Fantasy Baseball: Trevor Bauer, Yangervis Solarte, Jonathan Schoop

Playing time is the most difficult element to quantify in player projections. Performance is a determinant, and the rates of that aspect are just approximations, far from guarantees. Although one can estimate things like injuries and managerial decisions related to some players more easily than others, it’s virtually impossible to account for unexpected events.

The anticipation of changes in playing time based on known circumstances can be extremely useful for in-season team management, then, especially in deep leagues.

Bauer not far from promotion?

This can’t be what the Cleveland Indians or Fantasy owners expected from Danny Salazar: a 7.85 ERA and 1.95 WHIP through four starts (18 1/3 innings). He’s allowed 10 walks and five home runs. He hasn’t made it out of the fifth inning in any of his last three outings.

The Tribe may have only themselves to blame. They announced that the right-hander would face zero restrictions this season, more than three years after his Tommy John surgery date. Still, they babied Salazar in spring training, giving him only three major league exhibition starts (10 1/3 frames). Still, he was scheduled to take his first turn on April 4, without much buildup.

Some sort of change, whether it’s a demotion or a skipped turn or two, may be necessary in order to help the ultra-talented fire-baller to get on track.

This can’t be what the Indians or Fantasy owners hoped for from Carlos Carrasco: a 7.31 ERA and 1.69 WHIP through three starts (16 stanzas). He’s walked eight. He hasn’t completed six innings in any of his three outings.

The Tribe may have only themselves to blame. They announced that the right-hander had won the final rotation spot that was up for grabs in spring training. Still, he hadn’t proven that he deserved it, given that his exhibition results (16 Ks and only three walks, but a 5.17 ERA, in 15 1/3 innings) were mixed and Josh Tomlin was quite impressive. Still, Cleveland remains infatuated with his talent, and he’s out of options.

Some sort of change, whether it’s his move to the bullpen or a transaction, may be necessary in order to ensure that the club is running its best options out there on all five turns through the rotation.

The Indians, who expect to contend for a place in the postseason again, can’t continue this way well into May.

But they won’t designate Carrasco for assignment. He’s too talented and wouldn’t last on waivers. They may not want to use him in relief, either, because of their depth there. His indicators suggest much better results, so the club may be cautiously confident that his turnaround is coming. Plus, Salazar has options.

Hopes for Salazar were much higher, however. They offer no excuses for his outcomes, having already dismissed publicly his suggestion that he’s tipping pitches. Some time on the farm might be good for him. But they don’t seem to think it’d help. Besides, Carrasco excelled in relief last season, and he’s probably better suited to such a job rather than starting because of his questionable makeup.

Either way, they have an alternative in Trevor Bauer, the intelligent and highly skilled right-hander who’s pitching for Triple-A Columbus. His mechanics have been a work in progress since the Arizona Diamondbacks traded him to the organization as part of the three-team trade that also involved the Cincinnati Reds in December 2012. He appears to have hit on the right combination of the club’s tweaks and his personally developed delivery.

In three starts (18 2/3 frames) for the Clippers, Bauer has struck out 21 and walked only six. He made a spot start against the San Diego Padres on April 9, fanning eight, walking two and giving up only two runs (one earned) in six innings. Poor control has been his only roadblock – granted, a large one – to a permanent spot in the majors. He appears to be ready to bust through it.

This is a player to pick up and hold, even in some 12-team mixed leagues. Bauer’s strikeout potential is immense. He could post dominant rates for earned runs and base runners allowed. He has the type of stuff that allows him to excel in hit prevention. His day is coming, one way or another, in 2014.

Solarte won’t go quietly

Yangervis Solarte is owned in the majority of leagues across the universe of Fantasy baseball game hosts. A lot of folks are hoping that his time isn’t running out.

The New York Yankees seem to have struck gold with the January minor league deal for this infielder. He’s played in 20 of the Bronx Bombers’ 22 games, 19 of them starts. He’s batted .310/.395/.465, with a jack, 13 RBI and eight runs, in 81 plate appearances. But will Solarte keep it up?

