In need of speed? It's out there, if you know where to look.

While stolen base stalwarts such as Juan Pierre and Carlos Beltran stumble out of the gate, plenty of others are getting it done on the basepaths, including a couple of fresh faces in Houston.

Outfielders Willy Taveras and Jason Lane have swiped four bags apiece for the Astros, who had an NL-best 15 steals as a team through Tuesday. Taveras isn't a huge surprise – he had 55 steals in Double-A last season – but Lane is a power prospect who had only two steals in 169 major league games before the 2005 season. His .352 average and .704 slugging percentage won't hurt you, either.

Elsewhere, Tampa Bay's Julio Lugo has six steals in as many attempts, Omar Vizquel – who turns 38 this weekend – has five and the Angels' Chone Figgins is three-for-four.

Other options that could come cheap – Craig Counsel (3), Mark Loretta (3), Luis Matos (3), Jason Repko (2), Alex Cora (2), Royce Clayton (2) and Angel Berroa (2).

Who's hot

  • A.J. Burnett, Marlins: Burnett gets the complete-game wins, Florida bullpen gets the day off. What's all the fuss about?

  • Milton Bradley, Dodgers: Hit five home runs in five games through Tuesday. Move to center field means fewer bottles get thrown his way.

  • Vinny Castilla, Nationals: Still going strong with a .405 batting average and 1.242 OPS. Too old, you say? At 37, he's nine years younger than Julio Franco.

  • Gustavo Chacin, Blue Jays: 24-year-old lefty looks a little like Sidney Ponson. His numbers (3-0, 1.42 ERA, 0.79 WHIP) look a whole lot better.

  • Pedro Astacio, Rangers: Ignore the fact that he hasn't posted an ERA under 4.80 since 1997. Most surprising AL starter to date? Vote for Pedro!

    Who's not

  • Andruw Jones, Braves: Following an 0-for-18 slump, was dropped to seventh in the order Tuesday, behind Brian Jordan. Ouch. Ten-homer spring is just a memory.

  • Jim Thome, Philles: No homers, but no cause for alarm yet. Thome's an historically slow starter, but his 141 HRs over the past three seasons are the most of any player.

  • Aaron Miles, Rockies: No Coors Field effect here. Miles has gone 9-for-37 with no extra base, three runs scored since big opening day. One thing's for sure – he's no Clint Barmes.

  • Tike Redman, Pirates: The odd man out in the Pittsburgh outfield right now. With the Pirates average an MLB-worst 2.8 runs per game, he could get another shot soon.

  • Robb Quinlan, Angels: Headed to the bench now that Dallas McPerson is back on third. Sluggish start means at-bats will be few and far between.

    Orioles clubhouse

    The O's lead the majors with a .295 team batting average, but not everyone in the Orioles lineup has gotten into a groove. Veteran Rafael Palmeiro, a lifetime .289 hitter, continues to struggle at the plate. He entered Wednesday's game with a .208 average and had just two extra-base hits in 48 at-bats. Palmeiro has been better of late, driving the ball to right field on occasion, and he picked up his first homer of the season Tuesday night against Detroit. He'll get better, maybe hit .260, but his 30-HR days are clearly behind him.

    On the pitching front, deep AL leaguers should want to take a hard look at Todd Williams, who hasn't given up an earned run this calendar year, and who has gained the confidence of manager Lee Mazzilli. If you're into useful middle relievers, Williams' 0.55 WHIP and 0.82 K/IP should be to your liking.

    This weekend's matchups

    American League

    Baltimore at Toronto
    Boston at Tampa Bay
    Texas at New York Yankees
    Minnesota at Detroit
    Chicago White Sox at Kansas City
    Cleveland at Seattle
    Oakland at Los Angeles Angels

    National League

    Washington at New York Mets
    Philadelphia at Atlanta
    Cincinnati at Florida
    Pittsburgh at Chicago Cubs
    Houston at St. Louis
    Milwaukee at San Francisco
    Los Angeles Dodgers at Colorado
    San Diego at Arizona

    Fantasy mailbag

    Eric, Nashville, Tenn.: I'm in a 10-team, AL only Rotisserie keeper league which is relatively deep. Since I am in eighth place, I will have one of the first picks of guys to pick up. Currently Scott Spieizio is my DH - he was the only guy left for $.10 on auction day. Recently both Reed Johnson and David Newhan have become available. Who is the best pick of Spiezio, Johnson and Newhan if I am looking purely at who would be the most productive player this year? It's a 5x5 league where average, HR, RBI, runs, and stolen bases count.

  • Spiezio is not a guy you want to stick with right now. He's not playing much, and not playing well when he does. With Richie Sexson out with the flu, Spiezio went 0-for-7 in two starts over the weekend. The he went on the DL with a strained oblique muscle. He might hit 8-10 homers this season, but his average will drag you down. As for Newhan, he's a classic example of a player you love to have on your baseball team but doesn't do much for your fantasy team. He'll hit for a little power, steal a little and put up a decent average, but he's not going to play enough to make a difference, especially the way Luis Matos is going right now. So go with Johnson. He's getting regular at-bats, and he won't kill you with an average in the .280-.295 range. If he keeps playing regularly, I like his chances of finishing the season with more HRs than Spiezio, roughly the same number of steals as Newhan, and more RBIs and a better average than both.

    Send your fantasy baseball questions to dalexander@baltimoresun.com. Please include your league format and the city /state where you live. Then check the mailbag section, where each week I'll respond to questions submitted by baltimoresun.com readers.
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