Kris Bryant. Joc Pederson. Yasmany Tomas. Joey Gallo. Addison Russell. Rusney Castillo. Carlos Correa. Hector Olivera. Yoan Moncada. Carlos Rodon.
This season has been (and will be) tremendous for big-name prospects. Sure, Castillo has fallen flat so far, Gallo is striking out a lot, Moncada might not be seen until 2016. Regardless, we see these guys and we get so dang excited.
Some of these guys fail, though. Remember how excited we all were for Gregory Polanco last year, especially in the wake of some other dominant debuts? The Pirates sent him to the minors in late August to work out some kinks because he wasn't producing as hoped.
At the start of last season, there were four starting pitchers who were everybody's darling: Grrit Cole, Sonny Gray, Danny Salazar and Michael Wacha. Before the season, I advised against going full-bore on many of those guys, because some big prospect always struggles to start. I couldn't confidently tell you which of those four it would be, but I guaranteed one of the four would spend time in the minors because of performance. And lo, Salazar hit the minors.
Heck, Mike Trout, the season before he became MIKE TROUT, his .220/.281/.390 in 135 plate appearances.
Prospects don't always work out. Even the ones that do don't always work out right away. It's the nature of the beast.
So, when I say I'm not convinced that Carlos Correa is the Next Big Thing right now, please don't take it as me being down on his talent. The kid is amazing, and I think he has every chance of being a superstar, and sooner rather than later. No, the point that I'm making is that baseball is hard, y'all, and it's even harder when you're 20 and haven't had more than 133 plate appearances in either AA or AAA. Yes, he homered Tuesday. Yes, he looks good so far. No, I'm not down on him. Again, baseball's just hard.
Which is why I find it weird Jed Lowrie, even considering the likelihood of him missing another month, is owned in less than 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Look, the Houston middle infield of the future is Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, and yes, I got chills just writing that sentence. But like I said above, baseball's hard, and anyone who says they would be surprised by Correa struggling enough that he gets sent back down isn't really paying attention.
But let's assume that doesn't happen. Let's assume Carlos Correa is here, and here to stay, either as a superstar-in-the-already or as a good-enough-to-start-as-he-improves guy. Altuve certainly isn't going anywhere. Luis Valbuena, despite a .184/.253 average and on-base percentage, has 12 home runs and a .214 ISO; he's not a superstar, but he's not quite as bad as those initial numbers look. The Astros also have Chris Carter and Evan Gattis at first base and designated hitter, to say nothing of Jonathan Singleton lurking.
If Correa is the Correa we're hoping for, no, a returning healthy Lowrie doesn't have anywhere really to play, to start. And yet I'd still recommend him.
It's been much publicized that roster construction is ... let's say different these days than it has been. A 12-man pitching staff is no longer creative; it's de rigueur. Some teams have rolled and are rolling with 13. If you have 13 pitchers, that leaves you with 12 positions players. Nine are starting (in the AL). So that's three bench slots. And one goes to a catcher.
In other words, teams have two, maybe three bench players these days. In situations like these, positional flexibility is everything. It's why Emilio Bonifacio still has a career. It's why Ben Zobrist would be an attractive trade chip for basically every team, even as he hits .205/.297/.352. Heck, it's been the guiding philosophy behind virtually every Billy Beane move the last 15 months.
If you can play several positions in 2015, you have enormous value. Well, Lowrie might have only played shortstop of late, but this is a guy with more than a handful of games at every infield position in his career. A healthy Lowrie, then, becomes the Astros' own Mike Aviles, a guy who can fill every role around the diamond and rest his teammates.
(Yes, versatility is far from a new concept. Tony Phillips made a career out of it. The point is that it's no longer an optional commodity in 2015.)
And then there's the strikeouts. Altuve notwithstanding, this year's Astros are the strikeoutiest team in baseball history. That's not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it certainly wouldn't be your first choice in structure. Well, Lowrie's 2015 sample so far includes a strikeout rate of almost 20 percent, but that's his highest rate since a tiny MLB cup of coffee in 2009, and it came in only 18 games before his injury; a healthy Lowrie won't strike out that much.
To recap, this is a guy who should be back within a month. He might have been Wally Pipped out of a job, but that's not nearly the sure thing it's been made out to be. Even if he has, his team includes a third baseman who does exactly one thing well, and he's versatile enough to supplant that third baseman at least something will also providing occasional relief for the other infielders. And he has enough power to provide a serious boost out of a typically punchless fantasy positon.
It might be too early to pounce on Lowrie quite yet. But if you have the DL space and can afford the stash, he's a guy who can move around your fantasy lineup as often as he does the real-world one, and that could lead to a much geater return than your typical Guy Who Got Hurt And Got Replaced.