Does it not seem like just yesterday when the Rangers took the field against the Astros, christening what was a newly minted baseball season? Fast-forward 30 action-packed days to today, and one whole month is in the books. It’s still early, of course, but a month is a month, as roster moves, rookie performances and debuts of super prospects become more commonplace.
Since we last checked in, Andrew Cashner pitched well enough against the Giants to help cement a role in the Padres rotation, Felix Doubront punched out eight en route to a win (though the walks remain an issue), while Lucas Harrell benefited from some heavy hitting Monday against the Yankees to earn a win.
But that was so April. Let’s look ahead to May baseball.
Brian Dozier | Minnesota Twins | 2B / SS | 2 percent Yahoo ownership; 1.2 percent ESPN; 13 percent CBS
YTD: 79 PA / .243 / .295 / .314 with 0 HR and 1 SB
ZiPS updated: 607 PA / .246 / .297 / .339 with 6 HR and 12 steals
Remember Aaron Hicks? Sure, you do. He was, after all, tabbed to be fantasy sleeper material as the Twins’ center fielder to start the year. But then, a funny thing happened: It turns out he can’t hit big league pitching, at least not yet. So the Twins, under the impression that they have something to play for in 2013, decided to make a lineup switch on April 23, moving second baseman Dozier—hitting a measly .152 at the time—to hit atop the team’s lineup. And whaddya know? Dozier has played much better, compiling a .718 OPS since then. And in deep fantasy leagues, when a guy flashes a hint of competency to go along with dual middle infield eligibility—he appeared in 83 games at shortstop last year—we stop and take a closer look.
Drafted by the Twins in 2009, Dozier, who turns 26 this month, compiled a .298 /.370 /.409 line in 365 minor league games, achieving a 9.5 percent walk rate and a delicious 87 percent contact rate. Obviously, that’s the makings of a guy who doesn’t flail away helplessly at the plate, though it’s fair to ask how much of a fantasy force he’ll be in 2013, when you consider just 16 home runs in the minors and not a ton of stolen bases (though he swiped as many as 24 bags two years ago while shuffling between A+ and Double-A).
There’s also the question of how long he’ll last as the Twins’ primary leadoff hitter, since there are still some of us who cling to hope that Hicks will rebound before a Triple-A demotion occurs. The Twins, of course, always have the option of batting Joe Mauer third, which would allow Dozier to remain at the top of the order.
Dozier doesn’t have a tremendous ceiling, but guys who make contact and can provide decent defense up the middle usually find work at the major league level. It might be too soon to tell whether Dozier can provide immediate help in fantasy, though he’s certainly an interesting player to keep an eye on.
Recommendation: I’ll pass for the moment in standard AL-only leagues, but another good week could change that quickly.
Justin Grimm | Texas Rangers | SP | 12 percent Yahoo ownership; 9.4 percent ESPN; 31 percent CBS
YTD: 17 IP / 2.70 FIP / 7.94 K/9 / 2.12 BB/9
ZiPS updated: 121 IP / 4.81 FIP / 5.73 K/9 / 3.35 BB/9
In the topsy-turvy world of pump-and-dump, pick-em-and-cut-em fantasy baseball dumpster diving, my predictions of lucrative—or poor—returns can sometimes turn out to be completely, utterly off. Isn’t that right, Chris Heisey? I know you agree, Garrett Richards. Oh, Collin Cowgill? Don’t bother responding—you’re dead to me.
But once in awhile,
even a stopped clock is right my two cents can have some currency, evidenced by Nick Tepesch, who’s been serviceable, if not solid, in the three starts since he guest-starred on the waiver wire a couple of weeks ago. And since his rotation mate Grimm has suddenly become a hot commodity in fantasy leagues, we might as well see if I can go two for two among Rangers starters.
First things first: Grimm looked to be just a seat warmer a couple of weeks ago when Matt Harrison went on the disabled list with a back injury, but then that injury led to surgery for a herniated disc, zapping Harrison’s presence until midseason. Assuming Grimm can keep it together, it’s fair to presume he’ll have a steady job for at least the next two months, and he’ll have a job well beyond Harrison’s return if he can continue pitching like he has in his first three starts.
Who is Grimm? Plucked by the Rangers in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, the 24-year-old put together a 7.5 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 over 281 minor league innings, and was able to keep the ball on the ground well enough to avoid a high HR/9 rate, which is obviously a factor given Arlington’s hitter-helpful surroundings. At the major league level, Grimm has been able to maintain those strikeout numbers armed with a low-90s fastball to go along with a curveball and change-up.
As the innings mount, Grimm’s surprising K/9 will fall back down to earth, as will his 1.59 ERA, which is inflated by favorable strand and HR/FB rates. And yes, there’s no question that he’d be valued differently if his fan mail were sent to, say, Petco Park instead of Rangers Ballpark. But with a rotation spot on a good team and a strikeout rate that could very well exceed 6 K/9, I’d say Grimm has modest, if limited, appeal.
Recommendation: Worth picking up in AL-only leagues.
Nolan Arenado | Colorado Rockies | 3B | 42 percent Yahoo ownership; 35 percent ESPN; 62 percent CBS
YTD: 10 PA / .333 / .400 / .667 with 1 HR and 0 SB
ZiPS updated: 116 PA / .280 / .324 / .439 with 14 HR and 1 SB
Forget any questions about his attitude. Forget any concerns about whether he’s too raw to produce steadily in the majors. Instead, just think about the fact that Arenado, ranked 52nd on Baseball America’s Top 100 list, calls Coors Field home and will be the Rockies’ starting third baseman going forward after the team designated Chris Nelson for assignment.
Yes, Arenado’s Double-A numbers last year (.285 /.337 /.428, 12 home runs) were less dazzling than in his sparkling 2011 season, in which he crushed 20 home runs and 122 RBIs and won most valuable player honors in the Arizona Fall League. But that’s not to say 2012 was a total loss, as the 22-year-old matured, and, in some ways, put together a better season. And the fact that Troy Tulowitzki has taken the neophyte under his wing sure doesn’t sound like a bad thing.
Let’s cut to the chase. Mike Moustakas has been fantasy kryptonite so far in 2013. Will Middlebrooks was hitting .202 entering Tuesday’s action. And Pedro Alvarez is, well, Pedro Alvarez. We’ll need a few more weeks to find out how well Arenado acclimates himself to the majors, but with his upside and his position’s scarcity, a spare roster spot—if not an outright starting gig—sure sounds like a cheap asking price.
Recommendation: If he’s still available in anything but the shallowest of mixed leagues, grab him.