Ah, May, that time of the year in which the baseball season is no longer new, or young, but rather, established enough where players are beginning to lose their jobs and the injuries are starting to pile up, clearing the way for younger talent to make their mark on the fantasy radar. That’s where we find our two contestants this week, one of whom has benefited from playing time thanks to an early-season flameout, and the other suddenly pertinent in fantasy due to his newfound opportunity.
James Jones / OF / Seattle Mariners
1 percent Yahoo / .9 percent ESPN / 9 percent CBS ownership
Jones, 25, might not to be too familiar to fantasy owners perusing prospect sheets, but he’s played well in his rookie year so far, putting together a .281/.361/.438 slash line in the 10 games since he became the Mariners’ full-time center fielder earlier this month. A career .282 hitter over six years in the minors, Jones is no .300 man, but he’s shown an ability to draw walks in his 49 plate appearances so far, and has hit safely in all 10 games in which he’s started. It’s also nice to see — in what’s a tiny sample size during his first go-around in the majors — an ability by Jones to make contact, and his very good strikeout rate is backed up by a solid 7.3 percent SwStr%.
So if Jones likely won’t be a liability for average or on-base percentage, the question is how useful he’ll be on the basepaths; he’s only swiped two bases thus far, but was a fairly prolific base-stealer in the minors, averaging 28 steals in each of the past three years down on the farm. The Mariners — who entered Tuesday’s action with the American League’s lowest team wOBA — seem content to keep Jones in the leadoff spot for the time being, which should provide him with some opportunity to score runs, regardless of how mediocre the Mariners’ lineup is. With Abraham Almonte demoted and now scuffling at Triple-A, Jones has earned some playing time at least for the immediate future, making him an intriguing play in deeper mixed leagues.
Chase Whitley / SP / New York Yankees
0 percent Yahoo / .6 percent ESPN / 5 percent CBS
No, I’m not going to go crazy over a guy just because he tamed the tameable Mets in his major league debut, but Whitley put together a solid (if not brief) outing under the spotlight of the Subway Series last week, good enough to earn at least another start for the Yankees. The 24-year-old, who entered 2014 having shuttled between being a starter and reliever in the minors, was off to a good start in Triple-A this year, posting a 10.9 K/9 rate and 52.3 percent groundball rate in seven appearances (six starts) at the time of his call-up last week.
Armed with a fastball in the low 90s and a decent slider and changeup, Whitley has OK but unremarkable stuff, though deep-leaguers are likely more interested in his opportunity to pick up starts in the Bronx than his raw talent. CC Sabathia won’t be on the mound until at least July, Michael Pineda, suffering from a strained back muscle, is still at least three weeks away and Ivan Nova, of course, is a goner for the 2014 season. That leaves Whitley, Vidal Nuno and David Phelps to hold down the back-end of the rotation, and although it’s only a matter of time before the Yankees get themselves another starter or two, GM Brian Cashman says he doesn’t envision making a trade at least until after the June 5 draft. That could buy Whitley a handful of starts — starting with a juicy matchup against the Cubs on Wednesday — in which he’ll be an interesting stream candidate with the chance to pick up wins while hopefully not bruising owners too badly in the WHIP or ERA departments.
Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.