Fantasy Baseball: Diamond Market - Rising

by Tim Heaney on April 18, 2008 @ 22:39:13 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

Kenji Johjima, Seattle Mariners

Fantasy owners have been jumping ship on Johjima after, through his first eight games, he compiled a .071 average, including a 0-for-22 stretch. However, since then he has recorded a hit in nine of his last 21 at-bats (.429) with four RBIs. He hasn't hit a homer yet this year after hitting two in each of his first two Aprils as a Mariner. Johjima likely was drafted among the top 10 catchers in most leagues this year, but he has been hitting at too slow of a clip to be a solid play at this point in shallow leagues. He still makes for a reliable play in deeper leagues, and if available he would make for a nice grab in leagues with two catchers.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

First Basemen

Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

Votto has flipped the switch in his last five games with a .500 clip over his last 16 at-bats, including two home runs and eight RBIs. His five-RBI performance Tuesday, April 17, included a bases-clearing double off Chicago Cubs southpaw Ted Lilly, bringing his average against left-handers to .444 on the season. The fact that manager Dusty Baker has started Votto in the team's four games this week - including his appearance against Lilly - could signify that Baker considers him the long-term solution. Fellow first sacker Scott Hatteberg has been used as a pinch hitter in his last three appearances. Votto's swinging a hot stick, and with Hatteberg continuing to see the pine during the first pitch, the youngster has arguably entered the must-own realm of shallow formats.

Shallow mixed: Acquire

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Second Basemen

Kazuo Matsui, Houston Astros

Known more in the 2008 fantasy season for the jokes surrounding his injury, Matsui (anus) could return to the team Friday, April 18, after rehabbing at Triple-A Round Rock. He finished just 2-for-11 (.182) combined for his three rehab outings. Matsui also was scratched from his April 11 rehab start at Double-A Corpus Christi because of back tightness. Given the nature of the injury from which he's returning, shallow league owners should wait until Matsui starts trying to steal bases again before being completely confident in picking him up. His speed would be his main selling point for re-entering your lineup.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Mark DeRosa, Chicago Cubs

With outfielder Alfonso Soriano (calf) on the 15-day disabled list, the versatile DeRosa will be expected to enter the mix more frequently. He had recently been in the rotation to start at second base, but manager Lou Piniella has enjoyed the presence of left-handed bat Mike Fontenot at second. DeRosa started in left field and hit in the No. 6 slot for the last two games. He is on a 5-for-11 run, including a four-game hit streak in which he also has two home runs and six RBIs. The multi-faceted 33-year-old was already a valuable player in NL-only leagues, but now he's worth consideration for shallower formats because of his place in the lineup, his larger opening for playing time and positional flexibility.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Mike Fontenot, Chicago Cubs

He has struggled with a 2-for-15 stretch in his last three games, but Piniella's insistence on adding another left-handed hitter to his lineup means that Fontenot's name likely will rest atop the lineup card whenever he plays. His leadoff spot could mean an upswing in runs for him. He stole five bases last season but this year hasn't swiped a bag since April 2. His increased playing time and lineup position are the main attractions here, but only in deep NL-only leagues should he be considered.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

NL-only: Acquire

Third Basemen

None

Shortstops

None

Outfielders

Juan Pierre, Los Angeles Dodgers

Pierre has made the most of his appearances in the crowded Dodgers outfield, going 8-for-17 in his last five games, with two stolen bases. The latter part has his owners smiling, because he has continued to display his best argument for being in the lineup. Manager Joe Torre continues to rotate outfielders around struggling center fielder Andruw Jones, meaning fantasy owners will likely see more shuffling. Pierre has gained some more momentum in shallower leagues, but he shouldn't be one of your top three outfielders. Owners in daily leagues should pay attention to announced lineups when considering him for that day's slate. He should be owned in all formats, but if your league is shallow enough and he was dropped, you can keep your eye on him.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

John Bowker, San Francisco Giants

The Giants called up Bowker several days after outfielder Dave Roberts (knee) went to the disabled list for the umpteenth time in his career. Bowker has proven a worthy addition to the lineup thus far. He has gone 7-for-13 with two home runs and seven RBIs. The former third-round pick added some muscle to improve his power a year ago; the left-handed batter can yank one down the line and hit for average. The Giants are desperate for offense, so Bowker should play as long as he's supplying it. Shallow formats can probably ignore him completely, but NL-only managers shouldn't wait in case he keeps this up.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

NL-only: Acquire

Designated Hitters

Mike Sweeney, Oakland Athletics

The one fear for fantasy owners was that Sweeney would be stuck in a platoon at designated hitter with Jack Cust; manager Bob Geren has said that's not true. Sweeney has four multi-hit efforts in his last six outings along with a hit in eight of his last 10. He has been empty in the RBI column in his last five games, but hitting cleanup - even for an Oakland offense inhabiting the league's bottom five in batting average - gives him minimal fantasy merit in deeper leagues.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

