In a season full of hot rookie fill-in enigmas (so many that it has created its own category), there may not be a bigger one than Yasiel Puig. Tony Cingrani was great in his short stint, but he pitched every five days and was added to a team that was already playing pretty well. Jurickson Profar has been stellar so far, but he's probably looking at the upside of an Elvis Andrus.
Puig, meanwhile, has become the would-be savior for a moribund Dodgers team. An energetic player with a big bat and power arm, drawing comparisons to both Bo Jackson and Mike Trout. Puig is an easy-to-root-for rookie who stands in stark contrast to the underperforming outfield trio of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. Through his first two games, Puig delivered two home runs and an OPS of 2.125. He was more than what was advertised and the team has won both games in which he's played. He failed to record a hit in four at-bats in his third game Wednesday.
However, the fact remains that when Crawford and Kemp return from injury, there will be no room for Puig in the outfield. In fact, the most realistic scenario of keeping Puig on the major league roster involves the Dodgers eating $40 million of Ethier's contract in a fully hypothetical trade, a move that seems like a no-brainer to some Puig rooters.
We could go through the same exercise we did with Profar and Cingrani to map out the "How can he stay up?" scenarios (he must play well, someone has to get hurt, etc.), but it's essentially a waste of time. Puig will probably be owned in 100 percent of leagues a week from now, and he should be started as long as he's up. In a Puig update earlier this week, I wrote that I wouldn't drop Brett Gardner for him. I should have qualified that with, "in a deeper league." If I'm playing in a 12-team standard Head-to-Head Points league, I make that move. But in a 12-team Roto league with five outfielders, I'm holding onto my Gardner (while finding a lesser player -- probably a lower-end pitcher -- to drop for Puig). Even if he's sent back down to the minors because of a roster squeeze, Puig's worth an add and a start for as long as he's on the major league roster.I'd just rather be in the position of hoping for a long-term solution instead of depending on it.
The Big Leaps
Anthony Rendon, 3B, Nationals (42 percent ownership, up from 22 percent)
Speaking of Cingrani, Profar and Puig, meet Anthony Rendon, the billionth talented youngster to get a call to the majors as an injury replacement with no particular place to go once the injured player comes back -- earlier this season it was Ryan Zimmerman, this time it's Danny Espinosa.
Rendon has the advantage of Espinosa being out a little longer (we're guessing) than the players who opened up spots for Cingrani, Profar and Puig -- Espinosa started the year with a tear in his shoulder and currently is out with a broken wrist. It's incredible that he was trying to play through both of those injuries, but the end result was an ugly line for Espinosa and a door swinging open for Rendon. And for Fantasy players wondering if Espinosa will just rest for a couple weeks and then return, I give you this quote from GM Mike Rizzo, via the Washington Post :
"We thought it was a prudent thing to get [Espinosa] healthy and see where he's at, and see if he can help us later on in the season."
The use of "later on" is a bit ominous. Rizzo also suggested Espinosa could return to a minor-league role when healthy, to work on his timing and rhythm. This leaves Rendon with a pretty wide-open future with the team, as opposed to his first go-round, when Davey Johnson reminded everyone more than once that it was just a fill-in role while Zimmerman was out.
Rendon's main contribution will probably come from his batting average. He has some power, but not a lot of speed. In the Washington lineup, he should score plenty of runs while getting the chance to drive in a bunch. And with regular at-bats at second base, Rendon should get eligibility there by early next week at the latest. While he shares future eligibility (2B, 3B) with fellow rookie Jedd Gyorko, I think Rendon is better compared to someone like Neil Walker -- some power potential and a good bet to hit for average.
