Week That Was: Junior Whopper

Nick Nelson
Rotoworld
Nick Nelson covers the biggest fantasy news from MLB's first week, including an unfortunate injury for Brewers starter Junior Guerra

Week That Was: Junior Whopper

Nick Nelson covers the biggest fantasy news from MLB's first week, including an unfortunate injury for Brewers starter Junior Guerra

Junior Guerra was one of the best league's best stories last year, emerging out of nowhere at age 31 as Milwaukee's best starter. The breakout campaign earned him an Opening Day nod, and he was back at it on Monday, breaking off nasty splitters while fanning four Rockies through three innings.


But in a moment of great misfortune, Guerra strained his calf while trying to leg out a bunt in the bottom of the third, and now he's going to need some time to recover. Brewers manager Craig Counsell said on Tuesday that he expects the right-hander to miss at least six weeks, a brutal blow for a rotation that looks pretty questionable behind him. Tommy Milone will step in for Guerra, at least until Matt Garza returns later this month. For now, the entire Milwaukee starting corps should probably be avoided outside of deep leagues.


* Very few people expected Jeanmar Gomez to last through the entire season as Phillies closer, but it's looking like his tenure may not even last through April. Gomez received the ninth-inning gig by default this spring after notching 37 saves (along with unimpressive numbers across nearly every category) in 2016, but it was clear the leash wouldn't be too long. It only took one game for Philadelphia manager Pete Mackanin to start tugging.


"I'm concerned," Mackananin said after Gomez coughed up a two-run homer before narrowly escaping with a save against the Reds. That's more than warranted. Gomez is quite hittable and doesn't miss bats, making him a poor fit for the role. If Hector Neris is available in your league, we recommend grabbing him. Veteran Joaquin Benoit could also be in line for a look.


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* Less concerned about his ninth-inning situation – for now – is Rangers manager Jeff Banister, who gave closer Sam Dyson a vote of confidence following a pair of disastrous outings to open the season. On Opening Day the righty entered in a tie game and coughed up three runs to take the loss. Two nights later he came on to protect a one-run lead and allowed five Indians to cross the plate, four of them on a devastating Francisco Lindor grand slam.


All in all, Dyson's first week looked like this: two appearances, three outs recorded, eight earned runs allowed on seven hits and two walks. Zero strikeouts. Doesn't get much worse.


Banister is right not to jump the gun on any changes. It's the beginning of the season, facing the defending AL champs. Dyson has been a very reliable pitcher over the years, especially in 2016 when he converted 38 of 43 save chances after assuming the closer job in May. But he doesn't have a long track record in the role, and he's not necessarily the kind dominating force you look for to slam the door. We'd consider his footing to be a little precarious at this point. Matt Bush is likely next in line if he can keep stringing together quality appearances.


* The Mets could feature the game's best rotation this year, but they do have a few health question marks within the group. With Steven Matz already out indefinitely due to elbow inflammation, New York's depth took a key hit when Seth Lugo was diagnosed with a slight UCL tear, putting his entire season in jeopardy. For now, the Mets are going the PRP and rest route, but that's always an iffy proposition.


Lugo opened some eyes last year with a strong rookie campaign and was a key member of Puerto Rico's staff in last month's World Baseball Classic. Some wonder whether that early-spring intensity contributed to his injury. Regardless, he'll be out a while.


In some good news for the Mets, Matt Harvey looked sharp on Thursday in his first start since undergoing thoracic outlet surgery last July, shutting down the Braves over 6 2/3 innings outside of a pair of solo homers. We'll be curious to see how righty looks against better lineups. He's got another soft assignment on tap in Philly next week.


* He has rarely spent time on the disabled list in his lengthy career, so it was striking to see Adrian Beltre open the season there, unable to shake off nagging calf issues in time for real game action.


He took batting practice on Friday and appears to be nearing a return. With the new shortened DL minimum, Beltre is already eligible to be activated as soon as Sunday. While it's unclear if he'll be back that soon, we expect his season debut sometime in the coming week.


* Yasiel Puig's redemption tour is off to a fittingly thunderous start. Hitting from the bottom of the Dodgers lineup, the mercurial outfielder launched three home runs in LA's first five games, including two on Thursday.


I was a proponent of gambling on Puig in drafts this spring, because the talent is there and he's really got a fire under him now. So far, so good on that front. After slotting lower in the lineup early on, he found himself in the cleanup spot on Friday.


* It's easy to see why many people bought into the Byron Buxton hype this spring. He's among the game's most athletic players and seemingly turned a corner last September when he returned to the majors and went deep nine times in a month. This spring, he continued to look confident, impressing manager Paul Molitor enough that Buxton batted third for Minnesota's first four games.


Unfortunately, the contact issues that have perpetually haunted Buxton in the majors were back in Week 1. In those four contests, the center fielder went 1-for-18 with 11 strikeouts. Given that he has a 35 percent career K-rate in the big league, it's obviously a little concerning, but don't panic. He'll come around, at least to some extent, and once he starts making contact semi-regularly he can bring a lot of value with his speed and pop.


* If the Astros are going to bounce back from their disappointing 2016, they're going to need their ace starter to do the same. Dallas Keuchel, whose ERA jumped by more than two runs last year following a Cy Young campaign, got off on the right foot on Opening Day, hurling seven scoreless frames in a victory. Inducing tons of grounders and allowing only two hits, the lefty resembled his 20-win form from 2015 – certainly an encouraging early sign.


In Game 2, Lance McCullers certainly looked the part as the second half of Houston's 1-2 punch while notching his own win against Seattle with six innings of one-run ball.


* The Indians and Mets are both World Series hopefuls who will be reliant upon their top starters to stay healthy and help lead the way. Corey Kluber and Noah Syndergaard both took the ball in their respective season openers, but came away with blisters on their fingers. Fortunately, each is expected to make his next start on Sunday.


* Rich Hill knows something about blisters, and he's already perturbingly reacquainting himself in this young season. The veteran lefty landed on the disabled list after his first start – a victory over the Padres. Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts downplayed concerns, but you will recall (especially if you owned him) that Hill made one start between July 17th and September 3rd last year due to relentless bouts with the issue.


It seems that coming back too quickly and aggravating the problem was a contributor to Hill's prolonged absences, so we wouldn't be surprised to see LA play it safe and keep him out well beyond the obligatory 10 days. Alex Wood will take his spot in the interim. He's an intriguing spot streamer or deep-league pickup after striking out 66 over 60 innings with a 3.73 ERA last year, but we'd hold off until after Monday's tough tilt against the Cubs.


* In a scary moment, Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton took a pitch to the face on Thursday, but was lucky enough to come away with only a broken nose. He avoided the disabled list and actually appeared in Friday's game as a sub. The outfielder should be good to go.


* Despite a very productive spring in Rays camp, Nick Franklin was surprisingly designated for assignment by Tampa just ahead of the season. He was quickly picked up off waivers by the Brewers, and there he will serve as a utility man. There's no fantasy appeal here.


* Mike Pelfrey, who played with the Twins before spending last year in Detroit, is continuing his tour of the AL Central. Released by the Tigers at the end of March, he joined up this week with the White Sox on a minor-league deal, and could find his way into the rotation pretty quickly with Carlos Rodon sidelined. Good news for AL Central hitters.


** Thanks for checking out the year's first edition of The Week That Was. This column will appear every Saturday in Rotoworld's MLB section, providing rundowns and recaps with everything fantasy players need to know.

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