I don’t like to recommend to stash players too often. The deeper the league, the more such a move is beneficial, however. Each of these pitchers will have taken different paths to his major league recall. The first is a more exciting option, in my opinion, the second likely a bit safer of a bet. Both are still pretty exciting.
SP Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians
Ownership: CBS 29% | Yahoo! 33% | ESPN 23.4%
The Tribe placed Justin Masterson (cited: inflammation in his right knee) on the disabled list on Tuesday. At least one person on the beat doesn’t seem to be convinced that the right-hander is seriously injured. It wouldn’t be the first time a major league team used the DL to rehab a pitcher who’d been struggling just because he’d been struggling. Of course, any sort of knee ailment can affect a hurler’s delivery, and he revealed it a couple of weeks ago, but how long he’s actually been dealing with it isn’t clear.
Either way, we don’t judge. We are fantasy baseball players. We act. Salazar is a candidate to fill in for Masterson this Sunday.
That isn’t reason enough to pick him up, however. Zach McAllister is also a possibility. I’d guess that he has a slight edge. His results have been steady and good in his six starts for Triple-A Columbus (a 2.23 ERA, with seven walks and 34 strikeouts, in 36 1/3 innings). His peripherals indicate that he may have deserved a better fate than his 5.89 ERA in 10 starts with the parent club allowed. By a day, he’d be a little more on turn than Salazar. McAllister is older. He isn’t a bad pitcher. He might turn out to be a decent pickup in deep leagues when he’s recalled for good.
But I don’t think that we’re too far from a promotion of Salazar, either. How long Masterson will be unavailable isn’t certain. But even if it isn’t for much time, the Indians don’t figure – they didn’t necessarily plan – to finish the season with Josh Tomlin and T.J. House in their rotation. I recommended each of those hurlers in previous entries of this column, for various reasons – for roto and head-to-head leagues of great depth. When it’s time to trade up, you trade up. Salazar will play just about anywhere when his time comes, as we saw last season.
How likely are we to get that pitcher, or something close to him? It’s hard to say. Manager Terry Francona told the Plain Dealer, “(Senior director of scouting operations) John Mirabelli watched Danny’s last start and said he looked like he did for us last year.” That sounds encouraging, doesn’t it? Salazar has been far from sharp for the Columbus Clippers in his eight starts, but his last four (a 4.07 ERA, eight walks and 34 K’s in 24 1/3 stanzas) appear to be quite promising. He’s been displaying the dominance that helped to lead him to us the first time.
I must confess: I’m a Salazar apologist. I had a front-row seat on his hype train in the preseason. I was too ambitious then, but I haven’t quit him. I believe that he has a very good chance to be worth the trouble. The 24-year-old may have to make several more starts – at least – before the Indians are convinced that he’s ready to tackle The Show again, though, after his somewhat disastrous octet of MLB starts this season.
I think it’s time to start stashing Salazar in 15-team mixed leagues or deeper. He’s available in the Mixed Tout Wars Draft league. It’s a good time to win him in that league, because it’s a short week thanks to the All-Star break. We’re required to start players whom we’ve successfully claimed for an entire week before we can reserve them. My bid is in.
SP Andrew Heaney, Miami Marlins
Ownership: CBS 41% | Yahoo! 11% | ESPN 5.8%
The Fish optioned their prized left-hander to the minors after he’d made just four starts (20 2/3 innings), in which he posted a 6.53 ERA and gave up five home runs. It’s reasonable to believe that Miami didn’t send Heaney down just because they wanted to keep him on a regular schedule through the All-Star break. The organization has put up the sign that reads “We want to make sure he’s confident and right.” Frankly, I didn’t think that he was going to be all that special anyway, at least not right away.
But like Mike Podhorzer, I think that some fantasy owners are a little quick to jump off the bandwagon. Heaney’s ownership percentages are plummeting. His CBS rate is half of what it was three weeks ago. Fantasy owners weren’t impressed, and now he’s back in the minor leagues. Perhaps they think that, even if he’s recalled right after the break, they may not have enough reasons to care.
Well, it’s reasonable to believe that Heaney, 23, won’t be in the minors for long. The Marlins are known for their aggressive promotions. They can get away with the use of only four starters through the break because they have a day off. They’ll need a fifth once the season resumes, of course. Miami could consider Brian Flynn or Anthony DeSclafani for the spot instead, true. But – and I kind of like him – Brad Hand has to pitch well to keep his rotation spot, too. If Heaney demonstrates that he’s regained his swagger, then the Fish are unlikely to keep him on the farm.
Eno and I discussed Heaney on Tuesday’s podcast. Eno pointed out that the limited data on his three distinct pitches – a fastball, a slider and a changeup – suggests overall that they’ve been pretty good. His sinking fastball and changeup have displayed similar – not the same – movement as well as quite a bit of separation between them, velocity-wise.
Heaney has racked up swinging strikes at a shade better than the league-average rate (8.7%) and has limited contact overall, but he has a modest 14.4% K% to show for it. Heaney isn’t going to punch out 10 per nine like he did in a quartet of Triple-A starts, but he can certainly approach 7.0. The control has been good. Throughout the minors, he excelled at home run suppression and posted a decent ground-ball rate – above 50%. Marlins Park should help him to keep the rate of bombs against him respectable in the long haul.
The option is a chance for Heaney to get his bearings. Some prospects respond well to this kind of setback. He knows that he’ll get another chance. Now he has time to figure out some things he’ll do differently – change sequences, shake off the catcher less often, be willing to throw certain pitches in certain counts, etc. – whatever those things are for him.
This isn’t a move for those in 12-team mixed leagues. There’s no need stash this kind of player in a league that shallow or shallower. But he must be available in leagues deeper than those now. He was dropped in the Mixed Tout Wars Draft league – again, a 15-teamer – this past weekend, and it surprised me. I just lost Josh Beckett to the disabled list, so I plan to put in a bid on Heaney, too. I’d like to have that kind of depth around for when he figures some things out and begins to correct those results.
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