<
>
Insider

How to find hitting help off the waiver wire

6/1/2012

Injuries are the great equalizer in fantasy sports. You're cruising along in your head-to-head baseball keeper league with Matt Kemp, Troy Tulowitzki, Roy Halladay, Dustin Pedroia and Nick Markakis -- OK, so that would be a really good team! -- then all of a sudden, to differing degrees they're all gone. It stinks. But you can't give up, you've got to make adjustments, find a way to fill the production. There's no crying in fantasy baseball.

There are also no asterisks for why you didn't win your league, and your league mates won't have sympathy for you no matter how bad it gets. I have a ravaged experts-league team and there's little to be done about it, choosing between Daniel Descalso and Vinny Rottino to fill holes in a 13-team NL-only format. Ah, but in ESPN standard 10-team mixed leagues, free agency is more bountiful, notably for the hitters. There's pitching everywhere, but not power. June baseball begins Friday and it seems a wise time to go around the diamond to find those under-owned offense choices.

Catcher: There are 13 catchers owned in more than half of ESPN's standard leagues, which is plenty since only one backstop per team is needed. Los Angeles Dodgers surprise A.J. Ellis still isn't one of them. He hit second Thursday, takes a ton of walks and seems legit to me to replace injured Jonathan Lucroy or, for the short term, Carlos Santana. And the home run leader behind the plate is actually owned in a mere 29.9 percent of leagues; go get Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the Boston Red Sox. He's hit six home runs since May 13. In multi-catcher or really deep leagues, look at Ryan Doumit, Wilin Rosario and Salvador Perez, who should return soon for the Kansas City Royals. This really is a good year for catchers, so much so that I'm seeing teams using a catcher at utility, and it makes perfect sense.

Corner infield: Likewise, first base is proving deeper than originally expected, and third base is fine. People are giving up on Yonder Alonso, Logan Morrison and Todd Helton, but I expect better things from each of them. Matt Adams and Allen Craig might be platooning soon for the St. Louis Cardinals, but each is worth owning in a 12-team format. Ty Wigginton is streaky, but on pace for his typical numbers. And I like Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier; I think he's got another 15 home runs in him. For deeper leagues, Mark Reynolds, Justin Smoak, Paul Goldschmidt and Brandon Inge should supply some power and RBIs, and you're running out of time to stash Anthony Rizzo and Lance Berkman away. Both will produce in the final two months.

Middle infield: Erick Aybar, Danny Espinosa and Jemile Weeks are clearly and annoyingly struggling, but they are too talented to be this bad, and all can run. I continue to own Tyler Greene in a deep league, because he has power and speed. Stephen Lombardozzi is the opposite, but he's leading off and hitting .320, and he should find playing time even when Michael Morse comes back. I think Orlando Hudson and Everth Cabrera will steal bases, as will new Atlanta Braves rookie Andrelton Simmons. If you own Tulowitzki, hope it's a short DL stint. There's little power up the middle, and it's all owned.

Outfield: There are 67 outfielders owned in more than half of ESPN standard formats, some of them injured. Replacing a 30-homer, 30-steal type like Kemp is wishful thinking, but for a month, you can survive. Does your team lack steals, since Kemp wasn't providing them anyway? Denard Span, Jordan Schafer and Coco Crisp run enough to be owned in double the leagues they're actually owned in. Act fast on Crisp -- he has three stolen bases this week. For help in home runs and RBIs, I'm no Delmon Young or J.D. Martinez fan, but they're playing. So is Juan Pierre, and he's hitting a mostly non-fluky .324. I'm hoping talented Colby Rasmus and Peter Bourjos will figure things out. I'm hoping Ben Revere, Quintin Berry and Tony Campana keep playing, and suspect that Rajai Davis and Tony Gwynn will. Will Venable doesn't hurt a fantasy team. What's missing here? It's power. Speed is everywhere. Add Travis Snider of the Blue Jays, just in case, and to a lesser degree Hideki Matsui and Jason Bay. Each has issues but does possess power.

Have a great weekend everyone!