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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, April 14, 2011

Fantasy baseball: Josh Hamilton replacement options

We're in Week 2 and we have our first major injury.

I think we can all agree that head-first slides should be abolished. As should players injured in such slides throwing their third-base coach under the bus.

Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton fractured his right arm Tuesday while trying to tag up from third base on a short foul ball.

After the game, and the next day, Hamilton said it was a "stupid play" and his third-base coach, Dave Anderson, was "a little too aggressive."

What he didn't say: "I apologize to the idiot News-Herald blogger who ranked me sixth overall heading into the season. The dummy thought I could stay healthy and not slide recklessly."

Moving forward, the pickings on the waiver wire are pretty slim. Here are five outfielders available in between 59 and 97 percent of the leagues on who could prove to be useful during Hamilton's 6-to-8-week absence:

-- 1. Marlon Byrd, Cubs (owned in 41.1 percent of the ESPN leagues): He is batting .353 with 10 runs scored, four RBI and an .848 OPS in 51 at-bats. Prior to going 0-for-5 Wednesday, Byrd had compiled at least two hits in six of his last seven games.

He also has a track record of success. He batted .293 with 12 homers, 66 RBI and 84 runs last season. With Texas in 2009, he hit .283 with 20 homers and 89 RBI. Consider him a mid-level No. 3 outfielder in 12-team mixed leagues.

-- 2. Jonny Gomes, Reds (33 percent):
He has three homers, 10 RBI and seven runs in 33 at-bats. In his last five games, he's batting .389 with seven RBI.

His stats last season were respectable (.266, 18 homers, 86 RBI), but look a little deeper and you'll realize Gomes was productive prior to the All-Star break (.277, 11 homers, 60 RBI) and dismal after it (.253, seven homers, 26 RBI). If Gomes' stats are similar this year, you might be able to have one very good outfielder -- Gomes in the first half and Hamilton in the second.

-- 3. Sam Fuld, Rays (34.4 percent): He has seemingly come out of nowhere to hit .313 with five runs and six steals in 32 at-bats prior to Thursday. Because of that, you would think he's a prospect, but Fuld is 29 and has racked up 2,281 at-bats in the minors.

He played with the Cubs in 2007, '09 and '10 (he had a combined 131 at-bats in that span), and he likely won't help you at all in the power department. In the minors, Fuld batted .285 with a .777 OPS, 24 homers, 218 RBI, 106 steals and 404 runs in the 2,281 at-bats. If you need a steals boost, he's a decent option, but don't be surprised if that's the only area in which he gives you significant help.

-- 4. Jeff Francoeur, Royals (8.3 percent): He entered Kansas City's Thursday game batting .292 with eight runs, a homer and eight RBI in 48 at-bats. He had two or more hits in five of his last nine games.

Francoeur seemed to have the makings of a future fantasy stud when he averaged 24 homers and 104 RBI with the Braves in 2006 and '07, but he had norms of 12 homers and 71 RBI in the three years that followed. Like Gomes, he wasn't good after the All-Star break last season (eight homers and 43 RBI before the break; .242 with five homers and 23 RBI after the break). He's a much better fit as a part-time fantasy player than an every-week starter.

-- 5. Michael Brantley, Indians (3.1 percent): Yes, the Indians are off to an encouraging start, and yes, Brantley is batting .311 with six RBI and two steals.

The bad: He's a career .269 hitter who has three homers and 39 RBI in 454 at-bats. He should help you in steals and possibly runs scored, but probably won't be an asset in batting average, homers and RBI. In 2,122 at-bats in the minors, Brantley had a .303 average, 16 homers, 223 RBI, 163 steals and a .765 OPS.

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