The 2012 MLB season starts March 28 with the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners playing a two-game series in Tokyo. Shrewd fantasy baseball managers will get their A’s and M’s in their starting lineups for two days. Even shrewder managers slip some free agents from each team into their lineups for extra stats during the first week of fantasy baseball competition.
We know you’re shrewder than most, so here are five players to consider picking up on the sly.
Kurt Suzuki, C, Oakland A’s
Amazingly, Suzuki is only owned in 29 percent of Yahoo fantasy baseball leagues, so chances are good that he’s available in yours. Suzuki is arguably a Top Ten catcher in fantasy baseball, and he has already blasted two home runs in Japan while the A’s play some exhibition ball against Japanese teams. Grab Suzuki if you can and find a permanent spot for him on your roster.
Justin Smoak, 1B, Seattle Mariners
Once regarded as the best thing to hit baseball since hot dogs and Cracker Jacks, Smoak’s professional career has … well … gone up in smoke. He’s only owned in 16 percent of Yahoo fantasy baseball leagues, and there’s probably a good reason for that. He still has some power, and he’s been batting cleanup as a DH during some exhibition ball in Japan, so the potential is there for a home run or two and maybe some RBI. Just expect him to murder your team’s batting average if you hold on to him long-term. But how much damage can he do to your average in two days?
Seth Smith, OF, Oakland A’s
Smith is Smoak’s counterpart for the Athletics—their cleanup hitter than almost nobody owns (just 12 percent in Yahoo leagues). Last season with the Colorado Rockies, Smith batted .284, hit 15 homers, and stole 10 bases. We’ll take our chances on him getting some RBI in Japan.
Chone Figgins, 3B, Seattle Mariners
In the market for stolen bases? You might throw Figgins in your starting lineup for a couple of days. Figgins has speed. His 333 career stolen bases in roughly eight seasons’ worth of work since 2002 works out to over 40 steals per year. And he’s Seattle’s leadoff batter for the Japan series. He should be easy for fantasy baseball managers to acquire, since he’s only owned in 4 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Fautino de los Santos, RP, Oakland A’s
Like Suzuki, this is a guy who should get on your roster for the Japan series and then stay there. He’s only owned by 2 percent of Yahoo fantasy baseball managers, but he’s widely regarded as the closer of the future in Oakland. The kid chalks up more strikeouts than innings pitched, and if Grant Balfour implodes, de los Santos could be next in line for saves. He’s worth sticking in your lineup while you wait, as he’ll likely lower your ERA and WHIP while adding to your strikeout total. And if things work out, you’ll eventually have an extra closer providing you saves.