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Fantasy Baseball Edge: Early Season Pickups

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By Matt Cott, Matthew Schwimmer & Moe Koltun of Roto Analysis

Now that drafts are done and games have officially started, your weekly matchups are starting to be played. We at RotoAnalysis are breaking down some early season pickups for you to consider. Whether you’re dealing with injuries, need help at a certain position, or simply agree with our analysis, these are underrated players we think you should try to be ahead of the curve on. It’s early in the season where player values are way out of whack and leave room for smart owners to take advantage. These guys will soon be moving into starting lineups in every league and we think they are key additions to any team.

David Murphy, Rangers OF (47% owned in CBS leagues)

With Josh Hamilton gone left field in Texas is now officially Murphy’s. He’s always been a guy who displayed the power/speed combination that fantasy owners drooled over. It’s just been in like 400 at bats. Last year he got up to 450 and posted 15 homers and 10 steals to go with a .300 average and solid run/rbi totals. The guy can do it across all five categories similarly to the elite talents in the outfield. Even if his rates slightly decrease, he’s a guy who should be owned in 100% of leagues and a guy who will be a top 30-40 outfielder when all is said and done. Get on the bandwagon while you can.

Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners RP (76% owned)

A Japanese right-hander, Iwakuma earned a spot in the Mariners rotation out of Spring Training. Although he struggled as a reliever last year, Iwakuma thrived during his 95 innings as a starter. He posted a FIP and xFIP below 4.00 and a respectable 7.39 K/9. Although he crept up draft boards in Spring Training, Iwakuma is still not owned in every league. That should change especially after his outing last night in which he allowed only two base runners and 1 run over an impressive seven K’s in six innings of work. Although the sample sizes are not large with Iwakuma, his repertoire and ability to pitch in Safeco Field do not indicate that this is a fluke. Look for Iwakuma as a top 40 SP in most leagues especially when he pitches at Safeco, where he posted a FIP a full run lower last year.

Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs RP (43% owned)

Well, you didn’t think Carlos Marmol and job security were going to remain synonyms for very long did you? Marmol’s ability to contain his wildness lasted less then an inning and this year the Cubs have a better alternative. Fresh into the country, Fujikawa is clearly the Cubs closer of the future with an impressive fastball, forkball, and curveball, or “shuuto” as it is referred to in Japan. In Japan, Kyuji posted an impressive K/9 rate and an even more impressive FIP. In six seasons in Japan, he posted a FIP under 2.00 in all but one season. Fujikawa is already up there in age (32) so the time is now for the impressive right-hander and I expect the Cubs know that. Fujikawa has the potential to be an elite reliever in the States and should end the year with the most saves on the Cubs.

Brandon Moss, Athletics 1B (41% owned)

Power is often the scarcest resource in fantasy leagues, particularly when it comes to mining the waiver wire. However, there is a player currently available in almost 60% of CBS leagues that slugged 21 homers in just 84 games last year. I know Moss hits in Oakland, so some are skeptical that his power will continue, but 14 of those 21 homers were longer than 400 feet, so Moss’s power is close to park-irrelevant. Yeah, Moss strikes out a ton, but if you’re grabbing him off of waivers, you’re not asking him to repeat his .291 average from last year—if he hits .250 with 30+ homers, that already puts him a tier above a guy like Adam Dunn, who is owned in all but 16% of CBS leagues thanks to his bigger name. The Oakland lineup is surprisingly deep, and Moss should be a solid three-category performer all season long. Grab him while he’s still unknown and available.

Brandon Maurer, Mariners SP (36% owned)

There could be some surprisingly good value in the Mariners’ rotation this year. I’m as wary of spring training stats as anyone, but sometimes good preseason stats are all a guy needs to give them the opportunity to succeed, and that is exactly what’s happened with Brandon Maurer. In Spring, the guy posted a 25:7 K:BB ratio in just 24 innings pitched, and he is leaving Spring Training with a 1.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. For now, Maurer is probably a guy you only want to start when he’s pitching in Safeco Field, but he sits in the 94 MPH range with his fastball, has a hard biting slider and a solid curveball. Physically, Maurer has the upside to be a legit fantasy starter, and in Seattle, even okay pitchers can be made to look like studs. He has the chance to become this year’s Doug Fister—it’s more valuable to you to take that chance with him on your bench than with him on the wire.

Chris Carter, Astros 1B (31% owned)

With almost all of you in weekly formats, it’s always good to have certain players to sub in when they’re hot. Power hitters tend to be streaky and while it’s hard to predict, there are certainly advantages to having some in your lineup. When you talk about streaky it’s easy to think about players like Carlos Pena – big boppers with poor batting averages and long swings. Chris Carter could be the next guy in line. He displayed this kind of potential when he put up six homers in July in just 59 at bats last season. There will clearly be cold stretches but there will also be weeks where Carter will be the hot name in your league, and you should try to get ahead of the curve.

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.

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