Let’s start the week off with two players who have recently been promoted to more high-profile roles, one due to ineffectiveness and the other due to injury…
Scott Downs | RP | Angels | Owned: 41% Yahoo! and 33.0% ESPN
One of my ten bold predictions before the season said that Downs would save at least ten games for the Halos. Jordan Walden is good but shaky, and I figured that any misstep early on could result in him losing his job, even just temporarily. Mike Scioscia pulled the plug on his struggling closer after he’d blown a save against the Rays last Thursday, inserting Downs into the ninth inning role. He closed out his first game on Saturday with a perfect inning against the Indians in a one-run game.
Downs, 36, usually draws his fantasy value from his low ERA (1.90 since 2010) and WHIP (0.99) because he doesn’t strike anyone out (6.4 K/9 and 17.8 K%) and never really closed for a significant length of time. Scioscia indicated that Walden will get the job back as soon as he tightens up his command and improves in general, but managers tend to have a hard time taking the job away from someone pitching effectively. Downs’ time as closer could be a little less temporary than expected.
Gerardo Parra | OF | Diamondbacks | Owned: 18% Yahoo! and 23.8% ESPN
The D’Backs reportedly fielded trade calls for Parra following the Jason Kubel signing, but they held onto him as the fourth outfielder and now he’s playing center field everyday following Chris Young’s shoulder injury. Young’s return is tentatively scheduled for mid-May, giving fantasy owners a few more weeks to enjoy Parra as an everyday option.
The 24-year-old has hit .270/.309/.429 in the early going with an unintentional walk rate (4.3%) that is essentially in line with last year’s (5.7%). I wouldn’t bank on another overall 8.7% walk rate and .357 OBP unless you think Parra is going to get intentionally walked 16 (!) times again. He won’t offer much power but could approach double-digit homers as he gets a little older, so Parra’s primary fantasy value these days is the stolen base. He’s already swiped seven bags in eight tries after going 15-for-16 last year, and none have come as a pinch-runner.
Parra has been hitting a few more balls in the air this season, especially on the infield — 6.7 IFFB% this year after 3.0 last year — which will take a toll on the ol’ BABIP and batting average. With just 70 plate appearances to his credit so far, I wouldn’t be scared away just yet. I think he’ll get back into the .280-.290 range with his average and hopefully supplement it with lots of steals before Young comes back and resumes his role as the everyday center fielder.