It’s funny how deadlines work. I handed in my column this week and in the few hours after I did, Bryce Harper was called up, Jordan Walden was demoted from the closer’s role, Josh Collmenter might be out of the rotation and Duane Below is in the Detroit Tigers rotation. Get me rewrite! (ed. — and Angels release Bobby Abreu to call up Mike Trout. Trout and Harper on the same day!)
Carlos Marmol of the Chicago Cubs blew a save in Marmol-esque fashion this week. Hector Santiago of the Chicago White Sox did the same. It looks like we have a few more opportunities to speculate on saves. Beyond saves speculation, injuries have crept into both leagues to some star players. That’s enough of an introduction; let’s get to the picks for this week.
First, a quick aside. If there is a player I didn’t cover or all the players covered are taken in your league, let me know in the comments section and I’ll try to get back to you with some other options for your situation and league.
American League Waiver Wire
I continue to recommend Ryan Doumit of the Minnesota Twins. If Doumit isn’t your favorite, take a look at Jarrod Saltalamacchia from the Boston Red Sox. He’s got some pop in his bat and the Red Sox seem to be figuring things out on the offensive end. He won’t help in the average department, but most catchers have a wart or two.
Mike Moustakas is owned in 64% of Yahoo! leagues and is one of my favorite “split” players. In each of his league debuts, he generally struggles and then heats up as the year goes on. Moustakas struggled out of the gate as I expected, but looks like he’s starting to put things together. He will still be streaky, but I see a better second half than first and he should be a target going forward.
With a slight injury to Justin Smoak, Alex Liddi has jumped into the playing time fray with the Seattle Mariners. Just 23 years old, it seems like Liddi has been around a lot longer. Liddi played first base with Smoak out, but then got the start on Thursday at third base. Liddi’s path to playing time isn’t clear with Mike Carp coming back from the DL soon, Chone Figgins at third and Smoak at first and Kyle Seager floating around the infield. However, he has the skills to hit 20 home runs in a full season with the propensity to strike out in bunches.
Alcides Escobar is owned in only 29% of Yahoo! leagues, but he has been hot hitting .319 with three SBs over the last 14 days. He stole 26 bases last year and if he keeps this up could push to 35 to 40 bags this year. He likely won’t be able to keep this hot hitting going, but he’s still under owned in leagues.
Mike Trout is up for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I will make this short. Bid whatever you have to get Trout. He is up for the rest of his career. He was on fire in AAA and I expect him to continue in the majors. His power is not yet fully developed, but he will be above average in every other category. Bid furiously on Trout!
Nolan Reimold was recommended in this space last week and has barely played since. The reports are that he’s getting better and should be back soon. However, if he does have to hit the DL, it looks like Endy Chavez would take over in left field and at the top of the lineup. He still has some speed left and could get double digit steals with regular playing time and of course score runs at the top of the lineup without being a huge drag on your batting average.
As Red Sox outfielders continue to drop like New York Mets outfielders, Marlon Byrd enters the picture. Byrd was acquired from the Chicago Cubs for Michael Bowden (see below). Byrd will play centerfield regularly as long as Jacoby Ellsbury is out. Byrd is the best defensive outfielder the Red Sox have and will likely get playing time even when Ellsbury returns. With Carl Crawford’s most recent setback (of three months) I would bid aggressively on Byrd. Byrd is a .280 hitter with 15 HR power and should have the playing time to help.
It also looks like Brandon Inge’s release by the Detroit Tigers will lead to a drop in playing time for Andy Dirks and perhaps Delmon Young (who was arrested Friday morning). Brad Eldred was recalled from AAA and Jim Leyland said that Eldred will play regularly at DH because he has been so hot in the minors. Eldred may qualify at 1B or OF depending on your league. He has light tower power, but rarely connects. He hasn’t been a useful major league player since 2005. I would stay away except in the deepest of AL only leagues where even minimal playing time is valued.
Oakland Athletics prospect Michael Taylor is in Oakland and may get recalled if Coco Crisp is put on the DL. He is definitely worth a pickup as he is off to a hot start at AAA and is a solid blend of power and speed with some batting average risk. Perhaps he’s finally overcome the swing issues that his Stanford education drilled into him.
For shallower leagues, I think it’s time to cut bait on Peter Bourjos as the Los Angeles Angels will need to shake things up and I believe he will be the fall guy. Don’t be surprised if we see Mike Trout in the lineup in the next couple of weeks. Heck, Bryce Harper was called up!
