MIXED LEAGUE HITTERS
12-Team Mixed Leagues
Jeff Quinton recommended Lamb last week for deep leagues and pointed out that he could be the main beneficiary of AJ Pollock’s elbow injury that will likely keep him sidelined for the rest of the season, a point that I (as with most things involving Diamondbacks infielders) needed to see first before believing. Lamb has started at third base in nine of Arizona’s 10 games to start the year, relegating Brandon Drury to a utility role, and has started the year off strong, hitting .286/.364/.500 in his first 30 plate appearances of the season. His .864 OPS currently ranks 10th among third basemen in the early going, and I feel he’s a solid pick to finish inside the top 10 at the position (particularly in OBP leagues) if he continues to avoid being platooned with Drury or one of the other many right-handed-hitting infield options (Chris Owings, Jean Segura, Nick Ahmed, Phil Gosselin) in the desert.
Pagan’s ownership has shot up the last few days as the Giants have made their way to Coors Field, but he’s still not being rostered in enough leagues to start the year. Pagan’s solid line (.371/.450/.600) is what is driving his ownership to this point, but it’s the spryness of his legs that makes him a solid play in standard mixed leagues for me. His 12 runs scored lead the majors (yes, I know it’s mid-April) and he’s stolen two bases in the Giants’ first 10 contests this season, after seeing his stolen base total—29 as recently as the 2012 season—dwindle all the way down to just 12 steals in 133 games last season. If Pagan’s legs are healthy, he should continue to see regular playing time in left field and post a batting average similar to his career .281 mark, which paired with a boatload of runs scored and 20 or more steals would make him very similar in value to his teammate in the San Francisco outfield, Denard Span, who was ranked no. 220 on Bret Sayre and Mike Gianella’s top 300 prior to the year.
15-Team Mixed Leagues
Hector Olivera’s removal from the Braves roster has cleared a path for Garcia to receive regular at-bats in the middle of the Atlanta order, as left-handed hitters Kelly Johnson and Jace Peterson, who figured to eat into Garcia’s playing time at third base, could see plenty of time in left field in Olivera’s absence. Garcia has primarily hit in the cleanup spot (behind Freddie Freeman) in the Braves order to start the year and the 31-year old has walked in 13.9 percent of his plate appearances this season after walking in just 2.5 percent of his 198 plate appearances in 2015, his rookie season. Garcia will struggle to replicate his .220 isolated power output from his rookie campaign, but has enough power to supply 15-20 home runs with a batting average in the .270-.280 range if he receives 500 or more plate appearances, which seems likely with Olivera out of the picture.
The fragile Saunders has managed to make his way onto the field and in the Toronto starting lineup for eight of the team’s first 10 games, and he’s taken advantage of the regular playing time while hitting primarily in the sixth spot in the Blue Jay order, posting a .310 AVG to start the year and getting on base at a cool .375 clip in his first 32 plate appearances. Saunders has only attempted one steal this season, and if he is able to recapture a portion of the stolen-base prowess that he showed in his Mariner days (while keeping himself on the field), he could be a solid, low-cost, power/speed option with a bit of upside in deeper leagues. Enjoy the ride while he’s healthy and be prepared to jump on Dalton Pompey if (when) Saunders hits the disabled list. —J.J. Jansons
MIXED LEAGUE PITCHERS
12-Team Mixed Leagues
I had originally penciled in rotation-mate Vincent Velasquez (who was available in over 60 percent of ESPN leagues prior to his last outing) but after pitching a complete-game shutout with 16 strikeouts against the Padres yesterday, I’m confident you don’t need me to sell you on his upside. Instead, let’s focus on Eickhoff, who is currently available in over 90 percent of ESPN leagues, and coming off a sterling outing in his own right.
Since his inclusion in the Cole Hamels trade that sent him to Philadelphia last summer, the 25-year-old right-hander owns a 2.43 ERA (2.21 DRA) with 61 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 63 innings over 10 career starts. The secret to his success is a devastating curveball, which generated a 41 percent whiffs-per-swing rate last season, putting it on par with Jose Fernandez and Clayton Kershaw’s formidable hooks. With a matchup at home against the Mets on tap for early next week, he’s worthy of a pickup even in shallow formats.
