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Product Review: FantasyBaseballAlerts.com

For those of us in daily leagues, it's crucial to know who is playing and who is sitting. Nothing wins fantasy leagues like deciding whether to start Zack Cozart or Alexei Ramirez. Okay, so the gains are at the margins, but leagues are won and lost in the margins, and not just on draft day.

I'm pretty sure that if I had the time, I could figure out on my own -- just before the games start -- which of my players are in the games and which are sitting on the bench ... but I don't have that kind of time, and chances are most of you don't either. And if you do, you're probably too lazy to do it. Or maybe you're winning your fantasy league and gloating about how your winnings keep you from needing a real job. That's where the FantasyBaseballAlerts.com service comes in.

From the name, it's easy to see what it offers alerts about -- sent via email, text message, or both. I get the emails, so that's what I'm reviewing, but I recommend the SMS version, because some of the updates come in pretty close to game time. It's not that I'm too cheap to pay the $4.95 a month for the texts, it's just that my location makes texts from America really expensive. The email option is now completely free, so there isn't a lot of downside to trying it out.

It can notify you (or not) about players being activated or deactivated from the DL and other restricted lists, called up from or sent down to the minor leagues, traded, and benched for the day. Of these, I've found the benchings alert to be by far the most helpful; chances are most engaged owners will, too, as we usually know when our players hit the DL or get sent down. I've also been using the minor league callup alert to keep track of prospects like Trevor Bauer, Anthony Rizzo, and Wil Myers.

As of now, the alerts are sent out prior to game time and, really, why would you want to know your player was sitting on the bench after you can't change your lineup? Even Yahoo! tells you that. I couldn't find out exactly which sources FantasyBaseballAlerts generates its notices from (I mean, would you give that away?), but it monitors "a combination of feeds" and tracks players across the majors and minors.

The alerts are all customizable, so if you don't want to keep hearing that your injured player is on the DL day after day, you can switch off any alerts you don't need. Or you can just opt out of updates for DL players entirely. That's what I do. You can sync it to any Yahoo! team right now, and other league providers are supposed to be on the way. For now, I've had to manually input the players I want to know about in my CBS league, which isn't the worst thing that's happened to me in fantasy baseball.

There aren't a lot of things to complain about, but FantasyBaseballAlerts also doesn't give info on looking ahead -- it presents only the facts, so no projections about how long someone will be on the DL or when they will start next. Since so many of their products are new, I've experienced one or two technical bugs (for instance, the website has responded better to Internet Explorer than to Safari), but nothing's been a big deal. I haven't had any problems with the actual alerts, but I wouldn't be shocked if it missed the occasional benching here and there -- there's a lot to keep track of.

For now, I'm not getting any alerts about when my pitchers have starts, but I'm told they are forthcoming and would include info on last-minute changes (at least I'm no longer getting alerts telling me that they're all benched anymore). Of course, last-minute changes usually involve your pitcher missing a scheduled start, but who wants to take their chances losing out on a Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw start that one time they get pushed up a day because someone got hurt? Not me.

The FantasyBaseballAlerts team seems pretty committed to updating their product; a lot of the features I've described have either been added or changed (for the better) in the few weeks I've been testing the service. In the mix for the near future are plans to add syncing ability to CBS and ESPN leagues and to add player news reports "as they happen across the Internet." For my part, I'm looking forward to more updates from FantasyBaseballAlerts, and I'm certainly going to keep using it.

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