'Dustin Ackley at second base' photo (c) 2011, hj_west - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

There are only a few weeks left in the 2011 fantasy baseball season, sniffle, but that doesn't mean there aren't still championships to be won. Here are the answers to some of the questions that I have recently received at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

Of these four, who to keep: Eric Hosmer, Dustin Ackley, Michael Pineda and Mike Trout? We start three outfielders and two utility. – @TheRKG

Hosmer has had a spectacular rookie campaign hitting .286 with 17 homers, 69 RBI,. 56 runs and a surprising 10 steals. If he swipes 15 bases a season that will be an immense boost to his fantasy value at a position that sports, to be kind, few speed demons. However, a .285-25-90-80 season, while a terrific effort, leaves one well off the pace of the elite at the position, and that marks Hosmer's keeper value in this setup as low.

Ackley has been as good as advertised. Hitting .290, he's also taken his walks leading to a .367 OBP, and he's shown solid extra base power as well for a second sacker (.452 SLG). If we take his production from 76 games this year and double it we'd end up with a second baseman hitting .290 with 12 homer, 68 RBI, 74 runs and eight steals. Those numbers would put him in contention for being a top-15 second baseman.

Pineda has been as good as advertised this year. Yes he's had a bit of a rough go of late, but he's still posted 171 Ks in 167 innings, has limited batters to a .208 batting average, and has a 1.08 WHIP in his 27 starts. It's not his fault that he is 9-10 (thank his teammates anemic hitting). With a year under his belt next season, there's no reason to expect any fall off in his production, and the team just might turn him loose for 200 innings as well.

Trout probably has more talent than anyone on this list, and that's saying something. The uber-talented outfielder can't legally buy a beer yet, but he has five homers, 15 RBI and 18 runs scored over just 100 at-bats. However, the Angels have Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and Peter Bourjos in the outfield, and if Kendrys Morales returns to action next year, that means the DH spot will be filled by him or Mark Trumbo. As you can see, there is still a chance that Trout will not open the year with the big league club so that he can gain a little more experience in the minors. Regardless, since this league starts only three outfielders, it's nearly impossible to suggest keeping Trout.

I'm gonna pass on Trout – he's not likely to be a top-30 outfielder next season. I'd pass on Hosmer –  I don't think he's going to be a top-10 first baseman either. So it's Ackley or Pineda. Since I'm of the opinion that pitching is variable, and since a single thrown ball can end a pitchers season, I'd settle on Ackley who could be an up the middle star as soon as next year.

Keeping Roy Halladay & Matt Kemp. Can you pick two more from Yovani Gallardo, Michael Bourn, Brian McCann, John Axford, Ben Zobrist and David Ortiz? – @JonMize1978

Having a better pitcher/hitter combo will be hard to find, so you're in great shape there.

Gallardo has won 16 games with 183 Ks, a 3.66 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. He's inconsistent as all hell, but in the end, the production simply cannot be argued with (there are only four pitchers in the NL with 16 wins and 180 Ks – Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee, Halladay and Gallardo).

Bourn has 52 steals to lead baseball, his third straight season with at least 50 swipes. He's also recorded at least 84 runs for the third straight season, and for the second time in three years it looks like he will hit at least .285 (he's batting .301 right now). He's an elite performer at what he does.

McCann is as consolid a hitter at the catchers' position as you're going to find. He's hit 23 homers this year, his fourth straight season of at least 21 and the fifth time in six years he has done that. He's also just four RBI away from a sixth straight season of 70 RBI. There isn't a more consistent power bat in the game behind the dish.

Axford has been stupendous this year with a 2.16 ERA and 42 saves for the Brewers. His last blown save was on April 18th.

Zobrist qualifies in the outfield and at second base, and that is always a nice bonus. He's also had a fantastic fantasy season as he's hit .274 with 15 homers, 82 RBI, 88 runs and 17 steals. Mind you, this is the second time in three seasons that he will go .270-15-80-85-15. As of this writing only four players have done that twice the past three years – Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun and Zobrist.

Ortiz is having a fantastic season, he's on the cusp of his first .300-30-100 season since 2007 (he is hitting .313 with 29 homers and 92 RBI). However, he'll be 36 next year, has never been a paragon of physical fitness, and he hit .264, .238 and .270 the past three years. Throw in the fact that he only qualifies at DH, and he has limited value.

If I'm protecting four players, only one of them is going to be a pitcher, so Gallardo is out. As great as McCann is, I just don't trust catchers to stay healthy, so I wouldn't protect him either. Closers come and go each season, so Axford is out. I love Ortiz and his happy go lucky attitude, but I'm not keeping a DH. That leaves me with Bourn, a truly elite stolen base performer, and Zobrist who is a much better hitter than anyone gives him credit for.

Colby Lewis on waivers - worth a pick up? – @Robert6286

Colby has won 12 games for the second straight year though his performance has slipped a hair (his ERA has gone from 3.72 to 4.29 and his WHIP from 1.19 to 1.23). Four starts ago his ERA was 3.83 though, but he's been hit hard over his last four outings leading to 19 earned runs in 21.1 innings for an 8.02 ERA. Normally I would say something like “it's only four starts, things will even out,” and though I still believe that, we don't have much time left this year for that stuff to even out. What that means is you need to manage your team differently than you do in May, and by that I mean you have to be looking at each step you take versus focusing on where the steps will take you.

Lewis is a solid hurler who has actually pitched slightly better in the second half of the season (4.15 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) than the first (4.38 and 1.24). Still, he is in the middle of a bad spell right now. His next scheduled start is the 17th in Seattle then the 24th at home against Seattle. You really can't ask for two better match-ups. So do you start a pitcher with great match-ups, or do you look at his recent work on the bump and run for the hills? I'd let your place in the standings be the ultimate arbiter of that question, but I would hesitate to employ his services unless I was really in need of those innings.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87.




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About Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.

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