By R.J. Anderson //
With Chipper Jones slated to miss the rest of the season, the big question is how fantasy owners and the Atlanta Braves can replace the future Hall of Famer.
Let’s begin with Atlanta. Jones’ injury further complicates an infield depth chart already stretched thin by Martin Prado’s presence on the disabled list since early August. All-Star reserve Omar Infante’s attention is focused on replacing Prado, leaving Brooks Conrad at third base. The 30-year-old has an interesting back story. A former eighth-round pick of the Houston Astros, Conrad made his major league debut with the Oakland Athletics in 2008 after qualifying for minor league free agency. He joined the Braves’ system before the 2009 season. In 128 plate appearances this season he’s hit .241/.315/.500, including a memorable grand slam to complete a comeback against the Cincinnati Reds.
If you’re an owner in a deep league, Conrad has the benefit of playing time, and has shown some power, socking seven homers with an impressive .259 Isolated Slugging (slugging percentage minus batting average) to date. Here are two other options to consider in deep fantasy leagues:
The Astros’ shining star this season, 25 year old Johnson is hitting .360 with 34 RBI in just 190 plate appearances. He’s owned in only 83% of ESPN leagues, suggesting he might be available in yours. It’s unreasonable to expect this level of performance to continue, as Johnson’s BABIP is well over .400, and his minor performance over five seasons was a mediocre .277/.315/.429. That’s probably closer to reality than his 2010 to date, but it is worth noting that Johnson was hitting .329/.362/.570 in Triple-A this season before getting the call.
Minnesota’s newest attempt at finding a solid hot corner holder since the Corey Koskie days is hitting .329 with a .375 on-base percentage. He’s owned in only 3% of ESPN leagues, yet over the last 30 days. Valencia is hitting .322/.361/.444, which dwarfs Evan Longoria’s .235/.336/.382 and Michael Young’s .257/.314/.477 offerings. That’s not to say Valencia is on their level, just that his performance over the last 30 days should have incited at least some interest.
Valencia is the better option if all things are equal, but Johnson playing in the weakest pitching division in the league should be given some thought too. If you’re looking for power rather than batting average help, Conrad’s your best bet.
For more on Danny Valencia and other potential pickups, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits