A look at players living on the edge of fantasy value and what they could potentially provide your team
After looking at some fringe fantasy players in the NL last week, I'm taking a look at similar players in the AL. To reiterate; these are players that the vast majority of fantasy players won't have use for but are more end of roster/waiver wire guys to keep an eye on in deep mixed or AL and NL only leagues. I like to refer to them as "band-aid" players as they're generally serviceable fill-ins for when you've lost one of your regulars.
Wilson Betemit - DH/1B/3B - BAL
Perhaps Betemit is too big a name for a list like this but I feel he's been overlooked a bit. Betemit mashes right-handed pitching, and 2012 was no departure. He posted a .302/.357/.502 slash line against RHP last year, including 11 of his 12 home runs. The Orioles have made little noise this offseason, and while Betemit won't see time at 3rd Base with Manny Machado in town, he is absolutely a part of their best lineup when facing righties, and you know Buck Showalter knows that. He should see time at DH or possibly 1B with Mark Reynolds no longer in town.
Russ Canzler - 1B/DH - NYY
This one requires a bit of a leap of faith. Canzler did not impress in a small sample size while in Cleveland last year, but has long been thought of as a decent piece due to his minor league mashing. Canzler posted an OPS of 938 in Double-A in 2010 and followed that with a 930 OPS in 2011 while in Triple-A. He's got decent pop and a solid bat, and he hooked on with the aging Yankees this offseason. MLB Depth Charts currently has Eduardo Nunez as the Bronx Bombers starting DH, so to say Canzler doesn't have a mountain to climb to earn playing time would be an understatement. We all saw the type of numbers that Raul Ibanez posted for New York last season and he's been legally dead for 2 years. Any warm body in that lineup spot should generate decent counting stats even if the ratios aren't pretty. He won't be worth owning until he earns the job, but is a name to remember in case he does.
Mike Aviles - SS/3B - CLE
Another one that might be too obvious to qualify, I'm including him here because MLB Depth Charts currently projects Lonnie Chisenhall as the starting 3B for Cleveland. Most of us would like to see Chisenhall succeed, but the major leagues have proved to be a significant stumbling block for the youngster. When Jack Hannahan has outplayed a guy, I'm willing to take a chance that his current backup will amass value as the season goes on. Aviles was the beneficiary of a very hot April, and while the rest of his season was fairly tepid (including his overall line), he does add some value in deep leagues by qualifying at shortstop and third base. Aviles' contact ability is premium and if he is accruing at-bats there's a good chance he carries decent value in deeper (or AL-Only) leagues. He's not anyone I want to rely on, but as a stop-gap, one could do worse.
Nate Freiman - 1B/DH - HOU
Freiman has little to no chance of making a significant impact in fantasy leagues this season, but appears on this list due to his Rule 5 status. The Astros plucked him out of the Padres organization after posting a career line of .294/.364/.482 over four minor league seasons. Not bad right? Well the issue is that he was old for his league in every one of those seasons, including 2012 where he finished the year at Double-A despite being 25 years old. Freiman might not truly deserve to be on a major league roster, but due to the Rule 5 bylaws he will have to be for the whole season as long as he's not returned to the Padres. Given that the Astros only have the future to play for and Brett Wallace is the major competition at 1B/DH (w/Carlos Pena occupying the other role), I think Freiman could get a shot. There will be a steep learning curve, but if Freiman gets the ABs he may be able to produce enough to gain value in deeper leagues.
Craig Gentry - OF - TEX
Here's what Gentry has going in his favor: He's in his prime, he posted a .304/.367/.392 slash line in 2012, he stole 13 bases in 240 at-bats, and there's a Josh Hamilton sized hole in the Rangers outfield. The downside is that he's probably best as a 4th outfielder and would be exposed with regular at-bats. That said, he has enough speed to make himself valuable given the at-bats and he won't hurt you with the average (even if his .364 BABIP sees regression, he's a .342 lifetime BABIP guy). He brings little to no power to the table, but hopefully you're not relying on him for that in the first place. With Texas not yet having filled their vacated outfield spot, that could open up playing time for Gentry. He's likely to bat at the bottom of the Texas order when he does play, but given their lineup could still score some runs given extended playing time.
MLB Depth Charts