This is always the most challenging time of year for me as a fantasy writer. Every statistical sample size is way too small to analyze. I haven’t been to any minor-league games yet, so I don’t have any scouting reports to share. There’s just not a whole lot to write about yet.
Point is, this is a great time to discuss more general topics, because that’s far more interesting for me — and hopefully you — than my hot takes on Ian Kinsler’s awesome first week. With that in mind, let’s dive into a topic that’s been on my mind quite a bit lately, that of the lightly owned super-utility player.
There’s nothing sexy about the lightly owned super-utility player — to be henceforth referred to as a LOSUP — but the ability to use that player to plug multiple lineup holes is a somewhat underrated commodity. In relatively deep leagues with a reasonable number of bench slots, I always like to have a LOSUP floating around.
I’m well aware I’m not doing anything strategically groundbreaking, but managing your bench spots wisely is a crucial factor for fantasy success, especially in deeper leagues. The value of a LOSUP is almost always more impactful than carrying — for example — an eighth outfielder. Even if that eighth outfielder is a more valuable fantasy commodity in a vacuum, he’ll hardly ever enter your lineup, based on simple roster construction.
The LOSUP, on the other hand, might not be an everyday player in real life, but his versatility will see him crack your lineup more often than not when he does see the field. The small bump he provides to your counting stats could be the difference between winning and losing a tight race in runs or RBI — something that extra outfielder can’t do from your bench.
So it is that I find myself showing some love to the LOSUP today. Here’s a few guys that offer more than meets the eye (eligibility based on a minimum of ten games played at the position):
Brock Holt – 2B, 3B, SS, OF (17% Yahoo, 1% ESPN, 7% CBS)
Holt is a rather unique commodity for both the Red Sox and fantasy owners. The 26-year-old is the primary backup for Dustin Pedroia, Pablo Sandoval, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, and he has the ability to play every position on the diamond other than pitcher and catcher. Even if the Sox stay perfectly healthy — which no team does, ever — Holt will stumble into a pretty good chunk of playing time simply covering for rest days.
Last year, he ended up playing in 106 games, a total that wouldn’t be a surprise this year either. Holt doesn’t have much power, but he’s a solid line-drive hitter, and an efficient baserunner who successfully swiped 12-of-14 attempted steals last year. Furthermore, when he does start, the Sox like to use him at or near the top of the order.
He won’t help you much right now, because none of the four guys he backs up are hurt or tired yet. Once that changes, his ownership rates will skyrocket. Stash him now if you can.
(Note: For those of you in leagues with a dedicated CF slot, Holt also qualifies there.)
Justin Turner – 2B, 3B, SS (10% Yahoo, 0.7% ESPN, 3% CBS)
Turner was quite the revelation last year for the Dodgers, as he posted a sparkling .340/.404/.493 slash, adding seven homers and six steals in his 322 plate appearances. This year, the 30-year-old is the primary backup for Juan Uribe — an already-injured 36-year-old who has averaged just 94.5 games per season over the last four years. Turner also backs up Jimmy Rollins, a historically durable shortstop, but one who is 36 years old himself.
Turner is dealing with a stiff finger after being spiked on Saturday, but he’s expected to be fine. If Uribe’s hamstring injury lingers, Turner’s path to playing time is immediate. It remains to be seen if Turner’s 2014 breakout was legitimate (he’s certain to see some regression from that bloated .404 BABIP), but he can do a little bit of everything for fantasy teams, while covering three premium positions.
Mike Aviles – 2B, 3B, SS, OF (5% Yahoo, 1% ESPN, 5% CBS)
Aviles is a reliable option on the basepaths, stealing exactly 14 bases in four of the last five years. He also has a little bit of pop, with two seasons of double-digit home run production in his career. The reason the 34-year-old isn’t an everyday player is his poor on-base skill, with a .299 career OBP.
Still, his .269 career AVG won’t kill you, as long as you’re not in an OBP or points league, where his nonexistent walk rate becomes a major issue. As the primary backup for Jose Ramirez, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis, Aviles works his way into the Cleveland lineup pretty regularly. (He’s also already spelled Michael Brantley twice in left field.)
The reason Aviles is considerably less valuable than Holt or Turner is that Zach Walters will take a big cut of Aviles’ playing time, once he returns from a strained oblique. Still, Walters is in the early stages of rehabbing the oblique, and manager Terry Francona has suggested that he will be limited to one defensive position until he gets back to full health. Aviles may be able to retain some value after all.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.