Lorenzo Cain suffered a setback during his rehab and will miss another month. Mitch Maier has been getting playing time. He’s not exciting, but he’ll drive in a few runs and hit a few HRs if you need them.
Jarrod Parker looks like he is here to stay for Oakland. He looked solid in his debut and I believe he will be a bit better than league average for the remainder of the season. Wins will be tough to come by, but he should be able to help in all other categories. Bid aggressively to get Parker.
I say uncle! Ok, Jason Hammel, I give. It’s time to recommend picking you up. It is tough to argue with his results so far this year. He is 3-0 in 26 IP with 25 Ks and a 1.73 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. He has a tough road this week with road games at the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. If you have a bench, grab him and see what happens this week. I’m not sure I’d start him as a two-start option this week though he does face Clay Buchholz in the second matchup next week.
The Detroit Tigers cut fifth starter Adam Wilk. And Jim Leyland gave clear direction as to where he will go while Doug Fister is on the DL. Duane Below is his man until further notice. A starter in Detroit can have value because of the home stadium and the offense behind him. Fister is at least a couple of weeks away from returning. He’s thrown 12 scoreless innings out of the pen this year. However, His strikeout rate has dropped as he’s risen through the minors. He could still hold value in deep leagues if/when he is shipped back to the bullpen.
Let’s go deep on the Chicago White Sox bullpen. After Hector Santiago’s blown save on Wednesday, manager Robin Ventura reiterated that Santiago is his closer. And I believe him. However, it is time to try to determine who number two is on the list in Chicago. Using MLB Depth Charts, we see Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton as the listed setup men. Crain is currently dinged up and could head to the DL with an injury. Thornton was tried in the role last year and struggled. Thornton has been lights out as a setup man so Ventura will likely want to keep him there. Moreover, there have been rumors of the White Sox trying to deal Thornton.
Beyond the setup men, we have the official “Closer of the Future” in Addison Reed. Ventura has not said why Reed was not chosen for the role even though he’d been all but anointed for the spot since being drafted. I’d say he is number two in line for saves should Santiago falter or fall to injury. He’s got the stuff and the pedigree to make it work should he be given the chance. That said, I still believe Santiago is on a long leash with Ventura. If you are looking deeper than Reed, the AAA leader in saves for the Sox is Brian Bruney who has been a walk machine and should be ignored.
The Boston Red Sox bullpen has passed through the vestibule of hell and straight into the Outer Ring of the Seventh Circle as they continue to commit violent acts against anyone watching their games. There are a few names to keep in mind if Alfredo Aceves is replaced or the setup men change (for those leagues where holds are a category).
This columnist’s favorite Red Sox reliever, Junichi Tazawa picked up a three inning save on Thursday night is still worth a speculative add. He’ll certainly start moving to higher leverage situations soon. Rich Hill has looked great in his quick rehab from Tommy John surgery and will be on the Boston roster Friday. In leagues with holds or an innings cap, Hill can be a cheap, valuable piece with his K/9 rate. Diving into Pawtucket, the Red Sox recently converted prospect Alex Wilson to a reliever. His first appearance was a bit bumpy, but his arsenal lends itself to the bullpen and he could have an impact in the majors in a month or so.
It looks like Jordan Walden will have to take a break from closing for a while. The Angels are off to a slow start and he hasn’t had consistent work yet so I believe he’ll be back in the role sooner rather than later. However, the pickup is lefty veteran Scott Downs. I don’t see Downs holding on to the role for more than a couple of weeks, but he still has value in that time.
And now, I present a few quick hits to end this section. The Orioles clarified the pecking order behind Jim Johnson. Johnson should return soon from his illness, but if he misses more time or is shifted to the rotation, Pedro Strop is number two in line. Thanks to Buster Olney for tweeting about this pitcher last week. I’d never heard of Bryce Stowell before this week, but his 19.3 K/9 ratio is mind-blowing. Yes, he’s a 25-year old at AA, but stranger things have happened in the back ends of bullpens. Perhaps he helps Cleveland out this year.
National League Waiver Wire
With Aubrey Huff’s injury, Bruce Bochy has found new ways to ensure that Brandon Belt doesn’t play two games in a row. And to keep Belt out of the lineup, Bochy using Hector Sanchez behind the plate and putting Buster Posey at first base. Sanchez is hitting .385 over the last seven days and has driven in four runs. He won’t get regular playing time, but could get 15 ABs per week while Huff is out. And, he’s only owned in 1% of leagues. Sanchez is an attractive add in keeper or dynasty leagues as he is just 21 years old.
