The deadline passed last week allowing rookies to be called up and still not qualify for free agency until after 2019. Now, that only applies to guys who didn't already collect service time last year, so Jurickson Profar and Dylan Bundy would have to wait longer anyway. But Oscar Taveras, Gerrit Cole and Billy Hamilton could all come up now and not be free agents for seven years.
Of course, none of those guys were called up last week. Neither was the top prospect some thought might be added: Tampa Bay's Wil Myers. The Rays are struggling offensively and could definitely use a boost. Myers, though, is off to a modest .294/.395/.353 start in 34 at-bats in Triple-A. That's a nice OBP, but he's yet to homer and he has fanned 10 times. Brandon Guyer, on the other hand, is hitting .290/.405/.645 with three homers in 31 at-bats for Durham. If the Rays decided to call up an outfielder, it's quite possible they'd choose Guyer instead. I thought he should have been the pick when Luke Scott went down, but Shelley Duncan was added instead.
Instead of the callups, there's been more talk about whether a couple of young outfielders will get sent down: Jackie Bradley Jr. and Aaron Hicks have both seen their strong springs fail to carry over through the first two weeks. It now seems like a foregone conclusion that Bradley will be demoted when David Ortiz comes off the DL, something that could happen in the next few days. While Bradley is hitting just .107, I wouldn't say he's been overmatched. I don't think the Red Sox will hesitate to give him another opportunity in a month or two if the situation warrants.
Unlike Bradley and the Red Sox, Hicks was really being counted on by the Twins. But also unlike Bradley, he has appeared truly overwhelmed at times, what with his 20 strikeouts in 43 at-bats. My feeling has always been that everybody deserves three weeks before any changes, and for now, it looks like Hicks will get the one more week to turn it around. There is the added wrinkle of Oswaldo Arcia getting called up with Wilkin Ramirez on paternity leave. If Arcia impresses, the Twins would have the option of keeping him and demoting Hicks when Ramirez rejoins the roster. However, Arcia's inability to play center makes that unlikely. Should Hicks lose his job, it'd more likely be Clete Thomas or Joe Benson who replaces him on the roster, with Darin Mastroianni getting most of the starts in center. One more week seems fair.
- Frankly, I think the Blue Jays would be crazy to put Brett Lawrie at second base with Jose Reyes out. Take an injury-prone player and put him in harm's way by making him turn double plays? Shift him back to a position he wasn't very good at in the first place? Weaken the defense by putting Lawrie at second and Jose Bautista at third, all so Rajai Davis and Casper Wells can get more at-bats? I don't see a whole lot of upside there.
And none of that helps the Jays at shortstop. The big problem here is that the Jays have been disappointed by both Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis so far. Certainly, neither is a great option at shortstop. I prefer Bonifacio, but it seems like most see Izturis as the better option. The Jays have made it perfectly obvious they'd rather not use either there by playing Munenori Kawasaki the last two days. Izturis started at second both days, while Bonifacio started in the outfield and batted first.
The Jays will try to trade for a shortstop, but there aren't any great options available. They asked about Atlanta's Tyler Pastornicky. Fellow Brave Paul Janish would make a ton of sense if he were healthy, but it appears he's still a few weeks away as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery. The Reds' Jason Donald is available, but he doesn't have great range at short. Houston's Ronny Cedeno is handicapped by being Ronny Cedeno. Colorado's Jonathan Herrera would work as a stopgap if the Rockies are willing to give him up.
In the meantime, well, the light-hitting Kawasaki has very, very little fantasy value. Bonifacio's value would seem to take a big jump with Reyes out, but he's been pretty terrible so far and if the Jays do decide to put Lawrie at second, Bonifacio could lose a lot of playing time. Bonifacio is going to have to heat up right away if he's going to be a mixed-league starter while Reyes is out. Izturis will only have increased value if he moves to short, and the Jays don't want to move him to short. Davis will be a worthy mixed-league starter if Lawrie moves to second. As for Wells, he's probably going to be limited to starting mostly against lefties, leaving him with modest AL-only value.
