By Sam McPherson
One of the more frustrating aspects of fantasy baseball is losing a good player to an injury, even if it’s just a quick trip to the 15-day disabled list. That’s still two weeks you have to go without the starter’s production in your lineup or rotation. When we draft our teams, we always do so with depth in mind, but over the course of the six-month baseball season, sometimes our needs change on a week-to-week basis.
Thus, it’s tremendously important to have your best assets covered with bench depth, no matter how many bench slots your league allows (and some leagues don’t allow bench spots at all, but those are rare). Some of the thinnest positions in the sport mandate a backup on the bench, when possible. Those players who have multi-position eligibility are also key, because they can slide around your lineup as needs arise with injuries—even the day-to-day bruises that keep a star out of the lineup for just one game.
Targeting those multi-position players now at the midpoint of the season is a good idea, because many leagues have rules for how many games played at a position qualifies a player for that slot. After almost 80 games now in the 2015 season, a lot of players are gaining new eligibility at new positions—and that increases their value to you and other owners. Second base, shortstop, third base and catcher have shallow talent pools in MLB when it comes to fantasy stats, so look closely for players that can help your team win.
Players to Get Onto Your Roster Now
1. Justin Turner, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers: He also has played first base (nine games), second base (four) and shortstop (one) this year, so it may only be a matter of time before Turner can play multiple positions in your league. Last year, he totaled 15 games at short and 14 at second, so depending on rules, he could be eligible there already. Did we mention Turner has 10 home runs and 35 RBI this year? The .324 batting average doesn’t hurt, either.
2. Luis Valbuena, 3B, Houston Astros: He should have second-base eligibility in your league, too, based on last year’s playing time there. Overlook the current .199 batting average, as Valbuena had a rough May. He’s hitting .223 otherwise, which still isn’t great—but putting a guy with 19 HRs into your middle-infield slot is a pretty good score, especially in weekly head-to-head leagues where batting average is more volatile. That’s where that position flexibility can be maximized.
3. Logan Forsythe, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays: He’s also played 17 games at first base and eight at third base, so Forsythe fits the theme this week. Last year, he also dabbled in the outfield and at shortstop. With a .292 average, eight HRs, 32 RBI and even seven stolen bases, he’s taken over Ben Zobrist’s role with the Rays—and done so nicely. Getting this kind of production from a multi-position player is just a sweet, sweet fantasy baseball coup.
4. Matt Duffy, 3B, San Francisco Giants: He’s the poor-man’s Turner, basically, as Duffy has played second (nine games), short (three) and first (one), too. He’s only hitting .288 with six HRs, but his 34 RBI are awesome for a second baseman/middle infielder once he gains eligibility there. The Giants have done a great job turning average minor leaguers into productive MLB infielders (see Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik). We don’t know how they do it, but it’s a pattern now with Duffy’s rise to fantasy relevance.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Nori Aoki, OF, San Francisco Giants: He has a broken leg, basically, and when your game is built on speed, that’s not good. Even if Aoki comes back this season, there’s no telling how strong his leg will be under MLB game-time stress. Better to let him go now and be thankful you got what you did out of him. At age 33, he improved all his numbers this year somehow to have career-best batting, on-base and slugging averages—another S.F. miracle.
2. Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets: This kid is good, but he can’t stay healthy right now. Let d’Arnaud be someone else’s risk. The latest injury—a dislocated/sprained elbow—isn’t good for swinging a bat; it just sounds painful to even think about, doesn’t it? That .873 OPS shows he can play with the big boys, but if the Mets don’t handle his injuries properly, they could waste his talent. Target him for 2016 instead.
3. Martín Prado, 3B, Miami Marlins: His sprained shoulder could keep him out longer and prevent him from returning this week. If you’ve been holding on to Prado for the reasons this column highlights, you should replace him on your bench with one of the players listed above. His eligibility at second is key, because his bat isn’t as good as even Duffy’s (.272, four HR). However, if he’s not playing at all, Prado isn’t worth a spot on your roster.
4. Ender Inciarte, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: When your game is built on speed, having a hamstring injury isn’t good. Inciarte has little power (two HRs) and doesn’t drive in a lot of runs (21 in 267 plate appearances). His speed (nine SBs) is his game, but if his hamstring isn’t right, that could suffer. Hopefully, you don’t have both Aoki and Inciarte on your team, but if you do, grab some different OFs quickly, because both of these speedsters have peaked this year already.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball and fantasy sports for many online sites, including CBS, AXS and Examiner.