In shallower leagues, I’d look at Wilson Ramos as well. Owned in just 46% of leagues, he is heating up a bit and I’d take him over my NL catching punching bag Geovany Soto. And don’t forget Nick Hundley. He’s hitting cleanup for the Padres!
How hot is the Chicago Cubs Bryan LaHair? With Anthony Rizzo’s hot start in AAA and Cubs’ fans eternal hope for a championship, LaHair needed to pick things up or he would be destined to be a AAAA player. It looks like he’s done that and more. Over the last 14 days he’s hit .344 with 3 HRs and 10 RBIs and 6 runs scored. He also qualifies in the outfield in most leagues. He is owned in only 43% of Yahoo! leagues.
If Ryan Zimmerman has to spend time on the DL, it is not clear how the Washington Nationals would fill the hole in the lineup. It is Bryce Harper and not some combination of Steve Lombardozzi, Chad Tracy and Mark DeRosa as I thought earlier today. It looks like Harper will debut Saturday, play left field and bat seventh. History is not kind to 19 year olds in the major leagues. I think Griffey’s year is the ceiling for Harper so bid accordingly. I do not believe he will be up for the rest of the year. In shallow, redraft leagues he’s likely not worth the bid necessary to secure his services. If for some reason he is not owned in keeper or dynasty leagues snag him when he comes up. He will likely head back down to AAA when Zimmerman comes back unless he surprises everyone and holds his own. If there is a player who could surprise, it’s Harper.
Of the trio mentioned previously, Lombardozzi is the only one who interests me. If given full time at the hot corner, he could hit .300 and steal a few bases. He likely won’t help in any other category and I’d suggest looking elsewhere to fill a Zimmerman void should it occur. In deeper leagues, I’d rather take a chance on Joe Mather (who may qualify at 3B or corner in your league) picking up playing time in the Cubs outfield or Cody Ransom taking playing time away from Ryan Roberts. In shallower leagues, a player like Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets (owned in 62% of leagues) would be a great stopgap solution.
Jose Altuve is my height, but can play baseball at a much higher level than I can. Somehow, he’s only owned in 50% of Yahoo! leagues, but is tearing the cover off the ball. He’s a player who looks like he shouldn’t be doing what he is doing on a baseball field, but he does. He’s contributing in every category and if you need SBs, he is your man. Pick him up and drop Dustin Ackley (in a mixed league) as I did this week or deal a player like Jimmy Rollins to shore up another hole and plug Altuve in from your free agent pool.
As April turns to May, we may abandon those “upside” picks from our draft as they flounder and look for “veteran leadership” in our lineup. Alex Gonzalez has a non-standard middle infield profile. He’ll likely hit .250 with 15-20 HRs and no speed. If you are in need of power, Gonzalez is your man in the middle. He’s hitting. 306 in the last 14 days with 2 HRs so grab him now.
And Stephen Drew is working his way back from his ankle injury of last year. He’s very close to a rehab assignment and may be back in the next two to four weeks.
I have a couple of speedsters to go over this week in Carlos Gomez and Tony Campana. Gomez is hitting .381 over his last 14 days with five runs scored and more importantly four stolen bases. He’s looked good in his limited time and could be a contributor for the entire year. When Nyjer Morgan is your only impediment to playing time, you have a chance.
Tony Campana is fast. Very fast. He has four stolen bases and only five hits and a walk. If he gets on, he’s going to steal. He’s going to get playing time and it looks like he’ll bat in the two- hole so he’s likely to pick up his share of runs as well. He has a career .358 OBP in the minors so he could be very valuable.
I covered Gerardo Parra of the Arizona Diamondbacks last week, but it looks like Chris Young is going to be out for a while. He’s still owned in only 9% (up from 3% last week) of Yahoo! leagues and could have solid playing time for the next month or more.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis (owned in 7% of Yahoo! leagues) has been hitting leadoff for the New York Mets for the last few days. He has a huge strikeout problem, but it looks like he’s going to have a solid hold on playing time for the month or so Jason Bay is on the DL. Andres Torres will come back from the DL Monday (and should be grabbed if he’s out there – he’ll play full time). Nieuwenhuis’ minor league profile shows a player with good on base skills (and hence runs out of the leadoff spot) with some speed and a little power. In a full season, he might hit 10-12 homeruns and steal 15 bases while hitting .275.
