Fantasy Baseball's Dirty Half-Dozen: Infielders
To the 95 percent of people who drafted David Ortiz, and haven't gotten rid of him: This is your wake-up call. Ortiz is batting .220, still hasn't homered, and has an OPS of .650. Juan Pierre has a better OPS.
Yes, you read that right. Juan Pierre. In other news, Phoenix is a ski resort because Hell froze over this weekend.
And if you were taken in by Marco Scutaro's hot start, don't worry, you're not alone. There are many still depending on the burst he showed in April, none of whom are paying enough attention to his career .262 BA; as if that's not enough, he's never had double-digit homers or steals in a season.
He might get both this year, but I'd wager he won't even go 15-15.
But what, you ask, do I do now, then? How do I fix the horrendous holes?
Well, that's what the Dirty Half-Dozen is here for.
Here, my friends, are six under-the-radar fantasy infielders who could provide some instant lift.
Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies (Available in 52 percent of Yahoo! Leagues/49 percent ESPN)
Back during Spring Training, there were whispers coming out of Rockies' camp that heralded the Return of Helton. It was said that the back surgery he had during the offseason had worked miracles on his swing, that it had taken five years off his age. Sure enough, about two weeks into the season, the hits began falling. Everywhere.
Helton is presently swinging one heavy piece of lumber, batting .351 with an OPS of .938. And before you claim those are just empty averages, and that his power left him long ago, Helton's already sent four souvenirs into the stands and driven in 21 runs.
There's still something left in that bat, apparently, and he says he hasn't felt this good in years. Sure his average will come down a bit, but you're still looking at a man toting a .329 career average and eight 20-homer seasons.
If both he and the scouts agree this is the best he's looked in years (and they do), you might want to snag him—fast. Helton's experienced a 27 percent jump in ownership on ESPN in the last week, and it's not because the Rockies are suddenly fashionable.
Hank Blalock, 1B/3B/DH, Rangers (32 percent Yahoo!/35 percent ESPN)
On the other hand, if you've got a team short on power but long on average, Blalock might be a solid pickup for you. His .252 BA might look a little scary, but his .571 slugging percentage tells the truth: Blalock has had his homer swing going all season.
He's gotten a quick 10 HRs and 24 RBI, which has him on pace for a remarkable 50 HR and 120 RBI. Expect him to fall off that pace, but realize that a solid 30+/90+ season is not out of Blalock's reach if he's healthy, especially with some of the other hitters in that Rangers lineup.
But don't expect his average to carry you; Blalock's a career .274 hitter, so you might want a few contact hitters to offset some of the damage he could do.
Casey Blake, 1B/3B, Dodgers (72 percent Yahoo!/87 percent ESPN)
Just in case Blalock's not available, there's still Casey Blake. Blake doesn't pack quite the same punch Blalock does (7 HR/22 RBI), but he provides a lot less pain in your BA (.276 to .252).
These two have been almost the same player throughout their careers—similar averages, a little less power for Blake—but remember, Blalock's spent his whole career in the Ballpark at Arlington.
That'll help anyone's numbers. Blake also runs a little more consistent than Blalock—Blalock's got a tendency to start hot and cool off after the All-Star Break, while Blake hits .290 from May to August and cools down in September.
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/SS, Indians (28 percent Yahoo!/35 percent ESPN)
Yes, I know both Cabrera and Blalock are owned in almost 75 percent of all leagues. They should both be owned in more—for opposite statistics.
Cabrera came out of the box well this year, and has settled into a steady hitting pattern, knocking the ball around at a .336 clip. He's only got one homer, but he's also driven in 19 runs and scored 28 more.
For the cherry on top, he's swiped six bases so far this year, and that number could definitely go up as long as he's hitting in front of guys like Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner (when he's healthy), and Shin-Soo Choo.
The one worry with Cabrera is that he's only played 160 games at the major league level prior to 2009, and no one's sure how he'll hold up after 150 games in the grinder, especially in a division race like the AL Central, so handle with care, and keep an eye out for a backup plan.
Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals (65 percent Yahoo!/63 percent ESPN)
Few shortstops are known for their power, though some have little spikes every now and then. Guzman hasn't even been a blip on the radar as far as power numbers, or even steals. But if you need to balance out Ryan Howard's prodigious K rate, you can't pick much better than Guzman.
Guzman is hitting a torrid .390 this season, with an OBP just under .900. Now, that average is pretty empty outside itself and its power to get Guzman to score—he's only got nine RBI and one HR—but with a .390 average and 18 runs in 21 games, it's more than likely worth your while.
Guzman's on a pace to score almost 130 runs, and I wouldn't put it past him because, let's face it, the Nationals know how to hit—and Guzman, it seems, is always on base, just waiting for someone to bring him around.
He's already had a two-week stint on the DL, and came off it just as hot. At the very least grab him before he cools down and ride the average for a few weeks, especially in head-to-head leagues.
Chris Duncan, 1B/OF, Cardinals (73 percent Yahoo!/53 percent ESPN)
With Rick Ankiel and now Ryan Ludwick on the DL, Duncan will likely hit from the four-spot, behind Albert Pujols. Now, if you're not a believer in lineup protection, I suggest you look at the Dodgers' Andre Ethier with and without Manny Ramirez hitting in front of him. The difference is staggering.
Now imagine what a guy with Duncan's power potential could do hitting behind an even better hitter in Pujols. I'm betting Duncan's .282 average will get a chance to rise--and so, too, might his so-far-meager home run total (3).
Even if you are one of the aforementioned skeptics of lineup protection, he's still hitting behind some serious OBP, and it shows; he's got 23 RBI already, helped largely by his .375 BA with runners in scoring position. Worth a flier in my book.
Stay away from:
Scott Rolen, 3B, Blue Jays: His .325 BA is all he's got, and his power numbers have been in continual decline. It's been three years since he hit 20 homers, and it took him three years to hit that many combined. He's a contact hitter now, but he's not on Guzman's level, so that average probably isn't worth it.
Alberto Callaspo, 2B/SS, Royals: A healthy-looking .324 average doesn't look quite so healthy when you realize that at the end of April, this was a guy hitting .380. I'm not sold on him as even a .300 hitter yet (we'll see how much the youngster cools off, and if he can rebound), so pick him up at your own risk. The 17 runs do look tempting, though.
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