As spring training came to a close, San Francisco's Emmanuel Burriss faced uncertain playing time with Eugenio Velez and Kevin Frandsen in the mix fighting for at-bats. For fantasy players, that playing time was significant, given Burriss' stolen-base potential.
Fast-forward to now, and Burriss has appeared in all but two of the team's games this season. And despite just a .246 batting average (and .302 on-base percentage), he has managed to steal 11 bases for his NL-only owners.
The stolen-base potential was enough that I seriously had to consider Burriss in a deep, 15-team mixed league a couple of weeks ago, in a league where the middle-infield options were not plentiful. I went in another direction, but I couldn't dismiss him right away.
He's obviously already rostered in NL-only leagues, but as he's still managing to earn regular playing time -- with his plus defense playing a part in keeping him in the lineup -- can we expect increased production going forward?
Burriss could hit for a better batting average, especially given his speed and potential to leg out some infield hits. His .294 batting average on balls in play seems a little low for a player whose main asset is his legs.
"Especially early in the season, I think I was chasing a lot of pitches," Burriss said. "Maybe I was a little too overanxious. I was trying to put everything in play. The big part has been making sure I'm swinging at good pitches to hit; not going for the pitcher's pitch, but going for something I want to hit."
Burris has a proper swing plane and hands at the plate and gets his bat on the ball, and the switch-hitter has similar strength and bat speed from both sides. His raw strength and relatively level swing won't allow him to hit for any power, though. His biggest problem has been moving toward the pitcher as the ball is being delivered. Once he starts to drift, his head starts moving, he drops his hands and his swing breaks down. His average will improve a little as he becomes more consistent in staying quiet at the plate.
"Sometimes my swing mechanics [feel dialed-in], but not always," Burriss said. "The biggest thing is being consistent. Some days, mechanically, I feel perfect, and some days I feel lost, and I've got to fight through it and try to do something positive in the game."
Of course, the only reason we're talking about a hitter with a .277 slugging percentage is his stolen bases. Burriss has not been as aggressive on the base paths as he could have been and errs on the side of caution in deciding when to run.
"I have the green light for the most part," Burriss said, "but I focus a lot more on situations and going at the right time."
Assuming Burriss continues to find his name on the lineup card, he could improve an additional 30-40 percentage points of batting average and, with it, find more opportunities to steal.
Here's a look at additions to the player pool this week whom you may be considering.
Barbaro Canizares, 1B, Braves: The 29-year-old Cuban defector was hitting .344 with eight homers and almost as many walks as strikeouts at Triple-A. He has four hits in his first three major league games, but his roster spot may be tenuous after the Braves finish their current set of interleague play this weekend, especially with Casey Kotchman due back this week. The fact that Canizares is pretty awful on defense, even for a first baseman, doesn't help his cause for staying in the lineup. If given a chance to get some extended at-bats, he could put up some offense, but he might not earn that opportunity.
Charlie Morton, SP, Pirates: Don't be fooled by last year's poor performance while in the majors with the Braves, as Morton is a legitimate big league starter with a mid-90s heater and a four-pitch mix. If his command has improved and he's doing a better job of maintaining his focus on the mound, he's definitely a sleeper to watch. He strained a hamstring in his first start but should be good to go for a start on Wednesday this week.
Corey Patterson, OF, Nationals: Patterson is up temporarily while Josh Willingham is on the bereavement list, but even if he sticks around and finds some playing time, we've seen this story before and know how it will end. He'll produce a few steals, and nothing else, with a batting average that can negate the value of any thefts.
Jon Switzer, RP, Mets: He's nothing more than a situational lefty.
Sergio Escalona, RP, Phillies: He's just another arm in the back end of the bullpen with little chance of moving into a more prominent role.
Sean Rodriguez, 2B, Angels: Obviously the most intriguing AL pickup of the week after Howie Kendrick was sent to the minors to find his stroke, Rodriguez was hitting .277 with 21 homers and a .644 slugging percentage at Triple-A. Still, Maicer Izturis will work his way into the mix, and Rodriguez didn't carry his power production of 21 homers in 248 at-bats at Triple-A last year into his big league time, as he hit just .204 and slugged .317 in 167 at-bats. Rodriguez also has struck out in almost a third of his at-bats in the minors this season, so although he has clear potential, don't assume he'll immediately bring the production in the majors.
Aaron Poreda, P, White Sox: Chicago's top pitching prospect will work in the bullpen for now, but the White Sox plan to transition him to starting. Poreda features a 95 mph fastball, but his secondary stuff is still in development, so when he does get the chance to start, there could be some bumps in the road. Long-term, there's a lot to like, but he could have some struggles if he starts this season.
Don Kelly, SS, Tigers: The veteran minor leaguer hit .339 with 14 steals at Triple-A to earn a recall to the bigs, but he projects as a 25th man/utility player at best.
Daric Barton, 1B, Athletics: Barton wasn't hitting that well at Triple-A when he got the call to return to the big leagues, and he still has no power to speak of. Still just 23 years old, he needs to show a little more pop before we can consider him as anything more than an injury fill-in for those desperate to fill a corner-infield hole in AL-only leagues.
Guillermo Moscoso, RP, Rangers: He's a more intriguing bullpen arm than most, but his lack of a late-inning role and tenuous roster spot means he's just a pitcher to watch at this juncture.
Winston Abreu, RP, Rays: Abreu took Jason Isringhausen's place on the Rays' roster, and he was lights-out at Triple-A Durham before being summoned, with 49 strikeouts and just one homer allowed in 32 innings. The 32-year-old has flopped in his previous big league stints, but you never know.
Oscar Salazar, 1B, Orioles: Salazar is a versatile player who can play all over the field but is mostly a righty bat off the bench and a spot starter at the moment. The 31-year-old has put up numbers the past 2½ seasons at Triple-A, so he might have some uses in deep AL-only formats.
Jamie Burke, C, Mariners: With Rob Johnson on the bereavement list, Burke got the call to pair with Guillermo Quiroz behind the plate. The reason I mention it that is people are wondering where Jeff Clement is, especially when he rebounded from a slow start and was hitting at Triple-A. Clement is having knee problems that have limited him to be only a designated hitter, and considering that he already has had two knee surgeries, it is entirely possible his time behind the plate is over, although that has not been made official yet. So although he maintains catcher eligibility in fantasy, he won't come up to the big leagues unless the team has at-bats open at DH.
To see a profile of a Nationals pitcher who has some value in NL-only leagues, join ESPN Insider.