We are not even at the one week anniversary for the start of the season and there have been a number of changes. Craig Kimbrel is now with the Padres (sorry Mr. Benoit). Jason Grilli is closing for Atlanta (pick him up if he’s available). Joe Nathan and Jenrry Mejia hit the DL; I’m sure Joakim Soria is gone but Jeurys Familia might be out there still. Brett Cecil (yes, another closer) has been demoted; Miguel Castro will take his place for now (decent speculative add). In addition to all the closer changes (covered yesterday by Michael Zakhar in his closer report), Justin Verlander’s comeback tour was put on hold and his opening act Matt Cain decided to join him on the DL. Thankfully, other than James Loney and John Jaso, no major hitters have been placed on the DL, but history has shown that it is only a matter of time before disaster strikes.
Fortunately for you, that’s what I am here for. Each week I will comb through the waivers looking for those hot hitters that could potentially give your team a boost whether it be a short-term fix or possible long-term solution. Last week I recommended several players for 2nd & 3rd base as potential replacements for Anthony Rendon. For this week I will focus on some undrafted players who have not impressed much in the past but could find themselves mixed league relevant in leagues with 12 or more teams. Even if you do not need a replacement; at the very least add them to your watch list and monitor their progress over the next few weeks.
3B –Jake Lamb (Diamondbacks): Not many paid much attention when he won the starting third base job out of spring training, but some heads were turned when he recorded 7 RBIs in the first two games of the season. Lamb hit .300+ at the University of Washington and that average carried over to every level of the minors. His lowest OBP was .399 in AA so he knows how to get on base, but he does have issues with strikeouts (just like all rookies) and only time will tell if it will continue to be a problem. There is power here as well with 37 homers over 920 minor league at bats. Run scoring opportunities may be limited due to his spot in the batting order, but what Lamb lacks in runs he should make up for in RBIs. Considering third base has some volatile players occupying the hot corner, this might be a wise investment even if you have the position covered. Lamb is still available, but that might not last long.
Available in 69% of Yahoo, 58% of CBS and 85% of ESPN leagues
1B – Adam Lind (Brewers): His hot spring has carried over into the regular season (so far) and fantasy owners are taking notice judging by his current ownership levels. It seems some of you are willing to overlook the years of injuries (and early back issues this year), but some of you still need convincing. Let’s get the negative out-of-the-way. He can’t hit lefties (.213 career average) and his strikeout percentage is 19%. He does crush righties though (.294 career) and his strikeout percentage drops to 16.9% when you factor out lefties. Lind’s power was down last season, but he does hold a career .194 ISO (.218 against righties) and his average flyball distance was 289 feet. Since all of his underlying stats were similar to past years, there is no reason to believe the power will not be there in 2015.
Normally Lind would be considered a batting average drain, but he has hit .288 or higher the past two season. Finally he goes from hitting near the back half to the heart of the order in Milwaukee. So where’s the downside here? Health of course, but for a free player – who cares! Right now Lind can make a very good CI play and is also useful as a second utility player. Just remember to bench him when there is a lefty on the mound.
Available in 56% of Yahoo, 65% of CBS and 75% of ESPN leagues
OF – Anthony Gose (Tigers): A .308 spring average along with 6 steals parlayed into a leadoff spot for the Tigers. Other than his stolen base totals, Gose doesn’t have an impressive minor league resume. The batting average was never above .262 at any level and he strikes out way too much. While Gose knows how to take a walk, that art form has been slow translating to the majors. There isn’t much power here either; those 16 home runs in 2011 while at AA seem to be an abnormality from what we can expect. But there are those stolen bases I mentioned earlier. Gose has 271 steals over 668 games which average out to about 50 a season. I wouldn’t expect that, but it is not out of the question considering he stole 70 or more in two minor league seasons.
Considering his minor league average, Gose will eventually come crashing back to earth. For now, he’s the leadoff hitter with a high-powered offence behind him. You will get runs, steals and batting average, and all for nothing if he is available on waivers. If you own him – or plan on picking him up – I might shop him around the league; maybe get something of value for him before the bottom falls out. I see a lot of ups and downs and the growing pains are not something you want to deal with all season long. Take advantage of the hot start, but don’t get too attached here.
Available in 83% of Yahoo, 71% of CBS and 93% of ESPN leagues
OF – Michael Taylor (Nationals): Like Gose above, Taylor struggled with batting average and strikeouts in the minors, but he has speed along with some power and is batting leadoff for the Nationals. A Denard Span injury and hot spring opened the door for Taylor and he hasn’t slowed down yet. While Taylor may be hot, his stay and usefulness to fantasy owners will be short-lived. Jayson Werth has begun a rehab assignment and could be back as early as next week. Denard Span is about 2 weeks away from rejoining the team; that is when things get interesting. If Taylor is still hitting the Nationals will have a hard time sending him down, but with no DH in the National League – playing time becomes an issue.
