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Fantasy Chat Stew

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This week's edition was complied to the greatest hits of Poison.  With real fantasy baseball drafts a lot closer than anyone could think,  the questions on job battles and expected performance begin to move from the purely hypothetical to ones based on actual performance.

FYI, Steve Gardner of USA Today is back with his fantasy baseball chat at noon on Monday.  The last bite of Fantasy Stew is an excerpt from his inaugural 2009 column.

Charlie (NYC): Trying one more time - talk to me about the Rays closer situation. Does Percival worry you? Could Niemann do the job? Should he?

Keith Law: Hell yes, probably, and eventually.

Tom (Boulder,CO): Saw Denard Span projected #397 OVR. Do you predict he's not going to get enough playing time to warrant a later round flier?

Brendan Roberts: No, we projected him to just not hit that well. That said, I disagreed with my ESPN mates about this. I like his upside, and really in all categories. I DO think he's worth a late-round flier, even though our rankings don't.

Jason (Cleveland): Carlos Santana - what do you expect him in the majors? Will he force the Indians to trade Shoppach (with V-Mart at 1B)?

John Manuel: Shoppach's performance in '09 will help determine that. I have a feeling he had a career year in '08; not like he can't be a solid-average starter, but I see Victor Martinez pushing aside Ryan Garko and Shoppach being a solid-average C for 2009 and perhaps into 2010. Santana has to push two guys aside there, plus Matt LaPorta could factor in at 1B/DH as well. If Travis Hafner bounces back, there's another spot out of the mix for all these players. Shoppach and Garko are two solid players -- Garko's an all-time personal fave -- but Santana and Victor should be the two main guys at C & 1B by 2011 at the latest.

Chris (Columbus oh) [via mobile]: Compare and contrast Matt Kemp with or without Manny

Eric Karabell : I'd expect more power from Kemp if he hits third and Manny goes fourth. I actually expect that will happen. Kemp is going so early in drafts, I'm not sure what people really expect. The power is kind of there.

Todd(Albert Lea, MN): Hello, NL-only keeper league, I can keep either Cain or Gallardo both at $13, who do you prefer?

Tristan H. Cockcroft : I'd rather keep Yovani Gallardo. More growth potential. Matt Cain really hasn't shown me any sign, statistically speaking, that he's ready to take that next leap.

Fred Blue (Boston, MA): To what tier does Matt Garza belong? Oswalt/Zambrano/Beckett? of the next tier down?

AJ Mass: Garza is a definite dropoff from Oswalt/Beckett. However I refuse to put Z in that same lofty territory.

mwashuc06 (Utica,NY): Do you think Carlos Gomez becomes that Alex Rios or Carlos Beltran type of player this year. You talked about Gomez in 2007 on a chat?

John Perrotto: Yeah, I think Gomez is very talented. He's a wild stallion at this point but he'll learn under a guy like Ron Gardenhire and that Twins' coaching staff. Gomez is going to be very very good.

krissbeth (watertown): Christian Guzman... is he really going to be as good as his projections say? Are his comps all late bloomers?

Christina Kahrl: I just have a very real problem with taking Cristian Guzman all that seriously, but happily, Jim Bowden keeps him locked down with the Nats, essentially making the question academic (or one for the realm of fantasy). Snark aside, he's come back better than I expected as a hitter, but his comps (Schoendienst, Julio Franco, Michael Young, and Grudz) are cause for continuing optimism.


Steve Gardner: Who will be the most interesting players to watch this spring?

Steve Gardner: The players I'll be watching closely fall into two categories: kids and comebacks.

Baltimore Orioles catching prospect Matt Wieters could be this year's version of Longoria. He's a can't-miss hitter who has all the skills necessary to be successful in the majors right away. The Orioles cleared the way for Wieters by trading starter Ramon Hernandez, so now it's up to the rookie to deliver.

Similarly, the Milwaukee Brewers will be expecting a great deal out of young right-hander Yovani Gallardo— especially with CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets no longer heading the rotation. Gallardo is supremely talented but is coming off knee surgery that limited him to four starts last season.