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Kotchman & Pena: 1B Risers

Let’s take a look at a pair of first baseman slowly inching their way towards fantasy relevance, or back to relevance in one case…

Casey Kotchman | Rays | Ownership: 1% Yahoo!, 0.5% ESPN

It’s a crazy world we live in, one in which the question of whether or not Kotchman is worth a roster spot is a valid one. He’s hit .352/.425/.451 with a homer and eight runs scored in 80 PA since being called up following Manny Ramirez‘s sudden retirement, but he’s been even better of late: .386/.449/.523 in 49 PA over the last two weeks. Kotchman’s riding out a nice BABIP streak (.421 over the last two weeks, .396 overall), though you’d expect it to be a little higher than usual given his extreme ground ball tendencies (57.6% this year, 53.4 career). I guess the turf in Tampa is helping him out, maybe speeding up (or, in reality, not slowing down) some of those grounders and helping them find holes.

Joe Maddon’s employed one of his unique platoons at first base, using Kotchman against righties and Dan Johnson against lefties even though both guys bat from the left side. We have a pretty good idea of what Kotchman is at this point of his career, a well-below average offensive first baseman with some glove skills, but he’s hitting well now and is worth a spot in AL-only or deeper mixed leagues in the interim. Just make sure you watch the pitching probables and be vigilant if he shows signs of slowing down.

Carlos Pena | Cubs | Ownership: 48% Yahoo!, 55.5% ESPN

Pena’s tenure on Chicago’s north side didn’t exactly start as planned. He had just two hits (but also three walks) in his first 15 plate appearances before being sidelined for a few days with a sprained thumb. Pena fell into a deep and prolonged slump after coming back, hitting just .151/.274/.151 for the balance of April. He started to show some signs of life in early-May but is now on a full blown tear, with a .379/.486/.729 line to go along with three homers in the month. He has eight hits in his last four games as well.

Despite his relatively awful 2010 season, coming into the season I liked the idea of Pena in Wrigley, a building with a 119 HR park factor for left-handed batters according to StatCorner. Regardless of where he’s playing, the guy will kill your batting average (hasn’t hit over .250 since 2007), but he’ll draw enough walks to have value in OBP leagues and power is very real. He obviously won’t maintain his current torrid pace over the full season, but ZiPS sees a .238/.362/.481 batting line with 22 homers the rest of the way. Only seven other first baseman match that combination of wOBA (.370) and HR.