Fantasy Baseball: Players in minors can bolster your lineup

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    So here we are just 10 days away from the first pitch in the 2009 baseball season.

    Hopefully, you have done most of your drafts by now. There are some perks to picking your team late in spring training, like getting the most up-to-date injury news and finding out who has been optioned to the minor leagues.

    But even those players who are going to spend some time in the minors are valuable as late round draft picks.

    A perfect example is Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price. Price made his major league debut September 14, and pitched 14 innings, earning a 1.93 ERA over five appearances during the regular season. But he really made his name in the playoffs, coming out of the bullpen to help the Rays get to their first World Series. Even though he is starting the year in the minor leagues, expect Price to return to the majors in the middle of May and still get 23-25 starts, win about 10 games and have an ERA around 3.20 and a WHIP of 1.30.

    Another guy I like who will probably start the year in the minor leagues is Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters. I took this 23-year-old switch hitter with my first minor league pick in my keeper league. The door was open for Wieters to slide into the starting catcher role in Baltimore at the end of last season, but the O’s picked up veteran backstop Gregg Zaun to buy Wieters some more time to develop. He won’t need much more though, the rookie is hitting .343 in 18 spring training games so far this preseason. Expect Wieters to join the major league club by June at the latest and get about 350 at bats, which is plenty of time for him to hit 15 home runs, collect 55 RBIs and hit about .290.

    The Skiff-sponsored fantasy baseball league had its draft over Spring Break. I really do think I have the team to beat right now with first basemen sluggers Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals and Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies, and starting pitcher Chad Billingsley of the Los Angeles Dodgers and reliever Brad Lidge of the Phillies.

    The best pick of the draft, in my eyes, was Rays designated hitter Pat Burrell with the 149th overall pick. Burrell has been pretty consistent over his career and expect a .260 average, 31 home runs and 92 RBIs.

    I think the worst pick was Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones with the 27th overall pick. It seems like Jones is always hurt and this year won’t be an exception. Look for a .300 average, 17 home runs and 72 RBIs.

    The season is almost here and I am getting antsy. If you haven’t drafted yet, get to drafting and I’ll be back next week with more advice.

    Billy Wessels is a senior news-editorial journalism major from Waxahachie.