A's, Giants litter field of risky picks

Fantasy Sports

04/04/2008 4:08 AM

04/25/2008 12:14 PM

Some prefer a safe, predictable existence where nothing is ever out of place and the element of surprise is ostensibly removed from any and all equations.

And there are others who prefer to live on the edge, thrill seekers who revel in the randomness of being and rebuff conventional wisdom and methods in all matters at all costs.

Both types exist and enjoy success in Fantasy Baseball, but it's our left-of-center friends who choose to take the road less traveled who are this week's target audience.

For those of you who get a kick out of running scissor sprints, tearing the tags off mattresses and investigating the cause of all that late-night racket coming from the attic, here are a handful of high-risk, high-reward players who could inject a little life into your roster if your nervous system is strong enough to take it.

Rich Harden, P, A's — Harden has always had All-Star stuff and a bulldog's mentality on the mound, but what he hasn't had in his career with Oakland is a clean bill of health. Many of Oakland's perceived issues will go away if the hard-throwing right-hander, who looked great against Boston in Japan and again against the Red Sox for five innings Wednesday, can continue taking the ball from manager Bob Geren every fifth day.

Barry Zito, P, Giants — Please put down your pitchforks, torches and perishables — I wouldn't touch the guy with a 10-foot fungo, either. But ... Zito is a former Cy Young Award winner who is still in his prime, still possesses that wicked curveball and still could turn things around now that there are less than zero expectations in San Francisco.

His performance in the Giants' season opener Monday was eerily similar to what we saw throughout 2007 (constantly behind in the count, a carousel of baserunners around him, etc.), but Zito could ditch the Shawn Estes impression and turn things around in a hurry if he can relocate the missing giddy-up from his fastball, which maxed out at a Pony League-ish 84 mph against the Dodgers.

Besides, can it really get any worse than last season?

Mike Hampton, P, Braves — It only seems like the oft-injured left-hander hasn't thrown a pitch in a game that counted since the Truman administration, when in reality it's only been three years. The good news is that the former 20-game winner made it through training camp in one piece, at times showing flashes of his former All-Star form.

If he can finally stay healthy, and "ifs" don't come any bigger, Hampton could be a pleasant surprise.

Richie Sexson, 1B, Mariners — Sexson made Pedro Feliz look like Albert Pujols during a spectacularly awful 2007 that saw him bat a career-low .205 with 21 home runs, 63 RBIs and a whopping 100 strikeouts in 434 at-bats.

Sexson, who blamed his struggles on injuries, is being given a chance to redeem himself in Seattle this season, and he very well could. He won't approach the 45 homers and 124 RBIs he delivered in 2003, but a return to health could mean a return to the 30-HR, 110-RBI range to which fantasy owners had grown accustomed.

Eric Chavez, 3B, A's — Chavez was once one of the game's brightest young stars before injuries reduced him to an injury-prone, part-time player for Oakland during what should have been his prime.

Chavy is coming off a season in which he batted a career-low .240 with 15 HRs and 46 RBIs in 90 games, and is once again visiting his timeshare on the disabled list with a bad back.

If he can overcome his back issues and doesn't succumb to the shoulder, forearm and elbow issues that have also plagued him in recent seasons, Chavez might have enough pop in his bat to help fantasy owners in the power categories. That is, those who are willing to gamble that he has anything left to contribute.

Bobby Crosby, SS, A's — Injuries have prevented the 2004 American League Rookie of the Year from blossoming into the star many felt he was destined to become. The former Modesto Athletic hasn't had more than 358 at-bats in any of the past three seasons and has just 26 homers in that span after hitting 22 during his rookie campaign.

The good news is that he survived the A's season opener — unlike in 2005 and 2006 — and is playing relatively pain free for the first time in years.

I went ahead and rolled the dice because I needed a shortstop and the pickings were slim by Round 17. The gamble could pay off handsomely, though, if Crosby can stay on the field.

I'm feeling lucky, how about you?

My Week 1 lineup:

P: Brandon Webb (only player in 12 years given a second chance to break the Third Round Curse), Roy Oswalt, Jonathan Papelbon, Jose Valverde, Manny Corpas, Brett Myers, Hideki Okajima and Jeremy Guthrie; C: Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Doumit (yeah, we missed the boat on backstops); 1B: Alex Gordon; 2B: Ian Kinsler; SS: Bobby Crosby; 3B: David Wright; OF: Manny Ramirez, Aaron "Why Am I Batting Sixth In this Lineup?" Rowand, Josh Willingham, Chris Duncan and Corey Patterson; CI: Kevin Youkilis; MI: Kelly Johnson; U: Jim Thome.

Stu Rosenberg's fantasy sports column runs Fridays. He can be reached at srosenberg@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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