An innings limit and suspension are the events that resulted in opportunities for the two men discussed below. Hopefully, you’re in a position where a good start and a potential extra homer or two actually contribute to your money spot finish.
Alex Colome | SP TB | CBS 3% Owned
After his last start on September 6, Rays starter Drew Smyly was shut down for the remainder of the season when he reached his innings limit, breaching the 150 innings plateau. That opened up a rotation spot and Mr. Colome was the beneficiary. The 25-year-old isn’t exactly some hotshot young prospect. However, he may have set a record for most straight top prospect lists he appeared on here on FanGraphs.
Look at how nice that gradual move up the rankings looks! In this year’s report, Marc Hulet described Colome as having the talent to become a number two or three starter. He received his first taste of the big leagues last year when he made three starts, allowing just four runs over 16.0 innings. His peripherals were poor, but in such a tiny sample, that didn’t mean much. This is especially true because he posted a 10.9% SwStk%.
This year, he has been up with the big club several times. First, he made a relief appearance back in late May, then a spot start in late June. In his first start replacing Smyly on Monday, he pitched 6.2 shutout innings, though his swing and miss stuff hasn’t been as prevalent yet as it was last year.
His fastball has averaged 94 to 95 mph during his starts and he has relied on a slider (cutter as per PITCHf/x?) as his primary breaking pitch, also mixing in a changeup and curve ball. If it’s a slider, it has been below average at generating swinging strikes, but if it’s a cutter, it’s been above average. The fastball has been slightly above average at inducing swings and misses. What has really disappeared for him has been his changeup. Last year, and again, this is a tiny sample, the pitch generated a 21.3% SwStk%. This year, it has plummeted to just 4.6%. That’s undoubtedly behind his overall SwStk% drop to just 7.6%. Oddly, he has thrown a well above average rate of first pitch strikes, but his overall strike percentage is actually below average. You don’t see that often.
His minor league record has been decent, albeit unspectacular. But we’re not worried about his long-term prospects at the moment. He makes his next start at home against the White Sox, which is a pretty good matchup for him. The Sox rank 12 of 15 in the AL in walk rate and sport the second highest strikeout rate. And then Tropicana Field could help suppress their power.
Christian Walker | 1B BAL | 3% Owned
After Chris Davis was suspended for the rest of the regular season, the Orioles called up Walker to provide more infield depth. It’s unclear exactly how much he’ll play, but he started at first base yesterday against a southpaw. That’s where the majority of his work might come. Unfortunately, the Orioles are only scheduled to face one lefty over the rest of the season, so he’s a risky pickup.
That said, the 23-year-old has displayed solid power during his minor league career and swatted 26 homers this year between Double-A and Triple-A. While a steadily increasing strikeout rate as he has climbed the organization ladder is an ominous sign, at least he has offset that somewhat with improving walk rates. He has also typically posted above average BABIP marks, which is a good sign given that he appears to be a your typical plodding first baseman. With Spd scores never exceeding 3.6 and only two triples throughout his career, he’s no speedster.
The best case scenario is he grabs a start here and there, even against a right-hander starter, and at the very least pinch hits in the majority of the other games. Likely possessing better power than the dreck in the rest of your free agent pool, there might not be a better option for your team if a homer or two could be the difference between a money spot and not.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.