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April 11, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

The Texas offense hasn't played well thus far, scoring only 29 runs in eight games. The killer has been the Rangers' .194 on-base percentage leading off an inning. They have zero leadoff walks.

Still, most of the guys expected to deliver fantasy production have done so. Michael Young is batting .294 with four runs and six RBI. Mark Teixeira has yet to homer but is hitting .385 with four runs and four RBI. Hank Blalock has a homer and a .300 average. You expect as much from them. Now to the men who've exceeded or trailed expectations.

OF Brad Wilkerson is 6-for-36 with one walk and sixteen strikeouts, and the stats don’t fib. He looks lost at the plate right now, taking belt-high pitches for strike two, then flailing at a 59-foot breaking pitch and trudging to the dugout. He does have five runs, three RBI, a homer and a steal, so he's really only punishing his owners in one category right now. Buck Showalter has expressed patience and no intention to drop him from the leadoff spot. Wilkerson owners should likewise be patient.

OF Laynce Nix longs for Wilkerson's line. Nix is zero-for-18 with no walks and seven strikeouts to start the season. Unlike Wilkerson, Nix risks far more than a drop in the order if he sputters. Already a benchwarmer against lefties, he might find himself in Oklahoma when Gary Matthews comes of the Disabled List, though the original plan calls for him and Matthews to share center field duties. This is pure speculation on my part; I've witnessed no rumors in the local media. Be prepared to grab Matthews in AL-only leagues if you need an outfielder. Matthews won't win your league title but can be a useful role player.

Showalter looks to start Rod Barajas more often than I expected, but Barajas has responded with a .160 average, three runs, a homer, and two RBI. Again, not terrible except for the average. Poor Gerald Laird has one start in eight games and won't help anyone in any league for now.

Kevin Mench left his bat in Arizona: .258 with one run, no dingers and no runs batted in. Also, no reason to drop him unless you’re in an eight-team mixed league with a heavily stocked free-agent pool.

On the flip side, DH Phil Nevin has allayed worries that he was cooked. His two homers and eight RBI lead the team. He won't win the MVP, but he's worth grabbing in the handful of mixed leagues where he’s available. True rookie Ian Kinsler is off to a righteous start: .450/.560/.700, four runs, a homer and two RBI. He's not a swing-at-everything poseur either, as his four walks and only two strikeouts attest. I'll reiterate that most rookies make for lousy fantasy players, but if you're hurting for middle-infield production in a mixed league you can try to ride his hot streak.

Kevin Millwood has pitched better than his 7.36 ERA would indicate, though it's faint consolation to his owners. In each of his two starts, one bad inning and a few bad pitches have ruined him. This isn't "Chan Ho, The Sequel." Still, I never thought much of him in smaller mixed leagues. Larger mixed-league owners (that's larger leagues, not larger owners) should hold steady, and AL-only owners would be foolish to drop him.

I still wouldn't bother with Vicente Padilla or Kameron Loe in all but the largest of mixed leagues. Padilla didn't impress despite getting the win in Sunday’s effort, and Loe is probably the kind of pitcher who'll help Texas more than your fantasy team. You probably don't know the back end of the Ranger rotation. In this case, ignorance really is bliss.

Posted by Lucas at April 11, 2006 12:38 AM