After some time in the wilderness, Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward and Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta have returned to relevancy in mixed leagues. Because of their respective hot starts, they have both jumped over the 50-percent ownership threshold in Yahoo leagues. As a result, you won’t find them among my recommendations this week, but I wanted to at least mention them here since they are still out there in a lot of leagues.
We all heard about Heyward’s revamped swing coming off the disastrous first season of his $184 million contract, but there wasn’t much reason for optimism coming out of spring training. His average draft position in Yahoo leagues was 242.5, so he was strictly late-round flier material. Those who took a chance on him are more than satisfied with the results so far, as Heyward has produced a solid .284/.346/.432 batting line through 20 games. He has slugged three homers over the past week after hitting just seven homers in 142 games last season.
In addition to the much-discussed mechanical changes, Heyward has been noticeably more aggressive while utilizing a pull-heavy approach. The good news is that he hasn’t sacrificed contact in the process. He has primarily hit sixth in the Cubs’ order so far this season, but he has received a couple of opportunities out of the fifth spot in recent days. It’s still very early, but there’s obviously some exciting upside in this lineup if he can keep it going.
2016 was essentially a lost year for Peralta as he dealt with wrist and back injuries while seeing his OPS fall from .893 to .728, but he has quickly put that in the rear-view mirror by batting .346/.402/.551 with three homers and three steals through his first 19 games this season. This includes multi-hit games in five straight and seven out of his last eight. He’s already one home run and one walk off his total from his abbreviated 2016. Peralta didn't do much against left-handers even when he was at his best, so be careful about how you use him in fantasy leagues, but hitting second in Arizona’s lineup makes him mighty interesting.
Editor’s Note: Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Baseball: Get in the game and create or join a league today.
Have specific questions about your roster? Ask @djshort on Twitter.
Cody Bellinger 1B, Dodgers (Yahoo: 43 percent owned)
Let’s get the biggest add of the week out of the first. Regarded as one of the top position prospects in the game, Bellinger will split time between left field and center field with the Dodgers while Joc Pederson is on the disabled list with a groin injury. The 21-year-old was dominating with Triple-A Oklahoma City to begin the year with a .343/.429/.627 batting through 18 games to go along with five homers and seven steals. After hitting eighth in his MLB debut on Tuesday, he was moved up to the leadoff spot on Wednesday. I wouldn’t bank on him hitting for average right away, but the power is intriguing. He’s worth grabbing in most leagues on the chance that he gets off to a hot start and stays up for good. Just keep in mind that he could sit against some tough left-handers.
Yulieski Gurriel 1B/3B, Astros (Yahoo: 32 percent owned)
There was a ton of hype with Gurriel when he signed with the Astros last July given his excellent production in Cuba over the years, but I didn’t really know what to make of him in drafts this spring. He’s going to be 33 years old in June, so it’s fair to say that he’s past what would be considered his peak numbers. Still, he’s doing enough right now to warrant attention in most formats. After a bit of a slow start, Gurriel has gone 19-for-40 (.475) to pull his batting average up from .125 to .344. We’re not seeing much power here and his patience has almost been non-existent, but the multi-position eligibility comes in handy and I love this lineup, even if Gurriel is in the bottom-third of the order on most nights.
Jorge Soler OF, Royals (Yahoo: 16 percent owned)
Soler has largely been a non-factor in mixed leagues over the past two seasons, but he was back on the radar for me after being traded from the Cubs to the Royals over the winter. Unfortunately, he struggled during Cactus League action before going down with an oblique injury in late March. The good news is that he’s finally back in action now and has popped a couple homers during his minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha. Odds are he’ll be activated in the next few days, so I think it’s a good idea to at least stash him in a DL spot. He still has a lot to prove to match the early hype, but I’m not quitting on his power potential just yet.
