Week 1 is in the books, and with the tiny sample size comes the emergence of several deep league options, overlooked on draft day, who are providing hope that they can help owners in the immediate term.
Jenrry Mejia / SP / New York Mets
8 percent Yahoo / 1 percent ESPN / 51 percent CBS ownership
For Mets fans, Mejia is a familiar name, as he was the organization’s top pitching prospect when the decade began. But despite debuting in the majors four years ago at the age of 20, he’s been beset by injuries throughout his professional tenure. But he’s back on the fantasy radar, with his ownership surging in CBS leagues after he shut down the Reds on Friday with six strong innings to earn the win.
Mejia’s always had a high ceiling, but finally flashed signs of being a fantasy asset last year over his five big league starts, when he struck out nearly a batter per inning (dressed with a strong 12.1 SwStr%), kept the walks in check and generated ground balls at a strong clip. Not a big sample size, to be sure, especially considering he was pulled early from start No. 5 with an elbow injury that would eventually require surgery, but hey, positive signs nonetheless.
Mejia throws a two-seam fastball with some serious movement, along with a curveball and a good changeup, though it was the addition of a slider, which he’s thrown to the tune of a 45 percent whiffs-per-swing rate since last year, that’s really taken him to the next level. Control is a red flag — he produced a 9.8 percent walk rate in the minors, walked six over 13.1 spring innings this year and five in Friday’s victory — and it’s possible that Mejia’s ultimate destiny is in the bullpen, especially now that Bobby Parnell’s 2014 campaign is over. Add to that the injury risk and the strong possibility that the Mets will limit his innings in the second half — he’s only once thrown more than 100 frames in a professional season — and the cap on Mejia’s 2014 potential becomes clear.
But to get hung up on Mejia’s downsides would be to miss the point: he’s a strikeout-per-inning talent who pitches in a neutral pitcher’s park who can help owners right now. That makes him worth a flier across the board and practically certifies him as a must-add in NL-only leagues.
Jason Kubel / OF / Minnesota Twins
1 percent Yahoo / .3 percent ESPN / 7 percent CBS ownership
It wasn’t all that long ago that Kubel was a respectable power source in fantasy, but his stock took a nosedive last year, during which the D’Backs DFA’d him and eventually dealt him to the Indians. Turning 32 next month, there aren’t too many people counting on Kubel to regain the power stroke that averaged 22 bombs and 85 RBIs from 2008 through 2012, but still, he’s off to a good start, and just as importantly, he’s getting regular at-bats.
Regarding the playing time: both Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia are nursing wrist injuries, with the latter possibly headed to the disabled list. That’s opened up spots for Kubel in left and for Chris Colabello, just named co-AL player of the week, in right. Catching prospect Josmil Pinto is with the big club and started at designated hitter Monday night, but it’s only his third start of the season, and the Twins, at least for the time being, seem content to ease him into regular playing time as Kurt Suzuki’s backup, which should keep some room open for Kubel even when the two regular outfielders return.
Kubel’s plate discipline took a step backwards last year, with the strikeouts surging to a 31.7 percent rate, but then again, you’re not grabbing this guy with the expectation of a batting title. You’re looking for some pop in the immediate term, and why not? Kubel does, after all, own a .191 career ISO, the batted ball distance last year was still respectable, and he’s carrying a .910 OPS entering Tuesday’s play. He might not be much more than AL-only material for the time being, but he still carries at least some fantasy value in this young season.
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.