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A little extra flavor never hurts. Especially when puttin’ together a fantasy squad.
When I’m in the kitchen I make moves. If something aint selling, I take it off the menu. If a staff member isn’t doing their job, they’re gone. That’s how I run my fantasy teams.
Each week I will hit you with the players moving up the rankings that you NEED to know about. I don’t care if it is the No. 8 hitter on the Cubs or the No. 4 starter for the Astros. If they are producing, you’re gonna know about it.
I am big on sample size. And you should be too. It is tough to tell just how a player is going to end up when evaluating such few at-bats or inning pitched for that matter. So in the early going there is going to be a little more speculation than usual. But hey, maybe we will strike gold. Maybe not. There is just no tellin’ where the season will go from here. So let’s get to it!
Brandon Hicks, 2B, SS (SF)--The Giants invested in power to add to the middle of their lineup this offseason (Michael Morse), but little did they know that Hicks would bring his big stick while filling in for Marco Scutaro in the early going. Hick has now connected for four home runs over his last seven games, bringing his season total to five long balls over his first 61 at-bats (12.2 AB/HR). Although he does rack up a lot swing-and misses (39.3 percent K Rate), his power stroke could definitely outweigh the bad if he can continue to be productive in the plate appearances in which he makes contact (0.63 GB/FB Rate). With no target return date set for Scutaro’s season debut, Hick will continue to see regular at-bats at second base, which makes him a solid pickup in both NL-only and deep mixed leagues if you can deal with the batting average drain.
Grant Green, 2B (LAA)--Although the move has yet to be made official, the Angels are expected to promote Green from Triple-A Salt Lake help man left field while the team continues to struggle in finding adequate production in the absence of Josh Hamilton. Green was moved from second base to the outfield prior to the start of the season and has not let the change in the field effect his production at the plate. Through 109 at-bats, Green is posting a .349 average with two homers and 28 RBI while chipping in three stolen bases. At first we may see a platoon featuring both Green (Righty) and J.B. Shuck (Lefty), but if he catches fire it will be his job to lose, at least in the short-term. Although it is far too early to make him a mixed league add, once he gains his outfield eligibility it will make him a more attractive commodity while Hamilton is sidelined.
Garrett Jones, 1B, OF (MIA)--The Marlins needed a big stick in the middle of the lineup besides Giancarlo Stanton, and Jones has been just that of late. Over his last eight games, Jones has gone 10-for-30 (.300 BA) connecting for three home runs while driving in five RBI and recording four multi-hit contests over that stretch. While he has a history of striking out a lot (33.0 percent K Rate), Jones has managed to keep a respectable .263 average up to this point, which is just a hair over his career average (.255 BA). The biggest problem for Jones this season has been his production against left-handed opposition (4-for-25 w/ 1 RBI), but against righties that is a whole different story (22-for-74 w/ 5 HR and 13 RBI). Taking his splits into consideration if you were to add him it would be wise to play the matchups, but there are far worse options out there than Jones if you are hurting at either first base or outfield of late for full-time purposes.
Jarrod Dyson, OF (KC)--Since becoming a permanent fixture in the Royals outfield, Dyson has been a speed demon on the base paths logging five stolen bases over in six tries in the early going. Despite only taking one free pass through his first 38 at-bats, his success getting on base can be credited to his current 11-for-29 streak (.379 BA) which has resulted in an OBP of .333 on the year. While he loses some fantasy value being slotted as the team’s No. 9 hitter, Dyson’s high success rate on the base paths (career 0.86 SB Rate) makes him a threat to steal every time he leads off of first. For now, Dyson is a solid add in deep mixed leagues, but if you are looking strictly for balance in the stolen base category he could hold value in standard formats if you can afford to lose power production in your outfield.
Carlos Ruiz, C (PHI)--It may have took him a little while to get rolling, but now there is no stopping this Choo(ch)-Choo(ch) train. Over his last 10 games, Ruiz has logged three three-hit games, and is now sitting on a .297 average with one home run seven RBI through 74 at-bats. He has never been known for his power production, outside of his juiced 2012 campaign (16 HR w/ 68 RBI), but his batting average and on-base percentage (.416 OBP) thus far are signs that maybe he is finally back after a down 2013 season. If you are picking up Chooch when you are hurting in home runs and RBI, you are going after the wrong guy. Ruiz offers balance for an offense that features big bats with sub-par batting averages, so if this sounds like your squad maybe he could be of service over the long haul.
