The Hot Seat

In deep leagues, fantasy owners need to be ahead of the curve and keep a close eye on developing trends. Speculating on players who have a window of opportunity on the horizon that hasn’t quite arrived yet is one way to get a leg up on the competition. Don’t blow your whole FAAB budget waiting for that window to open.

For example, fantasy owners assuredly spent plenty of FAAB dollars on Nolan Arenado after his call-up Sunday. In one of my leagues, I picked him up two weeks ago with a $0 bid. If there’s an open bench or reserve spot on your roster and nothing exciting on the waiver wire, stashing one of the following players is a fine option.

Jarred Cosart

Houston’s starting rotation is just plain awful. The Astros’ rotation has compiled a 6.44 ERA, almost a full run higher than the second-worst rotation ERA (5.48 for the Padres) in the majors. The ragtag crew of Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Philip Humber, Brad Peacock and Erik Bedard have combined for a staggering 1.74 WHIP. Manager Bo Porter says that there will be no immediate changes to his rotation, but only Norris and Harrell are secure in their roles.

The Astros have a few options on the major league roster, but they’re unappealing to say the least. Paul Clemens was used mostly as a starter in his minor league career, but he was awful last season in Triple-A, pitching to a 6.73 ERA and 1.74 WHIP in 20 starts. Comparing those numbers to the current Astros rotation, it appears he’d fit right in, but not in a good way.

Travis Blackley made 15 starts in 24 total appearances as a swingman for Oakland last year, but while his numbers were okay (4.54 ERA, 1.24 WHIP as a starter), he hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2007 and is 30 years old. Jose Cisnero was effective as a starter in Double-A in 2012 but had trouble adjusting to Triple-A to end the season and to start 2013 (5.40 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, 1.56 K/BB ratio in 48.1 total innings).

Even still, Blackley or Cisnero likely will get the first shot at a rotation spot when Porter decides to make a switch, but there’s little reason to believe either would be much of an upgrade over Humber, Peacock or Bedard. Jordan Lyles and Dallas Keuchel are in Triple-A, but neither of them would likely generate any excitement for Astros fans or fantasy owners. However, the Astros’ top pitching prospect, Jarred Cosart, is pitching well in Triple-A after impressing in five starts at that level to end 2012.

There have long been questions about Cosart’s ability to be a starter at the major league level. He generally is viewed as a two-pitch pitcher with questionable command, a combination that has late-inning reliever written all over it. Both his fastball and curveball have the potential to be plus-plus offerings, but his changeup isn’t yet a major league-quality pitch, and he hasn’t been as much of a strikeout pitcher as one would expect from a guy with stuff as electric as his.

Since reaching Triple-A last season, the 22-year-old has begun to look like he could stick as a starter. In 49.2 innings in Oklahoma City, Cosart has pitched to a 2.72 ERA, 2.96 FIP and 1.27 WHIP while improving his strikeout rate to 8.52 K/9, his best mark at any level since his Single-A season back in 2010.

When Cosart reaches the majors, which could happen soon, he is unquestionably a huge risk for fantasy purposes. He could carry over his Triple-A production and become an exciting fantasy option. On the other hand, he’s currently pitching in Houston’s wacky tandem-starter minor league system and rarely, if ever, goes more than two times through an opponent’s lineup.

This is a major concern for me. Starters with limited arsenals are prone to struggle when opposing hitters see them multiple times in a game, which is one of the main reasons starters get turned into relievers in the first place.

Cosart’s upside is worthy of a deep bench or reserve stash in AL-only leagues. It’s in the Astros’ best interests to give him every opportunity to succeed as a starter, and Cosart could be a very good one. He also could completely implode and show that he’s not a starter at all. In deep AL-only leagues, he’s worth the gamble.

Oswaldo Arcia

I was highly disappointed to hear of Arenado’s call-up on Sunday because I had planned to feature him in this article. (I can be selfish sometimes.) While everyone knows by now that Arenado is a must-add in nearly every league, especially with the relative weakness of the third base crop this year, I was shocked to discover that Arcia has somehow gone almost completely ignored.

The 21-year-old outfielder was called up to replace the injured Darin Mastroianni and has started seven consecutive games, taking playing time away from Chris Parmelee and Ryan Doumit. Unbelievably, he is owned in just 1.0 percent of Yahoo leagues and 0.4 percent of ESPN leagues. (AL-only owners on CBS seem to have caught on, as his ownership on that site is 13 percent.)

Arcia is a unanimous Top-100 prospect who owns a career .316/.373/.539 line in 1606 minor league plate appearances. What’s even more baffling about his lack of ownership in fantasy leagues is that the major knocks on him as a prospect (below-average speed and defensive tools) have no impact on his fantasy value. Power-hitting corner outfielders aren’t expected to steal bases, and defense doesn’t matter in fantasy.

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Arcia is hitting just .194, but it’s a miniscule 33 plate-appearance sample size, and he’s already hit two homers, the first of which was a no-doubter blast onto the concourse beyond the right-field bleachers at Target Field.

So why Arcia he virtually unowned, even in AL-only leagues? Maybe nobody’s been watching the Twins, or maybe people think he’ll head back to Triple-A once Mastroianni returns to health. I expect that Arcia is here to say; young stud prospects like him are the future for the Twins, not guys like Parmelee, Doumit, Mastroianni or Wilkin Ramirez.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Arcia hits .260 with 15 homers this season. He is a must-own in AL-only leagues and well worth a look in mixed-league dynasty formats, too. Plus, if you play anywhere other than CBS, you probably can just go grab him for free. What a bargain.

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Could it be that fantasy GMs have followed the advice of the expert pundits on Arcia? The word went out that Arcia cannot play center field, that no one the roster except Hicks and Mastroianni can play center field, so Arcia’s time is not now. He will be back in AAA once Mastroianni returns.  If that doesn’t happen, I will never listen to fantasy pundits again.

Scott Strandberg
Scott Strandberg
The word that Arcia can’t play center came out when he was in Rookie ball about five years ago, so that’s nothing new. Regarding the rest of your theory, when Mastroianni returns, I expect the Twins to send down Wilkin “The Ultimate Placeholder” Ramirez (disclaimer: not his real nickname). You’re right that they need Mastroianni on the roster to back up Hicks, but even after Mastroianni’s return, it wouldn’t surprise me if Arcia was still playing five times a week. The Twins just don’t have any reason to give guys like Ramirez playing time, or a roster spot, over Arcia.… Read more »