We will take a gander over the central divisions in baseball, and for the first few weeks before all of the dust settles we will take a look at pitcher(s) and hitter(s) from each team that may be available on your waiver wire. Obviously, you need to be cognizant of league-size and scoring system because these player recommendations may already be off the map for you.
- Kansas City Royals 95-67
- Minnesota Twins 83-79
- Cleveland Indians 81-80
- Chicago White Sox 76-86
- Detroit Tigers 74-87
Kansas City Royals
Alcides Escobar (SS)- Escobar plays good defense and puts the ball in play, which is exactly what the Royals want him to do. Unfortunately, it makes him a better player in real life than fantasy. But, playing at the ever-so-slim shortstop position, he can be a fine place-holder for your roster without killing all of your ratios. At his best, he hits for average and is one of the more prolific base-stealers. But for whatever reason, the Royals didn’t give him the green light nearly as much in 2015. The reduced batting average also contributed to the lower-than-expected steals total. But considering his strikeout rate actually went down, that’s mostly a result of bad luck.Media To some degree, Escobar should bounce back in 2016, but 20 steals may be a safer expectation than 30.
Chris Y0ung (SP/RP)- Young already had one start this week in the rematch of the World Series against the Mets. He lasted five innings throwing 93 pitches and making one big mistake that saw Neil Walker take him deep for a two-run shot. He did not receive any offense behind him as Mets’ Noah Syndergaard was pitching lights-out. Young walked three and struck out four while only giving up three hits. He will look to bounce back against Houston on Monday. We are listing Young here for two reasons. The first is obvious:is a two-start pitcher slated to face to Colin McHugh and the Astros, and Chris Bassitt of the Athletics later in the week. The other reason is that Young can still hold relief pitcher eligibility, depending on the site you use. Getting two starts out of a relief spot is very beneficial especially in in points leagues. Unfortunately, both games will be on the road. But he gets a team that strikeouts a lot in the Astros and then a definite win possibility against the putrid A’s offense. He is definitely worth a roster spot in week 2 and could be dropped after his second start for another two-start pitcher heading into week 3. Teammate Kris Medlen will also receive two starts during week 2. But, he gets two considerably tougher match-ups versus Mike Fiers and Sonny Gray, which has me leaning towards Young here.
Eddie Rosario (LF)- Eddie Rosario is one odd player. He’s the only one in major-league history to contribute between 10 and 20 doubles, triples, home runs, stolen bases and walks in a season–and he did it as a rookie. It may not mean anything, but players who double so infrequently rarely homer so frequently. Players who steal so infrequently rarely triple so frequently, and players who walk so infrequently rarely do much of anything. He batted a solid .316 during spring training with three home-runs and eight RBI. He bats in a somewhat advantageous spot in the five-hole for the Twins, and he looks to build on the solid numbers he put up as a rookie. Definitely could hold some value in deep leagues as a fourth or fifth outfielder, and he will not kill you in any of your categories for the most part.
Kyle Gibson (SP)- You will see a trend in most of my pitcher suggestions, as they will most likely be of the two-start variety. Gibson will receive two home starts against Carlos Rodon and the White Sox, and versus Andrew Heaney and the Angels. It’s not the opposing pitchers that gives me the green light here. It’s the less than intimidating offenses of both teams. Both finished below league average in runs last year (CHW 28th – LAA 20th). The only real improvement was the addition of Todd Frazier to the White Sox lineup. Gibson had a pretty strong spring in which he struck out 19 batters in 17.2 innings leading to a 1.53 ERA. He had a 6.7 K/9 in 2015, which was his career best. With the strong spring that number could possibly increase somewhat. There are definitely worse options out there, so do not overlook Gibson as a streaming option heading into week 2.
Tyler Naquin (CF)- Naquin was a guy who was scorching hot in spring training. He slashed .447/.500/.842 in 42 plate appearances. These numbers earned him a spot on the Indians opening day roster. He did not play the Indians’ first game against the Red Sox because the Tribe went with a righty-heavy lineup against Boston’s ace David Price. His counterpart Rajai Davis got the start versus Price and struck out three times. So look for Naquin to see a healthy amount of playing time in center field, especially with the injury to Michael Brantley and the suspension to Abraham Almonte. Keep a close eye on Naquin as he may be able to help bolster some solid numbers for your OF positions early on in 2016.
Cody Anderson (SP)- We all are aware of the big guns at the top (Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar) so no need to list them here. They will all be 100 percent owned and should always be started. Anderson secured the fourth spot in the Tribe’s Opening Day rotation with a strong spring, though his limited strikeout potential limits his mixed league relevancy. Anderson pitched well in his Grapefruit League finale on Friday, scattering three hits over 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball in a victory over the Rangers. Here is a guy that does not present a ton of upside like his teammates. But if you need a spot start, he is a low-risk candidate to implode.
