My job asks me to see things before they happen (luckily, it doesn’t require me to do so), so every spring, as I do my pre-season research, I email old beat reporter friends, call the sharpest fantasy players I know, and IM my buddy in the scouting industry. The conversations with the scout are always the most interesting, because he’s sitting on a mountain of proprietary data that he’ll never let me see. Talking to him is like asking your dad about marijuana when you’re a teenager: You cannot appear too interested, and you cannot ask for specifics.
In March, I pried out the scout’s favorite sleeper pitcher, Garrett Richards, whom he said had “stuff too good to keep failing.” In this case, failing meant a 4.42 ERA over 230 career innings in the majors. Because of the track record, Richards went undrafted in mixed leagues, but I kept the scout’s words in mind and snapped Richards up in our Rotoworld staff league in April. He went on to post a 2.61 ERA and 164/51 K/BB ratio over 168 2/3 innings.
If you also owned Richards, we probably shared the same reaction on Wednesday when he crumpled to the Fenway Park grass screaming after his knee gave out on him. Turned out Richards shredded his patellar tendon. He underwent surgery on Friday and has been given a recovery timetable of six to nine months, which means mid-February to mid-May. The Angels are saying Richards will be ready to go for next season’s opener. The kid has the work ethic to make it happen, but we’ll have to hope his body’s regenerative powers are as impressive as his determination.
Los Angeles might turn to the trade market to replace Richards, but their management team is realistic about the odds of acquiring a hurler better than the flotsam they already have floating around with a week to go until the waiver deadline. So who will slot behind Jered Weaver, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago and C.J. Wilson? Cover your eyes, dear reader: Chris Volstad, Randy Wolf and Wade LeBlanc (promoted to replace Richards on the 25-man roster for now) appear to be the best three options (you’ll recall Tyler Skaggs is also done for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery). Fortunately, you don’t play in a 30-team fantasy league, so your waiver wire will have better options to choose from if you must replace Richards.
Personally, I signed Carlos Carrasco in the Rotoworld league to replace Richards. I’m in fourth-place in the Roto format, and it only pays out the champion, so I’m happy to roll the dice on Carrasco’s upside after a few good starts. Jimmy Nelson, a top-100 prospect last winter, is another upside play I like if you’re in a position where you have to make up ground. If you’re sitting atop your league and desire consistency, I’d sign somebody like Jason Vargas (a fly-ball pitcher throwing in front of the majors’ best outfield defense—by far) or Bartolo Colon. Richards’ teammate Shoemaker deserves a look if he’s still available in your league as well, as a sort of mid-point between those two groups.
- The Red Sox fought off a host of deep-pocketed suitors to reel in Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo on a seven-year, $72.5 million contract. The pact, worth more than Boston was willing to pay for Jose Abreu, runs through 2020. Castillo and his agency, though, were smartly able to get a player option in that last year, meaning he could void the $13.5 million salary and opt for free agency after the 2019 season, when he’ll be 32. Assuming his acclimation goes swimmingly, Castillo will be a very fun fantasy player to own for a long time, one of those power/speed guys rarely statistically shut out of a game. He had 68 steals between 2011-2013 in Cuba, and also awed scouts in a workout last month in Miami by combining a quick stroke with natural loft in his swing. This is a naturally gifted athlete with refined baseball skills. He has 30/30 upside, with the downside perhaps of a mediocre, second-division type starter. It’s unfair to expect Castillo to match the value of Abreu or Yasiel Puig or even teammate Yoenis Cespedes, but those expectations are natural after Castillo signed for more than all of them. Castillo will be shipped to the minors in the coming days. If he’s recalled at some point in September, it won’t be soon enough to help you in fantasy this season.
- The Angels acquired Gordon (it’s pronounced gor-DAWN) Beckham from the White Sox on Thursday for a player to be named later or cash. Beckham leaves Chicago as a repository of broken dreams. When he posted an .808 OPS as a rookie back in 2009, White Sox fans dreamed of having an offensive force at the keystone for the next decade. He never even cracked a .700 OPS again. Since 2010, Beckham has put up a sub-mediocre .240/.299/.359 slash line, good for a 78 OPS+. With second base prospects Carlos Sanchez, Micah Johnson and Marcus Semien ready to compete for the starting job, Chicago was reportedly going to release Beckham in the off-season. In that light, getting anything for him is an acceptable price (White Sox general manager Rick Hahn told reporters that the two clubs have agreed on a handful of PTBNL candidates, though he declined to name them; don’t expect any world-beaters). As for the Angels, Beckham will be used as a backup to Howie Kendrick and David Freese. Beckham’s limited fantasy value has evaporated.
- Yan Gomes suffered a concussion on Thursday when he was struck by a foul tip. Indians manager Terry Francona told the media immediately after the game that Gomes was feeling better, and the catcher himself reported the same improvement, but Cleveland didn’t want to take any chances with the promising backstop and placed him on the 7-day concussion DL on Saturday. The Indians acquired catcher Chris Gimenez from the Rangers for cash considerations later in the day to serve as depth while Gomes recovers. Roberto Perez is Cleveland’s other catcher. Hurry back, Yan!
- It’s starting to look like Brandon Belt might miss the rest of the season with his own concussion issues. Skipper Bruce Bochy says he thinks Belt will be able to come back by the end of next month, but Belt has been told to rest for the next two-and-a-half weeks. By the time he’s able to test out his swing, the minor league schedule will be over and the Giants will have an interesting decision to make: Will they rush Belt back without a rehab assignment?
- There’s still no timetable for Yu Darvish’s return from a barking elbow, and he still hasn’t resumed throwing. At this point, the Rangers, who are competing for nothing more than the No. 1 overall pick, would be best served shutting down the ace.
- Speaking of shutting down, the Nationals did just that with stud SP prospect Lucas Giolito. Don’t worry, reader—no complications from his Tommy John elbow surgery to report, just an organization being cautious with a prized hurler to limit his workload. Giolito, one of the minors’ elite pitchers, collected a promising 2.20 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 110/28 K/BB ratio over 98 innings at Low-A Hagerstown. He won’t make his debut until 2016, but Giolito will give the Nats another top-of-the-rotation starter at that time, assuming his body cooperates.
- Wil Myers returned from the 60-day disabled list last week after missing nearly three months with a wrist fracture. I still love Myers’ long-term prognosis in dynasty formats, but I wouldn’t start him in mixed leagues at the moment. He has two hits in four games since coming back—one was a homer—and struggled mightily prior to the injury. If you’re gunning for a championship, you’re better off plugging in a more consistent outfielder as opposed to praying Myers gets his timing back.
- Kevin Quackenbush earned the first save of his career on Wednesday because Joaquin Benoit’s balky shoulder rendered the veteran inactive for the night. Benoit is apparently feeling good enough to return to the mound, but we haven’t seen him back yet. Quackenbush imploded and was slapped with the loss Saturday against the Diamondbacks.