Talented Mr. Roto: Best upgrade ever
There should be an award.
In fact, there is one. I've just created it. The UOTY. Pronounced "UOTY," it stands for Upgrade of the Year.
And not only am I giving it Ryan Reynolds, I may very well name the award after him.
I can't verify the quote, but supposedly Alanis was quoted as saying "Do you blame him? She's really, really hot."
I've never been a Reynolds fan. Never was a "Two Guys, A Girl " fan. Never rented "Van Wilder." But you know what?
Now I'm a fan. With the start of interleague play this week, it seemed appropriate to spotlight a guy playing out of his league.
I'm actually an Alanis fan. Of her music. But, if her music is any indication, she's so crazy I should have dated her. So to go from a nutty, plain-Jane type to the insanely attractive (and I'm sure totally sane) Scarlett Johansson? That's a leap of Iron Man proportions. (See what I did there? Using one pop culture reference to quantify another? Somewhere, my college English professor just dug a grave so she could lie in it and turn over.)
I considered other nominees for the UOTY. The guy who is dating Anne Hathaway who always seems to have legal problems, Eli Manning in the middle of last year to Eli Manning right after the Super Bowl and, of course, a certain fantasy columnist who used to have a respected but kind of obscure Web site a year ago.
But Reynolds is in a class by himself. You don't upgrade better than that. Game over. Call off the judges, we have ourselves a winner. And as we speak of upgrades, I can't help your love life, but I can help you upgrade your team.
Here are some players who have recently seen an increase in value and may be available in your league. Starting this week, I'm adding percentage owned next to the player's name. This refers to the percentage of leagues in which a player is owned in ESPN.com standard mixed leagues (10 teams). It changes daily, so these numbers are as of Friday morning, May 16.
Tadahito Iguchi, 2B, Padres (12 percent): With injuries to Rafael Furcal and Jeff Keppinger, many folks are looking for middle infield help. Iguchi is hitting .301 over the past three weeks and has six steals on the season. He has no power to speak of, but he's had double-digit steals each of the past three seasons. Plus, Tadahito rhymes with neat-o. That's always a bonus.
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B, Royals (5 percent): I admit, it's a bit of a stretch to talk about "upgrading" and a Royal in the same column, but Grudzy (I call him Grudzy) is hitting .319 on the year, .357 in his past 14 games and .474 in his past five. Not much more there than average and some runs, but that might be better than what you have.
Akinori Iwamura, 2B, Rays (33 percent): Apparently, it's hard-to-spell-middle-infielder Friday. Anyway, he got off to a slow start, and then he wasn't named Evan Longoria, so people have ignored him all year. But Iwamura has five runs in his past seven games and is hitting .448 in that time frame.
Macier Izturis, 2B-3B, Angels (0 percent): See? Another nutty name. (Editor's note: Yes, we're aware that it's spelled "Maicer." However, we decided to leave the author's original spelling for maximum comedic effect.) Where's Jeff Kent when you need him? With Howie Kendrick having the five worst words in fantasy next to his name ("No timetable for his return"), Izturis has just come off the DL and is going to play most every day. His appeal is mostly speed (six steals already in just 25 games) and position flexibility. He's also played six games this year at shortstop, which is useful if your league requires only five games for in-season eligibility.
Omar Vizquel, SS, Giants: Forgot about him, didn't you? Well, I like Vizquel because I can see highlights of him on "SportsCenter" and then turn to ESPN Classic and see other Vizquel highlights. But he's had double-digit steals each of the past four years and already has one in his first five games while hitting .444.
In case you were wondering, I rank these guys in this order: Iwamura, Iguchi, Grudzy, Vizquel, Izturis. Let's move on to other positions.
Kenji Johjima, C, Mariners (39 percent): He was dropped in a lot of single-catcher mixed leagues because, well, he sucked. The recall of Jeff Clement didn't help, but Johjima is finally starting to hit. He has a home run and five RBIs in his past five games, while hitting .429. He's hit .287 and .291 in his first two major league seasons, and there's no reason to think he won't get back there.
Garrett Olson, P, Orioles (33 percent): He's pitching Friday night, but regardless of what happens, I like him a lot. He's 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in his first three games, with 15 strikeouts in 18-plus innings. He was lights out in the minors before being recalled, as well.
Moises Alou, OF, Mets (29 percent): Yes, he's old. Yes, he will get hurt again. But when healthy, he can still hit. And people haven't really noticed he's back. He's hitting .421 in his first five games since coming off the DL and hit .341 all of last year. The power is declining, but he'll still get double-digit home runs and hit for a high average with a lot of RBIs.