Josh Beckett, SP (LAD)--Although Beckett has yet to factor into a decision through his first four starts, the former ace has been very productive in the early going. He is currently holding a .245 ERA and 0.91 WHIP while averaging one strikeout per inning pitched (22.0 IP). It has taken him four starts to get back to full speed, lasting eight innings in his outing last Sunday. Outside of allowing five free passes in his second trip to the mound, Beckett has given up two walks or less in his other three tries. As long as he can lower his walk rate slightly (8 BB through 22.0 IP) and continues to limit his hits allowed, there is no reason to think Beckett’s luck will change and start finding himself in the win column in no time. He is still owned in less than 40 percent of leagues throughout the major providers (ESPN, Yahoo!, CBS), which is bound to climb if his early success continues. So get him now while he is hot.
Tanner Roark, SP (WAS)--It is easy to get lost in the mix in a staff featuring the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, but Roark should start getting the respect he deserves. Through his first five starts, Roark is 2-0 with a 2.76 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, after throwing back-to-back shutouts including a complete game last Saturday. While it is still far too early in the season to know whether or not he has the lasting power to withstand a full season’s workload in the big leagues, his recent trends indicate there is a lot to like about this backend starter. Since his first start, Roark has yet to allow more than two walks in four trips to the mound while averaging just under a strikeout per inning over that stretch. Considering the matchups he is going to continue to draw as the season progresses, there is no reason he can’t continue moving in the right direction, making him a solid add in all but the shallowest of fantasy leagues.
Marcus Stroman, SP (TOR)--The Blue Jays youngster has yet to make his first appearance above the Triple-A level, but has been creating a lot of buzz throughout the fantasy world of late. Through five starts in 2014, Stroman holds a 2-2 record with a 1.69 ERA and 1.09 WHIP while sporting an attractive 12.2 K/9 over 26.2 innings. It is going to be very difficult for the Blue Jays to keep him down much longer, considering the struggles of their backend starter in the early going. His promotion is coming, that’s pretty clear. Now it’s just a waiting game. If you want to take a shot on this flamethrower, the time is now before the move is made official.
Trevor Bauer, SP (CLE)--Similar to the situation the Blue Jays are dealing with north of the boarder, the Indians have a former top prospect awaiting a permanent stay in the starting rotation. Bauer was up for a cup of coffee earlier in the season and dazzled (6.0 IP 1 ER 8 K) but has now forced the hand of management to get him back in the mix. The Indians have already moved Carlos Carrasco to the bullpen, which is a sign they are ready to make the move, but nothing has yet been made official. His recent success can be credited to changes made in his mechanics, which has improved his control (7 BB through 25.2 IP in the minors) while continuing to rack up the strikeouts (9.8 K/9). Like Marcus Stroman, his promotion is coming. Just a matter of when. But both youngsters are worthy of stashing in the meantime for those in deep mixed leagues.
Tyler Thornburg, RP (MIL)--Sometimes the guys that secure the lead up to the ninth inning are just as valuable as the closers, and that is the case for this Brewers youngster. After mix reviews as a starter in previous seasons, the Brewers decided to move Thornburg to the bullpen and it has paid dividends in the early going. Through 14.2 innings out of the ‘pen, Thornburg has allowed just one earned run, which came back on Opening Day, while striking out 17 batters (10.43 K/9) on this way to a 3-0 start. With Jim Henderson struggling, there is a good chance we start to see Thornburg used more and more as the season progresses, as he is starting to look like the closer-in-waiting behind Francisco Rodriguez. If you are struggling in either ERA or WHIP, Thornburg could help bring those categories down while adding a few punch-outs along the way. So he doesn’t get saves. Big deal. His stats are better than most closers, just without the saves. If you can deal with that, then Thornburg is a worthy add in both NL-only and deep mixed leagues alike.