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Indians Have Best Outfield, Other Baseball Picks

Column by Craig Horenstein and Eitan Sabo

It is spring of 1995 and baseball is back. While some of you may be boycotting this year's season, fantasy owners are not complaining. Here are a few of our picks and a little insight into this season.

American League

First base: Last year's MVP, Frank Thomas, is sure to have another strong season, but may not be able to match his productivity of last year. The loss of Julio "Down by the schoolyard" Franco means that Chris "Spuds" Sabo will be batting fourth. If he doesn't provide good production batting clean-up, then the Big Hurt, baseball's best hitter, may walk over 200 times and never see a pitch over the plate.

Second base: Although he is sometimes taunted for his three errors in one inning a few years ago, Carlos "Bye Bye" Baerga is still the best second baseman in baseball. Despite walking just 10 times all of last year and swinging at every pitch between the foul poles and under the lights, his lack of discipline is overshadowed by his 200 hits in the season. This season could be Baerga's finest yet.

Third base: Although Golden Glove winner Robin Ventura has lost some of his fielding touch, with eight errors in his first eight games, at least he can still hit. Well, maybe not. Two weeks into the season, the White Sox's sweet swinger is only batting .161, a far cry from his .400 campaign at Oklahoma State University.

Shortstop: The Red Sox's John Valentin has become the premier shortstop in the AL, but don't be surprised if general manager Dan Douquette trades him before the season ends. The Sox are apparently interested in reacquiring the rights to left handed pitcher/Social Security recipient Larry Anderson. Catcher: After sitting out all of last season, 1990 World Series hero Joe Oliver has found a new home in Milwaukee and has had no problems adjusting to AL pitching. Unfortunately, he may lose his starting job when Dave "I got bit by a mosquito" Nillson returns from his bout with the all-too-common Ross River virus.

Outfield: Although there is no shortage of talent in American League outfields, the cream of the crop plays in Cleveland's beautiful Jacobs Field. Considered to be last year's roto player of the year, Kenny Lofton is sure to be among the AL leaders in hits, runs, and steals. Albert "Don't call me Joey" Belle is simply awesome. Even without a corked bat, expect him to hit .350 with 50 homers and 150 RBI's.

Starting Pitcher: The Royals' Kevin Appier appears to be back in top form and is our favorite to win the Cy Young Award. The oft-overlooked Ricky "Role the" Bones of Milwaukee should have another All-Star season, as should our sleeper for the year, Seattle's Chris Bosio.

Relief Pitcher: Out of the bullpen, John Wetteland is unstoppable, and if the Yanks win 100, the left handed fireballer will save 50. As always, there are several sleepers in this department. Watch out for the A's Mark Acre, Texas' Darren Oliver, the O's Armanda Benitez and the Brewers' Graham "Cracker" Lloyd.

National League

First base: Jeff "Brown Paper" Bagwell, last year's NL MVP, is off to a slow start, but is too good not to put up Astro-nomical numbers. Andrs "Le Grand Chat" Galarraga, at age 34, is in the best shape of his life and has his eyes set on the MVP trophy. Playing in Colorado will only help his chances.

Second base: With a career minor league on-base percentage of almost .400, Florida second baseman Quilvio Veras has a knack for reaching base. The speedy Veras could steal sixty bases and run himself into NL Rookie of the Year.

Third base: Bobby Bonilla should return to his old form and have the type of year that earned him his record 5-year $29 million salary. Ken Caminiti, batting fourth for San Diego will have another great year and the Cardinals' Todd "Hitting with" Zeile had a strong finish in 1994, but is currently out with a wrist injury.

Shortstop: Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin will contend for the NL Batting Championship if he can stay away from injuries year. Wil Cordero is the best power hitting shortstop in the NL and will keep the Expos competitive, despite their offseason garage sale.

Catcher: Benito "El Supreme" Santiago is back, this time in Cincinnati, and with yet another new life, he may yet regain his spectacular offensive form. The Colorado air has helped Joe Girardi, who is on pace to have 216 RBIs, but Mike "Pepperoni" Piazza is by far and away the best catcher in the league.

Outfield: Dante "Inferno" Bichette and Larry "Sky" Walker are sure bets in Colorado. Expect them to combine for 80 homers and 200 RBIs. Meanwhile, Barry "U.S.S" Bonds will resume his position as league MVP and wants to go 40/40. Another 40/40 candidate is Florida's Gary Sheffield "of Dreams," who spent the winter in the weight rooms.

Starting Pitcher: Atlanta's starting pitching should be better then ever this year. We certainly wouldn't bet against Greg Maddux for his fourth consecutive Cy Young.

Relief Pitcher: Picked by "The Sporting News" to have the worst relief pitching in the NL, the Los Angeles Dodgers actually have a solid young bullpen in Al Osuna, Ismael Valdez and closer Rudy Seanez. The Reds also have an unbelievably talented pen with Johnny Ruffin, Chuck McElroy, Xavier Hernadez, Jeff Brantley, Hector Carasco and Mike Jackson. The best relief pitcher in the NL is undoubtedly the Expos' Mel Rojas, who will have at least 40 saves now that Wetteland is in New York.

Question of the week: The 1986 Pittsfield Cubs boasted two current major league All-Stars. Who are they and where do they play? Please send answers to eitan@mit.edu.