Fantasy Baseball

Aviles, Parra making most of spotlight

Fantasy Fever
Swisher has been a ribbie machine in April.
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Joel Beall

Joel Beall is a writer for FOXSports.com and WhatIfSports.com. He lives with a Golden Tee machine and a jump shot that’s currently broken. Reach Joel on Twitter @FOXSportsBeall.

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Note: All stats are prior to games on Wednesday.

Poor Boston. The franchise throws an extravagant gala to honor 100 years at the venerable Fenway Park, toasting to past and present Red Sox legends, only to watch their arch nemesis spoil the fun by handing out an epic butt-kicking. Reminds me of a 16-year-old throwing a bash at his house when the parents are away in hopes of impressing his high-school crush. Only instead of wooing her on a date, our protagonist’s party is ruined when the kids from the rival school across town bust in the door, trash the house, steal his young maiden and knock his teeth out. And if that analogy doesn’t make sense, then clearly you're a Yankees fan. That, or were home-schooled as a child.

Start ‘Em

C: Ryan Doumit, Twins
Try not to scoff at the suggestion of a hitter brandishing a .226 average, as that number improves to .261 once subtracting the first two games of the season. Doumit has 10 RBI on the young year, but more importantly, is logging almost daily at bats thanks to splitting time behind the plate (eight games) and in the outfield (five appearances). His worth is significantly curtailed in OBP formats, yet batting sixth in a Minnesota lineup that’s showing signs of life could offer generous run dividends to a position that’s offensively challenged.

1B: Nick Swisher, Yankees
Almost unfeasible that a player in the City That Never Sleeps could be underrated, but Swisher’s reliability of run support since joining the Pinstripes (three-year averages of 27 homers, 85 RBI, 85 runs) seems to be easily overlooked. Swisher has done his best to erase this anonymity, announcing his authority with a league-leading 21 RBI. Swish has been especially effective as of late, hitting .321 with two jacks and 10 ribbies in the past seven games. He’s played just one game at first this season for the Bronx Bombers, but utilize Swisher in this space if possible, especially if the move enables players with speed or higher averages a chance to play in the outfield.

2B: Jose Altuve, Astros
I know, right? An Astro relevant in fantasy? Absurd!

Believe it, as Altuve is sweet-swinging to the tune of a .344 average through 17 games. While his .396 BABIP indicates a recession is near, the fledgling Houston second baseman did hit .276 in 57 games last year, his first stint in the Show. Those seeking further evidence can find solace in his output in the minors, with a career line of .327/.386/.481 in five seasons. Altuve is also a force on the base paths, swiping 117 bases in 382 games in the Astros farm system (although, in leagues with net stolen bases, this comes with a caveat, as he was caught 45 times). Owned in just 21.2 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, Altuve will deliver everything but power to your fantasy squad.

3B: Martin Prado, Braves
Prado may not return to the .300 hitter he was in 2009 and 2010, though his .276 BABIP suggests he’s better than the .254 mark he’s posted through 17 games in 2012. While it’s understandable that owners may be disappointed with his average, there should be no excuse for kicking Prado to the curb (the Braves outfielder/third baseman is down to 87.8 percent owned). Hitting second in an explosive Atlanta offense, Prado is a safe bet for 90-plus runs this year. Better yet, Prado has been making the most of his opportunities, knocking in nine RBI in the past seven games. If he’s drifting on the waiver wire in one of your leagues, throw him a life preserver as quickly as possible.

FANTASY IMPACT

See what effect Alex Rodriguez's injury will have on your team.

SS: Mike Aviles, Red Sox
Sure, New England hasn’t been this chaotic since the Great Clam Chowder Famine of ’54, yet all is not forsaken in Fenway Park in spite of Boston’s substandard start. The acquisition of Aviles last July made little waves in Beantown, yet the utility man is hitting .333 with three homers, 13 runs and 10 RBI in 60 at bats for the Sox on the current campaign. Aviles has also provided a calming presence atop the order in the absence of Jacoby Ellsbury, hitting .440 with a .481 OBP in the past week. With less than daunting rotations on the upcoming slate (White Sox, A’s, Orioles, Royals, Indians, Mariners), Aviles has a springboard to prolong his sizzling streak.

OF: Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks
More known for his defensive prowess (the Arizona outfielder snagged a Gold Glove in 2011), Parra was thrust into every-day action when Chris Young went down with a shoulder injury. The 24-year-old Venezuelan has been more than adequate in substitution, hitting .353 with six ribbies and five runs since last Saturday. This shouldn’t come as a major surprise; when given the chance, Parra has performed at the plate, posting a three-year line of .282/.331/.403 in almost 400 games with the D-Backs. Young is not expected to make a rapid return to the diamond, making Parra an intriguing option in NL-only and mixed leagues.

