D.J. Short

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Holland Days

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The first couple weeks of the season are pretty funny to watch from a fantasy baseball perspective. I usually call it fickle season. Everybody is paying extra attention to their teams right now, so people are often compelled to roster players they have either never heard of previously (Sam Fuld, to name one prominent example) or never would have considered before.

I hate to keep picking on Willie Bloomquist -- I'm sure he's a nice guy and all -- but there's a reason for it. Do you realize that he is owned in 74 percent of Y! leagues and 61.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues right now? Seriously. That means he's owned in more Y! leagues than Jordan Zimmermann and Carlos Beltran and in more ESPN.com leagues than Kurt Suzuki and Gavin Floyd. Bizarro world, I tell you.

Let's all reconvene about a month from now and see where Mr. Bloomquist stands. Deal?


Kyle Farnsworth RP, Rays (Yahoo: 36 percent owned, ESPN: 6.6 percent)

Don't laugh. I'm serious about this one. The Rays have only had two save situations so far this season and Joe Maddon has turned to Farnsworth for both of them. The 35-year-old right-hander pitched a perfect inning against the White Sox last Friday and fanned two in a spotless ninth against the Red Sox on Tuesday night. While Farnsworth gets a lot of grief sometimes, he actually pitched quite well last season and has averaged 9.0 K/9 for his career. I still think young left-hander Jake McGee will have the job before the end of the season, but Farnsworth is the one to own in this bullpen right now.

David Freese 3B, Cardinals (Yahoo: 37 percent owned, ESPN: 47.3 percent)

Freese was a major question mark coming into spring training after undergoing surgeries on both ankles, but you wouldn't know it by his current output. He's batting .324/.359/.541 with two homers and six RBI over his first 37 at-bats, including his current streak of four consecutive multi-hit games. The 27-year-old Freese was batting over .300 before his ankle problems resurfaced last June, so there's reason to believe he can be a palatable fantasy option at the hot corner. If you're looking for someone to fill in for Ryan Zimmerman or Evan Longoria at third base for a couple weeks, here's your man.

David Murphy OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 36 percent owned, ESPN: 5.1 percent)

The Rangers have lost Josh Hamilton for 6-8 weeks with a non-displaced fracture of the humerus bone in his right shoulder. The reigning AL MVP is nearly impossible to replace, but Murphy proved last September (.355, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 4 SB) that he is capable of being an adequate substitute. I'm not saying Murphy is a lock to repeat those numbers, but he puts a hurting on right-handed pitching (.842 career OPS) and possesses sneaky speed. He's a definite buy in deeper mixed formats.

Josh Willingham OF, Athletics (Yahoo: 20 percent owned, ESPN: 15.8 percent)

I almost included Willingham in last week's column, but he's all the more relevant following Josh Hamilton's injury. The 32-year-old outfielder was on the way to a career-year last season before a knee injury eventually led to surgery. I wouldn't worry too much about his early numbers (17/4 K/BB ratio over 41 at-bats), as they are wildly out of step with his career norms. "The Hammer" probably won't hit for a high batting average, but he gets on base enough (.366 career OBP) and offers 20-plus homer power.

Chris Narveson SP, Brewers (Yahoo: 41 percent owned, ESPN: 30.2 percent)

Narveson was one of my favorite deep sleepers over the winter and he's making me look pretty good right now. The 29-year-old southpaw has tossed 13 scoreless innings over his first two starts to go along with a 14/4 K/BB ratio. He struggled a bit with runners on base last season, but remember that he posted a 3.89 ERA over 14 starts after the All-Star break. If he can come close to those numbers over a full season in 2011, he'll have real value in mixed leagues. Give him a try against the Nationals on Friday.

Derek Holland SP, Rangers (Yahoo: 27 percent owned, ESPN: 10.9 percent)

I debated including Alexi Ogando among this week's recommendations. I certainly think he has a chance to help fantasy owners in the short-term, but I'm worried about an eventual innings-limit. That's why I advocate selling more than buying. Meanwhile, Holland is someone that I think can be an asset all year long. The 24-year-old left-hander has flown under the radar in some mixed leagues, despite posting a 2.25 ERA and an impressive 11/3 K/BB ratio over his first two starts. Holland showed some nice building blocks last season, so hopefully this is the year he puts it all together.

Maicer Izturis 2B/3B/SS, Angels (Yahoo: 40 percent owned, ESPN: 51.9 percent)

Izturis has started four out of the last five games at shortstop as he fills in for Erick Aybar, who is currently on the disabled list with an oblique injury. The 30-year-old utility infielder is a known commodity among most fantasy owners at this point, so he doesn't need much of an introduction here. He'll give you a decent batting average along with some pop and speed. We're talking about a stop-gap option here, but he's a perfectly respectable one if you're waiting for Aybar or Rafael Furcal to return.

Dexter Fowler OF, Rockies (Yahoo: 35 percent owned, ESPN: 47.5 percent)

Lots of things to like about Fowler right now. The 25-year-old center fielder has batted leadoff in all nine of his starts this season. And while a .250 batting average doesn't exactly knock you over, he has a .340 on-base percentage thanks to six walks. By the way, he has drawn walks at a rate of around 12 percent in the majors, so there's reason to believe this is sustainable. Getting on base is obviously a very good thing with this Rockies lineup, as Fowler is already among the league leaders with 10 runs scored. Throw in the potential for stolen bases and you have someone who should be owned in most mixed leagues moving forward.

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)

Sergio Santos RP, White Sox (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 0.2 percent)

Have any other bright ideas? If anything, Santos might be Ozzie Guillen's best option for the ninth inning by default, as Jesse Crain, Chris Sale and Matt Thornton all played a part in giving up a three-run lead to the Athletics on Wednesday afternoon. It certainly helps that Santos has pitched very well so far this season, posting a 9/3 K/BB ratio over 7 2/3 scoreless innings. The closer role figures to be a very fluid situation in the short-term -- and I'd watch left-hander Chris Sale, as well -- but the 27-year-old right-hander is worth an add if you're willing to speculate.

Jeff Francis SP, Royals (Yahoo: 8 percent owned, ESPN: 6.8 percent)

It's not often that you can say this, but Dayton Moore may have scored one of the best bargains of the offseason. Francis, who signed a one-year, $2 million contract in January, has a 2.61 ERA and 13/3 K/BB ratio over his first three starts as a member of the Royals. In truth, the 30-year-old southpaw didn't really pitch all that poorly with the Rockies last season, averaging 5.78 K/9 and 1.98 BB/9 to go along with an xFIP of 3.79 and a career-high ground ball rate of 47 percent. Francis is a bit of a health risk because of his past shoulder problems, but he's already the best fantasy bet in this Royals' starting rotation.

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D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
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