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There are plenty of players worth drafting in fantasy baseball leagues, but sometimes real gold can be mined from among those who don't get drafted, at least not in every league. They may not even be late-round sleeper material, but they could be worth watching as possible pick-ups, particularly in the opening weeks of the season.
Let's reach deep into our rankings for some players that might be off the radar:
C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Ryan Lavarnway, BOS
Two candidates for most difficult name to pronounce in baseball play the same position in the same town, and both have 30-homerun power. It will be worth watching which one breaks out this season. The recent buzz has been that Lavarnway, who had been destined to start in the minors, could open with the big league club. Saltalamacchia, an over-hyped disappointment in the past, supposedly is the starter, but Kelly Shoppach is in the mix, too.
1B: Yonder Alonso/Jesus Guzman, SD
Another position battle between a chic late-round fantasy pick (Alonso) and a guy who had a nice second half last season who has been forgotten (Guzman). They probably both will play, but many people think this is Alonso's year to bust out, since he is no longer blocked by a star, as he had been in Cincinnati. Both could easily hit .300, and Alonso bit a home run roughly every 17 at-bats last season.
2B: Jason Kipnis, CLE
The rookie is not really a secret, having already been drafted in 79% of Yahoo! leaguse, but with power and speed, he's someone to keep your eye on as a possible pick-up if he hasn't been drafted in your league - and a great trade target if he has been. I suspect anyone with Kipnis as a back-up to a star like Dustin Pedroia or Robinson Cano may look to deal him if he hits well early on.
3B: Brent Morel, WHITE SOX
His ongoing existence at third was one of the things I hated about the 2011 Sox: Too many 1-for-4s and no power at all. But things changed in his last 100 or so at-bats, as he started hitting more frequently and for power. If Robin Ventura occasionally bats him second, he could end up scoring runs off the bats of reliable Paul Konerko and a resurgent Adam Dunn. I'm looking for him to match his 2011 HR total of 10 by the All-Star break.
SS: Zack Cozart, CIN
The rookie has had a streaky spring training, but has displayed extra-base power at a position where it is hard to come by. Plus, if he does make the big league squad, he's likely to do so as the starter.
OF: Brandon Belt, SF; Bryan LaHair, CUBS; Ryan Raburn, DET
All three are power hitters. Belt had a nice run last year and looks to stick for a full season this year. LaHair, of course, will start at 1B for the Cubs, but is listed only as an OF so far. This is his one season to shine with the Cubs, and I think he could respond by chasing Alfonso Soriano for the team lead in HRs, though perhaps not much else. Raburn was a chic draft pick last year, and didn't really do much except beat up on the White Sox. He may play more at 2B, but in any case could excel this year with more at-bats. All three of these guys could reach 25 HRs.
SP: Carlos Zambrano, MIA
Seems like an obvious look-at-me, last-round draft pick, I know, but he was available in about 70% of Yahoo! leagues as of Tuesday. Most of the world has given up on him, but he's probably working for the only manager capable of milking whatever value he has left. If Miami is any good, he could reach 14 or 15 wins.
RP: Hector Santiago, WHITE SOX
This could be a real reach, but I think the rest of the candidates for Sox closer - Matt Thornton, Addison Reed, Jesse Crain and possibly everyone else in the bullpen - could fall in place in other roles, while the guy with a gimmick out-pitch (Santiago throws a screwball) who almost no major league hitters have seen before could come up big. I'm not saying he'll start the season closing, but I think that's where he's headed.
* FakeTeams says that in a year when big-name closers like Joakim Soria and Ryan Madson are getting hurt, you may need to dig deep.
* Fantasy Alarm notes that Drew Storen, RP, WAS, is the latest much-hyped closer to get injured.
* Yahoo! Sports features 10 Bounce-Back candidates. Is bounce-back the same thing as comeback? It must be if Adam Dunn is on the list.
* Bleacher Report has 10 burning questions for you. Ouch.
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