Unexpected surprises — and disappointments

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If you’re still playing fantasy baseball right now, chances are you are deep in your playoffs. That alone is a good enough indicator that you know plenty about what you are doing and any additional advice on this season would probably fall upon deaf ears.

Advice for next season, however, is a different story.

This year has seen the diminishing stats of several aging veterans, the emergence of a number of young prospects and the unexpected career years out of some overlooked journeymen. What can be expected from some of these same players for next year?

Over the last three months, Troy Tulowitzki has by no means been any secret to any fantasy baseball owner, but next season could see the Colorado Rockies’ rookie elevate into the echelon of the game’s top shortstops. He doesn’t have the power of (former shortstop) Alex Rodriguez or the speed of Jose Reyes, but Tulowitzki has the mental focus andattitude that has garnered him plenty of apt comparisons to Derek Jeter.

While Tulowitzki’s career is on the rise, the career of Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez is headed in the opposite direction. For the third consecutive year, Ramirez’s power numbers have dropped, with injuries more of a factor this year. We’ve all seen how quickly a power hitter’s stats can drop when increasing age and diminishing bat speed are factors (Sammy Sosa and Mo and Greg Vaughn).

Ramirez has always had a more well rounded game than Sosa and the Vaughns, but at age 35, it’s doubtful he’ll ever return to the 40-homer 140-RBI monster he has been.

Tulowitzki and Ramirez’s careers both have pretty linear trajectories of either steadily going up or down, but what to make of the Cleveland Indians’ Fausto Carmona? The second-year pitcher went from an ugly 1-10 and a 5.42 ERA as a starter and reliever in 2006 to a sparkling 17-8 with a 3.07 ERA as a starter this year.

The change in numbers may have been drastic, but it couldn’t have been totally unexpected. With a 97 mph fastball and a deadly effective sinker, Carmona should build upon this solid season and become one of the AL’s top pitchers in 2008.

Who’s hot?

» Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox

» Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers

» Ian Kennedy, SP, Yankees

» Matt Stairs, OF, Blue Jays

» Jason Marquis, SP, Cubs

Who’s not?

» Kevin Youkilis, 1B, Red Sox

» Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals

» Corey Patterson, OF, Orioles

» Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Rangers

» Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants

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