Junior Lake - OF, CHC
Sweeney was placed on the disabled last week, and he might be out for a while. He's been diagnosed with a "moderate" hamstring strain that is expected to sideline him for 3-4 weeks. As we all know, injuries like that can drag on.
So, while Sweeney is out, Lake figures to see an uptick in playing time, and should become a regular. That gives him plenty of fantasy relevance, as the 24-year-old has flashed both power and speed in his limited MLB playing time.
While coming up through the minors, Lake demonstrated both skills, piling up 117 steals and 47 homers in seven seasons. Last year, as a rookie for the Cubs, he hit .284/.332/.428 with six bombs and four swipes in 64 contests. This year he's already got three home runs and four steals (on four attempts) in the first five weeks despite playing sporadically.
The biggest concern with Lake is how much his poor strike zone control will hold him back. He struck out in 23 percent of his plate appearances in the minors and that rate has spiked to 30 percent in the majors. That comes coupled with a dreadfully low walk rate of 5 percent.
His brutal 37/3 K/BB ratio in 88 plate appearances this year has led to an ugly .253 on-base percentage. If he can't bring that number up, he'll have a hard time staying in the lineup, let alone maximizing his stolen base and run-scoring opportunities.
Lake is still a young and inexperienced player, so it seems fair to assume that his discipline will improve, especially if he now gets the chance to play every day. His skill set is worth taking a chance on, at least short-term.
Marcus Semien - 2B/3B, CWS
He's not even three years removed from joining the White Sox organization as a sixth-round draft pick out of the University of California, but already Semien finds himself as a regular in the majors. He's taking advantage and putting up numbers that are causing fantasy owners to take notice.
Gordon Beckham opening the season on the disabled list with an oblique injury opened the door for Semien in the infield. He has been impressive enough that he's remained in the lineup after Beckham's return, shifting over to third base.
Although he's been a little hot-and-cold, Semien has had some great bursts of offensive production. He already has two four-hit games this season, and in 31 games he has racked up 11 extra-base hits (three homers) and three steals.
His production has been held down by an ugly .217 batting average, the result of his league-leading strikeout total (45). Many are wondering just what happened to the 23-year-old's plate discipline, which was phenomenal in the minors last year. Between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013, Semien drew a whopping 98 walks with 90 strikeouts.
Unfortunately he has simply looked overmatched against big-league pitchers. Last year during a September call-up he had 22 strikeouts and one walk in 71 plate appearances; this year his K/BB is at 47/12 in 150 trips.
Until he can start to even out that lopsided ratio, Semien is going to have a tough time being a productive overall player, but as long as he's playing regularly he should contribute plenty in key fantasy categories. He has shown his ability to hit for power and run aggressively in both the minors and the majors.
As mentioned above, he has been in the pros for less than three full years, so patience is warranted as he works to iron out his plate approach.