His start to the year was a bit delayed after undergoing offseason heart surgery, but Sabathia returned to the Yankees’ rotation with a strong first outing, allowing just one baserunner over five scoreless innings. He’s obviously no longer the dominant pitcher he once was, but Sabathia has reinvented himself in the later stages of his career and remains plenty useful for fantasy owners in deeper leagues (he has a 3.67 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP over the last two seasons, which seems like reasonable expectations moving forward).
Utilizing his cutter more, Sabathia’s 10.8 SwStr% last year was his highest since 2012, and it’s possible he’s feeling even healthier now after the angioplasty. Although he’s unlikely to work deep into games (he never reached 105 pitches in a game last season in an effort to stay healthy), pitching for the Yankees should help rack up wins too. Sabathia is still available in more than 75% of Yahoo leagues.
Erik Swanson, Seattle Mariners
The rookie pitched well during his first MLB start Wednesday, limiting Cleveland to just two baserunners over six innings. He’s getting an opportunity in Seattle’s rotation thanks to Wade LeBlanc’s oblique injury that will sideline him 4-6 weeks, and Swanson is plenty capable of keeping the spot for the remainder of the season. An underrated prospect involved in the James Paxton deal this offseason, Swanson has average secondary pitches but possesses a fastball with a spin axis that produces terrific backspin (making it seem like it rises), which is a much better fit than sinkerballers given the current hitting environment. Swanson is owned in just one percent of leagues, yet THE BAT is projecting a 1.23 WHIP and an 8.7 K/9 rate.
Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox
One of the top prospects in Boston’s system, Chavis was called up Friday after Dustin Pedroia joined Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt on the IL. He’s naturally a third baseman but will get a chance to play at second for the struggling Red Sox, who may actually be in trouble. Chavis served an 80-game PED suspension last year but hit well otherwise (.298/.381/.538), and it’s always nice having Fenway Park on your side. He’s still available in 95% of leagues.
Homer Bailey, Kansas City Royals
It’s perfectly fine to remain skeptical, but Bailey is clearly pitching differently with the Royals this season. The former top prospect has posted a 1.09 WHIP with 27 strikeouts over 23.0 innings since joining Kansas City, where he’s throwing his splitter far more frequently, resulting in a career-best 11.5 SwStr%. Bailey is 32 years old and hasn’t finished with an ERA better than 5.56 since 2014, but he’s back on the radar after this start. His latest strong outing even came in Yankee Stadium.
Scott Kingery & Roman Quinn, Philadelphia Phillies
With Jean Segura and Odubel Herrera banged up, both Kingery and Quinn are in line for more playing time. Kingery is the better prospect, and he’s off to a nice start at the plate this year (.414/.469/.759) in limited work. He’s eligible at 3B, SS and OF, too. Kingery is a really good defender, so he could also affect Cesar Hernandez’s playing time moving forward if he keeps hitting (Kingery also ranks top-10 in Sprint Speed this season).
Quinn is much more of a deeper flier (available in 99% of leagues), but MLB is averaging fewer than one steal per game for the first time since 1972 (h/t Todd Zola), which makes a speedster like him worth grabbing. And if we’re sticking with Phillies, Hector Neris shouldn’t be available in more than 75% of leagues as the current favorite for saves in their pen.
Yonder Alonso, Chicago White Sox
If you’re looking for cheap power, here’s a readily available (just 16% owned) cleanup hitter who’s plenty capable of producing 20 homers and 70 RBI over the final five months. It appears he’s off to something of a slow start, but Alonso has more walks (12) than strikeouts (11) and is posting career-highs in exit velocity, Hard Hit% and BB% while noticeably increasing his launch angle. He’s slugging .383, but his expected slugging is .507. There might be some untapped upside waiting underneath here.
Mike Ford, New York Yankees
He’s 26 years old and coming off a mediocre season in Triple-A, but Ford was off to a strong start there this year (five homers in 10 games) and recently got the call up to New York with Greg Bird tearing his plantar fascia. A Rule 5 Draft pick, Ford (who once had a four-homer game in the minors) is a big lefty with some power who’s now looking at playing time in Yankee Stadium, so fantasy owners may want to try catching lightning in a bottle.
Nick Anderson, Miami Marlins
He remains just four percent owned despite posting a 2.08 ERA with 17 strikeouts over 8.2 innings to open the year and most importantly, he might soon factor into saves in Miami’s pen with Sergio Romo (9.00 ERA), Adam Conley (8.10 ERA) and Drew Steckenrider (7.88 ERA) all off to slow starts. Anderson recorded a 13.2 K/9 rate in Triple-A last year, and he’s been improbably excellent.
Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals
A former top-10 pick, Dozier is off to a hot start, posting a .924 OPS while flashing much-improved plate discipline to go along with some impressive Statcast numbers (his exit velocity ranks in the top 5% of the league), so he definitely deserves our attention. Scott Pianowski recently went into further detail. Dozier remains available in 60% of leagues.
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