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Fantasy Baseball: 5 Free-Agent Outfielders to Replace Melky Cabrera

Andrew GouldFeatured Columnist IVOctober 17, 2016

Fantasy Baseball: 5 Free-Agent Outfielders to Replace Melky Cabrera

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    Melky Cabrera’s fantasy baseball owners must scramble for another option to fill in for the surprising star.

    The MLB suspended the San Francisco Giants outfielder for 50 games following a positive drug test for Testosterone. The punishment, as announced on MLB's Twitter account, sidelines Cabrera for the remainder of the regular season, which means that his fantasy owners in re-draft leagues need to drop him.

     

    BREAKING: Giants OF Melky Cabrera suspended 50 games without pay after testing positive for Testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance.

    — MLB (@MLB) August 15, 2012

    The 28-year-old was in the midst of a phenomenal season, hitting .346 with 11 home runs, 13 steals, 60 RBI and 84 runs. That type of production across the board is hard to find.

    In a season where Cabrera started the All-Star Game—where he earned MVP honors—and solidified his value before hitting free agency, the timing is devastating for Cabrera and the Giants.

    But we’re not here to worry about the millions of dollars he lost as a pending free agent or how his reputation is forever sullied. We just need a player to add in his place.

    Unless you play in a really shallow league, there’s no chance of duplicating his production elsewhere. There are, however, other solid players that can fill Cabrera’s role of offering decent numbers in all categories.

    Here are some players who can help fill the void left by Cabrera’s suspension.

Jon Jay

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    Centuries after writing The Federalist Papers, Jon Jay (okay, the spelling is different) is swinging a hot bat for the St. Louis Cardinals.

    In 72 games, Jay is hitting .315 with a .392 on-base percentage, has four homers and 13 steals. So far in August, Jay is batting .444 with a .667 slugging percentage.

    Jay perfectly embodies the Cabrera mold. A solid hitter with decent power and speed that won’t blow anyone away, Jay has been fighting for regular playing time to prove his merit. With Lance Berkman hurt, Jay has etched out a permanent spot in St. Louis’ outfield.

    Owned in 22 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Jay should hit for a useful average while producing and scoring runs in a potent Cardinals offense.

    Essentially, Jay is a mini-Cabrera. Take what you can get at this point of the season.

Michael Brantley

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    Michael Brantley is a confounding player to evaluate. He’s not quite performing as expected, but that doesn’t mean he’s played poorly.

    When Brantley swiped seven bags during May, he made a great acquisition for anyone in search of speed. He’s only stolen three bases since.

    He has, however, hit .305 with five homers since the end of May, so it’s hard to complain about his output.

    Of course, seeing him steal some more bases would be ideal, but this is still a young outfielder batting in the heart of Cleveland’s batting order. Lately, the 25-year-old has hit fifth in the lineup, which should lead to ample RBI opportunities.

    Brantley—available in 69 percent of Yahoo! leagues—is another player who won’t hurt fantasy owners in any category. While the stolen bases have disappeared, his speed could still re-appear before the season ends.

Denard Span

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    Widely ignored in many fantasy leagues, Denard Span is quietly having himself a nice bounce-back season.

    Two years removed from hitting .311 with 97 runs scored and 23 steals, Span has since been nothing more than a lukewarm option in fantasy leagues. While Span is not setting the MLB on fire, he has played well in 2012.

    Although a bit short of his career season, Span is hitting .287 with 58 runs and 12 steals. He is heating up, though. Since the All-Star break, the 28-year-old is hitting .340 with a .402 on-base percentage.

    More of an option in five-outfielder formats and AL-only leagues, Span is sneakily a solid play. In those leagues, owners will take a guy who can hit in the .280s with five or so more steals before the season concludes.

Gregor Blanco

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    Of course, the Giants also face the daunting task of replacing Cabrera.

    Is Gregor Blanco an all-star who could work his way on MVP ballots? Absolutely not, but how about settling for some stolen bases?

    Blanco can run quite a bit. In 346 plate appearances, the 28-year-old outfielder has taken 19 bases. Last year, he stole 10 bags in 49 games with the Kansas City Royals.

    Unlike the previous players, Blanco is not a stable source of productivity who won’t hamper your batting average. He’s hitting .232, and the .292 BABIP does not indicate much misfortune behind that mark.

    He’ll need to dramatically cut down that 21.7 percent strikeout rate to improve at the plate, but at least he walks in 12.1 percent of his at-bats, which keeps him on base enough to boost his steals total.

    Taken in only two percent of Yahoo! leagues, Blanco warrants consideration from owners lacking in the steals department.

Justin Ruggiano

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    After Cabrera broke out in 2011, I ignored his near 20/20 campaign and stayed far away in drafts.

    That’s how fantasy players are treating Justin Ruggiano’s rapid ascendance. In 60 remarkable games, the 30-year-old journeyman has tallied a .330/.387/.602 line with 10 home runs and steals apiece.

    Yet, he is owned in just one-fourth of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.

    To be fair, there are plenty of reasons to anticipate a downfall. He has a sky-high .407 BABIP with a 25 percent strikeout rate, so there’s no way he continues hitting .330.

    Also, how many 30-year-olds emerge from nowhere and become bona fide studs?

    Then again, Cabrera went from average player to the league leader hitter in hits. But it turns out the Melk Man used more than milk to fuel his success. 

    The morale of the story—which is not that Ruggiano is about to fail a drug test—is sometimes you’ll miss out on something special by assuming it can never last. There’s about a 95 percent shot that Ruggiano fails to sustain this scorching start, but why not ride the hot hand for a week or two?

    Update: Ruggiano exited Wednesday afternoon's game with a right oblique strain, so monitor his health status before adding him.

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