The MLB season is a 26-week marathon and, when it comes to fantasy baseball, some weeks offer a plethora of free-agent options while others have nothing. This week, unfortunately, is one of those "no thrills" weeks.
Oh, there are some diamonds in the rough in free agency this week, but it's going to be tough to unearth them. The top prospects are still down in the minors and won't be recalled for several weeks, so what you need to look for this week are the veterans who are being promoted to starting jobs because of injuries. Several top vets -- like Vladimir Guerrero, Alex Gordon, Xavier Nady, Chris Carpenter and Kenji Johjima -- were placed on the DL over the past seven days, creating new jobs for players likely in your free agent pool.
Here's a look at the top players to pick up before Week 3.
Ryan Franklin, RP, Cardinals: The Cardinals recently promoted Chris Perez from the minor leagues after Carpenter went on the DL, but manager Tony La Russa used him in the eighth inning on Friday and he took the loss after allowing a two-run homer to Alfonso Soriano. Jason Motte isn't reliable enough to use in the ninth inning, so don't be surprised if Franklin hangs onto the closer's job in St. Louis. He's recorded the last two saves for the Cardinals and hasn't given up a run yet in five appearances. The best news is that he's probably still available in your league and there's enough upside here to pick him up now and ride out as many saves as you can get before LaRussa finds a better option. Franklin was a nice, cheap pickup in the NFBC last week at $11-$75 (out of a FAAB budget of $1,000) and those astute owners could reap the benefits soon.
Manny Corpas, RP, Rockies: Corpas might not be available in your league as many owners drafted him with the hope that he would eventually win the closer's job in Colorado. Well, that day is here. Huston Street has been brutal in that role and he's been demoted deep in the pen, with Corpas now the fulltime closer for the Rockies. He's not overpowering, but he has a good sinker and good control, which is what the Rockies are looking for. He will produce enough in this new role to keep the job for the rest of the season, so get him now if he's available.
Brian Anderson, OF, White Sox: With DeWayne Wise landing on the DL with a separated right shoulder, Anderson will get most of the starts in center field. He had two stolen bases this week and posted a .471 on-base percentage thanks to six walks, even though he was hitting just .182. Jerry Owens has been called up to fill the void, but look for Anderson to get the majority of the playing time with the green light to run when he does get on base.
Rob Johnson, C, Mariners: It's not a sexy pickup, but with Kenji Johjimi on the DL for the next three weeks Johnson will get the majority of starts behind the plate in Seattle. He hit .267 in five starts this week with a pair of RBIs and will get at least two more weeks of starts if you're hurting at catcher right now. It's a sad reflection on Jeff Clement that the Mariners called up Jamie Burke from Triple-A to fill in while Johjima is sidelined. Clement just has not recovered well enough from off-season knee surgery and is struggling badly at Tacoma, hitting a mere .161. If you're holding onto Clement, it's possible that your patience won't be rewarded anytime soon.
Brian Barden, 3B, Cardinals: He's a worthy pickup in NL-only leagues mainly because he's shown a knack for hitting left-handed pitchers. He continues to be in a platoon sitatuion at third base while Troy Glaus recovers from injury, but this week he had three solo homers and is now hitting .409. It's possible that he could get more at-bats with this hot streak and even start against right-handers soon. Keep an eye on him because he's had a hot bat since spring training.
Nationals' Outfielders: The Nats grew tired of Lastings Milledge's attitude problems and late arrivals, so they sent him down to Triple-A this week for a reality check. In the meantime, they handed the center field job to Elijah Dukes and then had to discipline him and fine him after he showed up late for a team meeting. Wow. Dukes has the talent to excel in a fulltime role as he proved this week with two homers and six RBIs, but he sure needs to grow up in a hurry. Austin Kearns is now starting fulltime in right field and Josh Willingham is starting in left field. Each outfielder has his problems, but keep a close eye on them now that they all own full-time jobs.
Ramon Castro, C, Mets: He's also not a sexy pickup, but with Brian Schneider going on the DL the starting catcher's job in New York belongs to Castro. He had a homer and three RBIs this week and should get all of the starts throughout the rest of the month.
Mark Teahen, 3B, Royals: With Alex Gordon likely out 10-12 weeks after undergoing hip surgery, Teahen has moved over to the Hot Corner and should start fulltime there. He has played at first, second and third base this year and also in right field. He's hitting .325 now and will have no problem getting his at-bats this year as the Royals' most versatile defender.
Gary Matthews Jr., OF, Angels: Proceed at your own risk here, but the playing time will be there now for Matthews after Vladimir Guerrero landed on the DL. Vlad's pectoral tear could sideline him for 6-8 weeks and in the meantime Matthews and Juan Rivera will split playing time between right field and DH. Matthews is the least desirable of those two options and it's possible that even Brandon Wood could get a call-up to fill in this void. Wood was hitting .389 with four homers and six RBIs during his first five games at Triple-A Salt Lake and could easily fill the DH role or play at third base if Chone Figgins is moved to the outfield. Keep an eye on Wood if the Angels need a livelier bat.
Tommy Hanson, SP, Braves: Hanson will be the first top prospect called up to the majors and it will happen soon. In two outings at Triple-A Gwinnett, Hanson has posted a 0.90 ERA with 17 strikeouts and four walks in 10 innings. He's been on a strict pitch count by the Braves, so he's been limited to just 10 innings, but Hanson has been impressive so far and the Braves need a spark. It's time to light this fire now.
David Price, SP, Rays: Like Hanson, Price will be called up soon and he will make an immediate impact. The Rays are 0-2 in both of Jeff Niemann's starts and it's time to get Price into their starting rotation. He gave up only one unearned run on Thursday in five innings for Triple-A Durham and now has a 2.08 ERA and 10 strikeouts and three walks in 8.2 innings. His time will come soon and he will impress quickly.
Matt Wieters, C, Orioles: He was shut down briefly this week with a hamstring injury, but after a slow start he's hitting .292 with a home run at Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles won't promote him anytime soon, but hopefully by June they will realize that Wieters is one of their best hitters in their organization and give him a promotion to Baltimore.
It's a tough time to improve your fantasy team on the free agent market, but keep looking for those diamonds in the rough because they're out there. You just need to do a little extra digging for them.