Fantasy Baseball is off its axis. How else to explain why we’ve talked about a Rockies pitcher in a good light thus far? At the risk of being labeled daffy, this column suggested buying in on Tyler Chatwood early last month; those who didn’t laugh and invested now have a young arm who is on track to becoming just the ninth pitcher in the franchise’s history to be named to the National League All-Star team.
We’re going double or nothing this week, as the prospect of a regime change at the closer’s position in Colorado could be a boon for owners who find themselves looking for saves on the waiver wire as June rolls along:
Carlos Estevez, P, Rockies: Beginner’s luck my a…let’s just this rookie has found a hot spot since replacing the injured Jake McGee, whose 4.97 ERA and 1.58 WHIP (along with a decreasing strikeout rate) has been a stiff price to ante up for 15 saves. Estevez has saves in each of his last three appearances and did not allow a baserunner in that span. He’s gone from deep, deep cover in most leagues to becoming owned in nearly 17 percent of those polled. Left knee inflammation is likely to keep McGee sidelined for the next couple of weeks, yet already there are hints he may not have the closer’s role when he returns.
Estevez saved 24 games in three minor league stops last season, averaging over 11 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s currently whiffing hitters at a 9.2 K/9 rate, a sharp contrast to the 6.2 K/9 McGee was mustering. I say hold on to Estevez even when McGee returns, as his 96.8 mph heat and 1.12 WHIP suggests a change of watch in the very near future.
Shawn Kelley, P, Nationals: Those who play in leagues where middle relievers have significant value already know about Kelley, who averages 13.1 K/9 to go along with a teenie tiny 0.84 WHIP. With Jonathan Papelbon shipped to the DL with a painfully-slow-to-recover intercostal strain, Kelley made the most of his closer’s audition by fanning four Cubs over 1.2 innings to record his first save of the season on Monday night. Owned in over 16 percent of polled leagues, Kelley should remain the first option for Dusty Baker, but the Nats’ manager
mentioned he could go with both Kelley and Felipe Rivero, who has a team-best 12 holds to go along with an 11.9 K/9 rate. I think Kelley will get the bulk of the saves while Papelbon is on the dry dock and should continue to have value in deeper mixed leagues once Paps and his cheery disposition returns to the bullpen.
Tommy Joseph, 1B, Phillies: I briefly touched on him shortly after his recall last month. He’s worth a reset now that the Phils are committed to Joseph as their everyday starter at first. The former catcher (who still has eligibility at the position in a majority of leagues) has seven homers in his first 85 ABs, which translates to one glorious trot around the bases every 12.1 trips to the plate. I’ll be honest: the 17 percent of owners who currently have Joseph on their roster didn’t do so for his plate discipline, as he has just two walks and a .272 OBP. Nicknamed “The Scorpion,” Joseph does leave a lasting sting on pitchers when he does connect. So long as he’s playing the role of a poor man’s Adam Duvall, Joseph and his 20-homer potential would make a nice home for the type of owner who got burned with the likes of Jose Abreu or Tyler White.
Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox: The latest in what will be a tidal wave of debuts for prospects at his position, Anderson went 6 for 16 with two doubles and a triple during a three-game set versus the Tigers, which helped raise his ownership to just over 14 percent in polled leagues. Anderson’s calling card is his speed (11 swipes in 55 games in Triple-A), which is why owners can’t wait for manager Robin Ventura to give him the green light. He’s worth the pickup if you’re in need of middle infield help, yet don’t expect a power display (.409 slugging percentage at Triple-A).
The tidal wave is real. As Super 2 eligibility comes and goes, Anderson will be followed by fellow shortstops J.P. Crawford (Phillies), Orlando Arcia (Brewers) and Trea Turner (Nationals), while Dansby Swanson (Braves) and Alex Bregman (Astros) could possibly make their big league debuts. What a time to be alive.
Peter O’Brien, OF, Diamondbacks: There was a great sense of joy at Chez Williams upon learning the #FreePeterOBrien revolution gained its victory when the D’Backs finally brought him up after he spent much of the first two months battering Triple-A pitching. His first (and, as of now, only) hit came on Sunday, when he mashed a 433-foot rocket into the left field stands. He’s scuffling right now, which is why now is a good time to make a quiet investment in O’Brien, currently owned in just under four percent of polled leagues. The power is real and once he settles into a comfort zone, O’Brien shapes as a player who could still hit 15-18 homers this season with a batting average in the .250-.260 zone. He’s more NL-only/deeper mixed league at this time, yet I feel O’Brien will be a good pickup in most standard leagues soon.
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Marlins: All Hail the King of Hits. Seriously, when you take a deeper look into what Suzuki has accomplished in his professional baseball career, it’s at that moment you realize he truly is one of the greatest players of all-time. (Writer’s note: What the hell have we become as a country when racist imbeciles with too much time and too little common sense choose to spew their idiocy at Suzuki rather than celebrate his historic accomplishment? It’s peons like that that make me wonder if we should tighten social media laws to keep the humanoids and Chuds offline). At age 42, Suzuki’s playing time has increased of late, and while you’re getting zero power out of him, he’s still hitting the ball at a .349 clip and has six steals to boot. Owned in just over four percent of polled leagues, his bat is going to continue rattling off hits as he begins to close in on 3,000 career knocks in the majors, so deeper leaguers would be wise to put the Human Hit Machine on their radar.
Tim Lincecum, P, Angels: He’s baaaaccccckkkkk. “The Freak” makes his Halos debut this Saturday versus the Athletics, and while no one is expecting Lincecum to revert to the 2008-09 run which netted him 33 wins, 522 strikeouts and a pair of NL Cy Young awards with the Giants, his rise in ownership — 11 percent in polled leagues — suggests there’s enough of us buying into the belief he’s still got something left. On the cool, I have no idea what to expect, yet the 2.65 ERA in 17 innings at Triple-A and the fact there are no pitch/innings limit on Lincecum tells me to roll toward the side of pleasant surprise. His strikeout rate has declined each year since 2012, falling to a career-low 7.1 last season, yet if the control is there, I’d take a shot on him. Lincecum is low-risk with a reasonable chance at an above-average reward, so I’d suggest watching on Saturday and make your decision from there.
Matt Moore, P, Rays: His current 5.38 ERA is about as tough to look at as the season of 24 which became nothing more than Meet the Bauers (for the record, I’m down the 24 reset coming early next year), yet if Moore can avoid his fetish for giving up homers (1.64 HR/9….ouch), he can be a useful arm for those in need of a stopgap starter and/or a hurler with reasonable strikeout potential. Take away Moore’s four-bag blues, and you’ll see he’s pitching much better than the regretful 13-start effort he put up last year. His WHIP is down, yet it’s the 8.57 K/9 that intrigues me about his potential for the remainder of the season. Moore struck out 10 Astros last weekend, which is a sign that he’s becoming more confident in his stuff. Owned in 15 percent of polled leagues, my hunch tells me he’s got a breakout coming, so hop on the ground floor and grab him now.