Rick Porcello, Kendry Morales the Hot Picks in Week One

Todd Farino@truegurufarinoCorrespondent IApril 6, 2009

PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 05:   Kendry Morales #19 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at bat during a Spring Training game against the Seattle Mariners at Peoria Stadium on March 5, 2009 in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

The season is now upon us as the Braves and Phillies get set to kick off the season on Sunday Night Baseball. If you're like me and have been following teams and players since pitchers and catchers reported in late February then you share my excitement of finally being able to make something COUNT. Everything that has happened this spring suddenly means nothing. If the stars of spring training like Ryan Spilborghs, Mike Fontenot or Livan Hernandez start to fail they will be replace quickly with Dexter Fowler, Aaron Miles and Freddy Garcia before the month of April ends. This is why it is so important to manage your team well from April through September. The more skilled fantasy baseball managers will get the most out of their roster by using the schedule, waiver wire and bench to make up for deficiencies in talent. Remember the draft is now history. You've had weeks to gloat over picking Brett Gardner in the last round and taking a flier on Kevin Gregg or Brett Anderson. But as of now it doesn't matter how well you drafted, you will get nowhere if you don't manage your team well. If you have questions, need advice or just want another opinion remember that the experts at Fantasy Baseball Search will be here all season long to stand bye you and help you win championships. Best of luck to all of you in 2009!! Here is The Hot 8 for week #1:

1) Rick Porcello (RHP - Starter) -- Tigers -- Porcello made the Tigers rotation by posting a 2.30 ERA in 15 2/3 innings this spring. The Tigers need pitching help with the retirement of Kenny Rogers, Dontrelle Willis' depression and Justin Verlander's loss of command. Porcello likes to pound the strike zone and can use both ends of the plate effectively. His sinker is an average but can force hitters to pound it into the ground which results in double play grounders. His curve is a work in progress but has been very good this spring. It can be his best pitch when he can locate it which he's had problems with in the past. Porcello won't necessarily be a top strikeout guy but projects as a starter who will eat up innings, not walk many people and keep the opponents posting zeroes across the board. Pitching in Commercia Park will be a blessing as he'll be able to get away with some hangers every now and then.

2) Kendry Morales (First Base) -- Angels -- Morales has very quietly become the Angels starting 1B and shown great power and plate discipline this spring. It always impresses me the confidence Mike Scioscia has in his younger players and most importantly the patience. Morales was not challenged this spring and I have no doubt now that his minor league power numbers will translate at the big league level. The Angels evaluate players exceptionally well and when they hand the keys over to an unproven player you can bet those players will eventually produce. Morales will hit 20+ HR's and is a much better player in OBP leagues where he has a very trained major league batters eye. If you missed out on the top 1B or are in need of some power out of your CI spot, Morales is a very nice acquisition to make before the rest of your league realize just how valuable he will be for the Angels this year.

3) John Baker (Catcher) -- Marlins -- I first saw Baker years ago while he was playing for my local class A Kane County Cougars an affiliate of the Oakland A's at that time. Anytime a catcher is hitting third in the order and carrying a .300 average with plus power you have no choice but to take notice. I had always figured that Baker would be moved to 1B as his catching skills or more notably his ability to throw out runners was pretty below average. It was much to my surprise to see Baker get the call last year for the Marlins and still be behind the plate. Either way, this kid can rake. He has a very simple left handed swing that is designed to spray the ball on a line to all fields. Baker will be one of the top OBP catchers without a doubt and should score plenty of runs this season as a result. Baker is more of a gap hitter but will hit the ball out of the park on a line 12-15 times in a full amount of AB's. At this point, Johnny Bake is the biggest sleeper at the position and very worthy of your top catcher spot right from the start of this season.

