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FAAB Factor-NL: Nearly Taveras Time

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire.com and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).


Starting Pitchers:

David Buchanan, Phillies - Though Buchanan got the win against the Dodgers on Saturday, his skill set isn't particularly enticing. The 25-year old has a career 5.7 K/9IP rate over his minor league stops, with a career 3.98 ERA. In his start Saturday his fastball averaged 91.4 mph, and he threw it about 65 percent of the time, mixing in a changeup and curveball. He's filling in for Cliff Lee while Lee is on the DL - Lee is not expected to have an extended absence. Mixed: No; NL: $1.

Brandon Cumpton, Pirates- Cumpton is the first to get the ball for the Pirates in their attempt to replace Wandy Rodriguez. Cumpton has done two things right in his brief major league tenure - throw strikes (six walks in 43.1 innings) and keep the ball in the park (one homer allowed over that span). Despite throwing a fastball that's average 92.7 mph, he's had 31 strikeouts over that span, though because he's allowed fewer baserunners, his K% is better than his K/9IP. The Pirates also don't have any immediate alternatives should Cumpton struggle. He draws two road starts (Mets and Dodgers) this week. Mixed: $3; NL: $10.

Casey Kelly, Padres - Kelly is inching his way back to the Padres after missing nearly two full seasons with a torn UCL in his elbow. He felt "a little sore" after his last start at Double-A San Antonio and will skip one turn in the rotation there on his rehab assignment. Meanwhile, the big league rotation has yet again been torn asunder with injuries, with both Andrew Cashner and Robbie Erlin currently on the DL. Tim Stauffer has moved from the bullpen into the rotation and the Padres used Billy Buckner for a spot start Saturday before designating him for assignment, so the opportunity is there if Kelly can get up to speed. Mixed: No; NL: $1 speculative bid.

Mat Latos, Reds - Latos is closer to returning after starting his rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville on Sunday. He should be back with the Reds after two-to-three appearances. The more interesting question is how do the Reds make room for Latos? Manager Bryan Price opened the door to the possibility that Tony Cingrani and not Alfredo Simon will move to the bullpen before Saturday's loss to the Cardinals. I'd say that Latos is universally owned, but I was able to grab him in the one thin mixed league that I'm in about a week ago. Mixed: $40.

Jimmy Nelson, Brewers- Nelson pitched well Sunday in a spot start against the Marlins, but then was optioned back to Triple-A Nashville after the game. The presumption is that Yovani Gallardo will be back for his next start. If there's a setback, at least Nelson is on schedule to fill in for Gallardo again. Nelson has improved at Triple-A this year, chopping his walk rate in half while still maintaining a strikeout-per inning pace. There's some keeper value here if a spot in the rotation is vacated. Mixed: No; NL: $0 if you have a reserve spot to park him.

Relief Pitchers:

Jim Henderson, Brewers- Henderson has begun a rehab assignment at Triple-A Nashville and could rejoin the team this week, adding an important cog in the set-up role. The Brewers have gotten into trouble lately when Will Smith or Tyler Thornburg have been unavailable in trying to get the game to K-Rod. It's still possible that Henderson could ultimately close, but for now K-Rod isn't close to relinquishing the job. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Jason Motte, Cardinals- Motte is back from Tommy John surgery, but he's not yet the same pitcher as he was prior to the injury. Where he once threw 97 mph on his fastball, so far he's averaging 93.7 mph. I suspect that the velocity will creep up as the season progresses, but this year is going to be a learning experience for him, as he'll need to learn how to better set up hitters rather than just blow them away. That's why I'm discounting the possibility that he'll take over for Trevor Rosenthal as the closer at some point this season. Moreover, Rosenthal's struggles can at least partially be tied to overuse. His first blown save came on a day where he had pitched four days in a row and five of the previous six days. Still, with Carlos Martinez having mediocre results and Kevin Siegrist now on the DL, Motte will still find himself in some close-and-late situations. Mixed: $0; NL: $4.

