Fantasy Specialists: Hitters

With about two months left in the season, everybody should know exactly what the strengths and weaknesses of their teams are. Instead of trying to trade for a great all-around player, it’s sometimes easier to pick up a player who is really only good in one category that is a weakness for your team.

To help you figure out who those players might be, here are a couple players in each category who could provide help there but might hurt you in other categories. Figuring out if the trade-off would be worth it for your team is up to you.

I’ll tackle the starting pitchers either tomorrow or next week depending on whether or not I have enough good e-mails to do a mailbag this week. If you need a fantasy question answered, e-mail me with your name, city and state.

Batting Average

Frank Catalanotto, Blue Jays: A career .299 hitter, Catalanotto has been limited to just 189 at-bats so far this year because of injuries. With Alexis Rios in Toronto’s outfield, Catalanotto’s now only playing against righties as he platoons with Josh Phelps.

Still, he’s hitting .323 this season, which could make up for the fact that he’s got just one home run, one steal, 21 runs and 24 RBIs if you need help for your batting average enough. Catalanotto hit .330 in 2001 and he hits righties a lot better than lefties, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him keep his batting average above .320 this season.

Aaron Miles, Rockies: Miles is not a particularly good hitter. Despite the fact that he plays half his games in Coors Field, he only has four home runs and his six steals show that he’s not particularly fast either. However, Coors Field is helping his batting average, which stands at .304 now. He’s hitting a respectable .285 on the road, but an impressive .325 at home.

Home Runs

Tony Clark, Yankees: Clark was signed to play first base when Jason Giambi needed a break, so it’s no surprise that he’s yet to reach 200 at-bats this season. It’s also not a big surprise that he has 10 home runs, since he hit 16 homers in 254 at-bats last year.

Clark isn’t the only player with double-digit home runs who has less than 200 at-bats, but he does have an advantage over most of them. With Giambi in limbo and possibly done for the season, Clark could get more at-bats the rest of the season than he’s gotten so far. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect him to hit another 10 homers this year.

Jose Valentin, White Sox: Valentin doesn’t hit for a high average (.273 in 2000 was his best), he doesn’t steal a ton of bases (three straight years with less than 10), he doesn’t often score 100 runs (107 in 2000 was the only time) and he’s never driven in 100 runs. What he does do is hit more home runs than any shortstop besides Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada.

Valentin has 22 home runs this year, making it a virtual lock that he’ll reach 25 for the fifth straight season. Tejada should also hit 25 homers for the fifth straight season and Rodriguez has hit at least 40 in each of the last six seasons. No other shortstop consistently hits as many home runs as those three.

Runs

Royce Clayton, Rockies: Clayton doesn’t have numbers quite as impressive as you’d hope for considering where he plays, as he’s hitting just .284 with six homers and six steals. What has been more helpful for Clayton is his spot in the lineup.

Batting second almost all the time, Clayton has been able to score 68 runs this season thanks to some combination of Todd Helton, Vinny Castilla, Jeromy Burnitz, Larry Walker and Preston Wilson hitting behind him. Clayton’s never scored even 90 runs in a season, but he’s on pace for 110 this year.

Bernie Williams, Yankees: Williams is a shadow of his former self on offense, but he also benefits from hitting at the top of a stacked lineup. Despite the fact that he’s only hitting .254, he still has a solid .361 on-base percentage. With Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield hitting behind him, that’s been enough to allow him to score 64 times.

RBI

Pat Burrell, Phillies: Burrell’s .264 average and 16 home runs are a good bit better than last year’s .209 average and 21 homers for the season (he’s on pace for 26 homers this year), but they’re still not great for an outfielder. However, with a spot behind Bobby Abreu and Jim Thome in the lineup, even that improvement at the plate has allowed him to already match last year’s RBI total. After knocking in 64 runs last year, he already has 64 RBIs this season and is on pace for 105.

Tony Batista, Expos: Batista is proving once again that if you bat fourth the majority of the time, you’re going to drive in runs. He has 58 RBIs so far, but with a .236/.265/.402 line, he’s easily the worst hitter with at least 50 RBIs in the majors. If you’re looking for a cheap source of RBIs, however, they don’t get much cheaper than Batista.

Stolen Bases

Dave Roberts, Dodgers: He’s not going to hit above .260 this year, he’s not going to score more than 75 runs or drive in more than 40 runs or hit more than a handful of homers. All that is forgivable if you’re team’s low on speed, however, because what he is going to do is make a run at 50 steals.

With 32 steals so far this season, Roberts is on pace for 52 swipes. As long as he can stay healthy and not go through any major droughts, he should get to 50 for the first time in his career.

Ryan Freel, Reds: Various injuries have given Freel an opportunity to accumulate 320 at-bats, but he’s only hitting .269 and his next home run will double his season total. However, he has a .369 on-base percentage, which gives him plenty of opportunities to take an extra base with his legs.

He’s used those opportunities, attempting 26 steals and succeeding 19 times. Whether that’s helping the Reds or not, it could certainly help your fantasy team if you’re solid in the other categories and need some steals.

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