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Free-agent frenzy: Claim Wells
Only one starting pitcher is included in this week’s article, since most low-ownership hurlers are best left to be picked up and dropped on a start-by-start basis. Keep track of my daily pitcher picks, including the smart starters to claim.
And now, without further ado, below are 10 free agents owned in less than 75 percent of FOXSports.com leagues. Please note that no players will be repeated within any four-week period.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Chicago Cubs (74.1 percent owned)
Ramirez has finally emerged from his season-long slumber, with three homers and 13 RBI this month. Remember that he had 25 homers in just 124 games last season, and averaged 32 from 2004-08 (he slugged 15 in an injury-shortened 2009). Third base is a shallow fantasy position, with very few guys that can go yard as often as Ramirez. If you can still get him, do it.
Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees (59.2 percent owned)
Other than some inexplicable benchings against lefthanders, Gardner has rebounded very well from an awful April. His batting average is up to .293, and he’s starting to score plenty of runs as he gets on base more. Gardner is still getting gunned down on the bases far too often – he’s been caught 10 times in 24 stolen-base attempts – but the Yanks are still letting him run, which will help fantasy owners in most formats. Do you think Joe Girardi will let Gardner lead off when Derek Jeter comes off the DL? OK, now I’m asking for too much. Maybe I should just be happy if he starts a couple of times against southpaws.
Vernon Wells, OF, Los Angeles Angels (48.6 percent owned)
Wells’ owners hate him, and many have already given up on him. Did you know that he has three home runs, four runs scored and seven RBI in his last seven games? He’s worth the risk on the chance that his rebound is for real.
Ty Wigginton, 1B/2B/3B, Colorado (44.1 percent owned)
Wiggy is extremely helpful in daily leagues, offering pop at three different infield positions. And like clockwork, he’s en route to another 20-homer season. I will never understand why such a good, versatile player is always so widely available in fantasy leagues.
Jake Peavy, SP, Chicago White Sox (24.1 percent owned)
Peavy whiffed nine batters and allowed just two hits in six scoreless innings of a Triple-A rehab start last Thursday, and is scheduled to return to the White Sox rotation on Wednesday. Peavy has to be considered an injury risk at this point, and though his home ballpark will hurt his stats, he’s still a pretty good pitcher. Too good to go unowned when he’s healthy, anyways.
Corey Patterson, OF, Toronto (19 percent owned)
Statheads don’t like Patterson because of his putrid, horrendous and abominable .293 career on-base percentage. If you were a real-life GM, I’d rip you to shreds for signing him. Fantasy baseball is a different story, as Patterson offers a solid power/speed combo that can help you in a pinch. Unless you’re in an advanced league with non-standard categories including OBP, what do you care if the guy would rather walk over scalding, jagged rocks than take four pitches out of the strike zone?
Mark Melancon, RP, Houston (15.3 percent owned)
Opening Day closer Brandon Lyon returned from the disabled list recently, but is now back on it and will need season-ending biceps surgery. Melancon is the ninth-inning man in Houston, and can be owned in all formats.
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Will Venable, OF, San Diego (9.6 percent owned)
This one is a gamble, but it could pay off. Venable spent a couple of weeks in Triple A after a miserable start to the season, and since returning he’s been hitting a little better and striking out a little less while playing part-time. Venable won’t be a star, but remember that last season he hit 13 homers and stole 29 bases. In deep standard or NL-only leagues, he might be a nice surprise. He does have 12 steals already, you know.
Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City (4 percent owned)
Finally! After batting .216 through May, Escobar is hitting .369 in 18 June games – including 18 for his last 33 – with 12 runs scored and seven steals. I had Escobar ranked higher than most before the season, figuring that even if he hit a little better than he did last season, he’d steal a ton of bases. His on-base percentage is just .289, and he still has 12 steals in 72 games. Who else thinks he’ll swipe 20 from now through the end of the year?
Wilson Ramos, C, Washington (2.7 percent owned)
Not great, but not bad. The 23-year-old Ramos is now getting the bulk of the playing time behind the plate for the Nats, and is batting .251 with five home runs and a .730 OPS. Ramos’ minor-league track record is full of high batting averages, and if he can improve on that front with his already decent power, he’ll become a solid fantasy catcher soon.