Okay, so I'm in a winners' league with eleven others who each won their leagues last season. I know it's still early in this season. I also know being just ahead of the middle of the pack at this point doesn't have me panicking.
Yet, I was stunned to see what available talent is still marinating in the free agent pool.
At catcher, there is still John Buck. Yes, the Kansas City Royals are in first place in the AL Central and this fella', on his way to the prime age of 29, has a lot to do with it.
Listed at 6'3" and 220 pounds, some offseason workouts targeting his core might have him trying out for the "home-town" Chiefs. First, he's already well on his way to becoming an All-Star. He's only played in three games at catcher, but the Royals are undefeated with him having doing so.
A Word to Royals' management: Keep Miguel Olivo away from the catcher position and the starting lineup. Otherwise, baseball in Kansas City will be back to its old ways—a winning percentage of .333 (2-4).
If John Buck can help the Kansas City Royals reach first place, perhaps he deserves a shot at giving your team that opportunity as well.
Three home runs and eight runs batted in at the catcher position in limited playing time should already make him a leading vote-getter in the All-Star race.
Let's slide down to another AL Central team, the Chicago White Sox, and first baseman Paul Konerko. He's certainly doing his part on the team, sporting a .357 batting average.
Early run production has him eyeing the likes of 2006, when he drove in 113 and went deep 35 times. An average of .313 would be just gravy at this point after two seasons under the .259 mark. If your first baseman is struggling or you swap them to third base to strengthen your lineup, consider making the move.
Speaking of propelling a team to first place, how about Japan?
Having been on both WBC championship teams, second baseman Akinori Iwamura knows a little something about that. Yet the Devil Rays seem to know a little bit more than all of us regarding his lightning speed around the base paths—something hidden in each of his first two major league seasons when he averaged just 10 steals.
This season, three stolen bases and an on-base percentage easily over .400 may have the Rays considering flipping their record around by flipping their batting order—having Iwamura batting lead-off or second would allow him to be a great anchor to the team's batting average as well as run production.
Give it a shot yourself if you want cheap speed.
While we're at it, let's put together the best double-play combo I know available on the free agent market—and perhaps overall up to this point: Iwamura's teammate, Jason Bartlett, in the slot at shortstop.
Like Iwamura, Bartlett is also buried at the bottom of the Devil Rays' lineup. Sometimes he bats at nine and sometimes a bit higher to make him feel a tad better about himself.
Note to Rays' management: consider flipping the order around. When Jason Bartlett has multiple hits and scores at least a run, the Rays' are undefeated at 3-0.
Can you believe another talent from Chicago is also available: former first-round pick and third baseman Josh Fields. At age 26, Fields is getting an opportunity to finally play a full season for the White Sox from start to finish.
Batting in the second slot for the White Sox is going to give Fields plenty of opportunities to best his 23 home runs in 2007. And while he hasn't had a home run yet this season, he is in the middle of a six-game hitting streak. Average now and power later sounds like a good strategy to me.
I don't want to leave baseball fans on the west coast out, but what is the deal with Randy Winn?
This San Francisco Giants' outfielder is only a mere 38 percent owned, barely putting him ahead of Rodney Dangerfield when it comes to respect. Not sure why he doesn't get respect? Maybe it's his over-.300 average over the past two seasons?
Could it be averaging 20 steals? Or maybe it's the age of 33? Whatever the case, don't be apart of the 62 percent. He's my vote for the underdog to come through, again, at the lucky age of 33 with another .300+ campaign.
I really don't want to throw another White Sox player into the mix here, but it's hard with Mark Buehrle available. If anyone has a shot at being 2009's version of 2008's Mike Mussina (basically a veteran pitcher who is plucked off of free agency only to have their owners figure out they've discovered a 20-game winner), this guy is as good a bet as any.
The White Sox only expect him to go six innings each start. So as long as he posts a 3.33 ERA or, even better, continues to hold hitters to a .190 average, you're going to be looking at not only the American Leagues' next 20-game winner, but a potential Cy Young award winner as well.
For our bullpen, let's return to our roots in the Midwest.
St Louis' very own and potential Cardinals' closer, Chris Perez. The ownership on this guy comes in at a very unrealistic 13 percent, but having been recalled from AAA after a carousel of closers was rehearsed by manager Tony LaRussa.
I'm willing to put my chips on the table that Chris Perez easily gets a shot at double-digit saves the remainder of the season, all the while posting a respectable ERA around the three mark.
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