Over/under on at-bats (season): 310
Over/under on average (season): .278
Over/under on home runs (season): Nine
Bartolo Colon, SP, Athletics (68 percent, up from 47)
Bartolo Colon is 40 years old, served a 50-game PED suspension in 2012, has given up three earned runs in his last 30 innings and somehow holds a 3.14 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, with a league-leading two shutouts and two complete games through 12 starts. Colon is owned in 69 percent of leagues and is in line for two starts in Fantasy Week 11 (also known as "next week" for those who have retained any semblance of normalcy). His propensity for complete games has jacked up his Fantasy point totals and will probably bring his ownership up to 80-85 percent by the time Monday rolls around.
And yet I cannot bring myself to add him in any leagues. I've tried to justify it with advanced metrics, but there's not much there to back up a guaranteed regression: Colon's walks are way down, his BABIP is within the +/- of his career level, his strand rate is just slightly above normal, his xFIP is great, his ground ball rate is pretty much the same ... blah blah blah. He did start out strong last year, but eventually got hammered in May (that didn't happen this season) while managing to produce a 2.63 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in the second half of the year before being suspended. In short, there is nothing in the advanced metrics telling you to avoid Colon.
However, Colon is 40 years old. And I'm guessing he's off whatever substance triggered the positive test last year, so the grind of the season may eventually catch up to him. We've seen Colon falter before, with his career ERA a bit above 4.00, and the last time he managed 200 innings was in 2005. I'm not picking him up. I think there's a bottom about to come out here -- I just can't prove it with the numbers. I will be fine with following my instinct on this one and leaving Colon on the wire, but can't argue with anyone who may want to point at his peripherals and disagree (and then, as is tradition, say that they wish they played in a league with me and that it's a joke I have a job in Fantasy). Sure, Colon could be experiencing a late-career boost, but there isn't much in the history of the game that backs up a 40-year-old producing the best ERA of his 16-year career. I wish I had more than a Han Solo-esque bad feeling and a subjective history of baseball to back up my argument, but the fact is that he's old, he's off performance enhancers and he's probably going to hit a wall soon.
Over/under on ERA (season): 3.99
Over/under on wins (season): 13
Unadvised Drop of the Week
David Phelps, RP, Yankees (46 percent, down from 55 percent)
David Phelps' June 4 start against the Indians, in which he allowed no runs on one hit over six innings, may be enough to send people back to the wire to grab their recently dropped pitcher. Most of the dropping likely came from his previous start against the Mets, when Phelps -- who was hit in the arm with a batted ball in his May 24 start -- gave up four earned runs in one-third of an inning, getting pulled from the game before the second out of the first inning.
|1.||Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers||48|
|2.||Matt Joyce, OF, Rays||29|
|3.||Anthony Rendon, 3B, Nationals||26|
|4.||Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals||23|
|5.||Tyler Skaggs, SP, Diamondbacks||23|
|6.||Luke Gregerson, RP, Padres||23|
|7.||Bartolo Colon, SP, Athletics||22|
|8.||Tyler Chatwood, SP, Rockies||22|
|9.||Eric Stults, SP, Padres||21|
|10.||Marcell Ozuna, OF, Marlins||19|
With a 4.15 ERA and 1.30 WHIP on the season, Phelps looks pretty non-descript on paper. But he has potential to be a very good, if not great, starter. Phelps has started seven games this year. One was the disaster against the Mets and one was him basically getting stretched out. But even if you include the Mets start (and eliminate the stretch out start), Phelps has a 3.21 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, with 30 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings.
Hisashi Iwakuma may be the best pitcher to bring into an argument for adding Phelps. Both were starters for most of their careers. Phelps made 91 minor league appearances in five seasons, 90 were starts; Iwakuma worked mainly as a starter in Japan -- in his final seven seasons there, all 146 of Iwakuma's appearances were starts. Last season, both pitchers initially worked out of the bullpen and put up relatively non-descript numbers. But after two stretch-out starts, Iwakuma finished the year with a 2.22 ERA in 14 starts. Phelps bounced back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen, never getting into any kind of starting groove, but did show flashes of potential.
