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Keeping up with the Ramirezes – and their bad news

It’s not a good time to own a Ramirez on your fantasy team.

Last week’s stunning 50-game suspension of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez and the dislocated shoulder suffered by Chicago Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez really put fantasy owners in a bind.

That’s without mentioning Chicago White Sox second baseman Alexei Ramirez, whose average has been stuck around .200 most of the year while the supposed 20-20 candidate has managed just one measly homer.Fantasy stud Hanley Ramirez also gave us a scare with a hand injury but appears to be just fine — so far.

But the absence of Manny and A-Ram robs us of two longtime fantasy contributors who can hit for both average and power. They won’t be easily replaced in the coming weeks, but here are a few suggestions for help in the outfield and at the hot corner:

n The Los Angeles Dodgers turn to Juan Pierre as Manny’s replacement in left field. Not known for his hitting prowess, Pierre’s somehow batting above .400 so far. No way that lasts, but the regular playing time at least gives him more opportunity to hone his real craft, stealing bases. Pierre swiped 40 bags in just 119 games last year and could easily eclipse that now.

n Power-hitting prospect Matt LaPorta, the Cleveland Indians’ big prize in last year’s CC Sabathia trade, has arrived in the majors and clocked his first big league homer last week. There will be some inconsistencies from the young outfielder, as with all inexperienced hitters, but LaPorta’s a cheap source of home runs and a definite grab in keeper leagues.

n Melky Cabrera has overtaken Brett Gardner as the New York Yankees’ primary center fielder. The Melk Man’s attitude and focus were questioned during a dismal 2008, but he seems like a new man this year and has shown surprising power (four homers in 69 at-bats, compared to eight HRs in 414 ABs a year ago) while hitting above .300. The power’s probably a bit of a fluke, but Cabrera’s still developing as a hitter and could be useful this year in average and RBIs, especially if he can stay in the Yanks’ lineup.

n Underrated Baltimore Orioles 3B Melvin Mora’s long been a fantasy secret weapon, offering a decent blend of average, RBIs and homers. You never quite know what to expect, but the 37-year-old has recovered from a hamstring injury and is ready to contribute on a waiver wire near you.

n Florida Marlins prospect Chris Coghlan has been touted as the team’s second baseman of the future, but the Fish plan to use him mostly in left field after last week’s call-up. Coghlan was hitting .344 with 22 RBIs in 25 games at Triple-A. If he hits like that at the big league level, they’ll play him anywhere they can.

n St. Louis Cardinals OF Chris Duncan has at least 20 homers in him and stands to earn even more at-bats after Rick Ankiel’s recent injury. Duncan should also be eligible at first base in most leagues, which makes him more intriguing.

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