It only took a week for some catching opportunities to emerge in the Fantasy baseball games. James McCann was placed on the DL with a right ankle sprain on April 12th creating a short term window for Jarrod Saltalamacchia to prove his worth as a full-time player. In his six games played in 2016, Jarrod has two monster games where he hit one HR with four RBI in each game plus another HRs and two RBI on Saturday night. The downside of his swing is his nine strikeouts in 21 at-bats. McCann is expected to be out of action for two to four weeks.
Just after I finished last week’s waiver wire report, the Rangers lost Robinson Chirinos for about three months with a fracture in his right forearm. Bryan Holaday will see most of the action behind the plate for Texas unless they acquire an upgrade via trade. Over the winter, the Rangers had some talks with the Padres about a possible catching upgrade. Holaday has a real low ceiling based on his minimal at-bats in the majors (.246 with three HRs, 33 RBI, and one SB in 276 at-bats) and his minor league resume (.241 with 18 HRs and 120 RBI in 1188 at-bats). It might even make more sense to play Brett Nicholas based on his power upside shown in his minor league career (.275 with 60 HRs, 355 RBI, and 16 SBs in 2246 at-bats).
The Red Sox threw a curveball to the Blake Swihart owners when they shipped him back to AAA while also mentioning about a possible position change. They like the upside of the defense of Christian Vazquez, who missed the 2015 season due to TJ surgery in his right elbow. Vazquez should play four-to-five games a week while possibly chipping in with some power. In his eight seasons in the minors, he hit .267 with 38 HRs, 253 RBI, and 14 SBs in 1789 at-bats. My sense is that Swihart won’t be a factor behind the plate for Boston in 2016. They love his talent and athletic ability, but they feel his defense is a liability at this point in his career. The Red Sox still have somewhat of an issue in left field so Blake may emerge at some point as an outfielder.
The Rockies placed Charlie Blackmon on the DL with a turf toe injury. This will create a chance for Mark Reynolds and Ben Paulsen to get a bump in playing time with Ryan Raburn expected to play at times against lefties. Reynolds has power upside with plenty of batting average risk. He’s started six of ten games in 2016 while only have success in one game (2-for-4 with two runs and three RBI). Mark’s best value will come when Colorado is playing at home. Ben Paulson may fly under the radar in all formats this week. He has a three-game hitting streak (five hits in 11 at-bats with an RBI in three straight games) headed into Saturday’s action.
John Jaso qualified for first base this week in games with ten game minimums. He’s started 12 of 13 games while batting leadoff for the Pirates. Jaso had a seven-game hitting streak (12-for-29 with three runs and one RBI). Pittsburgh seems committed to him while his production will fall short of impact value, but he would be viable as short-term injury cover in shallow leagues. In his best power season in the majors, John had 10 HRs in 294 at-bats with 50 RBI. With 550 at-bats, a 15/75 season seems within reach.
There is an excellent chance Mike Napoli is a free agent in leagues with 12 teams or fewer. He has an eight-game hitting streak (10-for-32 with seven runs, two HRs, and six RBI) while batting cleanup for the Indians. Napoli has six seasons with 20 or more home runs with some strikeouts risk (11 in 35 at-bats).
The hot pickup at second base this week with be Enrique (Kike) Hernandez after drilling a pair of HRs off of Madison Bumgarner. Kike has two hits or more in each of his last four starts (9-for-16) including two HRs and six RBI. Over seven seasons in the minors, he hit .270 with 37 HRs, 226 RBI, and 29 SBs in 1999 at-bats while doing a nice job making contact (12.4 percent K rate). The left field position is a mess right now for the Dodgers so Hernandez may work his way into close to full-time at-bats even when Carl Crawford returns. Enrique still has second base eligibility from the 2015 season.
The rest of the free agent player pool at second base looks pretty weak at this point of the season. Cory Spangenberg only has two hits his last 18 at-bats with minimal production, but he’s started every game with a nice four-game run where Cory had a HR, eight RBI, and one SBs. Over five seasons in the minors, Spangenberg hit .294 with 13 HRs, 165 RBI, and 108 SBs in 1522 at-bats. His best asset should be his speed.
The high stakes market was all over Travis Shaw in the March live draft season and I saw him selected in the 17th round in a couple of leagues, which is full confidence that he’ll keep the job all season. Travis has yet to hit a HR with only four RBI in 30 at-bats while hitting .333. Shaw did a nice job for Boston in 2015 when he hit .270 with 13 HRs and 36 RBI over 226 at-bats. In his minor league career, Travis hit .261 with 69 HRs and 280 RBI in 1898 at-bats. Boston loves his swing, and I expect a solid 20/80 season when the dust clears if somehow he is being ignored in shallow leagues.
Chase Headley is the only full-time player with possible replacement injury value in the free agent pool at third base. His bat has been quiet all season while hitting at the bottom of the Yankees lineup. On the positive side, Chase has three steals in 26 at-bats (.154 with no HRs and two RBI), which already beat his 2015 success (none). When the inventory is short, Fantasy owners should gravitate toward the players that will give them the most at-bats.
The Cardinals have shifted gears at short to Aledmys Diaz over the last week. Over 31 at-bats on the season while starting each of the previous five games, Diaz is hitting .406 with two HRs and eight RBI. Over two seasons in the minors, Aledmys hit .276 with 18 HRs, 76 RBI, and 13 RBI in 586 at-bats. This would be a pretty attractive season if delivered at the major league level. Diaz flashed high upside in his Cuba career with most of the action coming between age 16 and 20 (.307 with 27 HRs, 165 RBI, and 14 SBs in 1125 at-bats). He even had more walks (139) than strikeouts (114). Aledmys has intriguing upside, and he may even steal the job from Jhonny Peralta.
Daniel Castro was called up by the Braves over the last week. His bat has minimal upside based on his six-year career in the minors (.269 with five HRs, 128 RBI, and 29 SBs in 1180 at-bats).
Over the last week, Nick Ahmed has looked the part as an upside shortstop. He has a four-game hitting streak (4-for-13) with three runs, two HRs, and four RBI. His power is rising while owning underlying speed (98 SBs in 1648 at-bats over four seasons in the minors). I wish he hit higher in the batting order, but his swing is showing growth again in 2016 after hitting a career-high nine HRs in 421 at-bats in 2015.
If you are looking for upside speed in the outfield, Mallex Smith could be your out. Atlanta called him up when Ender Inciarte was placed on the DL on April 10th. His window for playing time appeared to be short, but the off the field issue for Hector Olivera may create more at-bats than expected. Smith hit .295 in his minor career with 12 HRs, 108 RBI, and 226 SBs in 1523 at-bats. He stole 88 bags between A and High-A in 2014.
With Byron Buxton off to a slow start, the Twins may give an uptick in at-bats to Oswaldo Arcia. He smashed his first HR on Saturday, April 16th. In 2014, Arcia had 20 HRs in 372 at-bats with the Twins, but his K rate (31.0) was way out of line. Over the winter, Oswaldo worked hard to get in better shape and upgrade his swing and approach at the plate. Late in spring training, Arica has a pair of HRs in a game against the Marlins. I don’t think he is ready to be rostered, but I think it’s important to follow his playing time as he does have 20+ HR upside with regular at-bats.
Marlon Byrd played well on Thursday and Friday when he went 4-for-8 with a run, a HR, and three RBI. His bat looks stable enough to keep the right field job when Michael Brantley returns from the DL in a couple of weeks. Over the previous three years, Marlon had 72 HRs with 246 RBI. He has a solid 20/80 skill set even at the age of 39.
Robbie Erlin threw the ball well in his first start in 2016 (one run in six innings with seven Ks), but the game was against the hapless Phillies. He should get a couple of more starts to prove his value as a backend option in the Padres rotation. Last season he struggled at AAA over 24 starts (7-6 with a 5.60 ERA and 195 Ks in 125.1 innings due a slow recovery from a bum left elbow). His arm flashed much more upside earlier his career at the lower levels in the minors (9-5 over 34 starts below AAA with a 3.18 ERA and 196 Ks in 169.2 innings).
Twins top pitching prospect Jose Berrios allowed one run in five innings with nine Ks in his first start at AAA. His ticket to the majors should get punched quickly with continued failure by the other back-end starters on the major league rosters with the Twins.
Over his last five innings in the Indians bullpen, Trevor Bauer hasn’t allowed a run with a walk and six strikeouts. Josh Tomlin left his start on Saturday with a tight right hamstring so Trevor may be in line for a start this week. Also, spring training riser Cody Anderson has been unimpressive in his two starts in 2016 (seven runs and 18 baserunners in 10.7 innings with seven Ks while allowing four HRs). Bauer should be a solid buy and hold if you have an open roster slot.
Kevin Gausman threw the ball well in his last outing at AAA (one run in 3.1 innings with eight Ks). Over his two rehab appearances, he has 1.69 ERA with 10 Ks in 5.1 innings. It looks like the Orioles will push him quickly back to the majors so he may earn a start with Baltimore as early as this week.
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