Fantasy owners are always keenly aware of the overall standings in their league.
Now that the Major League Baseball season is racing past the quarter pole, owners are starting to hone in on the individual categories to pinpoint deficiencies and opportunities. To this point, most roster adjustments have been made to compensate for injuries and to steal a spot start against a weak-hitting opponent.
The tenor of the season shifts about this time of year. The trading floor becomes more active, and owners start to make difficult decisions about struggling would-be stars.
In that vein, I’m scouring the wire to identify potential plays to shore up your efforts on the basepaths and out of the bullpen. The closer carousel has been running at a dizzying pace in 2011, creating new options with great regularity. Several of the more productive closers to emerge recently are still available to be claimed in a high number of FOXSports.com leagues.
Fernando Salas, St. Louis
Salas has solidified his grip on the closing role in St. Louis with five consecutive scoreless appearances. In these outings, Salas recorded two saves and vultured a win. He’s allowed only nine hits while striking out 16 batters against five walks in his 17 2/3 innings pitched. Salas has saved four games overall.
Sergio Santos, Chicago White Sox
Fantasy owners were excited about the prospects for Matt Thornton in the Chicago bullpen. The team’s horrible start has caused fantasy owners to overlook Santos’ brilliance since being promoted to the role.
He’s appeared in 16 games and has yet to allow a run in his 20 innings pitched. Santos has struck out 20 batters against nine walks while earning six saves and two wins.
Jake Peavy pitched well in his first two starts, including Wednesday’s shutout against the Indians, and John Danks has to win a game eventually. Better days lay ahead for this squad with Santos ready to shut the door.
Koji Uehara, Baltimore
Uehara has yet to receive a save opportunity, but Kevin Gregg’s continued struggles should open the door for him soon. At the very least, fantasy owners are receiving fantastic peripheral stats from the setup man. Uehara has struck out 22 batters in his 18 innings pitched (he struck out the side in a scoreless frame during the extra-inning loss to New York on Wednesday) against 12 hits and five walks. He’ll get his shot before long.
Jamey Wright, Seattle
Wright is a player to add to the “Watch” list in Seattle as a potential closer down the line. Current closer Brandon League recently went through a horrid four-game stretch that put his job on the line (he allowed 10 earned runs in three innings). David Aardsma told reporters that he still hopes to pitch this season, but he recently received a second opinion on his hip and will be shut down for at least the next month.
Wright has produced a 1.80 ERA in 20 appearances. He’s struck out 14 batters against nine walks, a ratio that leaves you wanting and calls into question his ability to do the job long-term. Still, another week of misery from League could put Wright in a position to make a short-term splash.
Matt Guerrier, Los Angeles Dodgers
Guerrier earned a rare save in Tuesday’s win over the Brewers. Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo are out of the picture for the time being, and would-be closer Vicente Padilla has a stiff right forearm and has been unavailable for the better part of a week. When I hear of a forearm injury, I immediately substitute “elbow” as the affected body part. If Padilla is unavailable for an extended period, Guerrier may get the call from Don Mattingly. He’s struck out 19 batters in 22 1/3 innings while pitching to a 3.22 ERA (five of his eight earned runs were surrendered in a single outing against the Cubs).
Guerrier is an insurance play right now for those who have dipped their toes into the Los Angeles bullpen and is a decent longshot pickup in deeper leagues.
Roger Bernadina, OF, Washington
Bernadina has performed nicely since being recalled from Triple-A Syracuse. In 12 games, he’s posted a strong .293 batting average (12-for-41) with four stolen bases. Bernadina stole 16 bases in 134 games for the Nationals last season. He also demonstrated decent pop with 18 doubles, 11 home runs and 47 RBI.
Mike Aviles, 2B/3B, Kansas City
Aviles has struggled of late, so perhaps he only warrants a “Watch” tag right now. He’s generated a miserable .100 batting average (3-for-30) in his past nine appearances to submarine his batting average (a 45-point drop). However, he offers a solid power-speed combination at the scarce second base position when right (seven doubles, five home runs, 26 RBI and eight stolen bases overall).
Rajai Davis, OF, Toronto
Davis has seemingly found his comfort zone in the bottom of the Blue Jays’ lineup. He’s hit safely in seven of his past eight games to raise his batting average 70 points (to .245). Davis has stolen five bases during this period to bring his season total to 12 in 15 attempts.
Davis stole a total of 91 bases in 114 attempts during his two full seasons in Oakland. He’s a solid batting-average contributor who will leg out his share of hits. Davis owns a career .279 batting average. Take the three-category contribution to your fantasy lineup.
Jason Bartlett, SS, San Diego
Bartlett extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a 2-for-4 performance against the Brewers on Wednesday. Alas, his streak of games in which he logged at least one RBI ended at nine. Bartlett raised his batting average 49 points during this period and stole two bases (he has seven for the season).
Remember, Bartlett had stolen at least 20 bases in three consecutive seasons between Minnesota and Tampa Bay before last year’s struggles. He’s a career .280 career hitter with zero power in PETCO Park.
Will Venable, OF, San Diego
Venable has stolen only one base in his past 10 games, but he’s starting to become more consistent at the plate. During this 10-game period, Venable batted .355 (11-for-31). Venable’s speed is his calling card, as he has recorded 11 stolen bases this season overall.
He’s battling a hand injury right now, but will undoubtedly be given a never-fading green light to help jumpstart the 25th-ranked San Diego offense when sound.
Jason Bourgeois, OF, Houston
Bourgeois compiled a seven-game hitting streak prior to being placed on the disabled list because of a strained left oblique muscle. During this streak, Bourgeois stole seven bases and raised his batting average to .407. He offers zero power, having hit only three doubles in his 54 at-bats (one triple), but he’s dangerous on the basepaths for the run-deficient Astros. Bourgeois stole 12 bases in his 28 games to match his 2010 output.
Bourgeois has begun running, but probably won’t return to the team until the end of the month.