At long last, the baseball season is here! The winter of our discontent and boring, Miami Heat-dominated NBA games is over. The Sunday Night Baseball game rang in the new season with the long-awaited matchup between the...Rangers and Astros? Eh, I'm not sure baseball fans were putting off Easter dinner in anticipation of seeing the sport's erstwhile 107-games losers on national TV. The Astros did succeed in making themselves look like pennant winners, though, at least for one night, and against one of the top teams in the American League, no less.
The star of the show for Houston, of course, was Justin Maxwell, who knocked two triples, two RBIs, and scored two runs. Any display of fantasy ability on the national stage is going to perk up roto owners, so many fantheads were immediately inquiring about Maxwell after Sunday's showing.
Maxwell was pretty awful last year (he struck out 114 times in 352 plate appearances), but he did hit 18 home runs. Once upon a time, he was considered a decent power/speed combo prospect with the Nationals. He's 29 now, but sometimes all it takes is an actual extended shot at a regular job for some players to find their rhythm. The nice thing about bad teams like the Astros is that they give playing time to former prospects, since they have very little to lose by doing so, and sometimes those players turn into something worthwhile. They tried last year with Jordan Schafer. That was a miserable failure, but Maxwell may be different.
Maxwell is a player to check out if you need a quick and dirty patch up job on your fantasy roster. Chances are, you're one of the unlucky owners who have one or more of their regulars starting the season on the disabled list. If you need a player who can hold down the fort for a few weeks while your regular guy is on the mend, check out some of these players as potential free agent grabs in the season's first week.
The Red Sox decided to pad their outfield with a questionable Shane Victorino signing, but evidence suggests they might have been better off just waiting for Bradley. Bradley tore it up in the preseason and the injury to David Ortiz opened the door for his inclusion on the 25-man roster. Bradley made his debut yesterday as the Sox's starting left fielder, and walked three times and scored two runs in Boston's Opening Day drubbing of the Yankees.
Bradley's most notable skill at the plate was on full display in his major league debut: his uncanny ability to get on base. Last season, Bradley finished with a .430 OBP split between High-A and AA. He also stole 24 bases, and he's definitely worth a shot as long as Ortiz is on the shelf. He doesn't have a lot of power, so it's worth wondering if his sublime minor league walk totals will hold up against more aggressive major league pitchers, but he's a great fantasy fill-in with an outside shot of becoming a breakout guy.
The second Ryan Ludwick decided to slide head first into third base yesterday, Heisey suddenly became fantasy-relevant again. One of last season's most popular preseason sleeper picks, Heisey instead went the opposite direction. After hitting eighteen home runs in half a season's worth of at-bats in 2011, Heisey's power vanished last season, and he was a complete fantasy non-factor all year.
With Ludwick now likely out for a lengthy amount of time, Heisey is the regular left fielder in Cincinnati. His .487 slugging percentage from 2011 can't be forgotten, and he plays in one of baseball's top home run parks, so if you need outfield help, it might be worth it to take a waiver wire flyer on Heisey.
Now that Arizona's outfielders are dropping like flies, Pollock gets a chance to strut his stuff on the major league stage. Pollock has no power to speak of, so in an ideal world, he helps your team by hitting .300 and stealing a crap ton of bases. He'll start regularly until Cody Ross returns next week, and if he holds his own, he could stick until Adam Eaton comes back in June.
Dominguez is known as an all-glove prospect, but there has always been some optimism that he'd develop some power to enable him to have some sort of role on a fantasy team. Luckily, his home ballpark's short left field just might be what the doctor ordered in that regard. On a hapless Astro team, he'll have to be positively Drew Butera-esque with the bat to lose his starting job. If your starting third baseman is hurting (like mine!), give Dominguez a try on the chance that he outperforms the pessimistic scouting projections.
Crash Davis lives! The minor league veteran has amassed exactly 100 minor league home runs. Now, at the ripe old age of 33, he finds himself as the Phillies' starting catcher, at least until Carlos Ruiz returns. Kratz swings very, very hard and sends the ball flying over walls; he slugged 504 as Ruiz's backup last season. Batting average and walks got stopped at the door with this one, but Kratz is at least a reasonable bet to mash a few home runs and act as a decent fantasy placeholder until Ruiz comes back from his suspension.
Hicks looked positively clueless against Justin Verlander in his major league debut yesterday, but I guess we won't hold that against him. Hicks put up impressive OBPs in the minor leagues and projects as a solid walks-and-steals guy in the majors. He's never played higher than AA, but on the rebuilding Twins, the center field job is now his to lose.
Yeah, we all saw that bomb he hit off of Derek Lowe on Sunday. Ankiel is an incredibly flawed hitter who basically provides nothing interesting to fantasy owners except for power. However, he enters 2013 as Houston's regular right fielder, and you just never know what a full season's worth of at-bats on a crappy team will do for a player's career. Heck, look at Jeff Francoeur in 2011. Ankiel's still-obvious power and chance for a rebirth on a rebuilding team make him worth at least a second look in the case of an injury to one of your outfielders.
I was going to limit this to just position players, but emergency matters forced my hand. Seriously, get on this. Carlos Marmol got yanked from the ninth inning Monday and Fujikawa had to come in and clean up the mess for his first major league save. With Marmol a total lame duck in Chicago, Fujikawa will be seeing ninth inning duties sooner rather than later. If he's still on your free agent wire after the latest Marmol debacle, go grab him immediately.