Take a look at the teams that win championships in baseball, basketball, football and hockey. Sure, they’re all blessed with star talent. But dig a little deeper and you’ll readily see that these teams also have solid role players. They may not get much publicity, but without their presence there aren’t any titles.
It’s like that in fantasy baseball as well. Obviously, you likely aren’t winning your league if you’re not getting strong performances from your best players. But the fact is that virtually every team has at least a handful of stars.
What separates the contenders from the rest of the teams is the ability to fill the back end of the roster with quality talent that’s largely being ignored by the masses.
It never ceases to amaze me how many players with a real ability to contribute are mired deep in the free agent pool in most leagues. That’s why I’m constantly patrolling those deep waters looking for that one player or two I can plug into my lineup, and believe me, they’re out there.
All you have to do is be willing to dig a little to stumble on that buried treasure.
Here’s a rundown of 10 players who are currently owned in less than 10 percent of all Yahoo leagues. If you’re in need of quality depth, or perhaps hoping to find a decent replacement for a currently injured player, you should find an able body or two on this list.
Coco Crisp : Owned in only nine percent of the leagues, Crisp is a definite injury risk, as he’s had all kinds of trouble staying on the field. But Coco is finally back in action for the A’s and he’s been on a tear. Crisp can hit for an okay average, but more importantly, he’s hitting leadoff, which translates into lots of chances to score runs. Make no mistake, runs are the most ignored category in every 5×5 league I’ve ever played in. Crisp will also steal some bases for the A’s, and there’s simply no reason for him to be this largely unowned.
Russell Branyan : I tabbed Branyan as a bargain earlier in the week, right after he was dealt back to the Mariners. He won’t help your team BA and he has no speed. But with power suddenly much more scarce than it has been for several years, Branyan’s ability to hit it deep and drive in runs makes him an end of the roster steal.
Tyler Colvin : Colvin has been a pleasant surprise for the Cubs, and he’s now getting chance to start on a regular basis. The batting average may not hold up, but Colvin is hitting leadoff and has power. His runs scored should rise if some of the guys behind him in the order begin to produce. At worst, Colvin has value as a spare OF, particularly in view of his ability to produce against both lefty and righty pitchers.
Neil Walker : Walker has been sidelined with a concussion, but is expected back shortly. Labeled as a bust prior to this season, the light evidently went on for Walker and he’s been rock solid since being recalled by the Pirates. Walker also has 2B/3B eligibility, which increases his value even more. Looking at a bevy of players at these positions who are owned in a far greater percentage of leagues, there’s little reason for Walker to be gathering moss in the free agent pool.
Seth Smith : Okay, Smith is probably never going to be an everyday player for the Rockies. His splits are dramatic, and he’s basically useless against lefties. But if you’re looking for an extra outfielder that can be platooned when he’s at home against right-handed pitching, Smith needs to be on your radar screen. He’s hitting .304 with 11 bombs in just 158 AB against righties this season. That should rate Smith more than a five percent ownership rate, even if he’s not playing all that much. Great reserve stash for leagues with daily lineup flexibility.
Fred Lewis : Lewis has flourished since joining the Bluejays. He won’t deliver much power production, but again, this is a guy who will be hitting leadoff, and that means plenty of runs scored. Lewis can also steal you some bases. The fact that Toronto decided to farm out Edwin Encarnacion recently means Lewis is going to be starting most of the time for Toronto makes him a player worth tracking. Lewis is owned in only five percent of all Yahoo leagues. Curiously, Encarnacion is owned in just about the same number of those leagues, despit the fact he's playing in Las Vegas.
Pat Burrell : I grabbed Burrell the same day he was signed by the Giants. He’s hit .333 for San Francisco, with five homers in 69 AB since his arrival. He’s also scored 10 runs and driven in 11 for the Giants. With numbers like those, and considering that defense doesn’t count in fantasy baseball, it’s incomprehensible how Burrell is being ignored to this extent. Burrell won’t maintain the fat batting average, but he’s entirely capable of smashing 15 homers the rest of the way. Yet, he’s unowned in a staggering 96 percent of the leagues right now.
Jose Tabata : Once more, a regular who is hitting leadoff, and this one is a base stealer to boot. Tabata is still raw and he’ll be a bit of a liability in BA and power. But if you need that spare OF to plug in a couple of times per week, Tabata is worth a flier. He’s worth more than that in deep keeper leagues.
Roger Bernadina : Bernadina is no star, but he’s not a lineup liability, either. Decent BA, he’ll steal a base here and there and he might even pop one over the fence now and then. I’m not suggesting he’s going to catapult your team to contending status, but Bernadina is worth more than a lad of OF’s who are owned in far more than only two percent of all leagues.
Felix Pie : Pie is still on the DL, but is expected to be activated very shortly. He’s projected to be the regular LF for the Orioles and hitting leadoff. Pie is probably never going to approach the monster hype that was heaped upon him as a Cubs prospect. But I saw enough from Pie last season to project him as an okay regular on a lesser team like the Orioles. And as he’s still only 25-years-old, perhaps he could ascend beyond that level if he stay healthy and play every day. Since he’s presently owned in only one percent of all leagues, he’s worth of a speculative pickup.
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