Chicago White Sox
Jimmy Rollins (SS)- Again, another player at the scarce shortstop position. Rollins was another addition for the White Sox who signed a minor league contract just before spring training. The 37-year-old was coming off of a career-low .643 OPS alongside an awful .224 batting average. The position was up for grabs and Rollins took advantage. He entered the the season batting at the two spot behind Adam Eaton and in front of Jose Abreu. Rollins went 1-for-5 with a home run and two runs scored against the A’s on Tuesday. His first home run as a member of White Sox could not have come at a better time as it broke a 4-4 tie in the top of the ninth inning. The home run came off of lefty Sean Doolittle, and ended up being the winning run in the contest. If Rollins remains in the two-hole for Chicago he is worth an add in mixed leagues as he will have ample opportunities in the runs scored category. He may hurt you in batting average, so keep that in mind when making the decision to add him.
Carlos Rodon (SP)- Here we lay again, another two start pitcher heading into week 2. But this pick is less about getting two starts than about his potential for the 2016 season. After a solid rookie season in 2015, Rodon was a hot name to consider on draft day heading into this season. The Sox monitored Rodon’s innings closely last year in his first full pro season and he wound up throwing 149 1/3 frames between the majors and minors. It appears the left-hander will not be under a strict innings cap in 2016 and it’s worth noting that the White Sox let Chris Sale jump from 71 frames in 2011 to 192 innings in 2012 in his first year as a starter. Rodon has battled control issues and inconsistency. But he was dynamite down the stretch in 2015, posting a 1.81 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 49/21 K/BB ratio over 54 2/3 innings across his final eight starts. He has huge breakout potential in 2016.
- St. Lous Cardinals 100-62
- Pittsburgh Pirates 98-64
- Chicago Cubs 97-65
- Milwaukee Brewers 68-94
- Cincinnati Reds 64-98
St. Louis Cardinals
Jedd Gyorko (2B/SS)- Gyorko went 2-for-5 with a home-run in Tuesday’s loss to the Pirates. Gyorko is getting a chance to show he deserves long-term playing time with Jhonny Peralta and Ruben Tejada laid up with injuries. Gyorko has three consecutive double-digit home run seasons, making him one of the best power producing second basemen in the league despite his perennial struggles in San Diego. Once he earns qualification at shortstop, his power will make him a major asset as long as he can hold onto playing time in St. Louis.
Mike Leake (SP)- Filling the vacancy left behind by the loss of John Lackey to division rival Cubbies, Leake is coming off a campaign in which he had minor struggles after joining the Giants for the second half of the 2015 season. He had a career-low 5.6 K/9 last season and has never been much of a strikeout guy. Nevertheless, he has posted three seasons of 3.70 ERA or better. Leake closed out the spring with a 2.25 ERA in five starts, while sustaining a sparkling WHIP of 0.95 and striking out 24 batters across 20 innings. The Cardinals as well as us fantasy owners will be extremely pleased if he comes anywhere near these numbers during the regular season.
John Jaso (DH/1B)- Garnering that first-base eligibility shortly in many fantasy leagues will help boost Jaso’s value as the lead-off man for the Bucs’ in 2016. Jaso is 2-for-9 in his first two games as a Pirates. The 32-year-old holds a career .380 OBP which was something that attracted Clint Hurdle and the Pirates enough to give him $8 million over the next two seasons. Jaso has never hit more than 10 homers or scored more than 57 runs in a single season. But he will have a good chance to better those marks (especially runs scored) with Andrew McCutchen hitting behind him. Even if Jaso has a bout of struggles, the Pirates will continue to ride him because he can not be much worse than Pedro Alvarez.
Juan Nicasio (SP/RP)- Similar to Chris Young , Nicasio has two elements working for him: he holds relief pitcher eligibility and garners a two-start week as the Pirates’ fifth starter heading into week 2 of the season. He battled Ryan Vogelsong in spring training for the last spot in the rotation and made it an easy decision for management as he gave up zero earned runs over 15 innings, while striking out 24 batters against just five walks. After recording a career-best 3.86 ERA for the Dodgers last season, the 29-year-old may be finally putting it all together. Being able to plug him in at RP across two-starts should give you a distinct advantage over your opponent especially in head-to-head points leagues, unless that player dishes out the aforementioned Chris Young against you. Still Nicasio presents you with more upside as he has more strikeout potential than Young.
Dexter Fowler (CF)- After a shocking decision to re-sign with the Cubs on a one-year deal after backing out of a three-year deal with the Orioles, Fowler excited the Cubs organization and fantasy owners as he sped out of the gate going 5-for-9, with four runs, one home run and two RBI to start the season. The recent side injury that kept him off of the field during spring training appears to be gone as he is off to this fast start. Fowler looks like he could score 100 runs batting atop the potent lineup for the Cubs. The only problem with Fowler is his health. He is not a good bet to play more than 130 games.