Over his last six starts, Hill owns a 1.91 ERA (0.77 WHIP) with 49 strikeouts and just seven walks over 37.2 innings. Aside from his bizarre Opening Day start (filling in unexpectedly for an ill Sonny Gray) in which he lasted just 2 2/3 innings, Hill has stuck out at least 10 batters in four of his other five starts over the past two seasons.
Despite those stellar numbers, the 36-year-old is currently owned in just 12 percent of ESPN leagues. Given his age, improbable rise and small sample size of starts, fantasy owners have been hesitant to fully invest in Hill, but he’s been worth the risk so far. Hill will face a stiff test against the Royals at home in his next outing, and if he excels, his stock will rise exponentially. This isn’t a fluke.
15-Team Mixed Leagues
The 25-year-old tossed five scoreless innings while striking out six A’s in his 2016 debut, filling in for an injured Andrew Heaney, earlier this week. This isn’t his first rodeo either. Tropeano was effective in a brief eight-game (seven start) stretch to close out last season, posting a 3.82 ERA while striking out nearly over a batter per inning. With an arsenal comprised primarily of a four-seam, slider, changeup, and occasional splitter, his effectiveness is tied to mixing speeds, locations and keeping hitters off-balance with a delivery that has plenty of funk.
He doesn’t possess the tantalizing upside fantasy owners covet, which is why he’s available in 98 percent of ESPN leagues. However, if streamed properly, exclusively in matchups that feature either a spacious pitchers parks that favors his fly-ball tendencies or against lineups that lack a powerful left-handed presence in the heart of the order, Tropeano has the potential to be a solid back-end of a rotation asset moving forward.
Kansas City Star beat writer Rustin Dodd reported that Herrera could be in line for more appearances in the eighth inning, with veteran Joakim Soria working the seventh inning, in the near future. That’s a big deal, especially with how shaky Wade Davis has looked (command-wise) so far. It’s also indicative of just how well Herrera has pitched dating back to last September, when he coincidentally added a slider to his repertoire. He’s pitched five scoreless innings while striking out eight to open up the 2016 campaign. Even if he doesn’t get an opportunity to close, Herrera is right up there with Dellin Betances as one of the games elite middle relievers. –George Bissell
Ramirez popped his first home run of the 2016 season on Wednesday against the Rays, and did so while making his first start of the year at third base, after making 12 starts there last season. Ramirez has started four games this season in left field and began the year with eligibility at shortstop and second base. If Ramirez continues to see time in the outfield, he has a good chance to equal the 355 plate appearances that he received in 2015, and that could be plenty enough playing time for the switch-hitter to hit 5-8 home runs and steal 15 or more bases, which isn’t sexy, but would provide nice value from a MI slot and if 37-year old Juan Uribe isn’t able to stay on the field, he could work his way into the lineup more frequently in 2016. —J.J. Jansons
Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Atlanta Braves
The 28-year-old former Rockies ace dominated in his Braves debut, firing six shutout innings, allowing just five hits while striking out eight Nationals earlier this week. He’s overcome the shoulder woes that plagued him the past two seasons, and the addition of a cutter during a brief stint with Arizona last year, has led to a substantial uptick in both strikeouts and groundballs. There isn’t huge fantasy upside here, but the combination of a spacious home park and a slate of weaker NL-East lineups, should make Chacin an excellent spot starter in NL-only formats going forward.
The southpaw shook off a rocky first outing to fan nine Mets over six shutout frames in his second start of the season earlier this week. The 25-year-old will face a much stiffer test in his next start against Washington, but he warrants consideration as a mix-and-match spot starter in the right matchups (facing lineups without elite right-handed punch in Marlins Park) in mono-leagues.
Seung-Hwan Oh, RP, St. Louis Cardinals
The “Final Boss” has proven to be a formidable challenge in his first exposure to major-league hitters. The 33-year-old’s ERA remains unblemished after five appearances and he’s struck out nine of the 18 batters he’s faced in a Cardinal uniform. In NL-only leagues, Oh is going to provide enough value in the rate stat departments to be valuable, even if he fails to save a game this season. He’s currently available in 96 percent of ESPN leagues. –George Bissell