Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
While most of you are punching out your All-Star ballots, or filling them out online, I've made a starting lineup of my own. This one consists of the hottest "available" players to fill in for your injured or slumping player for a limited time.
To qualify for the list, you must not be "owned" by more than 60% of all leagues. And to be "hot," you must have put up good numbers (top-50) last week.
We begin where every good team should, behind the plate. Arizona catcher Miguel Montero was highly regarded in preseason drafts, but after a partially- torn meniscus in his right knee was dropped in many leagues. His ownership percentage is down to 57% making him eligible for this list. Montero is hitting .379 over the last week with two homers, six RBIs and an OPS of 1.143. He should continue to hit well, as he's certainly not tired from the long grind of the season, having played just 13 games to date.
The talented young Texas first baseman, Justin Smoak, has struggled for most of the season, but might finally be finding his batting stroke. His overall batting average is just .228, but he's hit .320 this week with a pair of homers and eight RBIs. His OPS for last week was well above his season numbers (1.033 vs. 0.747).
Veteran second baseman Mike Aviles has returned to the form that made him a fantasy factor at second base back in 2008 (.327 batting average with 10 homers and 51 RBIs). He dropped off the map in 2009, hitting just .183 in 120 at-bats last year before hurting his right arm. Because of the arm problems, Aviles (14% owned) wasn't a factor in most preseason drafts but he has regained his batting stroke. Batting .414 for a week could help any fantasy lineup. Just don't expect a lot of RBIs because of the offensively-deficient Kansas City Royals hitters around him.
Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau rightfully get all the publicity in the Minnesota lineup, but shortstop/third baseman Nick Punto has been quietly doing his share to help the team win. He's batted .315 over the past three weeks and a stunning .500 over the past seven days. Punto, who is only owned in 2% of all leagues, has an OPS of 1.258 for the week and plays the next three games in hitter-friendly Miller Park.
Thirty-eight-year old third basemen Chipper Jones (54% owned) has talked of retirement of late, but the Braves' great has put together a solid week with the bat, going 8-for-17 (.471) and an OPS of 1.369. He's a lifetime .306 hitter who, when healthy, can produce solid statistics. He even stole a base, so his legs must be feeling pretty good.
The "All-Available" outfield consists of two youngsters, Angel Pagan and Tyler Colvin and one old guy, Aubrey Huff.
Pagan has been the New York Mets' primary replacement for Carlos Beltran since the middle of 2009. He's done a solid job, batting .306 last year and .296 this season. Pagan has been very good this week, batting .417 and stealing two bases. With Beltran reportedly still limping, Pagan should be the center fielder for a while longer and he could definitely help you in the batting average and stolen base categories.
The Cubs fans in Chicago have been clamoring for Colvin to get more playing time and it appears that manager Lou Piniella has finally come around to seeing it that way too. Colvin (4% owned), who has batted .310 for the season, hit .400 last week with a pair of homers and six RBI.
Huff (53% owned) began the season as the San Francisco Giants' first baseman, but with the arrival of rookie catcher/first baseman Buster Posey, Huff has become an everyday outfielder. Now eligible at both positions, Huff's performance this week is even more useful as he can fill in at two position and with a .389 batting average and 1.309 OPS...he'll do it well.