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A word of warning before we even get started: Do not go out and pick up the guys I’m about to mention, at least not right now. It’s early in the season and there should be no need to replace whomever you’ve drafted just yet. Players have slow starts; it happens. There is no need to panic — although if this were a movie, the time to panic would be now because I just told you not to panic.
Anyway, I say this first and foremost because I can: I am an artist. Writing is my art and the page is my canvas. Secondly, the worthless crap contained within this column is meant to be used over the course of the season as needed. You wouldn’t ingest an entire bottle of pills at once, would you? Don’t answer that.
As I mentioned, now is not the time to start replacing
your players. However, the fact
is that baseball has a bit of randomness built into it. Players do have off-seasons for one reason or another, and players do suffer long-term injuries. Any of your starters’ going down could mean bad things for your team, but at some positions the effects can be worse than at others.
The positions with less talent tend to be those that require more defensive skill. Good offensive catchers, shortstops and third basemen in particular are harder to come by than good offensive players at other positions. Those are the positions that are hardest to defend, so MLB teams are more willing to sacrifice offense for a good glove at those spots. The trick to dealing with losing your starter at one of those positions relates quite closely to something I talked about in my last column: Don’t get bogged down playing the name game.
The best replacements are often people you haven’t heard of. Most rookies don’t get a lot of press, but they are usually quite capable players. Utility players are another group that doesn’t get much glory. MLB managers rely on utility guys to be ready to go at a moment’s notice and to be able to fill in at multiple positions with little offensive drop off. They can do the same thing in fantasy baseball. It’s also not always a bad idea to pick up a minor leaguer, as many are quite capable and are just waiting for an opening to show their stuff in the majors. When starters go down, they are among the first to get a chance to fill in.
The position of catcher is particularly problematic, for MLB teams and fantasy teams alike. The position takes a toll on their knees, which in turn takes a toll on their ability to produce offensively. Russell Martin, Jarrod Saltalamacchia — young though he is — and many other offensively strong catchers have fallen victim to the physical toll of the position. To protect against the perils of shallow positions, you need to know how and where to look for depth.
Look at stats rather than names. Very few people know who Jonathan Lucroy is, but he could save your fantasy team. As it happens, he is the Milwaukee Brewers’ starting catcher and can be added in 97 percent of leagues. He won’t hit over .300, but he has good power and hits well enough that you don’t have to worry about him dragging your team average down significantly.
Second, look to the minors. Ryan Lavarnway of the Boston Red Sox didn’t make the cut in spring training, but he will be their starting catcher sooner rather than later and is a very talented player. If you have room to add Lavarnway, it might be wise to do so in a few weeks. He has solid long-term keeper potential for those of you in keeper leagues.
Anyway, that’s all I have for this edition. Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m not. Maybe you’ll take my advice. Maybe you won’t. Maybe only my friends, who for the most part don’t play fantasy baseball, read this column. But you know what? None of that matters. I am an artist. I can do whatever the hell I want.
Daily Nexus fantasy baseball columnist Joshua Greenberg is a very successful artist; many of his works hang on the walls of his grandmother’s living room.