The real start to the regular season is only a few days away so it’s time to put your game faces on. Last week I gave you some speculative picks to either keep an eye on or stash on your roster. Since then it has been announced that Gordon Beckham will probably open the season on the DL. This makes the pick up of Marcus Semien even more important as he will be playing second in Beckham’s absence. It may be a short-term add, but if he hits well enough he could see time filling in at second, third and shortstop. Given the uncertainty surrounding second and third, it’s not out of the question that Semien unseats one of the current starters to claim a full-time job.
The ownership for starting pitchers Drew Hutchison, Eric Johnson & Archie Bradley have all increased and the window to acquire one of these men is slowly closing. It’s looking like Bradley will start the season in AAA with Randall Delgado getting the nod for the final spot, so in leagues with 12 teams or less with a shallow bench, feel free to drop the future ace if you need the room. Mike Olt’s ownership only inched up a little, but with 5 home runs and 10 RBIs in 15 games this spring, he’s looking more and more like a good option for your CI slot. Chris Owings outhit Didi Gregorius and should get a majority of the at bats; if you’re in need of a short-term replacement should Elvis Andrus not be ready, this would be a decent option at a thin position. The jury is still out on Tommy Medica as for his role and place on the big club. He’s worth a bench spot in case he makes it, but if they send him to AAA (which would be a crime after hitting .349 with 3 homers this spring) drop him for someone who will help you now (like maybe one of the guys listed above or below). Finally, A.J. Pollock has had a tremendous spring, batting .425 and erasing any doubt he will be sharing time in the OF. If you’re in need of a fourth outfielder, Pollock is still available in over 80% of leagues.
Since the season hasn’t started and we’re only speculating at this point, I decided to take a look at spring training number. I know they mean nothing as far as predicting future success, but picking up a player with a hot start could give you a few extra points or wins in the early part of the season. Not all of these players are long-term additions and can probably be dropped at the first sign of trouble, but you may catch lightning in a bottle if you’re lucky.
1B James Loney (Rays)
He’s never going to be more than an average first baseman, but during a hot streak he can resemble one. Last year Loney finished the year with a .299 batting average and batted .316 through July. In May he batted .306 with 6 home runs and 7 RBIs; that was one of the hot streaks I was referring to. This spring Loney is batting .378 with 2 home runs and 13 RBI so there is a good chance that hitting will carry over (at least for a few weeks). If you have a weak option for CI, are in need of a potentially decent utility player or waited and ended up with a bottom of the barrel option for first, Loney might be the band-aid you need.
Currently Owned in 15% of Yahoo and 30% of CBS leagues.
2B/OF Dustin Ackley (Mariners)
Many owners are disappointed in Ackley, and I can’t blame them. When he debuted in 2011, owners dreamed of a second baseman that could hit close to .300 with double-digit power and speed, but Ackley failed to live up to the hype. Fast forward a few years and that kid is now a 26-year-old man who may be ready to fulfill those expectations, or at least give you a short burst. As of this writing Ackley is batting .410 with 2 home runs and 15 RBIs (placing him fourth behind Trout, Moustakas & Castellanos). He’s not someone I would want starting in my outfield, but as a short-term plugin for second or as a middle infielder; this could be a speculative grab that keeps on going like the Energizer bunny. If you have a hole at one of these two positions or a less than desirable option manning that post, taking a shot on this post hype sleeper is worth the gamble. Just remember, if you’re in a keeper league, this might be the last time you’ll get to use Ackley for second so if he does start off hot, start shopping him.
Currently owned in 51% of CBS leagues but only 17% of Yahoo leagues.
2B Jonathan Schoop (Orioles)
Another option for second and the other half of the dynamic duo, Manny Machado’s minor league running buddy seems ready for the big leagues. His minor league numbers might not look impressive, but he has the tools and talent to do much more than those numbers tell you (think along the lines of a slightly better version of Neil Walker, and not last years Walker). He may not be the best option for second this year and you can probably do better at middle infield as well, but for a short-term add he might be worth a gamble. Schoop is batting .400 with 2 home runs, 7 RBIs and is one of the front-runners for the second base job in Baltimore. If he wins the job and you’re weak at MI, Schoop is one of the lesser owned players out there you might want to take a shot on. Once he starts to fade or if he is sent to the minors, feel free to cut him loose and look elsewhere unless you’re in a keeper/dynasty league. He could have good value in bursts and long-term; overall for this year though, just look for the hot streaks which could be now.
