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Posted: Tuesday March 9, 2010 3:51PM; Updated: Wednesday March 10, 2010 6:20PM

Fantasy Baseball 2010 draft primer

Story Highlights

Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright poised for Cy Young-caliber season

Indians have maming of solid outfield with Shin-Soo Choo and Matt LaPorta

Nationals rookie Stephen Strasburg likely won't debut until June 1

By Jay Clemons, SI.com

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For those who don't have time to consume every word of the expansive Fantasy Baseball Preview or corresponding Top 200 list of players (regardless of position), we'd like to present the SI.com 5-Minute Guide to Fantasy Baseball Goodness. Think of it as a Reader's Digest approach to fantasy domination, even if it takes 8-10 minutes to read in its entirety.

And should you have any questions or comments, be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Starting Pitchers

Five on the rise

Jon Lester, Red Sox
At No. 21 overall in my rankings, Lester hardly qualifies as a sleeper; but he also has the capacity to make a wire-to-wire run for the American League Cy Young -- just like Zack Greinke in 2009.

Josh Johnson, Marlins
In real-life baseball, Johnson's the indomitable ace of a club that's primed for a legitimate wild-card run. In fantasyland, he's a lock for 200-plus strikeouts, 16 wins and elite-level numbers in WHIP and ERA.

Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
Fantasy owners have had to wait out the learning curve of Gallardo, the Brewers' purported ace for nearly three years (CC Sabathia interlude notwithstanding). Finally, all the pieces are in place for 15-plus wins and 200-plus strikeouts.

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
The 21-year-old Kershaw might surpass Johnson and Gallardo in strikeouts and ERA -- just don't expect more than 14 victories while playing for the volatile Dodgers this season.

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Fantasy drafters, enjoy your last season of corralling Wainwright in Round 4 or 5 in mixed leagues. This ace is a lock for 18-plus wins and the National League Cy Young.

Five in decline

Johan Santana, Mets
Go ahead and celebrate snaring Santana in Round 5 or later in mixed-league drafts -- he's still viable in fantasyland. Just don't expect 200-plus strikeouts, 17 wins or a microscopic WHIP. Sadly, those days are gone.

Cole Hamels, Phillies
The enigmatic Hamels is still good for 6-7 games of 10-plus strikeouts and 2 or fewer runs surrendered. The problem lies with his head-scratching numbers in the other 26 starts.

Roy Oswalt, Astros
The optimist in me says Oswalt -- just like Santana and Hamels -- remains a productive pitcher. The pessimist, however, says to wave bye-bye to 12 wins, 160 strikeouts and 1.15 WHIP.

Carlos Zambrano, Cubs
Big Z deserves plenty of credit for reshaping his body in the offseason. But a new physique likely won't put a dent in his scary-high WHIP totals from years past ... or preclude him from a few meltdowns this season.

Erik Bedard, Mariners
When fully healthy, Bedard should be treated like a top-30 pitcher. But he seldom operates at 100 percent.

Sleepers

Matt Garza, Rays
The Rays might have the best starting quintet of pitchers in baseball (which doesn't even include über-prospect Jeremy Hellickson), but who's going to emerge as the undisputed ace this season? My money's on Garza.

Chad Billingsley, Dodgers
Don't let the sluggish second half fool you -- Billingsley has all the physical tools to rival Clayton Kershaw as the Dodgers' ace and serve as a fantasy dynamo. But he'll come at a cheaper fantasy price.

Scott Baker, Twins
Just like Garza with Tampa Bay, Minnesota desperately needs someone to become the anchor of the pitching staff, and Baker still has great upside in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. Consider him a great consolation prize for not landing Kevin Slowey on draft day.

Randy Wells, Cubs
Wells may go undrafted in some mixed leagues, but he's still an intriguing choice in three categories -- victories, ERA and WHIP. In fact, by season's end, Wells might have better numbers than Carlos Zambrano and/or Randy Wolf.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox
I normally steer clear of pitchers with a porous track record in WHIP. But amid reports of Dice-K's improved conditioning and stronger shoulder, he could be an excellent value pick (unlike last year). It's amazing what rest can do for a pitcher sometimes, huh?

For more on starting pitchers, read Jay Clemons' position rankings

Relief Pitchers

Five on the rise

Rafael Soriano, Rays
There's great value in whichever Tampa Bay reliever wins the closer role, and Soriano has the inside track to the job. Consider him to be a rock-solid consolation prize for fantasy owners who didn't have the patience to wait for Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Fuentes.

Neftali Feliz, Rangers
If he had been definitively tabbed for the Rangers' starting rotation or bullpen, Feliz would be one of the most sought-after rookies in fantasy drafts. Instead, some lucky owner will reap the benefits of Feliz's tweenerism.

Ryan Franklin, Cardinals
It's quite possible that Franklin (38 saves, 1.20 WHIP and 1.92 ERA in 2009) is just scratching the surface of his closing potential. But then again, Jason Motte could arguably post similar numbers if the roles were reversed in the Cards' bullpen. Better get both, just to be safe.

Luke Gregerson, Padres
The San Diego reliever wins my preseason vote for the 2010 Set-Up Man Of The Year, courtesy of the following stat (Fanball): 12.8 K/9 ratio in his last 28 appearances. Think of him as Heath Bell, circa 2007.

Leo Nunez, Marlins
The Marlins will make the 2010 playoffs as a wild-card team. Hence, someone has to reap the rewards of a 90-plus-win season. Enter Nunez and 28-plus saves.

Five in decline

Francisco Rodriguez, Mets
He'll never live up to that 62-save dream season of 2008. His ERA and WHIP have taken sustainable punishment since then.

Brad Lidge, Phillies
Only the saves-obsessed fantasy owner should even think of murmuring his name on draft day.

Bobby Jenks, White Sox
Perhaps the slimmed-down version of Jenks can hold off the challengers in Chicago's bullpen -- namely J.J. Putz and Matt Thornton.

J.P. Howell, Rays
Howell is still a solid pitcher in real-world baseball, but his draft-day value takes a serious hit if/when Soriano is named the Rays' full-time closer.

Dan Wheeler, Rays
Ditto for Wheeler, who likely missed his chance to be Tampa Bay's go-to bullpen stud last season.

Sleepers

Carlos Marmol, Cubs
Marmol's wild ways will cripple the faint-of-heart fantasy owner but eventually there will be a payoff for those who believe in his rocket arm and imposing demeanor on the mound.

Matt Lindstrom, Astros
Brandon Lyon has the better numbers, but Lindstrom likely gets first crack at the Astros' closer role. If Lindstrom can keep the elbow healthy and the head free of distractions (big IF), he'll likely be a late-round value.

Drew Storen, Nationals
Stephen Strasburg wasn't Washington's only jewel from the 2009 entry draft. If Matt Capps should falter as the Nationals' closer sooner than later, expect Storen to step right in and flourish -- even with limited save chances.

Joey Devine, Athletics
Last year's draft wunderkind is this season's forgotten gem. Chalk it up to a season-ending injury ... and the out-of-nowhere emergence of Andrew Bailey (and to a lesser extent, Michael Wuertz).

Sergio Romo, Giants
Romo has two things in his favor: He's a future star in the making and only has Brian Wilson standing in his path to the Giants' closer role for the next 5-7 years.

Jay Clemons' Relief Pitcher rankings

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