2018 has been a rough season for catchers. Five catchers starting catchers are on the DL – Mike Zunino, J.T. Realmuto, Salvador Perez, Tyler Flowers, and the latest casualty Travis d’Arnaud who is out for the rest of the season.
Francisco Cervelli will shine like a beacon in the night in the free agent pool this week after his nice four-game hitting streak this week (8-for-15) where he delivered two runs, two HRs, and seven RBI. With 450 at-bats in 2018, Cervelli is on pace for 18 HRs and 99 RBI, which is an unrealistic projection based on his career-best season in 2015 (.295 with seven HRs and 43 RBI over 451 at-bats). Don’t overpay for his limited upside but buy him as an injury cover while keeping an open eye for more upside in power. Francisco should be an asset in batting average only.
After missing the minimum ten days, Matt Wieters returned to action on April 12th. He smashed his first HR on Saturday while scoring two runs and driving in a pair of baserunners. His skill set isn’t where it used to be, but Wieters is two years removed from 17 HRs and 66 RBI over 464 at-bats. In his prime, Matt posted three straight seasons with 20+ HRs with a combined 230 RBI. Excellent free agent catching option in shallow leagues as a C2.
The Mets lost both of their starting catchers this week. Kevin Plawecki should see most of the starting action when he returns in a few weeks from his broken left hand. His major league resume (.219 with seven HRs and 46 RBI over 485 at-bats) isn’t impressive, but Plawecki did appear to offer more value when looking at his minor league career (.297 with 44 HRs and 265 RBI over 1,563 at-bats). There’s a better player here, but Kevin needs to show it on the field at the majors. If struggles over the short-term, New York may very well make a move to acquire Jonathan Lucroy from the A’s.
For now, I expect the Mets to take a shot on the recently released Miguel Montero. After delivering 15 HRs and 53 RBI over 347 at-bats for the Cubs in 2015, Montero struggled over his last 437 at-bats in the majors (.211 with 14 HRs and 49 RBI over 437 at-bats). Miguel has mid-teen power if given a starting opportunity.
There’s a chance that Yulieski Gurriel is still a free agent in some shallow leagues. He returned from his hand injury on 4/13. Over his first two games, Gurriel has three hits in nine at-bats with one leading to a three-run homer. Yulieski has an excellent 20/80 skill set with upside in batting average thanks to his low K rate (11.0 in 2017).
Before the 2018 season, I thought Dominic Smith had a chance to make a nice step forward for the New York. Unfortunately for him, New York didn’t have the same vision, which led to them adding Adrian Gonzalez. Smith lost any momentum in spring training when he suffered a quad injury in early March. Smith made his first appearance in the minors on April 5th. He has eight hits in 30 at-bats with two HRs and six RBI. He’s a career .301 hitter in the minors with 42 HRs, 322 RBI, and 12 SBs in 2,061 at-bats. If Gonzalez has an issue, I would quickly be drawn to Dominic. Last season he hit nine HRs over 167 at-bats in the majors, which is a good sign for upside in power while expecting much better results in batting average (.198 in 2017 with the Mets).
Fantasy owners will be scrambling to cover two top injured second baseman this week on the waiver wire. Rougned Odor suffered a hamstring injury, which led to Texas calling up Isiah Kiner-Falefa from AAA. Kiner-Falefa hit .288 at AA in 2017 with five HRs, 48 RBI, and 17 SBs over 513 at-bats. Isiah didn’t have one HR in his minor league career (over 1,100 at-bats) before 2017.
Last week I mentioned Jurickson Profar as a possible post-hype player in all free agent pool. I did this before he had an opportunity. Profar started the last seven games for the Rangers with a feeling of emptiness in Fantasy owners minds (7-for-24 with three runs, two RBI, and one SB). Texas continues to bat him second in the lineup, which is a sign of confidence. Hidden in his stats is a strong approach at the plate. Jurickson has seven walks over the last week pushing his on-base average to .452 over this span. His window for playing time is greatly improved with Elvis Andrus injured as well. Profar has an underlying 20/20 skill set, but he must prove it on the field. Great pickup this week for those Fantasy owners who want to bet on talent now stats. He will qualify for shortstop over the next week and possibly second and third base over the next couple of months in ten game minimum leagues.
Ben Zobrist started seven of the last nine games for the Cubs with Anthony Rizzo battling a back issue. His bat responded with ten hits in 32 at-bats with one HRs and six RBI. With Rizzo expected back this week, Zobrist will need to steal a day at multiple positions over the course of the week to earn five starts. His hot start will lead to him being one of the top covers at second base this week for the Odor/Schoop injuries. Ben’s best value from a Fantasy perspective is as a second base option.
The Rays have given Joey Wendle the last seven starts at second base. Over this stretch, he hit .304 with four runs, one HR, and three RBI. Wendle has double-digit power and speed while making a lot of sense as injury cover.
Gleyber Torres has been hot over his last eight games at AAA (14-for-32 with one HR and ten RBI. His success should lead to a quick call-up to the majors. If you want to be ahead of the curve, Torres should be picked up this week.
