By Sam McPherson
The Chicago Cubs garnered a lot of attention this spring regarding their super prospect Kris Bryant. Drafting him in a fantasy league was a gamble, though, since no one was sure when Bryant would be called up to the big leagues. The gamble paid off for bold owners, as Bryant has been in the majors for 19 games already this season.
However, quite often this kind of risk doesn’t pay off so quickly. Top prospects can languish in the minor leagues for months, while their fantasy owners waste away a roster spot hoping for a reprieve down the line. The smartest thing to do, in truth, is to not take that risk. Instead, you should rely on some old familiar faces to get to the top of the league standings—and stay there.
The same goes for those players injured in spring training. Sure, they will be back “soon,” according to their MLB team, but recovering from various injuries is never a sure thing. Even so, how much time in the minors will they need to burn the rust off? No, you’re better off grabbing a boring-albeit-steady veteran for your roster.
After all, statistics start counting from Opening Day, and those not playing accrue no statistics.
Players to Get Into Your Lineup Now
1. Trevor Plouffe, 3B, Minnesota Twins: He burst onto the scene in 2012 with a homer-run barrage, but Plouffe is settling in now as a reliable fantasy corner man. No, he’s not an All-Star, but if you need a solid third baseman, he’s your man—and Plouffe is probably available in your league. He will hit .260 with 20 HRs this year, and that’s not bad at all.
2. A.J. Burnett, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates: He’s 38 years old, but all he does is continue to strike out MLB hitters. Over his career, Burnett has K’d 8.3 batters per nine innings, and while he’s a little under that right now this season, he also pitches for a good team and will get your team much-needed wins in the process. Don’t expect the 1.66 ERA to hold form, but grab him if you need a reliable starter.
3. Jason Hammel, SP, Chicago Cubs: He’s a bit riskier than Burnett, but right now, Hammel is in a good situation. He’s not walking anyone, and he’s striking out everyone. Hammel still gives up more hits than you’d like, but the low walks compensate. With 7.8 Ks per nine and a 1.02 WHIP right now, he’s going to stay valuable as the season progresses.
4. Adam Lind, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers: It’s hard to believe he’s been in the majors for 10 seasons now, but Lind is tearing it up in Miller Park. His team may stink, but he does not: .333 average, six HRs and 17 RBI. Lind does get breathers against the tougher lefties, but you have to like a guy hitting .324 with 12 HRs over his last 386 at-bats dating back to last season. If he continues to hit .294 against lefties like he is now, Lind will be even more valuable.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Alex Cobb, SP, Tampa Bay Rays: If you were hoping he’d come back from injury stronger than ever, forget it. There’s been talk this week he may try to pitch through his elbow issues, but that’s not a welcome sign for Cobb or fantasy owners. Add one of the veterans above and drop Cobb immediately.
2. Josh Harrison, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates: He was an All-Star last season, but nothing in his MLB track record suggested Harrison could repeat his 2014 numbers. And he isn’t—not even close. His career walks-to-strikeouts ratio is not good (four Ks for every one walk), and Harrison is hitting just .175 through 25 games now. Time to cut him loose and pick up Plouffe—if you still can.
3. Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds: He has a similar track record to Harrison’s, including the All-Star season in 2014. But he also has a hip injury issue that isn’t going away anytime soon. You can’t wait for Mesoraco to either get better or go under the knife. Waive him and stream the catcher position if you have to until you find a backstop that sticks.
4. Archie Bradley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: He’s coming back soon from injury, but a wise fantasy owner would keep Bradley on the bench until he shows stability through a few starts after returning. Head injuries can linger, even without external symptoms, and you want to make sure Bradley is fully recovered from the line drive off his face on April 28. Even so, the rookie walks too many batters (5.3 per nine) to be reliable, so keep an eye on that if you continue to stash him on your bench.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball and fantasy sports for many online sites, including CBS, AXS and Examiner.