By: Jack Moore
Each week we’ll be providing you with insight into the best (and worst) baseball players to play in your fantasy baseball league.
The first full week of the fantasy season is finished. Struggling early? Don’t overreact too quickly. Only 4.5% of the 2430-game MLB schedule has played. Still, everybody deals with injuries and players losing their roles, so here are some guys to take a look at if you need to make a roster move:
1. & 2. Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo, RPs, SFG: As the closer world turns, the spotlight now shines on San Francisco. Brian Wilson is headed to the DL and is possibly out for the season, and Bruce Bochy says he’ll go with a closer-by-committee including these two and lefty Javier Lopez. Lopez is likely just a matchup guy here, and Casilla probably has the slight edge for save opportunities given his run in that role when Wilson went down last season. Still, both are worthy adds for teams starved for saves.
3. Jordan Schafer, OF, HOU: Schafer has been on base 12 times this season (seven singles, five walks). He has attempted six steals and succeeded on five of them. Brad Mills is giving Schafer a seemingly unlimited leash to run this season, and even though he probably won’t maintain his .406 on-base percentage, he has the speed to crack 50 steals with a full season’s worth of at-bats in the leadoff spot. Unfortunately, his on-base skills probably limit him to 40, but still, that’s solid for a potential waiver-wire pickup.
4. Lance Lynn, “RP”, STL: Lynn put together a second straight solid start in the absence of Chris Carpenter on Saturday, shutting down the Cubs to the tune of just one run and four hits in 5.1 innings. He still isn’t fully stretched out – he was limited to just 88 pitches Saturday – but his performances should have him entrenched as a starter for St. Louis at least until Carpenter returns, and that probably won’t be until June at the earliest. He’ll get wins with this solid Cardinals club too, so all systems go on Lynn.
5. Kelly Johnson, 2B, TOR: First: he plays half his games in Toronto. Second: he hits in front of Jose Bautista. Third: He averages 17.6 home runs per 600 plate appearances career, and 22.0 over the last two seasons. Put it all together and we have an incredibly underrated power option at second base who has started his season in Toronto with a bang with three home runs and a .270/.386/.541 batting line.
These five players are trending down; some of them already warrant a drop, others should be stashed in “wait-and-see” mode, depending on the depth and scoring formats of your leagues:
1. Brandon Belt, 1B/OF, SFG: Slow starts happen. Albert Pujols said about his slow start, “Not to be cocky, but I know I can hit.” That applies to the elite players, but slow starts are definitely a concern for players like Belt who have tenuous grips on their starting roles. Belt has been given a quick hook by Bruce Bochy: after starting the season 1-for-11, the Giants have given him one start (Sunday) and just four at-bats.
2. Francisco Liriano, SP, MIN: Liriano is a two-start pitcher next week, which makes him appealing in leagues which set weekly lineups and have no innings limits. However, Liriano has yet to shake the control issues with haunted him last season, walking five batters in nine innings over his first two starts. It’s still early, but with the Yankees and Rays on tap on the road this week, combined with his early struggles, be advised to avoid Liriano this week
3. Drew Storen, RP, WAS: Storen’s injury required surgery to remove bone fragments from his elbow. Now the Nationals say he’ll return at some nebulous point “before the All-Star break,” meaning he could be out until June or even July. As such, the closer role sticks with Henry Rodriguez and Brad Lidge for now. Although neither has officially taken hold of the job, Rodriguez has struck out six batters without a run allowed over 3.1 innings, and Lidge has already blown one of his two opportunities. Especially given Rodriguez’s ability to help your team out with strikeouts, I’d lean towards him for now.
4. Gordon Beckham, 2B, CWS: Ten strikeouts in 22 at-bats. A .136/.240/.227 overall batting line. Beckham is only 25, and it is usually remiss to give up on talent at such a young age. Still, it’s hard not to when this is simply nothing new. Beckham struck out 111 times in 499 at-bats last season and hit just .230; he has offered little reason to believe anything has changed in his fourth season as a major leaguer.
5. Bryce Harper, OF, WAS: The Nationals’ super-prospect has had a rough open to his first season at Triple-A, hitting just .219/.265/.313 with two extra-base hits in his first eight games. I’m far from giving up on Harper – he’s just 19 and is still clearly one of the top few prospects in the game. But if he is going to be worth rostering in redraft leagues, particularly those with shallow rosters, he’ll have to impress enough in Triple-A to get a ticket up to the show. Especially with the Nationals winning early, they won’t rush him up if he shows any signs of struggles against minor leaguers.
Jack Moore is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in Mathematics and Economics. His work can also be found at FanGraphs.com, DisciplesOfUecker.com, RotoWire.com, AdvancedNFLStats.com and ESPN. Follow him on twitter at @jh_moore.