If you want a quick boost in runs, batting average and maybe a few steals and homers, Taylor is a nice short-term add. You may only get 2-3 weeks out of him, but that may be all some owners need right now.
Available in 93% of Yahoo, 68% of CBS and 99.9% of ESPN leagues
3B – Mike Moustakas (Royals): I know, been there – done that. We’ve been waiting for Moose to do something since he came into the league back in 2011, and each year fantasy owners lose more and more faith. Could 2015 be the year of the Moose? Taking a closer look at his unimpressive numbers from last year there are signs of hope. There was the improved walk rate, a declining strikeout rate and increased in fly ball distance; three things you like to see from a hitter. Then there is spring training where Moose worked on being something other than a pull hitter, and in the first game of the regular season he smacked an opposite field home run. And don’t forget, Moustakas is only 26 years old; still in his prime.
There is a chance he could quickly reverse course, but if he really is primed for a breakout you could have yourself a top 10 third baseman for the price of a waiver pickup. If you have an extra catcher, middle infielder or sixth outfielder on your team that you have little faith they will ever be in your lineup for anything other than an emergency, maybe consider dumping them for Moose.
Available in 83% of Yahoo, 54% of CBS and 70% of ESPN leagues
2B – Devon Travis (Blue Jays): Last week when I recommended second basemen to replace Rendon; I have to admit that Travis slipped my mind. Nothing against Marcus Semien, Micah Johnson or Jace Peterson, but I would rather own Travis. He has the plate discipline to maintain an average close to .300 along with a nice combination of power and speed to potentially produce a 15/15 season. In comparison, I would put him up there with Kolten Wong who many fantasy owners targeted in this year’s draft. The only downside here compared to the players I recommended last week is that Travis is hitting at the bottom of the lineup. The RBI opportunities will be limited, but with Reyes and Pompey following him there should be ample run scoring opportunities. Plus hitting at the bottom puts little pressure on Travis and will allow him to see some better pitches.
If your second baseman is someone like Chase Utley, Howie Kendrick, Rougned Odor or *gulp* Brandon Phillips, you should have someone waiting in the wings to take over in case of an injury occurs, they fall short of expectations or in the case of someone like Kendrick, you want someone with upside. Travis can provide this and could very well be your starting second baseman by the time May rolls around. It may be too late for those in CBS leagues, but those that play on Yahoo or ESPN should have him one your watch list at the very least.
Available in 82% of Yahoo, 46% of CBS and 88% of ESPN leagues
SP – Justin Masterson (Red Sox): In 2011 Masterson put up an ERA of 3.21. The following year his ERA ballooned up to 4.93. He came around in 2013 with a respectable 3.45, but then last year – ok, no need to relive that nightmare. It appears that Masterson only likes to pitch well in odd years. Don’t believe me? This spring he posted an ERA of 3.50, and in his first game of the season Masterson 3 hit the Phillies over 6 innings. I know, it’s the Phillies, a far cry from the competition he’ll face in the AL East, but it is still a big improvement over the man we all cursed at last season.
The velocity of his fastball is down 2 MPH from last season, but so was his use of the pitch during game one (under 20%). He also decreased the use of his sinker and did not throw one changeup. All those extra pitches went into his slider; Masterson doubled his use of the pitch to the tune of 35.8%. He increased the use of his slider as well in 2013 and the results were positive so there is more reason for optimism. Looking at the xFIP, Masterson wasn’t as bad in 2012 and 2014 as his ERA would lead you to believe. If you’re looking for an arm to anchor the back half of your rotation, Masterson could be your man in 2015 – and 50% of CBS leagues agree with me.
Available in 94% of Yahoo, 50% of CBS and 88% of ESPN leagues
Deep League Special
OF – Ender Inciarte (Diamondbacks): Two years ago while everyone was singing the praises of Adam Eaton, I was targeting his now former teammate A.J. Pollock. Last year while everyone was rostering Charlie Blackmon, I was recommending the lightly drafted Corey Dickerson, so pay attention here. David Peralta is receiving the attention this year in Arizona, but Inciarte was the man who took the job from him over the final two months last season and is primed to do it again this year. Inciarte can draw more walks, strike out less, will easily steal more bases and potentially hit for a higher average. Over the final 2 months of the season in 2014, Inciarte hit .307, scored 25 runs and stole 13 bases. He hit .273 against lefties and .279 against righties so there is little reason to platoon him. While both men had a hot spring and Peralta was named the starter, I predict that will not last long.
Inciarte has 50 steals between AA and AAA in 153 games; that speed along with his average will virtually guarantee a spot at the top of the lineup. The speed, runs and batting average make him a 3 category player. If you don’t think that plays well, just look at Denard Span last year. Inciarte realistically could match Span’s 2014 line. It may take time to supplant Peralta, but when that happens you are going to want Inciarte on your team. Don’t wait, stash him now and reap the rewards later.
Available in 98% of Yahoo, 93% of CBS and 99.9% of ESPN leagues