The big add of the week is White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease and it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. After tossing seven scoreless frames against the Tigers last week, he matched a career-high with 11 strikeouts over six innings of one-hit ball against the Reds on Tuesday while providing some unexpected production at the plate with three hits in his first three major league plate appearances.
Cease has racked up 33 swinging strikes over his last two starts and the increases in spin rate with his fastball and slider would suggest that this could be sustainable. The whiff rate on his slider has been especially impressive and now sits among the league leaders. He’s on his way, but the final piece is the control. Cease came into this year with 69 walks in 131 1/3 major league innings and he’s walked 15 batters in just 30 1/3 innings so far this season, so it’s very much a work in progress. We’re probably still going to see some hiccups — keep in mind that the Twins are up next — but there’s no doubt he’s interesting.
It’s fun to see the contrast between Cease and Royals prospect left-hander Daniel Lynch, who allowed three runs on four hits and four walks over 4 2/3 innings against the Indians in his major league debut on Monday. We saw the flashes, most notably with his slider, but the command and control weren’t there just yet. And therein lies the rub with prospect pitchers. You love the upside, but progress is not a straight line and gaining trust takes some time.
With a pitcher like Lynch, you probably grab and hope for the best, but remember that you are thinking about this year and redraft leagues and not the prospect pedigree. Don’t get too attached to it.
Have specific questions about your roster? Ask @djshort on Twitter.
(Players rostered in under 50 percent of Yahoo)
Note: Percentages are from the morning of Thursday, May 6
Pete Fairbanks RP, Rays (Yahoo: 24 percent rostered)
The Rays got Fairbanks back from the injured list on Wednesday after he missed nearly a month with a rotator cuff injury, but Diego Castillo went down with a groin injury in the corresponding roster move. Castillo has been used as the Rays’ primary closer so far this season, but now the situation is wide open once again. Fairbanks should certainly be in that mix and ranks as the priority add here, but don’t rule out Jeffrey Springs and Andrew Kittredge from seeing chances. The Rays have a history of keeping us guessing, after all.
Josh Rojas 2B/SS/OF, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 49 percent rostered)
Rojas had a ridiculous spring training, but it didn’t quite translate once the season began. In fact, he was just 2-for-31 through his first 13 games. However, he’s completely turned things around of late, hitting .375 (15-for-40) with five homers, three doubles, 11 RBI, and 13 runs scored over his last 13 games. It’s hard to say how sustainable this all is, as he’s striking out in bunches and benefitted from some BABIP help, but he’s also making plenty of quality contact. It will be interesting to see how the playing time shakes out when Ketel Marte returns, as Pavin Smith looks good and Tim Locastro should still get chances, but keep rolling with him for now. These multi-position players are really useful with the ridiculous number of injuries right now.
Jonathan Villar 2B/3B/SS, Mets (Yahoo: 29 percent rostered)
The supersubs are coming through for the Mets of late, with Villar and Kevin Pillar leading the way. Pillar isn’t a bad option in deeper formats now that Brandon Nimmo is officially on the injured list, but Villar is more interesting from a fantasy perspective as he gets a chance to cover third base duties with J.D. Davis and Luis Guillorme on the injured list. While the 30-year-old Villar struggled splitting last year between the Marlins and Blue Jays, he amassed 24 homers and 40 stolen bases for the Orioles in 2019. He’s yet to steal a base so far this season, but it’s easy to imagine him getting the green light with the Mets struggling for offense. It also helps that he can be plugged in all over the infield.
Shane McClanahan SP, Rays (Yahoo: 25 percent rostered)
I’ve struggled about how to think about McClanahan from a mixed league perspective. Obviously the stuff is ridiculous. 100 mph fastball with crazy movement? Check. Nasty power slider? Check. How does anyone ever make contact with a baseball these days? It hasn’t happened much with McClanahan so far, as he’s allowed two runs through eight innings with a 10/2 K/BB ratio. The question is how deep he’s going to work into games. He’s thrown four innings in each of his first two outings, with Luis Patino piggybacking him. McClanahan will help in ratios and strikeouts, but if he pitches well enough, Patino might actually get the wins. That’s why this is tricky. We’ll see if the Rays push McClanahan a little bit further, but if you are willing to live with his limitations, he can still be useful.