John Lackey (SP)- The 37-year-old enjoyed one of his best seasons in 2015, working to a 2.77 ERA with a 7.2 K/9. Lackey denied a qualifying offer with the Cardinals and elected to sign a two-year deal with the Cubs. The Cubs already have two studs in Jake Arrieta and John Lester. So adding Lackey to the mix really solidifies this rotation with Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks at the back end. People tend to make nothing of spring training numbers. But Lackey definitely had an interesting preseason. He had a 6.92 ERA over three starts, but maintained a stellar K:BB ratio as he finished with a 14:1 ratio over 13 innings.
Scooter Gennett (2B)- Despite having only 35 at-bats against lefties a season ago, Gennett not only started against Madison Bumgarner in the season opener, but also took him deep in the second inning. After the solid showing in the season opener, Scooter earned a better placement in the lineup, batting second against right-hander Johnny Cueto. He finished 1-for-4. If Gennett can hold that spot in the order, it will open up more opportunities to score runs since he will be hitting in front of Ryan Braun and Johnathon Lucroy. At a weak position, Gennett can be worth a look in deep mixed leagues as a source of runs scored, but not much help elsewhere.
Jeremy Jeffress (RP)- Although Jeffress only has one career save to his name, he did a post a 2.65 ERA and struck out 67 batters over 68 innings last season. Manager Craig Counsell has yet to comment on the Brewers’ closer situation after the injury to Will Smith. But he said earlier in March that he and Smith would share the ninth-inning duties. Now with Smith sidelined, it appears that it is Jeffress’ job to close out games for the Brew Crew. Two games into the season, Milwaukee has not had a lead in the ninth frame for any save opportunities. Jeffress did pitch a scoreless ninth inning loss to the Giants. Although it was a non-save situation Tuesday, they were just down a run and Counsell simply wanted to just use his top relief pitcher to close out the game rather than save him. All in all, Jeffress seems to be the favorite to close for Milwaukee even though that opportunity could not happen until mid-July with that awful roster.
Zack Cozart (SS)- Yeah, so you may have finally caught on to the pattern here with scarce positions such as shortstop or second base. Cozart was having a solid 2015 campaign before tearing ligaments in his leg and missing the second half of the season. The 30-year-old isn’t an ideal choice to bat leadoff, but Reds manager Bryan Price is expected to use him there at least until Billy Hamilton shows he’s capable of moving up in the lineup. Cozart went 3-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI in Monday’s Opening Day victory over the Phillies. Knowing how bad Billy Hamilton is at the plate, it seems unlikely that he will unpeg Cozart from the leadoff spot. Since hitting atop the order gives a player more opportunities to produce, Cozart could have some sneaky value in fantasy this season.
Brandon Finnegan (SP/RP)- Here we find another guy with dual eligibility and a two-start week ahead. Finnegan was a player the Reds acquired in a deal with Kansas City for Johnny Cueto. He pitched well in relief for the Royals in their playoff run. But he has done little since joining Cincinnati. He simply gained the Reds’ fifth spot in the rotation due to the rash of injuries to other starters. He had a horrid end to his spring, giving up six runs in back-to-back outings. But because of the lack of other options, the Reds will stick it out with him. Strictly for points leagues he is worth an add as he will get two starts. This will give him more opportunity than a low-quality one start pitcher.
Come back next week as we will track the progress of these players, as well as monitor the waiver wire for players we could be looking to add heading into week 3.
Find me on twitter: @zaksauer
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday April 7th, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #8 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. We will discuss player positions and help prepare you for the coming draft season. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. Our Thursday night show will do some weekly recaps, player updates, and preview the coming week end games.
Our guests this week are Hernan Batista and Nick DeSisto. Both Hernan and Nick are veteran owners in Major League Fantasy Baseball Leagues. Hernan and Nick will also be frequent guests on our shows this year.
“You can find our show on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section.”
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Corey D Roberts on Sunday April 10th, 2016 from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. We are a live call in radio show so we encourage callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss the coming week’s games Mon-Thu, do some recap of the previous 3 days, and general fantasy news.
Our guests this week are Mark Rush and Phil Weiss. Mark is the Professor of politics and law at Washington & Lee University, an author, writer, and a frequent guest on National Public Radio as well as the Arabian News Network. Mark was part of the writing staff at Ron Shandler’s old site shandlerpark.com. Since Ron shut that project down Mark has joined our writing staff here at majorleaguefantasysports.com, and also does some editing.
Phil Weiss’s resume includes working as a CPA with a large public accounting firm as well as private industry (Fortune 500), specializing in international corporate tax planning. Chief Financial Analyst for Independent RIA.
Media Experience: Frequent guest on CNBC and Bloomberg television. Multiple appearances on Bloomberg radio, local and national radio. Regularly quoted in Wall Street Journal, Reuters, New York Times, AP, thestreet.com, local news, Financial Times
“You can find our show on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section.”