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Deep league advice -- Baker on the rise

Do you get my headline? It's a pun about yeast. Anyway, the Rangers' Jeff Baker deserves a look in deeper leagues. Read on!

Rick Yeatts

Fans love a guy like David Murphy. He was basically a throw-in to the Rangers-Red Sox Eric Gagne trade in 2007, produced better than expected his first couple years, endeared himself to fans as one of those "stick it to the experts" guys who shows that the geniuses don't actually know everything.

The knock on Murphy was that you basically had to platoon him. He was a lefty who had to be benched against lefties. That doesn't make him unique, but it makes him less than a star.

Only, in 2012, Murphy (a) qualified for the batting title for the first time, and (b) had probably the best year of his career. Not coincidentally (I don't think), his ratio of plate appearances versus righties to plate appearances versus lefties was also higher than ever. He played more games than ever, too, so I guess the Rangers' schedule just aligned with way more right-handers than normal. Certainly, I would think, teams would have tried to throw lefties at 2012 Josh Hamilton, so I don't think the extreme split was intentional.

Anyway, Ron Washington came into 2013 saying that Murphy was now a full-time player, would play against righties and lefties alike. The Ranger fan, the baseball fan in me wanted to see Murphy succeed, to continue sticking it to the experts. The realist in me didn't expect him to suddenly, at age 31, have figured out about lefties what an age-20s Murphy never could.

Now, neither version of me expected Murphy to get to May with a slash line of .180/.234/.290. That would be barely tenable for slick-fielding Brendan Ryan; for a left fielder it's downright embarrassing.

Enter Jeff Baker.

The Rangers signed Baker, a right-handed hitter, in January. With only the bench half of Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin as a backup outfielder, with a first baseman who also can't hit lefties in Mitch Moreland, with injury risks in right (Nelson Cruz) and at third (Adrian Beltre), a righty hitter with moderate power and multi-positional versatility like Baker made a lot of sense for the team, even if Murphy, Moreland, et al, proved to be able to play every day and hit.

Of course, Murphy has proven no such thing. Moreland, after a poor start, has come on of late, Beltre has been healthy, and Cruz has been healthy and stellar, so Baker's versatility hasn't been as big a deal, but even as a left-field platoon split, he's getting his time.

Offensively, Baker is the righty equivalent of Murphy. He can hit lefties like crazy, but on a career-level he hasn't really hit righties. Put them together and they would be a big-time star. But the right way to use them is as a platoon.

Baker played in only three of Texas' first 13 games, starting only one. He was a bench guy, and nothing else. That has flipped now, and he's played in eight of the team's last ten, and he's starting more often now. He is, as of Tuesday afternoon, hitting .313/.421/.656 so far. He's eligible at first base and outfield in pretty much all leagues, and, with two games at third base already, he either already has or could eventually have eligibility there as well.

While, barring injury, he won't be an every-game starter at any point this year, and he's not a 1.077 OPS guy over a full season, Baker can be a viable platoon-time injury replacement if you've lost a Giancarlo Stanton, a Coco Crisp, a you-name-the-outfielder.

If you're in a deep and/or AL-only league, pick him up, monitor the Rangers' schedule. If they're facing a lefty, decent chance Baker is going to get the time, and if he's getting the time, he's worth the play.

Lord knows we can't trust Murphy with it.

Follow me on Twitter @danieltkelley