- After a disappointing end with the Red Sox, Travis Shaw was dealt to the Brewers. The change in scenery is working out for him so far, and he's emerged as an appealing addition to fantasy rosters in all formats.
Pretty much everyone with an informed opinion agrees that the Brewers are rebuilding the right way. They’ve accumulated an impressive collection of young talent, some of which is already paying dividends in the majors. Jonathan Villar, Keon Broxton and Orlando Arcia are everyday players up the middle for Milwaukee, while Lewis Brinson, Corey Ray and Josh Hader are on the way.
One of the best moves GM David Stearns made, though, concerned a player who already had close to 800 plate appearances under his belt before joining the Brewers. It was early December when the trade crawled surreptitiously across the wires:
Milwaukee trades RP Tyler Thornburg to Boston for INF Travis Shaw, INF Mauricio Dubon and P Josh Pennington.
Shaw is off to a great start with his new team, hitting .333/.440/.714 with a homer and five doubles in his first 25 plate appearances. Shaw hinted at his ability to handle an everyday job in 2014, when he first broke into the majors with the Red Sox. He totaled 248 plate appearances in 63 games that year, slashing .270/.327/.487 with 13 homers, 10 doubles and 36 RBI.
After last season, however, Shaw’s 2014 seemed a feint. He won the starting third baseman gig in spring training, aided slightly by Pablo Sandoval’s poor performance and conditioning. Shaw, however, was a major disappointment on one of the league’s best offensive teams, hitting .242/.306/.421 with 16 homers in 530 plate appearances. It didn’t much matter for the Red Sox, with David Ortiz, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley making up what is arguably the best offensive quintet in baseball, but the Red Sox made it clear they had moved on from Shaw. With no possible third baseman other than Sandoval, who seemed to have fallen completely out of favor in Boston, the team shipped Shaw to Milwaukee. He’s making the most of it.
Now, before you drop everything to add Shaw, there is an important caveat to understand, and, no, it’s not that we’ve seen just one week of games. Shaw brings eligibility at first and third. Dual-position eligibility certainly is an asset, and he likely should be owned in all leagues that have a corner infield spot in the starting lineup. First base is one of the deepest positions in the game, even if we limit the pool to players who are likely to be used at first in fantasy leagues. Third base isn’t quite as deep, but Shaw still has stiff competition at that spot, as well. Remember, players projected to be backend starting fantasy third basemen include Alex Bregman and Miguel Sano.
The biggest takeaway is that Shaw has put himself in that class. He’s comfortable in Milwaukee, taking advantage of one of the best home parks for left-handed power, and he is worth a look in all formats.
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Rays
Kiermaier earned a contract extension this off-season largely thanks to his defense, but his offense started to come along in the second half, and he picked up this season where he left off last year. Kiermaier is just 5-for-23 in 28 plate appearances, but he already has a pair of steals. He has always been a stolen base threat, but didn’t get on base enough to take full advantage of his skills until after last season’s All-Star Game. If Kiermaier can maintain a .350 OBP, which seems within reach given his improved plate discipline, he could steal 40 bases. You won’t be able to get him at the price of the worst player on your roster for long.
Manuel Margot, OF, Padres
Margot entered this season as a top-25 prospect, breaking spring training as the Padres starting center fielder. The 22-year-old is off to a strong start, going 7-for-23 with two homers and three doubles in 25 plate appearances. He’s going to get plenty of leash from Andy Green and A.J. Preller, as he should on a team destined to lose 90 games. Margot was excellent at Triple-A El Paso last season, hitting .304/.351/.426 with six homers, 21 doubles, 12 triples and 30 steals. It’s far more likely than not that Margot ends up a fantasy-relevant outfielder in all formats this season.
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Nationals
Zimmerman is going to play mostly every day and hit in the middle of a lineup that includes Trea Turner, Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper in front of him, and Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth behind him. He could sleepwalk his way to 90 RBI and 80 runs. Zimmerman already has two homers on the year, and the trust of a manager who has always loved veterans. This is one of the cheapest available sources of homers and RBI available to fantasy owners.
Chris Owings, SS/OF, Diamondbacks
Owings has started all but one of the Diamondbacks’ six games this season, getting four at shortstop and one in the outfield. When they faced lefty Madison Bumgarner on Opening Day, Owings moved to right field, forcing David Peralta to the bench, and hit second. Owings seems to have an everyday spot in the Arizona lineup, no matter if he’s at short or in the outfield. He hit 11 homers and stole 21 bases in 466 plate appearances last season, and that total could be a modest projection for him this year. A 15-25 season is within his reach.
Dylan Bundy, SP/RP, Orioles
It’s hard to believe that it has been five years since we first saw Bundy in the majors as a 19-year-old. He has suffered more bad luck and injuries than anyone should have to deal with since then, but stayed healthy last year and threw 109 2/3 innings across 36 appearances, 14 of which were starts. He broke spring training in the Baltimore rotation this year, and if his first start was any indication, he’s ready, five years later, to realize the potential he had as an elite prospect. Bundy was electric in seven innings against the Blue Jays, allowing one run on four hits, striking out eight and walking none. What’s more, he got 17 whiffs on 99 total pitches, with 15 of those coming on his changeup. There are few starting pitchers with his ceiling available in more than half of leagues.
Tyson Ross, SP, Rangers
Ross is expected to rejoin the Rangers rotation in May, as he continues his recovery from thoracic outlet syndrome. It’s always good practice to stash a player on your DL, assuming you have an available spot. Few players available to stash, though, were top-25 starters as recently as 2014. Ross’s arm may be diminished because of last year’s shoulder issues, but there’s no risk in stashing him on your DL and finding out what sort of pitcher he is when he returns.
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:
Matt Bush, RP, Rangers
Hector Neris, RP, Phillies
Brad Brach, RP, Orioles
Kyle Barraclough, RP, Marlins
Chris Devenski, RP, Astros
Adam Ottavino, RP, Rockies
Luke Gregerson, RP, Astros
David Phelps, RP, Marlins
As for this group, Neris is my preferred pitcher, but Bush has the clearest path to a closer’s gig, with Sam Dyson already struggling thanks in part to significantly diminished velocity.