Boston's bullpen is in trouble, with Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan hitting the DL nearly simultaneously -- are their replacements worth the pickup? Which slow starters should you buy low now in anticipation of a huge return? Our experts Michael Beller and Eric Mack give their thoughts.
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1. Boston's closers can't stay healthy. Should fantasy owners grab Koji Uehara with Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan on the shelf? Which Red Sox reliever will ultimately be the best investment?
Mack: On Tuesday John Farrell told MLB Network radio that he'll keep Uehara in the eighth-inning role and go with Junichi Tazawa as his closer in the short term. Due to Bailey's awful injury history, both relievers warrant immediate consideration in fantasy. It should be a fluid situation -- Uehara will get saves before this year is out, but Tazawa might get them until Bailey proves healthy again.
Beller: What he said. Farrell tapped Tazawa as the closer for now, but I think both are worth owning (I've been pushing Uehara on fantasy owners for weeks now). Tazawa is the guy most owners will want, since everyone wants the saves, but I still like Uehara a lot. If you're in a league that uses saves and holds as one category, I actually prefer Uehara.
2. Is Miami phenom Marcell Ozuna for real?
Mack: Ozuna is for real, right now. As a free-swinging Dominican, he can produce hot streaks like this, but he could also disappear for weeks on end. He's a solid addition as a fringe outfielder in a standard mixed league, because he will perform like a starter at times. He told me on the night of his debut, with a straight face, he intends to stick around for the year and his career. I believed him then. I really believe him now.
Beller: Ozuna, 22, entered the year as the No. 75 prospect according to Baseball America, and raked at Double-A Jacksonville, hitting .333/.383/.810 in 10 games before his promotion. He's certainly for real for those of you in keeper leagues who always have an eye on the future. His 2013 realness depends on league parameters, but I think he should be owned in all formats and can be a starter in the right situation. It would be shocking to see the Marlins send him down when Giancarlo Stanton comes of the DL.
3. The Angels are still a mess, but at least Mike Trout is starting to perform. What does the immediate future hold for L.A.'s big-money stars?
Mack: You have to consider them to be buy-low candidates. Albert Pujols proved a player can turn his season around after weeks of struggles. Josh Hamilton had awful months a year ago, and still finished the season with big-time fantasy stats. Yes, free-agent acquisitions in their first season are notorious busts, but as long as they stay healthy, they can still get hot and provide value to their owners.
Beller: I love Pujols if you can get him at a low cost, or even at something close to face value. He's got a .228 BABIP that is bound to come up, especially since he has a line-drive rate that is pushing up against 20 percent. On the other hand, I was wary of Hamilton coming into the season and wouldn't consider any trade for him unless it was at a serious discount. He looks broken. He has fanned 38 times and drawn just seven walks in 137 plate appearances. He can't keep himself from swinging at everything a pitcher throws up there, and every single pitcher knows it. I don't have any faith in him turning it around in a meaningful way this season.
4. More generally, which slow-starting studs are about to heat up in a big way?
Mack: Anyone who has consistent career-long numbers is a candidate to rebound. Jay Bruce is going to finish with 35-plus homers, yet he has just one right now, which means there's a lot to come from him. I also think the Angels' Hamilton, the Braves' B.J. Upton, the A's Brett Anderson and the Cardinals closer of the future Trevor Rosenthal are today's best buy-low candidates. The list will evolve throughout the season, but keep in mind that the years of data we already have for a player always trump the numbers from the six weeks of this season.
Beller: No one is going to sell him low, but Stephen Strasburg has some huge months in front of him this season. He has yet to have a truly Strasburg-ian start this year, and something tells me a run of them is right on the horizon. Adrian Beltre has six homers so far, but is hitting just .242 with a .293 OBP. He's maintaining his usually low strikeout rate, and his .231 BABIP is largely unsupported by his batted-ball stats. He'll turn things around in the rate categories in short order. One guy who I'm kind of on the fence with but still consider a good buy-low candidate is Paul Konerko. He's striking out more than he ever has in his career, and for a guy at his age, it worries me that his bat is slowing down a bit. But he still has a 25.8 percent line-drive rate, which leads me to believe that his .247 BABIP has to increase.
5. You're in a keeper league and you can grab one rising star third baseman. Whom do you go for: Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado?
Mack: It is a close call and depends on your keeper rules. Because Machado is younger, arrived early and has already proven productive in the majors, he should be the choice. Arenado is closer to his physical peak, though. You can justify going Arenado in leagues where you only keep a player a year or two. In five years, Machado has an incredible ceiling, the rare Miguel Cabrera stratosphere.
Beller: Yeah, I'm with Mack here, and I really don't think it's all that close. Machado doesn't turn 21 until July, and he's in the middle of a .309/.352/.522 season, his first full one in the majors. Given what we already know about him, he has to be the choice here. I like Arenado and wish I were invested in him in my leagues, but Machado has perennial All-Star written all over him. And this doesn't really matter in our fantasy world, but he might be the heir apparent to Adrian Beltre as the league's best defensive third baseman, too.