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Who's hot, who's not

Burrell on fire; Drew, Vazquez flop on new teams

Posted: Tuesday April 12, 2005 3:20PM; Updated: Tuesday April 12, 2005 4:51PM
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Josh Beckett
Josh Beckett looks nothing like he did last season when he went 9-9.
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The 2005 season is just a little more than a week old and some players have thrived while others have slumped. This is the perfect time to deal a hot player who you expect to cool down (Juan Encarnacion?) or trade for a player who's off to a cold start, but you know will hit (Melvin Mora).

Five hot hitters

1) Pat Burrell, Phillies: Fantasy players have been expecting Burrell to bust out for the past few years. It's looking like the pay off is here. The left fielder is 13 for 29 with four HRs and 17 RBIs.

2) Jeff Kent, Dodgers: He keeps moving from team to team, yet all he does is hit. Kent, playing on his sixth big league club, is 11 for 24 with a homer, eight RBIs and 10 runs scored. He's also drawn six walks, leading to his .567 on-base percentage.

3) Edgardo Alfonzo, Giants: Back problems plagued him over the last couple of years, but the third baseman has come out of the gates strong, which hasn't happened in the last few years. He's 10 for 22 with two homers, five RBIs and seven runs scored. Alfonzo has been hitting fifth, and if he stays there when Barry Bonds returns to the lineup, he'll have a chance to drive in plenty of runs.

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4) Jose Valentin, Dodgers: He's making a shift to third base, but that hasn't affected Valentin at the plate. He's battting .389 with two homers, eight RBIs and a .520 OBP.

5) Xavier Nady, Padres: San Diego's center fielder was under the weather this week, but he still managed to belt three homers, drive in 10 runs and score six, while batting .346.

Five hot pitchers

1) Josh Beckett, Marlins: After a subpar 2004, Beckett is back to his 2003 postseason form. He won both his starts last week while not allowing a run in either outing. He has 17 Ks in 15 IP, and manager Jack McKeon thinks the 24-year-old right hander is poised for a huge season. "I've seen a tremendous change in the guy," McKeon said. "I saw a great work ethic in spring training. I saw a guy that was focused and determined. He has all that potential, and he wants to bring it to the front, and he has been pitching like that."

2) Jon Lieber, Phillies. Lieber was solid for the Yankees last season, but after a full year under his belt after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the veteran right-hander looks stronger than ever. He won both his starts last week, allowing five earned runs in 13.2 IP. With the Phils' lineup clicking, Lieber could rack up a big win total.

3) Rodrigo Lopez, Orioles: The right-hander joined the rotation in the middle of last season and won 14 games. With a full season as a starter this year, Lopez could be a surprise 20-game winner. Last week, he picked up two wins while giving up one earned run over 14 IP.

4) Danys Baez, Devil Rays: He hasn't picked up any saves yet, but he's earned two wins in a pair of relief appearances while not allowing a run in his three innings of work.

5) Chad Cordero, Nationals: Here's another reliever who was expected to give you saves, but has recorded two wins instead. In five innings this season, Cordero has allowed five hits, no walks and one earned run while striking out five.

Five not-so hot hitters

1) J.D. Drew, Dodgers: Drew finally put things together in Atlanta last year, but he's off to a horrible start in L.A. The right-fielder has just two hits in 27 at-bats and hasn't driven in a run.

2) Mora, Orioles: Mora hasn't looked like the .340 hitter he was last season, going 3 for 26 with one RBI in the Orioles' first six games.

3) Rafael Furcal, Braves: Furcal was off to a dismal start before a big game on Monday when he scored his first two runs of the season and hit his first homer while driving in three. Before that effort against the Nationals, Furcal was 4 for 27. He's only walked once and stolen one base on the year.

4) Mike Piazza, Mets: The slugger does have a homer, but that is the only run he's driven in. He's just 3 for 20 on the season. More important, he looks old.

5) Austin Kearns, Reds: The average is low (.222) but what's more alarming is the eight strikeouts in 18 at-bats.

Five not-so hot pitchers

1) Javier Vazquez, Diamondbacks: A switch back to the National League has not helped the right-hander. Out of the limelight of New York, Vazquez has been rocked in his first two starts as a D'back, giving up 12 earned runs in seven innings pitched.

2) David Wells, Red Sox: Could age finally be catching up with the 41-year-old left-hander? In two starts, Wells has allowed 19 hits and 10 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings pitched.

3) Oliver Perez, Pirates: Perez was one of the hot commodities among fantasy players going into this season -- a young left-hander who managed to win 12 games for the Pirates a year ago (not to mention, his 239 whiffs). However, Perez has been shaky in his first two starts, giving up 11 earned runs in nine innings pitched. He's also walked eight batters.

4) Joe Kennedy, Rockies: It's almost unfair to put Kennedy here since he pitches in Coors Field. However, one of his two starts was away from the thin air and has still allowed 14 earned runs in 9 1/3 innings pitched.

5) Barry Zito, A's: It's only been two starts, but the lefty is picking up where he left off in 2004 instead of reverting back to his form of 2003. In two starts, Zito has given up 12 earned runs in 9 1/3 innings while walking six and striking out just three.

Five players to watch

1) Carl Pavano, Yankees: He's expected to make his next start, Friday at Baltimore, after being hit in the head with a line drive on Sunday. You might want to put Pavano on your bench and see how he does against the powerful O's lineup.

2) Magglio Ordonez, Tigers: He hasn't played since Wednesday after coming down with a viral infection. He should return to Detroit's lineup this week, but he could be weak and it might take him a couple of games to get his strength back. I'd wait on using Ordonez until next week.

3) Chris Burke, Astros: The highly touted rookie looked like he wasn't going to get much of an opportunity this season. But manager Phil Garner inserted him in the lineup on Sunday and Burke responded with a 3-for-4 effort. He started again on Monday and went 0 for 3. Keep an eye on the left fielder's playing time this week and how he responds. If he can just get some at-bats, he may prove to be a valuable pickup for your squad.

4) Derek Lowe, Dodgers: While Pavano took a shot to the head Sunday, Lowe was hit with a line drive on his right arm that same day. X-rays were negative and the former Red Sox right-hander is day to day. I'd recommend sitting Lowe this week.

5) Neifi Perez: With Todd Walker out four-to-six weeks because of a severe knee sprain, Perez should see significant time at 2B.

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