After months of preparation and weeks of drafting, we finally have our first few data points in games that count. Obviously, a player’s performance in two or three games can’t be extrapolated out over the entire season – Adrian Gonzalez isn’t going to post a 2.846 OPS all year or hit 150-plus home runs, while Jonathan Lucroy and Adrian Beltre won’t go 0 for 2015.
Today, I’ll look at some of the players who have been snapped up early in fantasy leagues and determine whether they’re right for you. I’ll also give you a few add recommendations who should be available in most leagues. All ownership numbers are per CBSSports.com leagues.
Jason Grilli, RP, ATL (+55 percent ownership) – Grilli’s value obviously soared with his move into the closer role, and he’s likely already been snapped up in most competitive leagues.
Zach McAllister, SP, CLE (+42 percent) – It’s a little strange that owners are falling all over themselves to grab McAllister, a replacement-level fantasy pitcher. He’s not finding a spot on any of my teams.
Archie Bradley, SP, ARI (+35 percent) – Conversely, the Bradley love is well-earned, as he’s a highly-touted prospect who’s getting his first rotation chance. He’s a great add over consistently-mediocre SPs like McAllister, Justin Masterson, Josh Collmenter, Wei-Yin Chen, etc., as the rookie has plenty of upside and could be a breakout performer.
Jeurys Familia, RP, NYM (+28 percent) – Familia should see most of the save opportunities in the near future, but he could cede some chances to one of the team’s lefties, and his usefulness likely comes with an expiration date, as Jenrry Mejia and Bobby Parnell will likely be preferred options when healthy.
Jake Lamb, 3B, ARI (+27 percent) – With Yasmany Tomas shipped to the minors to begin the season, Lamb is getting the chance to show his stuff. He’ll likely sit against some lefties, but he has delivered excellent minor-league numbers in his career and has the upside to be more useful than players like David Freese, Mike Moustakas and Casey McGehee if he continues to see significant playing time.
Jesse Hahn, SP, OAK (+22 percent) – Hahn wasn’t happy with the outcome of his first start (three earned runs in six innings with three strikeouts and the loss), and fantasy owners were likely looking to take advantage of his two-start week with this early pickup. If he wasn’t owned in your league heading into the season, he’s not worth adding right now, except for matchup purposes.
Kendall Graveman, RP, OAK (+22 percent) – Unlike Hahn, Graveman was a guy I was particularly high on this spring. He’s a well-regarded prospect with a great groundball rate, and he has the chance to be consistently successful despite low strikeout numbers in the minors. In points leagues that have RP-specific slots in the lineup, he could be gold.
Ervin Santana, SP, MIN (-49 percent); Joaquin Benoit, RP, SD (-21 percent); Kevin Gausman, SP, BAL (-13 percent); Tanner Roark, SP, WAS (-12 percent); Danny Salazar, SP, CLE (-11 percent); Wilin Rosario, C, COL (-10 percent).
Santana has been suspended 80 games and is worth dropping in virtually all leagues. I’d only consider holding him in AL-only formats with deep benches … Benoit lost his closing job to Craig Kimbrel after the Padres capped the offseason with an 11th-hour deal Sunday. The trade cost me a very good closer in four of my six leagues, and I’ve dropped him for Familia and Chris Hatcher in two of them … Gausman failed to secure a rotation spot heading into the season, but he’ll likely be a starter at some point, and the added RP-eligibility could boost his value. I’d try to hold on my bench if possible … Roark was blocked in the starting rotation this spring, and fantasy owners who are now realizing that are sending him to the wire. Unlike Gausman, Roark has less of a chance to jump into the rotation, as he’ll need a long-term injury for it to happen … Salazar is a worthy bench option after starting the season in the minors. He obviously has to be dropped in no-bench leagues … Rosario wasn’t expected to start at catcher for the Rockies, and fantasy owners are finally starting to catch on. He’s worth keeping in two-catcher leagues, as he still should be productive in limited time.
