Fantasy Fives: Underrated Players

Ryan HallamAnalyst IMarch 29, 2009

NEW YORK - JULY 15:  National League All-Star Adrian Gonzalez #23 of the San Diego Padres follows through on his swing during the 79th MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium on July 15, 2008 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Thanks for reading my first article here at Fighting Chance Fantasy. Allow me to introduce myself. 

My name is Jesse Schwarz, but they call me the Fantasy Whiz Kid. I remember back to my first fantasy draft, I was completely clueless and after the first round I hadn’t really heard of too many guys on the board.

But I worked hard and learned the league inside and out. By the end of the year I had one of the best teams, overcoming my atrocious draft. I completely turned the team around by making 36 trades before the deadline.

Ever since that year I have had a reputation in my league as the master trader who spins fantasy straw into gold.

So you just had your draft and your team is looking something like mine did from that first year. I’m here to help!  Here is a list of five guys that you should target to trade for before the season even starts.  

Throughout the season I will be writing columns about some good buy-low/sell-high guys to help improve your club. I also am open to answering your trade questions! If you get a good offer and need a second opinion you can shoot me an email me at


1. Rafael Furcal, SS, LAD.  Furcal is one of those guys who has fantasy owners scared because of his reputation as a potential injury risk. People seem to be forgetting that from 2002-2006 he averaged 153 games played per season, and that’s not too shabby.

Also, if the Dodgers didn’t believe in him coming back strong and putting up numbers similar to the start of 2008 they probably would not have signed him to a three-year, $30 million deal.

Also, keep in mind Furcal will now be leading off, and will be only a couple of spots in front of Manny Ramirez in the Dodgers’ lineup which will help his runs scored tremendously.

I believe Furcal will be a top three fantasy shortstop this year in runs, steals, and possibly even batting average. Given his history he could also make a run at 40 stolen bases this year. 

In 2005, he stole 46 bags and he swiped 37 in 2006. Try to make a bid for him by convincing his unsuspecting owner that Furcal is sure to go down within the first month of the season.


2.  Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, SDG. Last year Adrian Gonzalez finished in the top 10 in both RBI and homers. Not to mention he was 20th in runs scored for the lowly Padres who finished dead LAST in offense last season.

Also, people may not realize that Gonzalez was once the MLB’s 1st overall draft pick back in 2000 is still only 26 years of age.

In each of his last three seasons we have seen steady improvement. He has gone from 24 to 30 to 36 in home runs and 82 to 100 to 119 in RBI. If he can keep this up we could see him hit 40 homers with 120 RBI in 2009.

This guy is getting overlooked in almost every league, as he is being drafted in the 40-50th pick range even though his numbers are easily on par with Mark Teixeira who goes in the first round.  

This guy is poised to have his best season yet in 2009 and I strongly advise you to try and get him on your team before he gets off to another hot start.  

If you drafted one of the top first basemen like Teixeira, Morneau, Fielder, or Youkillis try to make a 2 for 2 trade where you get Gonzalez and improve at another position as well! Trust me it will pay off, especially in keeper leagues!


3.  Alexei Ramirez, 2B, CWS. The Cuban Missile is a highly underrated 2B that should pan out to be a great source in all five categories this year.

After getting off to a hot start when called up in 2008 with the White Sox, Alexei wasn’t given that much attention from fantasy owners right away, and he still isn’t someone everyone believes in despite finishing tied for third in home runs among all second basemen, behind only Dan Uggla and Chase Utley.

Also keep in mind he did this in just 480 at bats, and as a ROOKIE. I predict this season will be another great one for the Missile and he will finish in the top three at his position in homers once again, and he will find himself right up there for RBI as well.

Along with his elite power and RBI numbers, he will hit for a solid average and steal a respectable 15-20 bases.

His unique ability to help you in all five categories makes him a great guy to have on your roster and right now he is cheaper than he will be in May, so you better act now.


4. Ricky Nolasco, SP, FLA. Nolasco emerged as a breakout guy in 2008, playing as well as just about anyone in the second half of the season. Here is another guy who has a reputation of getting hurt even though in two of his three seasons in the majors he has been perfectly healthy.

A strength that people may not have realized about Nolasco is his elite WHIP. Last season his WHIP was a spectacular 1.10, better than Tim Lincecum, C.C. Sabathia, Dan Haren, Brandon Webb, and Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee just to name a few.

He was also in the top 15 for strikeouts with 186, averaging 7.9 per 9 innings. Nolasco continues to be overlooked despite his ability to be a beast in four of the five rotisserie categories.

I have a strong feeling that Nolasco surfaces as a top 10 pitcher this season, so try to pry him away from his owner before the season gets underway, and Nolasco proves he is once again fantasy force, raising his trade value.


5. Adam Wainwright, SP, STL. 27 year old Adam Wainwright is already the ace of the Cardinals’ pitching staff, and with a bright future ahead and steady signs of improvement he could also be a fantasy ace before long.

Last season, Wainwright got of to a decent start before he landed on the DL with a finger injury that cost him two months. When he returned from the DL, he went 5-0 with a 3.35 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in his final seven starts of the season.  

On the year he was an impressive 11-3 with a more than respectable WHIP (1.18), and an above average ERA (3.20).

So, there are three categories that he has already proved he is more than just helpful in. Also, having Dave Duncan as your pitching coach gives me complete confidence that Wainwright will continue to improve.

Duncan has made multiple also-rans into great pitchers. Jeff Weaver, Jeff Suppan, and Matt Morris come to mind. Where did those guys end up after leaving St. Louis? I predict he will have his best season, making the final step to becoming a top 15 fantasy pitcher.

In both Yahoo and ESPN drafts, Wainwright is ranked as about the 30th best pitcher, while a guy like Roy Oswalt, who had a higher ERA, the exact same WHIP and only averages one more strikeout per nine innings is ranked top 10.  

Try to get Wainwright on your squad before he gets off to another solid start and begins to get noticed by the other guys in your league.


I welcome your feedback, leave me a comment or send an email to