The fantasy baseball season has finally begun. Only a few days of games have been played, but there are already some owners who are scouring the waiver wires, looking to dump their hitless players and pitchers who gave up five earned runs in their one start. This early in the season, it’s usually smart to stand pat and put faith in the players you drafted. Just ask any Michael Morse owner from last season, patience pays off. But if you’re looking to make an early move, or you have a player that recently hit the DL, here are some players whose performances might be worth an early pickup.
Jeff Samardzija (Yahoo: 14% owned. ESPN: 2% owned.)
This spring, no player experienced his stock rise as much as Samardzija. While his move from the bullpen to the rotation was questioned by many, something clicked for Samardzija. For a player who has always struggled with walks, it was extremely encouraging to see Samardzija post a 16-1 K/BB rate over twenty innings pitched this spring. And while spring stats need to be taken with a grain of salt, Samardzija’s scouting reports improved drastically. While Keith Law didn’t envision Samardzija magically turning into an ace in the rotation, he did mention that Samardzija’s stuff and feel for the game looked much improved during the spring.
If it weren’t for a Starlin Castro error in the ninth inning, there’s a good chance Samardzija would have thrown a complete game against the Washington Nationals yesterday. In his 8.2 innings, Samardzija struck out eight hitters and walked none. Not a bad debut for someone who looked like an average bullpen pitcher just a year ago.
Zack Cozart (Yahoo: 38% owned. ESPN: 11.3% owned.)
Though he’s 26-years-old Cozart still rated 75th on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list heading into this season. While none of his minor league seasons have been particularly impressive, Cozart’s offense has been good enough at a weak offensive position. Since shortstop is still considered one of the shallowest fantasy stops, Cozart might be a popular pickup for owners who waited on short.
While he’s unlikely to be a star with the bat, he’s settled into a nice opportunity as the number two hitter for a good hitting team. With Joey Votto and Jay Bruce hitting behind him, Cozart could score a ton of runs this year. He’s gotten off to a hot start, and while he won’t finish the season as a top five shortstop, he could break the top ten based on the poor state of the position in fantasy baseball. If you waited on short, Cozart is at least a guy you should be monitoring.
Juan Nicasio (Yahoo: 10% owned. ESPN: 1.1% owned.)
Nicasio’s story is incredible. He took the mound yesterday less than a year removed from a broken neck, suffered during a game against the Washington Nationals last season. In the 71.2 innings before his injury, Nicasio was starting to emerge as one of the Colorado Rockies’ best starters. His ERA was just 4.14, but his 3.65 FIP gives you a better idea of how well he pitched.
His recovery will likely be a big story after his outing against the Houston Astros yesterday. Nicasio gave up five hits over seven innings, striking out four. And while it did come against one of the worst teams in baseball, it was promising to see Nicasio didn’t have any lingering issues from last season’s injury. The Rockies may have acquired Jeremy Guthrie this off-season, but Nicasio could emerge as the Rockies’ best starter at season’s end.