Michael Fulmer - SP, DET
Owned in 10% of Yahoo leagues
The Tigers had a down year in 2015, and utilized the opportunity to reinforce their depleted farm system with a few key in-season trades. Among them was a deadline deal that sent Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets and brought back heralded pitching prospect Michael Fulmer, who immediately became the top young arm -- and arguably the top prospect overall -- in the organization.
Equipped with a repertoire that features a mid-90s heater and an array of quality secondary pitches, Fulmer tore up Single-A and Double-A last year. He jumped out to a nice start at Class-AAA Toledo this season, putting up a 20-to-5 K/BB ratio over his first three starts, and quickly got the call to Detroit.
In his major-league debut, the righty picked up a win with five innings of two-run ball against the Twins. His second outing in Cleveland was rockier, but Fulmer still missed some bats and demonstrated the sharpened command that drove his overall improvement as a prospect last year.
Consistently finding the strike zone was Fulmer's biggest question mark heading into 2015, but he alleviated those concerns by issuing only 30 walks in 124 innings. So far with the Tigers, he has issued only three free passes (6 percent BB rate) and has hit the zone with 64 percent of his offerings, placing him slightly above the league average.
That is a very promising sign because if Fulmer continues to find the zone with regularity he's a good bet for rookie success. He has uncharacteristically coughed up 17 hits through his first 10 innings, owing mostly to that rough start in Cleveland, but historically he has done well with keeping hits and homers in check.
I'll be curious to see what kind of groove he can get into as he gains comfort and takes a few turns at home. It's unclear how long his leash is going to be with Shane Greene's return to the rotation pending, but Fulmer boasts more talent than most in the Tigers starting pitching mix, and the fourth-place club stands to benefit from taking a longer look at its best pitching prospect.
Fulmer figures to substantially increase his odds of sticking around with a good performance in Washington on Tuesday night.
Cesar Vargas - SP, SD
Owned in 2% of Yahoo leagues
When you examine the track record of Cesar Vargas, you see one thing a lot: successful results. The 24-year-old right-hander has a 3.07 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in eight minor-league seasons, and his big-league career is off to a similarly strong start.
Vargas hasn't exactly had the easiest run in his introduction to the majors, with two of his first three match-ups coming against the Cardinals and Rockies (two of the top three offenses in the NL by OPS) but he has taken care of business, allowing only two runs total in 16 1/3 innings of work.
Like all Padres pitchers, Vargas gets a considerable bump from pitching home games at Petco, which continues to be the most bat-suppressing park in the game. He has always been effective at limiting damage when the ball is put in play, having allowed only 16 home runs in 469 total minor-league innings, so the stadium should play to his strengths.
Although he has tallied only 12 strikeouts total in his first three starts, there would seem to be some upside in that department for Vargas. He has averaged more than one strikeout per inning during each of his last two seasons in the minors, and while he appeared exclusively as a reliever during those campaigns, his stuff doesn't seem to be playing down a ton now that the Padres have converted him back into a starter. He had a 14-to-1 K/BB ratio over 12 frames in his two starts at Double-A before being called up.
When you watch Vargas pitch, he doesn't fire the kind of heat that wows you, but he's been getting the job done quite consistently now for several years. He's off to an encouraging start with San Diego and we still haven't seen him get the luxury of facing a mediocre lineup at home, which will happen plenty often.
Based simply on his circumstances and history, Vargas is a savvy pick-up for situational plays and deep-league staffs.