Finding treasure among the trash.

AAA Royals

I love scouring bad teams for good talent. Seriously, it’s almost pathetic how much I like it. Last year I got the MLB Extra Innings package and spent a huge part of my summer watching the Pirates, Royals, Giants, Reds, and Nationals; games no one else in the sane world would pay a penny for.

If you love baseball like I do though, you love all of baseball.

These games fascinate me for numerous reasons.

First, there’s guys who are legitimate stars mired in mediocrity because of the uniform they wear. If you listened to Sports Talk Radio WEEI in the northeast during the Manny Ramirez trade last year, you saw a shining example.

“We’re replacing Manny with who?” (Or whom. Whatever.)

Until last year, casual baseball fans simply did not know who Jason Bay was, despite a Rookie of the Year award and several Most Valuable Player votes in just five full seasons. Last year it was Nate McLouth, also of the Pirates, who had a break out season, winning an All-Star spot and a Gold Glove in the process. To an uneducated player, they’ll scoff when you mention him as a top 10 or 15 outfielder in 2009.

Knowing all about horrible teams is a integral towards winning a fantasy baseball season. You get a jump on the others. You get the bargains. Did you know that Pirate’s first baseman Adam LaRoche’s OPS raises significantly in the second half and that he’s usually on the waiver wire? Or that the Red’s Chris Dickerson scored 20 runs, hit 6 homers, drove in 15, and stole five bases in just 31 games last year! If you had him on your team for the final month or two of the season, you moved up in the standings.

Some of baseball’s best prospects reside in the dregs of the baseball world. The Giant’s LHP Madison Bumgarner and versatile Buster Posey. The Royal’s 3B Mike Moustakas and 1B Eric Hosmer. Pittburgh’s CF Andrew McCutchen and 3B Pedro Alvarez. If you consider the Marlins “trash,” they have arguably the best crop with CF Cameron Maybin, OF Mike Stanton and 1B Logan Morrison.

Chances are these guys will be the first big prospects to hit the bigs. Desperate times call for desperate measures and there’s nothing worse than a horrible record. These teams will play their cards, take a chance with a new regime, and hope for the best before long. It will pay dividends to be ready and to scoop up these impact prospects or know who’s going to be worthy of that #1 waiver priority.

Arms in fantasy baseball are invaluable. After the reliability of front-of-the-rotation pitchers, it’s a toss up and headache to find good pitching. Will you get Oliver Perez circa 2006 or 2007? Why not take a chance on a pitcher on a bad team but with great upside?

Jonathan Sanchez of the Giants comes to mind and the Pirate’s new ace Paul Maholm. If you used these guys last year, even though you didn’t get the wins, you accumulated points in some of the other stat categories. There is rotation help to be found for cheap, cheap, cheap (if you know where to look).

There’s some people who avoid players on these teams like the plague, thinking they’re either not worth the risk, or that with a bad team behind them, they can’t possibly do anything good.

All I can say is: their loss, your gain.

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