Josh Hamilton has been swinging and missing a lot, and it's hurting his—and your—batting average.
Fantasy baseball is a game of numbers.
In rotisserie-style formats, the goal, obviously, is to be better than the other owners in as many categories as possible.
The savvy owner needs to be able to look at the scoring categories and quickly diagnose where his roster is coming up short.
In need of a better average because Josh Hamilton and Giancarlo Stanton are bringing yours down? Are saves an area you lack since losing Jason Motte and Joel Hanrahan to injury? And owners of Jose Reyes or Michael Bourn, how are you supposed to keep up while your biggest stolen-base threat is on the disabled list?
We'll run down all 10 standard rotisserie categories—runs, average, RBI, homers and steals for hitters, and wins, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and saves for pitchers—and offer three readily-available players who can help in each.
Only players available in at least 50 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues were considered.
1. Denard Span, OF, Nationals (39.3 percent owned)—nine runs
The Nats' offense hasn't gotten untracked yet, but there's too much talent there to keep down for long. When things start clicking, Span (pictured), their new leadoff hitter, will start scoring. In bunches.
2. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Athletics (30.2)—12 runs
The A's offense, on the other hand, is on fire, and Donaldson is one of many reaping the rewards, even though he's batting in the bottom third of the order. He's not fast, so use him while he, and his team, is hot.
3. Lucas Duda, OF, Mets (23.1)—11 runs
With Duda, who's not exactly Speedy Gonzalez, crossing home plate is about two things: One, the Mets are actually scoring (5.6 runs per game); and two, he's walking with the best of 'em (15 BBs), which means he's getting on base a ton (.446 OBP).
1. Span, OF, Nationals (39.3 percent owned)—.269 average
Going back to the well here, but Span is a career .284 hitter who makes a lot of contact and has good speed. That's the formula for a solid average.
2. Travis Hafner, DH, Yankees (28.3)—.319 average
Never mind last year's putrid .228, Pronk (pictured) batted .277 from 2009-11 (when healthy, of course), is off to a torrid start as a Yankee and gets to enjoy hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, where he sports an average of—whaddaya know?—.277 for his career. These days, that actually goes a long way.
3. Seth Smith, OF, Athletics (8.3)—.377 average
A .271 career hitter, the lefty-swinging Smith is especially worth starting in leagues that allow daily roster moves whenever a righty is on the mound, as he has hit .284 against them in his seven seasons.
1. Hafner, DH, Yankees (28.3 percent owned)—10 RBI
Finally healthy, Ross (pictured) has averaged 72 RBI per year since 2008. Plus, he's now playing half his games in hitter-friendly Chase Field. His ownership percentage should jump soon, so get in on the ground floor.
3. Mitch Moreland, 1B, Rangers (1.7)—Seven RBI
The Rangers don't seem to like Moreland all that much, but he's better than the club treats him. The lefty struggles against same-sided arms, but he's reached the 50 RBI mark in limited action each of the past two seasons. Plus, Texas' lineup is still good, and the ballpark cures most ills.
1. Adam Dunn, 1B/OF/DH, White Sox (40.7 percent owned)—Three homers
Hafner's not a bad add here, either, but enough already. Dunn (pictured), meanwhile, has been brutal—.101 average, 37 percent strikeout rate—but dude hit 41 bombs last year. Yes, 2011 is still fresh, but the over/under here is still 30. You don't want him on your opponent's roster when he gets hot, do you?
2. Duda, OF, Mets (23.1)—Five homers
Duda, another repeat (see runs), has legitimate 25-homer power, he just needs playing time, which he should get for a Mets team whose outfield lacks much in the way of major leaguers.
3. Chris Carter, 1B/OF, Astros (17.9)—Four homers
Like Dunn, Carter is an all-or-nothing kinda guy. He currently has four four-baggers and—count 'em—34 whiffs. But, hey, you came here for power, not average.
1. Drew Stubbs, OF, Indians (5.9 percent owned)—Three steals
Stubbs no longer plays every day on his new team, but that might actually be a good thing, since his likely sub-.250 average won't hurt as much, and he still has the wheels to nab 20-plus bags after averaging 33 since 2010.
2. Rajai Davis, OF, Blue Jays (2.5)—Five steals
It's always the same with Davis (pictured), who starts out the season fighting for a spot but manages to finagle his way into enough time to pilfer 40-plus bases (43 per over 2009-12). And if you want another Davis-like option (i.e., an all-speed, no power guy), try the Marlins' Juan Pierre (5.2 percent owned), who hasn't hit yet (.194 average) but will almost certainly swipe 30 when all is said and done.
3. Will Venable, OF, Padres (0.6)—Three steals
Venable is like a poor-man's Alex Rios—streaky and does a little bit of everything. In fact, he's averaged 26 steals, 10 homers and 57 runs the past three seasons, so he can help out beyond just the base paths.
