By Matt Cott and Moe Kulton of RotoAnalysis.com
This week, we’ve decided to focus on players whose fantasy values are going to change dramatically in the coming weeks. Whether that is through returning from injury, being called up to the major leagues, or gaining position eligibility, we will discuss how these changes affect the players themselves as well as other players at their positions. Before we get started, you might notice that there are a few notable exceptions to players who should easily fit on this list in Jacoby Ellsbury, Chris Young, and Mike Trout. The good news for you is we already wrote about those players last week, and for thoughts on them you can check that out here (see related story). Now let’s take a look at some intriguing situations for the upcoming weeks.
Making the Leap:
Jarrod Parker, Athletics SP
Jarrod Parker was the centerpiece of the Diamondbacks’ trade with the A’s for Trevor Cahill, and he is scheduled to make his season debut against the White Sox this Wednesday. Parker’s high prospect standing is thanks to his well above average fastball that sits in the low to mid 90’s, touches around 96, and is paired with an above average slider and an average changeup. Parker has also been improving his command since coming back from surgery (2.45 BB/9 so far this year), which should help with his WHIP for fantasy.
In Oakland’s park, pitchers like Bartolo Colon and Tommy Milone have been successful, and Jarrod Parker is a much better pitcher right now than either of those guys. He might be a matchups-play to start because Oakland isn’t going to win a ton of games and he is quite young, but Parker could have some real fantasy value in as shallow as ten team leagues. His debut Wednesday just showed how advanced his stuff is: allowing 1 earned in 6.1 innings and striking out 5 against a decent White Sox lineup is just a sign of what’s to come.
Danny Hultzen, Mariners SP
The Mariners selected Hultzen with the 2nd pick in last year’s draft based on just how polished a product he was. Many scouts thought Hultzen could be capable of starting directly in the major leagues, but the Mariners helected to put him in Double A for now. So far, Hultzen has proven to be better than the level, striking out 21 and walking only 8 in 16 innings of work.
Like Parker, Hultzen sits in the low 90’s with his fastball touching 96 MPH, with a very good changeup and an okay slider to pair. Also like Parker, Hultzen is going to pitch in an extremely depressed offensive environment in Safeco, and I believe Hultzen could be even better than Parker right away thanks to his polish. The issue with Hultzen is that the Mariners have yet to say when he will be called up. With a rotation that sports Jason Vargas as its no. 2 starter and players like Blake Beavan in the back-end of its rotation, though, we think Hultzen could easily plug in now as the Mariners’ second best pitcher. The Mariners won’t be able to keep Danny Hultzen down for long and he is a player well worth watching in leagues as shallow as 12 teams.
Position Eligibility Changes:
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 1B/3B
Like Hanley, Miggy will not be hugely affected by the new eligibility he is gaining. First basemen have been better than expected across the board, but remain a shallower bunch than third basemen. Cabrera is a player that will have no issues and will be the rock of any fantasy lineup; he has 3 homers just this week, and is a consensus top 2 player with Matt Kemp at this point.
Brett Myers, Astros SP/RP
In most leagues, Brett Myers has been extremely frustrating to own so far this year thanks to being eligible solely as a starting pitcher. That should change by next week, as in most CBS leagues Myers only needs 4 more games as a reliever to become eligible, and in other formats generally it’s a maximum of 7 more games until he has dual-eligibility. Once he becomes RP eligible, Myers’ value should skyrocket, especially in deeper leagues or NL only leagues, and he should become a top 25 Relief Pitcher rather than a non-top-60 Starting Pitcher.
Additionally, the added flexibility of being able to play him in either slot gives fantasy owners both SP and RP injury protection, as Myers can sub in either place. Although he’s barely pitched so far this year thanks to Houston’s lack of late-game leads, when he has pitched he has looked great; his velocity has ticked up almost 4 MPH from last year to 92.1 on average, and his slider has also gained some of its former life. Myers won’t be the best closer in the league, but he certainly won’t be the worst. Go to the waiver wire and get Brett Myers now before he gains relief pitcher eligibility and it’s too late.
Hanley Ramirez, Marlins SS/3B
While he is batting a measly .221, Hanley has showed the power and speed that owners drafted him so highly for with 4 homers and 4 steals. With the 20th game of the season approaching, he will finally gain 3B eligibility. This is very individual depending on your team, but we would recommend keeping him at the shallower SS slot. The top 16 third basemen on the ESPN Player Rater at this point would all slot into the top 10 among shortstops. While the versatility will definitely help your team and open up a lot of trade opportunities, stick with Hanley going forward to get that average up and help your team from wherever you decide to place him.
Carl Crawford, Red Sox OF
The name James Andrews has become all too familiar to baseball fans, and it usually comes with a terrible association: long-term injury. He is one of the leading sports medicine experts and a highly regarded orthopedic surgeon with a client list ranging from Michael Jordan and Tom Brady to countless baseball players. Crawford injured his elbow just as he was finally recovering from his wrist injury last season, and has no timetable set to return. While he could be a good fantasy bounce-back candidate, the wheels are skidding and in a shallow league where he’s holding up a bench spot, it may be time to look elsewhere.
Cliff Lee, Phillies SP
Owners were frightened when Lee went down with an injury, but were thrilled to find it was not an elbow or shoulder, but an oblique. He should be back to his old self as soon as he comes back, and that means a top 5 SP. While he may not strike out as many guys as in 2011, his control is maybe the best in the majors (just 1.36 BB/9 since 2008!), making him as safe a bet as you can find at a position filled with risk.
Michael Pineda, Yankees SP
Pineda was officially shut down for the season this week in a tragic start in New York for one of the league’s finest young pitchers. While it will be tough to sit and hold onto him in keeper leagues, his upside is too high to let go of. In the mean-time, it opens up the Yankees rotation, giving Phil Hughes security, and giving Freddy Garcia and Andy Pettitte the chance to be fantasy relevant. While Pettitte was very effective in short doses during his last season in 2010, it’s far too early to pick him up in anything but an AL-only 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.