At the end of this week, we will be very close to having 20 percent of the 2015 games in the books. So how do we view players given that it still feels like we are dealing with “small sample sizes”?
What I think is more important for individual players is looking at their usage and improvement (or lack of) in the statistical categories rather than just the year to date numbers. Still, the free agent process waits for no man, so while we don’t want to drop a player prematurely, we want to add players who may be able to fill in while we wait on some players.
Here are some players I am very concerned about:
1. Michael Saunders started the season on the DL and then came back two weeks ago. He was 0-for-9 in his first three games and then hit .333 last week. But on Tuesday, we found out he had his knee drained on Monday. And today the reports are that he will miss several games. I can’t imagine a league where Kevin Pillar is still a free agent, but if you are in that league, get him immediately.
2. Victor Martinez had surgery in February for a torn meniscus but we still drafted him as he was deemed to be ready for the start of the season – and he was, hitting .316 that week. But he hasn’t been good since then and is now hitting .213 with no home runs. He isn’t healthy and we don’t know when he will be. Hopefully, if you have him, he is at UT where you can fill in with a variety of players.
3. Billy Butler started the year in Oakland hitting .360 for the first two weeks and making Kansas City fans wonder what he was doing in green and gold. But he has hit just .200 over the last three weeks. Is this a slump or correction by pitchers or is this season going to look a lot like last year, when we saw a drop in average, home runs and runs batted in?
4. Andrew McCutchen hasn’t had a good week yet and has just two home runs and zero stolen bases. In spring training, we were told he had “lower body soreness” but in mid-April we finally heard McCutchen admit that it was his left knee that was bothering him. You can’t really sit McCutchen in an NL-only or deep mixed league until he isn’t playing, but you should have an outfielder on reserve.
Conversely, here are several players that weren’t rostered at the draft table (depending on league format and size) who are getting enough at-bats to make them relevant for now.
1. The aforementioned Kevin Pillar and now Ezequiel Carrera, who are getting at-bats with Dalton Pompey demoted and Michael Saunders missing time. I see Pillar continuing to get playing time with incredible defense supplementing his surprising bat, but when Jose Bautista is ready to play the outfield, Carrera will see fewer at-bats and may be sent down.
2. Kelly Johnson appeared to be just a bench player in Atlanta, but injuries and lack of production from some of his teammates gave him playing time in left field, and now with Chris Johnson on the DL, he is playing some third base. He will still not have a good batting average, but if he averages one home run each week (or better), I will be glad to have him in some lineups.
3. Luis Valbuena had double-digit home runs in each of the last two seasons and entered this year eligible at both 2B and 3B. Still, I didn’t put him on my draft lists until he won the third base job for Houston in spring training. You need to have a buffer for the AVG or OBP but Valbuena already has six home runs and double-digit runs and RBI, which is a great fill for a MI or CI slot.
4. Ryan Raburn has been getting enough at-bats each week (and hitting for a higher average than we should expect) due to Nick Swisher being on the DL and David Murphy underperforming. I worry about those at-bats disappearing with Swisher coming back, though both were in the Cleveland lineup on Tuesday night.
5. Ike Davis got an opportunity in Oakland and was great in the first three weeks. His average has slid in the last two weeks, but in AL-only or deep mixed leagues, he will still have value if the A's start to platoon him.
6. Mark Canha, a Rule-5 pick by Oakland, was one of my early draft targets. The 1B/OF, who was a Miami Marlin farmhand who hit .303/.384/.505 with 20 home runs and 82 RBI at Triple-A New Orleans last year, has hit well for the Athletics in the early going. I don’t think he will be the one who loses at-bats when Coco Crisp returns, but his playing time could suffer when Ben Zobrist comes off the DL.