Most teams have played about five games so far in this young season and most fantasy owners are already chomping at the bit to make changes to their rosters. But here’s a bit of free advice; slow down and take a deep breath. Don’t go blowing up your entire roster or destroying a perfectly good draft strategy to pick up a player who is off to a fast start unless you’re dealing with an unexpected injury or bailing on a late-round pick or “sleeper” who isn’t going to pan out any time soon. You’ll surely regret making a huge mistake this early in the season.
Here’s a look at some players widely available in most fantasy baseball leagues who may be worth targeting if you already find yourself with an early season need:
- 2B Omar Infante, Marlins – Infante has gone 6-for-18 with a double, triple, three home runs, four RBI and five runs in his first five games of the season. He’s stuck in the bottom third of the batting order for now but a continued hot streak could see him move the top third sooner than later. He’s a career .276 hitter but hit .305 in 2009 and .321 in 2010. He’s only owned in 58.1% of ESPN leagues, 35% of Yahoo! leagues and 52% of CBS leagues.
- SS Zack Cozart, Reds – Cozart was mentioned on many “sleeper” lists this offseason and his hot start is showing why. He’s gone 8-for-17 with five extra-base hits (two doubles, two triples, one home run), two RBI and five runs scored. He’s currently batting second in front of Joey Votto and reaping the benefits early. He’s only owned in 35.6% of ESPN leagues, 48% of Yahoo! leagues and oddly, 80% of CBS leagues.
- 1B Adam LaRoche, Nationals – A career .215 hitter in March/April, LaRoche’s hot start is a welcomed surprise for fantasy owners. He’s gone 8-for-20 with two home runs and six RBI. He could be a nice filler on a roster utilizing a corner infield, infielder or multiple DH/utility spots. He’s only owned in 22% of ESPN leagues, 24% of Yahoo! leagues and 50% of CBS leagues.
- OF David Murphy, Rangers – It wasn’t clear what Murphy’s role in the Rangers outfield was going to be heading into the season but a hot start should keep him in the lineup against all righties and even some hittable lefties. He’s opened the season going 8-for-15 with a home run and only owned in 12% of ESPN leagues, 14% of Yahoo! leagues and 25% of CBS leagues. He may not be worth the pickup in shallower leagues but mixed and AL-only owners should be paying attention at this point.
- SS Rafael Furcal, Cardinals – Furcal is off to a 10-for-23 (.435 BA) start with three RBI, three runs scored and two stolen bases batting atop the Cardinals lineup. A career .283 hitter with a .348 OBP, if healthy, he could steal 20 to 30 bases. He’s owned in 65.6% of ESPN leagues, 55% of Yahoo! leagues and 63% of CBS leagues so check your league’s waivers now because he may not be available much longer.
- 3B Chone Figgins, Mariners – Okay, we’ve all been burned by Figgins in the past but he seems to have figured something out here in the early goings of 2012. He’s 8-for-24 with three runs, four RBI and a stolen base and working on outfield eligibility with five games played already due to the Mike Carp injury. He’s 21.6% owned in ESPN leagues, 34% owned in Yahoo! leagues and 42% owned in CBS leagues. Tread wisely, my friends. Tread wisely.
- RP Hector Santiago, White Sox – So, guess who’s emerged as the White Sox closer? Yep, not Matt Thornton. Santiago has recorded two saves so far and will likely keep the job until he proves unworthy. He’s only owned in 29.8% of ESPN leagues, 54% of Yahoo! leagues and 54% of CBS leagues. If you’re the “trolling for saves on waivers” type, give Santiago a look.
- RP Jonathan Broxton, Royals – Broxton recorded his first save as the Royals closer by striking out the side. Both positive signs if you are still looking for saves. He’s owned in 59% of ESPN leagues, 63% of Yahoo! leagues and 63% of CBS leagues.
- RP Fernando Rodney, Rays – Still looking for saves? Rodney has recorded two and the Rays are the kind of team that would play matchups for saves (um, closer by committee?) while Kyle Farnsworth is out. Rodney’s owned in 20.8% of ESPN leagues, 48% of Yahoo! leagues and 47% of CBS leagues. UPDATE: Rodney just recorded a save against the Tigers is now 3-for-3 in save chances.
Again, I’m not recommending you blow up your roster to chase any of these players. These are small sample sizes but each player may provide a short-term benefit to your roster, so be sure to weigh the player being dropped, accordingly. Most are going to be useful in your deeper mixed leagues or a league-only version. Shallow leagues are already playing out as All-Star teams and, in my opinion, hardly even worth joining unless you are new to the game and are trying to get a feel for the process.
What moves have you made that have benefited your team already? Have you grabbed a “star” off of waivers that some owner dumped as a knee-jerk reaction to fill a need? I was able to pick up B.J. Upton off waivers the day after he was placed on the DL and he’s a player I actively avoided in my drafts. I wasn’t interested in him at his 80.3 ESPN ADP but for free off waivers, yes please.
Be sure to connect with me on Twitter @DJAubain to continue the fantasy baseball discussion and more all season long.
NOTE: All statistics and ownership numbers quoted are as of games played through April 10th, 2012 unless otherwise noted.