Fantasy Baseball: Diamond Market - Rising

by Tim Heaney on April 21, 2008 @ 13:28:48 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

Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh Pirates

Doumit has received the lion's share of playing time behind the plate and is coming off a two-homer performance Sunday, April 20. The main hindrance in the offseason was that Doumit wasn't experienced enough in calling games, but he has certainly surpassed the more defensive Ronny Paulino with his bat. His .320 average has helped him secure the starting role, and Doumit should be owned in all formats. He's a promising acquisition if he's still available in two-catcher leagues.

Shallow mixed: Acquire

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Dioner Navarro, Tampa Bay Rays

Navarro (finger) will regain his starting job when he makes his expected return from the disabled list Tuesday, April 22. Whether he comes back on time depends on his rehab outing Monday, April 21, as a designated hitter for Single-A Vero Beach. The 24-year-old has appeared in just three games this season, going 3-for-9 with an RBI. Navarro hit .395 in spring training with two home runs in 43 at-bats; he was a sleeper candidate for deep and AL-only formats heading into the season, predicated by his .306 batting average last September. The Rays are ninth in the majors with 92 runs scored, so his place in that lineup makes him a nifty target in deeper leagues.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

AL-only: Acquire

Johnny Estrada, Washington Nationals

With Paul Lo Duca (hand) placed on the disabled list, Estrada ascends to the starting role. The switch-hitter has struggled so far this season, hitting .150 (3-for-20) with only two RBIs. Since Lo Duca's last action, April 13, Estrada hasn't made the most of his opportunity with a 2-for-17 stretch. His value here is based on his increased playing time, but Estrada has shown that he can be a valuable fantasy hitter when given the at-bats; he has hit double-digit home runs in each of the last two seasons. If you're hurting for catcher help in deeper leagues, give Estrada a whirl for a temporary play.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

NL-only: Acquire

First Basemen

Conor Jackson, Arizona Diamondbacks

Jackson continues to climb on this report while hitting 8-for-14 with four RBIs over his last three games. The 25-year-old has excelled in the cleanup spot, and the D-backs offense is still clicking with a league-best 116 runs scored. He's showing some superb plate discipline with just three strikeouts in 53 at-bats so far. If he's still sitting on the waiver wire, you need to finish reading this article and grab him immediately.

Shallow mixed: Acquire

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Richie Sexson, Seattle Mariners

Sexson's average continues to be detrimental to fantasy lineups, but he has hit three home runs with six RBIs in his last two games; he would have had a fourth, but Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielder Torii Hunter robbed him in the ninth inning Friday, April 19. His big story this year so far has been his improved pitch selection; he has 14 walks compared to his 18 strikeouts. He's still a hacker at heart, though, so he's strictly an add for a power-starved lineup at this point. Shallow leaguers might take a flier on him if they have room at a utility spot, but he has regained some credibility for deeper leagues.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

Kendry Morales, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Morales was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake April 20. He was raking there with 16 RBIs while hitting 20-for-72 (.278). Morales, a career .334 hitter in the minors, likely will split time between first base and outfield while providing an above-average bat off the bench. In 119 at-bats with the big club last year, Morales hit four home runs while batting .294. He also hit five home runs in 197 at-bats in 2006. The switch-hitter will be a depth option for the Angels, and he could be the same for your AL-only team.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

AL-only: Watch

Second Basemen

Clint Barmes, Colorado Rockies

Left for the fantasy landfill by many drafters, Barmes has resurged as opening day starter Jayson Nix has floundered. Barmes is hitting .389 (14-for-36) with eight RBIs this year and made back-to-back starts last week. It still might be hard for owners to look past his .220 average in 2006 and his deer meat-shortened 2007 stat line, but he has five multi-hit efforts in his last seven games. Barmes likely has eligibility at both second base and shortstop in most leagues, so he could help as an eventual stash option in deeper leagues even if he cools off. NL-only leaguers, however, should make the call.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

NL-only: Acquire

Third Basemen

Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox

Youk fought through an injury to his left toe last week and has plowed his way to a nine-game hit streak, which includes six multi-hit games and seven RBIs. He had a similar hot start last season but only had eight RBIs in April. He has been switching between the second and fifth spots in the order - either spot in the Sox lineup is helpful for fantasy purposes. Youkilis is a streaky hitter, but he can help your team with average when he's raking. He is eligible at first base and third base in most formats, so at least he could make for a reliable option for a starting corner infield spot.

