If fantasy baseball were a marathon, we’d all have run about a mile and a half. Most races don’t even have their volunteers stand with trays of water cups this early on, so you’d better pace yourself if you’re already tired. I think I forgot to stretch.
Here’s an obligatory sentence reminding you about the caveats about small samples while attributing a shred of validity to them. OK, now that the formalities are out of the way, let’s talk ownership trends. National League outfielders are a promising bunch, especially in regard to the youth movement. I’ve been sold on a handful of them prior to the start of the season, and I’m surprised by their meager ownership numbers. They aren’t completely unowned, as my misleading title alleges, but they’re close enough.
The three hitters who follow are owned in fewer Yahoo! leagues than Drew Stubbs, he of only four at-bats on the season, as of yesterday. Not that Stubbs isn’t any good — he’ll give you 15 home runs and steals apiece in a full season — but he’s not getting any playing time unless (OK, until) Carlos Gonzalez makes his annual trip to the disabled list. The names who follow, if they’re not playing every day, are at least seeing more than one at-bat every two games.
Alex Guerrero, LAD (10% Yahoo!, 5.2% ESPN)
Disclaimer: He doesn’t have a starting role. Yet. Big emphasis on “yet;” he’s smacked two home runs among five hits in 12 at-bats this season. Sure, the Dodgers have plenty of personnel preventing Guerrero from getting reps, and sure, he’s now missing part of his ear, which surely affects the physics of his swing. But Guerrero has power and on-base skills that, relative to his Cuban counterparts, slot between Yoenis Cespedes and Yasmany Tomas. Guerrero is more Cespedesian than Tomasian, however, in that he can handle Major League pitching.
Guerrero has 20-homer power and has the plate discipline to sustain an acceptable batting average. Moreover, there’s the off-chance that he takes on an outfield (or infield!) role in the event of an injury. Point is, if you have room on your bench to stash someone, Guerrero should be on your radar. It’s illogical of me to vaunt one bench piece over another, but I like the prospect of Guerrero earning middle infield eligibility at some point. Guerrero’s double-digit homers would be much more valuable at second base, and multi-positional eligibility would bolster his value.
Michael Taylor, WAS (7% Yahoo!, 2.8% ESPN)
I boldly predicted Taylor would accrue five home runs and stolen bases each in April. He won’t make it there, but with one homer and two steals (on three attempts) halfway through the month, he could make it interesting. He’ll never be a five-category contributor because he strikes out way too much, but he’ll fill up your counting stats batting in front of Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and the rest of the Nationals’ lineup. And is there no better time to take advantage of BABIP-fueled luck than during Small Sample Size April?
Given his intriguing blend of power and speed, I think Taylor should be rostered in all leagues, even shallow ones in which an owner thinks it’s OK to send out Curtis Granderson, Austin Jackson or Carl Crawford as a starting outfielder. Not that there’s anything wrong with those guys, but I’d rather gamble on demonstrated upside than settle for lackluster, declining, low-ceiling plays. Taylor may be worthless after Denard Span returns in May, but it’s not like Harper doesn’t also make annual visits to the disabled list. He ought to make his fair share of appearances as a designated hitter and in the event of inevitable injury.
Ender Inciarte, ARI (6% Yahoo!, 6.5% ESPN)
I love guys who hit triples, and Inciarte hits triples. Well, he has hit one of them, but he also has three doubles, thereby giving him more extra-base hits than not. Better yet, he has struck out only three times in 33 plate appearances (9.1 K%), carrying over his positive trends in plate discipline from spring training. To attest: Inciarte has a 96-percent contact rate
, good for second of all qualified hitters. Despite not striking out yesterday, his contact rate, per FanGraphs’ calculations, fell from second to 12th. Still, he has a top-10 swinging strike rate.
Tomas, who was recalled yesterday, could eat into Inciarte’s playing time. (Inciarte has started seven of the Diamondbacks’ nine games to start the season.) But I think any kind of outfield timeshare will be a short affair — Inciarte has the talent to hold down the fort — unless the silly Diamondbacks management feels the financial pressure to play Tomas. Otherwise, Inciarte possesses the Adam Eaton skill set — above-average speed, solid contact skills… and triples!!! — and will be waiting for you on the waiver wire.