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Replacing Pujols (And Failing)

When Wilson Betemit ran into Albert Pujols‘ left wrist a few days ago, it took arguably the best player in the game away from fans and fantasy owners for what is expected to be four-to-six weeks. Pujols went first overall in most drafts and drew the largest bid in most auctions this year, and it’s going to be impossible to replace him over the next month or so. All you can do is hope to get by in the meantime. Let’s look at some players you can find on the waiver wire or free agent pool that might be able to help you do just that…

Casey Kotchman | Rays | Ownership: 4% Yahoo!, 3.7% ESPN

Kotchman’s sacrifice to the BABIP gods (.364 this year, .276 career) has his batting line sitting at .339/.399/.456 with the lowest strikeout rate of his career (10.4%) through 204 plate appearances this season. He’s hitting in the middle of Tampa’s lineup (mostly fifth these days) and playing everyday, against both righties and lefties. Kotchman isn’t going to hit for much over the fence power because his fly ball rate is a microscopic 25.5%, but he’s not going to kill your AVG or OBP (yet) and might even chip in some RBI if Matt Joyce turns things around and Evan Longoria stops kidding around with his Carlos Lee impersonation.

James Loney | Dodgers | Ownership: 21% Yahoo!, 25.3% ESPN

With a .240/.283/.292 batting line and just one homerun on the morning of May 22nd, Loney was completely unrosterable in even the deepest of leagues. He’s gone on a tear over the last 31 days though, hitting .337/.392/.467 with three homers and nearly as many walks (nine) as strikeouts (ten) in 102 plate appearances to raise his season line to a still poor but more acceptable .274/.332/.354. Loney established himself as a solid AVG, solid OBP, low power guy from 2007 through 2009, but he dropped off last year and really dropped off this year before picking things up of late. With any luck, he’ll be the old Loney for a few weeks until Pujols is healthy.

Anthony Rizzo | Padres | Ownership: 6% Yahoo!, 18.7% ESPN

The allure of a top prospect getting called up can be too much to resist at times, but Rizzo’s probably one should stay clear of, certainly if you are in a non-keeper league. His young big league career has produced six hits in 46 plate appearances, though the good news is that five of the six have gone for extra bases (three doubles, one triple, one homer). He’s also drawn eight walks to put his OBP at a tolerable .333, but he’s struck out in a third of his at-bats and the fact remains that his home ballpark will hurt him as will the rest of his teammates. I love Rizzo long-term, but I’m with Howard Bender here, his fantasy value figures to be small for the rest of 2011.

Mark Trumbo | Angels | Ownership: 28% Yahoo!, 43.7% ESPN

Trumbo is already filling in for the injured Kendrys Morales, so we might as well list him as an injury replacement for Pujols as well. He’s giving the Angels the one thing the three other guys in this post don’t figure to give your fantasy team: homerun power. Trumbo’s gone deep a dozen times this year and ZiPS projects him to hit another 12 the rest of the season, which is where his value lies. His .254 AVG and .299 OBP are nothing special and awful, respectively, and ZiPS has him doing almost the exact same thing in the second half. If you’re willing to sell out the rate stats for help with the counting stats, Trumbo’s the guy to target.