Spring is in the air! That means it is time to prepare for your Strat-O-Matic league. Sometimes the difference between coming home with a championship are those handful of 'freak' cards that may not be the best long-term talent, but will do a fantastic job in a platoon or as a pinch-hitter in the right situation. We will cover pitchers in an upcoming blog entry.
Hitters vs. Right
Pablo Sandoval, C/1B/3B (41.1 Hit / 43.2 OB / 59 TB / 2.1 HR / 3 BP)
Pablo has the benefit of not only being a freak card but also a legitimate prospect. This is exactly the type of player I love to draft. He has 145 impact AB's available this year from the catcher spot. Which means you could get away with starting him for three of your playoff games. Plus he has the chance to develop into an everyday player. He also has a great shot at regular at-bats in San Francisco.
Josh Anderson, CF/LF (38.4 Hit / 40.4 OB / 56.4 TB / 2.5 HR / 4 BP)
Josh is 26-years old, so not likely to be a star. He looks like a classic fourth outfielder at the moment. But with 136 decent at-bats and an 'A' steal rating plus 16 speed he could be a perfect complement to someone like Chris Young or Vernon Wells in a platoon. Or you could keep him on the bench and use him as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner. A perfect guy to add as your 25th man on your roster.
Nelson Cruz, RF (28.2 Hit / 43.2 OB / 55.7 TB / 7.1 HR / 8 BP)
This is the perfect pinch-hitter. With only 115 at-bats you will need to be selective when to use him. He can get on base very well vs. lefties although he loses much of his power. He has a 2e11 rating in RF which can also be used as a defensive replacement.
Russell Branyan, 1B/3B (21.4 Hit / 36.3 OB / 66.5 TB / 12.8 HR / 8|STAR| BP)Braynan seems to pop up every year or two with a very useable freak card. This is one of those years. With only 132 at-bats and his specialty being against RH's he won't be able to platoon for you. But he is the perfect power pinch-hitter. When you really need a home run then pull out Branyan's card and hope for some friendly dice. Do NOT under any circumstances let him hit against lefties. His card is literally empty against them. One strategy you can use is bring in Branyan to force your opponent to bring in a lefty from the pen, then counter with your lefty-basher from the list below.
Hitters vs. Left
Gabe Kapler, LF/CF/RF (36.5 Hit / 37.5 OB / 67.1 TB / 4 HR / 6 BP HR)
Talk about coming back from the dead! Kapler, at 33 had missed all of the 2007 season while trying his hand as a manager in the Red Sox organization. But after tiring of seeing his underlings unable to pound left-handed pitching Gabe decided to show them how it is done. He absolutely pounds lefties and has some serious pop with six BP homers. He also can still go get it with the glove earning a 2e3 in left and right field and a 3e3 in center field. He also has 229 at bats which makes him the perfect platoon partner for one of your outfielders.
Anderson Hernandez, 2B/SS (41.5 Hit / 51.5 OB / 49.5 TB)
Anderson only has 81 at-bats and at 26 he will likely never be a star. But he is penciled in as the starter at 2B for the Washington Nationals. This is definitely the time to pick him up cheap in trade or in the draft. With a 51.5 OB percentage vs. L and a 2e18 as his defensive rating at 2B he is a nice fit as a playoff platoon partner for someone who hits righties well. He might be a nice defensive replacement for someone like Dan Uggla.
Marcus Thames, 1B/LF/RF (14.9 Hit / 23.9 OB / 57.6 TB / 14.3 HR / 8|STAR| BP)
Marcus does one thing and he does it well: Hit for power vs. lefties. He will frustrate you with so few OB or HIT chances. But when you are down three runs with the bases loaded and Billy Wagner on the mound he might be your best chance to steal a win.
Brian N. Anderson, LF/CF/RF (13 Hit / 14 OB / 50.5 TB / 12.5 HR / 8|STAR| BP)
Brian does two things well: On top of hitting lefties for power Anderson also has an excellent glove. With a 1e3 rating in CF he might save as many runs as he creates. He is also has a 'B' steal rating and above average speed. So when he isn't platooning in center field for you he can act as a pinch-hitter/runner/defense replacement.
Jeff Keppinger, 1B/2B/3B/SS (41.1 Hit / 48.1 OB / 59.3 TB / 2.8 HR)
At 28 Jeff will probably settle into a utility roll with the Astros. But for strat purposes you can pencil him into your starting lineup whenever a left-hander is on the mound. His defense is adequate that you can safely play him just about anywhere in the infield. He will give you the best value at SS or 2B but be sure to get him out of the there as soon as your opponent summons a RH to the mound as he just can't hit them.
Jerry Hairston Jr. 2B/3B/SS/LF/CF/RF (35.3/52.3/54.2 vs. L | 35.4/43.4/47.9 vs. R)
This is the perfect utility man. He can play every position except for C and 1B. His defense is adequate everywhere and he can hit! You wouldn't mind seeing him facing a LH or a RH and his flexibility will free you up to add one or two extra freak cards from the list above.
Martin Prado 1B/2B/3B/SS/LF (29.5/42.5/59.2 vs. L | 34.8/43.8/48.6 vs. R)
Prado is on the fence between prospect and utility man. The Braves may wind up giving him a chance as a starter at some point. But for now just be happy that he is getting playing time. For your strat season he can play all the infield positions aside from catcher and has over 200 at-bats that you can use. Plus he can hit! Not too shabby for your utility man.