- Josh Johnson dipping from 93 mph in his first start to 90 mph in his second was probably cold weather related, but he hasn't been sharp either time out. I'm blaming the slider; he hasn't had good feel for it yet and has compensated by throwing more fastballs. It's certainly disappointing after his very strong spring, but it's not panic time.
- It's safe to say the Royals won't have the same kind of patience with Jeff Francoeur this year that they showed last year. While they lack any alternatives in the minors, they do have the option of playing Jarrod Dyson in center and Lorenzo Cain in right, which they did Sunday. Eventually, they may trade for a right fielder. In the meantime, Dyson's speed will give him fantasy value even if he plays just a couple of times per week.
- Jarrod Parker's velocity is fine. He's still getting swings and misses at a pretty good rate. And yet here he is with a 10.80 ERA and an even more ridiculous 2.66 WHIP after three starts. He's allowed 23 hits, walked eight and struck out just four in 11 2/3 innings. The defense behind him has been pretty terrible in the parts of two starts that I've seen, but that doesn't account for all that much of his struggles. I also don't think decisions like intentionally walking Prince Fielder in the first inning of a game helps matters. Still, tiny piece of the puzzle. Parker's decision to trade four-seamers for two-seamers looks like a bad one. Really, though, this seems mostly about command. While an injury can't be ruled out, I think he's fixable and I wouldn't drop him yet.
- I had five Red Sox relievers projected with better ERAs than Joel Hanrahan this year, but I put Hanrahan down for 35 saves anyway. I still think he'll finish right around there, though he's off to a brutal start with three homers and five walks allowed in 4 2/3 innings. His little hamstring problem, whether it exists or not, will likely buy him some time to turn it around in a couple of non-save situations. That makes Andrew Bailey worth playing in all formats this week. Still, I believe Hanrahan will be right back in the closer's role next week. It's the spot that suits him best, as his high walk rate would make it tough to bring him in earlier in games with men on base.
- Besides calling up Guyer, the Rays could think about adding shortstop Hak-Ju Lee if Yunel Escobar's offensive troubles continue. Lee is hitting .412/.512/.647 with five steals in six attempts for Triple-A Durham. The Rays like Escobar's defense, so I don't think any such change is going to happen in April. The Guyer addition should come first.
- The Twins are playing Pedro Florimon at shortstop for his glove, so who would have thought he'd have three errors and a .458 OBP through eight games? Florimon's bat figures to fade quickly, and I expect we'll see 24-year-old Eduardo Escobar get a look as the Twins' primary shortstop before too long.
- The White Sox decided to do without Brent Morel and Carlos Sanchez after Gordon Beckham (hamate) went down, so Conor Gillaspie, as the team's primary third baseman, has some AL value now. If a change comes later, it might be for Sanchez. Jeff Keppinger just isn't very good defensively at second base, and the White Sox are probably better off with him at third.
- It doesn't sound like Michael Bourn (hand) will play much or at all this week. Ryan Raburn stands to get some extra at-bats, but the Indians should give Carlos Santana some DH time, making things easier on his sore left thumb. That'd put Nick Swisher in right field and Drew Stubbs in center.
-Houston's Jose Veras finally got a save chance Saturday and promptly blew it. He's allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings on the young season, and the Astros could quickly revert to a closer-by-committee situation should he continue to struggle. I was pretty surprised Houston didn't pick up David Aardsma after the Yankees let him go (he signed a minor league deal with the Marlins). They don't have anyone besides Veras likely to step up and seize the job, so AL-only leaguers can refrain from speculating on replacements. Maybe another veteran will fall into their laps later.
- The Angels' Garrett Richards makes for a decent enough play in AL-only leagues with Jered Weaver (left elbow) out, but he doesn't figure to make an impact in mixed leagues.
