The baseball season is long. The fantasy baseball season can sometimes feel even longer. Unlike fantasy football, where the majority of action occurs each Sunday, there are baseball games played every single day. Daily tune-ups and lineup setting can feel like a never-ending grind, but is essential for teams to be successful in making the playoffs or soaring up the ranks in a rotisserie league. No matter if your format is head-to-head or rotisserie, whether lineup locks and free agents can be executed daily or once a week, keeping your eyes wide open for the next slugger, replacement closer or future ace will be keys to winning your fantasy baseball league.
Each week, I will briefly cover a player at each position: first base, second base, third base, shortstop, catcher, outfield and starting pitcher that may not be on your radar or may have some attractive matchups for the coming week. I would be wasting your time if I wrote an article on whether you should start Ryan Braun or Troy Tulowitzki, but deciding if a free agent starting pitcher may be a solid stream for his two-start week will provide value. Who are this week’s weekly catches?
Catcher – Picking up a hot free agent can occur when an uninformed owner dumps him. It is likely that Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis was either drafted or snagged early in the season as he has already crushed six home runs this month. With Brian McCann’s return looming, watch your waiver wire to see if Gattis’ owner dumps him with fear of playing time concerns. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez seems committed to finding a place for Gattis in the starting lineup, which may include first base, outfield and continuing to back up McCann. A power bat with Catcher eligibility may be a valuable addition to your team.
First Base – Mark Reynolds can be gold to a fantasy team, and he can also be kryptonite. With Arizona in 2009, he posted MVP-like numbers with 44 home runs, 102 runs batted in and 24 stolen bases. The following season, fantasy owners gasped as Reynolds hit 32 home runs, but with a batting average under the Mendoza Line at .198. Reynolds seems to be enjoying his new digs in Cleveland and is off to a solid start with seven home runs and a .291 average. He also has third base eligibility. Expect the average to drop, but 30 home runs and double-digit steals are realistic.
Second Base – It is difficult to get excited about Omar Infante as he has hit double-digit home runs only once in his career, and it was nine seasons ago in 2004. Although he generally bats ninth, he is the starting second baseman for the potent Detroit Tigers lineup. He also has 12 hits over his last 28 at-bats, including two home runs. Is this simply a good run, or can Infante put together a “Asdrubal Cabrera-like” breakout season? Only one way to find out!
Shorstop – The San Francisco Giants are not considered a highly potent offense and shortstop Brandon Crawford has never hit more than five home runs in a season. With that being said, Crawford is either having a breakout year or is at least riding a hot streak. With the position of shortstop shallow, especially with Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes sidelined, take a chance on Crawford to see if his power stroke is a fluke or legit.
Third Base – You are likely too late to grab Atlanta’s Chris Johnson. Johnson was not on the fantasy radar, especially due to his projected timeshare with Juan Francisco. After Johnson served as a productive fill-in for Freddie Freeman at first base, he now seems to have secured the starting third base gig on an everyday basis. His average should begin to decline, but 15-20 home runs with a .315 average may be realistic with consistent playing time.
Outfield – After stellar 2008 and 2009 seasons where he averaged 23 home runs and 21 stolen bases, it seemed Nate McLouth was destined for a bright future and a middle-round selection in most fantasy leagues. Injuries and lack of offense stifled the outfielder to the point where he no longer held a full-time position. A potential rebound may be on the horizon with the Baltimore Orioles despite being currently in a platoon. McLouth is hitting .375 with seven steals in only 64 at-bats thus far against right-handers. I am withholding my excitement a bit longer, but still grabbed him in a few leagues especially where I needed speed.
Starting Pitcher – Remember Ryan Dempster? Dempster has been a middle reliever, closer, starter and is now playing for his fifth team. He was very successful for the Chicago Cubs, but then struggled mightily after a mid-season trade to the Texas Rangers last year. Now in Boston, Dempster is sporting one of the best strikeout rates thus far and has a decent 3.30 earned run average. Don’t expect this strikeout rate to be maintained all season, but definitely give the veteran a second look. In Boston, he should be capable of double-digit wins, a sub-three earned run average and 175 strikeouts.
Good luck as we wrap up April!