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PURE FANTASY: Never too early for fantasy baseball

PURE FANTASY: Never too early for fantasy baseball
PURE FANTASY: Never too early for fantasy baseball

Death and taxes.

Used to be that those were considered the only absolute certainties and while the former — pardon the pun — “lives” up to that, the latter has become somewhat more pliable, especially for those individuals and businesses in the “ultra rich” bracket.

But over the years, I’ve come across several other things that may or may not be absolutes, but are at least pretty safe wagers. Most are pretty simple, actually:

Never to bet the farm on the favorite at the Kentucky Derby, no matter the odds.

Never trust the management of the Chicago Bears to do what will ultimately work out for the best.

It’s impossible to watch the movies “Miracle” or “The Shawshank Redemption” too many times.

And it’s never, never, never too early to start talking about fantasy baseball.

I have several people a week — even during that stretch when temperatures in the Starved Rock Country area resembled the Bears’ winning percentage in John Fox’s last season as head coach — asking what I think about how this player will do this coming season, how that player will be affected by his new team, whether this other pitcher will recover from injury.

So here are a few of the answers I gave them, as well as some random thoughts I will elaborate on as the regular season draws closer and closer.

Believe me, the way my fantasy football season went, I can’t wait to hear “pitchers and catchers report.”
• I am not at all sure about the latest Japanese import, Shohei Ohtani. There are simply too many questions about him — how will he handle the transition to MLB, how much will he hit and how much will he pitch, whether the elbow injury he’s dealing with right now will affect either — to say with any certainty he’ll be a star or even a surefire starter for the LA Angels this season.
Early ESPN rankings have him ranked 94th, or No. 24 among outfielders. When the time comes, I wouldn’t spend a pick on him before the sixth round until he proves himself in spring training.
• I think Marcel Ozuna will be a key to the National League Central this season. He’s a really good hitter with a lot of good hitters around him, including center fielder Tommy Pham, so grab him fairly early if you can.
• Whether he finds a new home or not, I think Jake Arrieta won’t be again what he was in 2015, but he will be better than he’s been the last two seasons. In fact, I’d rather have him than Chris Archer or James Paxton. I hope that bounceback will occur in Wrigley Field, but sadly that’s not up to me.
• I’m guessing that newly-acquired Brandon Morrow will start the season as the Cubs closer. The former starter, now set-up man, has a high strikeout rate and can do the job. The question about him is how healthy he’ll stay and if he does, will he throw strikes?
• Don’t fall asleep on Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte. I know he never really caught up after serving a 50-game suspension last season, be he is an all-start utility player who will be a staple in someone’s lineup. It might as well be yours.
• There are three other players that I’m pretty sure I’ll target depending on how the rest of my draft is going and what I need in the later rounds: free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain, Oakland 1B/OF Matt Olson and Washington Nationals OF Adam Eaton.
Cain is a good hitter who will put up numbers wherever he lands. Olson had terrific power numbers (24 homers in just 59 games before an injury). And Eaton, remember him, Sox fans? He’ll either be the leadoff hitter for the Nats or No. 2 behind Trea Turner. In either case, he should be in front of Bryce Harper.

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