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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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fantasy baseball: Joe Mauer replacement options

Twins general manager Bill Smith has said he doesn't think Joe Mauer's stay on the disabled list because of an illness and injury will be long term.

The Twins' manager, Ron Gardenhire, had this to say Sunday about the team's $184 million catcher: "I think he's lost 15 or 20 pounds. He's sick."

If that weren't discouraging enough, Mauer's viral infection, which hospitalized him last Thursday, may or may not be contributing to leg weakness.

He could be back by the end of the month. He could be a second or third-round fantasy pick you wish you had back. If the latter scenario is the case, now is the time to explore the waiver wire.

Here are six options at catcher who are available in more than half of the leagues on, ranked according to value:

1. Nick Hundley, Padres (owned in 38.6 percent of the leagues): He is hitting .340 with three home runs, nine RBI, 10 runs scored and 14 strikeouts in 50 at-bats. He won't keep his average in the .300 range (Hundley is a career .248 hitter), but he should hit for power. In 579 at-bats since 2009 (roughly one full season), Hundley has 19 homers and 82 RBI.

2. John Buck, Marlins (5.9 percent):
His numbers won't get your attention (.228, one homer, nine RBI, .653 OPS), but his 2010 will. Last season, Buck batted .281 with 20 homers and 66 RBI. The .281 average is 38 points above his career norm, and the RBI total was 16 better than his previous best. Like Hundley, he's a decent power option (91 homers and 333 RBI in 2,379 career at-bats).

3. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays (44.1 percent): Note to self: Always start Arencibia on opening day. Last year, he had two homers and three RBI in his major-league debut, then had one RBI the rest of the season (to be fair, he had 35 at-bats on the year). This season, Arencibia had two homers and five RBI in his first game, and has one RBI since. Still, he's batting .286 with a .919 OPS and is believed to (cue Jay Bilas) have huge upside.

4. Alex Avila, Tigers (10.4 percent):
Prior to Tuesday's game, he was hitting .279 with three homers, nine RBI, six runs and an .875 OPS in 43 at-bats. The 24-year-old was a fifth-round pick of the Tigers in 2008, and he has produced in limited action in the big leagues (15 homers and 54 RBI in 398 at-bats). A concern: Avila is a career .241 hitter who doesn't have overwhelming minor-league numbers (.280, 13 homers, 77 RBI, 73 runs and a .796 OPS in 542 at-bats).

5. Chris Iannetta, Rockies (16.8 percent): We know he has power, but it would be nice if he did something else. In 2008 and '09, Iannetta had a combined 622 at-bats and had 34 homers, 117 RBI and 91 runs. He also hit .248 with a ridiculous 167 Ks. Last season, Iannetta had only 188 at-bats, and this year, he's off to an unimpressive start (.211 with two homers, seven RBI and 13 Ks in 38 at-bats prior to Tuesday). He's better suited as an NL-only option.

6. A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox (2.6 percent):
Mr. Personality was pretty effective in 2009, when he batted .300 with 13 homers. Last season, he slipped to .270 with nine homers, 56 RBI and a .688 OPS. This year, he is hitting .255 with no homers, seven RBI, four runs and a .590 OPS. He should be an option strictly in AL-only leagues or if you're really desperate to acquire a 34-year-old who doesn't really help you in any category.

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