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Pickups of the Day: Puk Luck

A.J. Puk

A.J. Puk

Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t overreact. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t chase early-season stats. These pearls of wisdom morphed into guiding principles for fantasy managers over the years, especially at the outset of the regular season, because they’ve proven to be correct more often than not from a process standpoint. It’s tempting to draw conclusions from early-season results, but the more significant variables to monitor at this stage of the year include playing time and roles, especially for younger position players and relief pitchers.

Dodgers outfielder Trayce Thompson, who is currently tied for the major-league lead with three homers and eight RBI in just two games this season, will be one of the most added players in fantasy leagues this week. Barring an unexpected late-career breakthrough, which would be a historical outlier, we have nearly 1,000 plate appearances dating back to 2015 suggesting he won’t be worthy of a roster spot in shallow fantasy leagues. This isn’t meant as a criticism of Thompson, who deserves a ton of credit for carving out a role over the last two years in Los Angeles as a platoon outfielder. However, fantasy managers should be prioritizing younger, unknown and unproven alternatives, who have a chance to make an impact over the next six months, with their waiver wire acquisitions, as opposed to chasing a three-homer anomaly from a reserve outfielder without a clear avenue to everyday at-bats.

Our brand-new Pickups of the Day column is designed to help fantasy managers find a handful of widely-available targets. It could be a prospect stash, an injury replacement, a pitcher with a favorable matchup or week, a player who is due some better luck, or any other number of scenarios. If there’s value to be found on the waiver wire, we will uncover it and bring it your way. Here are a pair of young players that are stepping into prominent roles with rebuilding clubs that have a chance to make a sustained impact over the next few months.

PICKUPS OF THE DAY

Ji Hwan Bae, OF, Pirates

Available in 75 percent of Yahoo leagues

Bae collected a pair of stolen bases last Thursday on Opening Day and has been in the Pirates’ lineup for all three of their regular-season contests, drawing starts at second base and center field. It’s notable that Pittsburgh is making an effort to give him an everyday opportunity in a versatile super-utility role at the outset of the year, even putting him in the lineup on Saturday against a tough left-hander in Nick Lodolo. The 23-year-old offers enough defensive versatility to play close to everyday moving forward and stole 30 bases in 108 games last year for Triple-A Indianapolis. He doesn’t project as a potential fantasy superstar, but he should benefit from baseball’s rule changes tailored to increase stolen base attempts, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him eclipse 30 stolen bases this season if he’s playing close to everyday in Pittsburgh. He’s worthy of a speculative roster spot in deeper mixed leagues.

A.J. Puk, RP, Marlins

Available in 74 percent of Yahoo league

There simply wasn’t a ton of clarity this spring from the Marlins regarding their closing situation as newly-minted manager Skip Schumaker indicated multiple times that he wasn’t planning to name a traditional closer. Therefore, it was a notable development that newly-acquired left-hander A.J. Puk, who was picked up in a mid-February trade with the Athletics, received the club’s first save chance last Friday against the Mets. The 27-year-old former top pitching prospect surrendered a solo homer to Pete Alonso, but recorded a pair of strikeouts to preserve Miami’s first regular-season victory. The extremely-talented southpaw solved his omnipresent control issues last year in Oakland when he transitioned to relief full-time and has almost zero competition for saves this season with the Marlins. He’s worthy of a roster spot in all fantasy formats moving forward.

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