- The Mariners are going to have to make some choices soon with Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley all off to horrible starts. Smoak's approach has been decent enough that it's probably worth giving him a couple of more weeks, but Montero isn't hitting anything hard and Ackley seems completely lost at the plate after revamping his swing. If they don't turn it around this week, I could see a case for demoting both and turning to prospects Mike Zunino and Nick Franklin. Zunino has already racked up 18 RBI to go along with his 1.170 OPS in 33 at-bats for Triple-A Tacoma. Franklin isn't that hot, but he's batting .350/.381/.400 in 20 at-bats after missing time with the flu.
- Tigers manager Jim Leyland ruled Joaquin Benoit out of the closing mix over the winter, but it took only a week of regular-season games for Leyland to realize he was the best choice for the job. Not that Benoit is an ideal selection; he's been far too homer-prone lately. Still, he's durable and he doesn't have Phil Coke's platoon splits. He should last for a bit. I wouldn't be surprised if Jose Valverde gets a shot next month.
- Evan Gattis forced the Braves to change their minds about not playing him at first base with Freddie Freeman out. He's hitting .324 with four homers and 10 RBI in 34 at-bats to date, and it's not too early to start thinking about how he's going to fit once Brian McCann (shoulder) comes off the DL. Really, if McCann plays like he did last year, the Braves would be better off with Gattis behind the plate. McCann, though, might be better now that he's supposedly healthy. If McCann hits, then you're left with Gattis catching against some lefties and maybe playing once a week in the outfield. It might be worth giving Gattis some grounders at third base in that scenario, but it's hardly likely that he'd prove playable there. For now, Gattis has one more week as a catcher-first baseman until Freeman returns. McCann appears to be at least two weeks away.
- Johnny Cueto's lat strain figures to get Tony Cingrani into the Reds' rotation for at least a couple of weeks, with a full-time spot a possibility if he outpitches Mike Leake. I'm skeptical how Cingrani's stuff will translate, but his awesome minor league numbers have carried over into Triple-A, where he has a 26/2 K/BB ratio and a flawless ERA in 14 1/3 innings. He is very deceptive, which will give him an advantage his first time around the league. He's worth grabbing in all NL-only leagues, and mixed leaguers should watch him closely.
- Billy Hamilton isn't putting much pressure on the Reds to make a move, as he's off to a .256/.293/.359 start at Louisville. If he gets hot before Chris Heisey does, the Reds could speed up his timetable. However, they seem content to let things play out a while longer. I'm thinking Hamilton's shot comes in mid-May.
- Jim Henderson is the closest thing the Brewers have to a closer at the moment, even if he did work with the team down 3-0 in the eighth inning Sunday. Burke Badenhop ended up with the save in that one after the Brewers rallied and won in extras, but Badenhop is definitely more of a middle guy and probably won't get any additional save opps sent his way.
- In Chicago, James Russell is probably the favorite for saves this week with Kyuji Fujikawa (forearm) on the DL. Shawn Camp got the save chance on Sunday, only to give up a game-tying homer in the ninth and then allow three more runs in the 10th. Three straight scoreless innings from Carlos Marmol won't return him to the fold just yet.
- Then there are the Cardinals, who saw both Trevor Rosenthal and Mitchell Boggs struggle again Sunday. Fernando Salas, who might have been third in line for saves, has also struggled. If someone else had stepped up, maybe the Cardinals would be ready to make a change away from Boggs. As is, I think they'll stick with him. While he's already taken two blown saves and a loss, he's pitched scoreless innings in four of his seven appearances. He still figures to prove adequate until either Jason Motte (elbow) comes back or Rosenthal makes it absolutely clear that he's ready for a shot.
- Maybe it was a somewhat better Roy Halladay on the mound Sunday, but much of the credit for his success has to go to a dreadful Marlins lineup, minus Giancarlo Stanton, that missed quite a few hittable pitches. Halladay showed better command, which qualifies as progress. But there wasn't enough movement on his sinker to suggest that the Halladay of old is on the way back.
