Generally, I don’t make any moves the first 2-3 weeks of the season. The sample size is just too small to come to a confident conclusion. Injuries and role changes are the situations where I will make moves unless the upside dictates that I can’t wait on the player.
Here are a few players who are under 25% owned according to ESPN who would be at the top of my list if I needed a replacement.
- Blake Swihart, C, Bos – 11.6%
A former top prospect, it’s surprising that everyone is off of the train after 309 MLB PA. There is a lot to like about Swihart now that he is the full time catcher. 309 PA isn’t a large sample, but a 26.7% line drive rate is fantastic. It probably explains why his BABIP was .359 but with a line drive rate that high, I would expect a high BABIP. Swihart probably lacks impact stats but he should be average in everything which is valuable at the catcher position.
- Ben Paulsen, 1B, Col – 4.1%
A Rockies player with some power, big surprise. Paulsen might end up in a platoon with Mark Reynolds but he’s thankfully on the strong side of the platoon and should get a lot of plate appearances this year. If your team needs power at either 1B or LF (he qualifies at both right now), Paulsen would be a worthy pickup.
- Cory Spangenberg, 2B, SD – 6.9%
I am a big Spangenberg fan. I understand why he’s not widely owned but I disagree. Spangenberg has 20 SB upside with some power and he won’t kill you in average. Best of all, he should be batting 2nd for SD which could mean plenty of R and RBI chances. Spangenberg is a great bench option if your team is lacking in speed.
- Jake Lamb, 3B, Ari – 6.0%
Everything I wrote about Lamb in the offseason still applies. The unfortunate injury to A.J. Pollock leaves the 2nd spot in the batting order wide open. If Lamb claims that spot, look out. The upside here in the R and RBI department is tantalizing.
- Eugenio Suarez, SS, Cin – 11.6%
I was amazed that he is only owned in 11.6% of leagues. Suarez is a potential 15/10 SS who will bat 2nd in the Cincy order for the time being. He won’t bat .280 again (.341 BABIP with a 20.8% LD rate) but I have no other knocks. Marcus Semien (who I also like) is owned in over 30+ of leagues and he’s essentially the same exact guy except Semien bats 9th. That makes a big difference. Suarez needs to be owned in a lot more leagues.
- Eddie Rosario, LF, Minn – 8.5%
Rosario might not have a ton of upside from his 2015 numbers, but he can be a decent fill in. He has power and speed for those of you who have lost A.J. Pollock. He won’t provide much of any help in BA or OBP so be careful if your team isn’t strong in either of those. Rosario also qualifies at RF for those in specific OF position leagues.
- Aaron Hicks, CF, NYY – 4.2%
I won’t go into it again, but I love Aaron Hicks this year. He is my absolute favorite late round stash and will get playing time at some point this year.
- Leonys Martin, CF, Sea – 2.3%
In 2013 and 2014, Martin stole 36 and 31 bases respectively. Last year, everything fell apart and he still managed 14 steals in only 95 games. That would pro-rate out to a mid-20s pace if he had been able to stay up all year. With speed in decline, Martin could be a valuable bench piece. The BA is a big risk, but the good news is you can keep Martin on the bench until the matchup dictates. Recall from my Odor blog that the ALW is full of catchers who are not great against the run.
- Socrates Brito, RF, Ari – 11.0%
The big knock on Brito has always been his hit tool but he’s performed at every level so far. The one thing he absolutely has is speed. As mentioned above, speed isn’t as prevalent today and anyone who has 20 SB upside is worth a bench spot if your team needs speed. Brito likely won’t help with BA but there is some pop. If he stays out of the cellar of the Dbacks lineup, there might even be some upside of the contextual stats.
- Rick Porcello, SP, Bos – 10.8%
I stand by what I wrote about Porcello in the offseason, but his spring training has been rough enough where I’m not as confident anymore. Having said that, I still think he’s worth a pickup in most leagues. If he struggles early, drop him. Ideally, he can improve on what he did at the end of last year and become an ownable commodity.
- Jerad Eickhoff, SP, Phi – 5.3%
Eickhoff’s first three games are against the Mets (twice) and the Padres. Neither of those offenses scare me and it’s possible Eickhoff comes out of the gate with a solid start. He finishes April in Milwaukee and against Cleveland. Eickhoff could be a hot commodity come the end up April. He was an offseason favorite of mine and I own him on plenty of teams this year.
- Rubby De La Rosa, SP, Ari – 1.6%
I can’t state this any better than the great Eno Sarris already has so go read his articles on Rubby.
- Joaquin Benoit, RP, Sea – 9.3%
- Tony Zych, RP, Sea – 1.4%
Is anyone confident that Steve Cishek is the closer in Seattle in a month? I’m certainly not. Benoit or Zych could easily be closing for the Mariners come the middle of May. Normally, I would anoint Benoit as the closer in waiting because he has some past experience (although 50 career saves is pretty small) but new Marines manager Scott Servais is a reported analytics guy. If that holds true, Zych might be the guy with his great velocity and much better strikeout ability. This will be an interesting one to watch but I’m pretty confident that one of these two will be the first setup guy to assume the closer role.
- Keone Kela, RP, Tex – 7.9%
Shawn Tolleson is a good relief pitcher, but he’s not the best relief pitcher on his team. That title belongs to Keone Kela. Given what Tolleson did last year, his leash might be long but any prolonged struggles could open the door for the superior Kela to take over. Kela could still be a valuable asset even in the setup role due to his 28% K rate. The only thing holding Kela back is shaky command. He could bump up to one of the best non-closer in baseball with some improvement in command.
- Jumbo Diaz, RP, Cin – 4.0%
Jumbo Diaz is another case where the best relief pitcher on the team is in the setup roll. J.J. Hoover’s career K rate is 24.2% and his career BB rate is 10.9%. Neither of those numbers make him an attractable closer. He’s going to put guys on base which is the one thing you can’t do at the end of games. Given Bryan Price’s past comments, it wouldn’t surprise me if he saw Hoover’s 2.94 ERA in 2015 and determined he was better than Diaz with his 4.18 ERA.
However if we take a moment to dig deeper into 2015 numbers, we see that Diaz is better in virtually all aspects of pitching. Hoover loses this job quickly and Diaz should take it and run with it.
I included WAR just to show that Hoover was exactly replacement level last year. Your Reds 2016 closer is equivalent to a random guy pulled out of the upper minors. Good work Reds!