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Brian Anderson 3B/OF, Marlins (Yahoo: 18 percent rostered)
This is one of those situations where you bank on the track record as opposed to what we’ve seen so far this year. Anderson really struggled to begin the season before landing on the injured list with an oblique injury last month, but he homered in his return on Tuesday against the Diamondbacks and knocked in a run on Wednesday. The 27-year-old isn’t overly flashy from a fantasy perspective, but he’s made progress on the power front since his rookie season, swatting 20 homers in 126 games in 2019 before slugging 11 homers in 59 games last year. He’s seemingly locked into the No. 5 spot in the Marlins’ lineup, so he’s in a prime position to set a new career-high in RBI. It’s time for him to be rostered again in most mixed leagues.
Ian Happ 2B/3B/OF, Cubs (Yahoo: 46 percent rostered)
I saw Happ as a potential top-20 outfielder in the spring, but obviously things haven’t worked out thus far. Through 26 games, he’s batting just .167/.307/.250 with two home runs over 102 plate appearances. If that wasn’t bad enough, he suffered a rib contusion in a scary collision with teammate Nico Hoerner during Sunday’s game. The good news is that he avoided a concussion and is considered day-to-day. Looking deeper at Happ’s production this year, it’s certainly disappointing to see the strikeout rate on the rise, but he’s taking plenty of pitches and making plenty of hard contact. According to Baseball Savant, he ranks in the 92nd percentile in terms of hard-hit percentage. Look for better numbers soon. Hopefully the rib issue isn’t overly serious.
Tony Gonsolin SP, Dodgers (Yahoo: 35 percent rostered)
The defending World Series champion Dodgers had some enviable rotation depth in the spring, so much so that David Price began the year in the bullpen, but suddenly the club has a need with Dustin May headed for season-ending Tommy John surgery. Price is on the injured list with a hamstring injury, so Gonsolin is a name to stash here as he works his way back from right shoulder inflammation. We probably won’t see him until later this month if all goes well, but he could be worth the wait. Gonsolin holds a stingy 2.60 ERA and 83/22 K/BB ratio in 86 2/3 innings over 14 starts and six relief appearances in the majors. Stash away.
Tyler Rogers RP, Giants (Yahoo: 29 percent rostered)
Jake McGee started the year strong, but he’s hit a rough patch recently, including a four-run implosion in a loss to the Rockies on Tuesday night. In turn, Giants manager Gabe Kapler said Wednesday afternoon that Rogers could be more of a factor in the ninth inning moving forward. Rogers has been a useful bullpen arm for the Giants over the past two years and he’s pitched well through the first month, posting a 1.07 ERA over a league-leading 17 appearances. Sort of like Cesar Valdez with the Orioles, Rogers is a bit of a unicorn in today’s hard-throwing reliever environment, as he’s a sidearmer who throws in the low-80s, but it works for him. With Reyes Moronta’s recent setback, young Camilo Doval is also worth watching in this situation.
Avisail Garcia OF, Brewers (Yahoo: 11 percent rostered)
Baseball is not nearly as fun without a healthy Christian Yelich. The star outfielder returned to the injured list after just one game this week due to a lingering back issue. As good as the Brewers’ pitching has been, they are going to need them if they have any hopes of making a real postseason push. While the Brewers try to get him on track physically, Garcia should see regular playing time in right field. The results haven’t been there for Garcia so far, but he’s making a ton of hard contact while showing off some sneaky speed. He’s already amassed more barrels (seven) this season than he had all of last year. With American Family Field (that’s what they are calling the Brewers’ stadium these days) as the backdrop, look for things to start evening out in regard to his production.
