Table: Do not bench list
Paul Lo Duca, New York Mets
Schedule: 6 games - @LAD (3), @NYY (3)
Analysis: As a story in the June 1 edition of the New York Times outlines, Lo Duca has continued his versatility in the Mets' batting order. In the last month, he has hit in the fifth, sixth and seventh slots; and his ability to shuffle around the lineup is a major advantage for a catcher. New York Mets manager Willie Randolph will find ways to get him some offense, and that will more than facilitate him. He is batting an attention-grabbing .403 on the road this year, in addition to hitting both of his home runs away from Shea Stadium. Stick with Lo Duca for this week; he will at least grab you a few runs and RBI.
A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox
Schedule: 6 games - @PHI (3), @PIT (3)
Analysis: The White Sox overall are struggling with the sticks, but Pierzynski has shown some signs of improvement this year. His monthly average took a big jump, from .213 in April to .299 in May. His improvement was quickly met, however, with a 12-game slide without a home run or RBI. Despite his favorable matchup against two interleague foes, he might not help as much as you'd like. Wait for him to snap out of his funk until you insert him in your lineup.
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins - Out until early June
Schedule: 6 games - ATL (3), MIL (3)
Analysis: Out since May 5 with a left quadriceps strain, Mauer completed a rehab assignment June 6 for the Class A Fort Myers Miracle. He played the entire game, drawing a walk at the plate. At press time, he was slated to return on June 8. Mauer is one of those players you don't have to wait on if you know he's returning from injury. His mechanics are too solid to think that he will struggle out of the gate, but even so you have a few days to gauge his performance leading into next week's games. By the time the new week starts, Mauer should be in playing shape and in your lineup.
Bengie Molina, San Francisco Giants
Schedule: 6 games - TOR (3), @BOS (3)
Analysis: Stop the presses - a Molina brother can play offense, too. Bengie has 32 RBI already this season, and has become a mainstay near the heart of the Giants' order. He has eight RBI in his last eight games. He faces his former team in the first three games this week. He had three home runs and eight RBI in 12 games against the Sox in 2006. Molina is hitting in the heart of the order quite often this year, which is another reason to let him do his thing.
Jason Varitek, Boston Red Sox
Schedule: 6 games - COL (3), SF (3)
Analysis: Varitek has already hit half his total of 12 home runs from last season, and he is obviously benefiting from the Red Sox's rampage. He had three home runs and 11 RBI in a 10-game span. Six games at Fenway will be a boon for V-Tek. He has an uncanny ability to sift through struggles to pull out a home run, especially at home. There's no reason to overlook Varitek against Colorado, at least.
John Buck, Kansas City Royals
Schedule: 6 games - STL (3), FLA (3)
Analysis: In a year when Royals are suddenly somewhat fantasy-relevant, Buck has gone under the radar this year as an offensive catcher. He just misses a roster spot in 10-team leagues, but in deeper league has saved many teams. Overall, his stats aren't that impressive (.281, 19 RBI, 17 runs), but his eight home runs are a nice surprise. Against two struggling teams, he can be a good play in deep leagues.
Johnny Estrada, Milwaukee Brewers
Schedule: 6 games - @DET (3), @MIN (3)
Analysis: Estrada went 0-for-7 against Minnesota in an earlier interleague series this year. He has just one RBI in his last 10 games as of Thursday, and despite batting fifth in the order is not capitalizing on the scraps left by Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. He's a very bland option as an offensive catcher.
Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh Pirates
Schedule: 6 games - TEX (3), CWS (3)
Analysis: Doumit only has one RBI in his last 10 games. He hasn't faced the Rangers or White Sox in his career, so there's not much comparison there. Doumit continues to compete for playing time with Ronny Paulino, and guessing when he'll play is becoming the challenge. Add in the lingering effects of Doumit's double play behind the plate - him getting smacked in the head twice with a batter follow-through - and this might not be a good week to take a chance on him.
OTHERS FOR CONSIDERATION
Mike Redmond, Minnesota Twins
Schedule: 6 games - ATL (3), MIL (3)
Analysis: The imminent return of Joe Mauer will send Redmond back to his backup role. As of print time, Mauer was scheduled to return Friday, June 8. Redmond hit .366 in May, not missing a beat with Mauer's absence. Owners should try to find another catcher for Redmond. If he's your starter - by choice or by need - you might want to look somewhere else. He won't be anything more than a spell catcher once Mauer returns. Check back on Mauer's progress before making a decision on Redmond this week.
Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies
Schedule: 6 games - CWS (3), DET (3)
Analysis: Ruiz has not hit a homer since May 15 but has six home games coming up this week. His .315 average at Citizens Bank Park is 96 percentage points higher than his road number, and he has hit all three of his round-trippers in the comforts of Philadelphia. He also hits 119 average points higher versus righties (.286) than lefties. Despite his 0-for-6 performance in two interleague games this year, he is a good fill-in for those in deep leagues.
Gerald Laird, Texas Rangers
Schedule: 6 games - @PIT (3), @CIN (3)
Analysis: Managers might think Laird would be a below-average play this week considering he's leaving Rangers Stadium. His splits tell a more assuring story: At home he's hitting .183 with a homer and 11 RBI. On the road, he's batting .270 with two home runs and nine RBI. Also, with three home runs, he's just less than halfway from reaching his 2006 total of seven. That's not enough of a disparity to completely rule him out.
Mike Napoli, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Schedule: 6 games - @CIN (3), @LAD (3)
Analysis: If you need to look this low on the catcher totem pole, you look for any means of help. Well, Napoli offers a glimmer of hope on the basepaths. His four stolen bases makes him an intriguing play for those desperate for a fill-in. He also has six RBI in his last four games, and his seven home runs don't take away from his performance. He's worth examining for this week, especially in a visit to woeful Cincinnati.
Ronny Paulino, Pittsburgh Pirates
Schedule: 6 games - vs. TEX (3), vs. CWS (3)
Analysis: The Doumit-Paulino fantasy feud continues, as the two continue to battle for playing time. Paulino has the edge in at-bats 173-105, and has started three of the last five games. When he does play, he has the edge over Doumit in power numbers, and has a hit in four of his last five games. Still, the Pirates skipped over starting the switch-hitting Doumit against righty Derek Lowe. Doumit's injuries could allow Paulino to pull away in this horse race. Although neither catcher is entirely reliable at this point, Paulino has the better upside for the week.
David Ross, Cincinnati Reds
Schedule: 6 games - vs. LAA (3), vs. TEX (3)
Analysis: Both Ross and Javier Valentin rely on their power for playing time; contact hitting is not a friend of the Reds' catching platoon. Right now, Ross has neither left the yard nor driven in a run in his six games in June. Although Valentin has been mainly relegated to pinch-hitting duties, Ross is hardly the dominant option he was during a few runs of success last year.
KEY PLAYERS ON DL
Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals - Out until July
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.
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