Chris Owings - 2B/SS, ARI
Owned in 13% of Yahoo leagues
Last year, at age 23, Chris Owings got the opportunity he's been waiting for in the majors. He started 145 of Arizona's 162 games, mostly at second base, and compiled 552 plate appearances. Unfortunately, things did not go well, as he finished with a 587 OPS that ranked as easily the worst among qualified MLB hitters.
This year, Owings was looking at a part-time infield gig that probably would have resulted in decreased playing time (barring a substantial step forward at the plate), but an injury that hit the Diamondbacks late in spring training altered the team's plans.
In one of Arizona's final Cactus League contests, A.J. Pollock fractured his elbow while sliding into home plate. He's expected to miss at least the majority of the 2016 season. This is where Owings' ability to play center field becomes a big benefit. The D-backs also have Socrates Brito as an option there, but Owings' advantage in experience, as well as his monster spring (he posted a 1002 OPS with three homers in 22 games) appears to give him a leg up.
Despite his ugly overall production last year, Owings did steal 16 bases, and that's an area where he'll clearly be a fantasy asset as long as he is playing regularly. In his big-league career, the speedster is 27-for-32 on SB attempts, and he also swiped 54 bags while coming up through Arizona's system. His track record in the minors also suggests some upside outside of the steals category.
In parts of two seasons at Triple-A, the 24-year-old has hit .324/.352/.468, utilizing his gap power and speed. We didn't see too much of that in the majors last year, but his big month of March is a promising sign that he learned a few things and is ready to step it up.
Ultimately, Owings' lack of plate discipline (he has 227 strikeouts against 48 walks in the majors and his minor-league ratio was no better) will cap his ceiling. But he's a guy who can run and make plays when he puts the bat on the ball, producing in key fantasy areas. He's also in line for plenty of exposure this year, and his eligibility at both shortstop and second base while he plays in the outfield is icing on the cake.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia - C, DET
Owned in 5% of Yahoo leagues
Through the first few months of 2015, Jarrod Saltalamacchia looked to be toast. Coming off a brutal first season in Miami, he posted a hideous .069/.182/.207 line in April, prompting the Marlins to release him even though his contract with them ran through 2016.
After Salty cleared waivers, the Diamondbacks signed him to a minor-league contract. In Arizona, he found himself in a fortuitous situation, as an injury to D-backs catcher Tuffy Gosewich opened the door for him to be called up from Triple-A. Eased back into an everyday job, Saltalamacchia's bat came back to life, as he hit .251/.332/.474 in 70 games the rest of the way.
Over the winter, the 30-year-old signed a big-league deal with the Tigers to serve as backup to starting catcher James McCann. Now, an injury to McCann has once again put him in position to serve as primary catcher.
Saltalamacchia enjoyed an excellent spring with Detroit, posting an 878 OPS with two homers in 13 games. During his brief appearances during the regular season, he has already launched two bomb and driven in eight runners in his 16 plate appearances. He offers power that is in short supply at the catcher position, where American Leaguers have mustered only 10 home runs total thus far.
McCann was diagnosed with a Grade 2 ankle sprain, and the Tigers say they expect him to miss 2-to-4 weeks. We'd guess that his absence will fall on the longer end of that timeframe, so Saltalamacchia has time to do a little damage and build a case for more playing time when the designated starter returns. McCann hasn't really established himself as a quality big-league player yet, so the possibility exists that Salty could become a larger factor with a strong performance over the next month.
In the meantime, he's certainly a good short-term fix in any league.