wins combined with mediocrity in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. Since wins are so fickle, Drese and Rogers strike me as a high-risk, low-reward solutions. Both have value in Al-only leagues and larger mixed leagues. CHAN HO PARK might tease you with a good outing or two, but he’s fantasy kryptonite. The same applies to PEDRO ASTACIO. CHRIS YOUNG has some potential but isn’t worth owning right now in any league.

Posted by Lucas at April 3, 2005 09:29 PM