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Five hitters to scoop up, if available

7/8/2011

Fantasy owners are generally a reactive bunch, and if a player they didn't invest a high draft pick in or trade for struggles over an extended period of time, they'll move on. In many cases, that's a mistake. It's a looooong season and like all human beings, baseball players will have good days and bad, good stretches and bad. Occasionally I look at ESPN's most dropped list and marvel at the potential stars being parted with. Each week I can find a few players I'd certainly make room for.

This blog entry is about the hitters who are not owned in 100 percent of leagues, but I predict they will be by season's end. Let's say 85 percent is the current ownership benchmark. This doesn't make them superstars necessarily -- though in some cases the potential for stardom is realistic -- but certainly helpful statistically for our purposes.

Logan Morrison, OF, Florida Marlins (84.9 percent): Yes, I fully admit that back in March I was skeptical that the sweet-swinging Morrison would produce enough power to help mixed-league owners. The lure of a .300 batting average wasn't enough. Now Morrison has 12 home runs -- after hitting two as a rookie in nearly the same number of at-bats -- and the batting average lure remains. He is on pace for 22 home runs, which would certainly satiate most of us. I understand why he was dropped in many leagues, as Morrison first served a disabled-list stint for sprained foot ligaments and then hit .200 over 100 June at-bats. It seemed the team's mess of a manager/hitting coach situation and constant losing was taking a toll on him. He's not hitting any better in July, but I'm buying a big second half. As in, I think he hits .320 or so with pop. He's certainly talented enough to do so.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves (83.1 percent): With four home runs over the past four days, it's possible Freeman becomes owned in most every league by the end of the weekend. The power is real, and like Morrison, it's somewhat unexpected this soon. But Freeman is hitting for power to all fields and has five of his 13 home runs off left-handed pitchers, and while there might be some batting average regression below .270 -- he's not Morrison, in that respect -- I see a 25-homer season with many RBIs pending.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals (75 percent): Hosmer followed the cycle of many previous 21-year-old sluggers (though there haven't been many of them): He hit right away, then pitchers reacted and he struggled. But now that he has adjusted his approach a bit, he's showing off his considerable ability again. Hosmer has hit three home runs in his past five games and overall he's having no trouble with right-handed pitching (.309/.356/.539). I don't think he's going to be Pedro Alvarez against southpaws, but the jury is still out on that. Look, the Hosmer-Joey Votto comparisons might be overblown, but would you really rather own Todd Helton and Mitch Moreland at corner infield? I wouldn't. I'd take Hosmer and his considerable upside.

Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cleveland Indians (61.6 percent): Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Choo hasn't hit as expected this season, be it for physical or mental reasons, and breaking his thumb in late June certainly didn't help. Then again, perhaps it will. Choo had surgery, and the cast has already been removed, and rumor has it he could return to active duty within four weeks. And I feel the need to remind people that while Choo has been disappointing, he hasn't been Adam Dunn disappointing; a .244 batting average with 11 stolen bases and a strong walk rate isn't a career-ender. After all, this fellow did go 20/20 with a .300 batting average each of the past two seasons. His team is in (and likely will remain in) the AL Central race, and I say Choo comes back strong and helps fantasy owners mightily the final six weeks.

Geovany Soto, C, Chicago Cubs (47.8 percent): A mere six catchers currently enjoy 100 percent ownership, which is as good a reason as any Soto could jump up there and join the crew. He was a top-10 catcher on draft day and it was warranted, and now that he's healthy, he's producing. Soto has five home runs and a .267 batting average over the past 30 days, and that has been enough to make him the No. 5 fantasy catcher on the Player Rater in that time. Just hope for good health, because the hitting skills are clearly there.

A few other players who won't hit 100 percent owned, but will come close: Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle Mariners; Alex Rios, OF, Chicago White Sox; Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres; Juan Pierre, OF, White Sox; Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (surprise!).

Have a great weekend, everyone.