4) Jordan Schafer (Outfield) -- Braves -- Schafer may be the single player that I get asked most about these days. Odds are he isn't available in most leagues of 12 or more teams but in case he is I'd definitely put a claim in now. He won the Braves starting CF job by hitting .324 in spring training with an OBP of .378. I am not as optimistic as other scouts are about his his future power numbers however. There is little doubt he will be in the 13-19 HR range as soon as this season but I would expect him to rarely go for more than 20 HR's in a season. But, when you combine the power potential with above average speed you have yourself a very productive fantasy player. Again, I don't see Schafer stealing more than 30 bases in a season but if he can get on base the way he did in the minor leagues Schafer will swipe bases and score enough runs to make those of you who took the chance on him very very happy.

5) Jeff Niemann (RHP - Starter) -- Rays -- At 6'9" and 280 lbs. Niemann is a very intimidating figure out on the mound. I think his presence alone got hitters out in the minor leagues but it will take more than that to get guys out at the major league level. Niemann has a solid fastball that he can bring at up to 95 MPH, a curveball that has sharp break away from RH's and a splitter that is a below average pitch right now. I always thought that if Niemann could develop a changeup he could be more effective against top hitters. He won a spot in the Rays rotation mostly because he was out of options and David Price wasn't. Niemann will have to keep the ball down in order to keep his spot and hold off Price longer. He isn't a bad guy to have on the end of your bench right now. There is some upside in wins, ERA and strikeouts if Niemann doesn't give up the long ball which would ultimately be his demise.

6) Josh Kinney (RHP - Reliever) -- Cardinals -- I am bringing Kinney back this week because the vibe I am getting out of St. Louis is that the coaching staff is NOT sold on Jason Motte. If fact, they have given Motte every opportunity to fail this spring but have been pleasantly surprised by his performance. Still, with basically just one pitch it is going to be very difficult for Motte to close out games when the lights go on for real. Kinney is a guy who has the eye of both Dave Duncan and Tony LaRussa and whom I believe will be the primary setup man on day one. If and when Motte struggles and until Chris Perez is ready it is going to be Josh Kinney who steps in and records some saves for the red birds. At this point, if you are in leagues of 12 or more where you need 3 or more relief pitchers I would add Kinney at this point. He'll give you better ERA and WHIP right away than Jason Motte and by the end of April may have the closers job too.

7) Seth Smith (Outfield) -- Rockies -- I am surprised how little fantasy people are regarding Smith so far this season. The Rockies traded away one of the best players in the league in Matt Holliday and felt just fine bringing Smith in to take his place. While I don't expect Smith to be quite the player Holldiay is, he will put up very good power numbers with just as much OB chances as Holldiay. Smith has the chance to be a very good player and has had a taste of the big leagues the past two seasons. He is ready to hit at this level I believe. Though he also won't steal as many bases as Holliday, he may get 15 this year which ain't too shabby. If I were writing an article about "Under The Radar" players, Seth Smith would be featured prominently. If you can get him from free agency or make a minor trade to acquire him you will be very thankful you did. I don't do predictions as far as statistics go because I find that kind of hacky to be honest with you. But, in order to put my words into focus, here is what I believe Smith's final line will look like: .288/.351/.590 with 22 HR's, 88 RBI & 12 stolen bases.

8) James McDonald (RHP - Starter) -- Dodgers -- It is time to pick up James McDonald folks. I have spent days now going over and over in my mind what is going to happen this season and I can't help but feel the Dodgers are going to be pretty good despite having some unproved starters. This leads me to believe McDonald is going to step up and be that #2 guy they so desperately need. McDonald is a very smart pitcher who doesn't have overwhelming stuff but can change speeds, direction and location of all his pitches. He keeps hitters off balance and is able to pitch to contact as well as strike people out. He is a natural athlete who is riding a high stemming from his impressive performance in last years NLCS. Some see McDonald's future as a top shelf closer which very well may be. But for now he is in a Dodger rotation that should win plenty of games and is destined to have a breakout player or two in '09.

That is the Hot 8 for this week. What do you guys think? Post your comments below or email me at jeff@fantasybaseballsearch.com