It’s still April, which means a lot of statistics are nowhere near stabilizing and some unfamiliar names dot the leaderboards. Since most numbers are still all over the place, it’s hard to tell which improvements or declines are real or illusory. Still, this is the time to place your FAAB bets because you get a lot more value from five-plus months of a player than you do from one you acquire in the middle of the season.
Most of the time, the guy who comes out of nowhere to hit a bunch of homers in April is someone like Chris Shelton whose performance reverts to its previously unimpressive level after a few weeks. Every once in a while, though, the guy who comes out of nowhere to hit a bunch of homers in April is Jose Bautista, establishing a new level of performance that can win a league for the roto owner who gambled a few FAAB dollars on him first. In keeper leagues, acquiring a player whose April surge is legitimate can provide multiple years of profit for owners.
Don’t wait until May to start looking for reinforcements on your roster. Most of the unknown league leaders will come back to earth soon, but one or two will stay there for most if not all of the season. Those players are the ones that turn a good roto team into a champion.
AL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
In keeper leagues or deep redraft leagues where minor leaguers can be rostered, Mazara is long gone. However, if Mazara is still available in your league, or if your league doesn’t allow players to be acquired until they reach the major leagues, do whatever you have to do to get your hands on him. He should be hitting in the heart of the Texas order for the next 4-6 weeks while Shin-Soo Choo is on the DL. Mazara won’t steal bases for your team but he’ll do everything else, and he might be worth more in OBP leagues than he is in AVG leagues due to his approach, which is mature beyond his years. Feel confident spending at least a third of your FAAB dollars on Mazara and if your offense is sputtering, go higher. And check out the Nomar Mazara edition of The Call-Up by Craig Goldstein and Bret Sayre for an in-depth look at what makes Mazara so special.
The primary beneficiary of the injury to Robinson Chirinos is Bryan Holaday. He should be getting regular at-bats for the next 10-12 weeks or until the Rangers acquire a new catcher. It seems like the Rangers were okay with Holaday as their starting catcher when the estimate on Chirinos’ injury was about a month, but since Chirinos is now expected to miss at least two months, I suspect the Rangers will find a new starter via waivers or trade, and that they’ll do it fairly soon.
Holaday is known as a defensive specialist, so don’t expect much from his bat besides the counting stats that come with an everyday catching job. To give you a decent idea of what I think Holaday will do with a starter’s share of plate appearances, I picked him as my catcher on my Hacking Mass team.
The argument for picking up Craig Gentry for the next week is simple. He’s the right-handed side of a platoon in left field, and five of the seven starters the Angels are facing next week are lefties. He doesn’t have much power but he has speed to burn and could easily swipe a few bases next week since he’ll be in the lineup nearly every day. He won’t leave games early for a defensive replacement, either, since he’s a tremendous defensive outfielder.
The Angels called on Nick Tropeano to fill Andrew Heaney’s spot in the rotation when Heaney went on the DL with a flexor strain. He earned a win with six strikeouts over five shutout innings. Tropeano is scheduled to start on Sunday against the Twins in Minnesota and on Friday next week at home against the Mariners, both favorable matchups in terms of ballpark and opponent.
He’ll likely lose his spot in the rotation when Heaney is ready to return to action, but that might be a while. However, Tropeano could lose his spot in the rotation earlier than that if Tyler Skaggs is complete his comeback from Tommy John surgery. He’s a decent matchup play in the short term, though, and it’s not too hard to imagine a scenario where Tropeano forces his way into a more permanent spot in the Angels’ rotation considering that Jered Weaver and Matt Shoemaker are both currently taking the mound every fifth day for the Halos.
Dana Eveland was one of the pleasant surprises in training camp this year and leapfrogged several other options to make the Opening Day roster. Since the season started, he’s just kept on mowing down batters. It’s a gamble, but he could be one of this year’s reclamation success stories, like Trevor Cahill last year. Get in early on Eveland and see if he can sustain his success, but be ready to cut bait if it looks like he can’t.
In my AL-only league, I picked up and dropped Fernando Rodriguez once last year and placed bids on him a few more times. If he isn’t last in line for saves in the A’s bullpen, he’s close to it. However, he provides solid value in rate stats despite an ordinary walk rate thanks to a low hit rate. He also strikes out more than a batter per inning. He’s off to a quick start this tear and could provide solid innings in deep leagues where middle relievers have value.
NL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
Trevor Story and Tyler White got most of the hot-start headlines during the first week of the season. Jeremy Hazelbaker belongs in that conversation, too, with two homers, two steals, and a slash line that would make Ted Williams look like a piker. Hazelbaker is a classic #cardinalsdevilmagic player—a 28-year-old rookie with pedestrian minor-league numbers performing better in the major leagues than he ever did in the minors. His track record doesn’t point to continued success, but neither did Matt Carpenter’s or any of the other minor league journeymen that the Cardinals turned into productive major leaguers.
Ivan DeJesus doesn’t have much power, doesn’t steal many bases, and isn’t much of a hitter. However, if the quadriceps tightness that made Zack Cozart leave Monday’s game linger, DeJesus would be in line for a lot more playing time. He won’t hit a ton of bombs or swipe tons of bags for your team, but as Mike Gianella likes to say, he’ll move the chains if he gets regular at-bats. If Cozart makes a quick recovery, don’t bother with DeJesus.
Tommy La Stella
Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes having players who can play multiple positions, and he has a lot of them. Following the season-ending injury to Kyle Schwarber, Maddon has already showed that he is willing to move Kris Bryant to the outfield and start Tommy La Stella at third base. Maddon could also move the versatile Ben Zobrist to the outfield and play La Stella at second base. He’s off to a hot start and Maddon seems to want to get his bat into the lineup. The Cubs’ roster flexibility helps them deal with injuries or ineffectiveness more effectively than most teams, and La Stella’s eligibility at both second base and third base could do the same for your roster once he plays enough games at third to qualify in your league.
The newest closer in Philadelphia is Jeanmar Gomez. Saying that he doesn’t have a classic closer’s profile is an understatement, as he barely profiles as a major league pitcher. He has allowed more than a hit per inning in each of the last two seasons and his career high in K/9 is a meager 6.03. Pitchers as thoroughly mediocre as Gomez have managed to hold on to jobs as closers for a few years, but not many have, and none of them were good bets to do so. Gomez isn’t a good bet, either, but if saves are a category in your league, you can’t ignore the fact that he has the job for the time being.
The Reds’ bullpen has been a mess so far this season. J.J. Hoover, Jumbo Diaz, and Tony Cingrani have all had at least one disastrous outings so far and none of them have the kind of track record that earns them the benefit of the doubt. Blake Wood, on the other hand, hasn’t allowed a run yet this season. Wood walks a lot of batters, but he strikes out a lot of batters with mid-90s velocity, too. He also racked up 29 saves last year in Triple-A. If the rest of the pitchers in the Red’s bullpen keep allowing the opposition to put up crooked numbers, Wood could get a shot at racking up saves in the big leagues.
Jeremy Jeffress has seemingly carried his success from 2015 into 2016, so he won’t be surrendering the closer’s role any time soon. However, if Tyler Thornburg keeps mowing down batters like he has to start this season, he could seize the setup role in front of Jeffress and provide a lot of value via his rate stats and strikeouts. It also looks like Thornburg is throwing harder than he did last year, adding a couple of MPH to his fastball in the early going.