SP: Cory Luebke, Padres
Luebke has bounced back from his forgettable first start (nine hits, six runs in 4.2 innings on April 6), surrendering just two earned runs in his last three outings (20.1 innings) while striking out 14. A date against a middling San Francisco offense on Friday should facilitate further success.

RP: Henry Rodriguez, Nationals
FOX’s Ryan Fowler made note of Rodriguez yesterday in his transaction’s piece, but it bears repeating: how is Rodriguez owned in just 32.2 percent of leagues? The man has made nine appearances and relinquished just ONE hit. Brad Lidge will continue to be trotted out on occasion to shut the door for the Nats, though the “closer-by-committee” stigma hardly applies in this case. Walks have haunted Rodriguez in the past (45 free passes was the catalyst for the reliever’s bloated 1.51 WHIP in 2011), yet if he can maintain a relative demonstration of control, he’ll be a fantasy godsend. In a related note, remember the Oh Henry! phenomenon with Montreal slugger Henry Rodriguez, where Expos fans would shower the field with the candy bar after home runs? Since it’s technically the same franchise, can’t we dust off the tradition, only adjusting the practice to lob the chocolate tablets in wake of a successful Rodriguez conversion? And while we’re here, did you know Oh Henry! is distributed by Nestle in the U.S., but in Canada, Hershey is the candy bar’s supplier (at least according to the ever-accurate Wikipedia)? Hey, at least if you hate this article, you can say you learned something today.

MLB STANDINGS

Who's clinched? Who's still in the playoff picture? Check all the divisional races.

Sit ‘Em

C: Alex Avila, Tigers
We aren’t super surprised by Avila’s rough start, as last season’s .295 average was expected to head south according to his .366 BABIP. Unfortunately, after a solid opening series against Boston (5-for-12, two bombs, five ribbies), the Motown backstop has recorded just six hits in 33 at bats. The Tigers’ dynamic lineup should present its share of breaks to Avila in the six hole, it’s just a matter if the Silver Slugger can cash in.

1B: Carlos Santana, Indians
Hard to complain about the .406 OBP, and the 10 RBI and nine runs are suitable for this juncture of the season. However, don’t envision Santana’s .245 average to drastically waver. Not only did he enter the season with a .244 figure in just over 200 games with Cleveland, but his 2012 BABIP of .273 is right in line with his past numbers (.277 BABIP in 2010, .263 in 2011). Granted, we are evaluating a small sample size, yet the real reason Santana makes this list is to dissuade owners from implementing the Cleveland catcher at first. While his power numbers line up with other prestigious bats at the position, his average negates this output. To fully utilize Santana’s worth, keep him behind the plate on your fantasy roster.

2B: Michael Cuddyer, Rockies
Following a ferocious debut in Denver, Cuddyer has cooled off, collecting six hits in his last 27 at bats. Not helping matters is a lingering toe issue. Until he puts a multi-hit game together, probably for the best to keep Cuddy on the bench.

3B: Mark Reynolds, Orioles
Alright, telling you that Mark Reynolds makes Adam Dunn look consistent is not breaking news, and Reynolds has historically struggled in April with a career line of .216/.312/.438. And owners are confident that as soon as they replace Reynolds in their lineups, the Baltimore basher will suddenly have three homers in four days. Alas, even by his lowered standards, it’s been an ominous start for Reynolds, with zero dingers, three RBI and .125 average through 14 games. As the slump has forced manager Buck Showalter to pull Reynolds from full-time status, take the same approach to your fantasy squad.

SS: Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
Don’t try to reason with me that Ramirez is a notorious slow starter, owning a .225 average in 99 games in April and March compared to a .294 figure in over 200 games in May and June. And sure, his BABIP predicts an upcoming upswing. But a .231 average with one home run is a .231 average with one home run! It’s at this point I should mention I begrudgingly own Ramirez in an online auction league, as I accidentally bid $21 bucks, or about $10 too much in this league format, on the shortstop thanks to a computer/Internet glitch. Stupid technology. Really think this whole “world wide web” craze is about to go out of style, anyway.

OF: Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins
As an infielder? Love me some Bonifacio, as his speed (nine steals, zero nabs) is unparalleled. Unfortunately, he’s too streaky of a hitter (.231 average in the past seven games) with limited power to garner time in the fantasy outfield. If he can sustain his current robust OBP of .394, maybe we’ll revisit this discussion, but his lifetime mark of .330 in this forum indicates this probably won’t be the case.

ZERO HEROES

One no-hitter can highlight a career. Throwing multiple no-hitters? Well, that creates a legend.

SP: Matt Moore, Rays
Moore was the consensus preseason pick for AL Rookie of the Year, an award he could still garner. Unfortunately, Moore’s endorsement is off to a shaky start, allowing 11 earned runs in just over 19 innings of work. Prior to 2011, the knock on Moore was his command, or lack thereof, a problem that has resurfaced, evidenced by 12 walks in three starts. Until his accuracy is under control, Moore’s WHIP will continue to be an issue, making the Tampa neophyte a risky gamble.

