Fantasy Baseball: 3 Replacements A.J. Pollock Owners Should Target

A.J. Pollock was the first player to crush fantasy baseball owners this year. How should he be replaced?

For most of us who play fantasy sports, the game represents a reprieve from real life. It takes our mind off of the standard priorities of life to pursue conquest over over others we may or may not know. 

Then A.J. Pollock returns to action after missing almost all of spring training and promptly breaks his elbow while scoring from third base moments after roping an RBI double into the gap of a meaningless exhibition game, just days before Opening Day. The initial prognosis is that Pollock will miss at least several months and possibly the entire season. 

And that's when priorities in life change (temporarily, of course). 

Unlike fantasy football, fantasy baseball is a six-month, day-to-day grind that wears on you each day. It's played almost daily from April through September, and the performance of your guys can, at times, be an emotional boon or hindrance to your mood, as much as we may fight it.

At the outset of the season, fantasy owners pour over projections trying to clinically identify and isolate players who will represent draft day values. However, once you have your draft, you also then have "your guys" regardless of pre-draft projections. Pollock, for many -- like me -- was "the guy" for all categories and formats.

So, who else can you insert into the lineup to replace Pollock? The reality is probably no one will completely replace Pollock, but perhaps we can invest in a nice rebate for his value on the waiver wire or through a trade.

Denard Span

Yahoo Percentage Owned: 50%

numberFire projection: 

PAs Runs HR RBI SB Average
527 70 8 44 20 0.287

The Good
: Span, who's left-handed, has always hit right-handed pitching well (career .293 average). He's expected to lead off for the Giants this season in front of Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Brandon Belt, and already started the year off on the right track with a big performance on Opening Day. 

Given those capable bats and Span's career .352 OBP, he could easily exceed his projection of 70 runs and could flirt with 90 total over an entire season. Span should also be able to keep pace with Pollock's batting average for the most part, as he is an above-average hitter, though he did struggle mightily against lefties last season. 

The RBI total would represent double what Span produced in 2015, which would make some sense if you're expecting him to double his plate appearances. Pollock actually produced 76 RBI last season, but he hit in the second and third spots in the order a fair amount and that will certainly not be the expectation for Span.

If Span is given a full season of plate appearances, he should reach and possibly exceed his stolen base projection as well. He's stolen more than 30 bases as recently as 2014, and the Giants were in the top third of baseball in total stolen bases last season -- Span should be given the green light this season. 

The Bad: Historically, the platoon split has not been as steep as it was in 2015 for Span, but if you invest, keep an eye on Span's batting average and placement in the order when the Giants face southpaws. 

He's never hit more than eight home runs in a season (2009 with the Twins), so the projection listed is a little rosy considering his track record and home park, a pitcher's park. Anything more than five homers could end up being gravy on top.

Recommendation: If your team is light on batting average, runs, and stolen bases, Span should represent a value if he is available in your league. He shouldn't be overly difficult to obtain in a trade, either.

Kevin Kiermaier 

Yahoo Percentage Owned: 34%

PAs Runs HR RBI SB Average
510 60 11 48 15 0.264

The Good: Kiermaier is very unlikely to come out of the Rays order considering he's widely regarded as one of the top defensive players in all of baseball. He should be a steady source for power and speed, as he posted double-digit totals in stolen bases and homers last season. 

The Bad: Unlike Span, Kiermaier will likely hit down in the order, limiting his runs and RBI opportunities. Kiermaier also possessed a low fly-ball rate (29.3%) last season, which would make it challenging for him to exceed his home run projection.

Recommendation: Kiermaier is likely only an add in deeper mixed leagues, but does have some (runs and stolen base) upside if he were to move up in the order. 

Stephen Piscotty 

Yahoo Percentage Owned: 75%

numberFire projection:

PAs Runs HR RBI SB Average
486 59 14 63 5 0.278

The Good
: It wouldn't be unrealistic at all to see Piscotty beat all of these projections. Piscotty, from a pure hitting standpoint, probably reminds me of Pollock the most.

Player Year Pas Avg OBP Slg HR SB
Piscotty  2015 256 0.305 0.359 0.494 7 2
Pollock 2014 287 0.302 0.353 0.498 7 14

The table above shows Pollock's half season of play in 2014 before his breakout in 2015, as well as Piscotty's half season with the Cardinals last season -- they share very similar results over those half season periods. 

Piscotty, like Pollock, will likely hit all over the top half of his lineup, which should provide him the opportunity to accumulate similar counting stats as Pollock did last season. 

Piscotty doesn't have the wheels that Pollock possess, but he was aggressive on the base paths during spring training, attempting six stolen bases and successfully stealing four of them. In the Minors, Piscotty reached 11 stolen bases in two seasons, and that probably represents his ceiling this season.

The Bad: Piscotty may not have the power to reach more than 15 home runs in a season due to his line-drive approach. And, as noted, he probably doesn't have the speed or instincts to reach double-digit stolen bases this season. 

Recommendation: Above all other players mentioned in this article, Piscotty is the one you want to pick up (if in a shallow league) or trade for (in a bigger one), as he has the most potential to replace Pollock in four out of five roto categories. If you have room, add a player like Cesar Hernandez (who was part of this week's waiver wire adds column) to supplement the loss in stolen bases, and you'll have potentially rebuilt 90% of Pollock's production.