Shallow mixed: Acquire

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

Edwin Encarnacion, Cincinnati Reds

There was some speculation last week about Encarnacion possibly being sent down to the minors to clear his head after a 2-for-24 start. Consider it altered. Encarnacion is riding a 10-game hit streak in which he has three home runs and four RBIs, including a pair of solo home runs April 20. Encarnacion is a streaky player and also started 2007 slowly, so there's a good chance that he's floating on your waiver wire.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Morgan Ensberg, New York Yankees

There's a possibility that third baseman Alex Rodriguez (quad) might miss some time in the near future due to a strained right quadriceps and the impending birth of his second child. The likely substitute would be Ensberg, who went 0-for-2 after A-Rod injured himself April 20. In his limited time, the 32-year-old has gone 6-for-18 with a solo home run. He's probably not owned in AL-only leagues, but his value is highly dependent on whether A-Rod misses time. Keep your eye on this situation and Ensberg in deep leagues, but monitor Rodriguez's status before making a commitment.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

AL-only: Acquire

Shortstops

Bobby Crosby, Oakland Athletics

Crosby's numbers have been a bit skewed by his five-RBI game Friday, April 18, but he has posted three straight multi-hit efforts along with seven RBIs to jack his average up to .313. This is a big contrast to Crosby's .215 average last April. The injury-riddled 28-year-old could finally be starting to make good on some of the potential he displayed during his 2004 campaign, when he hit 22 home runs. You could do worse than Crosby if you need middle infield help in deeper leagues, especially with the seemingly effective A's offense exceeding expectations.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

Ryan Theriot, Chicago Cubs

Theriot mowed through the Pittsburgh Pirates with eight hits in three games and currently holds a seven-game hit streak that includes six multi-hit games. He has regained the No. 2 spot in the Cubs order with the injury to outfielder Alfonso Soriano (calf). In most leagues, he's eligible at both second base and shortstop, so Theriot could be worthy of attention as a starting middle infielder.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Eric Bruntlett, Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies caved by placing shortstop Jimmy Rollins (ankle) on the 15-day disabled list April 20, making Bruntlett the expected fill-in. Rollins isn't scheduled to return for another couple of weeks. Bruntlett, however, has been a fantasy afterthought in the last few seasons and has a career average of .245. His power numbers came with a solo home run April 13 for his first dinger since September 18, 2005, but he can provide minimal value in the stolen base category; he has swiped 16 bags in the past three seasons. He could be useful for NL-only leaguers who need a pulse in the middle infield, but that's pretty much the extent of his value.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

NL-only: Watch

Outfielders

Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays

The scorching Lind (neck) seems like a probable call-up now that the Jays released designated hitter Frank Thomas. However, he is currently recovering from a stiff neck, so the Jays probably will wait until he is healthy before making any roster moves. You might want to stash him now if you have the room; Lind is batting .360 with three home runs and 13 RBIs through his first 14 games at Triple-A Syracuse. He would give the Jays a young bat with modest power in left field once he's up with the big club, although he may have to share some time with Shannon Stewart. Deep league managers should be proactive here and grab Lind before someone else does.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

John Bowker, San Francisco Giants

Bowker camped out on this list through the weekend, continuing his hot start with a two-run home run April 20. With outfielder Dave Roberts (knee) sidelines for at least six weeks, the young Bowker could continue to see enough time to make a fantasy impact despite sharing left field with Fred Lewis. The team designated outfielder Rajai Davis for assignment, and Bowker started at first base April 18. The effort to keep him in the lineup validates Bowker's rising fantasy stock. NL-only teams should have grabbed him at the first opportunity, but Bowker is now relevant in deeper leagues, especially since he inhabits the middle of the Giants order when he plays.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Fred Lewis, San Francisco Giants

Lewis has found a cozy spot atop San Francisco's order, hitting .368 in 10 games there. Lewis' eight-game hit streak was broken with an 0-for-5 outing April 19, but he's still hitting .304 for the year. He isn't having a widespread impact like Bowker, and his average has only been augmented with two stolen bases in his last three games. Lewis could help in stolen bases, given that he stole five bases in 157 at-bats last year and the Giants plan to run more than last season. He can be an occasional play for steal-hungry teams in deeper leagues.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

