Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
You probably know the saying "dropping like flies."
They should change it to "dropping like outfielders."
A fantasy outfield of Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Morse and Jayson Werth loses a little bit of its luster when the trio combines for 74 missed games in the season's first month and a half.
The past seven days has been an especially trying time for this year's fragile batch of fantasy outfielders. Yoenis Cespedes, Jon Jay, Desmond Jennings, Matt Kemp and Juan Rivera were all placed on the disabled list, while Brett Gardner and Carlos Quentin both suffered setbacks that will cause them to miss even more time than expected. Jason Bay, Carl Crawford and Chris Young don't appear to be any closer to returning, either.
Part of the challenge of fantasy baseball is finding stop-gaps and replacement players good enough to keep your team afloat while your superstars are injured.
Earlier in the season, I thought Baltimore's Nolan Reimold (.313, 5 HRs, 10 RBIs) fit this description perfectly and for awhile he was carrying my depleted team. Sadly, it wasn't long before Reimold caught the injury bug as well. He's on the DL with a bulging disk in his neck.
I guess the lesson here is that sometimes a Plan A and a Plan B isn't always enough. Right now, I'm looking for a Plan C and given how injury-prone the league has been this year, I'm sure I am not alone.
Here are some outfielders who can hold down the fort for you until your studs are back in uniform again:
Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians (16.1 percent owned) - Nobody is going to race you to the waiver wire to pick up Brantley (.261, 0 HRs, 13 RBIs, 2 SBs) but he has had a respectable season for the Indians. Some of Brantley's best work has come over his last five games. He's 9-for-22 (.409) over that span, including a four-hit, two-double performance against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday and a three-hit game against Boston again on Sunday. Obviously, Brantley won't be fortunate enough to play against the Red Sox every day, but at least it looks like he is starting to get back on track after a slow April (.250 average, 5 RBIs in the month).
Brennan Boesch, Detroit Tigers (39.8 percent) - One of the most important ways to become an effective fantasy player is by earning consistent playing time. Boesch has played in all 36 of Detroit's games this season, so he's been getting plenty of opportunities. His batting average is pretty poor (.229) and he doesn't have much patience (just four walks this season), but Boesch has definitely played better as of late (.346 in his last seven games). He stole bases in consecutive games this past weekend in Oakland, which is also a good sign.
Tony Campana, Chicago Cubs (14.1 percent) - Since being called up from Triple-A in late April, nobody has been able to stop Campana on the base paths. He is 9- for-11 on stolen base attempts and despite batting just .259 for the Cubs last year in his first stint in the majors, he hasn't been an offensive liability this time around (.333 average in 22 games). He is still looking for his first home run of the season, but if you're struggling in steals, Campana is your guy.
David DeJesus, Chicago Cubs (3.6 percent) - While we're on the subject of Cubs outfielders, how about giving DeJesus a try? Though he is only at .276 for the year, DeJesus has quietly enjoyed a very strong week (10-for-25 with 1 HR and 5 RBIs in his last six games). He has played in over 1,000 major league games and that experience factor might make him a safer pick than some of the younger, less-established outfield options still available on the waiver wire.
Andy Dirks, Detroit Tigers (56.9 percent) - OK, so he's really a DH. But if ESPN says he is outfield-eligible, that's good enough for me. Dirks just had an eight-game hitting streak come to an end Monday against the Chicago White Sox. During that streak, he had five multi-hit efforts and compiled a .484 (15- for-31) average. He showed a little pop, too, clobbering a pair of homers and three doubles over that span. His ownership has jumped from 0.3 percent to 56.9 percent in the last week, so fantasy owners have started to take notice of Dirks' recent accomplishments.
Daniel Nava, Boston Red Sox (1.9 percent) - Nava smashed a grand slam in his first major league at-bat for the Red Sox back in 2010. It took him 172 at- bats, but he finally registered his second career homer Monday night in a 6-1 win over the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park. But even before the home run, Nava had been playing extremely well. Since being recalled from Triple-A last week, Nava has batted .583 and reached base in 15 of his 20 plate appearances. He's been so good that the Mariners intentionally walked him in his final at- bat of the night on Monday. I wouldn't expect every team to give Nava the Barry Bonds treatment, but he is definitely playing at a high level right now and looks very worthy of fantasy ownership.
Kirk Nieuwenheis, New York Mets (11.4 percent) - Despite a muscular build (he's 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds), the 24-year-old Nieuwenheis has cracked just two homers in 116 at-bats this season. That's not very impressive when you consider that Ryan Braun, Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto have each gone deep at least three times in one game this season. But what Nieuwenheis lacks in power, he makes up for in batting average. He's at .302 for the season and a few days ago it was as high as .311. You can always find a spot on your team for a .300 hitter.