Saturday, August 18, 2012

Melky Cabrera Replacements

Just one week ago, I wrote about Melky in the blog entry Giants/Marlins team analysis. Melky burst on the scene last year with the Royals batting .305 with 18 HR, 102 runs, 87 RBI and 20 steals. This coming from a guy that had never hit above .280, 13 HR, 75 runs, 73 RBI, or 13 steals in any of his five previous major league seasons. In the pre-season I was skeptical, everything seemed to indicate a fluke year, and his trade to the Giants only made matters worse.

Well this year he didn't miss a beat, batting .346 with 11 HR, 84 runs, 60 RBI and 13 steals in 113 games. I bought in, maybe Melky had become a different player. Well, it turns out Melky actually was a different player. A player with an advantage....

On Wednesday, Melky was suspended 50 games for PEDs. After the suspension, he may go back to being the all-star he has played like the last two seasons, but I'll believe it when I see it. Regardless, in fantasy leagues, his suspension is a huge loss. Let's face it, you're not going to pick up a guy off the waiver wire that can duplicate his production, but here's some outfielders (ranked in order of who I would pick up first) that should ease the pain a bit:

Rajai Davis, TOR (available in 46% ESPN, 65% CBS)
After Jose Bautista's injury and Travis Snider's trade to the Pirates, Rajai has become a fixture at the top of the Blue Jays lineup. He has started 20 straight games, and even when Jose comes back, he should remain the everyday left fielder. He won't hit for a high average but Rajai can flat out fly. Already at 35 steals on the year, he could easily get another 15 steals the rest of the way.

Jon Jay, STL (available in 39% ESPN, 63% CBS)
Jay has had a difficult year, spending a lot of time on the DL because of a shoulder injury after running into the outfield wall. Since shoulder injuries tend to linger, it wasn't surprising that he struggled upon his return. However, since August, Jay has been red hot (7th among OFs) leading off regularly for the high-powered Cardinals offense. Over that span, he has been batting .417, with 2 HR, 10 runs, 8 RBI, and 3 steals. He helps a little in all 5 categories and should continue to do so the rest of the season.

Garrett Jones, PIT (available in 39.1% of ESPN leagues, 50% of CBS leagues)
Jones has always has good power, and it has been on display, as he has hit 19 HRs in only 321 ABs so far this year (16.9 ABs/HR - good for 21st among players with at least 300 PA). Playing time has always been the issue. After the Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez acquisitions, I expected the playing time to drop off further. However, August numbers of .383 avg, 3 HR, 12 runs and 15 RBI makes it hard to keep him off the field. Expect him to get regular starts in either RF or 1B the rest of the way and continue to produce.

Eric Young Jr., COL (available in 72% ESPN, 84% CBS)
Eric Young began the season as a role player, but his playing time has steady increased all season. Since Michael Cuddyer's injury, he has started the last 10 games batting at the top of the order. His numbers in August are off the charts, .444 with 12 runs, 3 HR, 8 RBI and 2 steals (3rd best OF over the last two weeks). While Cuddyer's return will make playing time a little more difficult, I expect him to play every day and be effective, especially for owners that need runs/steals.

Brandon Belt, SF (available in 85% ESPN, 64% CBS)
Belt was a hot prospect last year, but struggled after his call up batting .225 in 63 games. This year, it appeared that he was bound to struggle again, entering August with a .237 average. However, batting .450 in August (although with 0 HR, 5 runs, 4 RBI and 2 steals) and showing a lot more patience at the plate, Belt could be a very valuable piece down the stretch. He has become the Giants every day first basemen, and could be ready to deliver on the promise that made him a top prospect.

Gregor Blanco, SF (available in 98% ESPN, 90% CBS)
The primary playing time benefactor from Melky's suspension, Blanco won't help you in average (.236 on the year), but he has good speed and could score enough runs to be relevant in mixed leagues. In May, he was very effective, batting .315 with 1 HR, 20 runs, 7 RBI and 5 steals. However, since then, he has been in a massive slump (.203 batting average in limited playing time). Perhaps the extended playing time will be just the thing to get his season turned back around.

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