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September 16, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Targeting A Category

by Craig Brown

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If you’re in the hunt for a roto league title at this time of the year, you may be scouring the waiver wire looking for that one guy who can give you the edge you need in that one category.  With that in mind, here are a few players to target for specific stats - one player for each category per league.  To be considered, they need to be widely available in most ESPN leagues and they need to be receiving regular playing time.  There are plenty of options out there, but these are the 10 that caught my eye.  Please feel free to share your single category gems in the comments.

Batting Average
AL - David Murphy
On August 3, Murphy was hitting .255 in an otherwise nondescript season.  The next evening in Seattle, the Ranger left fielder clubbed two hits, including a three-run home run.  A month and a half later, he’s yet to slow down hitting .346 while rotating among all three Ranger outfield positions.  He is showing no signs of letting up as he currently owns a 13-game hitting streak.  If you’re looking for a batting average bump, don’t dally on Murphy, he’s going fast in ESPN leagues, currently up to 31% ownership.

NL - Emilio Bonifacio
Bonifacio’s stock is rapidly rising thanks to a .377 batting average over the last month.  Plus, he’s been extremely hot of late, hitting in 10 of his last 11 games since taking over the Marlins leadoff spot in the lineup. Just like Murphy in the AL, owners have taken note of Bonifacio’s surge.  You'll have to move now as his ownership has shot up over 29% in the last couple of weeks.

Runs
AL - Will Rhymes
As a team, the Tigers don’t score a ton of runs - their 4.6 runs per game puts them in the middle of the pack in the AL.  However, Rhymes is doing every thing he can to circle the bases, scoring a solid 44% of the time he reaches.  Since August 18, he’s been Detroit’s number two hitter where he has the luxury known as Miguel Cabrera hitting two spots behind him.  

NL - Cameron Maybin 
Since his return from Triple-A exile, Maybin has hit .273 and scored 11 runs in 17 games he’s started.  In this stretch, he’s scoring a run 46% of the time he reaches base, which is right in line with his seasonal average.  Although he’s hitting with some power (seven of his 18 hits have gone for extra bases), it would be great if he could put the ball in play with a little more frequency.  Maybin has 20 strikeouts in 66 at bats since rejoining the Marlins but if you’re targeting runs with a side of power potential, he’s not a bad option.

Home Runs
AL - Russell Branyan
Branyan, owned in just 12% of ESPN leagues, hasn’t missed a game since mid August. Although he’s hitting just .217 since then (with a .237 BABIP), the lefty has swatted 11 home runs.  Overall, it works out to a long ball roughly once every ten at bats.  We know with Branyan, you’re going to get more than your fill of strikeouts and he’s pretty much putting the ball in play in the air whenever he actually makes contact (he owns a 58% FB rate since joining the Mariners) so you have to be really secure in your BA if you're thinking of adding him to your roster.  

NL - Chris Johnson
Blame the NL.  Of all the senior circuit hitters with at least five home runs over the last seven weeks, nearly all of them are owned in over 50% of ESPN leagues.  To be fair, Johnson has muscled up a bit lately, bashing three home runs in his last eight games.  On the season he’s hitting a home run once every 33 at bats, which certainly isn’t ideal if you’re searching for power but you can't buy a Mercedes if all the dealership is selling are Hondas.  Johnson owns a 28.4 AB/HR rate since the first of August.  He’s the best I could offer in an extremely limited field.

RBI
AL - Ryan Kalish
Kalish has been on an RBI binge since joining the Red Sox on the final day of July.  OK, binge may be too strong of word.  Let’s say he’s been extremely efficient.  Kalish has come to the plate 124 times and thanks to a better than average Boston lineup, there have been 81 runners on base in those plate appearances. (Major league average for someone with the same number of plate appearances is 76 runners on base.)  Of those 81 runners ahead of Kalish, he’s brought home 21 - good for a 21% success rate.  The average major leaguer picks up an RBI every 8.1 at bats.  Kalish is collecting one RBI every 5.5 ABs.

NL - Pedro Alvarez
Owned in just 12% of ESPN leagues, Alvarez has driven in 17% of all base runners this summer for the Pirates.  Overall, he owns a 6.6 AB/RBI rate and as you would expect because the Pirates are involved, he’s been doing more with less.  The average major leaguer with 314 plate appearances has come to bat with 194 runners on and driven in 34.  Alvarez has hit with fewer than average runners on base (183), yet has picked up 42 RBI.

Stolen Bases
AL - Gregor Blanco
With Coco Crisp (finally!) gaining traction among owners, there aren’t a ton of decent, likely available options in the AL for steals.  Blanco is probably the most attractive of the bunch.  He’s leading off for the Royals and has nine successful steals in 10 chances since joining the team.  Overall, he’s running in about 15% of his stolen base opportunities and with a slightly above average .335 OBP, he’s as good as you’re likely to find at this juncture.  

NL - Eric Young, Jr.
With 20 wins in their last 30 games, the Colorado Rockies are one of the hottest teams going and are harboring serious thoughts at another Rocktober.  Why wouldn’t you grab the guy leading the charge at the top of the order?  Young has played in 29 of those games since his return and has scored 18 runs and swiped 12 bases during this stretch.      Overall, he’s attempting a steal in over 30% of his opportunities.  I’d grab him just on general principles since Troy Tulowitski and Carlos Gonzalez are the three and four guys in the Rockie lineup.  Yet, Young is owned in just over 22% of ESPN leagues.  Does that mean 78% of ESPN owners have abandoned their teams?

Craig Brown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

2 comments have been left for this article.

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Changing Speeds: Half ... (09/16)
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