The two biggest risers in fantasy ownership over the last week are two of the top prospects in baseball: outfielder Byron Buxton and shortstop Francisco Lindor. Which one, if either, can be a help to fantasy teams?
Buxton (+42 percent owned) has the best shot of the two, in my opinion, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a strong fantasy play. He still needs work as a hitter, as is evidenced by his .234/.307/.395 line across high Class A and Double-A last year. He was doing a much better job at Double-A this season before his callup, hitting .283/.351/.489 with six home runs in 237 at-bats. However, his minor-league production doesn’t scream, “Ready for The Show.” I expect little power and likely middling batting averages over the rest of the season.
Where Buxton can help is in points leagues and deeper roto leagues. He’s extremely fast, racking up 18 triples and 55 stolen bases in 2013 while managing 12 triples and 20 stolen bases this year before his promotion. Points-league owners may not get a wealth of homers from the young Buxton, but a player capable of providing a fair number of triples along with a high steals potential simply cannot be ignored. I grabbed him in a couple leagues – one a points league, the other a five-OF roto league – and I plan on rotating him in and out of the lineup depending on whether the Twins will face a decent number of lefties in a given week.
Lindor (+31 percent) is a guy I didn’t bother rushing out to grab in any leagues. His promotion is less about the youngster hitting his way to the big leagues and more about the Indians needing to do something to improve team defense. When taken in concert with the move to demote Lonnie Chisenhall in favor of Giovanny Urshela, that becomes clear. Lindor certainly wasn’t slacking with the bat at Triple-A Columbus, hitting .281/.348/.399 with two homers and nine steals in 228 at-bats, but his numbers at that level likely represent his best-case scenario in the majors. When a player’s ceiling appears to be 2014 Alcides Escobar, he’s useful, just not someone worth adding at all costs.
Charlie Morton, SP, PIT (+25 percent). It’s been five wins in five starts for Morton since his debut, causing fantasy owners to rush out to grab him and his 1.62 ERA. It’s a fair move to make, as while he’s been a detriment in strikeouts (just 4.05 per nine innings), he has ridden an extreme groundball rate to success. If he can keep inducing gobs of groundballs, he’ll certainly be a useful fantasy pitchers, strikeouts or no. In roto leagues, I’m passing because of the lack of Ks. In points leagues, he’s a worthy pickup for an end-of-the-rotation arm.
Mitch Moreland, 1B, TEX (+20 percent). Moreland has had the best run of his career this season, hitting .307/.364/.530 with eight home runs in 166 at-bats. I look at his .355 BABIP and don’t see a .300 hitter long-term, but he should provide moderate power and batting average numbers while healthy, making him a solid CI pick in deeper leagues.
Kyle Schwarber, C, CHC (+16 percent). Owners in leagues without daily lineups have no reason to add Schwarber, as he’s set to head to Triple-A after the Cubs wrap up a five-day stretch of interleague games in AL parks on Sunday, making him useless for next week’s fantasy lineups. The early returns have been promising, however, and the buzz that he could return to the team as a left fielder later this season is good enough reason for me to keep him parked on my bench if my team isn’t set at catcher and if I can afford to play the waiting game.
Mike Foltynewicz, RP/SP, ATL (-20 percent). Foltynewicz has been sent back to the minors, and while he’s worthy of being dropped in all non-dynasty leagues as a result, he hasn’t been a total zero in the majors. An 8.3 K/9 rate coupled with a 2.9 BB/9 rate is nothing to sneeze at, especially the walk rate, which has been his major issue in the minors. If he can figure out how to be a little less hittable while maintaining those rate stats, he could stick in the Braves rotation long-term.
Aaron Harang, SP, PHI (-9 percent). The wheels have started to come off over Harang’s last three starts, as he’s allowed 16 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings while recording just eight strikeouts. He delivered a nice strikeout rate early in the year but has now managed just two strikeouts or fewer in six of his 14 starts, leaving him with a mediocre 6.2 K/9 rate. I was on board in April, but I’m jumping off now, letting him go in my main league last week.
Marcus Semien, 2B/3B/SS, OAK (-8 percent). Semien’s season has turned south rather abruptly. He had hit .307/.349/.511 with six homers and six stolen bases in 137 at-bats over his first 35 games through May 12, and he had managed three homers in three games at the tail end of that stretch. However, he hasn’t homered and has just one stolen base since that date, and his batting line has dropped to .272/.325/.412. His multieligibility and excellent first month make him difficult t drop outright, but I’ll have him parked on the bench in any leagues until we see some signs of a possible turnaround.
Deeper Add Recommendations
Robbie Ray, SP, ARI (15 percent owned). Ray has excelled in his first four starts, posting a 1.09 ERA and 0.97 WHIP while facing the Rockies, Dodgers and Angels on the road as well as the Mets at home. His 5.8 K/9 rate might seem like he should be an afterthought, but he’s posted fantastic strikeout rates at times in the minors, including a 12.3 K/9 rate in nine Triple-A starts this season. He’s also walked a lot of batters in the minors, something he has avoided with the Diamondbacks thus far. He’s a risky play, but one I feel could pay off.
Chris Parmelee, 1B/OF, BAL (6 percent). All Parmelee has done in his first two games since joining the Orioles is go 5 for 9 with three solo home runs. It’s not like he has zero track record of success – he hit .355 with four homers in 76 at-bats during his first taste of the majors in 2011. He’s a worthwhile gamble to see if he can maintain a quality level of production after a blazing start.