Brandon Belt should gain waiver steam

Welcome to the latest edition of “Free Agent Frenzy,” which will try to steer you in the right direction when trying to fill roster spots.

Note: Ownership percentages below are from leagues. We’ll try to stick to the general rule that no player will appear twice in Free Agent Frenzy during a four-week period.


Standard Leagues: My dad called me the other day to complain about our beloved Yankees. The lead item on his agenda was, “Russell Martin (27.5 percent owned) can’t hit at all.” Maybe Martin isn’t so great, and maybe he’s been mostly horrendous since his big April in 2011, but he plays his home games in tiny Yankee Stadium and hit 18 home runs with eight stolen bases last season. It won’t be easy to find a dozen catchers who post better fantasy numbers than Martin this year.

Deep Leagues: John Jaso (0.3 percent owned) will basically be the lefthanded part of the Mariners’ catching platoon while Miguel Olivo is on the disabled list. Jaso doesn’t have too much power, but if the M’s play him exclusively against righties, he should be decent (.730 career OPS vs. RHP, .598 vs. LHP). If you’re scraping the bottom of a deep mixed league barrel, Jaso is better than most free agents you’ll find.

First Base

Standard Leagues: OK, this is it. Pablo Sandoval is on the DL for awhile. By my calculations, that leaves Buster Posey as the only Giants’ regular that can hit. Brandon Belt (29 percent owned) has to play just about every day now … right? I say yes, and I say he hits. Call it blind faith in Bruce Bochy if you want, but his hand is almost forced at this point. Belt will be a solid hitter if they leave him alone.

Deep Leagues: With Mat Gamel done for the season due to a torn knee ligament, Taylor Green (0.0 percent owned) seems likely to get more at bats at first base than anyone else. Green hit 22 homers at Triple A last season, and though he’s currently sharing time at first base with both Travis Ishikawa and Brooks Conrad, he has the best bat of the three.

Second Base

Standard Leagues: I’m not a big Alexi Casilla (4.7 percent owned) fan, but he might steal 20 bases. I don’t think there’s anything else to say about Casilla. The pickings are slim here, folks, and I made a stupid rule about not using the same guy twice in a four-week period.

Deep Leagues: Jeff Keppinger (1.1 percent owned) might get plenty of time at third base in the wake of Evan Longoria’s injury. We’ve mentioned Keppinger in this space before – he has a .280 career batting average with just a little bit of pop for a middle infielder. Unless you’re speed-hunting, give him a chance.

Third Base

Standard Leagues: You know you want Pedro Alvarez (43.5 percent owned) if you can still get him. Alvarez has been on a home-run binge – hitting five homers in his last 12 games – and showing the promise people have been talking about for the last few years. It might be a two-week fluke, but if you need a third baseman – and many of you do right now – don’t you need to find out?

Deep Leagues: Conor Gillaspie (0.2 percent owned) is Pablo Sandoval’s real-life replacement in San Francisco. Gillaspie was batting .362 with three homers and a .939 OPS before his recent promotion, and has shown decent power and speed in his minor-league career. He’s worth a shot due to playing time alone; he’s started all four games since his callup.


Standard Leagues: Sean Rodriguez (5.5 percent owned) is batting just .207for the Rays, but that should improve some, and he has a couple of homers with a couple of steals so far. Free agents usually have flaws, and Rodriguez’s is his shaky batting average (career .227). His decent power-speed potential makes him an interesting option otherwise. With that said, we should probably stop waiting for the guy who hit 29 homers at Triple A in 2009. Or maybe I’m the only one still waiting for him.

Deep Leagues: If you’re in a deep mixed or AL-only league, Minnesota’s Brian Dozier (0.0 percent owned) should be on your radar, as he joined the Twins on Sunday to become their everyday shortstop. The rookie wasn’t hitting much at Triple A this season, but he batted .320 with nine homers and 24 stolen bases between Double A and Triple A last season.


Standard Leagues: Jon Jay (30.2 percent owned) will never be a star, but he has a .307 career batting average in 821 at bats, and offers a nice little power-speed package. You could do worse when looking through the free-agent pool.

Deep Leagues: Hey – a Mariner that can hit! Mike Carp (1.4 percent owned) came off the DL last week, and brings some much needed pop to the Seattle lineup. Carp hit 33 homers between Triple A and the majors last year, and qualifies at both first base and in the outfield. He’s going to get everyday at bats in Seattle, and you can find him in some pretty deep leagues right now. Carp even cracked his first homer of the season on Sunday. He’s on fire!

Starting Pitcher

Standard Leagues: Jeff Samardzija (31.9 percent owned) has made five starts so far. In the three good ones, he’s posted an 0.78 ERA with 20 strikeouts against four walks in 23 innings. In the two bad ones, he has a 10.38 ERA with eight whiffs against six walks in eight-and-two-thirds innings. Is Samardzija trustworthy? Heck, no. But he does have upside, and as the last man in on your staff he can presumably be waived at anytime. Take a flier on his potential, and if he kills you one too many times, ditch him.

Deep Leagues: It’s about time to stash Tim Stauffer (1.4 percent owned), who should be ready to come off the DL in a week or so. Stauffer had a 3.73 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in 31 starts for the Padres last season, and the combo a strong ground-ball rate and an extreme pitcher’s park should help him be effective again. You know what we say around here: In PETCO we trust.

Relief Pitcher

Standard Leagues: Jonny Venters (10.7 percent owned) is our latest non-closing reliever recommendation. With nearly two strikeouts per inning and another crazy-high ground-ball rate, Venters has what it takes to maintain something close to his 1.89 career ERA. He’s so good, I don’t even care about his high walk totals.

(Note: The shoulder issue that has kept Venters out for a few days appears to be minor, but keep an eye on it.)

Deep Leagues: Though MLB closer slots seem to change by the hour, Miami’s Steve Cishek (5.4 percent owned) appears to be in a good spot due to the early-season struggles of closer Heath Bell. Bell has a big contract, but his strikeout rate dipped quite a bit in 2011, and he was removed from the closer’s role after his fourth blown save of the season on Friday. Manager Ozzie Guillen said that the change is probably temporary, but are you sure Bell will snap out of his funk right away?

Like the aforementioned Venters (though not as dominant), Cishek plays the K/GB game very well. He might only be a short-term option for saves, but by the time he gives the role back to Bell, there will probably be other free-agent closers available. Grabbing a "right now" guy is often a smart move.

See you here next week!

Play Now!