Weekly 10: Prepare for the long haul
Konerko, Tigers' Jackson proving to be prime pickups
In the early months of a season, playing fantasy baseball is a lot like playing at a casino. Knowing when to quit while you are ahead is just as valuable as riding it out at a hot table.
With a month in the books, which streaking players should you trust for the long haul and which should you cut ties with now? The Weekly 10 is here to help you out.
1. Austin powered
The player: Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers
The week: .500, 8 R, 0 HR, 2 RBIs, 2 SB
The man affectionately known as Action Jackson swung a blistering bat in a week that included a five-hit night against the Angels on April 30. The 23-year-old is batting .367 on the year and is loaded with talent, but he's still a very raw rookie and -- let's face it -- he's going to start playing like one sometime soon. See if you can work him into a trade and get max value for him now before he settles back down to Earth.
2. True value
The player: Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox
The week: .316, 5 R, 4 HR, 10 RBIs, 0 SB
Konerko got no love from fantasy owners entering the season. In Yahoo! leagues, his average preseason draft position was No. 250, placing him behind the likes of Hank Blalock and Carlos Delgado -- neither of whom has suited up for a single big league game this season. The lack of consideration was somewhat bizarre, as the 14-year veteran has averaged 32 homers and 100 RBIs per 162 games over the course of his career. Konerko's fantasy owners are getting unthinkable value from the first baseman right now so there's no reason to over-think this one; keep him in your lineup and reap the benefits.
3. Filthy Friars
The players: Jon Garland, Wade LeBlanc, Clayton Richard, SP, Padres
The week: 4-0, 25 1/3 IP, 1 ER, 18 H, 11 BB, 27 Ks
The Padres have quietly found themselves among the elite teams in baseball and it's mostly thanks to their tremendous starting pitching. Garland -- who is still only owned in 13 percent of Yahoo! leagues -- had an outstanding week, picking up wins over the Marlins and Brewers while combining to give up just one earned run and fanning 13 in as many frames. Richard (owned in 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues) and LeBlanc (11 percent) can both be found on the wire in many leagues as well. All three are worthy of spot starts and should remain on your radar.
4. No Joe?
The player: Joe Mauer, C, Twins
The week: .188, 1 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said on Sunday that fantasy's most valuable backstop is more realistically week-to-week, rather than day-to-day, with a bruised heel. For those looking to fill this temporary void, an interesting pickup to consider is Diamondbacks catcher Chris Snyder, who is owned in only 21 percent of Yahoo! leagues and has been receiving regular playing time with Miguel Montero sidelined after knee surgery. Snyder is coming off a solid series against the Cubs at Wrigley this past weekend, in which he slugged a pair of homers and drove in four runs.
5. Capps cruising
The player: Matt Capps, RP, Nationals
The week: 2 SV, 2 1/3 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 3 Ks
While Capps' torrid start has been eye-opening, it shouldn't come as a complete surprise. When given the chance, the 26-year-old has delivered, converting 76 of 89 save opportunities since taking over as the fulltime closer in Pittsburgh in 2007. He leads the Majors with 10 saves, hasn't allowed an earned run in his last seven appearances and owns a sterling 15/6 K/BB ratio.
The player: Octavio Dotel, RP, Pirates
The week: 1 BS, 2 1/3 IP, 5 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 3 Ks
Ironically enough, while Capps -- who was non-tendered by the Pirates over the offseason -- is having tremendous success, the man the Bucs lined up as his replacement is bottoming out. Dotel has already blown a pair of saves and has been scored upon in each of his last six appearances, allowing 11 runs in 6 1/3 innings. So long as Dotel is officially the closer, he retains fantasy value; however, keep an eye on Evan Meek. The 26-year-old earned the save with a 1-2-3 ninth vs. the Dodgers on April 29 and is 1-0 with a 0.60 ERA in 11 games. Dotel could lose his job if he doesn't get it together soon.
7. Javy headache
The player: Javier Vazquez, SP, Yankees
The week: ND, 3 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 4 BB, 2 Ks
The change of scenery has been ugly for the 13-year-vet. He has yet to deliver a quality start, and sports a bloated 9.78 ERA and 2.04 WHIP. Since the average Yahoo! league had him coming off the board in the mid-seventh round, fantasy owners harbored much higher expectations for the right-hander following his Cy Young-caliber season with the Braves in '09. The Yankees have an off day later this week, so manager Joe Girardi could skip Vazquez in the rotation. If not, his next scheduled start would come in Boston, so regardless of whether the Yanks bypass his turn, fantasy owners will want to do so themselves.
8. Niese-ly done
The player: Jon Niese, SP, Mets
The week: W, 7 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 Ks
Niese sparkled in his first career appearance against the Phillies this past weekend, limiting a tough lineup in a hitters' park to just four singles over seven innings. Although it was just his first victory of the season, the left-hander has pitched well; thanks to an improved cutter, he has allowed no more than one earned run in each of his last three starts, racking up 20 Ks during that stretch. Niese obviously offers plenty of NL-only value, but he has put himself on the mixed-league radars as well. Look for him to continue surging in his next start at Cincinnati on Wednesday.
9. Simon says
The player: Alfredo Simon, RP, Orioles
The week: 2 SV, 3 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 4 BB, 5 Ks
With Mike Gonzalez still sidelined and Jim Johnson back in Triple-A after struggling in April, Simon's chances of sticking as the interim Orioles closer are looking good. The right-hander was given the chance to convert save opportunities against the Yankees and Red Sox last week and delivered on both occasions. Gonzalez is not due back from the disabled list for another three weeks, so if you are struggling to find saves, then you might as well grab Simon.
10. Center (field) of attention
The player: Curtis Granderson, OF, Yankees
The week: .158, 1 R, 0 HR, 0 RBIs, 0 SB
Granderson, who has just four hits in his past 37 at-bats, saw his early-season struggles put on hold when he was placed on the 15-day DL with a Grade 2 left groin strain on May 1. It's likely he will miss up to a month, which means more at-bats for both Brett Gardner and Marcus Thames. Gardner is a noteworthy proposition for fantasy owners looking to fill Granderson's void. While he doesn't offer much in the way of power (despite hitting his first homer of the year Sunday), the speedster has made an impact with a .342 average,18 runs and 11 steals.
Brandon Costa is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.