Fantasy Baseball Preview 2007: Atom City Smashers

Here's your batting order, 1-9, for the reigning Solarius Division champions:

1. Left Field: Cheetagrah Johnson. Addressing a lack of speed in 2006, the Smashers spent heavily on free agent Johnson. Johnson led the league in both infield hits (121) and stolen bases (214) two years running thanks to his start from the left-handed batters' box and his ability to transform instantly into a cheetah. Defense is still a question, given his insistence on playing the outfield as an armless quadruped; also, a reliable backup will be needed for night games near a full moon, when Johnson loses control of his powers and becomes a predatory killing machine.

2. Second Base: Nippon Ham Super Baseball Robo X. Last year's postseason breakdown should be forgotten, with the Smashers management finally agreeing to purchase a long-term extended warranty for the switch-hitter; the Japanese import will be moving runners over from the No. 2 slot every day in 2007. Expect a consistent performance in line with his 2004 (.400 BA, .400 OBP, 30 HR) and 2005 (.400/.400/30) seasons.

3. Center Field: Ograx Howard. Look for the right-handed Ograx Howard to have a breakout 2007 at the plate --- a .500 OBP and 200 runs are not out of the question, given his keen eye and discipline. Though traditionally a line-drive hitter, the Smashers are hoping for a spike in home runs, as he will have a hard time running the bases when his right head, Thograx, hits seventh.

4. First Base: Baron von Crush. Back for his fourth season with the Atom City Smashers, Crush appears to be in excellent physical condition and eager to prove that his injury woes off the offseason (gored by a triceratops while working on his Montana ranch) are behind him. A fan favorite for his stunning physique, striped singlets and dapper handlebar moustache, Crush will have a hard time matching his career-best 2006 numbers (.525 BA, .832 OBP, 126 HR, 236 RBI), as new league rules banning the use of oak trees as bats will reduce his plate coverage. He'll also be learning a new position: with his unicorn steed, Thelonius, retiring to the rainbow kingdom, Crush no longer has the mobility to play the outfield, though his 6'11" frame should make an inviting target at first base. He also has promised to stop "calling his shot" on every at bat, which should result in fewer fatal bench-clearing brawls.

5. Third Base: Mephisticus the Mighty. Allegations continue to swirl regarding Mephisticus' use of telekinesis to assist his sudden 2006 power surge (4 HR in 2005 to 94 HR). But a man who has not spoken a word since witnessing the death of his parents at the hands of an archdemon seems uniquely suited to avoid media distractions, and so he should continue to offer solid protection in the fifth spot for Baron von Crush.

6. Shortstop: Cindy Jenkins. Cindy is naturally beautiful yet blissfully unaware of the fact, making her sane, unlike most beautiful women. She does not put a premium on extensive conversations, instead intuiting how you feel based on your actions, and appreciating you for who you are. She is fiercely intelligent and constantly pushes you to learn new things, but not in a way that makes you feel inferior.

7. Right Field: Thograx Howard. A major liability at the plate and in the field. Often unable to see pitches clearly through his brother's head, Thograx led the Smashers in strikeouts (530) in 2006. Consistently out of position in the field, and while centerfielder Ograx Howard often helps out with highlight-reel diving catches in right-center, anything down the line is automatic extra bases. Expect "Off With His Head" chants to begin by early June.

8. Catcher: Guy Pearce. There's nothing he can't do.

9. Pitcher: Alternate Reality Chris White. Scientists have been unable to reopen a rift between dimensions, meaning that A.R. Chris White has been unable to return to the universe where, at age 10, he was NOT drilled in the face his first time at the plate in Little League. In that universe, Chris White was not scared of the ball, was actually able to hit, became a productive member of his teams and in college discovered his gift for throwing 12-6 curveballs, instead of trying to tune the Phillies in on AM radio by himself and inexplicably weeping every time they lost a West Coast game. A.R. Chris White was lights-out in 2006 (430 IP, 0.02 ERA, 937 K), and rumor has it he's bopping that Cindy Jenkins. What a guy!


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