Fantasy Baseball

Zack Cozart ownership should rise

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John Halpin

John Halpin has been a fantasy contributor for FOXSports.com since 2007. He has written and co-hosted webcasts about fantasy football for FOXNews.com, and managed websites for the NHL, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Network. Listen to his "Fantasy 15 Podcast" on FOXSportsRadio.com and follow him on Twitter.

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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 FOXSports.com 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.

Catcher

Standard Leagues: Salvador Perez (28.4 percent owned) has been on fire since coming off the DL a couple of weeks ago, hitting for a high average and smashing four home runs. He’s got a starting job, and is regarded as a pretty good hitter, if not a slugger. Grab Perez if you need consistent production.

Deep Leagues: Pittsburgh’s Michael McKenry (1.6 percent owned) has been getting extra playing time lately as a result of Rod Barajas’ knee bruise, but could be in line for more thanks to his seven homers and .852 OPS in 103 at bats. McKenry’s track record suggests modest power for a catcher, and it’s not like Barajas set the world on fire in the first half.

First Base

Standard Leagues: Chris Davis (32.5 percent owned) qualifies at first base, third base and in the outfield. At age 26, he appears to be living up to his long-hyped power potential, pacing toward 30 home runs for the season. Davis’ high strikeout rate will always make him a risk for a batting average decline, but as versatile sluggers go, he’s pretty good.

Deep Leagues: No, this recommendation isn’t for leagues that count fielding. Casey Kotchman (2.4 percent owned) actually hasn’t had such a bad season, with eight homers and 34 RBI, along with a batting average that has shown steady improvement since a .149 mark in April (his career BA is .265). Kotchman isn’t great, but in deep mixed formats, he’s useful.

Second Base

Standard Leagues: With the always-injured Brian Roberts facing possible hip surgery, we can’t count on him coming back this season. Robert Andino (13.0 percent owned - shoulder - day-to-day) is once again the Orioles’ everyday second baseman, and should be able to provide modest pop with double-digit steals, like he did last year. Andino is a low-end option in standard leagues, albeit one with helpful versatility (he qualifies at 2B/3B/SS).

Deep Leagues: Scott Moore (0.1 percent owned) has played just about every day for the Astros since his callup in late June, shuttling between first base, third base and the outfield (he qualifies at second base for fantasy purposes). Moore has shown double-digit homer power at multiple stops in the minors, and that bat plays well with his positional eligibility. If you grab him in an NL-only league, watch out for a Matt Dominguez promotion or a Brett Wallace first-base experiment, as both could cost Moore playing time.

Third Base

Standard Leagues: With prospect Jedd Gyorko just about ready to contribute for the Padres, Chase Headley (45.9 percent owned) is reportedly on the trading block. Headley had eight homers and 10 stolen bases at the All-Star break, and a trade away from the unfriendly confines of PETCO Park would make Headley a more interesting fantasy hitter. Pick him up if you need a third baseman, and stay tuned for good news.

Deep Leagues: Wilson Betemit (2.0 percent owned) has been a fine, under-the-radar fantasy producer this season, with 10 homers already. He qualifies at both corner infield positions, and some Orioles’ injuries have opened up steady playing time that he’s not likely to relinquish. Betemit could hit another 8-10 dingers.

Shortstop

Standard Leagues: Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart (16.9 percent owned) was an early NL Rookie of the Year favorite who’s been eclipsed by the mega-hyped (and very good) Bryce Harper. However, if I told you in March that Cozart would have nine homers and 46 runs scored at the All-Star break, you’d have taken that production with no questions asked. Cozart ranks among the top half-dozen shortstops in MLB in both categories, and should be owned in most formats, even with his so-so-batting average.

Deep Leagues: This one might be a short-termer, but Pedro Ciriaco (3.5 percent owned) has 25-steal speed, and should get most or all of the starts at second base until Dustin Pedroia comes off the DL … which could be as soon as Thursday. Hurry!

Outfield

Standard Leagues: Norichika Aoki (4.3 percent owned) has been a pleasant surprise for the Brewers, batting around .300 with five homers, 11 stolen bases and an OPS north of .800 in the season’s first half, with much of that production (three homers, eight steals) coming in June. Aoki batted .335 with averages of 15 homers and 25 stolen bases in the Japanese League from 2006-10, so his offensive package is interesting. He’s certainly worth picking up if you need an injury fill-in.

Deep Leagues: Lorenzo Cain (2.3 percent owned) returned to the Royals’ lineup over the weekend (5-10, 3 R and 2 RBI) after missing all but three games in the first half due to groin and hip injuries. The 26-year-old hit 16 home runs and stole 16 bases at Triple A last season, and though he might need to produce very soon to keep the Royals from promoting prospect Wil Myers, he should get an ample chance to do so. If productive, Cain will help you more with speed than anything else.

Starting Pitcher

Standard Leagues: Cleveland’s Zach McAllister (2.5 percent owned) has become an interesting fantasy starter, with a 3.40 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP and 41 strikeouts against 10 walks in 42 1/3 innings over seven starts. The decision you always need to make about non-ace starting pitchers is whether to stream or hold, and to be honest I’m on the fence about McAllister in that regard. Still, he’s intriguing, and worth a flier in many formats.

Deep Leagues: Ben Sheets (4.3 percent owned) started for the Braves on Sunday, and WOW. Many people asked in last week’s chat if Sheets was worth picking up, and the answer is yes IF you don’t cut anyone good to replace him AND you aren’t counting on him for much. Sheets’ history as an ace and K/BB stud make him interesting, but remember that he hasn’t been an effective major-league starter since 2008. He’s worth an NL-only flier, but I’d have to be in a pretty deep mixed league to consider him.

Relief Pitcher

Standard Leagues: In this week’s episode of “What is Everyone Waiting For?,” we learn that A’s closer Ryan Cook is owned in just 16.5 percent of FOXSports.com leagues. Cook is averaging more than a strikeout per inning, and although he walks too many batters, he has eight saves in the last month. Possession is nine-tenths of the law when it comes to closers, and Cook is the clear owner of his team’s job.

Deep Leagues: Remember former Marlins’ closer Leo Nunez? His name is now Juan Carlos Oviedo (0.5 percent owned), and he should be ready to join the Marlins’ roster later this month after missing the first half of the season due to a suspension (read this Miami Herald article for background on Oviedo). The Marlins have pulled the plug on the Heath Bell experiment – at least for now – by announcing that they’ll use a closer-by-committee setup. Do you think a guy who saved 36 games for them last year might get a chance to chair that committee?  Yeah, me too.  Editor's Note: Oviedo left Saturday night's minor league rehab assignment with elbow discomfort.  We'll update his status in the Fantasy Buzz Blog this week.

See you here next week!

Tagged: Orioles, Red Sox, Indians, Royals, Brewers, Athletics, Braves, Reds, Astros, Pirates, Padres, Marlins, Ben Sheets, Rod Barajas, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Robert Andino, Scott Moore, Chase Headley

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