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Fantasy Fix: The Early Waiver Wire

By Dan O'Shea

Slow and steady may win the race, but some early picks from the waiver wire don't hurt either.

Baseball is full of slow starters, otherwise solid or even great players who year after year don't really get going until June or July. It's up to a fantasy baseball manager to recognize that reality and to factor that into the decisions you make not only during your draft, but as the season progresses.

Roy Oswalt is just one example of a slow starter. I don't believe I have ever once drafted Roy Oswalt, but more often than not, I have traded for him before the second half begins. Why? Because over the span of his career, he is 65-24 from July 1 onward, but only 54-42 before then. It doesn't sound like that remarkable of a difference, but further consider his career record from Aug. 1 onward: 52-14. Three of his six career shut-outs have come in September alone. That's when league titles, fantasy and otherwise, are won and lost.

This year Oswalt is starting typically slowly (0-2, 6.23 ERA, 6 Ks), albeit for a Houston Astros team that had a horrible spring. But, if you're in a pitching bind already and just want to trade for someone who will be close to a sure thing come the second half, Oswalt is the best option outside of Johan Santana (and good luck trying to pry Santana away from his current owner). Likewise, if you already have Oswalt, don't part with him too quickly, or at least be sure you get full value.

Meanwhile, here's a few hot pick-ups who probably aren't owned if you've got a free roster spot and want to try some new blood:

* Nick Swisher, 1B/OF: Yes, that Nick Swisher, the same one who hit .219 for the White Sox last year. This year with the Yankees he's already pounded 4 HRs and 11 RBIs in his first week or so of action.

* Jason Bartlett, SS: He was one of my sleeper picks this year, and is making me look good so far, with a .444 average, 2 HRs, 3 RBIs and 2 SBs.

* Nyjer Morgan, OF: He's got 7 RBIs and 3 SBs in the first week, hitting well enough to continue holding down a starting spot, and if that continues, he could steal 50+ bases.

And now for a few stops along the expert wire:

* Yahoo! Weekly Rundown suggests Florida catcher and Moneyball star John Baker could be a hidden treasure. Catcher certainly is a difficult position if your catcher's last name doesn't start with "M" (for McCann, Martin, Martinez and Mauer), but Baker needs to get more playing time for the hot-starting Marlins before we buy in.

* The Wall Street Journal has been getting in on the fantasy sports game lately - maybe they are as tired of corporate finance hijinks as everyone else. Some of their analysis is pretty astute though, deep in this column, they suggest that Jason Motte, the chic sleeper pick at relief pitcher, will continue closing games for the St. Louis Cardinals after his Opening Day blown save.

Cards manager Tony LaRussa is a bullpen juggler indeed, but so far, he hasn't let Motte near a save situation since his opening blunder. Meanwhile, Ryan Franklin and Kyle McClellan both have come up with saves for the hot Cards, and Chris Perez, who is rehabbing an injury in the minors, could also work his way into the mix. It doesn't look like LaRussa will settle on a full-time closer until he really has to, which means appearances, but not necessarily saves, for Motte.

* The Sporting News has the story on the multi-talented Brandon Inge, C/3B/OF, who is off to a stellar start, second in the league in home runs with four. Inge is a couple years removed from his best seasons, and may not be a great long-term bet, though he reportedly has been using a new batting stance this year. In any case, his unique multi-position capability can come in handy while he's still hot at the plate.

* The Sporting News also notes that Washington Nationals OF Lastings Milledge has booked a ticket for the minors just seven games into the season as the Nats' leadoff man. Granted, he has done less than nothing so far for a team that hasn't won yet; still, Milledge last year came close to his long-time promise as a extra-bases threat at the plate and top-drawer base stealer, and you may want to hang onto him for a while to see what happens. And check and see if Elijah Dukes is available in your league if you really feel the need to have an outfielder who plays for the Nats.

* ESPN's Eric Karabell has the low-down on a couple local stars, as he reports on Alfonso Soriano's great start and Alexei Ramirez's much less great start. Soriano has 4 HRs and 2 SBs, while Ozzie's "Cuban Missile" had 3 RBIs and not much else in his first week. Maybe he's just a slow starter.

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Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears every Wednesday. Tips, comments, and suggestions are welcome. 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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