Replacing Joey Votto is something of a misnomer, since unless Andrew McCutchen is just sitting on the wire, any other player picked up to replace Votto is going to be a downgrade. At this point, those who have sullenly placed their star first baseman on the DL have two tasks: Limit the damage and pray for a quick recovery. The latter is between you and the vengeful, capricious fantasy gods, but the former can be helped. The best available option is going to depend entirely on specific leagues, as there are a couple good options that are available in about 50 percent of leagues, but each may not be available in any given league. Noted in parentheses are each player’s ownership, listed as (ESPN owned; Yahoo owned).
Kendrys Morales (41 percent; 53 percent) is my top choice among the widely available players. his power hasn’t been as good as hoped this year, but he’s still hitting about a home run a week now after a slowish start to the year to go with a batting average in the .280-.290 range. He’s a long way from where many expected him to be at this point in his career, but he won’t kill a lineup and he’s available in a lot of leagues.
As is his modus operandi, Carlos Pena (50 percent; 40 percent) is killing traditional 5X5 teams’ batting average, which is no doubt why he’s so widely available, particularly in Yahoo! leagues. That said, his OBP is up around .330, which isn’t quite where it’s been in the past, but surely more workable than his sub-Mendoza line batting average. He’s slugging better coming out of the break, which is a hopeful sign, but not yet enough to make him worth rostering for those in AVG. based leagues.
Two names with poor overall lines, but recent improvements are Ike Davis (42 percent; 48 percent) and Justin Morneau (45 percent; 38 percent). Davis started the season terribly, hitting .170/.228/.296 over the first two months, but has picked things up to the tune of a .242/.329/.508 line since June 1 with eight home runs compared to just five in the two previous months. Since the break, he’s been posting a lot of 1-for-4s, but it’s still better than the way he was hitting — or not hitting as it were — in April. There’s some speculation here, but since Votto isn’t missing the rest of the season, grabbing Davis now doesn’t mean a bet that the rest of his season will be as good as his June was, just that the next 4-6 weeks will be.
Similar to Davis is Morneau, whose ebbs and flows don’t line up quite as nicely as Davis’ do, but who has the same speculative value. After missing half of May and a few games in June with forearm and wrist injuries, Morneau is healthy once again and is hitting .296/.345/.426 so far in July. The home runs aren’t back yet, but the Twins have played a large number of their post-break games at home and Target Field boasts a lefty home run park factor of just 80. The Twins play 13 of their next 19 games on the road and 18 of 27 in August away from Target Field, so if he really is healthy and this is a park-induced power outage, the home runs should come in the next few weeks.
Digging a little deeper, Yonder Alonso (9 percent; 15 percent) seems to be finding his stroke again in July after a pretty poor June. As with Davis, remember than Votto will be back eventually, so it isn’t necessary to believe that Alonso is going to hit .326/.446/.587 for the rest of the year in order to believe he’s a good pick up for the short term. I still like Wilson Betemit (1 percent; 5 percent) as a won’t-singlehandedly-kill-your-team option, though his power has all but dried up lately, which limits the active value he provides, but depending on league depth, not bad might just be good enough.
Not one of these guys will reproduce Votto’s contributions, but they may keep a team in contention while Votto’s knee heals.