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Age: 25 Hafner has a sweet lefty swing that generates big power, leading many to compare him to Jim Thome, the man he's trying to replace. He's hit 91 HR's in his past 454 minor league games and has displayed very good plate discipline, exemplified by the fact that he drew more walks last season in Triple-A Oklahoma than strikeouts (79:77). Hafner will have an opportunity to play everyday in '03 after being sent over from Texas, where he was mired behind Rafael Palmeiro.
Age: 29 Finally, Durazo seems assured of an everyday role. A's GM Billy Beane has long pined for Durazo's bat and after swinging a deal to secure the Mexican slugger, he plans to have Durazo at DH on a full-time basis. Last season, Durazo hit 16 home runs in 76 games, which projects to 34 over 162 games. Durazo has a career .918 OPS and has a very respectable 1.4:1 K-to-BB ratio.
Age: 28 After knocking in 96 runs in '01, Cabrera was somewhat of a bust in '02, driving in just 56 runs, while hitting just .263 with seven home runs. But it should be pointed out that Cabrera did steal a career-high 25 bases and, over the final month of the season, Cabrera produced the best fantasy numbers among shortstops.
Age: 26 Richard Hidalgo's '00 numbers (.314, 44 HR, 122 RBI) are starting to look like a fluke. He hasn't hit 20 home runs or driven in more than 80 runs in any of his other 11 pro seasons. And after a disastrous '02 campaign in which he hit .235 with 15 HR and 48 RBI, it's time to turn our attention to Lane, a top Houston prospect who will have an opportunity to push Hidalgo to the bench. Lane posted a .911 OPS in his 44-game '02 ML debut and has averaged 25.5 home runs per 500 at bats in the minors.
Chicago White Sox
Age: 24 Long a top prospect in the White Sox organization, Crede finally started to make his mark on the ML level in '02, hitting 12 home runs in 53 games. All of Crede's HR's came in the final two months of the season and only Mike Lowell and Scott Rolen produced better fantasy numbers at third base in September. Crede could stand to draw more walks, but he's managed to hit .292 in the minors and .277 in the majors despite the lack of bases on balls.
Age: 28 If all goes according to plan, Giambi will play first base and hit fifth in the Red Sox order behind Manny Ramirez (career .411 OBP) and Nomar Garciaparra (.375). To say that Giambi will be in position to drive in runs is an understatement. After hitting 20 HR in a combined 124 games with Oakland and Philadelphia last season, the 28-year old Giambi appears to be in an ideal situation to produce a career year.
Age: 21 Kerry Wood and Mark Prior will dominate most of the attention among Cubs' staffers, but the 21-year old Zambrano, at 6'5", 250 lbs. casts an imposing presence on the mound, as well. Armed with an upper 90's fastball, Zambrano struck out 93 batters in 108.1 IP with a solid 3.66 ERA in '02. He'll need to drop his walks (63) to solidify his standing in fantasy leagues, but he's young enough to make the improvement.
Age: 22 Don't write off Sabathia because he produced four less wins and 22 less K's last season compared to his rookie campaign despite pitching 30 more innings. Excessive weight gain is commonly blamed for Sabathia's regression. And reports are that Sabathia has worked diligently this offseason to drop down well below the 300-lb. mark that he worked at last season. He's now the ace of the Indians at the age of 22, still armed with a dangerous fastball and slider.
Age: 25 Eaton returned from Tommy John surgery last September after having been shelved for 14 months. His first three starts of '02 were forgettable, but his final three were in line with the kind of numbers he was putting up before injuring his elbow. Eaton closed out his final 21 innings of '02 by allowing just 11 hits, four runs to go with an 18:4 K-to-BB ratio. Eaton has struck out a worthy 224 batters in his 285-inning ML career and throws a variety of quality pitches, including a mid-90's fastball, curveball and change.
Age: 25 Had Fossum pitched enough innings to qualify, his 3.36 strike outs for every walk would have landed him ahead of Roy Oswalt for 10th among starters in '02. A supplemental first-round pick by the Sox in '99, Fossum used his nasty slider, moving fastball and superb control to fan 101 batters in 106.1 IP. He moves into the rotation full-time in '03.
I am not sure if I would call Durazo a sleeper. He was a big acquisition for the A's and the fact that he can play DH means fewer opportunities for injuries in the field. I think the A's lineup will allow him to be more productive than the D'backs lineup. The A's are counting on a monster year.