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Fantasy Rankings - Relief Pitchers

Don't use high draft picks on closers. The demanding nature of the role causes many hurlers to break down, rendering guys you expected to be studs useless. It's also foolish to pay a premium when saves so often come cheap in fantasy baseball. At least a third of all closers lose their jobs every year - and some of their replacements lose theirs, too - meaning you'll have at least 15 or so chances to snag one off waivers. When drafting closers, talent is your first consideration and chances of keeping the job is a close second. Expected team success is overrated.

Fantasy Rankings - Starting Pitchers

Some so-called fantasy experts will tell you that taking starting pitchers early in your draft is too risky. Nonsense. A strong starting rotation is the foundation for fantasy success, and you'll have a much easier time finding adequate bats than reliable hurlers later in your draft. Don't focus too much on wins and ERA when drafting starters, because those stats are determined in part by factors pitchers can't control. Concentrate instead on WHIP, K-to-walk ratio and durability. Expected run support and the home ballpark factor can't be ignored, but they're overrated.

Dutch repeat upset feat, advance

Eugene Kingsale singled in the tying run off Dominican reliever Carlos Marmol in the bottom of the 11th inning and then crossed the plate with the winning run when first baseman Willy Aybar couldn't handle Yurendell De Caster's sharp grounder, giving the Dutch their second unreal upset of the Dominican Republic in four days and a berth in the second round of the World Baseball Classic. The loss eliminated the Dominicans, who entered the tournament as one of the favorites to win it all.

Fantasy Rankings - DH-only

Most fantasy leagues don't use the designated hitter position, opting instead for a "utility" spot in which any batter can be used. Big leaguers eligible only at DH can be used only in that utility spot, eliminating the flexibility it would otherwise offer and thus diminishing the value of DH-only guys. The bright side is that a couple of them can really mash, and their DH-only status causes them to fall farther than their numbers would dictate. Be sure not to let guys like David Ortiz, Jim Thome and rookie sleeper Kila Ka'aihue get lost in the shuffle on draft day.

Dutch stun Dominicans in WBC

The Dominican Republic entered the World Baseball Classic as one of the favorites to win it all while the Netherlands squad would have been happy just to win a game or two. Few gave the Dutch team any kind of shot when the teams met on Saturday at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but that's why they play the games. The Netherlands took advantage of errors by Dominican catcher Miguel Olivo and shortstop Hanley Ramirez and a wild pitch by starter Edinson Volquez to push three runs across in the first inning and held on for a stunning 3-2 win.

Fantasy Rankings - Outfielders

Some of the game's brightest stars are outfielders, and there are many outfielders worthy of early-round selections in fantasy drafts. On the other hand, it's by far the deepest offensive position in baseball, and you could choose to concentrate on pitchers and the infield positions early if you trust your ability to find some diamonds in the rough to man your outfield positions later on. Your best bet is to take the best available player, regardless of position, in the early rounds and fill the remaining spots in your lineup in the middle and late rounds.

Surgery to keep A-Rod out 10 weeks

ESPN Deportes reported Thursday that Alex Rodriguez will have surgery Monday to remove a cyst on his right hip and will miss at least 10 weeks, meaning he will be unable to be play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic and won't join the Yankees until mid to late May at the earliest. The news comes as a huge blow to the Yankees, who opened the vault for free agents CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira this offseason in hopes of reclaiming supremacy in the A.L. East.

Manny, Dodgers finally reach deal

After months of very public negotiations, star outfielder Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers have agreed to terms on a two-year, $45 million contract. According to, Ramirez accepted the same deal that he had rejected only a week ago. He'll make $25 million in 2009 and and $20 million next year, and can opt out of his contract after the 2009 season if he so chooses. Deferred payments had been an issue in the negotiations, and in the end, Manny will get his $45 million over the course of five years if he stays with the Dodgers through 2010.

Fantasy Rankings - Shortstops

It wasn't all that long ago that very little was expected offensively from the shortstop position. Boy, have things changed. Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes are going in the top five in fantasy drafts and 2007 National League MVP Jimmy Rollins isn't far behind. And once you get past the elite options, you realize how deep this year's shortstop crop is. Stephen Drew, J.J. Hardy, Jhonny Peralta and Troy Tulowitzki are good and getting better; Derek Jeter, Michael Young, Orlando Cabrera, Miguel Tejada and Rafael Furcal have been getting the job done for years.

All-time home run king seeks work

Seven-time MVP Barry Bonds is guaranteed at least a few months of freedom now that his perjury trial has been delayed until late summer at the earliest, and he wants to spend it on the diamond. According to multiple media sources, the 44-year-old has told his agent, Jeff Borris, to shop his services around to all 30 big league clubs. Borris has conceded that he isn't optimistic about Bonds' chances of landing a job. "Unless they have a change of heart or see an error in their ways, I seriously doubt that clubs will give him the opportunity to play this year," he said.

Fantasy Rankings - Third Basemen

Third base is usually a premium position in fantasy, but this year's crop is uncharacteristically thin. Only the top three - Alex Rodriguez, David Wright and Aramis Ramirez - finished among the top 30 hitters in my league last year, and there are only a few third basemen with a realistic chance of joining them in this year's top 30 when it's all said and done. Evan Longoria could emerge as an elite player, Chipper Jones and Garrett Atkins are safe bets and Chris Davis is a nice prospect, but after that you're left with a big group of similarly solid but unspectacular options.

Bowden resigns as Nationals GM

Nationals GM Jim Bowden resigned Sunday after four-plus years on the job and zero winning seasons, saying he had become a distraction to the team. "Unless you are Manny Ramirez, there is no place for distraction in baseball," Bowden said during an emotional press conference. "I want to be able to turn the page and I want this franchise to be able to have everybody, from the media to the fans, focus on what this game is about. It's about players. It's about what happens on the field."

Fantasy Rankings - Second Basemen

Big league teams have demanded more and more offensive production from the second base position in recent years, and the effects have been felt in fantasy baseball as well. Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley were top-10 hitters in my league last year and Ian Kinsler and Brian Roberts also cracked the top 30, and if you can snag any of these players, you'll have a leg up on the competition. If not you're still left with plenty of options, ranging from multi-tool, high upside guys to all-or-nothing sluggers to steady regulars to crafty veterans to injury-rebound sleepers.

Manny's unemployment adventure

Sometimes things in life just don't make sense, like Lost's plotline or John Madden's commentary. What's puzzling this writer at the moment - besides "Who the heck is John Locke?" - is the absence of last year's N.L. MVP-that-wasn't at spring training. The peculiarity surrounding this chapter of the Manny Ramirez Adventure is not that he's aging backwards a la Mr. Benjamin Button (though I'm certain Scott Boras has tried that sell in negotiations) or the fact that he'll be tardy to spring training ... again. It's that no excuse is necessary this go-around, for the 500-home run club member has no place to be on time to. By SEAN RAPOSA

Fantasy Rankings - First Basemen

You know how I told you not to worry too much about the catcher position? First base is a different story. Nine of the top 30 hitters in my league last year were first basemen, and having a star at this position can help to make up for deficiencies at other spots. But even with that said, don't fret too much if you don't get one of the eight to 10 difference makers. As long as you've got some studs elsewhere, there's a second tier of 10 or so first basemen who are a good bet to get the job done for you, as well as some solid third basemen with first base eligibility.