The lost and found of the free catching pool remains desert in the deep leagues. The top two option I see just based on at bats are Martin Maldonado and Luke Maile. With a semi-regular job for the first time in his career, Maldonado has been exposed at the plate. He has 30 Ks in 93 at bats with only one HR and six RBI. As bad as it looks, Martin is at least hitting .269 on the season. His swing looks better over his last 14 games (11-for-37 with a HR and three RBI). I still believe he has double digit power with 450 at bats while his batting average still has risk. Possible short-term injury cover.
Maile doesn’t bring a lot to the table (1-for-27 on the year), but he started five of the last six games (1-for-17) with Russell Martin injured. Michael Ohlman was called up to replace Martin on the roster. He’s flashed double-digit power a couple of time in his minor-league career, but his bat tends to get exposed leading to a high volume of Ks. I wonder if Toronto would be desperate enough to resign Jarrod Saltalamacchia how they release on May 3rd after striking out 16 times in 25 at bats. Jarrod will hit home runs in some games when the ball hits his bat. The catching situation looks bleak for the Blue Jays so they may be forced to play a weaken Russell Martin once he recovers from his left should injury.
Rhys Hoskins crushed 38 HRs at AA in 2016 leading to 116 RBI and a .281 batting average while even chipping in with eight steals. This season at AAA after 115 at bats, Rhys hit .339 with eight HRs and 26 RBI with a respectable K rate (15.8 – 21.2 percent in 2015). Tommy Joseph may have saved his job over the last week (11-for-23 with five runs, two HRs, and four RBI). If he trips up again, Hoskins is one phone call away. The Phillies play three games in Texas to start the week so Rhys may get a short window to prove himself if Philly wants to improve their options at DH.
After getting kicked to the curb in many leagues, Danny Valencia started to scream “put me in coach.” He’s started 11 of the last 12 games for the Mariners with solid success (.348 with eight runs, three HRs, and 10 RBI over 46 at bats), which included two four-hit games. His season stats (.246 with four HRs and 15 RBI) still look underwhelming, but Danny is trending upward.
I saw a spark in Brandon Moss over his last two games (two HRs and two RBI over eight at bats), which may be a sign of power run. He’s a very streaky hitter with a high K rate. Moss has 25 HRs or more in three of the last four seasons. He’s been a better hitting over the last three years against left-hand pitching (.239 - .212). The Royals desperately need offense so a power streak by Brandon should lead to a bump in at bats.
In one high-stakes league, I tried to use Derek Dietrich as the cover for Didi Gregorius who was out a month. Derek hit his way out of the starting lineup with a 6-for-32 start to the year with four RBI. The second injury to Martin Prado opened a second window for full time at bats for Dietrich. He has a six-game hitting streak (9-for-21 with four runs, one HR, and five RBI). Excellent injury cover for Prado with playable at bats while he’s producing.
T.J. Rivera looks to be out of a starting opportunity with Lucas Duda returning from the DL, but Asdrubal Cabrera still has an issue with his left thumb that may need a DL stint. Rivera has a five-game hitting streak (7-for-21) with three runs and three RBI. Over his last 14 games played, T.J. hit .352 with 11 runs, one HR, eight RBI, and one SBs. A Fantasy owner may squeeze out another week out of him with his bat still offering positive results.
Ryan Goins has been on the best run of his career after earning at bats with Devon Travis struggling and Troy Tulowitzki landing on the DL. In the month of May, Ryan has 11 hits in 39 at bats with five runs, two HRs, nine RBI, and a SB. With seven hits in his last 16 at bats, Ryan may be worth a week swing if you need to cover an injury while his playing time could diminish soon when the Blue Jays get their healthy players back in the starting lineup.
Over his last eight starts covering nine games, Jorge Polanco has nine hits in 32 at bats with three runs, three RBI, and one SB. His skill set is a tough play in shallow leagues due to him offering low upside in both power and speed. Jorge did steal 18 bags at AA in 2015 over 394 at bats while flashing a bump in power at AAA in 2016 (nine HRs and 39 RBI over 293 at bats). There’s more here than meets the eye, but the drop down in league size requires HRs and SBs to be in play long term.
At some point, the White Sox will call up Yoan Moncada. Over 130 at bats at AAA, he’s hitting .338 with 27 runs, six HR, 17 RBI, and 10 SBs. His downside risk in the majors continues to be his high K rate (26.4 at AAA this season – 24.6 percent in his minor-league career), but it’s better than George Springer (26.4) and Kris Bryant (26.6) in their minor-league careers. If you’re looking for a buy and hold, it’s about the time to add Moncada. He’s played every game at second base in 2017, and Tyler Saladino remains a weak option in the starting lineup in the majors (.215 with ten runs, no HRs, three RBI, and two SBs over 93 at bats).
