With the mid-week start of the 2011 baseball season, there are still a bunch of leagues that will hold their draft or auction the first weekend of the season. This is in fact the official rulebook date. This discussion is intended for those in deeper leagues but can possibly be used to help those that have already drafted if the players went undrafted.
The idea is that a lot of people overreact to the last minute roster decisions. One of my favorite ploys is to target the loser of the position battle if they were beat out by a perceived lesser player that had a hot spring. You can often get the incumbent out of a job at a huge discount. The worst case scenario is you get an end game player at value but many times, a hot spring turns into a cold April and next thing you know, the veteran is given his old job back and now you have a starter at an end game price.
Perhaps the most flagrant example of the scenario is Blake DeWitt beginning the season as the Chicago Cubs utility infielder while Jeff Baker and Darwin Barney cover second base. DeWitt will get his chances, including occasionally spelling Aramis Ramirez at the hot corner. It would not shock me if DeWitt finished the season with more at bats than Baker. This is not to suggest DeWitt is a difference maker, but getting 300-400 plate appearances for a buck or two is a nice treat.
Depending on your league rules, Roger Bernadina is someone to put on your radar. He was recently demoted which came as a mild surprise. After Nyjer Morgan was dealt to Milwaukee, it appeared Bernadina was going to break camp with the Nationals. But do you really think the combination of Laynce Nix, Jerry Hairston and Rick Ankiel will keep Bernadina on the farm that long? Actually, it is no sure thing that Mike Morse holds on to the left field job all season. If you have already drafted Bernadina, do not panic. If he has been dropped in your NL-only, check your rules and try to pick him up when he is eligible.
A similar situation occurred in Kansas City where Lorenzo Cain was demoted so he can play full time. Alex Gordon should be a fixture in left and Jeff Francoeur should patrol right. Melky Cabrera gets the nod in center, but if Cain continues to get on base and run in the Minors, eventually Cabrera will be exposed and Cain should get the call if only to help justify the Zack Greinke trade.
A scenario to continue monitoring is the first base and left field battle in the desert. Arizona has Xavier Nady, Juan Miranda, Gerardo Parra, Juan Miranda, Russell Branyan and Brandon Allen all jostling for playing time. Nothing has been announced, but Parra and Branyan appear to be the leaders. If Branyan is named the regular first baseman, Miranda and Allen make nice end game targets. I know there will be much drooling over Branyan in Arizona, but he has trouble staying healthy, and when he does, he usually strikes himself out of a job. My gut says Nady falls out of the picture and Allen and Miranda both contribute by season’s end.
The demotion of Eric Young Jr. has helped clear up a bit of the second base situation in Colorado. The hot spring of Jonathan Herrera has him in the running for the job. If he indeed wins the job, be ready to jump on Jose Lopez who will see plenty of run by season’s end.
Site favorite Mike Napoli’s value just took a big hit as he is now the backup catcher for Texas after they dealt Matt Treanor to Kansas City. Keep in mind Taylor Teagarden still looms so at some point, Napoli could return to floating between first base and designated hitter. He is no longer a strong option as a number one catcher, but the playing time discount makes him a nice target for your second catcher with upside.
There are several other scenarios that deserve watching the next couple of days and weeks. Will Rhymes will begin the year at second base for Detroit, but Scott Sizemore will get another shot if he hits while on the farm. Jack Hannahan will play third for Cleveland because he is the only healthy option they have. Left field for Seattle could be interesting once Franklin Gutierrez is healthy as both Michael Saunders and Milton Bradley have played well. Brent Morel has won the job at third for the White Sox, but expect veteran Mark Teahen to pick up some time as well.
By means of a cheap plug for those of you that have not purchased our Platinum package, one of the in-season features will be a weekly review of playing time scenarios which will be reflected in the rest of year projections we provide. Keeping on top of playing time issues can be crucial to maximize your at bats, and as I like to say, at bats are currency in deep leagues.