Colby Rasmus (ESPN: 58 percent owned; Yahoo!: 38 percent owned)
This is definitely one of those moments where striking while the iron is hot is good business. A few nights ago, I happened to see someone ask a fellow fantasy writer on Twitter whether they should be picking up Rasmus and just assumed he must have been playing in about an eight-team league, since Rasmus hasn’t been available in any of my leagues since draft day. Apparently, the reality is that a decent number of owners were fed up with Rasmus’ slow start and kicked him to the curb, making him available in just under half of ESPN leagues and almost two-thirds of Yahoo! leagues.
While Rasmus’ production hasn’t always matched his potential and while he has struggled to reach the level of efficacy he showed in 2010, I can’t help feeling that he’s been given a shorter leash by fans and fantasy owners than other, similar players might have. Perception is a funny thing, but while Rasmus’ April wasn’t the best, he did hit .232/.281/.427 with three home runs and 11 RBI, which isn’t so devilishly bad as to warrant immediate expulsion from most teams.
Over his last 15 games, Rasmus seems to have found his stroke again, hitting .344/.403/.672 with four home runs, 11 RBI, and 12 runs scored. The pair of bases he stole over that same stretch is just an added bonus. Lacking training in extispicy, I can’t say with certainty that Rasmus is going to finish the season as well as he seems to be going now, but with a strikeout rate under 20 percent for the first time since 2009 and a line drive rate over 20 percent for the first time ever, I like his chances to be an asset in all but the shallowest leagues.
Darwin Barney (ESPN: 23 percent owned; Yahoo! 10 percent owned)
I can’t really fault owners for not jamming the wire trying to pick up Barney; It’s hard to get really excited about someone like Barney. He’s not particularly fast, he doesn’t have much power to speak of, the Cubs’ lineup isn’t driving him in every time he’s on base, and yet, a fair number of teams could benefit from what he brings to the table.
Barney’s big selling point is his average, .277 on the year and an ever better .316 since the middle of May. He’s given owners a few steals and a pair of home runs as well, but grabbing Barney for counting stats at this point is a little like grabbing J.A. Happ for his WHIP: It can be done, but probably isn’t the best course of action. Still, when his average is that high, he doesn’t need to accrue runs or RBI at the same rate that a player hitting in the .260s or .270s would need to, to amass the same amount of value. Obviously, if Barney begins to see his average drop back down to where it was after a disappointing April, he’ll struggle to have any value at all, but such is the risk of the one or two category player.
He’s ripping line drives at a nearly 25 percent rate, which is going to help him keep his average up, as will the Cubs’ next interleague series, which takes place at spacious Target Field. After that, the road gets a bit tougher for the Cubs, but Barney’s been playing well in less friendly environments over the last few weeks, so I don’t believe he’s just a short-term pick up.
As noted above, if Barney’s average takes a dive, he’s pretty much rendered valueless, so keep an eye on him to make sure he isn’t weighing down your team while he’s in a slump. He’ll play every day, so he’s plug-and-play in that sense, but to maximize his value, use him in a platoon. He’s hitting .294/.348/.462 against righties with all three of his home runs compared to just .222/.271/.267 with neither home run nor stolen base against lefties.