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Hot hitters may fly under radar

Drafting well is the first step to building a championship fantasy baseball team.

The second, which isn't far behind, is roster management.

With games every day, it's easy to let your attention to detail slip from time to time. Often that means leaving a starting pitcher on the bench or forgetting to check off days of your players. While that can sometimes be a huge mistake (as anyone who left Oakland's Dallas Braden on the bench for his perfect game earlier this season can attest), the bigger problem arises when owners are slow to make changes to their starting lineup.

I've struggled with it all season by stubbornly starting Dodgers catcher Russell Martin while watching Toronto catcher John Buck rack up multiple-homer games.

When to sit one of your starters is always a tough call to make. Knowing when to do it is about taking advantage of runs. With that in mind, here are some players who might be on your bench -- or not owned in your league -- who are among the best fantasy performers over the last week (all stats are entering Saturday's games).

* Scott Podsednik, OF, Kansas City: In our deep league here at The Buffalo News, Podsednik is still a free agent. He might not be after Monday (waiver wire day) thanks to his 20 stolen bases and 33 runs scored. If he can keep his batting average above .275 (it's at .282 entering Saturday), Podsednik should be a decent option for steals and runs. Just don't expect much power -- he's got just three home runs.

* Ike Davis, 1B, N.Y. Mets: The former Bison struggled a bit in May, hitting just .235. He's gotten it back in the last week, hitting .388 with a home run and six RBIs. Davis has hit eight home runs since being recalled from Buffalo and has proved to be a worthy low-end fantasy corner infielder in deep leagues.

* Angel Pagan, OF, N.Y. Mets: With the Amazins rolling with eight wins in their last 10 games, it's not surprising to see a couple of their players on the list. Pagan is hitting .411 in the last week and has driven in five runs. Pagan can safely be used as an outfield option for the Mets until Carlos Beltran returns from injury.

* Juan Pierre, OF, Chicago White Sox: Pierre won't hit for power. His average (.251) and RBIs (nine) aren't going to wow anyone. So why is he on this list? Speed. His 27 steals leads the American League and Pierre was put back atop the White Sox's batting order this week, which means if he can get on base, he'll have both steals and runs scored potential.

* Corey Hart, OF, Milwaukee: There's nothing more frustrating than dropping a player and watching him excel for another owner. I know from personal experience with Hart, who has 14 home runs since May 15. Hart's got 47 RBIs and 30 runs scored this season and should be in any fantasy lineup as he continues this hot streak.

* Aubrey Huff, 1B, San Francisco: Huff's home run total dipped to 15 last season with Baltimore and Detroit as he appeared to be on the downside of his career, but he's got 11 already this year. He's hit .417 in the last week and has shown the necessary power to be considered a starting fantasy corner infielder.

* Nick Punto, 2B, Minnesota: Punto is hitting just shy of .300 (.298) in June. That average has been aided mightily by a monster last week in which he's hit .546. Punto doesn't have the power to be a consistent presence in a fantasy lineup, but he will score some runs and steal some bases for the Twins. For now, he's a good injury or off day fill-in.

e-mail: jskurski@buffnews.com

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