Are you average?
No, not you, the person. I'm talking about you, the fantasy owner. And, I'm specifically talking about where you stand at each starting position on your roster.
All of us who are serious about this are constantly looking to tool and improve our roster. Sometimes even the slightest of upgrades is worth the half-hour you wasted during your real job to find it. In a typical roto league, finding help in certain categories is usually the most specific goal when you go to the waiver wire. But, if you are to understand what an upgrade or improvement actually is, you need to know what the base-line is for each position.
Is your 2B with a .250 average, five homers, and 22 RBIs good enough? Well, that's below-average for that position across-the-board. In other words, you should actively be seeking an upgrade. Conversely, if you have a C with a .245 mark, five homers, and 30 RBIs, you've got an above-average guy at the position. Even though the numbers aren't scintillating, you don't really need to aggressively hunt down a so-called better player.
If you feel that you are not getting enough average, power, or run production from a player, what constitutes an upgrade? Here are the average efforts (BA/HR/RBI/R/SB) for each hitting position, thus far ...
C - .237/7/28/25/1 ... Whose line looks like this in '16? - Derek Norris
1B - .252/11/35/33/2 ... Whose line looks like this in '16? - Joey Votto
2B - .274/7/29/36/5 ... Whose line looks like this in '16? - Joe Panik
3B - .262/10/33/33/3 ... Whose line looks like this in '16? - Adrian Beltre
SS - .258/6/28/31/5 ... Whose line looks like this in '16? - Carlos Correa
OF - .260/8/31/34/5 ... Whose line looks like this in '16? - Lorenzo Cain
In a perfect world you would try to roster an above-average guy at each position. It's not as easy as you think, but if you pull it off it should lead to a legitimate run at your fantasy league title.
(Note: To make the list, I'll apply a loose definition that says a player is likely be unowned in a vast majority of 12-team mixed leagues. At the end of each player note, I'll also provide a suggested bid for those that use FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) for their waiver process (based on a $100 budget). Understand that this is only a suggestion ... if you've just lost your starting outfielder to injury and you have an immediate need or gaping hole in your lineup, you will find it necessary to bid more in order to get that week's top available outfielder.)
Ezequiel Carrera, OF, Toronto
Jose Bautista's sudden arrival on the disabled list (toe) has opened up an everyday spot for Carrera. It's also probably opened up the lead-off spot for him, too. The 29-year old has bounced from team to team and from role to role without distinguishing himself over the previous five seasons. There's little chance he pulls off anything more than a quick push and then quick fade. Don't get carried away with his stats for this season (a .330 batting mark with an .841 OPS) because it's been put together in under 90 official at-bats. Power-wise, he's never been good for a double-digit doubles in any season and probably would struggle for 10 home runs in 140 games of action. He won't anything near that moving forward and it would not surprise me at all to see him firmly stuck on the bench by July 1. The fall from Bautista to Carrera is a cataclysmic one. You don't want to be a part of it.
Suggested FAAB bid - $2
Wilson Contreras, C, Chicago Cubs
The positives are easy to spot. Contreras handles a position that is a problem area for many fantasy players. His prospect report card reads like that of a plus-hitter. And, he is the latest arrival from a team that is producing and promoting young talent as often as many of us crack open a cold one. Contreras has been a monster in AAA. He's hitting a smooth .350 with a 40/40 runs/RBI total, plus an eye-popping 1.030 OPS. Yes, he's a hitter. But, there are the usual negatives, too. First off, the Cubbies now have three catchers on their active roster (Miguel Montero and David Ross as the hold-overs). Secondly, it appears that the team just wants to give Contreras a taste of the MLB-lifestyle for a week or so before sending him back into the minor leagues. That's a strategy they invoked with Kyle Schwarber a year ago. If Contreras were going to stick, I'd be all over him in a two-catcher league. Playing time is an issue in the present, but the Cubs are likely dangling Montero in trade talks (all MLB teams are interested in veteran catchers with any sort of proven profile) as they look to strengthen their bullpen or other spots. I would actually still be OK with going heavy on the bid with Contreras as long as I'm willing to carry him for a month-plus until he's hopefully back in the big leagues. Such a strategy could obviously blow up in your face, but it's a near-guarantee you won't find a higher ceiling hitter from the catcher spot for the remainder of the summer.
