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Shopping for some hardball bargains

These forgotten players could boost any lineup

Posted: Wednesday, June 21, 2006

In this week's fantasy baseball installment, we'll check in with some under-the-radar position players who could be the difference between winning and losing your fantasy matchup.

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These bargain-bin players are available in most leagues and are crucial for filling holes in your lineup when a player becomes injured or is in a slump.

Grab your coupon books. We're going to hit the sales.

FIRST BASE

The Marlins are turning things around, going 12-3 in June as of Tuesday, and the man batting in the middle of their order is Mike Jacobs. He got off to a brutal start and is only hitting .275, so he should be available in most leagues.

In June, however, Jacobs is batting a gaudy .408 with a .755 slugging percentage.

Other guys to consider are Arizona's Conor Jackson and Cleveland's Ben Broussard.

SECOND BASE

Houston's Chris Burke is still considered a second baseman in most leagues even though he usually plays the outfield because of veteran Craig Biggio's presence.

Burke and his .319 batting average have seen time in the three-hole lately, which should result in more RBI opportunities.

Also, despite playing on baseball's worst team, you could do worse than the Royals' Mark Grudzielanek.

SHORTSTOP

San Francisco's Omar Vizquel should get plenty of opportunities to score while batting second. Despite his age, the 39-year-old has shown great durability and is hitting .310 in 68 games this season.

OUTFIELD

Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer has gone from the Twins' fourth outfielder to cleanup hitter in less than two months.

While the Twins aren't known for their offense, Cuddyer will get plenty of chances to drive in runs while batting behind the major league's top hitter, Joe Mauer.

Another beneficiary of Minnesota's recent roster makeover is Jason Kubel. He's been sizzling since being given a chance to start full-time, hitting .333 with a .648 slugging percentage in June, including a walk-off grand slam last week.

In the National League, Arizona's Eric Byrnes, known for his all-out style, is doing something besides running full-tilt into outfield walls. The Diamondbacks' slugger has 11 home runs this season and could be a nice player to use in a pinch.

Atlanta may be ice cold right now, but Matt Diaz isn't. He's another backup outfielder who's hitting his way towards more playing time. Consider him if you've got injury issues in the outfield yourself.

Also, Florida's Cody Ross continues to hit well in place of injured left fielder Josh Willingham.

PITCHING

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that this week marks the return of Roger Clemens. He'll make his first start against Minnesota on Thursday. Clemens has been snatched up in every league from Boston to Bellingham, Wash., but due to my so-so pitching predictions last week, let me give you a few names as a makeup.

Chad Billingsley will get his second start for the Dodgers today. The 21-year-old has great stuff and it wouldn't be surprising to see him carve up Seattle's weak offense.

In an absolute crime against reason last week, the Los Angeles Angels sent down Jered Weaver - the guy who's won all four of his first big league starts with a 1.37 ERA. With Weaver hanging out in Class AAA Salt Lake City, now may be the time to grab him and stick him in a reserve spot if you have room. We haven't heard the rest of Jeff Weaver's little brother.

• Andy Wink is a freelance reporter for the Juneau Empire. Questions or comments about the Juneau Empire's fantasy report can be sent to sports@juneauempire.com.



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