It’s officially April, and with the dawn of a new fantasy season comes the return of a beloved fantasy pastime: dumpster diving.
These are the players you didn’t read about in the magazines, who didn’t make the final cut in your draft, who would otherwise be nonentities on the fantasy radar were it not for the deepness of our leagues – and the regular necessity of patching up spots when players go down with injuries, lose playing time, and deal with the usual topsy-turviness of fantasy life.
But you didn’t come here to read an intro, you came here to dive. Let’s do this.
Chris Owings / SS / Arizona Diamondbacks
13 percent Yahoo / 1 percent ESPN / 32 percent CBS ownership
It doesn’t seem all that long ago that Didi Gregorius was the darling of fantasy scuba divers the nation over, as he got off to a scorching start last year after being a no-name on draft day. But his bat quickly went soft, and by the time spring baseball concluded last month, Gregorius was dispatched to the minors to be the subject of trade talk, and Owings, 22, had snatched the starting shortstop gig away.
Hitting hasn’t been an issue for Owings in the minors – he set the hitter-happy Pacific Coast League ablaze with a .330/.359/.482 slash line with 12 homers, 104 runs, 81 RBIs and 20 steals last year – and he performed admirably as a September call-up, producing a .291 average. But the kid doesn’t walk, which could hurt his fantasy value as he goes through the typical adjustments of rookie life, though it’s worth mentioning he did put up a solid 9.8 percent rate after being called up last year, albeit over just 61 plate appearances.
But even if he won’t be an OBP league all-star, Owings could very reasonably deliver on the .270 average the forecasts believe he’s capable of, with some low to moderate power and some steals mixed in. A.J. Pollock and Aaron Hill will occupy the top of Arizona’s order until further notice, which hurts Owings’ run production potential a tad, but so what? Over the course of the fantasy season, there are only so many shortstops who emerge as useful options. Owings is likely one of them, and it’s not too soon for owners in 14-team mixed leagues — or anyone who needs a handcuff for Jose Reyes — to be scooping him up before his ownership takes off.
David Hale / SP / Atlanta Braves
2 percent Yahoo / 1 percent ESPN / 8 percent CBS ownership
It has not been the best of beginnings for the Atlanta Braves’ rotation.
Tommy John surgery has vaporized both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy’s 2014 seasons. Mike Minor is rehabbing from a shoulder injury. Gavin Floyd, still recovering from his own TJ surgery, also is at least a couple weeks away from returning. Aaron Harang is in tow, but then again, he’s Aaron Harang.
So please welcome Hale, 26, who’s the defending NL East champs’ fourth starter to start the year. Taken by the Braves in the third round of the 2009 draft, the right-hander should receive a few starts this month, at least until reinforcements return.
PITCHf/x data tells us he relies mostly on two fastballs, a four- and two-seamer, along with a changeup he uses as an out pitch and an occasional curveball and slider. Control was an issue at times through his minor league journey, as he graduated with a 3.5 BB/9 and a 1.35 WHIP, which helped contribute to a 3.90 FIP. Hale pitched well in two spot starts last September, though he didn’t show anything in spring training to suggest an imminent breakout.
The Georgia native probably won’t offer much beyond a 6 K/9 or so as his major league career gets underway, but he was mostly successful in getting groundballs and keeping the ball in the yard in the minors, so although he likely won’t deliver stunning results in any particular category, he’ll probably spare fantasy owners the agony of a total meltdown. Atlanta’s defense should boost his value a tad, and although he draws the Nationals’ decent lineup on Friday, he’s currently lined up to start against the beatable Mets next week, making him at least a stream option in NL-only leagues.
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