FANTASY PLAYS: Young bats and tough bullpen situations
Two youngsters are impressing and have everyone talking in fantasy baseball. Meanwhile, two closer situations took big hits that will ripple through lineups. How should you value the young players and handle the bullpen situations?
Cody Bellinger, LAD - It's safe to say that Bellinger has been impressive in his first taste of the majors. The question fantasy baseball owners have is how to value Bellinger. To answer that, we need to talk about Bellinger's ability and projected year-end numbers. The kid is the real deal talent-wise with the ability to hit 25-plus home runs while adding in double-digit steals. In the right lineup and position in the batting order, Bellinger can score and drive in 90-plus runs. That puts Bellinger on par with George Springer's 2016 season (fewer runs, more RBIs), and Springer was a top 15 outfielder. While it's rare to see rookies reach those marks, Bellinger has the talent to do so even with a dip in average (.280-ish hitter). Unfortunately for Andrew Toles, but good for Bellinger, Toles tore an ACL, which alleviates the worry of Bellinger not having an everyday job. Bellinger will play most days even when Adrian Gonzalez returns, splitting time between first base and the outfield. Be thrilled that you own Bellinger, and if you don't, test the waters from his owner to see if he thinks he's selling high. He won't be, and you will reap the reward.
Aaron Altherr, PHI - Like Bellinger, the main question with Altherr this season isn't his talent; it's whether he will see playing time. As with the Dodgers, injuries have provided Altherr with the opportunity, and the way Altherr is playing, the Phillies will keep him in the lineup - sorry, Howie Kendrick. Altherr doesn't quite have the power that Bellinger has, but Altherr has more speed and can hit for a good average as well. The Phillies lineup is going to limit Altherr's numbers, but Altherr can still score and drive in 70-plus runs while hitting around 20 home runs and stealing 15-20 bases. That puts Altherr in the OF3 conversation, which makes him a must-own and must-start option in all fantasy baseball formats.
Mark Melancon, SF - Melancon hit the 10-day DL this week, and now we have a situation like that of the Tigers last week. However, Melancon's replacement doesn't have the numbers that Justin Wilson does, nor the potential for as many saves given the Giants' ineptitude. Melancon's replacement is Derek Law... for now. Law's best pitch is his curveball, meaning he's not as overpowering as many top-end closers and doesn't strike out as many batters. In addition, because he likes the off-speed stuff, Law walks too many batters, creating a high WHIP. Law pitched better last year, but before you rush to your waiver wire and/or blow a large portion of your free agent acquisition budget, know that Hunter Strickland has more strikeout upside and that Melancon could be back in short time. The talk is that Melancon needs just two weeks. You're better served looking to the east coast.
Jeurys Familia, NYM - This refers to the Mets situation generally. Familia has an arterial clot in his throwing shoulder. There isn't a large history of these, but David Cone missed four months with a similar clot (and surgery to fix it) back in his playing days. You can't drop Familia yet, but you need to run to the waiver wire and grab Addison Reed ... and don't be stingy. Reed has shown the ability to be a great setup man and closer for the Mets. If Familia has surgery, Reed could be the most valuable waiver addition for the rest of the year. You simply don't find closers with the ability to post top 12 numbers on waivers. As seen with the Tigers, Giants, Nationals and Phillies, it's rare to have a clear, rock-solid, high-quality replacement at the closer position. If you need saves, you have to go all in and spend 80 percent or more of your budget. This could be your best opportunity for ''free'' saves this year.
Looking ahead to Week 7, the Padres continue to be one of the weakest offenses while having the highest SOBB (strikeout percentage minus base on balls percentage) of 16.9. That makes Chase Anderson and Zach Davies of the Brewers, and Taijuan Walker and Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks strong options, especially the Diamondbacks starters. The Rockies aren't far behind the Padres (16.3) and thankfully are on the road, giving Ervin Santana of the Twins and Tim Adleman of the Reds some streaming appeal. Yes, Santana's season likely has everyone starting him anyway, but regression is coming; you just don't have to worry about it next week. Lastly, the Rays strike out more than any other team currently, making Luis Perdomo and Trevor Cahill solid streaming plays.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by Jake Ciely of the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com