I received an interesting question last week when I was unwittingly doing my best Josh Hamilton impression:
Ridin'thepine (Splintersville): Name a handful of current bench players you see carving out a role and producing fantasy-worthy numbers?
Part of being a successful fantasy player is finding future value where there is none presently. Predicting future performance is precarious business, and predicting future role changes even tougher, but intelligently speculating on some things can lead to big value down the line. Those who drafted or recently stashed Alex Cobb in AL-only leagues, for instance, are about to be handsomely rewarded for their effort (I’m a big Cobb fan). Who are some other players without clean roles right now who could find their way into regular at-bats or starts sometime soon?
Brian Duensing | Minnesota Twins | SP
Raise your hand if you knew Brian Duensing is capable of touching 96 mph. Now put it down, YOU LIAR! Duensing really knows how to crank it up when he’s only required to pitch in small bursts, and it has allowed him to find great success as a reliever for the Twins. With the back-end of the Twins rotation in flux, Duensing could parlay that success into another chance as a starter sometime soon. Scott Diamond and P.J. Walters are questionable starters at best, and it seems only a matter of time before one (or both) falters. The team has already mentioned the possibility of moving Duensing back to the rotation, and while he wouldn’t be able to crank his fastball up to 96 mph anymore, his plus control would allow him to be a solid AL-only play.
David Ross | Atlanta Braves | C
Each season, without fail, at the top of my $1 catcher list in NL-only leagues is David Ross. I’ve yet to actually draft him—I usually wind up with two starters—but he’s always my top fall-back option. Perhaps the best offensive backup catcher in all of baseball, Ross is always one Brian McCann injury away from some serious fantasy value. Of course, we’ve yet to see one of those injuries occur, but McCann is aging, and catcher is a rigorous position. For his career, Ross has averaged 25 home runs per 600 plate appearances. That’s mixed league value we’re talking about here. True, the batting average won’t help you, but hey, that’s the catcher position for you. Oh, and he’d be penciled into the National League’s top-scoring offense.
Juan Francisco | Atlanta Braves | 3B
There’s nothing I love more than cheap power. My leaguemates always give me grief over the composition of my teams: high power, low batting average. Cheap power is easier to find than cheap batting average, though, and it’s just as (if not more) valuable. Francisco knows how to hit the long ball, and like his teammate Ross, he’s one major injury away from full-time at-bats—an injury to Chipper Jones, no less. He’s worth a bench spot in many deeper leagues already because of the time he gets for Chipper’s inevitable nagging injuries, but uncontested starts would push his value over the top.
Nate Schierholtz | San Francisco Giants | OF
Schierholtz is a starting-caliber outfielder for a number of teams, but somehow he finds himself buried on the bench in a below-average San Francisco lineup. Even with Aubrey Huff failing to notch a start since April 21 and Brandon Belt playing strictly at first base, Schierholtz is still a mere fourth outfielder. This is perhaps one of the biggest crimes in all of baseball right now, as not only is Schierholtz a solid all-around hitter capable of contributions in average, power, and speed, but he is also a very good defensive player. He began the year with a starting job, but Gregor Blanco has been siphoning the air out of that balloon since the beginning of the month. I can’t imagine he runs behind Blanco for the rest of the year, so it just becomes a waiting game until Bruce Bochy comes to his senses.
Some other bench players to keep an eye on: Adrian Cardenas, Allen Craig, Scott Feldman, Tyler Flowers, Kosuke Fukudome, Charlie Furbush, Craig Gentry, Johnny Giavotella, Maicer Izturis, Jeff Keppinger, Brent Lillibridge, Gerardo Parra, Ben Revere, Wilin Rosario, Chris Snyder