By Sam McPherson
Monday, April 18 is Patriots’ Day in Boston, and so the fantasy week kicks off early with an 11:05 a.m. ET start at Fenway Park between the host Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays. For the fantasy baseball world, it is usually the time of the season to look at those non-performing veterans on the roster and see if there are any worthy no-name newcomers on the waiver wire.
It happens every season: Players that were expected to perform at a certain level are not even close to being “good” right now. Meanwhile, players very few owners have heard of are suddenly outperforming established MLB guys. It can be quite shocking to see a former benchwarmer hitting .400 or a one-time, mop-up reliever now starting and piling up strikeouts.
The challenge is to assess the probabilities: Is the short-term gain worth the long-term risk? Yes, you can pickup the new kid on the block, but if he hits just .200 the rest of the way, you could be missing out on the veteran’s return to prominence in a month or so. It’s very important to assess your own roster needs and the MLB player’s specific situation before you do anything rash.
Being comprehensive and thorough in your research can pay off handsomely with a strong fantasy finish in September. Likewise, emotional and impulsive decisions in April can ruin the summer for you while making you think twice about doing this again next season. All we are saying is do your homework first before making major roster changes so early in the fantasy season.
Players to Get Onto Your Roster Now
1. Colby Rasmus, OF, Houston Astros: Need some power? Rasmus is your man. He has averaged 22 home runs a season since 2012, and Rasmus is off to a solid start again this season. His average will drop from its current high territory, most assuredly, but the HRs will come all season. It’s hard to turn down that kind of power sitting there on waivers.
2. Wilson Ramos, C, Washington Nationals: He wasn’t drafted in a lot of leagues, but now Ramos is hitting in the very high .300s through the first two weeks. He won’t continue that torrid pace, but this is his age-28 season. That could mean career-best numbers for a catcher that posted a .779 OPS as a rookie in 2011. Last season was his worst ever, so perhaps he’s on the rebound in 2016.
3. Ian Kennedy, SP, Kansas City Royals: Many experts thought he would struggle away from San Diego’s spacious ballpark, but Kennedy always has posted good strikeout numbers. Now, he’s finally on a good team, and he’s going to get wins, too. Kennedy could return to his 2011 form, in fact, when he was fourth in the National League Cy Young voting with a 21-4 record, a 2.88 ERA and 198 Ks.
4. Joe Mauer, 1B, Minnesota Twins: At age 33, the 2009 American League MVP didn’t get a lot of draft-day love this year. Mauer isn’t a sexy name anymore, despite the fact he’s currently hitting in the mid-.300s range. Usually, you’re going to want more power at his position, but if you have tons of power elsewhere, Mauer could really help the team batting average. Even if you have him on your bench for those streaming days, he could have value to your roster.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Alex Rodriguez, DH, New York Yankees: The first issue is Rodriguez is only eligible in the UTL slot, so you can’t play him anywhere else. The second issue is the 40-year-old Yankee isn’t hitting this season (yet?). It’s a tough call, measuring whether or not A-Rod will recover to hit 30-plus HRs like he did last year. Power like that doesn’t grow on trees, so perhaps just bench him until he starts hitting.
2. Erick Aybar, SS, Atlanta Braves: He’s never been a big hitter, as his career .691 OPS would attest. Aybar only has stolen 44 bases since 2013, so he’s not the speed threat, either. It’s confusing why so many owners would draft him, but if you did, let him go. He’s 32 now and playing on a bad team; surely, there are better players on waivers than Aybar.
3. Ian Desmond, UTL, Texas Rangers: For a guy that won three straight Silver Slugger awards from 2012-14, Desmond sure has fallen off the MLB ledge quickly. The switch to the AL hasn’t helped him, and the Rangers have better options at shortstop and in the outfield (where Desmond is eligible in fantasy). His plate appearances are going to dwindle if he continues to hit just .109 in a utility role.
4. Mike Leake, SP, St. Louis Cardinals: He’s never been a big strikeout pitcher, and his career challenge of giving up more hits than innings pitched is problematic for fantasy purposes. Nonetheless, Leake has hung around on the edge of fantasy relevance for awhile, but even the Cardinals organization and its reputation for maximizing SP production can’t save this guy in 2016.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.