We are just in the third week of the season yet fantasy baseball owners have had to madly scramble to the waiver wire repeatedly to replace players hit by the plethora of injuries going around. So far April has been like a flu season for elbow ligaments.
There are a number of new starting players on almost every team as the league copes with injuries to some of its biggest stars, which means it’s important for fantasy owners to familiarize themselves with some of these new fantasy commodities.
Let’s take a look at some of the players that have risen on the depth chart and what kind of fantasy impact they can have over the course of the season.
Josh Collmenter/Mike Bolsinger (ARI): Trevor Cahill and Randall Delgado aren’t injured but they are both suffering from a terrible case of suck-itis. Josh Collmenter made Delgado’s start against the Mets on Monday and didn’t do much better, allowing three runs and six baserunners over just four innings of work. I don’t see Collmenter being a permanent solution, nor a temporary fantasy commodity, so top prospect Archie Bradley looks to be the next guy in line should Collmenter continue to falter.
Mike Bolsinger is one that can go either way. He looked like an up-and-comer in Single-A and Double-A between 2010 and 2012 but struggled in his first stint at Triple-A, posting a 4.72 ERA and 1.54 WHIP last season. He allowed just two runs while striking out 10 over his first two starts this season and now has an opportunity to stick in the Bigs but I wouldn’t rush to grab him unless he puts up a couple of strong starts first.
David Hale (ATL): Despite posting a woeful 6.62 ERA and 1.87 WHIP in spring training, Hale was a necessary injury replacement after the Braves started to lose starters left and right. He pitched five strong innings against the Nats on April 4 but allowed three runs and 10 baserunners over just 4.1 innings against the Mets in his last start. We’re going to need to see more before we can really figure out what to do with Hale but I’d completely avoid him on the waiver wire for now.
Hector Rondon (CHC): Like Cahill and Delgado, Cubs closer Jose Veras has been dealing with a bad case of suck-itis and it looks like Rondon may be the new 9th inning man in Chitown. Rondon has not allowed a run over seven innings of work this season and has struck out nine. He’s worth a pickup if you need a closer though, after posting a 4.77 ERA last season and 7.71 ERA in spring training, he’s just a guy who may be able to get you some cheap saves but likely is not a full-season solution.
Dayan Viciedo (CHW): Up-and-comer Avisail Garcia is out for the season which means the Sox will turn back to Viciedo. The veteran is off to a nice start so far, batting .310 with four RBI and three doubles in 29 at-bats. He hit 39 home runs over the last two seasons, including 25 in 2012, and hit 20 home runs in 2010 and 2011 in the minors, so the guy certainly has pop. He likely won’t bat above .265 but if you need a bit of extra juice, Viciedo should be able to provide about 20 home runs and 60+ RBI.
J.B. Shuck (LAA): With Josh Hamilton down, Shuck appears to be the guy to take his place. There’s definitely some potential here. He batted .293 in 437 at-bats last season and is batting .294 with a homer and three RBI in just four games this season. He batted .281 with seven RBI and four steals this spring and owns a .302 career average in the minors. Unfortunately, outside of a solid batting average and enough speed to steal about 15-20 bases a year, there isn’t a ton of fantasy potential for any other categories.
Jose Valverde (NYM): Valverde blew his first save of the season on Saturday, giving up three runs to the Angels. Those were the first runs the veteran had allowed in six appearances, however, and he has done a solid (though not pretty) job of replacing Bobby Parnell who is out for the season. Certainly Valverde should be owned but there is always the possibility that he blows up like he did last season. The Mets don’t have many options at closer so Valverde likely has a lot of rope.
Shawn Kelley (NYY): Kelley is closing for the Bombers until David Robertson gets healthy, which may either be soon or it could be in May. Until Robertson is back, Kelley should be owned universally. He’s already saved three games while posting a 2.84 ERA and 0.79 WHIP.
Jesse Chavez (OAK): After the A’s lost half their rotation in spring, Chavez was bumped up into a starting job. I wrote extensively about him here but you don’t need to look farther than the 1.35 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 22 K/2 BB to see he’s worth a pickup. Those numbers certainly won’t last but Oakland has made a habit of resurrecting careers and the 30-year-old may finally be coming into his own.
Jonathan Pettibone (PHI): Pettibone was okay in 18 starts last season, posting a 4.04 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. Not anything to write home about. He only allowed one run in his 2014 debut but gave up eight hits, a walk, and a home run. I’d stay away from Pettibone, especially since there isn’t a whole lot of strikeout potential there.
Robbie Erlin (SD): With Josh Johnson out, Erlin is getting a chance and running with it. He allowed just two runs while striking out 12 in 12 spring innings and has given up just one run while striking out seven in his first 6.2 innings of the season. The former #53 prospect in the nation has been up-and-down in his minor league career but his 5.07 ERA in Triple-A and 4.12 ERA in the Majors last season is a bit concerning. Let’s see what he does over his next couple of starts, he may very well prove to be a serviceable commodity.
Roenis Elias (SEA): With the Mariners hemorrhaging pitchers, Elias has earned a chance and has looked great. After posting a 2.38 ERA in 22.2 spring innings, he now owns a 2.16 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in his first three Major League starts. He posted a 3.18 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in the minors last season and owns a career 8.0 K/9 so he could certainly be worth a grab.
Jake Odorizzi (TB): After a good start against the Rangers on April 4, pitching six scoreless innings and giving up just three hits, Odorizzi got shelled by the Royals, giving up seven runs over just five innings. Top prospect or not, Odorizzi has proven very unreliable in both his minor league career and his few Major League appearances so, while there is certainly potential there, I’m not running out to grab him.
Robbie Ross (TEX): Over the last two seasons, Ross has looked great pitching out of the Rangers pen, posting a 2.62 ERA over 127 innings. So far in two starts, Ross has only given up two earned runs but four total runs and a whopping 20 baserunners over 10.1 innings. Though he can limit runs and has solid strikeout numbers, the amount of baserunners is concerning enough to stay away in all but the deepest leagues, or unless you’re especially desperate.
Tanner Scheppers (TEX): Scheppers has looked great out of the pen in the past as well but has given up 14 runs and 29 baserunners over his first 16 innings this season. So, you know, don’t add him.
Kevin Kouzmanoff (TEX): Kouzmanoff has been called upon to start in place of Adrian Beltre and has hit safely in each of his first five games. He’s batting .375 with a couple of RBI and could be worth a short-term add if you need a corner infielder, especially considering he hits in a strong lineup and looked killer in spring training as he batted .370 with three homers, 12 RBI, and 11 runs.
Danny Espinosa (WAS): With Ryan Zimmerman out, Anthony Rendon will move to third while Espinosa will get another chance to start at second. He only managed to play 44 games last season, batting a pathetic .158 but did hit 38 home runs and steal 37 bases over his previous two seasons. He will never hit for a high batting average but he is a guy with 20-20 potential, even if you only get him until Zim comes back.