Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
Ever hear a guy say this ...
"I need pitching."
"I don't have ANY infielders."
"I'm an outfielder short right now."
Of course you have. Because you're the one who said it. Heck, I've probably used all three of these complaints just in the last week.
These are all convenient criticisms to make but they're simply not true. Everyone HAS outfielders. The outfielders you own may not be any good, but you still HAVE them.
As a whole, the fantasy community has put too much emphasis on positions. There's no award given out for having the best second baseman or having a really good closer. You win your league by having the most points and that comes from dominating categories like WHIP, ERA and batting average. At the end of the day, Robinson Cano, dominant as he may be, is still just a name.
You need stats and for that, I've come up with the perfect solution. Here is a list of eight essential fantasy categories with an under the radar player who can help you with each one. Consider it your own personal waiver wire to-do list.
Ready when you are, Chief.
Batting average: David Murphy, OF, Cleveland Indians (owned in 7.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
If you're skeptical about this one, I completely understand. After all, Murphy hit only .220 last season. But we're looking at the big picture, not just one season. In 2,254 at bats prior to 2013, Murphy's average was .285 with 218 extra base hits. As recently as 2012, he was tenth in the American League in hitting (.304).
Murphy has gotten off to a nice start this season (.279, 2 HR, 12 RBI in 13 appearances) and given his past success, I think he'll be able to keep it up. There's no rush here but Murphy is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Peralta, who is entering his third season with the Brew Crew, seems to finally have it all figured out. A walk machine in 2013 (73 free passes in 183 1/3 innings), Peralta has settled down considerably this year, walking just five of the 75 hitters he's faced.
Peralta's recent string of success actually began about halfway through last season. After July 1st, his ERA was 3.15 compared to 5.58 before that date. Peralta doesn't strike out many hitters (6.38 K's per nine innings this season) but you can count on him to throw plenty of zeros.
OPS: Colby Rasmus, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (44.8 percent owned)
Rasmus raked last season (22 HR, .839 OPS in 118 games) and though he's off to a bit of a slow start (.222 AVG in 15 appearances), I don't think he's owned in nearly enough fantasy leagues. Rasmus has blasted 20 homers or more in three of his last four seasons so you know his power is real. In fact, Rasmus' .501 slugging percentage last year was seventh-highest among qualified outfielders.
After starting out 2-for-24 (.083), Rasmus has gone 10-for-27 (.370) over his last seven games. Now could be the time to strike. Just don't start him against lefties (.215 AVG in in 642 lifetime at bats).
Runs: Jhonny Peralta, SS, St. Louis Cardinals (49 percent owned)
Two Peraltas in one fantasy column? You bet. Peralta hits second on a loaded Cardinals team and already has one 100-run season on his resume (104 R for Cleveland in 2008). His .208 average isn't pretty but Peralta has always been a slow starter (.239 lifetime average in March/April). Once the Cardinals' offense gets going (they're hitting .250 through 16 games), so will Peralta.
Stolen Bases: Eric Young Jr., OF, New York Mets (45 percent owned)
Only Dee Gordon has swiped more bags than Young this season. So why is Young still available in 55 percent of leagues?
His .255 batting average may have something to do with it but Young's on base percentage is still a respectable .344 through 14 games. And if you haven't noticed, he's starting to heat up. Young went 6-for-10 with two RBI and three steals during New York's three-game sweep of Arizona earlier this week.
Did I mention Young hasn't been caught yet this season (9-for-9 on stolen base attempts)? Something tells me this guy won't be on the waiver wire for long.
Strikeouts: Ian Kennedy, SP, San Diego Padres (22 percent owned)
Kennedy has probably had more downs than ups in his career but if you need strikeouts, he's your man. His K per nine inning ratio has consistently been around eight and he almost had 200 strikeouts during his hugely successful 2011 campaign (21-4, 2.88 ERA, 198 K's in 33 starts for Arizona). Plus, he has the benefit of making half of his starts at Petco Park, one of the more pitcher-friendly venues in all of baseball (dead-last in park factor last season). There's a lot to like here.
Who? I don't know either but his WHIP is 0.81 through three starts. That's better than Yu Darvish (0.86), Chris Sale (0.84), Jon Lester (1.03) and plenty of others who are owned in all formats. Opponents are hitting a nightmarish .173 against Simon this season, which is probably why his ERA is at a minuscule 0.86 through 21 innings.
All this from a guy who is only in the rotation because of an injury to Mat Latos. Pounce now while he's still available.
Wins: Garrett Richards, SP, Los Angeles Angels (29.1 percent owned)
Richards entered the season with just 11 major league victories. He's got two already this year and should be in line for a whole lot more.
Why? Because Richards throws hard. And I mean REALLY hard. His average fastball velocity is 95.9 mph, second-highest in the majors this season. Combine that with the great support he's been getting (7.33 runs per game, sixth-highest in MLB) and you've got a fantasy superstar in the making. Remember, you heard it here first.
Now get going. That fantasy team's not going to fix itself.
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