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Options are many, talented for those at loss for injured Berkman


There are players who are chronically injured (misfortune that never seems to stop), and others who are injured chronically (ones that never go away). Lance Berkman is now both.

And his fantasy owners are chronically sweating.

The only thing resembling a towel to dab the perspiration is the fact first base and outfield (Berkman's slots in your lineup) are perhaps the two most replaceable positions in fantasy. The Cardinals have options, too.

Berkman's misfortune with another serious knee injury likely ends his season, if not his career, and fantasy owners are left scrambling for alternatives. Meanwhile, fantasy analysts remark once again what a bad year this is for injuries.

Every year is bad, honestly, and we had to expect the worst with Berkman, a 36-year old who was never a model of health and fitness. We should be thankful there are options.

The Cardinals turn to prospect Matt Adams, someone readily available in most fantasy leagues and one with potential. We are not quite talking Anthony Rizzo potential here, but Adams can do the trick until Rizzo gets his call-up in June. (Matt Carpenter is more of a role player.)

Think of the past six months of Adams' fantasy value in keeper leagues: From under Albert Pujols' shadow, to Lance Berkman insurance, to starter indefinitely on the defending World Series champions. The pop is legit and the opportunity has been laid out before him.

Adams, after hitting .300 with 32 homers, 101 RBI, 80 runs, a .357 on-base percentage and a .566 slugging percentage in Double A last year, got off to a blistering .340-9-27-20 (.375-.603) start through 141 at-bats in Triple A. He might not hit against lefties (just 9-for-38, .237, against them this year), but the Cardinals will eventually have Allen Craig (currently on the DL for a hamstring issue) for that.

If you cannot, or don't want to, turn to Adams, Rizzo or even Carpenter or Craig to fill the Big Puma's ... well, ahem ... Pumas, then here are some options available to you in mixed formats. You are likely too late to the party this year on Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Dunn, Bryan LaHair and Mark Trumbo, but that quartet shows us all how quickly value can come from the depths of the first base position.

Here are some of the first-base options that can be acquired to help your fantasy team come June, or sooner:

1. Eric Hosmer, Royals (96 percent owned) -- As good as the numbers looked last year, they look awful now. He is overdue and a great buy-low candidate.

2. Ryan Howard, Phillies (95 percent) -- He should be starting a rehab assignment soon and an Achilles' injury shouldn't keep him from doing what he does best: hit homers and drive in runs.

3. Adam LaRoche, Nationals (93 percent) -- He never seems to get his due credit. He is enjoying a renaissance.

4. Michael Morse, Nationals (92 percent) -- He is champing at the bit to play and might be back by June 8.

5. Justin Morneau, Twins (90 percent) -- He is certain to get hurt again, but the injury risk makes him affordable. The potential makes him intriguing.

6. Kendrys Morales, Angels (85 percent) -- The numbers are not awful, but Trumbo has earned full-time at-bats and Morales needs Albert Pujols to move to third base to get more at-bats. Pujols played third Sunday, so that idea might not be too far-fetched now.

7. Chris Davis, Orioles (63 percent) -- He is a streaky slugger but one with considerable potential. He might make the most sense right now of anyone on this list.

8. Mark Reynolds, Orioles (63 percent) -- If you like Dunn, you should also like Reynolds. He is currently on the DL but he could return in a week or two, perhaps. At times, he can be as potent as anyone.

9. Yonder Alonso, Padres (54 percent) -- He won't hit homers, but he hits doubles, has potential and won't kill you in batting average. He is a real find yet to pop.

10. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks (54 percent) -- Remember the love affair with him? Well, it was sort of justified. Goldschmidt can get hot and earn the love back.

11. Brandon Belt, Giants (41 percent) -- His inability to perform to his potential is a bit mystifying. He is the type of player that few will be surprised stars once he finds it, though.

12. Justin Smoak, Mariners (35 percent) -- He is hot now, and available, so he is the perfect fill-in for maligned Berkman owners. This is a bit of serendipity because Smoak is a talent that can take off and have a breakthrough year. He is hitting .351 with two homers over his past nine games with five multi-hit games during that stretch.

