Late Tuesday night, the baseball world learned that the Astros were promoting prospect George Springer from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Not surprisingly, fantasy owners moved quickly and decisively to the waiver wire to scoop up the five-tool outfielder. As of this column, he's owned in 66 percent of Yahoo leagues. That's a higher ownership level than the likes of Ben Revere, Michael Brantley, Chase Headley, and Michael Bourn. Word moves fast, especially when there's something new and exciting on the way.
You won't find Springer in my recommendations below, because he's already owned in over 50 percent of leagues. Also, it should be obvious that he's worth a flier in all formats. I'm a bit concerned about his ability to make contact, but we're talking about someone who had 37 home runs and 45 stolen bases in 135 games last season between Double- and Triple-A. That kind of power-speed potential doesn't come along often.
On merit, Springer should have been on Houston's Opening Day roster, but they held him back just long enough so that he won't qualify for a full year of major league service time. He'll still be in line to qualify for arbitration early as a Super Two, but the Astros will have him under team control through 2020. This gaming of the system happens everywhere, but it's notable in this case, as the Astros reportedly offered Springer a seven-year, $23 million extension last September. He turned it down, fully aware that it would delay his path to the majors. But if he plays to his potential, it could pay off big for him in the long run.
There's an excitement to this call-up and we'll feel the same way when big name prospects like Archie Bradley, Gregory Polanco, and Noah Syndergaard (health-willing) make their way to the majors this year, but there's something wrong about a system that is so obviously motivated by money over merit and putting the most talented players on the field. Here's hoping we see some tweaks to the system down the road. In the meantime, below are my pickups for the week.
Have specific questions about your team? Ask @djshort on Twitter.
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Jesse Chavez SP/RP, Athletics (Yahoo: 49 percent owned)
I'll admit I was skeptical when I heard that injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin were going to push Chavez into the starting rotation. And why not, the 30-year-old entered this season with two major league starts to his name and a shaky track record. However, he has really impressed in the early going, posting a 2.46 ERA and 22/2 K/BB ratio in 20 innings through three starts. There's reason to believe that this might not be a fluke, as he's throwing strikes, inducing grounders, and getting plenty of whiffs with his cutter, changeup, and curveball. The cutter has really been the key to his emergence and this actually dates back to last season. Making half of his starts in the pitcher-friendly O.co Coliseum, he's mighty intriguing as a late bloomer. And he should have a good case to keep a rotation spot even after Griffin returns.
Hector Rondon RP, Cubs (Yahoo: 13 percent owned)
It's hard to imagine anyone having a worse start to the season than Jose Veras, so new Cubs manager Rick Renteria was forced to give him a rest from the closer role last weekend. My guess is they'll go back to Veras as soon as he shows signs of progress, as he could be a useful midseason trade chip, but Rondon and Pedro Strop are the best short-term options. Strop is widely viewed as the closer of the future for Chicago, but he hasn't been great either so far, so Rondon is where I would look. The 26-year-old has yet to give up a run in seven appearances this season and has the most recent save for the Cubbies.
Erick Aybar SS, Angels (Yahoo: 31 percent owned)
I know, I know. Aybar disappointed last year and is off to a slow start this year. But that's exactly why I like him right now. His slow start this year can be chalked up to some small sample BABIP (batting average on balls in play) noise and I'm optimistic we'll see him top 20 steals again if he can avoid all the leg issues he had last year. With Kole Calhoun out 4-6 weeks with a ligament sprain in his ankle, it's not impossible that Aybar could soon earn another chance near the top of the lineup. He's a solid MI (middle infielder) option at the very least, but there's always the potential for more.
Justin Morneau 1B, Rockies (Yahoo: 44 percent owned)
After signing a two-year, $12.5 million deal with the Rockies over the winter, Morneau is hitting .354 (17-for-48) with two home runs and three doubles through 14 games this season. It's worth noting that both of his home runs have come on the road thus far, but I'm mostly excited to see what he can do with a full season at hitter-friendly Coors Field. The 32-year-old hasn't hit more than 20 homers in a season since 2009, but that could change this year. He's worth having in a bench spot in most mixed leagues, so you can spot start him in home games.
Gregory Polanco OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 10 percent owned)
If you missed out on George Springer, don't fret. Keep an eye on this guy. Ranked as the game's No. 10 prospect by Baseball America this winter, Polanco is off to a red-hot start with Triple-A Indianapolis, hitting .426 (20-for-47) with six extra-base hits through 12 games. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, the 22-year-old offers pop and speed, as well as a refined approach at the plate. Travis Snider and Jose Tabata are holding down right field for now, but Polanco might be the next top position prospect to make his way to the majors. If you have the roster flexibility, the time to stash is now.
