By Sam McPherson
Fantasy baseball drafts are a tricky proposition. Owners have to decide which positions and statistical categories to emphasize early in the draft process, and most of the time, that means settling for less elsewhere. This can hurt one quarter into the season unless the astute owner keeps her or his eye on the waiver wire to snare strong-performing, unknown players.
Even if these unknown players aren’t starting for their real Major League Baseball team, they can still start for yours—because it’s better to have an over-performing player that only helps you at second base than an under-performing player who only hurts you at the keystone position.
The player with 125 at-bats and the .175 batting average only is going to hurt you, where the player with a mere 90 at-bats and a .280 average isn’t hurting you—especially if their counting stats are virtually the same. Although usually, the less-used player actually has better HR, RBI and SB totals. That’s just one of the quirks of fantasy baseball, so be aware of what is best for your team at the thinnest positions in the sport.
Players to Get Into Your Lineup Now
1. Aaron Hill, 2B/3B, Arizona Diamondbacks: It’s hard to believe he once hit 36 home runs and drove in 108 runs, but Hill is now 33 years old and leaving his prime behind. But he can still swing the bat. With mostly unproven teammates ahead of him at both positions, Hill will still see three or four starts a week as a utility infielder. He’s hitting .284 with three HRs and 12 RBIs right now, and that’s better than a lot of starting second basemen in the bigs.
2. Yasmani Grandal, C, Los Angeles Dodgers: He’s a career .252 hitter who is stroking the ball right now at a .307 clip for the Dodgers, so you can expect a little regression to the mean. But the four HRs and 16 RBIs are added bonus for the position, and Grandal hasn’t even hit 100 at-bats yet. Yes, he did grab eight of those RBIs in one game, but he’s going to get more playing time as long as he keeps hitting this well.
3. Yunel Escobar, 3B/SS, Washington Nationals: He has dual-position eligibility, which is nice, and Escobar is hitting .320 right now with 12 RBIs. He will be playing third for awhile, and if/when Anthony Rendon returns from the disabled list, Escobar could eventually gain eligibility at second base, too. That kind of flexibility and hitting strength at all three infield positions is nice to have on your roster.
4. Delino DeShields, Jr., 2B/OF, Texas Rangers: He may or may not have 2B eligibility in your league depending on respective rules, but if he does, grab him. DeShields is a cheap source of steals right now, and who doesn’t need more steals? He has eight RBIs and nine SBs in only 41 at-bats currently, and he will see a lot of playing time going forward if he keeps hitting .293 through the summer months.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Steve Cishek, RP, Miami Marlins: You were right to keep him this long, but now it’s time to cut Cishek loose. He blew saves on consecutive days last week, and no MLB team can stomach that from their already struggling closer. Forget the 73 saves in 2013-14, because the Marlins are going to look everywhere else now for someone who can secure victories better than Cishek. Stash him on the bench if you want, but do so at your own risk.
2. Nick Martinez, SP, Texas Rangers: The bottom line is that has only 19 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched this season. Few, if any, starting pitchers can maintain success with that kind of ratio. Yes, Martinez is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA right now, but he plays on a bad team that is currently overachieving, and his 4.24 ERA in May is closer to his true ability than what you saw in April. You’ve gotten this much out of him so far; be thankful.
3. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: At 36 years old, the former National League Most Valuable Player has fallen off a cliff. Last year, he was still serviceable; this year, Rollins is not. The .175 average and the .562 OPS are not mirages; he has only three SBs in six attempts. He might be done; trade him to a Phillies fan in your league if you can. Otherwise, waive him and thank him for his many years of service.
4. Alex Avila, C, Detroit Tigers: He should be in his prime, but it looks like Avila peaked in 2011 with that All-Star effort. He hit .295 that year, but Avila hasn’t come within 50 points of that since. He has just three extra-base hits this season, and he is hitting a mere .200 through mid-May. There are much better part-time catchers to have on your roster.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball and fantasy sports for many online sites, including CBS, AXS and Examiner.