Tyler Thornburg, Brewers- The Brewers considering going with Thornburg in place of the injured Yovani Gallardo before ultimately turning to Jimmy Nelson. Because he's been used so frequently out of the bullpen this year, it's easy to forget that Thornburg was drafted and developed as a starter in the minors. Still, for the last full season Thornburg has been relieving, where he's been more successful as a max-effort guy. Nelson's good start Sunday and Mike Fiers' continued success at Triple-A lessens the likelihood that Thornburg will move back to the rotation this year. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Catchers:

Yasmani Grandal, Padres- It can be really difficult to figure out the Padres' playing time decisions. Grandal finally appears healthy to play more frequently, and so while the Nick Hundley trade opens the door for him to play more often, he has only caught three of the last 10 games. This despite a walk rate over 11% and him slugging over .400. It's as if his batting average in a small sample is dictating the playing time - though in fairness, Rene Rivera frequently gets high marks for his receiving skills behind the plate. Nonetheless, for a team struggling so much offensively, Grandal just has to play more. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.

Russell Martin, Pirates- Quietly, Martin's injury has been one of the more important injuries of the season. He does a lot to handle the pitching staff and control opposing teams' running games, and he does a good job of getting on-base. Both of those skill sets have been sorely missed by the Pirates, if not as appreciated in the fantasy sphere. Because of his return, I'll be more inclined to take a chance on a Pirates pitcher, particularly Brandon Cumpton. Mixed: $5.

Brayan Pena, Reds - Pena has started the last five games with Joey Votto on the DL, most of those at first base. It's possible that the recently recalled Donald Lutz could fit in the playing time picture at first base as well, but that the Reds couldn't find a better option than Pena underscores their depth problems. He's hitting .265/.294/.412 on the season - not bad for a catcher, but decidedly below average for a corner infielder. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.

Corner Infielders:

Eric Campbell, Mets - Mets manager Terry Collins likes Campbell's bat and has suggested that he might even try to find a way to get Campbell some middle infield time in a low-leverage situation. Entering Sunday's play, Campbell has hit .350/.348/.600 in 23 plate appearances (he has two SF's, hence the lower OBP than BA). Campbell is no fresh young prospect, however - he's a 27-year old that needed 2.5 years to get out of Double-A. If you had him since his callup, good on you, but it's not going to last. Mixed & NL: No.

Donald Lutz, Reds - Lutz replaces Neftali Soto on the roster, and he's marginally better prepared to face big league pitching than Soto was. Unfortunately, not all of Lutz's experience with the big club was good - he had just one walk against 14 strikeouts in 59 plate appearances last year. He'll be a bench bat even with Joey Votto on the DL, perhaps getting one-to-two starts per week. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Middle Infielders:

Erisbel Arruebarrena & Justin Turner, Dodgers - Arruebarrena got the call this week when Jose Uribe hit the DL at the same time that Alexander Guerrero was receiving impromptu ear reduction surgery without an anesthetic from Miguel Olivo. Arruebarrena, a Cuban import that signed a $25 million deal in spring training, was the only remaining infielder on the Dodgers' 40-man roster and thus got the call despite hitting only .208/.252/.302 at Double-A. Now that Hanley Ramirez is dealing with a sore calf, he's actually starting at shortstop. If Hanley has to go on the DL, look for the Dodgers to find help from outside the 40-man roster, as I can't imagine them using Arruebarrena full-time for at least two weeks while they try to make up ground on the Giants. Meanwhile, Turner is getting the lion's share of playing time at third base with Uribe out, with Chone Figgins getting some run as well. Turner fits your typical utility infielder profile - good with the glove, versatile enough to play multiple positions, but incapable of hitting for much power or give you many stolen bases when pressed into regular playing time. Arruebarrena - Mixed & NL: No; Turner - Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Charlie Culberson & Josh Rutledge, Rockies - Nolan Arenado's finger injury is a cruel break to the Rockies as they try to keep pace with the Giants and hold off the Dodgers. In his stead, Culberson is getting most of the playing time at third base, though they may shift DJ LeMahieu over from second and have Rutledge play second base from time-to-time. Rutledge has shuttled back-and-forth from Triple-A after losing the starting battle at second base in spring training. Culberson - Mixed: $2; NL: $10; Rutledge - Mixed: No; NL: $1.

