FANTASY BASEBALL: HOOTS & HOLLERS

GOING AFTER STOPGAPS


Need to plug a hole up the middle? Stick this Johnson in.

Week one has come and gone in Fantasy Baseball. While I like to spend time in this column bringing you observations to go along with the sage advice, I can’t help but notice that my twitter and e-mail messages are filled with inquiries as to whom to pick up to replace injured players, as well as the early disappointments. While it might be a bit early to call anybody a fantasy disappointment—it’s been less than a week for gawd sakes!—I want to take some time to give you some players who are giving fantasy owners early reason to pay attention to them.

One of my hot sleepers on The Geekspeak Fantasy Baseball Preview was Arizona 2B Kelly Johnson. He has hit over .350 while showing some power (2 HRs, 3 RBI through Saturday). While that pace may be a bit high for Johnson, he seems healthy and is enjoying the dynamics of playing in the Arizona lineup, complete with hitter-friendly ballpark and copacetic climate. And if he gets a little too stressed out, I’m sure they will let him unwind in the right field pool.

Josh Willingham is overlooked quite a bit in fantasy leagues. He had a pretty decent year in Washington last season (.260/24/61 in 400 ABs). He is healthy this season and hitting .375 so far this season. Of course that will come down to .280, but if he stays physically able the entire season, 20+ HRs and 80+ RBI always are handy in deeper leagues.

JJ Hardy's only one season removed from some hearty stats.

A lot of owners passed on JJ Hardy after last season’s atrocity (.230/11/47), but with two home runs in his first three games and a .280 batting average for the week, he is someone to take notice of if you need a middle-infield fix. He could even end up turning into more than just a fix if playing in that strong Minnesota lineup is what is boosting his stats.

I don’t know how many leagues he is actually available in, but Jeff Niemann was dropped by many after getting hit by a line drive in the shoulder in his last start Thursday and leaving the game after 1 1/3 innings. He took a nosedive in ownership in CBS leagues, but is reported to be fine physically. Even though he doesn’t throw heat, he is good for wins, ERA and WHIP pitching for a solid team in Tampa Bay.

Mike Leake won the fifth starter job in Cincinnati over Aroldis Chapman and pitched impressively in his debut, with one run earned run and four hits allowed over 6 2/3 innings, with 5 Ks. He is ripe for the taking and could even be considered a candidate as a long term keeper in keeper leagues. All that aside, he is certainly someone to use as a stopgap pitcher right now.

Jeff Francoeur has been an afterthought after a down 2008 and a mediocre 2009, but he is showing glimpses of his old self so far this season. On Friday, he slugged his first two homers of the season for the Mets, and thus far is .444/2/6 in the first week f the season. I assume there are worse outfield options to plug holes with out there, right?

Edgar Renteria has been around since 1996 and is knocking on 35 years of age. Until last season, he was a very steady shortstop, giving fantasy owners stats they could count on. With last season being a down year, he was ranked low to start the campaign. Hence, he is owned in 30 % of CBS leagues. Before you decide to pass, too, look at these early stats: .524/1/5. If you are temporarily in need, this is one RENTable dude.

INJURY WATCH

Players to keep an eye on for Week 2 include Ryan Zimmerman (hamstring), Brian Roberts (abdominal), Chipper Jones (oblique), Andre Ethier (ankle), Chris R Young (shoulder), Grady Sizemore (back) and Miguel Montero (knee, may need surgery).

Follow me on Twitter for up-to-date news on whether these players will be available.

DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE

Two-start pitchers for the week ahead

Use ‘em:

Jon Lester @MIN (Pavano), TB (Garza)
Jake Peavy @TOR (Tallet), @CLE (Westbrook)
Max Scherzer KC (Hochevar), @SEA (Rowland-Smith)
Matt Garza @BAL (Guthrie), @BOS (Lester)
Justin Duchscherer @SEA (Rowland-Smith), BAL (Guthrie)
Jair Jurrjens @SD (Young), COL (Smith)
Ricky Nolasco CIN (Cueto), @PHI (Halladay)
Clayton Kershaw ARI (Kennedy), SF (Zito)
Cole Hamels WAS (Marquis), FLA (Robertson)
Adam Wainwright HOU (Myers), NYM (Maine)
Ryan Dempster MIL (Davis), HOU (Paulino)

Steady and Willing:

Johnny Cueto @FLA (Nolasco), @PIT (Duke)
Bronson Arroyo @FLA (Robertson), @PIT (Ohlendorf)
Ross Ohlendorf @SF (Zito), CIN (Arroyo)
Ian Kennedy @LAD (Kershaw), @SD (Young)
Brett Myers @STL (Wainwright), @CHC (Dempster)
Jeremy Guthrie TB (Garza), @OAK (Duchscherer)
Gavin Floyd @TOR (Romero), @CLE (Carmona)
Ervin Santana @NYY (Pettitte), @TOR (Romero)
Carl Pavano BOS (Lester), KC (Hochevar)
Andy Pettitte LAA (Santana), TEX (Harden)
Ryan Rowland-Smith OAK (Duchscherer), DET (Scherzer)
Rich Harden @CLE (Carmona), @NYY (Pettitte)
Ricky Romero CWS (Floyd), LAA (Santana)
Brett Anderson @SEA (Fister), BAL (Matusz)

Only if you have to, but take an antacid first:

Luke Hochevar @DET (Scherzer), @MIN (Pavano)
Brian Tallet CWS (Peavy), LAA (Saunders)
Doug Davis @CHC (Dempster), @WAS (Marquis)
John Maine @COL (Smith), @STL (Wainwright)
Jason Marquis @PHI (Hamels), MIL (Davis)
Nate Robertson CIN (Arroyo), @PHI (Hamels)
Barry Zito PIT (Ohlendorf), @LAD (Kershaw)
Chris Young ATL (Jurrjens), ARI (Kennedy)

♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ You’ll be sorrrryyyyy ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫:

Greg Smith NYM (Maine), @ATL (Jurrjens)
Fausto Carmona TEX (Harden), CWS (Floyd)

There's always much more fantasy stuff at thefantasygeek.com

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