Aledmys Diaz is off to a nice start in power (four HRs over 38 at-bats), which is a positive sign for him to make a push toward his success 2016 season in the majors (.300 over 404 at-bats with 17 HRs, 65 RBI, and four SBs). Diaz has two HRs over his last two games with four RBI. With Josh Donaldson on the DL, Aledmys may even push his way to a favorable slot in the batting order. Great injury over for Elvis Andrus in the Fantasy market while expecting him to be a long-term buy and hold.
A slow start by Orlando Arcia (.178 over 45 at-bats with three runs, one HR, and three RBI) has led to him being launched into the free agent pool in some shallow leagues. The Brewers gave him the day off on April 14th, but Arcia came off the bench to hit a home run, which may be a sign of him turning the corner. Last season Orlando had 15 HRs and 14 SBs over 506 at-bats at age 22 in the majors. His game has much higher upside, and I would scoop him up if given the opportunity.
Jonathan Schoop suffered an oblique injury this week leading to an expected two weeks on the DL. Tim Beckham should shift to second base with Danny Valencia being rewarded with the most at-bats for the Orioles. Valencia has 50 HRs and 183 RBI over his last 1,276 at-bats in the majors. I expect him to be in the lineup for Baltimore on most nights until Schoop returns from the DL.
The Braves expect to have Johan Camargo back in the majors shortly after getting some playing time at AAA (three hits in 19 at-bats with three HRs and three RBI). When ready, he’ll take over the starting third base job for Atlanta.
Jorge Soler has eight hits in his last 26 at-bats (.308), but he only has three runs with no HRs or RBI. On the downside, Soler did strikeout nine times over this span. His power will come, and the Royals will continue to give him starting at-bats with Alex Gordon on the DL. I still believe in his 20/80 skill set even with some batting average risk.
I’m torn on the value of Jason Heyward in deep leagues. He’s only hitting .200 in 45 at-bats with nine runs, one HR, and seven RBI. His runs projected over 500 at-bats would be close to 100 while his RBI would be in a range for 75+. Jason only has seven Ks in 53 plate appearances, which is a positive. Is he a dump or a buy? Real tough question for Fantasy owners while the Cubs are on the hook for $21+ million over the next six years. I need to see more, but I would hold him in 15-team leagues or larger. The free agent player pool is too weak at outfield at this point of the year.
Curtis Granderson is off to a nice start for the Blue Jays (.324), but he only has one HR and four RBI in 37 at-bats. With Josh Donaldson and Kendrys Morales on the DL, Granderson should be in the starting lineup every night for the next week or so.
Toronto called up Teoscar Hernandez on Friday night to cover some injuries in the majors. He responded with two doubles, two RBI, and one SB in his first game in the majors. In his four games in the minors in 2018, Hernandez had five hits in 18 at-bats with four runs, two HRs, three RBI, and two SBs. Last season Teoscar had a productive run (16 runs, eight HRs, and 20 RBI over 88 at-bats) in the majors late in the year, but he did have a high K rate total (36). With Randall Grichuk only having three hits in 42 at-bats, Hernandez may be able to steal his job over the short-term or even longer.
Fantasy owners must be excited with the last two recent starts by Joey Lucchesi. In back-to-back starts against the Rockies with the second coming on the road, Lucchesi tossed 11 shutout innings with five hits, four walks, and 15 Ks. With Dinelson Lamet out for the season with a right elbow injury, Joey will have a starting job if he’s pitching well. At the very least, he’ll be a strong option when pitching at home. Lucchesi has never pitched at AAA, so there will be some growing pains going forward.
Tyson Ross looks like a keeper as well. After facing two tough lineups (COL and @HOU), Roos threw six shutout innings with one walk and five Ks at home vs. the Giants. After 18 innings, Tyson has a 3.50 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with 14 Ks. In his last two full seasons with the Padres, Ross had 3.03 ERA over 391.2 innings with 407 Ks.
I saw an owner push Jake Faria into the free agent pool in a 15-team league after poor outing vs. Boston (eight runs and ten baserunners over 1.2 innings). Faria rebounded with an excellent game at home against the Phillies (one run over 5.1 innings with seven Ks). Jake should be owned in all formats, but I would micromanage him when facing some of the top offenses in the AL.
Even though I drafted Andrew Heaney in many early leagues, I was skeptical about his 2018 value after a spring training elbow issue. He pitched well in his first minor league start (one run over 6.1 innings with six Ks) while showing some upside in his 2018 major league debut (three runs over five innings with seven Ks). He’ll face Boston and Houston in his next two starts, so I would be careful not to overpay for him this week.
With Bryan Mitchell pitching poorly (eight runs, 15 hits, and 14 walks over 13.2 innings), Robbie Erlin or Jordan Lyles may get a chance in the starting rotation for the Padres. Erlin has struggled with injuries for most of his major league career, but he finally looks healthy. Over his first 11.1 innings, he allowed three runs and seven hits with nine Ks. Lyles is trending forward as well (two runs over 9.1 innings with 10 Ks) thanks to an improved fastball (94.2) and growth in his changeup. Both options could be in the rotation by May.
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