By Sam McPherson
Around this time every fantasy baseball season, it’s a good idea to take a look at the standings and see where your team’s weaknesses lie. It’s not about what place you’re in now; check each individual scoring category to see where your team can move up in the standings. Perhaps there are several teams in your league close together in the steals category, for example. By adding one speedster to your roster, you could gain several points in the standings.
Making these assessments now with four months left in the season is a smart idea, because you’ll get long-term impact out of the moves you make. Remember, though, as you replace players on your roster, you might be losing some strength in different categories as well. That makes the transactions you make even more trickier, so scour that waiver wire very carefully for just the right players to pick up—and make sure you are releasing the proper player in return.
Generally, it’s easiest to improve in the counting categories: runs, home runs, RBI, steals, wins, saves and strikeouts. It’s hard to improve in the batting average, ERA and WHIP categories, because those are accumulated differently. You can replace a .220 hitter in your lineup with a .300 hitter, but over the course of four months, the improvement in your team total won’t be as drastic as in the counting categories. Keep this in mind when you’re changing the roster.
Players to Get Onto Your Roster Now
1. Mike Napoli, 1B, Boston Red Sox: He can help any team with HRs, RBI and runs scored, and Napoli is hot right now. He’s only a career .255 hitter, so don’t expect help there. However, he has 18 RBI in the month of May, and Napoli is capable of doing that every month in the Boston lineup. Get him while you can.
2. Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS/OF, Oakland Athletics: Perhaps some owner in your league dropped him when he went out with a knee injury in mid-April, but Zobrist is back now. His position flexibility is good, and if you need a better option in the middle-infield positions, he’s your guy. The A’s went downhill in his absence, so you know he’s going to be in the lineup almost every day now going forward.
3. Shawn Tolleson, RP, Texas Rangers: He may not be closing games for Texas until the end of the year, but getting some saves at any time is a good thing. Tolleson has a career 2.78 ERA with the Rangers, and that includes 99 strikeouts in 94 innings. Those are the kinds of numbers you want from a reliever on your team.
4. Rusney Castillo, OF, Boston Red Sox: Some owners may have drafted him and stashed him for two months while he was in the minors, but now that he’s starting in right field for the Red Sox, you should grab Castillo. He has power and speed, and who doesn’t need both of those in the same player? He is small, which means he may get hurt here and there, but Castillo can generate a lot of good for any fantasy team.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Adam Lind, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers: He is a career .292 hitter against righties, but Lind is hitting below that this season now—which means he’s only playing two thirds of the time, and he’s doing it at a sub-par level based on prior performance. That means his counting stats aren’t what they could be, and Lind will be hurting you in multiple areas now. Keep an eye on his playing and performance going forward if you just want to bench him for the short term instead of outright releasing him.
2. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta Braves: If only defense counted in fantasy baseball, right? Simmons is an adequate shortstop offensively, but if you need more, try to grab Zobrist instead. Simmons hit 17 HRs in 2013, but that power seems to be gone right now. It could come back, as he’s only 25 years old, so stash him on your bench if you are thinking he can get better soon.
3. Neftali Feliz, RP, Texas Rangers: Do not drop him. Just bench him for awhile. Feliz isn’t closing any more for the Rangers, and now he’s on the disabled list anyway. But sooner or later, he will be closing again for some team. Feliz is that good; remember, he was Rookie of the Year in 2010 with 40 saves for a World Series team. His career ERA (2.71) is impressive, and Feliz is only 27 years old. He will be back, eventually.
4. Kevin Pillar, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Let someone else wait around for him to learn how to hit. Pillar is hitting just .217, which is 12 points below his career average. In 138 games over three seasons now, he’s demonstrated he can’t hit for power, and Pillar isn’t going to steal a lot of bases, either. He’s 26, and maybe he’ll put it together next year, but you shouldn’t wait for that time to come now.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball and fantasy sports for many online sites, including CBS, AXS and Examiner.