Remember the Keanu Reeves/Gene Hackman film where Reeves plays "scab" QB Shane Falco and leads a rag-tag group of replacement players to NFL glory? Yeah, me neither.
But during every fantasy season a group of ragtag waiver wire players replaces their more heralded colleagues, albeit not usually due to strike but instead to injuries and ineffectiveness. Shrewd owners always pay heed to "the guy behind the guy" and plan accordingly because no fantasy roster ever makes it through an entire season unscathed.
This week's Fantasy Tipster Fly 5 looks at a some recent replacement players who could lead you to fantasy glory, Brooke Langton not included.
1. Brandon Wood, SS/3B (LAA): Vladimir Guerrero tore his right pectoral muscle and is expected to miss a minimum of a month's game action, leaving a gaping hole in both the Angels' and a number of virtual lineups. While Gary Matthews Jr. is the most immediate beneficiary, it's the powerful Wood that could ultimately make the most impact.
He excelled in Spring Training (.333/4HR/13RBI) and has continued to mash at AAA. He's still a work in progress (his '08 43K:4BB ratio is as ugly as it gets), but the Angels needed power even before Guerrero went down and Wood is more than capable of supplying it.
2. Felipe Paulino, SP (HOU): After Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez, Houston's rotation bears some resemblance to the assorted stock boys and security guards dotting the fictional Sentinals' roster. Two of those misfits, Brandon Backe and Brian Moehler, are out of commission, giving Paulino, arguably the 'Stros best pitching prospect, a chance to show his stuff.
He dazzled in his first start against the Reds (6IP/3H/2BB/6K) and could stick with a few more such efforts. Baseball America rated Paulino's fastball the best in the Houston farm system as recently as 2007, so he's definitely worth keeping tabs on to see if that skill can translate to big league success.
3. Justin Masterson, SP/RP (BOS): With Daisuke Matsuzaka out indefinitely with inflammation in his pitching shoulder and erstwhile prospect Clay Buchholtz coping with a hamstring injury of his own, Masterson steps into the Red Sox rotation. While undoubtedly one of Boston's top prospects, let's not forget most of his success last season came in the bullpen. He was solid if unspectacular in nine starts last season where control problems limited his effectiveness.
Given the likely short-term nature of Matsuzaka's injury and the plethora of options available should Masterson falter, don't view him as more than a short-term plug-and-play for favorable matchups. Of course if you're in a keeper league, now's the time to hope for some immediate returns on your investment in addition to the potential for long-term success.
4. P.J. Walters, SP (STL): Chris Carpenter's Comeback Player of the Year candidacy is on hold for at least a couple of months as he recovers from a torn oblique muscle. Walters is the Cardinals' first candidate to keep Carpenter's place warm and, while he only made it through four innings in his first start, he showed he has some quality stuff in striking out seven while walking just two.
In fact, stuff hasn't been Walters problem, as he's averaging close to a K per IP throughout his minor league career. But last season at the AAA level, his control eluded him as he posted an unsightly 1.52 WHIP due mostly to 62BB in just 122IP. Prior to '08, however, Walters displayed solid control (4K:1B ratio) and, if he can harness it at the big league level, he stands to collect a few wins with a solid Cardinals club.
And if he does show some success as Carpenter's replacement, he could even ultimately take the below-average Joel Pineiro's rotation spot for the long run.
5a. Manny Corpas, RP (COL)/5b. Ryan Franklin, RP (STL)/5c. Garrett Mock, RP (WAS)/5d. Joe Beimel, RP (WAS): A number of relievers have already been booted from "Survivor: Closer Island." Thanks to their early season struggles, Huston Street, Jason Motte, and Joel Hanrahan have already been voted off the island, with Corpas, Franklin, Mock and Beimel ascending to their vacated places.
But if there's one thing predictable about saves, it's that who gets them is nearly unpredictable. Carlos Marmol already has twice the saves of the Cubs' "closer" Kevin Gregg. David Aardsma, Jason Grilli, and Todd Coffey have combined for more saves than Jose Valverde, Kerry Wood and Brian Fuentes.