- Sooner or later, the Mets are going to have to find a way for Michael Conforto to play nearly every day, and fantasy owners should be prepared.
Sooner or later, the Mets brain trust has to wake up, right? How much longer can it continue to bury Michael Conforto? Even if Conforto were on a team with a loaded offense, he should be playing mostly every day. That the Mets figure to be among the most anemic offensive teams in the league only makes it more obvious. Conforto, the most promising young hitter in the Mets organization, needs his chance to be a regular in the lineup.
To be fair to Terry Collins, the logjam in the Mets’ outfield makes Conforto’s individual situation harder than it should be. After failing to find a taker for Jay Bruce this off-season, the Mets opened with the veteran slugger as their rightfielder. All he has done in the first two weeks of the season is go 13 for 44 with four homers and eight RBIs. Curtis Granderson has started nearly every game for the Mets in centerfield, and Juan Lagares just returned from the DL. Those two will continue to handle centerfield duties for the Mets, and Lagares’s return could push Granderson to the corners more often. In other words, Conforto’s situation could get worse before it gets better.
And yet, Conforto is still a worthy gamble in most fantasy formats. To his credit, he has taken advantage of his opportunities this year, going 6 for 16 with two homers in 21 plate appearances. He has made just three starts in the Mets’ 13 games, including Sunday, with eight of his plate appearances coming as a pinch hitter. That’s not the way for a young hitter who has done all he can possibly do in the minors to get into a rhythm. Sooner or later, the Mets are going to have to find a way for Conforto to play nearly every day.
Conforto certainly has his fleas. He had plenty of opportunities last year and hit just .220/.310/.414 in 348 plate appearances. He struck out in more than a quarter of those trips to the plate and was a black hole against lefties, slashing .104/.170/.125 without the platoon advantage. Couple that with the abundance of outfielders on the Mets’ roster, and it’s understandable, even justifiable, that Conforto doesn’t have an everyday spot in the lineup. Still, he figures to be a big part of the Mets’ future, and he isn’t going to address those issues starting once every four games. Bruce has been great, and neither he nor Conforto can play centerfield. Still, the Mets’ immediate and long-term future demands that Conforto gets more plate appearances as soon as possible.
Conforto’s potential, coupled with the depth of the outfield position in the fantasy game, makes him a worthwhile risk. If you do roster him, you’ll have to deal with more than the occasional off-day, especially in the short term. If he continues to produce when given a chance, though, Collins will have little choice but to find him the volume of plate appearances that makes him a fantasy asset. If you have a roster spot to play with, Conforto could pay huge dividends if and when he becomes a fixture in the Mets’ lineup.
Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees
That other New York team has a young outfielder of its own who actually is getting the playing time he deserves and making the most of it. Through two weeks, Judge is 8 for 33 with three homers and seven RBIs in 37 plate appearances. The 6' 7", 282-pound 24-year-old hits mammoth shots, the likes of which we’re used to seeing from Giancarlo Stanton and basically no one else, and Yankee Stadium should play to his strengths. He was all over top-100 prospect lists the last three seasons, and he hit .270/.366/.489 with 19 homers in 410 plate appearances at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season. With Judge locked into an everyday role with the Yankees, his ownership rate is set to make another big jump. He won’t be part of the waiver wire column much longer.
Mitch Haniger, OF, Mariners
Haniger forced his way into the Seattle lineup with a strong spring, and he’s following through on that in the early part of the season. Through 56 plate appearances, he’s hitting .292/.393/.542 with three homers, three doubles and two steals. Haniger is showing good discipline at the plate, drawing seven walks, and while he has fanned in 26.8% of his plate appearances, he’s more than making up for that with everything else he does. What’s more, Haniger has hit second in all of his 12 starts this season, and his on-base ability has him all but guaranteed to remain there for the long haul. Get in on Haniger at the cost of the worst player on your roster while you still can.
Amir Garrett, SP, Reds
There wasn’t much talk nationally about Garrett this spring, but that’s already changing through the first two weeks of the season. The lefty has made two starts, allowing two runs on seven hits and two walks in 12 2/3 innings, striking out nine batters. Garrett was on the top-100 lists of the most notable prospect evaluators, peaking at No. 32 on Baseball Prospectus this season. The 24-year-old made 25 starts between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville last season, totaling a 2.55 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 132 strikeouts in 144 2/3 innings. Given his early-season success and strong minor league pedigree, he’s well worth a shot in all fantasy formats.
Brandon McCarthy, SP, Dodgers
McCarthy has made two starts this season, allowing two runs on eight hits in 12 innings with eight strikeouts against four walks. He was particularly effective in his last trip to the mound, shutting out the Cubs for six innings while allowing four hits and three walks. The last time McCarthy was healthy for a full season in 2014, he racked up a 4.05 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 175 strikeouts in 200 innings. Consider numbers like that an absolute best-case scenario for him this year. That would typically play to a solid back-end fantasy starter in most formats.
Eugenio Suarez, 3B, Reds
Suarez is swinging a hot bat to start the season, going 15 for 40 with two homers in his first 46 plate appearances. Over the previous two seasons, Suarez hit 34 homers in just more than 1,000 trips to the plate. The 20-homer power is a certainty, but whether he can contribute enough to the other fantasy categories remains to be seen. He’s not going to run at all, and he’s unlikely to be much of an asset in runs hitting in the middle of the Cincinnati order. Whether he can be a three-category player depends on your league settings. If you play in an OBP league, you’ll likely want to ignore Suarez. In 1,302 plate appearances heading into this season, Suarez compiled a .316 OBP. If your league uses batting average, however, there is more hope. He hit .280 in 398 trips to the plate in 2014, and has enough contact skills to be a .265 hitter over a full season. If he can give you a .265-20-80 line, he’ll be an asset in most standard formats. He’s also worth a look in all deep leagues that use corner infield as a starting position.
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Nationals
Zimmerman continues to rake, hitting .341/.386/.659 with three homers in 44 plate appearances this season. He has hit fifth in all of his starts and figures to occupy that very lucrative spot in Washington’s order all season. Slotting fifth for the Nationals means hitting behind Trea Turner (once he returns from the DL), Adam Eaton, Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper. It would be disappointing if any of those players had worse than a .360 OBP this year. Zimmerman will likely be among the league leaders in plate appearances with runners in scoring position. He could drive in 90 runs blindfolded this season.
As always, we keep a list at the bottom of our weekly waiver wire of relief pitchers who are not closers, but can still be fantasy assets because of their strikeout rate, ERA and WHIP. The relievers are listed in order of fantasy value:
Chris Devenski, RP, Astros
Hector Neris, RP, Phillies
Brad Brach, RP, Orioles
Kyle Barraclough, RP, Marlins
Adam Ottavino, RP, Rockies
Matt Bush, RP, Rangers
Luke Gregerson, RP, Astros
David Phelps, RP, Marlins