Fantasy Baseball: Diamond Market - Rising

by Tim Heaney on April 14, 2008 @ 05:35:55 PDT

 


Fantasy baseball waivers and the acquisition of fantasy baseball free agents can make or break a season. You may have adjusted your fantasy baseball cheat sheets over and over during spring training. If your team remains the same after opening day, though, you will probably have trouble competing in your rotisserie baseball league. Do you need to add players to replace your fantasy baseball busts? Which players can you ignore? KFFL.com's Diamond Market series gives you the fantasy baseball tips and advice you need to sort through the masses quickly.

Key

Acquire - Add player (in most circumstances)

Watch - Track player; consider adding if trend continues

Pass - Do not add player (in most circumstances)

Catchers

Miguel Olivo, Kansas City Royals

Olivo has played in four games this season since being activated from the suspended list April 5. He was inserted at catcher Saturday, April 12, to rest starter John Buck, and he was the designated hitter in the April 13 contest in which the Royals loaded up on right-handed hitters against Minnesota Twins starter Francisco Liriano. Despite a .167 average, Olivo has registered three RBIs in just 12 at-bats. The Royals are trying to find at-bats for Olivo, who has hit 16 home runs in each of the last two seasons, and he could make for a No. 2 catcher in AL-only leagues. He likely doesn't have much value in shallower leagues at this moment because Buck is still the team's No. 1 catcher.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

AL-only: Acquire

First Basemen

Jason Giambi, New York Yankees

Giambino woke up a little in the latest series against the Boston Red Sox, hitting two solo home runs in three games but going 2-for-10. The Yankees as a whole are slumping on offense, but Giambi is especially treading water at 3-for-28 (.107) on the season. If you're desperate for power, Giambi could be your answer since he has the potential to club the occasional home run mixed with a poor average. However, a longer pattern of hitting would make owners feel more comfortable. Don't make the commitment in shallow leagues just yet.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Watch

AL-only: Acquire

Second Basemen

Jose Lopez, Seattle Mariners

After gracing this section last Monday, Lopez hasn't let his owners down, hitting .333 (16-for-48) with nine RBIs including five hits in his last three games. His place in the No. 2 slot of Seattle's order has been his main selling point in the early going. In deeper leagues, Lopez continues to be a cheap middle infielder and could help in batting average. He's doing a little bit of everything right now, including pleasantly surprising his fantasy owners with two steals in three attempts. He warrants consideration in deeper leagues with middle infield spots.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

Third Basemen

Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

It didn't take long for the Rays to pull the trigger here and call up Longoria. He has relished his first major league action by going 2-for-6 with an RBI, including two walks, in his first two games. They squeezed him into the sixth spot in the order, so he is in a prime spot for RBIs in the Rays' loaded lineup. Longoria justified the callup after breaking out of a 0-for-14 stretch by getting hits in five of his last 11 at-bats for Triple-A Durham. If he hasn't already been stashed, Longoria is now a prime waiver wire target in deeper leagues, but shallower league owners might have to avoid dropping more established players for him if they don't have the roster space. Unfortunately, the other players in your league are most likely foaming at the mouth to pick him up if he's still available, so this might be your only chance to acquire him off the wire for the rest of the season. Weigh your options carefully here.

Shallow mixed: Acquire

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

Geoff Blum, Houston Astros

Blum has batted .273 with two home runs and five RBIs while filling in for injured infielder Ty Wigginton (thumb). He has also hit sixth in the order in nine of his 11 games this season. Blum hasn't registered time as a full-time player since 2003, but one positive is his eligibility at second base, third base and shortstop in most leagues. He likely is best-suited as an NL-only acquisition for those that need a body in the middle infield. He should be watched from afar in shallower formats given his modest career totals and unknown future after Wigginton returns.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

NL-only: Acquire

Shortstops

None

Outfielders

Jayson Werth, Philadelphia Phillies

Recently the platoon mate of right fielder Geoff Jenkins, Werth is now set to be part of the stopgap to replace injured outfielder Shane Victorino (calf) in center field. He took advantage of his first center field start, going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs Sunday, April 13. Werth was already producing in limited action, hitting .400 (6-for-15) before Victorino was placed on the disabled list. Werth stole 18 bases combined in part-time duty in 2005 and 2007, and he has two steals already in just eight games. Now that he has two avenues for playing time, Werth could be a productive short-term add in deeper leagues and a low-end starter in NL-only leagues.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Gabe Kapler, Milwaukee Brewers

It's time to welcome back Kapler, who has been successful in replacing suspended center fielder Mike Cameron after managing in the Red Sox's farm system last year. The much-traveled veteran has two home runs and five RBIs in his last two games and should remain on the team even after Cameron returns to the lineup. He's been platooning with outfielder Gabe Gross, who despite hitting .111 (2-for-18) with just one RBI continues to see at-bats against right-handed pitching. If Kapler is still floating on the wire in NL-only leagues, snatch him up, particularly if manager Ned Yost allows Kapler to see more time against righties. Don't drop an established player for him in shallower leagues, but he could be of service if you have a weak bench.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Watch

NL-only: Acquire

Wily Mo Pena, Washington Nationals

Pena made his season debut April 13 by promptly going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts - not much seems to have changed. However, Pena's pop was what owners have been missing, and he likely has been stashed in deeper leagues after hitting eight home runs in just 133 at-bats with the Nationals last year. Pena is expected to reclaim his spot in the heart of the Nationals order, but fantasy owners might not want to rush him back into their active lineups until he puts together a solid outing. Those desperate for power, however, can play him if they can live with his low contact rate. 

