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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fantasy baseball: Replacing Manny

As fantasy owners, we are usually prepared for injuries. We know when players have a history of being brittle, and we know the ones who seem to be breaking down.

Thanks to the Steroids Era, we have something else for which we need to prepare.


With seemingly every big-name bat sullied in some way, losing Manny Ramirez for 50 games because of the use of a performance-enhancing drug really shouldn't be a surprise. At this point, we're an Albert Pujols or Grady Sizemore positive test away from believing any and everyone is dirty.

Naively, though, we figured drafting Manny meant getting first-round talent in the second round -- a future Hall of Famer who has hit at least 33 homers and driven in 100 runs or more in 10 of the last 11 years. He batted .292 or better in each of the previous 11 seasons.

Now, we're left with ... Juan Pierre?

Ramirez's 50-game suspension takes him out of the picture until July 3 -- near the end of Week 13 of the fantasy season. That leaves Manny owners scrambling for the next eight weeks, or almost twice as many games as A-Rod owners are likely to be without their disgraced star.

One obvious replacement is Pierre, who figures to get regular playing time in the Dodgers' outfield with Ramirez gone.

Pierre is batting .355 this season, but that's in 31 at-bats. He'll help you in stolen bases, batting average and not much else.

He has only 13 homers in 5,184 career at-bats, and he's never driven in more than 55 runs, even though he played the first three seasons of his career in Colorado. He did, however, score 96 runs or more five times in seven seasons from 2001-07, and he entered 2009 with eight consecutive seasons with at least 40 steals.

In deeper leagues, he's a decent No. 3 outfielder who will provide a big boost to your stolen-base totals. Since he has no power, he's not an adequate replacement for Manny unless you have significant home-run and RBI options elsewhere in your lineup.

Let's look at four tiers of possible outfield replacements for Ramirez. The first group consists of players who are owned in 25 to 50 percent of the leagues on, followed by 10 to 25 percent, fewer than 10 percent and players who are outfield-eligible but start at other positions. We've mentioned quite a few of these guys in previous blogs that analyzed the best possible free agents.

25-50 percent

4. Dexter Fowler, Rockies (42.6 percent): He'll help you in steals (nine thus far, although five were in one game), but the rookie is in a 4-for-24 slump and doesn't have a lot of pop.

3. Chris Duncan, Cardinals (48.3): His batting average is mediocre (.275 this season and .248 the year before), but he drives in a lot of runs (19 this year, a combined 97 in 597 at-bats in 2007 and '08) and is capable of hitting 20-plus homers (three this season, a combined 27 the previous two years).

2. Denard Span, Twins (38.1): He hits for average (.305), is fast (seven steals) and isn't bad in the RBI department (14 this season, 47 in 347 at-bats in 2008).

1. Elijah Dukes, Nationals (37.3): He's batting .298, is powerful (four homers this season, 13 in 276 at-bats last year) and fast (13 steals in 2008).

10-25 percent

4. Michael Bourn, Astros (17 percent): Don't put too much stock into his .299 average (he batted .229 last season). Bourn will help you in steals (eight this year, 41 in 2008) and runs scored.

3. Daniel Murphy, Mets (23.3): He batted .313 as a rookie last season and is one point better thus far (.314).

2. Ryan Spilborghs, Rockies (18.5): He's anything but a big name, but his stats are surprisingly solid (.281, three homers, 14 RBI, 16 runs, four steals). In a combined 497 at-bats in 2007 and '08, he batted .306 with 17 homers and 87 RBI.

1. Melky Cabrera, Yankees (20.6): He won his center-field job back, and he's not going anywhere, thanks to a .338 batting average, four homers, 10 RBI, 14 runs and three steals in only 68 at-bats.

Fewer than 10 percent

4. Garret Anderson, Braves (3.2 percent): He's a .296 career hitter who has driven in 75 runs or more in each of the previous 12 years. Anderson returned from a calf injury to drive in three runs on Wednesday.

3. Michael Cuddyer, Twins (2.9):
He was very good in 2006 (.284, 24 homers, 109 RBI), decent in 2007 (.276, 16, 81) and has been only OK this season (.263, 2, 14, three steals).

2. Josh Anderson, Tigers (5.4): He doesn't play every day (eight starts in the last 12 games), but with Carlos Guillen on the disabled list, he should get enough at-bats to give you a spark in steals (six this season) and batting average (.333).

1. Marlon Byrd, Rangers (6.3): With a .330 batting average and 16 RBI, he's underrated. In 817 at-bats from 2007 to '08, Byrd hit 20 homers, had 123 RBI, 12 steals, 130 runs scored and batted .302.

Eligibility check

Oakland designated hitter Jack Cust (owned in 24.6 percent of the leagues) can play the outfield in some leagues. Same for Angels first baseman Kendry Morales (16.9), Royals third baseman Mark Teahen (14.1) and Twins DH Jason Kubel (40.9).

All four are adequate power options, especially Kubel (a combined 33 homers and 143 RBI in 881 at-bats in 2007 and '08) and Cust (59 homers in 876 at-bats in that span).

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