Fantasy Articles

In this column I'll be looking for players with upside who can usually be found either for nothing amidst the free agent pool, or who might acquired cheaply via trade.  Players selected will either have above average upside, or have value that has been overlooked by many players.  I'll throw in some stinkers too, not to mention a few players worth being aware of at the time.

Looking Up

barajas_rod
Rod Barajas - here with the Blue Jays - may be available in your league if you need a catcher.
Shallow leaguers needing help at the catching position and a boost of power to boot should definitely take another gander at the 47% owned Mike Napoli and the 46% Rod Barajas.  Napoli is getting plenty of playing time right now and should continue to do so for at least a few more weeks while Jeff Mathis recovers from a broken thumb.  Napoli the past two seasons has managed 20 home runs and carried a .270+ average in limited playing time.  There is no reason to think that the power has gone and while he's just batting .230 now, the potential not to hurt you in average is nice.

With Barajas .230 is about where he'll project out to finish while he makes a run for 20+ home runs.  The advantage of Barajas is that he won't suddenly become a part timer like Napoli will, and thus far he's feasted off National League pitching since coming over from the Jays.  His .264-9-20 has accounted for an awful lot of the Mets offense.

A third catcher worth targeting right now is the 45% owned Miguel Montero, who isn't far from returning from the DL and taking over everyday catching duties in Arizona.  I'm sure there is no reason to remind you of his .294-16-59 line last season.

In terms of speed, the-ugly-in-reality-but-wonderful-in-fantasy Juan Pierre and his 18 stolen bases call for some attention at just 42% ownership.  He won't thrill you with anything else, but he is one of the premier base stealers in the game right now.

Don't look now, but previously pimped outfielder Cory Hart (29% owned) has hit four home runs in his last four games and is on a pace to hit over 25 this season.  If this power surge continues the Brewers will be forced to move him to a more RBI friendly spot in the lineup.

Another recently pimped guy, middle infielder Mike Aviles (17% owned) has continued to rake.  After just 49 AB he's hitting .388 with a couple of home runs.

Cincinnati outfielder Jonny Gomes (5% owned) seems to be riding the big Reds wave and has turned into a useful replacement outfielder for those seeking some help in deeper leagues.  His .294-4-21-18 line is more or less in line with what he did last year in Cincy over just 98 games.  25 home runs, 90 RBIs and a .270 average seems very possible.

On the pitching front it could be wise to keep an eye on Edwin Jackson who up until Monday had stunk it up in AZ.  However the 50% owned Jackson turned in one of the best performance of his entire career, punching out 12 and yielding no runs to the Marlins over 8 solid innings.  If he backs this up with another solid start next week he could be trending back in the right direction.

Of the under 50% owned crowd you have to be impressed with what Jon Garland has done in San Diego.  The 1.88 ERA is a bit illusory but as spot starter when the Padres are at home he might be worth a bit of a gamble.

Another guy worth keeping an eye on is Reds pitcher Aaron Harang (36% owned) who despite his ugly overall line (6.02 ERA, 1.49 WHIP) has 41 Ks in 46.1 innings pitched and has four consecutive quality starts under his belt, lowering his ERA by over 2 runs already.  With the Reds offense now in high gear he could be a surprise source of wins.  A note of caution however: Harang has never been a WHIP friendly pitcher.

Another 33% owned Reds starter, Mike Leake was pimped in last week's column and is still surprisingly available despite his 4 wins, 3.09 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.

Aside from a single nine-run hiccup against the New York Yankees, Angels pitcher Joel Pineiro (34% owned) has been utterly dominating.  In his 8 starts so far he's only yielded more than three runs twice (once that ugly game against the Yankees, and the other a short night against Detroit), and in five of those six starts he's yielded two runs or less against mostly quality opponents (Minnesota, Boston, Tampa, Detroit, Oakland and his first start against the Yankees).  A bonus is that he's on a pace to set a career high in K's too.

Middle relievers worth keeping a big eye on include Pittsburgh's Evan Meek (26 K's in 25 IP to go with a sub 1 ERA and 1.00 WHIP) who is just 15% owned.  Boston's Daniel Bard (16% owned) who could get a shot at closing if Papelbon can't right his ship and has 24 K's in just 19 2/3 innings.

A wild card worth considering is Rockies pitcher Jeff Francis, who just returned after a year and a half off.  He was formerly the team ace and at just 8% owned he could be real surprise -- especially if the 29 year old returns to his 207 form where he won 17 games and struck out 165.   His first start back sure looked good as he K'd 6, and gave up a single run in seven innings of work.

See you all next week.