RP: Frank Francisco, Mets
The New York closer had conceded runs in four straight appearances before locking up a drama-free ninth against the Marlins on Tuesday. For now, Francisco’s job is safe, but if Jon Rauch continues to pitch lights-out, a demotion wouldn’t be out of the question.

Waivers Watch: A.J. Burnett, Pirates
Try to overlook the carnage from the past two seasons (21-26 record, 5.20 ERA, 1.47 WHIP) and focus on the positives. PNC Park is a notoriously friendly diamond to pitchers, ranking 24th in the Bigs last season in homers allowed. Considering the long ball has been at the heart of Burnett’s evils (1.5 HR/9 rate last season), new surroundings could be just what the 35-year-old needs. He also goes from competing in the ultra-competitive New York atmosphere to a more comfortable, laidback vibe in Pittsburgh. As we’ve seen with Erik Bedard, the Pirates’ putrid offense won’t assist Burnett in the win column, yet the veteran righty could be a sneaky source of strikeouts, ERA and WHIP.

Rookie Review: Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mets
Jason Bay’s exile to the DL opens up an extended tryout for Nieuwenhuis, who is hitting .327 with a .397 OBP in 16 games for the Mets this season. A third-round pick in the 2008 Draft, prospective proprietors should pump their breaks toward the 24-year-old rookie, as Nieuwenhuis never really took the minor leagues by storm. However, those looking for hope can point to an abbreviated season with Triple-A Buffalo in 2011, where the outfielder hit .298 with six homers and a .403 OBP in 188 at bats. Nieuwenhuis’ 36.1 line-drive percentage and .441 BABIP denote a major drop-off is on the horizon, but in deep leagues or NL-only formats, ride Nieuwenhuis while you can.

Trade Talk
If there seems to be a plethora of suitable arms this season, well, it's because it's the truth. The league ERA currently sits at 3.82, compared to last season’s cumulative 3.94 ERA and 4.08 league average in 2010. This has correlated to an excess of adequate arms available on the free-agent market. Use this knowledge to your advantage by dealing one of your top-tier pitchers to a team that has recently seen a hurler hit the sidelines (Cliff Lee, Daniel Hudson, Michael Pineda, etc.) for a reliable hitter, and make up the loss of your pitcher by perusing the waiver wire. Not only will you have improved your offense, but the difference between your past pitcher and newly-acquired arm won’t be as vast as one would imagine.

This Week in Sam LeCure
Since we last left our hero, the Mustache immersed himself into a bit of conflict against the San Francisco Giants. After the reliever Dan Otero plunked former MVP Joey Votto in a blowout, LeCure retaliated by aiming a high heater at the back of San Fran star Buster Posey. Neither side was too thrilled with the ordeal, with warnings issued to both benches by the umpiring crew. Not that LeCure backed down from the dance, calling the concern a “punk move” by the Giants after the game. Got to love LeCure’s stance on the matter. In today’s P.C. environment, most ballplayers would deny any intentional harm, and drabble off some nonsense about these dustups as “all part of the game.” However, that’s not how Yosemite Sam rolls. Not only did he take responsibility, dude still wants to throw down. Now that’s what I’m looking for in a reliever. Sure, LeCure’s Clint Eastwood impression lost a little luster with the fact that Posey sent LeCure’s next offering five rows deep into the bleachers, but that’s strictly semantics. Point is this: if the Reds find themselves in further brouhahas this season, expect LeCure to be leading the cavalry from the bullpen.

Big League Chew Player of the Week: Josh Hamilton, Rangers
So much for the worry that injuries and off-the-field issues would hamper Hamilton, who’s leading the league in homers, slugging, OPS and total bases. Hamilton submitted another stellar week, hitting .379 with three long balls and eight RBI. As he’s historically broken down at some interval in the season, his trade value may never be higher. Hate to deal a guy raking like Hamilton, but the daring move might just win you your league.

Spit Your Tobacco at: Michael Pineda, Yankees
Perhaps his shoulder tear was unavoidable, but with multiple reports stating the young gun showed up to spring training out of shape, one can’t help but wonder if this was a problem of his own doing.

Tagged: Orioles, Red Sox, White Sox, Indians, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Rangers, Braves, Reds, Astros, Nationals, Mets, Pirates, Padres, Giants, Rockies, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Rays, A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Frank Francisco, Chris Young, Nick Swisher, Josh Hamilton, Ryan Doumit, Martin Prado, Mark Reynolds, Alexei Ramirez, Mike Aviles, Carlos Santana, Gerardo Parra, Alex Avila, Henry Rodriguez, Sam LeCure

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