D.J. Short

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Club Jed

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's at times like this where I wonder how Mike Leake would handle himself in a fantasy league.

And I'm not talking about as a pitcher, but as a fantasy owner. I tend to think he'd be someone who would constantly vulture players off the waiver wire, like six at a time in some cases. That would normally be pretty annoying for the rest of the league, but the thing is, he'd only claim truly undesirable players like Rick Ankiel and Joe Saunders. It's ultimately a pretty dumb strategy, but he wouldn't really hurt anybody besides himself.

Let's move on to the good stuff.


Jed Lowrie 2B/SS, Red Sox (Yahoo: 51 percent owned, ESPN: 40.4 percent)

I'm going to start with Lowrie since his ownership numbers are still pretty modest under the circumstances, but let's be honest, if you're in a competitive league, he's probably already gone. The 27-year-old is batting .462 with three homers, two doubles and 11 RBI over his first 39 at-bats this season, proving that his second-half surge last year was no fluke. The Red Sox need to get serious about winning some baseball games here, so I don't see Lowrie sitting down anytime soon. Play him while he's hot and worry about Marco Scutaro later.

Danny Espinosa 2B, Nationals (Yahoo: 15 percent owned, ESPN: 11.9 percent)

While he had four hits during Wednesday's doubleheader against the Cardinals, Espinosa's stock has been up with me since being put into the leadoff spot by Jim Riggleman last Friday night. Sure, he's unlikely to maintain his current .288 batting average for the long haul, but he's a solid bet for double-digit homers and steals and should collect plenty of runs scored batting in front of Jayson Werth and (eventually) Ryan Zimmerman. There's sneaky value here in mixed leagues.

Mitchell Boggs RP, Cardinals (Yahoo: 27 percent owned, ESPN: 4.8 percent)

Ryan Franklin was finally removed from the closer role earlier this week and while Tony La Russa hasn't officially named a replacement for the ninth inning, Boggs closed out a 5-3 win over the Nationals on Wednesday night. Good enough for me. The 27-year-old right-hander touches the mid-90s on his fastball and also has a plus-slider, giving him a more traditional closer-like arsenal than his predecessor. His command has been a bit of an issue in the past, but Boggs has an encouraging 13/3 K/BB ratio over his first 10 innings this season. He should be owned in all formats right now.

Peter Bourjos OF, Angels (Yahoo: 17 percent owned, ESPN: 2 percent)

Let Bourjos serve as a reminder of how one big series early in the season can change perception on the spin of a dime. The speedy young center fielder entered this week's series against the Rangers with a lowly .224 batting average, but thanks to going 7-for-12 over the past three games, he's now checks in at .295 for the young season. Of course, the biggest problem with Bourjos is his penchant for the strikeout (20 whiffs over 61 at-bats this season), so there's no batting crown in his immediate future, but he has enough speed and power to be worthy of your attention in deeper mixed formats.

Travis Hafner UT, Indians (Yahoo: 49 perent owned, ESPN: 29.4 percent)

It's hard to believe, but Hafner has found his way back into fantasy relevancy. Pronk had two more hits Wednesday against the Royals, giving him a .351 batting average (20-for-57) to go along with four homers and 10 RBI to begin the year. His batting average on balls in play is ridiculously high at the moment, but the good news is that he is hitting line drives at a frantic pace. I'd suggest adding him where you can, but keep in mind that he's strictly a UT option in most formats.

Bud Norris SP, Astros (Yahoo: 13 percent owned, ESPN: 4.4 percent)

Norris wasn't able to close the deal Wednesday night against the Mets, giving up a game-tying homer in the sixth inning, but I like what I've seen from him so far this season. The 26-year-old right-hander has always been useful for strikeouts (238 strikeouts over 231 1/3 major league innings), but he's made some nice strides with his control this season, walking just seven batters over his first 22 innings. He has the Cardinals on tap for next week, a team he has owned in the past, so why not give him a spin in mixed leagues?

Alex Avila C, Tigers (Yahoo: 32 percent owned, ESPN: 13.2 percent)

DL-stints for Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez have naturally sent many fantasy owners scrambling for catchers for the past week. Nick Hundley has already been snatched up in many leagues (Yahoo: 58 percent owned, ESPN: 48.2 percent), and rightly so, but I'm also intrigued by Avila, who is batting .267 (12-for-45) with three homers, 10 RBI and an .851 OPS so far this season. The 24-year-old still strikes out a little too much, which likely caps his batting average, but I like his power more than, say, Carlos Ruiz, who is owned in more leagues right now. Not a bad short-term fill-in.

Coco Crisp OF, Athletics (Yahoo: 37 percent owned, ESPN: 41.3 percent)

Crisp was drafted in many standard 12-team mixed leagues, but his ownership levels have dropped significantly following a slow start. It might be time to reconsider. Crisp has hit safely in each of his last four games, including a leadoff homer in Wednesday's loss to the Red Sox. He probably won't touch his ridiculous output from the second half of last season, but his speed and surprising pop will prove valuable for as long as he can stay healthy.

Ty Wigginton 1B/2B/3B, Rockies (Yahoo: 18 percent owned, ESPN: 17.1 percent)

The Rockies sent the struggling Ian Stewart to Triple-A Colorado Springs earlier this week, opening the door for Wigginton to draw most of the starts at third base for the time being. The veteran infielder homered and drove in four runs in Wednesday's win over the Giants, collecting his 1000th career hit in the process. Wiggy has a knack of finding playing time wherever he goes, so don't dismiss him as a fantasy option at Coors Field. With his pop and multi-position eligibility, he can be pretty useful in most formats.

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

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

Joe Blanton SP, Phillies (Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 3.1 percent)

Seriously? Seriously. It's easy to get distracted by Blanton's ugly 7.27 ERA -- and his first two starts were admittedly awful -- but he gave up just two runs over seven innings against the Brewers on Monday and has the punchless Padres on tap this weekend. And at pitcher-friendly PETCO Park, no less. If you're looking for a streaming option, Blanton should be near of your list.

Matt Joyce OF, Rays (Yahoo: 2 percent owned, ESPN: 6.7 percent)

Jed Lowrie might be the hottest hitter on the planet right now, but Joyce is a close second. The 26-year-old outfielder started the season in a 1-for-20 slump, but is batting .485 (16-for-33) with six doubles, four RBI and two stolen bases over his last nine games. Joyce is markedly better against right-handed pitching as opposed to southpaws, so be careful when you use him, but his power potential makes him a solid option in deeper mixed formats, especially in five outfielder leagues.

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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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