Things can change in a hurry in the early part of the season. My Rotoworld colleague Ryan Boyer put it perfectly writing about Rays outfielder Austin Meadows yesterday. At the start of this week’s series against the White Sox, he was batting just .235/.316/.441 on the year. But after a couple of huge games, he’s now up to .349/.429/.674 overall. On a similar vein, Daniel Vogelbach wasn’t on the mind of most fantasy owners even one week ago, but after amassing four homers with four doubles and four walks over his last five games, he’s already rostered in 56 percent of Yahoo leagues. You guys move fast.
In case it wasn’t already obvious, I really wanted an excuse to talk about Vogelbach here since I can’t recommend him within the column due to his current ownership level. Going into his age-26 season, it’s high time that we find out what he is. He’s been blocked by Nelson Cruz at the major league level in recent seasons, but the Mariners should be doing what they can to find out that answer.
The plate discipline has always been there for Vogelbach and the raw power is apparent. And while it’s a small sample, it’s certainly encouraging to see how things are trending in regard to his hard-hit percentage and average exit velocity. Of course, it’s a bit tricky with guys like Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion in the fold, but I can understand why fantasy owners are shooting for the upside here. Josh Bell (Yahoo: 54 percent rostered) fits in a similar category, though his playing time should be more stable with the Pirates. I like them both, though.
Have specific questions on your roster? Ask @djshort on Twitter.
(Players rostered in under 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Percentages are from the morning of Thursday, April 11th
Gregory Polanco OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 45 percent rostered)
It’s time to think about some potential stashes on the injured list. Coming back from surgery to repair a dislocation and labrum tear in his left shoulder, Polanco stands out as the best widely-available option. After testing himself in extended spring training, he progressed to an official minor league rehab assignment on Sunday. There’s still progress to be made here as he ramps things up, but he’s on track to return to the Pirates by the end of the month. After putting up 23 homers, 81 RBI, 12 steals, 75 runs scored, and a career-best .839 OPS (128 OPS+) last year, he’s well worth waiting for in mixed leagues.
Max Fried SP/RP, Braves (Yahoo: 45 percent rostered)
The Braves have a bunch of interesting young starters, but Fried is making his case to jump to the top of the list. The 25-year-old southpaw has been awesome in his first two starts with the Braves this season, allowing just an unearned run on six hits with a 9/1 K/BB ratio in 12 innings. He’s also inducing a bunch of grounders. The perfect game bid against the Cubs got plenty of attention, but that he handled the Rockies in Coors Field in his most recent start might have been more impressive. Fried throws in the mid-90s with his fastball and features a nasty curveball, so there’s plenty to like here. Control issues and workload questions aside, he’s shown enough to be a priority add.
Michael Pineda SP, Twins (Yahoo: 28 percent rostered)
Hey, remember him? Recovered from Tommy John surgery, Pineda is back in the majors as a member of the Twins’ rotation and has looked good so far with two runs allowed in nine innings and a 10/2 K/BB ratio. His velocity was up sharply in his second start and he’s already getting plenty of whiffs on his slider. The Twins will surely handle him with care in his first season back, but he’s shown enough in the past to be worthy of a flier in most mixed leagues. This is a good time to give him a spin, as the Tigers are up next for him.
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Jesse Winker OF, Reds (Yahoo: 35 percent rostered)
Winker was dropped in a bunch of leagues after getting off to a slow start, but he’s turned things on over the past couple of days by homering in back-to-back games. He slugged a go-ahead blast in Tuesday’s win over the Marlins. And really, it was silly to let a handful of games sway your opinion on Winker, anyway. He’s really interesting. The 25-year-old owns a strong .286/.383/.449 batting line with 16 homers through his first 147 games in the majors. The power upside has been uncertain, but his plate discipline isn’t. He draws walks, doesn’t strike out, and should continue to see opportunities out of the leadoff spot in Cincinnati’s lineup. I know there’s some potential playing time issues at play here, but get on board now if he was dropped in your league.