Suggested FAAB bid - $7
Ike Davis, 1B, NY Yankees
Just a week ago in this very spot, I spent a (short) time going over Rob Refsnyder. As noted in that article, I figured that the Yanks would be mostly unwilling to settle for such an underwhelming option at 1B. Ah, but what I failed to foresee is that they would invest in another underwhelming option to supplant Refsnyder! Davis is the man after being released by Texas earlier this month. His career has gone off the rails since launching 32 souvenirs back in 2012. As usual, injuries have been the culprit and as Davis nears age-30, he's down to one final shot. He'll get it with New York and we all know how power-hitting lefties (even old ones) can lift plenty of balls over the right-field Bronx wall. Davis is a better bet than Refsnyder because he's done it before. Still, this is a home run-only play. The RBIs won't be there because the average is likely to be stuck in the low-.200s. If you're desperate for a handful of homers or just feel like caring about Yankees' baseball for a while, Davis can work as a three-week corner infield option.
Suggested FAAB bid - $2
Steven Moya, OF, Detroit
The Tigers lost J.D. Martinez to a broken elbow and he will be out at least a month and may not be seen in the Detroit lineup until close to August. Cue the arrival of Moya. The now-24 year-old has been on the prospect radar in the Motor City for a few seasons, but he's never put up marks in limited MLB opportunities. This marks his most extensive chance to shine. He has been performing well at AAA this season with an average just a shade under-.300, plus a near-.900 OPS, 13 HRs, and 38 RBIs in 205 ABs. Of course, he should be doing that when you consider he's played nearly 180 career games at AAA. His K-rate could be Upton-like with the Tigers and that means an average even approaching .250 might be a stretch. You are mostly betting on playing time and opportunity more than the actual player here. Detroit's track record of developing bat talent has been lacking and Moya was usually promoted just because he was the best of a weak group. Expectations should be kept in check here.
Suggested FAAB bid - $4
Mallex Smith, OF, Atlanta
Smith's call-up way back in April was met with some anticipation because of his ability to rack up steals. But, the excitement subsided rather quickly when Smith failed to even hit .190 in his first two-plus weeks with the Braves. At the same time, he was a pitiful stolen base threat. In fact, he was thrown out twice as often (4 times) as he succeeded (2 times). For many, he looked like just another no-hit, overrated-speed outfielder that we come across a dozen times every season. But, beginning in mid-May, we've seen a better Smith. Atlanta is still starting him despite the return of Ender Inciarte and he's coming up with some numbers that can help. The average is digestible (.277 over his past 95 plate appearances) and he's figured out when and how to run. After three more thefts in the past two games, he's up to 14 for the season. That may not sound like a ton, but it ranks 8th in all of baseball. Even if Smith slumps a bit with the lumber he'll still get playing time for the rebuilding Braves. Focus on the steals only and you should get what you're looking for.
Suggested FAAB bid - $8
Carlos Estevez, RP, Colorado
A tweaked knee landed Jake McGee on the disabled list a week ago. That came after the Week 11 waiver write-up and since the Rockies didn't immediately anoint anyone as the 'next man up,' Estevez may be available in some leagues for bidding action this weekend. The young righty has already registered three saves in his first week on the job and he's been rolling since the calendar flipped to June. After a rough beginning he has given up just one run in his last eight appearances. He's not considered a fire-baller, but he has held his own with a closer-like K-per-inning rate. Estevez also has 9th inning experience at other levels, too. He was given the role in High-A, AA, and in the Arizona Fall League. Any measure of success will keep him in the spot even when McGee returns, but then we'll have to wonder about Adam Ottavino. Ottavino looked like a 9th-inning force before blowing out his knee a year ago. He's expected to be ready for action in Denver in the next month or so. There is definitely that fear factor, at least, of Ottavino confusing the situation. Still, the saves game is one that you play week-by-week. Estevez could snag you 10 saves in the next month and that makes him a guy to get.
