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MLB Barometer: Setbacks Everywhere

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at

It's actually quite amazing how in the span of a week, your whole fantasy world can be turned upside down. Between cold streaks from your players, hot streaks from your opposition's, MLB roster shuffling and of course injuries, your team can hit the skids in the blink of an eye and if you're not careful, your place in the standings can drop faster than Cameron Maybin's ownership percentages. Roster maintenance is paramount, obviously, but it's how you do it that plays the more important role.

Being active on the waiver wire is one thing. Being active on the wire where it helps your team is another. This game is more than just filling in holes on your roster with the next best available player. You need to study your league standings and target specific needs, whether it's speed, power, strikeouts, whatever. If you're falling behind in a specific category, that's the problem that needs addressing the most. Sure, the hype machine tells you that you want Mike Zunino on your team, but do you really need him when your team's biggest concern is a lack of stolen bases? Maybe picking up cast-offs like Juan Pierre or Rajai Davis would suit your needs better, even if you use them for only a short amount of time.

There are no five-tool guys just sitting out there on your waiver wire anymore. No one available is going to hit .300, bang 20 home runs and steal a dozen bases for you and if there are players like that out there, then you need to play in a more competitive league. You need to treat the wire as a sea of specialists and pick from there. Sure, maybe with Davis you have to sacrifice some batting average for a little while, but if the guy is going to boost you in steals and runs, then that increase should easily outweigh any loss you may incur in the average department. You just need to make sure that you are netting positive points. It doesn't matter if that net is one or five, just so long as it's not a negative. Obviously you want the biggest increase, but if it's not available at the time, you take what you can get. Maybe further down the road you can get more, but worry about that when you need to.

Any fool can fill a hole, but it's the savvy fantasy GM who does it with purpose.


Mike Zunino, C SEA - Talk about a stock surge! The Mariners prized catching prospect went from struggling at Triple-A Tacoma to starting stud backstop in Seattle pretty quickly this week. Given the rest of the major league-ready catchers the Mariners have, it's difficult to imagine that Zunino doesn't finish the year as the starter. He's got solid power potential that will still need some time to develop, but he'll cut his teeth in the big leagues now and should be a valuable asset to those in need of catching help.

Josh Rutledge, 2B/SS COL - Nothing beats a second chance, huh? Thanks to Troy Tulowitzki's annual jaunt to the disabled list, the demotion of Rutledge lasted less than a month and he's out to prove that last year's second half was no fluke. A home run in his first game back certainly helped and the fact that the middle infield help on your waiver wire probably looks atrocious will make him an even more attractive option. With Tulowitzki out for four to six weeks, Rutledge will see plenty of opportunities and, if successful, should slide back over to second base when the All-Star shortstop eventually returns.

Jose Iglesias, 3B BOS - Take an 18-game hitting streak and pair it with a struggling Will Middlebrooks and suddenly Iglesias is quite the pick-up these days. He's getting regular playing time, mixing in at both third and short and should provide you with a decent batting average thanks to such strong contact rates. There's not much in the way of power and the speed seems to be minimal as well, but he should be able to pick up the slack left by your free-swinging, big home run/big strikeout guys.

Kyle Blanks, OF SD - With Yonder Alonso still about two weeks away from returning from the disabled list and Carlos Quentin's cranky shoulder acting up, Blanks should continue to see regular playing time between first base and the outfield for the Padres. He's batting .282 and sporting a .214 ISO over 45 games played this year and should continue to be a solid source of power should you be lagging in home runs and RBI. He's probably more of a short-term solution for you so don't be afraid to drop him once his playing time gets cut short.

Miguel Montero, C ARI - After two of the more miserable months of his career, Montero seems to have woken up here in June. He's batting .304 and finally just plugged his first home run in more than a month. He's still striking out a little too much and is obviously benefiting from a .394 June BABIP, but with hits in five of his last seven games and three multi-hit performances in there, this could be the start of his much-needed turnaround.

