I have been asked a lot the last week if I am worried about Ben Revere (whom I have in Tout Wars, the XFL, and NFBC) or Kyle Seager (whom I have in all the same leagues plus Todd and I own him in the FSTA league) or was worried about Jeff Niemann before he got his starting gig?
And, the answer to all is and has been a resonant "no."
That is because every team has a player on the bubble for playing time, and more often than not, and every team will endure enough slumps and injuries to allow the fourth outfielder and utility infielder to generally log 300-plus at-bats. Of course this is only germaine to NL or AL only formats, as mixed leagues are shallow enough to really allow for starters everywhere.
But, in AL or NL only leagues, teams always suffer holes, so the most important thing an owner can do is vigilantly scrape and claw for that playing time and those innings and at-bats.
So, this time let's look at players I like to grab not just some at-bats in a part time role, but players who have a chance to even move into full time status, starting with the Twins Trevor Plouffe. Right now Plouffe is listed as an extra outfielder, but he also spent a fair chunk of time at shortstop (59 major league games) and really has better pop than either elderly incumbant Jamey Carroll or Alexi Casilla. The former 2004 #1 pick of the Twinkies just seems a better fit in that infield.
The extras in the Boston outfield- Darnell McDonald, Cody Ross, and Ryan Sweeney--whose surnames read like a law firm seem like they will be scrambling for time as well, and going into the season Ross looks to be a starter, while Sweeney and McDonald will platoon while Kalish and Carl Crawford see healthy bodies. Well, I really like McDonald here (sorry Ryan, burned too many times) seeing and teeing off against lefties, getting 300 at-bats, and assembling numbers like the .270-9-34 he knocked for Boston a couple of years ago.
The Yankees are revered, though aged on the left side of the infield with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, and I would expect 24-year old Eduardo Nunez to improve upon his very good 2011 (.265-5-30 with 22 swipes) spelling the future Hall of Famers. Need I say more?
Jason Donald will wind up as the starting third sacker for the Tribe--barring a resurgence from Lonnie Chisenhall--by the end of April. Oh, Jack Hanahan will get some at-bats, and he might have a glove, but he cannot hit a major league fastball and Donald has .286-35-201 totals over six minor league seasons. he also has a .373 OBP and 54 steals and only injuries held the 26-year old back last year.
The Phillies are also have their injury issues between Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and they also now have table setter Juan Pierre in tow. But I think John Mayberry, Jr. is going to build upon his very good (.273-15-49 with 8 swipes) 2011, and probably even move into a full time role. The biggest issue facing Mayberry is his big swing which is vulnerable to the whiff. But, if Jeff Francouer can do it, so can Mayberry the younger.
Washington is kind of melange of old and new, although in the outfield, the teeth are generally longer. Mike Morse--who also plays first--is quite a hitter, but also quite injured most of the time. So, the competition is really among Rick Ankiel, Jayson Werth, and Roger Bernadina. Well, 37-year old Mark DeRosa figures to get some serious playing time here. DeRosa last played full time in 2009 (.250-23-78) and has also suffered from those injuries since, managing only 73 games over the two ensuing seasons. Surely Bryce Harper is in line for one of those outfield slots when someone falters, but DeRosa is already there and looks primed for a last hurrah.
Arizona's outfield is well set with Jason Kubel, Chris Young, and Justin Upton, but don't dismiss Gerardo Parra. Kubel has also had his down time over the past couple of seasons, and as a #4 outfielder, Parra could be productive should he simply repeat last year's .292-8-46 totals with 15 swipes over 141 games. Of course, I would not expect 141 games, but I would figure 300 at-bats with similar numbers.
Aubrey Huff is coming off his annual sub-par odd season off year. He is also in a contract year, and just barely ahead of Brandon Belt--who is the Giants future--at first base. Huff is also the fourth outfielder (something left hitter seems to be flip flopping in left with Belt, as well) but don't be discouraged in having either. Figure the Giants will do a lot of platooning and both will capture 400-plus at-bats. Not to mention, Huff is expendable to a late season change to a team seeking left handed pop.