AL-only: Watch

Starting Pitchers

Carlos Silva, Seattle Mariners

Silva has been impressive through his first four starts, posting a 3-0 record with a 2.79 ERA in 29 innings. He stifled the Athletics by allowing just one run on four hits in seven innings April 17. Silva, who pitches to contact, has held opponents to just a .252 average so far. However, Silva has come back to earth in the strikeout department, striking out just one batter in his last two games since combining for 10 in his first two. His contact-pitching style could come back to haunt him, but with Safeco Park's pitcher-friendly nature, he could make a nice split starter. For now, consider him a temporary pitching fix. Make sure to have backup plans available.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Watch

AL-only: Acquire

Vicente Padilla, Texas Rangers

The right-hander has sandwiched two rough outings in between a pair of one-run efforts this year, and he is coming off a seven-inning effort April 17. His 1.54 WHIP has perpetuated his control issues - he has three walks in each of his last two starts - but he has pitched at least six innings in each of his starts. Those in deeper leagues ideally would use him for spot starts; be prepared to see your ERA and WHIP take a bit of a hit if you use him for lengthy stretches.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

AL-only: Acquire

Nelson Figueroa, New York Mets

The inspiring comeback story has turned into a surprising source of steadiness at the back end of the Mets rotation. He has 13 strikeouts and five hits allowed while surrendering just two runs in each of his first two starts (13 innings). Two quality starts isn't enough of a track record for us to go hog-wild over this journeyman in mixed leagues except as a short-term pickup. NL-only leaguers, however, should run with him in case he turns out to be a diamond in the rough.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

NL-only: Acquire

John Lannan, Washington Nationals

After losing each of his first two outings, Lannan turned in six innings of one-run baseball while allowing three hits and fanning 11 Mets. The lefty walked 17 hitters in 34 2/3 innings last season, and he has walked seven batters in 16 2/3 innings in 2008. His recent gem is not enough to boost his stock, and he should be tabbed only in the deepest of NL-only formats.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

NL-only: Watch

Matt Belisle, Cincinnati Reds

The struggles of starter Josh Fogg (13.09 ERA in three starts), who is rumored to be on the verge of losing his spot in the rotation, have fueled speculation that Belisle (forearm) could be called up from his minor league rehab stint. He has been dominant during his comeback, posting a 3-0 record with a 1.09 ERA in three starts. The right-hander isn't a lock to be called up; prospect Homer Bailey (2-1, with a clean 1.42 ERA in 19 innings) and young righty Daryl Thompson (a sparkling 0.51 ERA at Double-A Chattanooga) are also gaining attention from manager Dusty Baker. Belisle was occasionally brilliant but otherwise nothing special (5.32 ERA and 1.44 WHIP) last year, and he's the logical choice. His call-up likely would signal that the Reds are looking to make changes, too, which should put fantasy owners on notice that the more highly touted names may not be far behind.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

NL-only: Watch

Relief Pitchers

Jon Rauch, Washington Nationals

Rauch has been a frequent guest here with the news on Nationals reliever Chad Cordero continuing to cause fantasy concern. Cordero was brought back as closer after spending time on the DL with shoulder tendonitis, but he has struggled to regain velocity since his return Sunday April 13; Cordero's fastball was clocked in the 70s when he pitched Wednesday, April 16. The Nationals have tabbed Rauch as the closer until Cordero returns to normal condition. Those who held onto Rauch even after Cordero came back have seen mixed results, as he has split his last two save opportunities. He's still worth owning in mixed leagues because of his prolonged opportunity in the role; there's no telling how long it will take for Cordero to get right.

Shallow mixed: Acquire

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Doug Brocail, Houston Astros

The Astros turned to the 41-year-old Brocail for a successful save opportunity April 16. He has recorded four strikeouts with just two hits allowed in his last three innings. The team said that it was just giving Valverde the night off to clear his head after two blown saves. This is a sign that the team trusts the right-handed Brocail, who was already their main setup man this season. He's not close to being a must-own setup reliever along the likes of the Cubs' Carlos Marmol or the Los Angeles Dodgers' Jonathan Broxton. However, Valverde's recent wildness presents a reason to keep an eye on Brocail for some cheap save chances.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Watch

NL-only: Acquire

Brandon Morrow, Seattle Mariners

Morrow was called up April 16 and paid dividends the next night, throwing a perfect ninth inning along with one strikeout. The Mariners bullpen has been a mess this year with the absence of closer J.J. Putz (ribcage), and the M's organization is high on the right-handed fireballer. Morrow likely enters the closer carousel, although Putz is continuing to throw on the side. Depending on when Putz returns, Morrow could be the reliable reliever the team has been seeking since Putz's placement on the disabled list. He makes for a viable pickup in deeper leagues.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

Jensen Lewis, Cleveland Indians

With reliever Rafael Betancourt inheriting the closer role with Joe Borowski (triceps) on the disabled list, Lewis moves into the right-handed setup role. Lewis has a 4.66 ERA in seven games this year along with eight strikeouts and six walks. His strikeout-to-walk ratio isn't too encouraging, but Lewis had 34 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings last year, so he has the potential to help fantasy owners accumulate strikeouts in leagues that value setup men. He was also mentioned as a possibility to fill in for Borowski, but the Indians have made it clear that Betancourt is their first choice.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

AL-only: Watch

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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 the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.


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