By Sam McPherson
A lot of fantasy baseball owners like to look smart at the draft in March, picking a minor-league star that is expected to get promoted to the major leagues by June. If all goes well, that owner gets Buster Posey from 2010: a player that performs so well for the remaining four months of the season, he wins a Rookie of the Year award. If all doesn’t go well, the same owner can end up with someone like Andrew Heaney in 2014: a pitcher that struggles after his June promotion and is sent back down to the minors until September.
That’s the risk, and no matter what any fantasy baseball owner thinks he or she knows, they don’t. Yes, the odds are good for minor-league stars like Posey and Heaney, but you just never know. Even breaking down Posey’s numbers from 2010 show that he wasn’t that great of a fantasy pick that season: He hit just .259 in June and .233 in September, while hitting only two home runs in August. However, his July numbers—.417 average, seven HRs, 24 RBI—are what carried him to the Rookie of the Year designation.
In the end, it’s always a risk to grab someone like Julio Urias then. If you’re in the middle of the standings, then it may be worth the gamble. Already leading the league? It’s probably wise to let someone else take the chance on Urias. If the basement of the standings is all yours, surely grab Urias and trade him later if he has a few good starts right away. You’d be surprised at the return you can get on a rookie’s hot start from lesser-wizened owners in your fantasy baseball league.
Generally, rookie pitchers are harder to predict than rookie hitters, and it’s hard to name that many dominant pitching prospects that got the midseason call and delivered. We would stay away from Urias then, as there are a lot of good starting pitchers on the waiver wire in almost every league, bound to do better than a 19-year-old kid in the West Coast spotlight.
Players to Get Onto Your Roster Now
1. Jose Ramirez, SS, Cleveland Indians: After 180 games in the majors prior to this season, it looks Ramirez finally has learned to hit the ball well. From 2013-15, he hit .239 with 47 walks and 76 strikeouts. This year, Ramirez is hitting .309 while his walks and strikeouts are virtually even. He has 14 extra-base hits already, compared to the 23 he compiled all last season. Ramirez is on the rise, and as a 23-year-old, the only way to go from here is up.
2. Josh Tomlin, SP, Cleveland Indians: He’s not going to rack up strikeouts for you, even if his strikeout rate this year is higher than his career rate. Tomlin is 7-0 right now, and he’s winning games by not walking anyone (just six BBs in 51 innings). He’s giving up the long ball still, but the 0.980 WHIP means it’s not hurting Tomlin badly right now. Keep an eye on those HR rates, and if they stay level, then you’ve got yourself a steal off the waiver wire.
3. Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals: After struggling last year for a variety of reasons, Adams is back and starting to get regular playing time with the Cards again. Right now, he’s hitting .327 although Adams still strikes out too much to our liking. But we can’t argue with the results currently, in terms of power (six HRs in 101 ABs). Also, his OBP is arcing toward a career-high level currently. Those are all good signs for the 27-year-old first baseman. All Adams needs is the daily confidence of his manager, and he is headed for a nice season.
4. Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves: After an All-Star season in 2014, Teheran got off to a bad start in 2015 and became an afterthought in fantasy baseball, despite finishing with decent numbers overall. This year, because he’s on the sad-sack Braves, Teheran hasn’t gotten a lot of fantasy love. He has just one win, but it’s hard to ignore his 2.57 ERA and 1.032 WHIP. Atlanta should get better as the season progresses, meaning Teheran could finish with 10 wins if you’re lucky.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals: The defending champions took a hit when they lost Moose for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL. There’s no point holding on to the 2015 All-Star third baseman, because Moustakas won’t be coming back this season. The 20-HR, 80-RBI season you were projecting now needs to be replaced.
2. Lucas Duda, 1B, New York Mets: After hitting 57 HRs in the last two seasons combined, Duda was a popular draft pick this year. But he’s out now for a bit with a stress fracture in his back. That isn’t good, and baseball experts know how a bad back can derail a career—and in this case, a single season. Duda could come back in a few months, but again, back injuries are not a good sign for any player, especially one that just turned 30 years old this season.
3. Angel Pagan, OF, San Francisco Giants: He has played a full season just twice in his 11-year career up to this point, and with another hamstring injury, Pagan’s speed game is going to take a hit. He averaged 14 steals the last two years, but Pagan is now 34 years old. He can’t seem to stay on the field for long periods of time, making him a risky bet for your roster.
4. Juan Nicasio, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates: With three wins and a 3.33 ERA in April, he looked like a breakout SP candidate for 2016. However, Nicasio has a 6.75 ERA in May, so even though his strikeout totals look tempting, he’s on the downhill slide currently. He’s 29 now, which means Nicasio probably will never be able to put it together in the major leagues. Time to cut bait here.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.