I’ll lead off with a deep league pickup in the New York Mets Jonathan Niese. He is only owned in 52% of leagues and his ownership should be much closer to 75%. He’s got 23Ks in 25 2/3 innings and a WHIP below one. He’s even more valuable in leagues where quality starts are a category. Ted Lilly and Mike Minor are also attractive options owned in around 60% of leagues and are both worthy additions in shallower leagues.
Is #FreeTrevorBauer a reality? No, I don’t think so, but it looks like Kirk Gibson has seen enough of the Josh Collmenter show. Collmenter will likely be moved to the bullpen and one of the three young Arizona Diamondbacks’ prospects will be called up. I do not believe it will be Trevor Bauer because he hasn’t pitched quite as well as the other two possible starters and his rotation spot doesn’t line up with Collmenter’s next scheduled start on Monday. I believe the pitcher to speculate on is Tyler Skaggs due to a higher ceiling. The actual decision from the Diamondbacks is likely a tossup between him and Patrick Corbin for the rotation spot. Corbin would be on regular rest whereas Skaggs would be a day early. Skaggs did struggle in his last outing in Mobile giving up three HRs over six innings and Corbin pitched well in spring training and in the early season. I give the lean for the actual rotation spot to Corbin, but I’d rather have Skaggs due to upside.
In deeper leagues, it looks like Nathan Eovaldi is coming up for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The linked report says he’s coming up to replace a reliever. However, Eovaldi is seen as the “sixth starter” for the Dodgers and Aaron Harang is dealing with a minor injury. He’s a worthy stash to see if he moves into the rotation.
Kyle Wieland was put on the DL Friday and the speculation as to his replacement centers on Jordan Lyles. Lyles struggled in his first taste of the majors last year, but he’s still only 21 and is off to a solid start in AAA. I’d monitor his progress before making a bid.
Carlos Marmol is not long for the closer’s role with the Chicago Cubs if he continues to pitch the way he has early this season. I’ve seemingly talked about this bullpen each week, but I believe it is worth a deeper look. I am not impressed with Rafael Dolis so I won’t cover him again. There are three players on the major league roster who I think have a chance to take over for Marmol.
The three players are Scott Maine, Michael Bowden and James Russell and this is the order I’d pick up the players. Maine has been covered previously. He has minor league closing experience and he’s struck out seven batters in his first 3 2/3 innings in the majors this year. Michael Bowden was acquired from the Red Sox. Bowden led AAA Pawtucket in saves with 16 and President Theo Epstein may want to show the Red Sox he stole a keeper from them in the trade and push to put Bowden in as closer. Bowden’s other advantage might be he is right-handed and Maine is a lefty. James Russell has no saves in his professional career, but his father was a solid closer with 186 career saves if that’s worth anything. Russell’s K/9 rate is just not high enough to work in the closer role.
Heath Bell had a spectacular blown save Thursday afternoon with four walks over his 46 pitches thrown. He hadn’t pitched in a week. That was his third loss and third blown save of the season. Should the Miami Marlins look elsewhere for the short term? If so, where? Again, using the invaluable MLB Depth Charts site, we see two setup men in Edward Mujica and Mike Dunn. Mujica has the most experience in the minors closing games out and I believe he’s the player to target as the handcuff to Bell. Dunn has a spectacular K/9 rate, but walks too many people to be a consistent closer. The dark horse is Steve Cishek as he’s K’d almost a batter per inning and has better control than Dunn. The Marlins paid Bell a lot of money and I believe only an injury will take him out of the role.
Do you think Javy Guerra knows Kenley Jansen is waiting in the wings? No one would take a batted ball of his face and stay in the game unless he was worried about his job. Guerra’s hold on the job is slipping, but like Ventura, Don Mattingly backs Guerra and his leash continues to be long. Late breaking news on Friday notes that Guerra is now battling a foot injury as well so Jansen may have the opening he needs to
Thanks for making it to the end of another column. Again, if you have any questions (trade, free agent pick up or strategy) feel free to post a comment or send me a note on Twitter. I’ll see you again next week at the same place.
Chris Garosi is a contributor for District Sports Page. One of his favorite sports memories is witnessing Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter at Memorial Stadium in 1991. Chris has played fantasy sports since the pre-Internet days and participates in any league for any sport to which he’s invited. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisgarosi.