After hitting .140 in April with no HRs and two RBI while striking out 22 times in 50 at-bats (37.3 percent K rate), Jason Castro looks like a new man in May. In 17 at-bats, Castro has seven hits (.412) with two HRs and five RBI. His approach has been much better as well (five walks and four Ks in 22 plate appearances). I liked his upside coming into the season, but just like many other Fantasy owner, Jason was tossed into the Volcano over the last couple of weeks. The free agent pool is mighty thin with many unattractive catching upgrades. Castro may be the best-looking options this week for Fantasy owners. His ride may be limited as the Astros shipped out Evan Gattis to AAA this week with the idea of him getting ready to play behind the plate in the majors. Gattis is a buy and hold for sure while Castro is a short-term Band-Aid.
The Reds placed Devin Mesoraco on the DL this week with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. This creates a starting opportunity for Tucker Barnhart for the first time in his career. Barnhart hit .260 over seven seasons in the minors with only 13 HRs, 170 RBI, and eight SBs in 1424 at-bats. His bat has limited upside, but it may bridge a Fantasy owner to a stronger option in a couple of weeks. Over 57 at-bats with the Reds, Barnhart is hitting .281 with no HRs and five RBI.
Nick Hundley landed on the DL this week for the second time this season with an oblique issue. Tony Wolters had been a worthless fill-in during his first 44 at-bats (.159 with no HRs and four RBI). Colorado called up Dustin Garneau to replace Hundley on the roster. Garneau has had minimal at-bats on the majors in 2016 (4-for-12 with two RBI) while showing power in his minor league career (.248 with 64 HRs and 296 RBI in 1827 at-bats). He may emerge as the better short term option for the Rockies. Upside catching prospect, Tom Murphy has spent much of the early season on the DL with an oblique issue. Last season he had 20 HRs and 63 RBI between AA and AAA. Tom should be back on the field at AAA in the next week or so.
Justin Smoak has looked much better in his last four games (5-for-15 with three runs, two HRs, and four RBI), but he continues to struggle to make contact (22 Ks in 55 at-bats). Ryan Howard has been productive in HRs (seven in 89 at-bats), but his batting average invites batting average risk (.191) with massive Ks (35 in 99 plate appearances). Howard hit a pair of HRs this week with four RBI in eight at-bats. The free agent pool is tough sledding all around, so Fantasy owner has to find a balance of low average power or serviceable at-bats with limited production. Mike Napoli has a four-game hitting streak (.400 with one HR and eight RBI). Over 93 at-bats in 2016, Mike has five HRs and 19 RBI. Just like the above players, Napoli has massive Ks (36 in 100 plate appearances).
Tyler White looks to be a couple of days away from a ticket back to AAA. He only has three hits in his last 36 at-bats with seven Ks. A.J. Reed only has two hits in his last 17 at-bats at AAA with one HR and one RBI. On the year, Reed is hitting .234 with six HRs and 20 RBI in 94 at-bats. Maybe the best out at the major league level over the short term is to let Marwin Gonzalez get full time at-bats. Over his last three games, Marwin has three hits in 10 at-bats with three runs, one HR, and two RBI. He flashed possible 20 HR upside in 2015 when Gonzalez hit .279 with 12 HRs and 34 RBI in 344 at-bats. Just to cover all my bases for the first base options for Houston, Jon Singleton has five HRs and 13 RBI at AAA while hitting .221 with 20 Ks in 86 at-bats.
Aaron Hill has a seven-game hitting streak (9-for-24) with four runs and on RBI. Without a bump in power, Hill has limited upside (HR on Saturday night as well). His success may lead to possible injury cover value over the short term. Howie Kendrick has swung a hot bat in his last three games (six hits in 13 at-bats with four runs and two RBI). He’s trying to work his way back into a full-time starting job. Kelly Johnson may get a bump in at-bats with the Braves shipping Adonis Garcia back to AAA. Johnson had 14 HRs in 310 at-bats in 2015 he may offer short term power from second base.