1. Bronson Arroyo, RHP, Reds (16.6 percent owned)—Two wins
If there's a formula for pitcher wins, it would be something like: durability + innings + winning team = Ws. Arroyo (pictured), who has made at least 30 starts and pitched at least 199 innings for the past eight years and also is on the postseason hopeful Reds, meets all three qualities. No wonder he's averaged 13 wins in that time.
2. Felix Doubront, LHP, Red Sox (7.4)—Two wins
You get the feeling Doubront is better than his results have been so far in his young career (4.82 ERA, 1.48 WHIP), mainly because he's proven he can maintain a K-per-inning rate. If he can bring the 4.1 BB/9 down just a tad, though, he'll go deeper into games, giving him more chances to earn victories for an improved Boston squad.
3. Bartolo Colon, RHP, Athletics (4.2)—Three wins
Colon knows how to limit the damage (1.7 BB/9), which helps the 39-year-old stay relatively efficient (6+ innings per start since 2011). He also pitches for a team that is tattooing the ball right now, so just providing quality starts should make Colon at least a low double-digit winner.
1. Jose Quintana, LHP, White Sox (40.2 percent owned)—2.55 ERA
Even while stumbling during the second half of 2012, Quintana finished with a very respectable 3.76 ERA in his rookie season. His second year has gotten off to a similarly hot start, so it's worth adding him to see if he can sustain things a bit longer this time around.
2. Patrick Corbin, LHP, Diamondbacks (37.9)—1.71 ERA
Corbin (pictured) has very good stuff, especially for a southpaw, and he's in just his first year as a full-time starter. There will be bumps along the way, no doubt, but he can help you in ERA, among other categories.
3. Wei-Yin Chen, LHP, Orioles (8.1)—3.38 ERA
Chen doesn't get any love in fantasy, but he was solid all the way through his rookie year in 2012. Right now, he's turning owners off because the K/9 is a measly 4.1, but that should move closer to last season's 7.2, and his ERA over 216.2 career MLB innings is a solid 3.95.
1. Corbin, LHP, Diamondbacks (37.9 percent owned)—0.99 WHIP
Hint: This isn't the last you'll see of this guy. In his first 133.1 innings, Corbin has walked just 32, which translates to a 2.2 BB/9. That's how he helps your WHIP.
2. Travis Wood, LHP, Cubs (13.7)—1.04 WHIP
Wood (pictured) is more of a smoke-and-mirrors lefty who gets it done by allowing fly balls that only seem to do damage when they leave the park. To wit, he sports a below-average 33 percent ground ball rate, which has led to a better-than-expected .270 BABIP for his career. That's a recipe for the occasional disaster, but a 1.24 career WHIP is nothing to scoff at.
3. Zach McAllister, RHP, Indians (2.3)—1.15 WHIP
Command-and-control righty's don't typically get much hype, but McAllister has made himself into a quality major league arm by limiting walks since the start of last season (2.6 BB/9). Like Wood, he can be victimized by the long ball—19 in 125.1 innings in 2012—but otherwise, he's a solid arm to use in the right matchups to bring your WHIP down.
1. Corbin, LHP, Diamondbacks (37.9 percent owned)—20 strikeouts
Yep, this guy again. Basically, pick up Corbin, is what we're trying to get across here.
2. Edwin Jackson, RHP, Cubs (36.3)—24 strikeouts
With Jackson, it's not always pretty. The veteran, though, does rack up innings and Ks: His lowest strikeout total in the past four seasons was 148 in 2011, so you're basically getting 150 whiffs—minimum. Plus, at 9.7 K/9, Jackson (pictured) is already topping last year's career-best 8.0.
3. Bud Norris, RHP, Astros (11.5)—16 strikeouts
Three numbers for you: 9.3, 8.5 and 8.8. Those are Norris' strikeouts per nine ratios from 2010 on. He's starting slower this year (6.0), but Norris is 150-plus Ks in the bank.
1. Jose Valverde, RHP, Detroit Tigers (44.5 percent owned)—No saves
Valverde (pictured) signed a major league deal with Tigers Wednesday, and manager Jim Leyland said he will immediately become the club's closer again. Hang on for a wild ride, but the saves should be there.
2. Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP, Cubs (34.5)—Two saves
The Japanese import is out with a sore forearm, but he's been throwing, and is nearing a rehab assignment. Given the unrest at the back of the Cubs' bullpen, expect him to return to the ninth-inning role he was given just prior to hitting the DL.
3. Kelvin Herrera, RHP, Royals (32.2)—Two saves
After briefly taking closing duties away from a struggling Greg Holland, Herrera got all homer-prone—he's allowed four in his past four appearances—and any chance at the full-time job, well, left the building. Still, he's a strikeout machine who should work his way into double-digit saves over the course of the season.