The first waiver wire report of the season highlighted all the immediate changes in bullpens across the league. This week, their starter brethren are in the spotlight. Specifically, two starters who have disappointed—either due to inconsistency or injury—in recent years are off to great starts in 2015. Even if one or both has burned you before, it’s time to believe in them again.
Danny Salazar, Indians (Mixed: $12, AL-only: $21)
If fool me once is shame on you, and fool me twice is shame on me, what’s fool me three times? This isn’t a riddle, this is a genuine question to which I, and many of you, may soon find out the answer. We’ve been down this road before with Salazar, the supremely talented, yet highly erratic, Cleveland starter. My eyes are wide open as I travel down it again, understanding the possible pain, and also the potential payoff, that lie ahead. Pitchers who sit 95-96 mph with their fastball, and have secondary pitches that you’ll see in the following GIFs don’t grow on trees.
Those are from Salazar’s 10-strikeout performance on Saturday in a win over the Twins. If Salazar is back to being the heir apparent he looked like 2013, both the Indians and his fantasy owners will reap significant rewards the rest of the year.
Brandon Morrow, Padres (Mixed: $6, NL-only: $12)
When the Padres threw a one-year, $2.5 million contract at Morrow in the winter, it seemed like a worthwhile gamble. Through his first two starts of the year, he’s on a path to prove himself a steal. Morrow tossed seven shutout innings in his first outing, fanning seven in a win over the Giants (he got a no-decision). Earlier this week, he took the ball for the second time, allowing just two runs on seven hits while striking out five batters in seven innings against the Diamondbacks. The only mistake he made resulted in a two-run homer by Paul Goldschmidt in the first inning. From there on, he shut down the Diamondbacks helping the Padres to a win, though he again took a no-decision. The oft-injured Morrow appears healthy, with his average fastball checking in at 94.82 mph, and his slider recouping the bite it had lost in recent seasons. Even if you just pick your spots with him, which I believe he will prove unnecessary, he can be an asset in mixed leagues.
Devon Travis, Blue Jays (Mixed: $10, AL-only: $22)
Did you miss out on Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Jose Reyes at your draft table? Are you still feeling upset about not having an investment in the potent Toronto offense? There’s hope for you yet, in the form of Travis. The 24-year-old second baseman remains widely available in fantasy leagues, and it’s hard to figure out why when you look at the numbers. Travis is currently the No. 9-ranked player in 5x5 mixed leagues, carrying a .375/.419/.700 slash with three homers, nine runs and 12 RBI through 43 plate appearances. Travis hit leadoff on Friday with Reyes getting a day off, and went 2-for-5 with a bomb and two RBI. This didn’t come out of nowhere, either, as Travis hit .298/.358/.460 with 10 homers and 16 steals at the Double-A level last year. It’s hard to imagine him being on many AL-only wires after what he has done at the plate the last two weeks, but mixed leaguers struggling at second base should grab him now.
Denard Span, Nationals (Mixed: $14, NL-only: $29)
When Span suffered an oblique strain in spring training, the Nationals front office initially said he’d be out until May. That made him a bit of a risk at draft tables, especially in mixed leagues where it’s never a challenge to find an outfielder. Now that he’s set to return, likely next week, he’s making those who did roll the dice on him back in March look like geniuses. Span scored 94 runs and swiped 31 bags atop the Washington lineup last year while hitting .302/.355/.416. He hasn’t shown any ill effects from the oblique injury in his rehab assignment, and should be back in the leadoff spot for the Nationals in short order. If he remains unowned in your league, go get him right now. This is a top-30 outfielder, regardless of format.
Adam Lind, Brewers (Mixed: $7, NL-only: $18)
We’ve seen enough good and bad from Lind in his career to know that his hot start doesn’t mean anything beyond the fact that he has had a good two weeks at the plate. Lind could rake all year, as he did in 2009-2011 and 2013, or he could succumb to the injury bug and fall short of expectations. The main takeaway here, however, is that Lind has never hit fewer than 23 homers in a season that wasn’t shortened by injury. Strikeouts aren’t a major concern (he has an 18.9-percent strikeout rate), but he can still be a drain on batting average. The positive scale carries more weight with Lind, given his power, the friendly confines of Miller Park, and his advantageous spot in the Brewers lineup.