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How to Salvage Your Losing Fantasy Baseball Team (Step 2 of 2)

Step 2: Patch your holes
You can make up for the near-fatal combination of a poor draft and star-player injuries by paying better attention than your opponents. Skim box scores — every night, for every team. The other members of your league are probably paying better attention to some teams than others, especially if you’re in a league with friends from the same geographic area. They may know which Yankee outfielder is on a tear, or which Met starter has pitched better than his record indicates, but they probably aren’t paying attention to the infield situation in Minnesota.

If you’re finally ready to cut your draft mistakes (Julio Lugo?!), you’re going to have some roster spots to fill. Some suggestions….

C: Dioner Navarro — A .326 AVG, .803 OPS a tight grip on the staring job, and a hot offense around him make Navarro the best catcher on your waiver wire, and a top-ten catcher overall.
see also: Chris Snyder, Chris Iannetta, Gerald Laird

1B:Eric Hinske — His 12 HR, 5 SB, and .845 OPS speak for themselves. He may have disappointed you in fantasy seasons past, but he’s a heck of a lot more useful now than Paul Konerko.
see also: Marcus Thames, Aubrey Huff

2B: Alexi Casilla or Alexei Ramirez — If you don’t have an Utley, Upton, or Kinsler, you should have one of these. These are their stats in the last 30 days:
Alexi Casilla: .315 AVG, .817 OPS, 3 HR, 4 SB, 23 RBI
Alexei Ramirez: .367 AVG, .918 OPS, 3 HR, 2 SB, 15 RBI

3B: Joe Crede — With 15 HR, a respectable .284 AVG, and a beautiful .900 OPS, it’s a marvel Crede is available at all.  If you are the one guy in your league without two stud third basemen, now might be your last chance.  15 home runs should not be on the waiver wire.

SS: No studs here, but plenty of better options than Julio Lugo.  Bobby Crosby is putting together a  respectable enough season at a shallow position (.262 / 4 HR, 5 SB, 36 RBI) and Yuniesky Betancourt is heating up a bit. A slumping Stephen Drew is available in one of my leagues, and the injured (and before that, slumping) Troy Tulowitzki is available in another — either one will help you over the course of the season.

OF: Michael Bourn — He spent April as a frustrating one-category guy — flailing at the plate but running wild on the bases (.195 AVG, 11 SB), but in June he’s hitting .391 with only 3 SB.  He probably won’t finish the season with an average above .270, but the speed is definitely real.  Bourn was just put back in the leadoff spot after getting demoted to 7th in May, and with the Astros a half game out of last place in the NL Central, there’s no reason for him not to be aggressive.
see also: David DeJesus, Lastings Milledge, Fred Lewis, Skip Schumaker

SP: Kyle Lohse — I can’t say I really believe his numbers this year (8-2, 3.77 ERA, 1.21 WHIP), but if your team needs help, you need to look beyond the sexy or obvious names and just find someone who will help you win. At minimum, Lohse is worth streaming at home against most NL offenses.
see also:Justin Masterson, Manny Parra, Andrew Miller, Jair Jurrjens

RP: Damaso Marte — He’s the best overlooked setup man out there. He has one win, one save, and six holds with a 2.31 ERA over the last 30 days. He strikes out more than a batter per inning, and should be owned in all leagues that count holds.
see also: Joel Zumaya

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How to Salvage your Losing Fantasy Baseball Team (Step 1 of 2)

Cute, talented, brown-and-blue eyed, and back in the minors

Step One: Cut your losses.

It’s time to give up on the following players (if you haven’t already)**

C: Jason Kendall — You can do better. He may rank fourth in steals among catchers (with 3), but he’s tied for 37th in home runs (with 1) and his .257 AVG / .683 OPS are nothing to get excited about. If you really, truly believe he’s the best catcher available (and he’s not) then just let your catching spot sit empty and carry a deeper bench.

1B: Paul Konerko and Ryan Garko: They don’t crack the top-25 first basemen in Yahoo’s season rankings. Konerko doesn’t even crack the top-50 first basemen in ESPN’s rankings. Why are they on your teams?! Konerko is having his second sub-par season in a row, and is now hurt. Garko just isn’t there yet.

2B: Rickie Weeks — His batting average was already killing your ratios before he hurt his knee. He’s about to come off the DL, and if you have to drop someone to make room for him, just drop him. If his speed is compromised at all by the injury, he’ll be a complete waste of a roster spot. There should be plenty of b-level speed available on the waiver wire.

3B: Casey Blake — There are just too many good third basemen to carry Blake. If/when he heats up, go get him. But until then, his .254 AVG, 6 HR and 1 SB don’t even make him a top-20 third baseman.

SS: Julio Lugo — Shortstop is really not so shallow a position, nor are steals so hard to come by, that Lugo’s presence can be justified in a fantasy lineup. Not even if you’re a Sox fan.

OF: Delmon Young — The Twins are clearly tiring of Young’s lack of power (1 HR!) and patience (.693 OPS), and you should be too. Fortunately, you can drop him without consequence.

SP: Max Scherzer — I was prepared to love him like a cuter, brown-and-blue eyed Tim Lincecum. He’s back in the minors, so love will have to wait ’til next summer (or ’til Randy Johnson’s back gives out).