Kevin Kiermaier OF, Rays (Yahoo: 25 percent rostered)
It’s a big week for outfielder recommendations, apparently. With Kiermaier, we pretty much know what we’re getting. Injuries have been a constant for him in recent years, so I certainly wouldn’t bank on having him on my roster all season, but he’s healthy right now and producing too. Through 12 games, he’s hitting .282/.341/.564 with six extra-base hits (including two homers), two steals, and nine runs scored while mostly hitting sixth in the Rays’ lineup. I’m willing to give him a partial mulligan for what we saw last season, but he’s not far removed from being a useful outfielder in most fantasy formats.
Tyler Skaggs SP, Angels (Yahoo: 47 percent rostered)
I don’t understand why Skaggs is so widely-available at the moment. Last year’s second half combined with a nagging groin injury might have left some fantasy owners feeling burned, but the southpaw still finished with a solid 4.02 ERA and 129/40 K/BB ratio over 125 1/3 innings. His peripherals indicated that he deserved better on the whole. And while he dealt with a forearm issue in the spring, he’s begun this year with three runs allowed and a 7/2 K/BB ratio in 11 innings through two starts. He should be rostered when healthy and started with confidence this weekend against the Cubs.
Clint Frazier OF, Yankees (Yahoo: 33 percent rostered)
With Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton sidelined, Frazier has received an opportunity in the Yankees’ lineup in recent days and has capitalized by hitting .321 (9-for-28) with three homers and 10 RBI over his first eight games. The 24-year-old likely would have already been established as a major league regular in a different situation, but he’s been largely blocked with the Yankees and he also missed a bunch of time last season due to concussion issues. The talent has always been there, so it’s great to see him back on track health-wise. I think he’s worth a shot in mixed leagues, though his playing time figures to dry up once Hicks and Stanton are recovered. Enjoy it for now, though.
Jorge Polanco SS, Twins (Yahoo: 25 percent rostered)
I was weighing multiple options here (and will hopefully still be able to mention those other players in future weeks), but ultimately settled on Polanco following a big week in which he hit for the cycle and had a three-hit game with a homer. The 25-year-old switch-hitter was solid after returning from an 80-game PED suspension last year, posting a .288/.345/.427 batting line with six homers, 42 RBI, seven steals, and 38 runs scored over 77 games. He’s the regular No. 2 hitter in a pretty good Twins lineup and should deliver double-digit homers and steals while scoring a bunch of runs. He also makes a good amount of contact, so the batting average should be there. We’re mostly talking about middle infielder material here in mixed leagues, but he’s useful across the board.
Domingo German SP, Yankees (Yahoo: 48 percent rostered)
Reality is setting in that the Yankees are going to be without ace Luis Severino for a long time, possibly through the All-Star break. Already sidelined with a rotator cuff injury, Severino will be shut down for another six weeks with a Grade 2 strain of his right lat. This means that German should receive an extended opportunity in New York’s rotation. The 26-year-old has taken advantage of easy matchups so far (Tigers, Orioles) to notch two wins while allowing three runs (two earned) with 10 strikeouts in 11 innings of work. The upcoming matchups are pretty favorable too with the White Sox, Royals, and Angels on tap. Homers and walks got him in trouble as a starter last year, but with the way he misses bats, it’s easy to see the upside too.
Merrill Kelly SP, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 11 percent rostered)
After Miles Mikolas found success in his return to the states last season, the Diamondbacks inked Kelly a two-year, $5.5 million contract over the winter. A former prospect in the Rays organization, the 30-year-old right-hander upped his velocity during his four seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization while also improving his varied arsenal. It’s much too soon to make any broad judgments about where this is going, but Kelly allowed three runs in six innings against the Padres in his debut before dominating the Red Sox last Sunday with eight-innings of one-run ball to go along with nine strikeouts and no walks. Yes, the Red Sox have been underwhelming so far, but Kelly has my attention in deeper formats.