Austin Hedges C, Padres (Yahoo: 34 percent owned)
After Gary Sanchez went down with his biceps injury earlier this month, my first thought was to take a chance on Hedges in a couple of leagues. Of course, that was right in the middle of his 0-for-24 hitless streak to begin the season, so it didn’t take me long to pivot to other options. Silly me. Hedges has slugged six homers in his last 11 games, backing up the sudden power production he showed at the Triple-A level last year. He’s lofting the ball to the pull side, which is a good thing for power if you have been paying attention to trends around the league over the past year or two. The hard-hit rate is also encouraging. Not sure about the batting average upside here, but Hedges could show enough pop to have a breakthrough year at the catcher position.
Zack Wheeler SP, Mets (Yahoo: 21 percent owned)
It’s not often I put someone with a 5.40 ERA in this column, but I think there’s reason to be encouraged about what we’ve seen from Wheeler so far. After missing two years, his velocity is back to where it was prior to Tommy John surgery. He also owns a 21/6 K/BB ratio over 21 2/3 innings, so the control has been better than expected. He has induced at least 11 swinging strikes in each of his last three starts, so he’s missing plenty of bats. The Mets are going to handle him with care this season, but I think he’s at least worth using on a matchup basis right now.
Taylor Motter SS/OF, Mariners (Yahoo: 38 percent owned)
Motter has been so good that I just can’t ignore him here. Acquired from the Rays back in November, the 27-year-old thrived while filling in for Jean Segura at shortstop and figures to see regular at-bats now that Leonys Martin has been designated for assignment and Mitch Haniger is on the disabled list with an oblique injury. I don’t think anybody saw Motter’s production coming, as he hit just .188/.290/.300 over 93 plate appearances with the Rays last season and underwhelmed at the Triple-A level, but he’s shown some interesting power and speed in the minors in previous years. Perhaps this will all come tumbling down soon, but Motter has shown intriguing tendencies in the small sample this month. He’s lofting the ball and pulling it to an extreme degree while finding himself among the league leaders in exit velocity and hard-hit rate. That’s enough to get my attention.
Bud Norris RP, Angels (Yahoo: 27 percent owned)
There’s some sort of Final Destination thing going on in the Angels’ bullpen right now. With Cam Bedrosian, Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, and Mike Morin all on the disabled list, Norris appears to be the Angels’ closer by default. We’ve mostly known Norris as a starter during his nine-year career, but he split last season between the bullpen and the rotation while making stops with the Braves and Dodgers. Interestingly, we haven’t seen a velocity spike in relief, but he’s started the year with a 3.09 ERA and 14/4 K/BB ratio over 11 2/3 innings while missing plenty of bats. It doesn’t seem like Bedrosian’s groin injury will be a long-term thing, but go crazy if you could use the potential short-term boost.
Aaron Altherr OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 12 percent owned)
I was excited about Altherr going into last year, but unfortunately he suffered a tear of the tendon sheath in his wrist during spring training and ended up hitting just .197/.300/.288 in 57 games after his return. The 26-year-old began this season in a backup role, but Howie Kendrick’s oblique injury has pushed him into the starting lineup over the past week and a half and he has taken advantage of the situation so far. He’s hit safely in each of his last eight games while producing one homer, four doubles, and two steals along the way. The batting average is unlikely to stick, but he offers some intriguing pop and speed. He’s a fine option in deeper formats, at least until Kendrick returns.
Dan Straily SP, Marlins (Yahoo: 17 percent owned)
I was surprised to see Straily available in so many leagues after his 14-strikeout performance, but maybe I should give fantasy owners some credit here. It was the Padres and they strike out against everyone. Straily had a 4.61 ERA through three starts going into that matchup. I’m not a huge fan of him, but he’s throwing harder so far this season and he has a matchup against the Pirates on Saturday. Only the Royals have scored fewer runs than the Pirates so far this season. So I’m looking at this as a matchup play. Adam Conley (Yahoo: 10 percent owned) should also be owned this weekend, though I mentioned him just one week ago.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Justin Bour 1B, Marlins (Yahoo: 7 percent owned)
I know Bour got off to a slow start this month, but this is a shockingly low ownership number. Sure, power is plentiful in the game at the moment, but Bour slugged 23 homers with an .800 OPS over 129 games in 2015 and was on a 30-homer pace before he came down with a severe ankle sprain last year. Since the aforementioned slow start, the 28-year-old has bounced back with three homers over his last nine games while making more regular contact. I’m not expecting much against left-handers, but Bour is an underrated power source in leagues which allow for daily lineup changes. He’s hit seventh in each of the last two games, so ideally he’d be in a better spot in the order.