Currently owned in 3% of Yahoo and 12% of CBS leagues.
1B Yonder Alonso (Padres)
The former first round pick was blocked by Votto in Cincinnati and shipped off to San Diego, and has so far failed to live up to the expectations of the Padres. With Tommy Medica looking for a spot to play, Alonso needs to do something to show he belongs and he’s done that so far this spring. Batting .395 with 2 Home runs, Alonso is starting to resemble the .300 hitter we expected (maybe). We’ve seen flashes of brilliance in the past, but nothing long-lived to make you want to trust him long-term. Just like Loney above, he’s a short-term add to help you out at the corner, but he is also at that magic age where players sometime bust out. I don’t think that will happen here, but you never know. With games on the road against the Marlins & Indians to start, this might make a good plug and play, but only the brave or deep league guys will roster Alonso for the long haul.
Currently owned in 11% of Yahoo and 35% of CBS leagues.
OF Corey Dickerson (Rockies)
Charlie Blackmon hasn’t done much to impress this spring and while Drew Stubbs has, he still strikes out too much and his track record isn’t very favorable. Dickerson on the other had has been on fire this spring, hitting .370 with 1 home runs, 2 stolen bases and 7 RBIs. He’s also been playing centerfield; a position he has played sparingly through his minor league career, yet he has the confidence and praises of manager Walt Weiss. Dickerson was a .300 hitter in the minors and could eventually hit 20+ home runs in a season plus double-digit steals. For this year, a season similar to what Michael Brantley gave us last year isn’t too far-fetched. Nothing has been made official yet, but if Dickerson breaks camp with the starting job he could be a great add as a fourth outfielder. You might want to grab this one now before anything is announced, because once he gets the job you might lose your chance; especially if he continues to hit.
Currently owned in 4% of Yahoo and 17% of CBS leagues
2B Kolten Wong (Cardinals)
Of the second baseman mentioned so far, this one (in my opinion) is the one you want. If you play in a CBS leagues you’re probably out of luck (71% owned), but if you play in a Yahoo league he’s probably there for the taking. Wong is batting .391 this spring with 2 home runs, 2 stolen bases and 9 RBIs. He batted .301 in the minors, has enough power to hit 10-12 annually and above average speed so stealing 20 or more a year shouldn’t be a problem. This is a player that you not only want for this year, but for the long haul as well. He’s only 23% owned in Yahoo; that is way too low for a talent like this and his upside makes him a better own than players like Kendrick, Utley & Dozier (also a good replacement for Profar). Depending on where he ends up in the lineup, he could even make a decent player in 10 team leagues so keep an eye on that the first few days. If your league uses a MI slot and has 12 or more teams, he should be owned.
SP Jarred Cosart (Astros)
When you’re done rolling your eyes at the thought of picking up an Astros pitcher I have some things for you to consider, but first lets look at what he’s done so far.
At first glance one would see the high walk rate and mediocre WHIP and dismiss the rest of the numbers, but that would be a mistake. Cosart is a groundball pitcher (54% groundball rate last year). His minor league totals for H/9 & HR/9 was 7.77 & 0.44 respectively, so he’s able to absorb a few of those extra walks without any damage. Cosart had a 3.12 ERA in AAA which is good but not impressive, that is until you consider he did that in the PCL where home run hitters thrive. This also adds legitimacy to that 0.45 HR/9 in AAA. He didn’t show his strikeout capabilities in the majors last year, but a minor league 7.81 K/9 is very good (not elite, but above average. Cosart has been named the second starter for Houston. He’ll draw the Yankees, Angles & Rangers his first three outings so monitor those games closely. If he does well you may want to grab Cosart for the back end of your rotation. Wins may be hard to come by, but he should help you out in strikeouts and ERA, and if he lowers his walks a tick he won’t hurt your WHIP either.
Currently owned in 17% of CBS and 5% of Yahoo leagues
Judging by last weeks poll, over 40% of you play in 12 team leagues so that will be the primary focus in the coming months. Some of the players featured will be owned in a low percentage of leagues so a few of these recommendations will also be applicable for 14 team leagues. Since 27% play in leagues with 15 or more teams, I will also giving out some deeper league pickups as well. 10 team leagues received 18% of the vote; as a result these leagues will get the least amount of attention, but I will still show them a little love.