We had our first healthy taste of baseball over the weekend, as all teams wrapped up their first few games of the season. While it’s still far too early to go back on everything you believed in the preseason and make major roster overhauls after a few days, some nice players did present themselves as viable fantasy contributors during the season’s first week. We’ll look at some of them as well as some other under-appreciated players hanging out on your league’s waiver wire in the first Wide World of Waivers of the year.
Note that all players listed in this column were owned in no more than 33 percent of Yahoo leagues as of Sunday night.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, WAS. Usually a guy that has major problems in April with a .211 average and .391 slugging percentage in the month over his career, LaRoche already has two bombs in his first three games to go with a .417 average. While you can’t count on anywhere near 150 games from the oft-injured Washington first baseman, he’s a fine corner infielder or utility player while healthy and hot, as he is right now.
Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU. Last season, Altuve struck out 29 times in 221 at-bats while only drawing five walks. His batting eye was clearly a part of his game that needed work. Don’t go crazy over such a small sample size, but Altuve’s walked twice in his first two games without striking out. He also managed to go 2-for-3 with a triple in Sunday’s series finale against the Rockies. He should help in steals, contributing 20 or more over the course of the year, with that floor rising if this new-found walking ability is a trend and not a mirage.
Chase Headley, 3B, SD. Coming off a season in which Headley slugged under .400 for the third consecutive year, Headley was quickly dismissed by most fantasy owners as someone unworthy of a roster spot. He does have the ability to post a 15/15 season, despite hitting just four HRs last year. He took a big step toward that number by hitting a grand slam and stealing a base on Sunday. And I refuse to discuss a certain God-awful 3B-eligible Mariner till we have a bigger sample size.
Ruben Tejada, 2B/SS, NYM. You wouldn’t expect to find a guy without much HR or SB upside suggested as a fantasy add, but Tejada figures to be the main beneficiary of the injury to Andres Torres. With Torres on the DL, Tejada has moved up to the leadoff spot in the order, and it paid off on Sunday, where he went 4-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs. Hitting ahead of a solid Mets heart-of-the-order that includes Daniel Murphy and David Wright should boost Tejada’s run totals while allowing him to see plenty of hittable pitches. If he drops in the order, I’m dropping him though.
A.J. Ellis, C, LAD. Ellis wasn’t even on the radar in two-catcher formats, even though he entered the season with the starting job in Los Angeles. Ellis has shown an outstanding batting eye in the minors, culminating in a K/BB ratio of 23/50 last year in 248 Triple-A plate appearances. Though he doesn’t figure to have a high power upside, he’s already slugged one homer in his first three games of 2012. Owners with mediocre C2s should consider grabbing Ellis for a quality average and hopefully decent power numbers.
Eric Thames, OF, TOR. The winner of the position battle to be the Jays’ left fielder started the season a little slow, going 0-for-7 with a walk in his first two games against the Indians. He did bounce back on Sunday with a 2-for-4 effort, and even if he struggles a bit in April, the team is likely to stick with him. After putting up monster numbers in the minors in 2010 and 2011, Thames has to prove he can do it on the major-league level. Bet on his upside — Bill James’ forecast has him at .279/.333/.489 — and pick him up if you’re looking for an OF.
Jeff Samardzija, RP, CHC. Several unlikely starters had impressive debuts, and Samardzija was one of the few of those surprises that didn’t face the Twins lineup. Topping out at 98 MPH, the converted reliever was still hitting 97 on the gun into the ninth inning, as he came just short of recording a complete game after a Starlin Castro error led to a two-run homer by LaRoche. It’s possible he tires later in the season while adjusting to his new workload, but I absolutely love his fantasy stock for the first few months of the year.
Henry Rodriguez, RP, WAS. Rodriguez may have limited saves upside, considering both that Drew Storen is an upper-echelon closer when healthy and Brad Lidge is sharing the role with Rodriguez, but how can you not like the 25-year-old’s stuff? He hit 100 MPH against three separate batters in his only appearance of the weekend, and after walking Ian Stewart he struck out the side for an easy first save of the season. Rodriguez is the rare fill-in closer that you should be happy to have even when he’s pitching in the seventh and eighth innings, as he’ll rack up plenty of Ks without pitching many innings, a key positive in roto leagues.
Who are you grabbing off the wire after one psuedo-week? Let the Cafe know in the comments section.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse and Razzball. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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