Staying the Course

Jason Castro, C HOU - Back in late May, Castro was surprising plenty of people, me included, with his level of play. He was hitting for both power and average. While I was in favor of using him on a short -term basis because I didn't think any of it would last, I sit here somewhat corrected. His batting average has tapered off here in June but he has maintained an ISO of .200 thanks to a pair of home runs and three doubles in just 45 at-bats.

Brandon League, RP LAD - His value right now is still pretty weak as he is no longer the closer for the Dodgers, but he did nab his 14th save of the season Saturday when Kenley Jansen blew his save chance earlier in the game. While Jansen may have the better stuff, he's certainly not a lock to hold down the job and should he falter, the Dodgers will have no problem turning to League again this season.

Brandon Beachy, SP ATL - A recent setback has pushed his return date further away, but an MRI revealed only fluid build-up, not structural damage. That being said, it is unclear when he will return and the Braves are still going to be stuck deciding what to do with the back-end of their rotation when he does. Conventional wisdom says to start Beachy in the pen still, but Julio Teheran and Kris Medlen are still candidates to be bumped so fantasy owners will just have to continue twisting in the wind a little longer.

Mike Carp, OF BOS - The buzz this guy is creating in fantasy circles is just crazy right now, but when it's all said and done, this is the same guy who was cast off by the Mariners because he simply couldn't crack their starting lineup. Sure he's batting .320 with eight home runs in just 103 at-bats this season, but take notice of the .391 BABIP and 28.3-percent strikeout rate and remember who you're dealing with here. Carp and Trout may both be fish but they sure aren't the same ballplayer.

Alex Cobb, SP TB - If you saw and heard that line drive crack Cobb in the melon Saturday then you were probably scouring the wire looking for a replacement hurler. But while he will be placed on the 7-day concussion DL and miss a start, he passed all of his concussion tests and was released from the hospital. All should be fine here moving forward.


Tony Cingrani, SP CIN - While the return of Johnny Cueto didn't bring on another demotion to Triple-A for Cingrani, it did push him into the bullpen for the time being. With both Mike Leake and Homer Bailey still pitching well (although Bailey stunk it up Saturday), the Reds don't want to make any changes to the rotation. He'll be more readily available for spot starts and could log some decent innings should any of the starters falter, but without a spot in the rotation, his value takes a hit for right now. Hopefully, not for long.

Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS TEX - The Rangers opted to demote Leury Garcia instead of Profar when they activated Ian Kinsler from the disabled list, but there are no plans to move Kinsler to first base as originally hoped (by Profar owners) which means that he's a man without a starting position now. There's talk of getting him some outfield work which just might be a waste of his true talents, but the Rangers are just hoping to get him what they can in at-bats. Without regular playing time, though, Profar's value becomes very limited.

Mark Teixeira, 1B NYY - The Yankees first baseman pulled himself out of Saturday's game after experiencing pain in his wrist following his last at-bat. Yes, the same wrist that he injured during the spring and missed most of the first half with. He's going to go for x-rays and an MRI to see where he's at, but it looks like he's going to need additional time off; possibly another trip to the disabled list. Even when he does eventually make it back, you still have to hedge your bets on his power production as it just won't be the same.

Anibal Sanchez, SP DET - When Sanchez missed his start last week with shoulder problems, the red flag went up. But he was still scheduled to make his next start so that lulled his owners into a false sense of security. Well Saturday was that start and after 3.2 innings and 72 pitches, he had to come out of the game. His velocity was down and his command was off and manager Jim Leyland expressed concern during the post-game interview. It looks like he could be headed to the disabled list.

Tom Wilhelmsen, RP SEA - Last call was given to the Mariners' closer this weekend after allowing five earned runs during his latest blown save and the job is being handed off. The move had been at least two weeks in the making as he has allowed a total of 10 runs over his last six appearances (4.2 innings), taking two losses and notching four saves. The first save chance since the move went to Oliver Perez but Carter Capps and maybe Danny Farquhar should be in the mix until the dust settles on this one.