Suggested FAAB bid - $10
Shawn Kelley, RP, Washington
Kelley's closing opportunity has a much shorter shelf life than Estevez's. Well, ... we think. Jonathan Papelbon (intercoastal) is on the DL and the public opinion is that he could be back in just over two weeks. So, yes, Kelley's run could be limited. But, as we have seen throughout baseball, a side strain is rarely predictable so Papelbon could take longer to recover than what the Nats are saying. Beyond that the vet has not been his usual powerhouse self this year. His whiff rate has plummeted below seven-per-nine, his WHIP has jumped to almost 1.35, and his ERA is way over his career mark (3.28). In other words, despite being the owner of 16 saves, he just hasn't been very good. Meanwhile, Kelley has been nothing but strong. Going back to the beginning of last season he has punched out 98 hitters in only 77 innings. The WHIP, ERA, and HR-rate over that span all check out, too. He appears to have the skill set and he could continue a good run which would force the Nats to make a tough choice. As we see everywhere, the team usually goes with the vet who has been there, done that. Yet, it wouldn't be shocking for the Nationals to surprise us and even if Kelley returns to his set-up spot, his ratio's are fantasy-worthy. Plus, you could get a late-season saves boost if Papelbon struggles down the stretch.
Suggested FAAB bid - $10
Bud Norris, SP, Atlanta
Oh, gosh, really?! Yes, dear reader, really! While we were all going after the Tyler Duffey's, Hector Santiago's, or Derek Holland's of the world, our old friend Bud Norris was reeling off some good work in the Braves' rotation. He's spent the entire season in the bullpen while the Braves go through a carousel of over-matched and mostly bad young starting pitchers. Now, he's become almost a last man standing. In three turns, he's totaled 17 innings, allowed only 10 hits and five earned runs, and K'd 15 guys. And ... there's a two start week on the horizon! It's a stream pick-up, of course, but how can you say no to a start on the road in Miami and then home against the soft underbelly that is the Mets?! Norris will cost little and will be considered by even fewer in your league. It's a (relatively) hot pitcher, with a (decent) track record, who is up against two (mostly) non-threatening offenses. I'd take that for this week.
Suggested FAAB bid - $2
Cody Reed, SP, Cincinnati
The Reds are going through more call-up's than a desperate high schooler in the final, waning days before senior prom. But, that was the plan all along. With injured arms returning and a couple of guys separating themselves, things are slowly coming together for the young rotation. Reed is one of the final pieces and will make his major league debut on Sunday in Houston. As is so often the case in fantasy land, if he tears it up against the 'Stros, his price tag will leap. If, instead, it's three innings and a loss, few will bother with even placing a bid. But, you need to take the one game snap shot out of it. What do you have with Reed? The tall and lanky lefty can hit the mid-90s with his fastball and then often comes with a good slider to put hitters away. His AAA numbers weren't mind-blowing (3.20 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.8 K/9), but the 23-year old has really moved up the prospect rankings in just the last 10 months. He should remain in the Cincy rotation unless he's absolutely pummeled and I don't think that's very likely. I'll go with upside this time around and say he has a shot at finishing as a better-than-you-think SP5 this year. There is not near the hype of the other lauded minor league arms, but that could change in a flash if he's good on Sunday.
Suggested FAAB bid - $9 (price will jump if he posts a good effort on Sunday)
Tyler Wilson, SP, Baltimore
Like Norris above, Wilson is in line for a pair of starts next week. But, unlike Norris, he probably has a little more leering attention on him after he shockingly shut-down the Red Sox offense in his last start. Wilson turned the script on its' head by clamping down for eight innings, allowing just three safeties, and ZERO runs to the BoSox on Thursday night. The reason that I invoked the word 'shocking' earlier is that Wilson showed almost no signs that such a breakout was brewing. Before the start at Fenway, he had allowed at least five runs in 3 of his previous five journeys to the hill. And in those five starts he had only lasted a total of just over 28 innings. For the season, he has been an average arm with an ERA over 4, but a solid WHIP standing at 1.17. Unfortunately, he's Justin Nicolino-like when it comes to strikeouts as he averages less than five per nine innings of work. He does have a scheduled two-start week (vs. SD, vs. TB), but that's only if the Orioles treat a double-dip with the Rays the way we think they might. Even if he were to stay on that preliminary schedule, though, he'd be making two starts in a home park where his ERA is over 5 for the season. There is some temptation as a streamer, but not much unless you're feeling extra frisky this week.
Suggested FAAB bid - $2
You can hear Kyle each weeknight on 'The SiriusXM Fantasy Drive' from 7-10 ET, Sirius 210, XM 87.
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