Ty Blach RP, Giants (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
After losing out to Matt Cain for a rotation spot during spring training, Blach figures to get an extended opportunity now that staff ace Madison Bumgarner is slated to miss two months with a shoulder injury. The 26-year-old took the loss Tuesday against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, but he pitched well enough, allowing two runs over five innings while getting stretched out to 75 pitches. He should be ready for a bigger workload in a matchup against the Padres this weekend at home. Blach doesn’t have a ton of appeal on a start-to-start basis, as he’s not going to strike out many batters, but he has good control, keeps the ball on the ground, and pitches in a great home park. He’s a worthwhile streamer and this weekend’s matchup qualifies.
Amed Rosario SS, Mets (Yahoo: 6 percent owned)
I mentioned Yoan Moncada last week and Cody Bellinger this week, but who will be the next top prospect to make his way to the majors? While the Mets are downplaying the possibility of anything being imminent, Rosario is hitting .397/.444/.466 through his first 19 games with Triple-A Las Vegas. Sure, it’s a joke as far as hitting environments go, but this comes after the 21-year-old hit .341 with an .874 OPS over 54 games in Double-A last year. Jose Reyes has been one of the game’s worst players so far this year and Asdrubal Cabrera is already banged up, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rosario’s arrival sooner than you might think.
Marco Hernandez 2B/3B/SS, Red Sox (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
With Pablo Sandoval on the disabled list and Dustin Pedroia banged up with knee and ankle issues, Hernandez should continue to see at least part-time at-bats in Boston’s infield in the coming days. The 24-year-old doesn’t offer much power, but he can hit for average and provide some speed. He can also be plugged in at multiple positions and obviously you have to like the situation with the lineup/ballpark.
Jaff Decker OF, Athletics (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Take your pick on injury replacements here. John Hicks (Yahoo: 1 percent owned) is off to a red-hot start as a fill-in for Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, so feel free to pick him up if he’s still available, but Decker is another name to keep in mind with Rajai Davis sidelined due to a left hamstring strain. The 27-year-old has struggled in his sporadic opportunities in the majors and is a few years removed from being considered a promising prospect, but he’s seeing time out of the leadoff spot right now. And that’s something, at least.
J.J. Hoover RP, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Who saw Fernando Rodney going well as a closer in Arizona? Anyone? That’s what I thought. Rodney blew a save in epic fashion Wednesday against the Padres and has now allowed 12 runs (11 earned) on 14 hits and five walks through his first nine innings of work this season. I don’t like anybody in this bullpen enough to mention them on the mixed league side, but Hoover is off to a nice start and he has enjoyed some success in past. For what it’s worth, his velocity has rebounded from his nightmare 2016 and he’s sporting a career-best swinging strike percentage. Good luck with this situation.
Nick Pivetta SP, Phillies (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
With Aaron Nola expected to miss one or two starts with a lower back strain, Pivetta is getting his first shot in the majors. The 24-year-old was originally scheduled to pitch Wednesday, but rain pushed his first start to Saturday against the Dodgers. Acquired from the Nationals in the Jonathan Papelbon trade back in 2015, Pivetta has earned the opportunity by posting a 0.95 ERA and 24/2 K/BB ratio in 19 innings through his first three turns in Triple-A this year. We’re not talking about a top prospect here. In fact, some see him as a reliever in the long-term, but he’s at least worth monitoring in case he sticks around.