Last year, every single fantasy football ranking list you saw had Shaun Alexander in its top 10.
All of them were wrong.
A few years ago it was a no-brainer, no-questions-asked conclusion that after LeBron James, Darko Milicic had to be the next guy off the board, before Carmelo Anthony.
That was wrong.
All of you were wrong.
John (New Haven, Conn.): Hey Mr. Know-it-all, did you notice who was FHM's No. 1 girl this year? None other than Megan Fox! I'm thinking you should stick to fantasy sports because in reality, you're clueless my friend.
TMR: Yes, I saw FHM's list of 100 sexiest women. And I have to say all of you are wrong. I got a zillion e-mails similar to this and to all of you I say really? This is a list that has Hilary Duff at No. 7. Think about that statement for a second. Hilary Duff. At No. 7.
The list has health hazards Lindsay Lohan (16) and Kim Kardashian (17) ahead of Beyonce (20). The only way there are 19 women in this world better-looking than Beyonce is if she cloned herself 19 times when she was in the Austin Powers movie. Tara Reid is No. 56. I have to assume this means there's a keg nearby. Madonna is on this list because apparently it's still 1993. Jenna Fischer ("Pam" from The Office) is one of the top 100? She's adorable but come on No creditable attempt at objectifying women (now there's an oxymoron) takes personality or talent into the equation.
Britney is on the list. And a certain crazy-hot sideline reporter is not. Sorry, Ric Bucher. You got jobbed. So that's fine, John. You want to put your faith in a list like that? Go right ahead.
Because when we evaluate talent, what's popular is not necessarily what's right. Brian Fuentes (mentioned many times this week) is the No. 1 pickup this week. But if you don't need saves, he makes no sense for your team. Every week, I evaluate the available talent pool. And every week, you evaluate my list. If you just blindly follow what's popular, you're not helping your team, which has specific wants and needs. And sometimes, those needs and wants are better served by Anne Hathaway (No. 51). Or, er, speedy outfielders, not new closers.
Working the wire
Again, the most popular version of the game on ESPN is our standard game, which is a 10-team mixed league. Here are some players available in those leagues who have recently seen a rise in value.
Brian Fuentes, P, Rockies: He's the new closer. He's been an All-Star closer before, he's pitched well this year (2.25 ERA) and already has a save. He's probably already gone, but on the off chance he isn't yet
Derrick Turnbow, P, Brewers: Speaking of former All-Star closers who are pitching well while the current closer continues to blow saves, Turnbow got the save the other night after Gagne had blown two straight. Now, Turnbow hasn't really pitched all that well this year but it worked with my segue from Fuentes. That said, Ned Yost has said all the right things about Turnbow getting back into form and Gagne's leash continues to get shorter. Guillermo Mota is also in this mix, and he was unavailable when Turnbow got the save but, again, Turnbow got the save. That counts for something.
Frank Thomas, DH, A's: Now back with Oakland, he's still available in 75 percent of ESPN standard leagues. Let's look at his numbers: He's 10-of-60 with four home runs and nine RBIs in his first 60 at-bats.
Now some of you are probably saying Hey, TMR, that's not right. He was actually 10-of-60 with three home runs and 11 RBIs. And I would say, you are correct. Those are his numbers with Toronto this year. The first numbers I quoted? The very similar ones? Those were his numbers for his first 60 at-bats in 2006 with the A's. And as the Elias Sports Bureau pointed out when it made that stat known, he finished that year with 39 home runs, 114 RBIs and wound up at .270. The skill set is still there, he's just a slow starter. And he's gonna play.
Jorge Cantu, 3B, Marlins: As long as we are talking about power hitters who used to be good, Cantu hit 28 home runs in 2005. Well, it was a long strange trip, but Cantu is back. He's hitting .325 with three home runs, eight RBIs and even has two steals. I'm not convinced the average stays, but the power is legit.
Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets: Guess who has more steals this year than Jose Reyes? He's a career .294 hitter who is playing every day. And clearly, the speed is still there. Six steals on the year already.
Juan Pierre, OF, Dodgers: Speaking of speed, Pierre is still available in more than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues. He has five stolen bases this year and is on pace to steal 49. A career .301 hitter, he has not stolen fewer than 45 bases in the past seven years.
Nomar Garciaparra, 1B/3B, Dodgers: He's old and what little power was there is gone. But he'll hit for average and it looks as if he is going to play every day. I've never been a fan, but he does have value if you need help at the corner infield slot. Or if you're in a league where "guys who married hotter women than they deserve" is a category.
Mike Cameron, OF, Brewers: He's averaged 20/20 for the past two years and he's eligible to come back from suspension for the Brewers' 26th game, which is scheduled for Monday. He's available in pretty much every ESPN.com standard league and while he's not going to hit for average (career .251), the power and speed are money in the bank.
Erick Aybar, 2B-SS, Angels: He's playing every day, he's up to .368 and has four steals on the year. He qualifies at both middle infield slots and he spells his name funky. While he's not worth Cole Hamels as our stupid podcast producer Pod Vader believes, he is useful. And available.
Clint Barmes, 2B, Rockies: While Jayson Nix continues to hit below the Mendoza line, Clint is tearing it up. "It" being the cover off the baseball, not the dance floor. Though he might be doing that as well, you never know. Barmes is hitting .333 with two home runs and nine RBIs in just 15 games. He's playing almost every day as well.
Kazuo Matsui, 2B, Astros: Wow, we're middle-infield heavy this week. Well, Matsui is available in only 20 percent or so of ESPN.com standard leagues, but I'm not doing an "obvious names" section this week, so he has to go here. He already has two steals in his first seven games (on pace for better than 40, to put it in context) and is hitting .296.
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Reds: Another guy who would go in the obvious name section, he's still out there in 20 percent of 10-team mixed leagues. He's hit .375 with four home runs in his past seven days. And he's named Edwin.
Just below the Mendoza line
Here are some guys you should keep an eye on in mixed leagues and who have recently seen a spike in value in single-league leagues or deeper mixed leagues. I'd also suggest reading last week's column, where we featured names like Eric Hinske and Brandon Morrow.
Speaking of pitching, there are a lot of (mostly) young, generally unowned pitchers who have stepped up recently. So, among those, here's how I rank them. I can't possibly do any worse than FHM.
Jair Jurrjens, Braves
Armando Galarraga, Tigers
Dana Eveland, A's
Todd Wellemeyer, Cardinals
Jonathan Sanchez, Giants
Gavin Floyd,White Sox
Nick Blackburn, Twins
Scott Olsen, Marlins
Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers
Mike Pelfrey, Mets
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He has been playing fantasy sports for more than 20 years, writing about it professionally for more than 10. He currently appears on or in ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN the Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN Mobile TV and, as soon as he learns to say "ground-ball/fly-ball ratio" in Spanish, ESPN Deportes.