RP: Rafael Soriano – He’s on the DL for the second time this season, his elbow hurts, Mike Gonzalez is about to come off the DL… if and when Soriano returns, it will most likely be into an awful closer-by-committee situation. It’s not worth the stress.

**All of the players above are on the rosters of one or more teams in my various fantasy baseball leagues — the deepest of which has 12 teams.

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Group Hugs, High Fives

The first Hug-of-the-Day award goes to Fernando Tatis (who apparently never quite retired), being congratulated below for his 12th-inning two-run double against the Marlins Wednesday night. The sorely needed win marked the Mets’ first victory in a game they were trailing after the 7th (they’re now 1-20).

Fernando Tatis (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Honorable Mention
(Disqualified for not meeting the technical requirements of a hug):
Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, and Matt Cameron coordinate a three-way high five in their one-nothing victory over the Braves.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

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Brandon Webb: 9-1

(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

The Marlins ended Brandon Webb’s perfect season Wednesday, raising his ERA to a somewhat-more-human 2.69 in the process. The Marlins — without their slumping star shortstop — scored three runs on seven hits and a suicide squeeze. For his part, Ricky Nolasco held the Diamondbacks to one run on four hits, three coming from J.D. Drew’s younger brother (BJ Upton’s younger brother and Chris Young both went hitless).

Elsewhere

Baltimore at New York: Darrell Rasner pitched seven shutout innings against the Orioles. He is now 3-0 since being called up at the beginning of the month, the rest of the Yankee rotation is 3-7. Hank Steinbrenner proved he’s not the man his father was, as (at least publicly) he had nothing but nice things to say about Lester’s no-hitter.

Kansas City at Boston: Bartolo Colon — who I most often cite in barroom arguments about why I wouldn’t give Sabathia a 5 year deal — won his first game since June 2007. Two runs in five innings against the Royals isn’t exactly exhilarating, but he did win a Cy Young just three years ago, so he’s worth watching.

New York at Atlanta: The Braves took their third in two days against the once-again-struggling Mets. Jair Jurrjens pitched another great game (I love him), Mark Teixeira is 7-for-10 this series, and two Mets outfielders are down — Ryan Church with a concussion, Moises Alou with more leg trouble.

Los Angeles at Toronto: Speaking of down, how scary is it to play infield for (Los Angeles of) Anaheim right now? First Howie Kendrick went on the DL (hamstring), then Chone (hamstring) joined him, both suffered repeated setbacks, and now Erick Aybar dislocates his right pinky finger. Figgins returned to action Wednesday, but any lingering discomfort will kill his fantasy value, as his value rests entirely on those speedy legs of his.

Texas at Minnesota: The combined records of Livan Hernandez (who starts tomorrow for the Twins) and Sidney Ponson (who won today for the Rangers) is 9-2. I don’t really know what to say. Be skeptical.

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Lester Throws No-Hitter against Royals, Receives many Hugs

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With Jon Lester’s no-hitter against the Royals Monday night, the Red Sox have now have two no-hitters in as many years by pitchers under 25. Considering the underwhelming performance of the Yankees’ young arms (Kennedy and Hughes are a combined 0-7), and his now-famous suggestion that Mike Mussina pitch more like Jamie Moyer, Hank Steinbrenner should hopefully have some interesting comments by the morning. I’ll try to keep you posted. In the meantime, congrats to Lester, and Yankee beat reporters.

And now, one more hug shot (the best part of big wins).

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Big Fish

It’s May 12th, and every day it’s getting harder to ignore the Marlins, now tied for the best record in the NL. But Tampa Bay has a better chance of finishing where they are (2nd in the AL East) than the Marlins do of staying atop the NL East. Sure, Hanley Ramirez is insanely talented without any of the usual qualifiers (…but raw, …but troubled). But the rest of the offense is chock full of buts — Uggla’s got power but strikes out too much (4th in the NL with 39 Ks); Hermida strikes out four times as often as he walks; Luis Gonzalez is off to a decent start, but is 40, and last year hit 40 points lower in the second half. That offense has a plenty of talent, but there’s no way they keep this up.

Now the pitching: The bullpen is legitimately improved. Gregg has settled in well as closer. Pinto looks great in the setup roll. And that’s the last positive thing I can say about this staff.

Scott Olsen, the Marlins “ace”, walks too many and doesn’t get the strikeouts to balance out. Two of Olsen’s four wins have been against the Washington Nationals. When he’s eventually forced to pitch more in the strike zone — there’s only so long “effectively wild” works, just ask Daniel Cabrera — the hits will go up, his ERA will rise, and by mid June everyone will laugh at his once near-universal fantasy ownership. And a bad outing or two might be all it takes to awaken Olsen’s personal demons.

Trade him now.

Mark Hendrickson leads the Marlins with five wins, but as the oldest pitcher on the staff, and with a career BAA of .289, is the least likely candidate for a breakout season. 22-year-old Andrew Miller may be a superstar someday, but right now the league is hitting .340 against him — and that’s with three starts against the Nationals.

The Marlins have played one series against a team with a winning record (at the time of the series), and were not only swept, but outscored 25-10 by the Dodgers. They’ll face the Diamondbacks, Mets, and Phillies in the second half of May…

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