Ahh, a fresh season. That means a new fantasy roster to command, and a vast sea of waiver wire fodder to feed upon. There are plenty of exciting elements surrounding opening week, but for the purposes of this column, we're honing in on those valuable players who slipped through drafts or received a late-spring boost. In deeper leagues, these early finds can pay major dividends throughout the course of the summer.
Deep Pickups will appear in the Season Pass section each Tuesday and Thursday, serving up pitchers and hitters who are available almost everywhere. We'll explain why these sleepers are worth taking a look at as potential adds.
Clay Buchholz - SP, PHI
Owned in 4% of Yahoo leagues
I can see why Buchholz is a tough sell. He was simply terrible last year, turning in his worst strikeout rate ever while giving up homers and walks in bunches. He spent a good chunk of time in the bullpen. The righty's decade-long tenure in Boston, filled with ups and downs, ended with a thud when the Red Sox sent him to Philly in a transparent cash dump.
But let us not forget the good Buchholz is capable of achieving. In 2015 he was Boston's Opening Day starter and he pitched up to the distinction, finishing with a 3.26 ERA and excellent 107-to-23 K/BB over 113 1/3 innings. That subpar inning total represents a major problem spot for the 32-year-old, who has averaged less than 140 frames since his first full campaign in 2010.
There isn't anything I can say to convince you Buchholz will find a way to stay healthy this year, other than pointing out that he reported no issues this spring, and has every incentive with free agency looming. It bears noting that his velocity, across the board, was as high in 2016 as it's been five years, so physical breakdown doesn't appear to be a factor.
He spent a lot of time pitching in the AL East. Now, Buchholz travels to a division where lineups are lighter, and less familiar. He'll also escape from the short corners of Fenway in favor of Citizens Bank Park's more spacious confines. That could help remedy his long ball issues.
It's been a humbling series of events for the veteran right-hander, but the groundwork is there for Buchholz to rebound in a good situation and rebuild some value ahead of hitting the open market.
Adalberto Mejia - SP, MIN
Owned in 1% of Yahoo leagues
The Minnesota Twins liked Mejia enough that they made the constricting decision to carry 13 pitchers out of camp, despite two days off in the first two turns through the rotation. Intent on an eight-man bullpen, the Twins could have easily rolled with four starters for the first two weeks while giving themselves more bench flexibility.
Instead, they decided they need Mejia now. As the lone newcomer in a rotation that ranked as the American League's worst in 2016, Minnesota is really counting on him and clearly has considerable confidence in his ability to make an immediate impact. Is it justified?
A burly 6-foot-3, the 23-year-old left-hander certainly has the build of a guy who's going to hold up and deliver innings. He was a surprisingly strong return when the Twins traded Eduardo Nunez to the Giants at the deadline last summer. Taking advantage of the infielder's peak value following an All Star appearance, Minnesota got themselves a player – an MLB-ready arm they sorely needed.
The move only looked better as Mejia finished strong with his new Triple-A team, and he even made a relief appearance during a brief stint in the majors. This spring, he did enough to convince the club he's ready to go, beating out incumbent Tyler Duffey as well as top prospect Jose Berrios.
The allure is obvious. Mejia reaches the mid-90s with his fastball, mixes in a swing-and-miss slider, and throws strikes. That's a good recipe for a lefty. He averaged a strikeout per inning in Triple-A and did the same this spring. He's got the stuff to keep it rolling against big-league hitters.