NL-only: Acquire

Gregor Blanco, Atlanta Braves

Blanco has started the last three games in left field, going 5-for-9 with an RBI over that span. Blanco might be entering a platoon with Matt Diaz, who is hitting just .171 against right-handers this year. The 24-year-old Blanco is 5-for-13 (.385) against righties. Blanco hit .282 with 35 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in 124 games at Triple-A Richmond last year, but he hasn't done enough to be a factor in shallow leagues yet. A platoon is good news for NL-only players, though, since Blanco could provide some cheap speed.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Pass

NL-only: Watch

Designated Hitters

Matt Stairs, Toronto Blue Jays

The 40-year-old keeps on chugging, hitting .333 with a homer and three RBIs in 14 games to start '08. Stairs can now switch between left field and designated hitter with the team's release of Frank Thomas. The impending arrival of outfielder Adam Lind may complicate Stairs' time a bit since Stairs is already platooning with Shannon Stewart in left. However, Stairs is in the middle of an eight-game hit streak, and he stands to see a fair amount of time at DH. He should be owned in AL-only leagues and at least warrants consideration in deep formats.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

AL-only: Acquire

Starting Pitchers

Scott Baker, Minnesota Twins

Baker has posted a no-decision in each of his last two starts but has been effective in all four of his outings this season. He hasn't allowed more than three runs in a start; in his April 20 outing, he allowed one run while striking out eight in seven innings. The right-hander has struck out 20 batters compared to four walks - a ratio that makes LIMA disciples drool. If you're looking for a backend fantasy pitcher, Baker offers a reliable solution.

Shallow mixed: Acquire

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

Scott Olsen, Florida Marlins

The southpaw has allowed just one run in his last two outings, and he has tossed at least seven innings in his last three. Olsen's WHIP was thrown off a bit by his four-walk outing April 9; he hasn't walked more than two in each of his other three starts. His off-field problems last year seem to be behind him, and his control is only slightly deterring his effectiveness. Feel free to add him.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves

The right-hander has been the victim of misfortune this year; his two losses came in a combined 13 innings in which he gave up only six runs. Jurrjens tossed seven innings of one-run ball April 20; he added a season-high eight strikeouts. He was clocked at 95 mph consistently in that last outing, and manager Bobby Cox noted that it was the hardest the youngster had thrown since joining the club. The highly touted prospect has had a quality start to his season, but he has walked three batters in each of his last two outings. Control was not much of an issue for him in the minors, though, and he has walked a reasonable nine batters in 25 1/3 innings. His 2.19 ERA at home makes him a stable start within the confines of Turner Field, but adding him to your roster for all of his starts isn't a bad idea.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

NL-only: Acquire

John Danks, Chicago White Sox

Danks rebounded from his seven-run outing April 9 with two consecutive wins with a combined 14 2/3 shutout innings. His control was vastly improved, with 12 strikeouts compared to two walks in that pair of games, and he has posted a sparkling 0.66 ERA in two starts away from U.S. Cellular Field. Danks was horrendous last April with a 5.32 ERA in 22 innings pitched, but he has proven to be reliable as of late. He's not a surefire fantasy rotation candidate yet, but you should let him help you while he's still hot.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Acquire

AL-only: Acquire

Andy Sonnanstine, Tampa Bay Rays

Sonnanstine pitched a complete-game shutout April 19 while allowing just three hits against the White Sox. Prior to that gem, the right-hander allowed 15 runs in 15 1/3 innings. Sonnanstine has had relatively effective control this year, walking four while striking out 13. The team kept Sonnanstine on roster and sent down Jeff Niemann with Matt Garza (elbow) expected to rejoin the rotation Friday, April 25. Sonnanstine's continued opportunity in the rotation makes him a target for deeper leagues, but don't bank too much on him given his rough start. You should wait for a few more effective starts to give him any confidence.

Shallow mixed: Pass

Deep mixed: Watch

AL-only: Acquire

Luke Hochevar, Kansas City Royals

Hochevar was called up with John Bale (arm) placed on the 15-day disabled list with a dead arm. The young right-hander was roughed up in his debut, however; he allowed six runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings to the Athletics. The former No. 1 overall pick's entrance into the rotation alone makes him fantasy-relevant in deeper formats; he posted a 2.60 ERA in 17 1/3 innings at Triple-A Omaha this year. Shallow leaguers could give him a shot if he puts together a few moderately effective starts.

Shallow mixed: Watch

Deep mixed: Watch

AL-only: Acquire

Relief Pitchers

None

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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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