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Paul Sporer presents a roster of current backups worth keeping an eye on

As we get deep into our first month out of six, the injuries are beginning to pile up. Just this week we’ve seen Aaron Hill, Ryan Zimmerman, and Dayan Viciedo hit the disabled list while Derek Jeter has been ruled out through the All-Star break as his ankle takes longer to heal than originally anticipated. These injuries are unfortunate and annoying, but they do create opportunities for other players to step forward and become fantasy contributors. With that in mind, here is a team of current backups you should keep your eye on as they could become important assets should injuries on their club force them into full-time play.

CATCHER – Hank Conger, LAA

He hasn’t done a lot in his big league career, but he has just 266 plate appearances scattered across four seasons with most of them coming in 2011 when he played 59 games logging 197 plate appearances. Conger is a former top prospect charting on several top 100 lists as he came up through the minors. He has excellent minor league numbers including parts of three seasons in Triple-A where he hit .298 with an 841 OPS in 854 plate appearances. He is still just 25 years old and Chris Iannetta is far from a sure thing. If Conger’s defense was better, he’d likely have a bigger share of the playing time already.

FIRST BASE – Matt Adams, STL

Adams is a bit more front-and-center than the rest of the list because he has been unconscious in his tiny sample to start the season hitting .524 with a 1613 OPS thanks to three homers and two doubles in his 11 hits over just 23 plate appearances. Honestly, Adams’ best position is designated hitter, but as a National Leaguer that role isn’t available to him. As such, he sits behind Allen Craig. Craig doesn’t have the cleanest track record of health, though. Meanwhile, an injury to either Matt Holliday or Carlos Beltran in the corner outfield would likely open up time for Adams, too, as Craig would assume the outfield spot. Just so you don’t think his hot start is a fluke, you’ll be pleased to learn that Adams has a 930 OPS in his 1569 minor league plate appearances which includes yearly improvement from A-ball to Double-A to Triple-A from 2010 through 2012.

SECOND BASE – Emilio Bonifacio, TOR

The Jose Reyes injury would’ve ideally opened the door for Bonifacio, but he is off to a horrid start (578 OPS) so Munenori Kawasaki has taken over at short while Maicer Izturis is now at second base. It’s still early, though, and Kawasaki was horrid last year (459) while Izturis has been worse than Bonifacio to date (502). Bonifacio showed last year how incredibly impactful he can be in short order as he stole 30 bases in just 274 plate appearances so I’m keeping him on my radar.

SHORTSTOP – Mike Aviles, CLE

Aviles hasn’t posted an OPS north of 750 since his 2008 debut when he surprised the league with an 833 OPS in 441 plate appearances as a late-bloomer at age-27. Since then he has been a better fantasy asset than real life one working mostly as a fill-in and doing a bit of everything when he does play including exactly 14 SBs each of the last three years. Incumbent shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera has been nicked up a bit already this year including a left wrist contusion suffered on Saturday so Aviles could see some extended time sooner than later if the injury is at all serious.

THIRD BASE – Jordan Pacheco, COL

Another option for third base was Ryan Roberts, who has been Aviles-like as a late-bloomer who does a bit of everything and usually has more value for the fantasy game as evidenced by his 12 HR-10 SB work last year. Pacheco actually logged over 500 plate appearances last year and ideally he’d have done more than the five homers and seven stolen bases we saw, but the .309 average drove his value up. Like many Rockies, he dominates at home (865 OPS compared to 627 on the road) so if he did fall into substantial playing time this year, he might be best used as a platoon player on long homestands. It may not even require injury to get Pacheco back in the lineup as Chris Nelson isn’t exactly knocking the cover off the ball, though prospect Nolan Arenado is waiting in the wings, too, so Pacheco might not be the first choice.

OUTFIELD – Rajai Davis, TOR; Tyler Moore, WAS; and Nolan Reimold, BAL

Davis is a better Bonifacio and he has managed at least 430 plate appearances in three of the last four seasons with 338 in the other one where he still managed 34 stolen bases. The Jays know what he can offer so they’re more likely to trust him if a spot opens up unlike Bonifacio who is in his first year with the club.

Moore popped 10 homers in just 171 plate appearances last year with the Nats after back-to-back 31 home run seasons in the minors in 2010-2011. He is also the backup to Adam LaRoche at first base giving him another potential avenue to playing time, though LaRoche has been pretty healthy throughout his career with 2011 being the only season he has missed significant time.

Reimold has a pair of seasons in which he has logged significant playing time and shown himself to be a power source with a little bit of speed mixed in. In his 2009 debut he hit 15 home runs with eight stolen bases in 411 plate appearances and then in 2011 he went 13 HR/7 SB in 305 plate appearances. Injuries ravaged his 2010 and 2012 seasons, but he has already hit three long balls in 49 plate appearances this year. He isn’t a full-on backup like the rest of this group as he’s been getting burn as the team’s DH, but he is still widely available in most mixed leagues so he might be worth a look if your team has taken the brunt of these recent injuries.

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