If these options are off the board, consider James Loney or Mike Carp. Whatever you do, though, don't say, "Woe is me." Just be lucky you sustained a blow at a position of depth. It is not like you lost yet another closer.

OF Mike Trout, Angels -- At this pace, Trout won't just win AL Rookie of the Years honors, he is going to be an AL MVP candidate. Trout is roughly on pace for a .355 average, 30 homers and 40 steals if you projected his 20-game numbers for a full season. No, you cannot do that; and yes, Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett had huge weeks, too. But this is a fantasy analysis column meant to give you information to win a fantasy league. Kershaw and Beckett are already must-starts in all leagues. Trout is now, too.

SP Tim Lincecum, Giants -- A bad season has gotten worse. This was supposed to be the time Lincecum pays his fantasy owners back. His strikeout totals are still good, even if his walk and inning totals are down. Lincecum said he wasn't hurt in Sunday's collision. He was just taken out with a case of the stink. Consider this an opportunity still. If someone is fed up and selling Lincecum at a reasonable rate, it is still a good time to buy. If you own Lincecum, keep running him out there. This is going to be the worst season of his career -- at age 27, no less -- but the return you get is not going to be worth it.

Most added

1. OF Dayan Viciedo, White Sox -- Eventually the hype had to show up on the stat sheet. This homer tear has made him a viable starter in any mixed leagues.

2. 1B Matt Adams, Cardinals -- His power is legit, even if it comes at a deep position in mixed formats.

3. RP Rafael Soriano, Yankees -- David Robertson's loss is Soriano's gain. This is a crucial stretch for Soriano. If he can prove consistent, there might be no reason to consider Robertson a candidate to close when he comes off the DL.

4. SP Jerome Williams, Angels -- For many young pitching prospects, major-league life ends at 30. For Williams, it is just beginning. He is a nice sleeper in deeper leagues.

5. OF Andy Dirks, Tigers -- He proven capable as a starter for the Tigers and for fantasy owners in mixed leagues as well. His speed and pop makes him quite a find in deeper rotisserie formats.

Most dropped

1. RP David Robertson, Yankees -- Soriano can make Robertson unworthy of a roster spots in leagues that don't use middle relievers, but the hunch here is Robertson is going to get some saves before the All-Star break and potentially steal the job in the second half.

2. 1B Adam Lind, Blue Jays -- With his demotion to the minors, his career isn't over by any stretch, but his fantasy value is for the time being.

3. SP Jeff Niemann, Rays -- Alex Cobb shouldn't be available in your league, so go pick him up. Niemann should be out through the All-Star break.

4. RP Steve Cishek, Marlins -- He has gone into the tank and Heath Bell has gone back to saving games. Cishek is merely a middle reliever now, so mostly worthless in fantasy.

5. SP Ross Detwiler, Nationals -- He has shown some flashes -- most recently some bad ones -- but his talent suggests he is going to be one of those pitch-or-ditch guys on and off the waiver wire for the next few months.

Most viewed: Buy, sell, hold

1. 1B Albert Pujols, Angels -- He has put some homers together, even if it isn't quite a "tear" yet. It is easy to see it coming around for him. BUY

2. 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies -- We thought we would see him in a rehab assignment by now, but perhaps it won't be much longer. BUY

3. OF Carlos Beltran, Cardinals -- He is going to be relied upon more now with Berkman out, but his own chronic knee issues figure to slow him down. He was just too hot for too long to sustain it. SELL

4. 1B/OF Lance Berkman, Cardinals -- It is too late now. CUT

5. 2B Chase Utley, Phillies -- We would suggest to buy him now, because the price is low and the potential is still pretty good, but those knees just have needed so much time and Beltran and Berkman have shown how bad knees can ruin fantasy value in a hurry. HOLD

Eric Mack writes fantasy for If you miss his Monday baseball trends, Wednesday prospect report or Friday pitching review, you can also find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).


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