When an organization decides to give a player an opportunity to play every day and take over a starting position, fantasy owners need to stand up and take notice. Especially if the player qualifies at a position that is either thing to begin with or has been decimated by injuries through these first two months of the season. Here are two prime examples that are likely sitting on your waiver wire just waiting to be claimed.
Josh Bell, ARI |3B| Ownership: ESPN – 0.5% Yahoo – 1.0%
Right on the heels of my last Kicking Rocks piece which clamored for Bell’s call-up, the Diamondbacks finally said enough to the Cody Ransom/Ryan Roberts platoon they had working the hot corner this season. With little or no legitimate production at the position, it made perfect sense for the team to give Bell a shot, if not for anything but to at least just kick the tires and see what they had. It’s not like things could get worse, right?
Though he was once touted as the third baseman of the future for the Orioles, Bell struggled in his development and upon given the opportunity to play in the majors, suffered from horrific strikeout totals and never really got it going. He flashed some power in Double and Triple-A but couldn’t make enough contact in the bigs to stick. The O’s gave up on him and Bell found himself in Arizona, his third organization in three years.
Out to prove himself capable and that he belonged, Bell worked hard on his approach at the plate while at Triple-A Reno. He dramatically cut down on the strikeouts (15.2%) and increased his walk rate (8.2%). Consequently, his power that he flashed back in Double-A became much more evident and suddenly Bell was raking to the tune of a .381/.429/.619 slash line and a .237 ISO (nine doubles, four home runs) all with a 17:10 K:BB ratio in 129 at-bats. Small sample size in the hitter-friendly PCL? Yes, but as always, it has to start somewhere.
So now Bell has an opportunity to really shine here and prove his worth. Manager Kirk Gibson has said that he was brought up to be the team’s starting third baseman and that he will play every day. At 25 years of age, he is still developing but has an excellent base, and given the troubles at third base this season, is certainly worth a look in deeper leagues. If his improved plate discipline is for real, he is going to produce for you at a very strong level.
Steve Lombardozzi, WAS |2B, 3B, OF| Ownership: ESPN – 0.5% Yahoo – 1.0%
The Nationals have always been high on Lombardozzi and had been shopping shortstop Ian Desmond around in an effort to open a spot for him at second base by moving Danny Espinosa over to short. That never materialized and now that Desmond is performing at a level the organization had expected, the trade talk has all but vanished. Fortunately for Lombardozzi, his versatility has enabled him to move all around the diamond, filling in for the injured Ryan Zimmerman at third with occasional starts in the outfield. His defense is sound and at the plate, he is an incredibly disciplined and strong contact hitter.
Lombardozzi has impressed manager Davey Johnson quite a bit this season and that has become much more apparent as Johnson is finding plenty of ways to keep his bat in the lineup. He gets some work in the infield still, but since the return of Zimmerman, Johnson has found him a spot in left field in lieu of the Xavier Nady/Roger Bernadina platoon and says that he plans to continue using him there.
You’re not going to get much in the way of power, but Lombardozzi should produce a high average and throw you some decent stolen base totals as well, provided he sticks in the lineup. Aside from his defensive versatility, Johnson loves his on-base skills, so as long as he keeps that OBP at a solid level and continues to work as he does, he could/should remain a steady fixture in the Washington lineup. If you’re looking for a good BA-stabilizer with multi-position eligibility, then Lombardozzi is a good fit.