Yunel Escobar continues to bat leadoff for the Angels, and he found his power stroke over the last week (three HRs and seven RBI). In his last 13 games, Yunel hit .357 with nine runs, three HRs, and ten RBI to raise his batting average from .225 to .272. His recent success warrants a starting opportunity in 12-team leagues or larger, but he must continue to produce power as his resume is just about dead in speed.
Over his last 19 at bats, Trevor Plouffe hit .421 with three runs, a HR, and two RBI. With 550 at bats, Trevor would be on pace for 24 HRs, but he’s well behind the pace in RBI (54). His K rate (31.8) is high for the season while showing improvement over his last 14 games (20.5), which is more in line with his previous resume. A better option at DH in deep leagues with the right team structure than at third base or corner infield.
Colby Rasmus will sit against most lefties hurting his value in shallow leagues. Over his last 24 at bats since returning from the DL, Rasmus has eight hits leading to six runs, three HRs, and eight RBI. His hot start looks intriguing, but 10 Ks over the period does show plenty of downside in batting average. Tough long-term buy so drive carefully if you take him for a ride.
Since returning from the DL, Denard Span has eight hits in 16 at bats with two run, two HRs, and three RBI. He’s batting leadoff, so his runs will be his best asset. His power/speed combination tends to fall short of starting value in 12-team leagues or smaller. Play him while he’s hot.
Ezequiel Carrera has a five-game hitting streak (10-for-22) with five runs, a HR, three RBI, and one SB to raise his season’s average to .333. He’s never hit over six HRs or stolen more than ten bases in the majors, which is due to failing to earn a starting job. His best season for at bats (270) came in 2016 with the Blue Jays. Early in his minor-league career, Ezequiel looked to have 40 stolen base ability (279 steals in 3404 at bats), so he may be a speed out if Toronto continues to give him starting at bats.
Maybe the best solution going forward in some struggling leagues is to fade starting pitching while looking to maintain ERA and WHIP with a focus on gaining ground in saves. The pitching injuries in 2017 have been insane with more to come.
The best pitcher with double starts this week with success in his last outing that is in the free agent pool is Zack Godley. The Diamondbacks will give him the first shot at replacing Shelby Miller in the starting rotation. Last week he threw the ball great at home against the Tigers (one run and four hits over seven innings with six Ks) while also pitching well in his spot start on April 26th (two runs over five innings with six Ks). Over four appearances at AAA, Zack had 2.25 ERA while walking too many batters (14 over 24 innings). He threw the ball well in the majors in 2015 (8-3 with a 3.19 ERA and 78 Ks in 75.1 innings) while being a disaster in 2016 (6.39 ERA with 13 HR allowed over 74.2 innings). This week he has double starts (NYM and @SD), so he’ll be a popular play.
I don’t see much upside at the major-league level other than Jose Berrios (one runs and two hits over seven innings with four Ks in his major-league debut in 2017) who I talked about over the last couple of weeks. Reynaldo Lopez still has command issues at AAA (19 walks over 38 innings), but his arm is trending upward. Over his last five starts, Lopez went 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA and 24 Ks in 29 innings. He’s worthy of a buy-and-hold in deep leagues while still offering WHIP risk until he gets his walks under control.
It took Boston starts two starts to see that Kyle Kendrick was a complete waste of a roster spot. This week the Red Sox will call up Brian Johnson and Henry Owens. Over five starts at AAA, Johnson has a 2.64 ERA with 26 Ks over 30.2 innings. Walks (12 over 30.2 innings) will limit his upside in the majors. Brian pitched at a high level at AA (1.75 ERA over 118 innings with 99 Ks) in 2014 and AAA (2.53 ERA over 96 innings with 90 Ks) in 2015. Johnson battled an elbow issue in 2016 plus some anxiety. His arm has upside with better command. Player to watch with his best value this week coming in AL-only leagues.
Henry Owens has a 2.27 ERA and 39 Ks over 31.2 innings at AAA in 2017, but he still walks (21) too many batters. Henry was once the Red Sox top pitching prospect while falling out of the top 30 overall prospects in 2017. Sometimes these lefties need a lot of time to find their rhythm in the majors. He’s tough to hit (.208 in his minor-league career) with high upside when/if he figures out how to get the ball over the plate. Tons of WHIP risk was disaster downside while still offering a glimmer of hope down the road. Boston fixed Andrew Miller so I would keep an eye on him.