(Players rostered in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Harrison Bader OF, Cardinals (Yahoo: 2 percent rostered)
Bader was forced to begin the season on the injured list due to a right forearm injury, but he made his return late last week and has already homered twice and stolen a couple of bases across six games. His most recent homer, on Monday against the Mets, traveled an estimated 450 feet. You like to see that. Bader is a .235 career hitter who is mostly known for his defense, but he put up 12 homers and 15 steals over 138 games in 2018 and 12 homers and 11 steals over 128 games in 2019. He should absolutely be on the radar in five-outfielder formats.
Josh Naylor OF, Indians (Yahoo: 3 percent rostered)
Naylor is another player I’ve hard a hard time making heads or tails of in mixed leagues, but he’s caught my attention of late. The 23-year-old is hitting .367 (11-for-30) with two homers and four doubles over last eight games while striking out just four times. Keep in mind that he struck out 16 times across his first 18 games, so he’s been making better choices at the plate. On the whole, Naylor has shown growth in barrel percentage, hard-hit percentage, and average exit velocity compared to his previous chances in the majors. He’s also lofting the ball more often, so maybe there’s more power potential here than we thought coming into the year.
Carlos Martinez SP, Cardinals (Yahoo: 36 percent rostered)
Martinez probably isn’t all the way back, but this version is working for him, as he’s produced a 0.84 ERA over his last three starts. He’s only struck out 10 batters with a nine-percent swinging strike rate during that time, but he’s throwing strikes and keeping the ball on the ground. The Rockies are coming to St. Louis this weekend, so he’s a recommended play there.
Cole Irvin SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 24 percent rostered)
Nobody drew it up this way, but Irvin has been the A’s best pitcher so far this season, posting a 3.09 ERA and 34/5 K/BB ratio in 35 innings across six starts. He’s allowed a total of four runs over his last four starts, including nine strikeouts over eight innings of one-run ball on Tuesday against the Blue Jays. He’s not overpowering — averaging around 91 mph on his fastball — and has given up some hard contact which will probably catch up with him eventually, but the control is outstanding. The Rays are up next and have been pretty mediocre offensively (21st in MLB with a .681 OPS), so you can roll with him for this matchup.
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Brian Goodwin OF, White Sox (Yahoo: 0 percent rostered)
The White Sox are bumming me out right now. With Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert facing long-term injuries, the club picked up Goodwin just one day after he was given his release by the Pirates. The 30-year-old regressed with a .715 OPS in 50 games year, but he put up 17 homers and seven steals over 136 games with the Angels in 2019. He gives the club another option along with Billy Hamilton and Leury Garcia in center field. The White Sox will surely continue to look around, but Goodwin could pay off in deeper formats.
Santiago Espinal 3B/SS, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 0 percent rostered)
The Blue Jays have talked about sending Espinal down so that he can play regularly in Triple-A, but the ultimate decision could depend on Cavan Biggio looks in the coming days. Sort of like Keston Hiura, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him go down to Triple-A for a spell. Espinal isn’t overly exciting and probably profiles as a utility player in the long-term, but he has a history of making contact in the minors and also runs pretty well. He could be a competent fill-in for a couple of weeks, so keep him on your watch list at the very least.
Billy McKinney OF, Brewers (Yahoo: 1 percent rostered)
With Christian Yelich out indefinitely and Keston Hiura demoted to the minors this week, we should see McKinney get more chances in the coming days. He’s already hit three homers in 76 plate appearances this year and now has 21 home runs through 153 major league games. Granted, he’s put up a .230/.289/.432 batting line in that time, but the power is interesting enough. We could see him get the nod over Daniel Vogelbach at first base on some days.
Matt Duffy 2B, Cubs (Yahoo: 2 percent rostered)
Duffy makes for an interesting add now that Nico Hoerner is on the injured list due to a left forearm strain suffered in a collision with teammate Ian Happ on Sunday. Fortunately, it doesn’t sound like Hoerner will be gone for long, so this is more of a short-term move. Still, Duffy has played well in a small sample, hitting .308/.429/.365 with three doubles, five RBI, three steals, and 11 runs scored over 26 games. It’s mostly just nice to see the former Giant healthy again. He’s always made good contact and it looks like his wheels are back, as well, so feel free to even take a look in deeper mixed formats if you need a plug-in.