Yunel Escobar has a six-game streak (10-for-24) with four runs and one RBI. His bat has limited power, but he has a chance to offer short-term value as an injury cover in deep leagues. In the league I’m looking at as a reference, I was surprised to see Derek Dietrich wasn’t picked up last week. He has 20+ HR power, and he should be owned all formats until Dee Gordon returns. Brett Wallace has started the last four- games for the Padres. He has five hits in 12 at-bats with two runs, one HR, and five RBI. Brett was once considered an upside prospect with plenty of failure in the majors (.247 with 35 HRs and 123 RBI in 1105 at-bats). His window for playing time will last until Yangervis Solarte.
Freddy Galvis continues to hit second in the Phillies’ lineup. Over his last seven games, Freddy has eight hits in 27 at-bats with three runs, one HR, and six RBI. Alexei Ramirez is hitting .302 over his last 52 at-bats with three runs, three RBI, and two SBs. It looks like the Padres may cut him loose on the basepaths (two attempts on May 6th) giving him more upside if he finds his power stroke. Trea Turner still looks like the best option at shortstop for the Nationals. He’s hitting .333 at AAA over 108 at-bats with 27 runs, two HRs, 14 RBI, and 12 SBs. Meanwhile, Danny Espinosa is only hitting .176 over 85 at-bats with two HRs and 11 RBI. Trea should be in the majors in the next month or so.
Preston Tucker could be in line for full-time at-bats with Evan Gattis sent back to the minors to work on his catching skills. His success has been unimpressive so far in 2016 (.213 with three HRs and four RBI in 61 at-bats). Over four seasons in the minors, Preston hit .294 with 68 HRs, 270 RBI, and 10 SBs in 1365 at-bats. He has a solid 20/80 skill set with more upside when he gets more major league experience.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis has seen a bump in playing time over the last week. He has six hits in his last 19 at-bats with five runs and two RBI. In his minor league career, Kirk hit .276 with 78 HRs, 294 RBI, and 58 SBs in 2118 at-bats. He’s had short spurts of upside in his major league career so Nieuwenhuis may have success over the short term.
After struggling out of the gate at AAA, Byron Buxton has nine hits in his last 23 at-bats with two HRs, four RBI, and one SBs while only striking out three times in his last 19 at-bats. He still needs a lot of work controlling the strike zone, but he’s moving in the right direction.
Steven Pearce has a three-game hitting streak (5-for-12) with two HRs and four RBI while starting at first base for the Rays. His bats offered solid power in 2014 with Orioles (.293 with 21 HRs and 49 RBI in 338 at-bats).
The Red Sox are expected to call up Eduardo Rodriguez next week after one more rehab start at AAA. In his two starts at AAA, Eduardo had a 4.66 ERA with only five Ks in 9.2 innings. His arm looked to be on the verge of making a step forward headed into 2016 after pitching well in 2015 (3.85 ERA with 98 Ks in 121.2 innings).
Ivan Nova will move into the starting rotation for the Yankees after C.C. Sabathia was placed on the DL with a groin injury. His arm hasn’t looked good over his last four games (eight runs and 12 baserunners allowed in 10 innings with only two Ks.
Houston hopes to have Lance McCullers back next week. In his first rehab start at AA, he allowed one run in three innings with four Ks.
The Angels may call up Nate Smith next week with Garrett Richards out for the season with torn ACL. In his six starts at AAA, Nate had a 2-1 record with a 3.79 ERA and 31 Ks in 35.2 innings. Over four seasons in the minors, Smith went 25-17 with a 3.53 ERA and 284 Ks in 326.1 innings. I expect some early struggles at the major league level.
Henderson Alvarez looks to be a couple of minor league starts away from returning to the majors. In his two starts so far in the minors, Alvarez allowed three runs and 12 baserunners in 13.2 innings with nine Ks. He’s worth a flier in a deep league with limited upside in Ks.