It didn't take long for the 2014 Houston Astros to sink to the bottom of the pool, as expected. They're 5-9 through two weeks, tied for the worst record in the American League. The offense has been a joke thus far, with a pathetic .185/.258/.347 slash line. They're still light years from contention.
Obviously it's going to take a lot more than one player to fix this mess. That said, it's time to get excited: one of the team's buzzy prospects, George Springer, is on the way. The Astros made the call late Tuesday night.
Springer is a 24-year-old outfielder and a name you probably know already, no matter your level of prospect interest and sophistication. The Astros took him with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft and he's rocketed through the minors. Check what Springer posted last year in 135 games, covering Double-A and Triple-A: .303/.411/.600 slash, 37 homers, 45 steals (in just 53 attempts). Absurd. Those are video game numbers.
Springer probably would have started the year in Houston if not for the current rules of baseball; the Astros gained an extra year of team control by making him wait a couple of weeks. Springer was crushing in the Pacific Coast League, off to a .353 start with three homers and four steals through two weeks. It's a good time to bring him up and let him play, see if he's ready to swim.
Like any touted rookie, there's a wide range of outcomes here. Mike Trout hit .220 with the Angels in 2011; a year later, he was arguably the best player in baseball. Some kids hit the ground running, some take a while to figure things out, and a bunch never really make it at all. Springer's Triple-A numbers have been cushioned by the offensively-friendly PCL, and he needs to work on making better contact (note the 161 strikeouts last year). The development curve is different for everyone.
Nonetheless, plausible upside is here and that's why we have to consider Springer with our resources. The power/speed mix is the golden goose of fake baseball. Springer's always received high marks for his maturity and makeup; perhaps he'll be able to handle the promotion smoothly, make an immediate impact.
The downside is obvious: if Springer doesn't do much out of the box, he'll be back in the minors in a couple of weeks. The upside? Rookie of the Year contention, even in a season where Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka arrived on the scene. There's still time to take a stab in many leagues; Springer is 40-percent owned in Yahoo as we go to press. Are you pointing and clicking?
In most leagues, the addition is a reflexive move, the type of thing you do without hesitation. If nothing else, you can probably flip Springer at a solid price if you want to. Shiny new toys are forever a currency in our game.
Johnson picked up his second in two days at Anaheim, dodging a couple of baserunners and posting two scoreless innings. The game went 11 innings because Sean Doolittle couldn't close the door; he allowed a game-tying two-run homer in the last of the ninth (to be fair, he's not the first guy to fail against Mike Trout). Ryan Cook and Dan Otero worked earlier in the game; Luke Gregerson had the night off.
Johnson hasn't allowed a run over his last five innings, racking up five strikeouts along the way. Most observers don't view him as Oakland's best reliever, but that doesn't always enter the closing discussion (and he's certainly being paid closer money). Although I'm still clinging hopefully to some Doolittle and Gregerson shares, Johnson is making a solid case to get his original role back.
Henderson was rocked in a get-work appearance against St. Louis, serving up home runs to Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta. Henderson had a spotless ERA before the evening, but the Brewers can't ignore the filthy work Francisco Rodriguez is doing as the current stopper (6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 K). The Brewers think they can contend in 2014, and that's going to help K-Rod's case.
In one thin-bench league where I had shares of both Milwaukee relievers, I've decided to cut Henderson. Obviously I could regret the move at some point, given the volatility of chasing saves, but I'm not going to play this game scared. Rodriguez probably has extended the leash a fair amount with his blazing start. I'll do something else with my limited bench resources.
• Neil Walker was a mildly-disappointing player in 2013, and apparently fantasy owners are still holding a grudge. Walker's average tumbled to .251 and he stopped running (just one bag), offset by a career-best 16 homers. Consider some of the second basemen routinely selected before Walker last month in Yahoo leagues: Alberto Callaspo, Alex Guerrero, Jody Mercer, Mike Aviles, Rickie Weeks, all the Colorado keystone guys.
Walker's doing what he can to restore consumer confidence, off to a .273 start with five homers (including this upper-deck collision from Tuesday) and a steal. Most of the time he's batting sixth for the Pirates. Walker is currently the No. 3 second baseman in our game, but oddly unowned in 54 percent of Yahoo. In the shallow pools out there, it's time to fix the ownership tag. (I know, I know, he's probably long gone in your league. Mine too. But still, the count is light.)
Speed Round: A prove-it outing was needed from Shelby Miller, and he came through against Milwaukee (3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 7 K). He draws Washington on the weekend . . . The plucky Marlins knocked Stephen Strasburg around for eight hits and six runs over four innings. The Marlins have 73 runs through 15 games, fourth in the majors. Giancarlo Stanton's sizzling start is no surprise, but there are four other regulars hitting over .300 here (Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Casey McGehee, and Adeiny Hechavarria) . . . Prince Fielder welcomes you back from the ledge: he had a walk and a homer against Seattle . . . Chris Withrow survived LA's roster juggle (Paco Rodriguez took the demotion), then allowed an unearned run at San Francisco . . . Dustin Pedroia will try to play through the discomfort in his wrist, helped by a cortisone shot. He might start Wednesday, and Koji Uehara (shoulder) could be available Thursday . . . Josh Johnson might be headed for Tommy John surgery . . . Bartolo Colon has a sore back and might not make his weekend start . . . Coco Crisp (hamstring) had a pinch-hitting appearance in Tuesday's game . . . Tim Lincecum's long regret through five strong innings was a solo homer allowed to Juan Uribe . . . Brandon Morrow yanked the football away once again, lasting just 3.2 innings at Minnesota . . . I've seen plenty of fun minor-league promotions through the years, but this might be the greatest one of all time. It's worth the click . . . I don't know what Seattle plans to do with Nick Franklin, but he's joining the club. He was off to a zesty .395/.469/.744 start at Tacoma, four homers. He's been playing some second base and some shortstop.