As a Giants fan, I really don’t want to restate this, so if you’re not familiar with the story, you can read it here from Major League Baseball’s Twitter page.
BREAKING: Giants OF Melky Cabrera suspended 50 games without pay after testing positive for Testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance.
— MLB (@MLB) August 15, 2012
Again, as a Giants fan, I am irritated beyond belief. But as a fantasy owner, I don’t have Melky Cabrera on any of my teams, so I think I’m okay to give some advice on some names that those who own the Melk Man can look for as a replacement.
Since Cabrera has eligibility at all three outfield positions, let’s take a look at one left fielder, one center fielder, and one right fielder.
Left Field: David Murphy, Texas Rangers
As players like Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz have dealt with injury issues over the last few years, David Murphy has seen the field quite a bit and done pretty well, so we’re not just looking at a replacement player here. While the power numbers aren’t spectacular, they’re also not a huge downgrade over Melky, as Cabrera has 11 homers in 459 at-bats, while Murphy has 10 in 295.
Over the last 30 days, Murphy is also batting .350, which trumps Cabrera’s .327 average over the same window. Also keep in mind that Texas is a much more favorable parks for hitters than San Francisco and while the American League West is the best division for pitching in the AL, it doesn’t quite stack up to the NL West.
In 2010, I had Hamilton, who missed a good amount of the last month with an injury. In his absence, I brought in Murphy, who filled in quite admirably, and I still won the league. This is a similar situation, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give Murphy the same chance in 2012 filling in for Cabrera. He’s available in nearly 90 percent of ESPN leagues and is becoming more of an everyday player now. In Texas’ lineup and home park, his numbers aren’t likely to drop off significantly coming home.
Center Field: Jon Jay, St. Louis Cardinals
In this case, there is more of a noticeable drop in power, but again, I doubt Melky’s value to you is as a basher. Jon Jay is just a really good hitter and while he’s generally been a spot starter, Jay has been starting in the Cardinals’ outfield for most of the last month. Over that last month, he’s hit .353 and swiped six bags.
As is the case with Murphy, Jay has some great chances to hit and produce numbers. The National League Central is hitter-friendly. The Cardinals are fourth in the league in runs scored, which makes sense when you consider that they have MVP candidates Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday on the team, along with solid bats David Freese and Allen Craig.
The concern in St. Louis is finding at-bats, but with Lance Berkman out, Jay easily belongs in the starting lineup every day. Jay has hit safely in each of his last eight games and has recorded two or more hits in six of them. More importantly, he’s available in 68 percent of ESPN leagues, so this is a wagon I’d be jumping on.
Right Field: Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates
Unlike the other players, Garrett Jones is a significant power upgrade from Cabrera. The issue with him has always been his average, as Jones has never played over 100 games in a season and hit better than .250. That doesn’t seem to be the case this year, as he’s hitting at .282 on the year, and .319 over the last month.
The other thing that makes Jones valuable is Andrew McCutchen, who is my vote for the NL MVP. With him in the lineup, Jones will have plenty of RBI opportunities. The average would be a bit of a drop, but the extra power makes up for it. If a guy like Jones is above about .270, he’s a very valuable player, as the power numbers are going to be there.
What makes all of these players especially valuable is that they’re all on contending teams. Veterans on non-contenders can tend to get shut down at this time of the year, especially if they’ve dealt with injury issues. But all three of these teams have something to play for so as long as they’re healthy, these players will be in the lineup. You may get a drop from what Cabrera has done this year, but all three of these guys can help keep the train moving.