Michael Saunders (ESPN: 6 percent owned; Yahoo!: 7 percent owned)
Jack-of-all-trades might be one of the biggest backhanded compliments anyone can ever receive, but it’s probably the most apt description of Saunders’ performance so far this season. He’s not a hitter with massive power, nor is he challenging anyone for the stolen base crown, but he has been simply adequate in nearly every category so far this season. He already has five home runs and eight stolen bases; ZiPS has him stealing another nine bases and hitting seven more home runs. Neither projection seems far off to me, but I could see him getting closer to 15 home runs than he is to 10.
The difference isn’t big enough to recommend using him in a strict platoon, but it is big enough to be worth noting: Saunders wears out lefties in a way he just doesn’t righties. His home runs are split three and two, but his overall line tells the story better: Against his fellow port-siders, Saunders has a solid .275/.339/.510, while righties have given him a little more trouble to the tune of a .250/.320/.394 line. The benefit to keeping him in the lineup against right-handed pitching is that all eight of Saunders’ steals have come with a righty on the mound; that shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but it does act as way of countering the decline in his overall production.
No, the split owners should be worried about is Saunders’ profound home/road gap. Like his teammate who graced this space last week, Justin Smoak, Saunders is doing his work away from Safeco field. His home numbers are downright unworkable, .185/.297/.222 with a home runs and a pair of steals, while his road numbers are quite good: .287/.338/.512 with five home runs and six steals. Daily leagues make these splits easy enough to live with, but for weekly owners, the words “Mariners home stand” should have you running to make sure Saunders doesn’t slip into the starting roster for that coming week.
I like Saunders’ ability to help in almost every hitting category, though having a healthy lead in batting average might be a good idea for those thinking of slotting him into their lineup. Still, for teams that need help in a few different categories, Saunders may prove to be a better stopgap than someone like Peter Bourjos, who isn’t going to provide much in the non-speed categories.
Trevor Plouffe (ESPN: 1 percent owned; Yahoo! 2 percent owned)
This one’s something of a deep reach, but as a staunch believer in Trevor Plouffe, I felt somewhat compelled to note two things. First, he’s widely available and second, he’s both seeing more playing time and doing more with it. His overall line is still weak, .200/.290/.427, but he has seven home runs and over his last 10 games, his line looks much, much better at .333/.351/.722 with four of his seven home runs. He’s walking at a career high rate of 11 percent and while a 20 percent strikeout rate doesn’t exactly exude plate discipline, it is the lowest rate he’s ever posted in the majors.
One thing I particularly like about Plouffe both in terms of his ability to stay on the field for the Twins and for his fantasy value is his multipositional ability. Right now, he’s seeing most of his time at third base or in a corner outfield spot, but he does have four appearances at second base and should have come into the year with eligibility at shortstop, since he played 45 games there last season.
Once his BABIP, now .192, starts to regress a bit, his batting average and OBP should come up to at least vaguely respectable levels, though his 14 percent line drive rate isn’t going to do him any favors in that regard. He is hitting home runs on a rather high percentage of his fly balls at just under 18 percent, but I suspect that will even out with more playing time. ZiPS projects 11 more home runs this season from Plouffe and that seems right in line with my own estimations.
Plouffe isn’t 10- or even 12- team material at this point, but for AL-only players or for those in deeper mixed leagues, he’s a strong bench option. Target Field may not be the best place to look in search of power hitters, but 18-20 home runs off the wire from an MI or CI option isn’t a bad start at all.