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Ryan Ludwick, St. Louis Cardinals

Ludwick has been ablaze at the plate, knocking a homer in each of his last three games. He has benefited from hobbled outfielder Chris Duncan while nearly solidifying himself as a starter alongside outfielder Rick Ankiel. The Cardinals are still rotating outfielder Skip Schumaker into the mix as a lefty bat, but Ludwick recorded 14 homers and 52 RBIs in just 303 at-bats last season. For owners with thin benches, Ludwick could be a great situational play in deep leagues.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Designated Hitters

None

Starting Pitchers

Brian Bannister, Kansas City Royals

The steady right-hander was longing to be included on this list, so he pitched a complete game Sunday, April 13, while allowing no earned runs and three hits against the Minnesota Twins in out-dueling Twins southpaw Francisco Liriano. He has allowed just 10 hits and five walks while striking out 13 through 21 innings. Bannister has been the target of fantasy skepticism after his 12-win performance last season, but his early-season performance against the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees already had him pegged as an intriguing pickup. Bannister can now be considered a low-end pitcher even for a shallow rotation.

Shallow mixed: Acquire

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

Cliff Lee, Cleveland Indians

The southpaw has been devastating through his first two starts, fanning 12 batters while allowing just one free pass in frosty conditions. You need to remember, however, that both of his starts have come against the Oakland Athletics, who have hit .239 so far this season with 95 strikeouts, third-most in the league. Lee's success isn't entirely a fluke, though, since he is just two years removed from an 18-win season and one season from a 14-win campaign. He might be safer as a matchup start until he fares well against a better-hitting club, but deeper leagues could do worse than to ride the streaking Lee right now.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

Derek Lowe, Los Angeles Dodgers

The groundball pitcher has been grounding opposing offenses through his first three starts, striking out 16 while walking just one in 20 innings pitched. Much like Lee, though, Lowe has dominated the offenses of the San Diego Padres twice, including allowing just one run in eight innings in his April 12 outing. His first outing saw him allow two runs in six innings against the San Francisco Giants. Along with his strikeouts, Lowe has sustained his reputation with 32 groundball outs on the season. He makes for a stable option at the bottom of shallow fantasy rotations.

Shallow mixed: Acquire

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Boof Bonser, Minnesota Twins

Bonser continues to display improved control this season; he has struck out 12 while walking just two batters in 19 innings thus far. He pitched six scoreless innings during a combined shutout in his latest outing April 12 against the hot Royals. In his previous start, he picked up the loss despite a quality start in which he yielded three runs in seven innings. With his control issues seemingly resolved for the moment, Bonser could be a low-end starter in shallow leagues if you're riding hot pitchers.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

Gavin Floyd, Chicago White Sox

The former Philadelphia Phillies prospect took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in his April 12 start and ended up allowing just one hit over 7 1/3 innings of work. Floyd has made two quality starts this season, but his even strikeout-to-walk ratio is cause for concern. Both of his starts have come against the talented but struggling Tigers offense, but it is still an achievement for Floyd despite their woes. Fantasy owners should try not to jump on Floyd's bandwagon - if he even has one - just yet. At best, he could be a spot starter in shallow leagues.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Watch

AL-only: Acquire

Nelson Figueroa, New York Mets

The Mets' battered rotation needed a lift, and Figueroa was an inspiring story this past weekend as the journeyman recorded his first major league victory since 2003. Figueroa struck out six while walking two and held the Milwaukee Brewers to two runs over six innings. The 33-year-old's future in the rotation is still unknown; the Mets signed former Brewers hurler Claudio Vargas to a minor league contract, so a more experienced hurler is waiting in the wings. Players in NL-only leagues should keep tabs on Figueroa.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

NL-only: Watch

Hong-Chih Kuo, Los Angeles Dodgers

Kuo has assumed right-hander Esteban Loaiza's spot in the starting rotation. The southpaw has struck out eight hitters in 6 2/3 innings while not allowing a run. The 26-year-old has already had his throwing elbow go through four surgeries, and Kuo likely is going to be restricted to 80 pitches in his first scheduled start Tuesday, April 15. Don't dip into the Kuo pool unless you're absolutely desperate for innings in NL-only leagues.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

NL-only: Watch

Relief Pitchers

Mark Lowe, Seattle Mariners

Lowe picked up his first save of the season April 11, further complicating the Mariners' closer-by-committee situation as they await the return of closer J.J. Putz (ribcage). After blowing a save and taking the loss April 6, he has pitched two scoreless innings while allowing just one hit. Manager John McLaren originally said he would ride with the hot hand, and the Mariners haven't had a save chance since Lowe was the stopper. Lowe could be the best candidate if you need to choose a member of the M's bullpen, but the closing situations could still be decided on a case-by-case basis. In shallow leagues, Lowe could be a fit if you're desperately thin on saves.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.


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