12-Team Mixed Leagues (Must be available in at least 50 percent of ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS leagues)
Ryan Zimmerman—Nationals (available: 45% ESPN, 48% Yahoo, 32% CBS)
What more do you need to see? He’s healthy, firmly entrenched in the fifth spot in the Nationals lineup (behind Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy), and is hitting .380/.426/.720 with four homers, 11 RBI and a stolen base through 14 games. The 32-year-old’s omnipresent health concerns are the lone bugaboo in his profile. However, if he’s on the field, he’s going to produce. Zimmerman is long gone in deeper mixed leagues, but he still may be floating around in shallow formats right now. You know what to do. Ride the hot streak.
Corey Dickerson—Rays (available: 52% ESPN, 59% Yahoo, 47% CBS)
On the heels of a disappointing debut in Tampa Bay last year, Dickerson has re-established himself as a viable mixed league option, hitting .322/.365/.576 with three home runs in just 63 plate appearances this season. Not only has his recent surge at the plate solidified a permanent role as the Rays leadoff man versus right-handed pitching, but it also makes him an extremely valuable commodity in daily transaction leagues. There isn’t tremendous upside in any category besides home runs, but if the Rays are going to utilize him almost exclusively as a righty-mashing specialist at the top of their lineup, he’s worthy of a roster spot in shallow mixers as a potential top-40 outfielder.
Chase Headley—Yankees (available: 52% ESPN, 43% Yahoo, 47% CBS)
I get it. There is nothing attractive about Headley. He’s essentially treaded water for the last 2 1/2 seasons in the Bronx, settling in as a .260 hitter with low-teens power and zero speed. There’s no reason to believe that Headley, who turns 33 next month, will sustain this level of near-elite performance over a full season. However, we must acknowledge that he’s one of the hottest hitters in the game right now and still available in nearly half of all fantasy leagues. Not only is he hitting .396/.500/.646 with three home runs and three steals, but he’s walked just as many times as he’s struck out (10) in 58 plate appearances this season. He’s also been moved up to the second spot in the Yankees lineup, which should benefit his counting stats in the short term. Third base is incredibly deep, but there’s no reason that Headley should still be out there in this many leagues.
Jason Vargas—Royals (available: 35% ESPN, 28% Yahoo, 30% CBS)
Last call. The 34-year-old southpaw was available in 90 percent of fantasy leagues across all board when he was featured in Free Agent Watch a week ago. The dynamite fastball and changeup combination was on full display in his most recent start against San Francisco, where he fired seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and striking out nine. Per BP’s PITCHf/x leaderboards, Vargas’ changeup has generated the fourth-highest swing rate (63.22 percent) and sixth-most whiffs-per-swing (47.27 percent) of any starter this season. It still feels like the southpaw’s recent hot streak is the byproduct of smoke and mirrors, but he’s going to benefit from an extremely favorable home park and tremendous defensive support. There’s a lot to like here in the short term.
Andrew Triggs—Athletics (available: 75% ESPN, 56% Yahoo, 42% CBS)
I’m a big proponent of spending FAAB dollars aggressively in the first month of the season and I’ve found myself dishing out exorbitant sums on the 28-year-old right-hander. Through three starts, Triggs has not allowed an earned run (three runs total) on just 11 hits and four walks, while striking out nine. The sidewinder is exceptionally tough on right-handed batters, limiting them to a .240/.282/.357 career line, has displayed pinpoint control (2.1 career BB/9), and owns a sterling 57 percent ground-ball rate this season. The strikeouts haven’t been there so far and I question how much upside there really is with Triggs, but he’s been exceptional out of the gate. If you’re considering him, this may be your last opportunity to do so.
15-Team Mixed Leagues (must be available in at least 75 percent of ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS leagues)
Trey Mancini—Orioles (available: 77% ESPN, 79% Yahoo, 63% CBS)
The 25-year-old has ascended to the top spot in the Orioles loaded lineup after hitting four home runs in 29 plate appearances. I’m not entirely sold on Mancini, who hit just 13 home runs and struck out 123 times in 483 plate appearances in Triple A last summer, but in deeper formats the playing time opportunity he’s being afforded at the moment is intriguing enough for me to be willing to roll the dice. There’s a high degree of probability that his propensity to strike out gets exploited by major-league pitchers over time, but if he can hit for enough pop to offset that deficiency in his profile, he will have at least some value in deeper formats.
