When it gets down to the final few rounds of your draft or those last couple of auction dollars, you need to make some smart decisions. Keeper league owners usually drift towards the minor league hopefuls that could make an impact either this year or next, but for re-draft leagues, it’s about winning now. Sure, you could take a chance on a prospect and hope to get a second half call-up, but obviously there are no guarantees and the player could be waiver fodder by mid-season, rendering the pick a waste. You might be better served sifting through some of the major league rosters and finding yourself a couple of utility players who could realistically end up with extra playing time. It happens almost every year, and the value that some of these guys produce by year’s end could be the difference between a championship squad and an “also-ran”.
Whether it’s a rookie hopeful that struggles and finds himself back in the minors or an injury that knocks a middle infielder onto the shelf for a six to eight week DL stint, there are a number of utility players that garner plenty of at bats to make themselves valuable fantasy commodities during the season. Some even play themselves into full-time jobs. Ryan Roberts performed admirably in the role last season and the Diamondbacks seem to be ready to hand over the third base job to him in 2012 while Jamey Carroll earned himself a nice contract to be the Twins starting shortstop next season after a successful campaign for the Dodgers last year. While that’s the exception and not the rule, it is still within the realm of possibility for some — maybe not for seasons down the road, but for this year atleast. Here are a few names to keep on your radar when it gets down to the end of your draft:
Emilio Bonifacio, MIA — There is no guarantee that the Marlins will acquire Jose Reyes which means that Bonifacio could still end up as the starting third baseman in 2012. However, with the new name, the new logo, and the new stadium, the Marlins are primed to make a big splash in the free agent market and if they do land Reyes, then Bonifacio will find himself back in the utility role he’s played so well in years past. Given the injuries both Reyes and Hanley Ramirez have suffered recently, not to mention the lack of legitimate outfield depth, Bonifacio could find himself garnering the playing time equivalent to a full-time position player. His .296/.360/.393 with 40 SB were huge last year, so everyone knows who he is. But if he doesn’t have a starting job come spring training, he’ll drop like a stone in drafts and be a fantastic late round acquisition.
Ty Wigginton, PHI — He seems to be one of those players that fantasy owners either love or hate. Very few sit on the fence with regard to Wiggy which helps keep his draft value low. He makes the move to Philadelphia this year and will serve as a back-up to Ryan Howard at first while competing with Placido Polanco for time at third base. He’ll also serve as a fall back option in the outfield corners as well. He’s a career .265 hitter and hasn’t had an OPS over .750 since 2008, but he is certainly able to hit for some power. He had 15 HR in just 446 plate appearances last year and had topped 20 HR in four of the five years prior. Given Polanco’s age and injury history coupled with Howard’s recovery from a torn Achilles, Wiggy could find himself in the lineup more often than not.
Adam Kennedy, FA — Rumor has it that the Dodgers are closing in on signing Kennedy as their utility infielder now that Carroll has found greener pastures in Minnesota. If he does sign with L.A., then Kennedy would serve as a backup at second and third. Given Juan Uribe’s age and performance last season, the Dodgers could have him on a short leash which might open the door a little wider for some playing time. He may not be the strongest candidate here, but Kennedy has been known to produce well at times. His month of May last year in which he hit .290 with a pair of home runs and 4 SB was solid and later on in the season while filling in at first base, he went on a nice little run hitting safely in 16 of the 20 games he played in July. He could end up on the waiver wire more than he is rostered next season, but in a re-draft league, he might be worth a look real late.