Rafael Furcal, Marlins- Furcal is nearing an extended spring training stint and then a rehab assignment, but why the Marlins would even be interested in using him remains unclear. They have a near perfect platoon at second base between Derek Dietrich and Ed Lucas - I would like to see them give a handful of at-bats against lefties to Dietrich, but it's hard to argue with what Lucas has done. Given how this season has evolved, it doesn't make much sense for Furcal to play, let alone for you to invest in him. Mixed and NL: No.

Cesar Hernandez, Phillies- With Cody Asche hurting, Hernandez has picked up back-to-back starts at third base for the Phillies. Hernandez has no palpable power, but there's some stolen base upside provided that he can get on-base and not bat eighth in the order. That's a pretty thin reed to grasp, especially when even if Asche flops long-term at third, it's Maikel Franco and not Hernandez who figures to assume the job. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Outfielders:

Josh Harrison, Pirates- Harrison has started the last seven games for the Pirates, most of them in right field (13 games played in RF so far this year). Harrison is hitting .293/.338/.480 while playing great defense. The big issue for the Pirates as always is when are they going to call Gregory Polanco up, but Harrison's success has bought them a little bit of cover - emphasis on a little bit, as it's still ludicrous that they're using financial considerations to dominate this decision, when Harrison can play multiple positions. If Harrison isn't hitting for average he doesn't help you much - he doesn't walk often and has token power and speed. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.

Garrett Jones, Marlins- In 2012 Garrett Jones hit .274/.317/.516 with 27 homers and 86 RBI - it's true! So while he owns that power skill, it doesn't make it likely that his current heater will remain hot. Enjoy the 20-to-25 homer power along with the RBI that come with batting behind Giancarlo Stanton, but his batting average has a reasonable change to crumble. Of course, most of your competitors will also see his career line and are unlikely to give you much trade value in return if you try to do the obvious and sell-high. Mixed: $3; NL: owned.

Shane Robinson, Cardinals- The Cardinals continue to shuffle the fifth outfielder role, with Robinson getting another turn this week. So far Robinson, Randal Grichuk and Joey Butler have split the time for them as they continue to wait out the decision when to call up Oscar Taveras. Robinson offers little more than token speed and little chance of taking over a starting spot. Mixed and NL: No.

Darin Ruf, Phillies- Ruf is off the DL and with the parent club after missing more than a month with an oblique injury. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg suggested that Ruf's tenure with the big club could be short for now, as he wants him to get regular at-bats that aren't part of the plan right now in Philly. At some point it's possible that Ruf could be a platoon option with Ryan Howard at first base. The 27-year old Ruf is at a crossroads in his career - as an older prospect, he's already in his peak years with precious little big league experience. For our purposes, he's more interesting to watch from afar than to invest in him on our teams. Mixed: No; NL: $1.

Oscar Taveras, Cardinals - The Cardinals have been waiting for Taveras to demonstrate he can stay healthy, dominate Triple-A pitching and handle center field before giving him the call. You can check off the first two boxes for him - he's now hitting .324/.371/.536 at Memphis. GM John Mozeliak said this week that the first week of June could be when Taveras gets the call, as the Cards will go on an American League road trip and have the DH slot at their disposal. Get him this week if you still can, before the bidding picks up on him. It's worth suffering for one week with the roster spot - he may hit his way into sticking with the team after that road trip. Mixed: $5; NL: $15.

Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop a line in the comments section.