This season, given the chance to begin the year as a starter, Iwakuma has been stellar, elevating himself to ace-like level. Phelps, once again converted to a starter in-season, has been great, as well. I'm not going to gloss over the fact that Iwakuma may simply be a better pitcher than Phelps, but I think there's something to be said for a pitcher being comfortable in a certain role, and Phelps being able to excel as a starter going forward.
Over/under on ERA (season): 3.45
Over/under on strikeouts (season): 125
The Flavor of Next Week
Jacob Turner, SP, Marlins (13 percent ownership)
The case for adding Marlins starter Jacob Turner is pretty simple: as a Marlin, the 22-year-old top prospect has a 2.75 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. In two very quiet starts this season, Turner has a 0.69 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. While he had put up decent minor league numbers in the past, Turner had a 4.47 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in the hitter-friendly PCL this season, a line that was helped along by Turner serving up seven home runs in 10 starts. Put him in Miami's large park, though (or even Philadelphia's small one, after Wednesday's strong performance against the Phillies) and things could start to go his way.
Turner won't get your team a lot of strikeouts, and you can't really depend on too many wins as a member of the Marlins, but with much of the rotation banged up, and Turner one of the team's top prospects, you could see him sticking around all season and forming a surprisingly potent 1-2 punch with Jose Fernandez.
Additionally, Tuner is lined up for two starts in Week 11 -- at home against the Brewers and Cardinals. After two very good starts this season, coupled with his lofty status as the ninth overall pick in the 2009 draft, Turner should see his ownership shoot up and could follow that up with two solid performances in his spacious home park.
Over/under on ERA (season): 4.15
Over/under on WHIP (season): 1.27
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Indians (13 percent ownership)
After struggling through his first 26 games this season, Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall was sent down to the minors, with vague promises that once he figured out his swing, he would be brought back up. After 17 games in Triple-A, Chisenhall looks ready to return.
Over 68 at-bats with the Columbus Clippers, Chisenhall is hitting .382, with six home runs, three doubles and a 1.190 OPS. Making the feat more impressive is the fact that the International League is considered pitcher-friendly, so Chisenhall's feats shouldn't be taken with a grain of salt. And in five previous minor league seasons, Chisenhall has shown some nice power and average potential, with plenty of doubles and a decent K:BB ratio.
There's a bit of a mini-opening in Cleveland right now, with Asdrubal Cabrera injured. If Cabrera is out for a while, the Indians have enough moving parts to allow for Chisenhall to come back up and play third, Mark Reynolds to move to DH, Nick Swisher to play first and the outfield to remain Stubbs, Bourn and Brantley.
Over/under on home runs (season): 14
Over/under on average (season): .280
Roy Oswalt, SP, Rockies (6 percent ownership)
Through three games with Double-A Tulsa, Roy Oswalt has a 3.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and a 7.0 K/9. At 35 years old, Oswalt doesn't have a lot more to prove -- he has a 3.28 career ERA and 1.20 WHIP. But after an ugly run with the Rangers last year (5.80 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 59 innings), Oswalt signed a minor league deal with the Rockies and decided to give things another go.
Prior to the mess that was 2012, Oswalt had just one season with an ERA over 3.69 in a 12-year career. He's pitched a total of 36 innings in Coors, going 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. And he should be ready to join the Rockies by the end of the month. I doubt Colorado would try to slot Oswalt into a relief role, lest they prepare themselves for results similar to those he produced for the Rangers last season. Maybe somebody gets hurt, perhaps Tyler Chatwood's injury turns out to be more serious than the team is letting on, or Jon Garland keeps his 5.00-plus ERA up. If an NL-only owner is looking for some starting pitching help down the road (my guess is Drew Pomeranz has the first crack at an opening in the Colorado rotation), now might be the time to start considering Oswalt, as he quietly tiptoed back into the picture without much fanfare, but could start gaining attention as he draws closer to starting with the Rockies
Over/under on ERA (season): 3.95
Over/under on starts (season): 12
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