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Rites (and wrongs) of spring

Winners and losers from the exhibition season

Posted: Thursday March 31, 2005 12:14PM; Updated: Saturday April 2, 2005 1:53AM
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Andruw Jones
Andruw Jones has had a hot spring, leading the majors with 10 homers.
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The regular season is almost upon us, but we'd be remiss not to look back at the some of this spring's winners and losers who probably will have a significant impact on your fantasy team (if you've already drafted) or draft strategy (if you've yet to select your team).

I'm not necessarily basing everything on stats, since you do have to take some of the spring numbers with a grain of salt. But instead, the following is based on a combination of stats, playing time and other factors that may become important once the season begins.

Winners

Brandon McCarthy, White Sox: Tom Verducci already sang his praises this spring, and some call him the "next Jack McDowell." He might not make the big club out of camp, but he's done enough to make people take notice and stash him away on a minor league or reserve list with the hope that he'll make the big club sooner rather than later.

Ruben Gotay, Royals: There will be a handful of new faces in Kansas City, at least on Opening Day. Gotay's huge spring (six homers, 19 RBIs) gives him the starting second base job over Tony Graffanino. Gotay could be a nice sleeper, but be careful not to pay too much for him.

Calvin Pickering, Royals: Big-bopper Pickering has won the starting DH/part-time first base job over former All-Star Ken Harvey. With a regular job, Pickering could be a cheap source of power.

Gabe Gross, Blue Jays: The former Auburn quarterback may force Toronto to include him on the Opening Day roster as he's hitting .391 with eight homers this spring, most in the AL. Among the players wondering about their playing status because of Gross' emergence include Alexis Rios, Frank Catalanotto and Eric Hinske. Of course, this could be a passing fad, and Gross could be back in the minors sooner rather than later.

Willy Tavares/Luke Scott, Astros: These two guys could join fellow youngster Jason Lane in a revamped Houston outfield on Opening Day. Tavarez has a major league-best 10 steals this spring, while Scott has five homers and is slugging a whopping .824. Who knows how long either guy will keep his job, especially with Lance Berkman returning later in the year, plus Craig Biggio moving back to the outfield, but for now, their values are sky-high.

Andres Torres, Rangers: Like Gross, he's messing up some plans with a big spring that includes nine steals and 16 runs scored, tied with Carlos Beltran for the league lead. Texas is trying to figure out how to include Torres in the center field mix with Laynce Nix and Gary Matthews Jr. He could provide a speed boost if he gets any regular action with the team.

Robb Quinlan, Angels: Dallas McPherson's back injury and subsequent demotion opens the door for Quinlan to seize the starting third base job for good. Quinlan was going to be used a lot this season, but if he maintains a starting job, he's got a nice ceiling.

Andruw Jones, Braves: He leads the majors with 10 homers this spring, which is a good sign, even if some of those homers are coming off pitchers with offensive linemen's uniform numbers. It'd be nice if he made that jump to a dominant fantasy threat like Vladimir Guerrero, but if you can get 35 homers and 100 RBIs with a decent average, that'll be fine, too.

Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: The hits just keep on coming for Ichiro, who's been around .500 all spring, so expect more of the same (not that you'd think he'd tail off after last year's record campaign).

Troy Glaus, Diamondbacks: After a couple of injury-plagued seasons, Glaus needed to prove he was worth the money despite being a health risk. He's shown he can still hit, batting .412 with 24 RBIs this spring. Whether his health holds up is a different matter.

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