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Ricescapades: Melky and the Fantasy Gut Punch

Melky Cabrera: Devourer of Dreams.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
Melky Cabrera: Devourer of Dreams. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

I don't know how many of you watch this certain TV show called Breaking Bad, but if you haven't at least given a few episodes a shot, you're doing yourselves a serious disservice. It's a show that will have you instantly addicted (since the show is all about production of methamphetamine, ahhhh), and its popularity has elevated Bryan Cranston from Tim Whatley to elite levels of awesomeness.

Last Sunday's episode, without spoiling anything, ended with what was tantamount to a cinematic punch to the gut, by a Bartley Gorman-level brawler, no less. If you watched it, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Just an out-of-nowhere, brutal moment. It was one of the most horrifying (and shocking) moments you'll ever see on a television show, and I was left with a sense of uneasiness and loss of faith in mankind that lasted for a few days.

Which sucked, because that feeling returned when I flipped to Google News at lunch time to see that Melky Cabrera had been suspended 50 games for violating MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Cabrera is done for the rest of the season, and his fantasy owners are left there standing in stunned silence, now contemplating life without their heretofore star outfielder. Grab magic marker, draw circle on belly, don the brass knuckle, and start punchin' away.

This is awful news, as Melky has, inarguably, been a fantasy stud in 2012. In the face of throngs of doubters, he one-upped himself after a breakout 2011, hitting .346/.390/.516, with eleven homers, thirteen steals, and a league-leading 84 runs scored and 159 hits. Somehow losing him to suspension is worse than having him go down with a season-ending injury, because it wasn't happenstance, it was just Melky being stupid. If you're hanging your head in anguish after having one of your best fantasy players ripped so suddenly from your grasp, just know that I feel your pain.

Obviously, this loss has left a huge void in your fantasy outfield if you own Cabrera. This is particularly galling, because it comes right as the season enters the home stretch. You should be gearing up for a run at a fantasy title, not watching your star players drop like flies. At least if you had a star go down early in the season, there was still time to recover. Now, you have limited options, as many leagues have trade deadlines and many of the sleeper free agent pickups have been scooped up.

To help out, here are a few scrap heap outfielders who ease the pain of Melky's loss. These guys aren't going to replicate Cabrera's production...not even close...but there's a good chance that they can act as duct tape to keep your ship afloat while you search for some last-ditch trade options.

Lorenzo Cain

Cain went down with an injury in the season's first week and disappointed fantasy owners who expected him to flourish in his first shot as a regular outfielder. He's been pretty crappy in the month of August, which may have led some owners to wash their hands of him. If that's the case, snap him up. Cain hit the tar out the ball in July before his recent slump, and his minor league resume hints that he's more like the guy you saw that month than the guy in August. That amounts to a perfectly average-to-good outfielder who can steal bases. A decent stopgap add for that big Melky-sized black hole on your roster.

Coco Crisp

To know Coco's ten game month of May is to know tragicomedy. His batting line of .132/.154/.158 probably should have been accompanied by a picture of a crying clown in the rain. It seemed impossible, and Crisp was impossibly bad to start the year, hitting .173/.225/.192 as June broke. Given his history, and the fact that he isn't exactly ancient at 32, it seemed inevitable the Crisp would start hitting again.

And hit he did. Since the All-Star Break, he's been a bit more back to normal, hitting .295/.364/.500. He isn't that good, of course, but just look at it as Crisp's world shifting back into orbit. He's probably still wandering the waiver wires, as the stink of his early-season slump might be upon him still and he hits in a generally no-name A's lineup. He'll help in stolen bases and batting average, at the least, from here on out. Say it: "I'm With Coco".

Andres Torres

Torres was traded to the Mets in the offseason and immediately made Mets fans feel as if they'd been shafted. The player he was traded for, Angel Pagan, got off to a hot start with the Giants, while Torres hurt himself in the season opener and was flat out awful for about two months after his return.

Like Crisp, though, he's recently been channeling his past days as a valuable fantasy player, when he stole a lot of bases and drew his fair share of walks. In 100 plate appearances since the All-Star Break, Torres has hit .318/.408/.471. He's stopped stealing bases in that span, for whatever reason (just one attempt since the break), but if he keeps hitting like this he'll be a worthwhile add down the stretch if you need the help.

Darin Mastroianni

Please don't make me spell that name out again., Darin has been getting a lot of starts recently for Minnesota and has been hitting pretty well. Owner of a career .368 career minor league batting average and 214 minor league steals (mostly in Toronto's system), Mastroianni has hit .287/.349/.426 for the Twins this season, in limited at-bats. That won't catch a fantasy owner's eye, but his 14 stolen bases in that span will. The Twins have a somewhat crowded outfield situation (kind of odd for a bad team), but Mastroianni has been bullying his way to more playing time, and if he keeps getting starts, he'll absolutely help you if you're hurting for stolen bases.

Domonic Brown

It seems like we've been waiting for Brown to fulfill his potential since the dawn of man, but here he is, once again being handed the reins to a starting job in the Phillie outfield. He was so bad last year that the Phils ended up dealing for Hunter Pence to replace him. Now that both Pence and Shane Victorino are gone, and newly acquired Nate Schierholtz is hurt, it's put up or shut up time for the former top prospect. The good news: he's shown a good batting eye so far this season and he's still young. The bad news: he was pretty underwhelming at AAA this season and he hasn't really hit for a lick of power since 2010.

If nothing else, he'll be given every chance to fall on his face from here until the end of the season. He's definitely worth a flyer just in case he does start living up to his talents, and Citizens Bank Park's homer-friendly environs might help him eventually rediscover that long-lost pop.

Anthony Gose

Beware batting lines at AAA Las Vegas. They may deceive you into believing a player is better than he really is. Take Gose, who appeared to break out with a .292/.375/.431 line this season in Sin City. The uninitiated might see that and think, wow, Gose is doing that as a 21-year-old at AAA! What a baller!

In reality, Las Vegas is perhaps the best hitting environment on planet Earth, and if you don't put up at least an .800 OPS there, you should probably take up Badminton or become an MMA taser fighter. Gose's life-long battle with the strikeout monster returned the second he hit The Show, as he's struck out a ridiculous 27 times in 64 plate appearances. Not good for a guy who is supposed to be using his speed to get on base and create havoc on the basepaths.

As with Brown, though, Gose will likely play a lot down the stretch, or at least as long as Jose Bautista is out. He's an asset if you need stolen bases, because he's likely to steal a lot even if he's not getting on base as much as he should (he already has seven steals). If he shortens his swing and ups his average, he's a great pickup. That certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, since he's so young and has a lot of room to grow.

Gary Brown

This one might be a long shot, but if Brown is called up by the Giants in September he might get some serious burn as the team scrambles to find a decent replacement for Melky Cabrera in the outfield. Brown is the team's top hitting prospect and has a lot of potential as a player who will help rack up high batting averages, high stolen base totals, and a lot of runs scored. He got off to a slow start this season (his first at AA), but he's been hitting very well lately, and this apparent adjustment could prompt the Giants to give him a September cup of coffee. Keep your eyes on the waiver wire in case that does happen, because there's a chance Brown could step in with a hot final month to give your fantasy squad some stretch-drive production for a low, low price.