Free Agent Friday | The 3B Replacements | 05.04.12

A month has gone by and the season is starting to shift. Some of the guys who had a hot streak are still riding that streak and making us think about adding them to our teams. Some closers have been bad enough to lose their jobs. And, more than anything, the dreaded injury bug is coming about and forcing us to search for injury replacements. Ah, May baseball! Gotta love it. Before you go hit up your waiver wire this morning, let’s take a glance at some of the hot pickups and whether they’re worth pursuing or not.

Good Pickups

Chris Davis (1B/3B, BAL) – As the old adage goes, “fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice and I’m not gonna get fooled again.” With Chris Davis, he sneaks back onto the radar every year at some point with the promise of big HR totals but ends up disappointing us some way or another. But, let’s forget about the past and realize that he’s got a new opportunity in Baltimore this year and seems to be taking advantage of it. He may never be the 30+ HR hitter that we once dreamed of but a .260 AVG, 25 HR season is a real possibility. With the amount of injuries to third basemen this week, he’s a respectable replacement for the time being.

Pedro Alvarez (3B, PIT) – There’s been a lot of major injuries to third basemen this week (Evan LongoriaPablo SandovalKevin YoukilisMat Gamel) so it doesn’t come as a big surprise that one of the hot pickups is a third basemen. Alvarez, for once, is swinging a hot bat. He has 7 multi-hit games in his last 11 and has hit 5 HR’s in his last 9 games. He still has some things going against him (a lineup that doesn’t produce RBI opportunities, high strikeout rate, low walk rate, etc) but he’s certainly a viable temporary replacement. ZiPS has him projected to finish the season with 29 HR’s and a .246 AVG at this point. If you can afford the dip in AVG and need some power then Alvarez is your man. Be wary of his slumps and be prepared to have a backup for Alvarez though.

Will Middlebrooks (3B, BOS) – It’s hard to know what we’ll get out of Middlebrooks but he’s a power hitter with some speed and that’s very valuable at the thinning 3B position. In a full season, he has the potential to hit 20 HR with 10 SB while not killing your AVG like Alvarez or Davis. But, he’s a bit of a wild card given his youth. I think the three available 3B are all fairly close in value but I’d rank Middlebrooks a tiny notch above Davis then Alvarez as a temporary injury replacement for your team.

Tony Campana (OF, CHC) – In watching the Cubs/Phillies game the other day, the announcers declared Campana as maybe the fastest guy in the league. You may know him from his 24 SB last year in limited time and he already has 7 this year. The thing that keeps Campana from being a big contributor is that he’s still not getting AB’s. He’s starting to get consistent AB’s in Chicago and has the potential to be a Michael Bourn-ish player with a .275 AVG and 40-50 SB. In roto leagues, that’s exactly what you want to find on the waiver wire.

Drew Smyly (SP, DET) – We don’t have a lot to go off of when it comes to the young rookie. He had a brief minor league career before bursting onto the scene. But, his minor league K and BB rates match up with his MLB rates of 9 K/9 and 3.27 BB/9 thus far. He has a 1.23 ERA and hasn’t been aided by a lucky BABIP or HR/FB rate. Through four starts (small sample size!), everything points to him being legit. I’d pick him up if you have some expendable pieces and bench Smyly for a couple more starts to see what he can do for ya.

Others I’ve Written About Recently – Bryan LaHair

Could Be Good Pickups

David Robertson or Rafael Soriano (RP, NYY) – As you know, Mariano Rivera is done for the year. We have no time for mourning in fantasy baseball so the immediate reaction is to look and see who takes over as closer in New York. Soriano has the experience in the role but Robertson has been the better reliever the past few years. There hasn’t been official indication of who will get the job and you have to rely on gut feeling at this point. You can’t really take your time in making a decision so either choose experience or talent and grab your choice off the wire. Personally, I always favor talent (Robertson) but MLB managers don’t always follow suit. One of these two is going to be a good pickup but we just don’t know who yet.

Scott Downs (RP, ANA) – The new closer in Anaheim has been lights-out thus far. I have concerns as his strikeout rate is abysmal and he’s been aided by a fluky BABIP rate. But, regardless, he’s the closer for now. The Angels acquired Ernesto Frieri and he could compete for the closer’s role as well there. But, for the time being, pick up whatever saves Downs gets you but just don’t expect him to be the long-term answer.

Let Someone Else Pick Them Up

Jed Lowrie (SS, HOU) – I have a soft spot for Lowrie as he was one of my sleeper candidates who failed me last year. I pegged him for a .275 AVG and 20 HR over a full season back then. I’m not quite so high on him any longer and see him more as a 10 HR type of guy. He can’t hit for high average and doesn’t have any speed. So, really, there’s not anything to be excited about here.

Joe Saunders (SP, ARI) – We have over 1000 innings of baseball from Saunders to analyze and he won’t suddenly become a brand new pitcher at this point in his career. He’s started the season well with five nice starts but let’s not get overly excited here. Someone who struggles to strikeout more than 5 batters per nine is generally not on my “want” list. He’s most likely going to have a 4.50-ish ERA as the season goes on with low strikeout totals and that’s not worth picking up to me.

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