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Fantasy Fix: It's Good To Be Vlad

It's time to talk about Vlad. The best bad-ball (really any ball, anywhere, anytime) hitter this side of Manny Ramirez appeared headed for the trash heap after a 15 HR, 50 RBI, sub-.300 season in 2009. He turned 35 in the off-season and was a free agent looking for work.

But the first clue that he might be due for a comeback season was when he signed to be part of the power-packed Texas Rangers lineup, playing half its games in a park perfectly built for an aging slugger's fading skills.

Still, at fantasy draft time, he was turning up mostly as a late-round pick at best (In one league, he was my last-round pick). His value was softened not only by his age and last year's results, but by his dead-end position eligibility - UTIL, the DH's cross to bear.

Instead of rolling over, however, he has become one of this season's biggest stars, the fourth-ranked player in Yahoo! fantasy leagues.

Vlad has 14 HRs, 79 hits already, and was the MLB RBI leader until just a couple days ago, with 54. He's hitting .338 and even has four stolen bases (the latter a particularly amazing achievement, given that he has come to resemble an ostrich more and more every year). Maybe the best part is that with interleague play this month, he was deemed too valuable to sit with other designated hitters, so Texas sent him out to right field. He now is listed as "OF," providing much more line-up flexibility.

Can it continue? That I'm not sure about. Injuries have been an issue in recent seasons, and the rust may begin to show again before the summer ends. Besides gaining lineup flexibility, the OF designation provides something else - higher trade value.

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It's Week 11 in the fantasy baseball world, and the novelty of interleague play has officially worn off.

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Fantasy Find of the Week: Tommy Manzella, SS, Houston.

In a year rich with rookies, this week's rookie find is the Astros SS who has hit .450 with eight RBIs over the last week. He may not be the real deal long-term, but at a shallow position, he may be able to provide a boost for folks who are still starting Starlin Castro.

Fantasy Stud of the Week: Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas.

I picked him as my Fantasy Match-Up choice last week after he had been on a recent tear, and he did not disappoint. Last week was the best of his recent streak: 4 HRs, 12 RBIs. (Stephen Strasburg qualified for this honor, too, with 2 wins and 22 strikeouts in just over 12 innings).

Fantasy Dud of the Week: Matt Kemp, OF LA Dodgers. The multi-tool Kemp picked an odd time to go 0-16 last week, with the Dodgers on a roll.

Fantasy Match-Up of the Week: CC Sabathia, SP, NY Yankees.

Pitching two starts against National League foes this week, I like his odds to relive his dominant half-season as an NLer in 2008.

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Expert Wire
* FakeTeams talks up Ted Lilly and Gavin Floyd, the pitchers behind the coulda-been dual no-hitter Sunday night at Wrigley Field. I kind of agree that Floyd may deliver greater value before too long, and thought at one point Sunday that he had a much better chance for a no-no.

* Roto Arcade likes Freddy Sanchez, a great multi-position hitter who will bring in a lot of RBIs with almost no home runs. I've never been able to pull the trigger on Sanchez for exactly that reason.

* FanHouse says yet another rookie phenom will be making his MLB debut soon - Pedro Alvarez.

* Bleacher Report lists Stephen Strasburg in its Week 11 Power Rankings, but doesn't sound so excited about it.

* USA Today says to stay off the D-Train. Dontrelle Willis is nowhere on my watch list, though if he has any redeemable value this season, he'll realize it back in the NL.

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Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. He welcomes your comments. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like it's about.

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