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Fantasy-ist: What Would David DeJesus Do?

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I collected baseball cards growing up. Baseball cards taught me math (ER*9/IP=ERA!!). Baseball cards taught me the art of negotiation ("I'll give you a Griffey Upper Deck rookie for that McGwire '84 Olympic card"). And, perhaps most importantly, baseball cards taught me last names. From Assenmacher to Zeile, I know 'em all. While I typically forget someone's first name 30 seconds after meeting them, their last names always seem to stick with me ("Wait, your last name's DeJesus? Any relation to David? No? How about Ivan??").

Then, of course, I discovered girls & that was the end of that.

As I got a bit older, I realized that girls didn't really need to suck up all of my time. But baseball cards seemed a bit . . . silly. Thus, like any self-respecting sports fan, I've spent the last decade or so playing fantasy sports. Baseball, football, basketball . . . whatever's in season. When LAist requested someone cover the wonderful world of fantasy sports, I leapt (well, not really leapt, but shrugged disarmingly) at the chance.

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So anyway, for those obsessive (and not so obsessive) fantasy sports fans out there, LAist will spend the rest of the summer helping you sort your Kevin Millars from your Kevin Millwoods. For those of you who think "Christina" when you hear the last name Aguilera, you'll want to move along to the next restaurant or indie rock band review, as I guarantee this column will bore you to tears.

Ah, but for the Rick Aguilera fans (fan?) out there, come join me after the jump for our first look at the 2007 fantasy baseball season.

Every league, of course, has their own individual scoring system, different numbers of teams, varying roster sizes, and the like. In some leagues, Aaron Rowand is waiver-wire fodder, and in some he's the key cog of a first-place team. For our purposes here, I'm going to try and focus on where opportunities may lie in the basic 5x5 categories, mentioning players that may be undervalued (or overvalued) based on their performance (or lack thereof) so far this season. And selfishly, because the relief pitching on both of my teams this year could use a little help, this week we'll be touring major league bullpens in search of second half saves.

Hopefully, you don't need me to tell you that a bullpen of Nathan, Papelbon, and Frankie Rodriguez is a good idea. So we'll try & dig a little deeper to find guys that might actually be available on your league's waiver wire. For simplicity's sake, we'll split this into three distinct categories based on awful Chicago songs (there might be some redundancy in that statement) from the 1980's:

Then along comes a woman, and you know that it's right.: Brett Myers (PHI), Mike Gonzalez (ATL). Both are set-up guys taking advantage of recent injuries to closers (Tom Gordon/Mike Wickman, respectively). Both are probably already gone in most leagues, but pick them up immediately if they're still available in yours. Myers could be the next Eric Gagne for the Phillies - a relatively mediocre starting pitcher with flashes of brilliance that excels in a closer role. Gordon was off to a poor start this year before his rotator cuff flared up. Increasingly erratic Phillies manager Charlie Manuel may forget who Gordon is by the time his DL stint is over, which would be good news for Myers. Gonzalez, on the other hand, has been an exceptional reliever his entire career (great K/IP ratios, dominating ERA's), including a strong stint as Pittsburgh's closer last season. Wickman is old and has never been a top notch closer, so Gonzalez has a good chance at holding onto this role even after Big Wick returns. Myers and Gonzalez each notched their first saves of the year over the weekend, and are terrific pick-ups, with both short and long-term value.

Look away, baby, look away
: Joakim Soria (KCR), Salomon Torres (PIT), Joe Borowski (CLE). All three of these guys are getting saves now, but will most likely not be closing by the All Star Break. The Royals' Soria will yield soon to Octavio Dotel, who is only a week or so away from returning from a strained left oblique. Soria is a decent pitcher on a bad team with limited opportunity going forward. If you can get anything for him in a deal, do it. Borowski and Torres are both bad pitchers with better, younger pitchers setting up for them. Again, if you can get value for them in a deal, do it now.

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Love me tomorrow: Matt Capps (PIT), Rafael Betancourt (CLE), Octavio Dotel (KCR), Mike MacDougal (CHW), Taylor Tankersley (FLA), Fernando Cabrera (CLE), Rafael Soriano (ATL), David Aardsma (CHW). None of these guys are closing right now, but all of them have a decent shot at seeing some time in the ninth before the end of the season. Capps, Betancourt, and Dotel are the natural replacements for the three closers skating on thin ice mentioned above. MacDougal is having a good year, has closer experience, and is a likely saves candidate for the ChiSox should Bobby Jenks (never an Ozzie Guillen favorite) get into another barroom brawl. Tankersley is the heir apparent to the Marlins job, should Henry Owens falter. Cabrera, Soriano, and Aardsma are each off to great starts in 2007, and are pitching in bullpens that could quickly unravel. They're certainly worth keeping an eye on.

It warrants mentioning that 40 different pitchers saved 8 or more games last year, so don't fret if your bullpen is off to a slow start in '07. Saves is generally the easiest category to improve during mid-season simply by keeping an occasional eye on injuries and performance.

That's enough for now. Next week, we'll look at . . . I don't know . . . NL Central middle infielders. Or something. Until then, good luck & throw in a comment if there's something specific you'd like us to cover next Monday!