As the noted lyricist and singer R Kelly famously said, “it’s the freakin’ weekend, I’m bout to have me some fun.” That’s right, the weekend is upon us! For a lucky few, there are minor league home openers to go to as well. Living here in the Midwest does have a sole privilege: I am just over an hour away from three Midwest League teams.
Justin Ruggiano shows some speed
Seeing Ruggiano steal two bases in a single day shouldn’t be terrible shocking anymore. He did steal 20 more bags in the minors every year from 2007 to 2011, and ended with 19 between Triple-A and the majors last season. Steals are always a welcome commodity in fantasy terms and to see Ruggiano running already is a good sign. He may be locked in a platoon situation for the early part of the season — even if he did start yesterday against a right-handed pitcher — but if you are looking for a player who is eligible at all three outfield slots, Ruggiano is your guy. I expect about 20 stolen a bases from him and 12-15 home runs, even in a part time role. He powered 13 dingers in just 320 plate appearances last season so the potential to go 15-15 is real. Ruggiano is available in over 75% of ESPN, CBS, and Yahoo! formats.
Dan Straily‘s excellent outing
After Straily’s breakout 2012 minor league season, he disappointed in his very short stint in the major league last year. His home rate climbed drastically — 11 home runs in not even 40 innings — and his strikeout rate fell more than what could be expected. Though it was against the lowly Houston Astros, Straily has seemingly put his poor 2012 major league performance behind him. Last night he fanned 11 Astros in 6.2 innings and just 25 total batters faced. From those 25 batters, Straily was able to coax out an amazing 25 whiffs, 19 of which came on his fastball and the remaining six via his slider. He did allow two runs to score, but didn’t walk a batter all night. This of course represents the maximum upside of Straily (or anyone, really) but the stuff is still there for him to be a very good starter in fantasy leagues. His blend of strikeout ability and fly ball tendencies plays very well in his home park, as well as two parks within his division: Seattle and Anaheim. By fly ball tendencies, I mean that Straily has never recorded even a 40% ground ball rate at any level above High-A. Home runs allowed are often found hand in hand with fly ball pitchers, but with half of his away parks in the AL West playing in his favor, I don’t expect him to suffer from gopheritis too badly. If he is still available this morning, go grab him. Straily can be claimed in over 70% of CBS leagues, 80% in Yahoo! formats, and over 95% of ESPN leagues. If you happen to play in a keeper or dynasty league, Straily’s upside is well worth a roster spot, even if he spends time in Triple-A with the return of Bartolo Colon. With an injury or trade, I expect Straily to be the first name called up in either event.
Zack Cozart’s power and position
A shortstop with power is a very enticing fantasy target and Cozart certainly has power. His first two hits of the year both happened to be home runs and now his triple slash sits at a quirky .133/.125/.533. Cozart blasted 15 home runs in a full season last year and he is off to a good start to match or surpass that total this year. He is no longer hitting lead off for the Cincinnati Reds, so his power may shine through with more RBIs this season too. He claims to be more comfortable hitting seventh and has been quoted to say “it will [hitting seventh] take a little pressure off…” with a potentially clearer mind, maybe Cozart settles in and really finds his stroke this season. Regardless of comfort level, he is eligible at a premium position on a team that plays in a great offensive home park and is in a very deep lineup. Given that Cozart isn’t owned in over half of ESPN and CBS leagues, and over 70% of Yahoo! leagues, I have to wonder if I am the only one who plays in deep leagues with an MI slot. I’d make a move and grab Cozart if he is sitting there on the waiver wire.