I likely won’t give you one guy per position all season, but considering we’re just starting the year, here’s a guy available in at least 80 percent of CBSSports.com leagues at each position who could help your team.
Nick Hundley, C, COL (7 percent owned) – As I said above, Rosario isn’t going to be the regular catcher in Colorado. That falls to Hundley, who has the opportunity to be a quality second catcher while playing half of his games in a great home park.
Yonder Alonso, 1B, SD (14 percent) – Alonso suddenly finds himself surrounded by a wealth of talent in San Diego. He should rebound from a low BABIP season in 2014 and now has the chance to rack up a respectable number of RBIs in the dangerous Padres lineup.
Jace Peterson, 2B, ATL (15 percent) – Peterson has batted first or second in each of the team’s first three games, and it appears Alberto Callaspo is set to challenge Chris Johnson’s playing time more than that of the second baseman. Peterson could be a great weapon in runs and SBs and does have the potential to hit for average as well.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B, SD (13 percent) – There was a question of how much Middlebrooks would play in San Diego due to the presence of Yangervis Solarte. So far, the former Red Sox player has hit fifth while starting each game against lefty Clayton Kershaw and righties Zack Greinke and Brandon McCarthy. If he continues to play every day, he’ll have a shot at capturing his rookie-season magic.
Everth Cabrera, SS, BAL (15 percent) – Cabrera has played in just one of the team’s three games so far, with the Orioles favoring a Ryan Flaherty-Jonathan Schoop combination in the early-going. Cabrera has the highest fantasy upside of that group, and it’s possible he’ll work his way into playing time at second base by the time J.J. Hardy returns.
David Peralta, OF, ARI (15 percent) – The D-Backs have mixed and matched their OFs over the first three games, but Peralta should be in line for regular playing time against righties and has the ability to break out in 2015, even if he can’t earn more looks against left-handers.
Drew Stubbs, OF, COL (15 percent) – Stubbs is merely a bench option for fantasy teams at this point of the season, and doesn’t he make perfect sense for an owner with one of the three Rockies OFs as a handcuff?
Jordan Schafer, OF, MIN (5 percent) – Schafer has started each of the team’s first two games, going 2 for 5 at the plate. While his overall fantasy value is curbed by hitting ninth in a mediocre lineup, he could absolutely help teams in five-OF leagues by racking up SBs this season.
Brandon Morrow, SP, SD (18 percent) – Morrow has struggled over the last two years while dealing with injuries, but he’s won the fifth spot in the Padres rotation and is in a great situation for his fantasy value in 2015, for as long as he can stay healthy.
Aaron Harang, SP, PHI (12 percent) – What’s gotten into Harang? He shined in his season debut Wednesday, and after adding a cutter to his arsenal in a better-than-expected 2014 season with the Braves, the pitch was in full force against the Red Sox in his season debut. His ability to mix pitches could help him keep batters off-balance even on his third trip through the lineup in starts.
Jordan Lyles, SP, COL (9 percent) – I was a big fan of Lyles heading into the season, as he’s focused on developing a split-fingered changeup that should help keep hitters off-balance this season. He did a fine job in his season debut despite not racking up strikeouts, and I like him at least for road starts for now, with two more of those on the docket before he has to pitch in Coors Field.
Chris Hatcher, RP, LAD (15 percent) – Hatcher picked up the first save of the season for the Dodgers and could continue to be the preferred option for manager Don Mattingly, though he struggled Tuesday and the Dodgers did turn to Joel Peralta Wednesday after Hatcher pitched on two straight days.
Adam Ottavino, RP, COL (13 percent) – LaTroy Hawkins wasn’t as his best Wednesday while pitching on back-to-back days, and it’s entirely possible the team will look to avoid using him on consecutive days in the future. That could open the door for Ottavino, who also has the chance to supplant Hawkins full-time at some point this season.