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By Matt Cott & Moe Koltun of RotoAnalysis.com
For the next couple of weeks, the fantasy world is stuck in a sort of limbo. No longer can we smell the fresh spring training air, but teams aren’t yet in mid-season form. There aren’t enough injuries to focus on a replacements column, and enough time hasn’t passed to really pick out the breakout candidates yet. So, this week we present to you a little bit of analysis on a smorgasbord of topics to help you in your league; from injuries, to somewhat breakout candidates, to absurd closer blowups, we try to give you a little bit of everything.
Chris Young’s Crash
Chris Young (not to be confused with the 6’10” injury-plagued pitcher of the same name) got put on the 15 day DL with a ‘slight ligament tear in his right shoulder’ after crashing into the center field wall Tuesday. Young’s been on a huge hot streak to start the season with 5 homers, 2 steals and a .410 average. While that production is impossible to replace, his backup, Gerrardo Parra, is a very underrated player for fantasy who has the ability to hit for a high average (.290 or so) with double-digit homers and steals over a full season. While Young is out, Parra isn’t a terrible replacement, and I really like him for NL only or deeper mixed leagues in the next week or two.
Aroldis Chapman’s Resurgence
Aroldis Chapman has arguably been the best pitcher in baseball so far this season, as in his 8 innings of work Chapman has struck out 15, allowed only three hits, and, most importantly, walked no batters (last season he walked 7.38 batters per 9 innings). While he doesn’t have a ton of fantasy value as a set-up man, the Reds aren’t exactly a team overflowing with pitching depth, and the pressure to move him into the rotation could be enough to make Dusty Baker try him there. If given the chance, Aroldis Chapman could be one of the most dangerous pitchers in baseball, and he certainly has the upside to be that with his new-and-improved command this season.
Mike Trout’s Future & The Angels Outfield
The Angels’ all-world prospect Mike Trout has gotten off to a preposterous start in Triple A with a 14 game hitting streak, a .400 batting average, 3 triples, a homer and 4 steals in just 14 games. To us, however, only one number matters: $21,000,000. That is how much money the Angels owe Vernon Wells this year, and, unfortunately, for the 2 years following that. Mike Trout could hit 1.000 with homers in every at bat, but as long as Vernon Wells is doing well (.258 average with 3 homers in 11 games), Trout won’t be up before June, especially since they can delay his arbitration and free agency a year by holding him down.
Jacoby Ellsbury & The Red Sox Outfield
The Red Sox have officially caught the injury bug. A partially dislocated shoulder has derailed many fantasy teams’ early-season hopes as Ellsbury recovers. While the injury will not require surgery, he should be on the DL for about six to eight weeks. Jason Repko has replaced him in center field, and offers absolutely no fantasy value at this point. Nor do Ryan Sweeney or Darnell McDonald. Cody Ross has the power to be used in a deeper league, but is far from an appealing option. The more interesting option in their outfield has become Carl Crawford. He has begun playing in extended spring training and should be poised for a return to pre-2011 form once he does return to the majors. Don’t sleep on Crawford as he will be a top-20 option in the outfield assuming there are no setbacks with his wrist and elbow.
Matt Kemp’s Outstanding Start
As we wrote about earlier this week on RotoAnalysis.com (read related story), Kemp has had a historic start to the 2012 season. He has been named the NL Player of the Week for each of the first two weeks of the season, and has been the most valuable player for fantasy by far. We consider him the second overall player moving forward (to Miguel Cabrera), and while no owner will trade him at this point, it should be pretty fun to watch this superstar go as the season goes on.
Closers in Limbo
Many early-season injuries have hit closers across the league. Kyle Farnsworth, Drew Storen, Brian Wilson, and Andrew Bailey have complicated the closer situations on four teams already. Aceves is the guy to look at in Boston, as there is no way Mark Melancon is touching that role again with a 49.5 ERA to start the year. Fernando Rodney has taken over in Tampa Bay, and should be an acceptable #2 RP. The situations in Washington and San Francisco are a bit more complicated. Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez have been splitting time to kill each other’s values. Rodriguez is a player to watch, as he has the upside and the velocity to be an impact closer, but needs the job to truly have fantasy value. For the Giants, Santiago Casilla got the first save opportunity, but has not been declared the official closer. Wilson will be out for the year and this is an interesting race to watch; Sergio Romo would be a top 15 closer if given the job. Relief Pitcher is always an interesting position to track, so be sure to watch any new closing opportunities and control the Saves category in your league.
Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @KidCotti21. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.