Probably not. Solarte, 26, has generated a wOBA (.382) greater than any of the marks in that category he produced at any of his stops in his time with Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers farm teams. Basically, his MLB numbers in April are better than any of his numbers in the minors ever were. It’s possible that the Yanks timed his addition perfectly with this imminent, major breakthrough, but it’s unlikely.

But Solarte’s feats aren’t without merit. He was the top-rated six-year free agent available, according to one Bombers scout. He’s a lifetime .286 hitter, with a respectable .733 OPS, in the minor leagues. He posted a .429 average and 1.042 OPS in 42 spring-training ABs. His Baseball Prospectus PECOTA projection for the rest of the season (available on his player page): a .257 average, five home runs, one stolen base and a .671 OPS in 230 at-bats. Not bad, all things considered.

It’s conceivable that he outdoes the projection, too, based on several possible factors. In terms of his performance alone, Solarte has demonstrated noticeable improvement in plate discipline, an area in which the organization has long achieved. The switch hitter has proven to be adept in that aspect from both sides of the plate. He has a reputation as a tireless worker.

Playing time will almost certainly be available. Solarte can play at second, third or short. He’s already demonstrated more polish and upside than Dean Anna or Scott Sizemore, who are on the farm. Brendan Ryan’s projected early-May activation from the DL could complicate matters, but the 32-year-old’s only redeeming quality is his glove, and the Yankees have room. Even if Solarte is relegated to a stricter bench role, he could platoon with Kelly Johnson. And the health records and ages of Brian RobertsDerek Jeter and Mark Teixeira ensure that the youngster is never far from consequence.

Solarte’s case isn’t without holes, but he may have value for the balance of the season. It doesn’t hurt that the club’s hitting coach, Kevin Long, is one of the best; if Solarte slumps, it may be just a short-term affliction. Fantasy owners, even in deep mixed leagues, could have a solid, flexible reserve for the rest of the season.

Schoop’s shelf life remains short

The Baltimore Orioles will have a decision to make before they activate Manny Machado (recovering from knee surgery) from the disabled list.

Prospect Jonathan Schoop made the 25-man roster out of spring training and has hit well enough (.261/.282/.449, with two home runs, 10 RBI and eight runs, in 71 plate appearances) to be Fantasy relevant, even in some 12-team mixed leagues. But Schoop’s contributions at the dish are at risk, judging from his indicators, which include a contact rate of about 72 percent. It doesn’t help that, at 22, he trails Baltimore’s other infield options – Ryan Flaherty (27) and Steve Lombardozzi (25) – in experience.

Schoop is also behind Flaherty and Lombardozzi in terms of flexibility on defense, if only by a little. Flaherty strikes out frequently and has batted only .179, but he has a plus glove and has been Buck Showalter’s choice at shortstop whenever J.J. Hardy was unavailable. He also plays at second and third and can play in the outfield. The reliable Lombardozzi, who arrived from the Detroit Tigers in the preseason trade for Alex Gonzalez – boy, was that a gift – can back up at all those positions, too. Schoop has played a little SS in the minors, but Baltimore appears unready to trust him there in the bigs.

Another potential complication is the impending return of Rule 5 pick Michael Almanzar, who should be ready for activation from the DL around the same time as Machado. The Orioles probably want at least a short-term look at his intriguing bat before they offer him back to the Boston Red Sox. (He must spend all season on the 25-man roster, unless he’s on the DL.) Unless another health issue develops on the parent club, the O’s could hide him on the disabled list for as long as his rehab assignment will allow, but it may only delay the inevitable.

Machado is expected to be activated on the first weekend of May. The O’s have seven players on the 40-man roster who are out of options (plus three others on the 60-day DL), several of them pitchers but none of them the players discussed. A couple of those out of options probably won’t stick, but owners who have been starting Schoop should develop a contingency plan by their next FAAB period, regardless. If the league is deep enough that those fantasy managers can afford to keep him around, great. He appears to be the team’s eventual solution at second base, and after little more time at Triple-A Norfolk, he should be prepared for the job.