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MLB Barometer: Accentuate the Positive

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa has been sharing his fantasy insights for Rotowire since 2007. Mark is the 2010 and 2012 Staff Picks champion (eat your heart out, Chris Liss) and won Rotowire's 14-team Staff League II in consecutive seasons. He roots for the Bills and has season tickets on the second row, press level to the Rays.

Few things are more frustrating in fantasy baseball than having a key player suffer a significant injury. Dustin Pedroia, Troy Tulowitzki, Chase Utley, Magglio Ordonez - it's all enough to drive anyone mad. But I'm not going to allow myself to be frustrated. I've had a fun, relaxing weekend at Clearwater Beach (near where the Phillies play Spring Training), and I'd just as soon maintain an upbeat mood. So instead of concentrating on the negatives, let's highlight some players who may be able to help you deal with the recent rash of injuries. Remember, for every Magglio Ordonez broken ankle, there's a waiver wire claim waiting to happen.

Upgrades:

Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles: Roberts hasn't attempted a steal since his return from the DL, and he didn't attempt one in his rehab stint, either. But here's hoping that's just a product of small sample size. If he's healthy, Roberts should resume his place as a top-10 second baseman over the remainder of the season. He should soon be starting in virtually every format, yet he's unowned in 31% of ESPN leagues. That's hard for me to understand, especially with so many stud middle infielders on the shelf. Go get him.

Scott Sizemore, 2B, Tigers: After a fair amount of spring training hype, Sizemore struggled to the tune of .206/.289/.297 through mid-May, forcing a demotion. But with Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge both on the DL (as well as Magglio Ordonez), Sizemore has been called up again. A .907 OPS in 167 Triple-A ABs gives room for optimism, and it looks like he's going to be eligible at 3B soon (in addition to his 2B eligibility).

Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs: I've been cautious about Castro in non-keeper leagues. After all, how many 20-year-olds post fantasy-friendly stats? Not many, but Castro is one of them. Incredibly, it's not just in steals, either (though he's not a total stud in that regard, with four SBs through 234 ABs). Unlike so many youngsters who struggle with plate discipline and, hence, AVG, Castro is actually helping fantasy owners in AVG, hitting .308. A terrific contact rate of .85 and solid BB/K of .56 suggest he can keep it up, too. Yes, the .354 BABIP is a bit fortunate, but Castro has always exceeded league norms in that area.

Jed Lowrie, SS, Red Sox: Once a highly-touted prospect, Lowrie is now 26 and has had an injury-plagued career, so it's hard to know what to make of him. That said, whenever a middle infielder is about to earn regular playing time on a good team in a good lineup, you have to take note. Lowrie just returned from the DL, is going to be-2B eligible soon, and should play nearly every day while Pedroia is out.

Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates: As I said in a recent article, Alvarez has always struggled initially after being promoted to a new level, so his early struggles (.65 contact rate) shouldn't be over-emphasized. OK, maybe that's not quite how it played out, so Pirates fans, consider this my mea culpa. I still say Alvarez won't hit above .255, but the power sure looks real, and he's owned in just 25% of Yahoo! leagues.

Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians: Choo was originally expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a sprained thumb, but he returned after missing just three weeks. Get him back in your lineup.

Will Venable, OF, Padres: Venable is owned in just 5% of Yahoo! leagues, largely because he just returned from the DL and has just a .236 AVG. The .65 contact rate is a huge concern, but Venable has a lot of speed and power (16 steals, 8 HRs in just 220 ABs) for someone you can claim on waivers.

Alex Gordon, 3B and Rick Ankiel, OF, Royals: Even on the bad teams, somebody is going to start every day. Gordon has stunk as a major league hitter, but he was an elite prospect and posted a 1.019 OPS in 260 ABs after his mid-season demotion. Here's hoping the Royals give him a chance. Meanwhile, Ankiel just returned from the DL and is a cheap source of power. If Jose Guillen is traded to a contender, Gordon and Ankiel should get every-day at bats for the rest of the season. Of course, both are readily available, too - Gordon is owned in just 15% of Yahoo! leagues, Ankiel just 4%.

No Change:

Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees: Coming into the season, A-Rod was universally viewed as fantasy's third-best player, behind Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez. Now age 35, one could argue he's the third-best fantasy player on his own team, behind MVP candidate Robinson Cano (18 HRs, .331 AVG) and Mark Teixeira (20 HRs, 69 RBI, 73 runs). I tend to agree that A-Rod is on a slow, steady decline, but here are two things to consider before you bury him too far: (i) his HR/RB is just 11.7%, well below his career mark is 18.5%; and (ii) his BABIP is just .289, well under his .320 career average.

Jayson Werth, OF, Phillies: As a Rays fan, I really hope Werth winds up on the Rays. In other words, even though he inexplicably seems to have fallen out of favor in Philadelphia, I see no reason for a downgrade. Yes, the power is down some (13 HRs through 328 ABs after 36 HRs in 2009), but that's largely a result of a HR/FB of just 9.2%, down from 15% the past two seasons. Werth's plate discipline, contact rate, and LD% are all basically the same as what they've been in recent years.