- As for Stanton, I am rather worried already. The Marlins have been even worse than expected, and no one behind Stanton in the order shows signs of stepping up. Worse, the team is bad in a way that's going to result in a more 3-1 losses than 7-3 losses. If the Marlins are down by four or five runs, what's the harm in going after Stanton with no one in the seventh inning? But those close games are just going to get him pitched around more frequently. At this point, I don't think I'd count on Stanton being a top-10 fantasy outfielder this year.
- Jose Fernandez certainly hasn't looked intimidated while making the jump from A ball to the majors. I'd say it's a shame his teammates aren't better, but if they were, he'd still be in Double-A right now. After two starts, Fernandez is 0-0 with a 0.82 ERA, He may turn into a sell-high candidate later, particularly since we already know he's only going to pitch for five months. I expect he'll run into a few growing pains anyway, but I've been really impressed with his control. There was no doubting his stuff.
- Tim Lincecum's line Sunday didn't look like much (4 ER in 5 IP), but after the first-inning barrage in which he walked the leadoff man and gave up a pair of two-run homers, he went 4 1/3 innings walking none and allowing just three singles. It's not saying a whole lot, but I think it was his most encouraging start to date, simply because he was able to put his fastball where he wanted it.
- Also, I'm still high on Edwin Jackson despite his latest poor start Sunday. With 20 strikeouts and no homers allowed so far, it's mostly singles and an unusually high number of walks that's left him with a 6.06 ERA. He's still worth playing in mixed leagues. For one thing, the Cubs defense is about to get a lot better with Darwin Barney returning.
- If I reranked the starters now, Matt Harvey would likely crack the top 20. His command will probably waver here and there and I doubt he'll rack up the innings total he'd need to challenge for Cy Young honors, but there isn't anything fluky about his start.
- John Buck, on the other hand... well, I'm not buying that one. It's great news for the Mets, though, since he might now have some trade value once Travis d'Arnaud is ready to come up in late May or June.
- Chris Capuano should be treated as a spot starter in mixed leagues now that he's back in the Dodger rotation, courtesy of Zack Greinke's broken collarbone. I was surprised the Dodgers didn't give Ted Lilly the job, considering that he's been overly patient with the team thus far. Ideally, he'll get a trade in the very near future. He's no lock to be an above average starter following shoulder surgery, but he's worth a shot.
- Carlos Gomez's nine spring training walks in 41 at-bats apparently weren't a sign of things to come. In 42 regular-season at-bats, he has no walks, no homers, no steals, two RBI and three runs scored. And, unfortunately, he still looks better at the plate than Rickie Weeks right now. The Brewers' offensive slump is likely to linger.
- Last week I wrote that the Pirates just needed to pick someone, anyone, from the group of Gaby Sanchez, Travis Snider and Jose Tabata and stick with him for a couple of weeks. My preference was Tabata get that look, but it was Snider instead and he's doing well with it so far, going 7-for-16 with three doubles last week. Snider hasn't shown any home run power since arriving in Pittsburgh, so his fantasy upside seems fairly limited. Still, he has some value in NL-only leagues at the moment.
- Even though Russell Martin is 2-for-31 and Michael McKenry hit two homers Sunday, it seems doubtful the Pirates will start divvying up playing time behind the plate much differently. It's not like the Pirates didn't know going in that McKenry might prove to be the superior hitter; he had 50 points of OPS on Martin last year. Still, McKenry started just two of the team's first 12 games. The Pirates aren't going to suddenly cut the playing time of one of their biggest free agent additions ever.
- It appears that the Padres will waste no time in activating Chase Headley (thumb) this week. Jedd Gyorko hasn't done much of anything yet, but he figures to get a lengthy look as the primary second baseman with Headley back at third.
- Jesus Guzman got the start in left field for the Padres on Sunday, but Kyle Blanks makes for a decent one-week play in NL-only leagues with Carlos Quentin serving his eight-game suspension.
- Sports & Recreation
- Brett Lawrie
- Aaron Hicks
- Maicer Izturis
- Brandon Guyer
- Billy Hamilton