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Fantasy Baseball Musings: Halladay, Raburn, Catchers, Multi-Positionality

My apologies to the LaRosa’s Pizza franchise in Cincinnati that provides free pies to Reds' ticket-holders during home games when Cincy pitchers fan eleven or more batters. In my last article, I mistakenly identified a rival pizza chain as providing this awesome bonus. Looks like I swung and missed on that one!

D7K 4966 Roy HalladayI also fanned when I urged everyone to put Roy Halladay on the mound Tuesday night against the Indians. The three-time 20-game winner lasted only 3.2 innings, serving up nine hits, three of which were homers, and eight earned runs. So perplexing is Halladay (2-3, 6.75 ERA) that I'm conceding defeat. Let's make a deal: If I ever offer advice regarding whether or not to start him, do the exact opposite of what I say.

In case you missed the Grand Awakening of the Cleveland bats, Ryan Raburn went deep twice in the 14-2 Phillie slaughter. Raburn also had two jacks Monday in a 9-0 pasting of the Royals. Prior to that game in Kansas City, Raburn was hitting .214 with zero homers, five runs, and one RBI. After Tuesday, his line jumped to .320/10 R/4 HR/8 RBI.  He's owned in only 4% of Yahoo leagues, but be careful not to discard another useful player to make room for yesterday's stats.

And speaking of Cleveland, the weather up north is probably partly to blame, but I still can't believe a MLB team other than Miami is dead-last in average home-game attendance-- that distinction belongs to the Indians. The Marlins are averaging 19,000 per home game, more than 4,000 more than the Indians’ 14,700. This, despite the fact that Chief Wahoo’s boys outscored the Royals and Phillies from Sunday through Tuesday 33-5 (Miami scores 33 runs about every 13 games). Maybe the sticks coming to life will bring fans to The Jake The Prog.

Note to Larry Dolan: If you need people to fill the seats, give me a shout. I live only five hours away and I love that place. P.S. I have weekends free.

While I’m waiting for Mr. Dolan to mail my season tickets, let’s look at some multi-positional players around MLB who might be underappreciated in your fantasy league. Guys like Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli, and Joe Mauer won’t make this list. Sure, they qualify at C and 1B, but rarely would a fantasy manager start any of them at a position other than backstop.  Instead, here are a few players whose versatility makes them much more valuable than they might otherwise appear:

Matt Carpenter Throwing

  • Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals qualifies at four positions in the Yahoo game (1B,2B,3B,OF) and has carried his Spring Training success over to the regular season.  He filled in at 3B to start the season in place of the ailing David Freese and then bumped Daniel Descalso off 2B when Freese returned to the lineup. Carpenter has been used at multiple spots in the batting order, recently settling in at the top of the order, and has rewarded his team with a .272/3HR/21R performance so far in the young season. He won’t run much, except between positions, but this Swiss Army knife leaves Mike Matheny with fewer worries about his lineup and more time to work on his blog.
  • Cincinnati 3B Todd Frazier makes this list because he qualifies at 1B, 3B, and OF. His current production (.247/6HR/19RBI/13R/2SB) presently ranks 4th at 3B, 7th at 1B, and 18th at OF. Obviously, he’s best suited as your starting 3B. But in a twelve-team league, which would typically have 36 OFs starting any given week, he’s right in the middle production-wise. Take a look at Oakland 3B Josh Donaldson, who has had some hot wood lately and is likely available on your waiver wire, and consider sliding Frazier into an OF slot. Also, don’t forget about top-prospect 3B Nolan Arenado, who hit his first dinger Monday, a day after being called up by the Rockies. He’s only twenty-two and has hit well at every level of the minors, and now he’ll be doing half his hitting at Coors Field.  But getting back to Frazier, he’s also good at getting clutch hits that circle the bases of your heart. Check out this clip of the sheer joy he created on April 18th for Teddy Kremer, a guest batboy for the Reds with Down syndrome.
  • Ben Zobrist qualifies at 2B, SS, and OF. He’s off to a decent start (.266/2HR/19RBI/11R/2SB), has 20/20 potential and will likely finish the season with a serviceable batting average (think near .270) and across-the-board help for your team. I love having the flexibility to move him between positions when needed, knowing I have a top-tier player at the middle-infield position of my choice.
  • Martin Prado was the stylish multi-position choice among the more savvy owners in this year’s drafts. He’s only 29, qualifies everywhere but C and 1B, and put up very useful numbers in his four full-time seasons with the Braves. But he’s had trouble getting balls to drop this season (.216 BA), has only seven extra-base hits (but four of those are homers) and has yet to steal a base for the Diamondbacks. His owners may be willing to part ways with Mr. Versatility due to the slow start. If so, jump in with the knowledge that Prado is a top-of-the-order bat with a career .292 average. Whether or not he runs or hits for significant power is up in the air. He did swipe 17 bases last season, but prior to that his single-season high was five. Certainly don't sell the farm for Prado’s services, but consider asking for him as a throw-in on another trade. He'll be a useful tool to have during a long season of nicks and bruises.

Mark Trumbo on July 22, 2011

  • Mark Trumbo is proving the “experts” wrong this season by doing (almost) everything he did early last season for the underachieving Angels (.302/4HR/15RBI/12R), and he qualifies at 1B, 3B, and OF. Trumbo was a machine during the first half of the 2012 season (.306/22HR/57RBI), but he fizzled out in the second half, ending the season hitting .266/32HR/95RBI. Still, those are very respectable numbers and this guy is only 27 years old.  When a guy with 30+ homer power can fill in at both corners and the outfield, drill his numbers from the second half of last season into his owner’s head and get him on your team.
  • Daniel Murphy, Mets (1B, 2B), Yuniesky Betancourt, Brewers (1B, 2B, 3B), Josh Rutledge, Rockies (2B, SS), Kyle Seager, Mariners (2B,3B), Michael Young, Phillies (1B, 2B, 3B), Eduardo Escobar, Twins (2B, 3B, SS), and Marwin Gonzalez, Astros (3B,SS) also receive special mention for their versatility to date. However, with the possible exception of Seager, I don’t see their future stats making a big enough splash in the fantasy game.

Running Bunts:

3B Ryan Zimmerman is on track to return to the Nationals' lineup Friday against the Pirates, which will likely send young Anthony Rendon (.200/1 R/ 1 RBI in 20 ABs) back for more seasoning in the minors. SS Troy Tulowitzki hurt his left shoulder sliding into home plate Sunday. The injury looks minor, but remember to always have a backup for the injury-prone Tulo! Chris Carter leads MLB with 43 K in 92 at bats. J.P. Arencibia has fanned 37 times in 95 trips to the plate. Jay Bruce (66 HR combined in ’11 & ’12) has 1 HR in his first 111 AB. Jake Westbrook has a 0.98 ERA (leads MLB), but has a 1.37 WHIP, not to mention the same amount of BB as K (14)-- I'm waiting for the sky to fall on Westbrook soon. A.J. Burnett (2-2, 2.83) has 48 K in 35 IP. The Nationals have made 23 team errors; by comparison, Detroit has made 6. And speaking of the Nationals, Stephen Strasburg leads his team in losses (4). Bartolo Colon has walked only one batter in 32 IP. Yu Darvish (13.5K-per-9IP) is treating opposing batters like the Jets treated Tim Tebow.


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