Greg Maddux, P, Padres (48 percent): Only for this upcoming week. He's terrific at home (a 1.42 ERA in three starts at Petco this season), and this next week he gets the Cardinals and Reds at home. By the way, Tristan H. Cockcroft's Fantasy Forecaster is a terrific column that comes out every Saturday that details many matchups and other nuggets like this. I highly recommend it.
Aaron Laffey, P, Indians (33 percent): I'm giving it three more starts before local Cleveland supermarkets start selling Laffey Taffy. Because he's been worthy of having his face on a sugary concoction since being recalled. He's finally gotten his strikeout-to-walk ratio around 3-1 after last night's start, and I'm on board. In his first four starts, Laffey is 2-2 with a 1.35 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP.
Masa Kobayashi, P, Indians (36 percent): I still say the Indians give the closer role to Joe Borowski when he comes back. But until then, it looks as if Masa is the Man-sa. Sorry. They're not all winners, kids. Move along. He has two saves this week, and he's been terrific in the bullpen, regardless. He has 13 strikeouts and only two walks in 19 innings and a 1.86 ERA to go with a 1.09 WHIP.
Ryan Garko, 1B, Indians (42 percent): Two home runs and five RBIs in his past six games.
Troy Glaus, 3B, Cardinals (44 percent): Hitting .500 with a homer and five RBIs in his past seven games.
Jose Guillen, OF, Royals (26.4 percent): I've mentioned him before, but I'll do it one more time. Guillen is hitting .281 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in his past 16 games. He's also hitting .435 over the past week.
Eric Gagne, P, Brewers (96 percent): He was. Then he wasn't. Now he is again. Sigh.
Ryan Franklin, P, Cardinals (94 percent): In case you missed it, and the rest of your league did, too. He's the new closer in St. Louis.
Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks (87 percent): Two home runs, 10 RBIs, .360 AVG in his past 12 games.
Dioner Navarro, C, Rays (39 percent): He's hitting .387 on the year. And it wasn't just a fast start. He's got a .444 average over the past six games.
Chad Tracy, 3B, Diamondbacks (1 percent): He's coming back soon and is a career .288 hitter who has at least 20 home runs in two of the past three seasons. I'm on record as saying I'm a believer in Mark Reynolds, but I bring up Tracy here because I've also been on record as being wrong before.
Here are some guys you should keep an eye on but shouldn't grab except in deeper leagues.
Jerry Hairston Jr., OF, Reds (3 percent): Based on 20 games played, he qualifies only in the outfield right now, but that should change in a few days, as he's been playing shortstop since Jeff Keppinger went down. He's not very good, but he will steal bases (three so far this year) and is hitting .357 in his first 42 at bats.
Dmitri Young, 1B, Nationals (2 percent): With Nick Johnson going down and Young expected back Friday, it's important to note two things: First, Young hit .340 last year. And two, Aaron Boone cannot escape the fact that he is, in fact, Aaron Boone.
Matt Joyce, OF, Tigers (1 percent): I wasn't thrilled with what I saw from his minor league stats when he was initially recalled. It appeared that he couldn't hit, and I didn't feel he'd get a ton of playing time. So far, wrong on both counts. (Takes bow, blows kisses to crowd.) But he now has three home runs in his past five games and is hitting .385 over that time frame.
Alexei Ramirez, OF, White Sox (0 percent): He's nicknamed the "Cuban Missile," and I've decided it's because he defected from Cuba and not any other reason. He hit for power and average in the Cuban Baseball League (.337 in seven seasons), and with Juan Uribe getting hurt Thursday, he could get a shot at some real playing time. Worth a gamble if only for the reason that he isn't Juan Uribe.
Jay Bruce, OF, Reds (11 percent): He's tearing up Triple-A. The question is no longer "if," but "when?"
Chris Perez, RP, Cardinals (coming soon): Once he makes his debut, you can go and pick him up. He's the future at closer for St. Louis, once they decide they've had enough of Isringhausen. Perez was pitching quite well in Triple-A with a 2.04 ERA with a 22/9 K/BB rate.
That's all we've got this week, kids. More fun, including a good dating story, on Monday. Have a great weekend.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He has been playing fantasy sports for more than 20 years, writing about it professionally for more than 10. He currently appears on or in ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN the Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN Mobile TV and, as soon as he learns to say "ground-ball/fly-ball ratio" in Spanish, ESPN Deportes.
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