Archie Bradley SP, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 15 percent owned)
Bradley's agent isn't happy about it, but his client is still in the minors at the moment. Still, I'm wondering how much longer they can justify keeping him there. After booting Randall Delgado and Trevor Cahill to the bullpen in recent days, the Diamondbacks have inserted Josh Collmenter and Mike Bolsinger into their starting rotation. Arizona GM Kevin Towers has said that they don't want to Bradley to wear the pressure of being the savior for their floundering season, but are we really sure he can't be an upgrade for this staff? Bradley has frontline starter potential and can be called up right now without the risk of getting a full year of service time. It's going to happen sooner or later. Might as well think ahead if you have the bench space.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Robbie Erlin SP, Padres (Yahoo: 8 percent owned)
Erlin gave up three runs in just 4 2/3 innings Monday against the Rockies, but I still like what I have seen from him thus far. Known as an extreme strike-thrower in the minors, the 23-year-old has an impressive 14/1 K/BB ratio over his first 11 1/3 innings of work this season. The 23-year-old left-hander doesn't blow batters away, averaging just under 90 mph on his fastball, but he succeeds with movement and command. It doesn't hurt that his curveball is pretty good too. While he's a fly ball pitcher, that's less of a concern considering that he makes half of his starts at PETCO Park. With Josh Johnson potentially headed for Tommy John surgery, he should get a chance to stick in the rotation. Give him a try against the Giants at home on Sunday. He's an interesting sleeper this year.
Danny Espinosa 2B, Nationals (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
Now that Ryan Zimmerman is out 4-6 weeks with a fractured right thumb, Espinosa is suddenly interesting again in fantasy leagues. The 26-year-old had a season to forget last year while dealing with shoulder and wrist injuries, but he's finally healthy and should get regular starts at second base for now while Anthony Rendon slides over to third base. Espinosa owns a 27 percent strikeout rate in the majors, so the batting average won't be there, but his power-speed combo has proven useful for fantasy owners before. He's worth a shot if you need a middle infielder.
Josmil Pinto C, Twins (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
Pinto made the Opening Day roster as Kurt Suzuki's backup catcher, but the Twins have been giving him at-bats out of the designated hitter spot of late due to the injuries to Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia. The 25-year-old has shown power in a small sample in the majors and his production over the past two seasons in the minors would appear to back that up. He's worth using in two-catcher leagues for now and look for him to take playing time away from Suzuki as the season moves along. He's the future, after all.
Chris Young OF, Mets (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
Young started in left field for the Mets on Opening Day, but he ended up playing just one inning due to a strained quad and has been on the disabled list ever since. The good news is that he's back to 100 percent now and should be activated for Friday's series opener against the Braves. With Juan Lagares on the disabled list, he should get plenty of playing time. Young won't help you in the batting average department, but he can provide enough pop and speed to help in deeper formats.
Craig Gentry OF, Athletics (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Gentry began the season on the disabled list due to a lower back strain, but he was activated late last week and currently finds himself in a part-time role. With Josh Reddick struggling and Coco Crisp's injury history, there's always the chance for more playing time. Acquired from the Rangers during the offseason, Gentry owns a .281 batting average and a .357 on-base percentage for his career and is 57-for-67 in stolen base attempts dating back to the start of the 2011 season. He doesn't have much power to speak of, but he should be on your radar in deeper formats.
Daniel Webb RP, White Sox (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
Matt Lindstrom's blown save last night against the Red Sox wasn't as bad as it looked, as he was put in a very tough situation and actually allowed just one hit over two scoreless innings of work. Still, it's hard to see him as an ideal candidate for the ninth inning right now. While he still throws hard, the whiffs just aren't there. And while the ground ball rate is nice, weird things can happen when the ball is put into play. Maikel Cleto isn't throwing strikes and Nate Jones is on the disabled list with a muscle strain in his left hip, so Webb is the best option if you are in the mood to speculate. With his mid-90s fastball and hard slider, he might have the most upside out of this entire group. Keep in mind that he threw 59 pitches on Wednesday, so he'll probably need a couple of days off.
Jarrod Dyson OF, Royals (Yahoo: 1 percent)
I mentioned Lorenzo Cain in my column last week, but he left last night's game with a Grade 1 groin strain. While that the least severe type of strain, he could still be looking at a trip to the disabled list. Given his injury history, I probably should have known better. Sigh. Fantasy owners can at least take advantage of this situation, as Dyson figures to be in for more playing time in the short-term. That's good news if you need some speed in your lineup. Dyson has swiped 30-plus bases in each of the last two seasons and owns an 86 percent success rate for his career.
Nick Franklin 2B, Mariners (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
The Robinson Cano signing left Franklin without a position and he was forced to begin the year in the minors after losing out to Brad Miller for the starting shortstop job during spring training, but he's back with the big club now that Logan Morrison is on the disabled list with a hamstring strain. There's no clear spot for him right now, but Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon is trying to find ways to give his offense a jolt. Franklin was the DH on Wednesday and made the start at second base on Thursday while Cano served as the DH. It's worth noting that Franklin played some outfield during spring training, so he could also see some time in right field soon. Watch this situation closely, but Franklin has the ability to be useful in daily leagues.