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Fantasy Fix: Stars Out Of Alignment

It happens every season: A handful of traditionally reliable fantasy baseball stars begin the season as utter failures. In the first couple weeks of April you are not too worried about them, but if they are still mired in misery by the first week of May, you start getting nervous.

Should you bench them until further notice or keep playing them in hopes they will turn things around any day now? Should you trade them? Should you dump them? Well, you probably shouldn't just dump them.

Here's a few bona fide stars off to terrible starts this year, and what you should consider doing about it:

Albert Pujols, 1B, LAA: Obviously the biggest disappointment of the young season, with zero home runs and a .217 average. My advice: Play him. I say this after benching him on one of my fantasy teams last week, but I think a couple doubles in recent games suggest he's about to catch fire.

Heath Bell, RP, MIA: MIA is right. Bell has been simply awful, even giving up a run in a game the Marlins already were losing the other day. My advice: Bench him. I think we haven't seen the last of the slow-starting Marlins this season nor of Bell as an effective closer. However, I may change my mind if he blows two more saves.

Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, TOR: Totals like 3 HRs and 10 RBIs don't sound like a bad opening month for some players, but Bautista used to do that in one week, plus his .181 average is a sharp turnaround from a power hitter who seemed to figure out how to hit for average last season. My advice: Bench him. He is still drawing walks - 16 last month - but 3B and OF positions are loaded with power hitters. Put someone else in until Joey Bats gets his groove back.

Jose Reyes, SS, MIA: He is only hitting .220 with just 4 SBs. My advice: Bench him, although you may want to give him a longer leash if you are in a league that counts triples as part of the stat line. Reyes only had two of them in April, but that still has him tied for the lead at that position. The big problem is that his chief value is from SBs, and he's not getting many chances with that average.

Tim Lincecum, SP, SF: A record of 2-2 doesn't sound bad, but a 5.74 ERA and fairly stratospheric 1.58 WHIP makes for a pretty bad start. He actually had an 8.20 ERA going into his last start, but was able to shut down the lowly Padres. My advice: Play him. I would say trade him, though you are probably a couple good starts away from getting decent value for him.

Robinson Cano, 2B, NYY: A .267 average is underachieving for this guy, and he had just 1 HR and 4 RBI in April. My advice: Play him. His eight doubles last month were tied for the most at his position, and he actually has been hitting more consistently the last 10 days or so.

Yovani Gallardo, SP, MIL: His ERA climbed to 6.08 when he got shelled by the Cardinals last week, and has given up 33 hits in 26 innings. My advice: Play him, unless he is pitching against the Cardinals, against whom he has yielded 14 earned runs in 5.2 innings this year. Definitely don't start him against the Cardinals.

Expert Wire
* Bleacher Report takes the contrarian view on Nationals phenom Bryce Harper, saying he may not be ready for consistent fantasy contributions.

* SportingNews Fantasy Source shines a light on Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, the next hitter you've never heard of.

* Fantasy CPR identifies White Sox reliever Matt Thornton as a sleeper pick-up candidate. Perhaps not a bad idea the way Hector Santiago is giving up home runs.

* Yahoo! Pickups of the Week likes former Twin Jason Kubel (now a Diamondback) for his line-drive frequency.

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Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.

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