Taylor Motter—Mariners (available: 94% ESPN, 88% Yahoo, 86% CBS)
It’s difficult to envision the 27-year-old infielder as a true “breakout” candidate, but he’s already hit more home runs (three) in 39 plate appearances than he did all of last season (two dingers in 93 PA). It’s too early to dub him a launch angle disciple, but he’s increased his fly ball rate from 37 percent a year ago, to nearly 46 percent this season. That trend gives him a chance to hit double-digit home runs if he garners enough playing time. The multi-position eligibility makes it easier to find a place for him in a fantasy lineup and it gives him an easier path to regular playing time when Jean Segura returns as the everyday shortstop next week. If the Mariners elect to leave Dan Vogelbach marinating in Triple-A, it’s not unrealistic to forecast Motter syphoning away at-bats against right-handed pitching from Danny Valencia at first base. In deeper formats where the waiver wire is a dystopian wasteland, he’s someone to at least monitor closely on your fantasy radar.
Robert Gsellman—Mets (available: 86% ESPN, 77% Yahoo, 36% CBS)
Judging by his paltry ownership numbers in ESPN and Yahoo leagues, there’s a strong probability that Gsellman was cut after a pair of dreadful outings against the Marlins (11 runs over 9 2/3 innings) to open up the 2017 campaign. The 23-year-old right-hander rebounded with a strong performance against the floundering Phillies lineup earlier this week, allowing just three runs on six hits and one walk while striking out seven.
It’s hardly a coincidence that the uptick in Gsellman’s performance against Philadelphia coincided with an increased reliance on his 94 mph sinker. The strikeouts (10.2 K/9) have been there all season, but command of his impressive arsenal has wavered at times, causing him to get hit hard. Gsellman was one of my pre-season darlings, so you don’t need me to sell you on him at this point. If he continues to lean on the sinker, his results will continue to improve. If he’s available (for reasons that frankly pass understanding) stop reading and go pick him up right now.
Chad Kuhl—Pirates (available: 91% ESPN, 93% Yahoo, 72% CBS)
I vividly recall a conversation I had last summer with a Pirates source at a Triple-A game in Pawtucket last summer. Upon hearing that I was working on a piece for BP about Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow he informed me, “Chad Kuhl is the guy you should be writing about.” That stuck with me. It’s one of my biggest regrets that I brushed it off as hyperbole at the time because the 24-year-old has more than held his own (3.89 ERA) at the major-league level in 17 career starts.
After issuing six walks in his season debut against Atlanta, Kuhl rebounded with back-to-back stellar outings on the road against Boston and St. Louis, allowing just three earned runs on eight hits and one walk, while racking up nine strikeouts over 12 1/3 innings. Kuhl will face yet another tough test in his next start against the Cubs, but if he survives, he won’t be available in this many leagues. The low-strikeout ceiling (6.9 K/9 in 88 career innngs) limits his ultimate fantasy upside, but Kuhl is shaping up to be a back-end of a fantasy rotation anchor in deep mixed leagues.
AL/NL-only Leagues (must be available in at least 95 percent of ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS leagues)
Brad Peacock—Astros (Available: 98% ESPN, 95% Yahoo, 97% CBS
I’m a sucker for low-leverage middle relievers, especially in mono-formats. Peacock, who has spun 7 2/3 scoreless frames while posting an 11:2 strikeout to walk ratio, is the latest specimen to catch my eye. He’s induced an eye-popping 21 swinging strikes from the 26 batters he’s faced this season. His swinging strike rate (19.8 percent) would be the highest of any pitcher in baseball with at least 10 innings this season. That’s what happens when you come in out of the pen and throw more sliders at the competition than White Castle.
Cody Reed—Reds (available: 99% ESPN, 98% Yahoo, 92% CBS)
The 24-year-old southpaw will make his first start of the season against the Cubs on Saturday. I wouldn’t advocate using him in that brutal matchup, even in NL-only formats, but it’s worth noting that Reed has been stellar out of the bullpen so far this season. He has not allowed a hit in four appearances while posting an 8:4 strikeout to walk ratio. The vastly improved control is arguably the most important development in his profile. He’s always had a nasty slider, but ended up getting crushed (7.36 ERA in 10 starts last season) when he consistently fell behind opposing hitters and was forced to groove fastballs out over the plate. If his fastball command holds, it gives him a shot to transform into an elite late-inning reliever or a viable rotation option, making him an intriguing lottery ticket either way.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now