Note: FanDuel is hosting a one-day Fantasy Baseball league tonight. It's $5 to enter and pays out $100,000 in cash prizes. First place wins $10,000. Sign up now!
With how often pitchers are going down with injuries these days, identifying young arms with upside who could help you out could be the difference between a middle-of-the-road pitching staff and one that pushes you to a championship.
It didn't take a soothsayer to see that Noah Syndergaard's flame throwing would translate to the majors immediately, but not every young pitcher comes with so many flashing signs of stardom. Three other intriguing pitchers made their major-league debuts this weekend or immediately before and each has the upside to make an impact in the majors this season.
Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox (67 percent owned)
Coming into the season, Rodriguez was the most highly regarded of the three players, as he was ranked No. 59 in Baseball America's preseason list. The Red Sox acquired him last summer for Andrew Miller and all he has done since joining Boston's organization is rack up 90 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings, with a 1.93 ERA in three stops from Double-A all the way to his major-league debut Thursday. He was originally only supposed to get one turn in the rotation as a spot start, but he was such a breath of fresh air for the Red Sox -- a pitcher who could get outs! -- they couldn't justify sending him back down. Rodriguez's overall minor-league track record isn't quite as impressive as his time in Boston's organization might suggest, but he still sports a 3.23 ERA over 534 2/3 innings, despite just turning 22 last month. Armed with a mid-90s fastball from the left side and a changeup and slider combination that racked up a bunch of groundballs and swinging strikes in his first start, Rodriguez has plenty of upside, and is worth taking a flier on in all Fantasy formats, even if his spot in the rotation isn't assured.
Chi Chi Gonzalez, Rangers (11 percent owned)
Gonzalez isn't considered to be quite the prospect Rodriguez is, though he did join him in Baseball America's Top 100 before the season, at 89th overall. He also didn't quite overwhelm opposing hitters either in Triple-A (4.15 ERA this season) or in his debut like Rodriguez did, but there's still something to like here. Gonzalez leans heavily on a sinker to generate groundball outs, and it led him to a 2.71 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 73 innings at Double-A a year ago. What makes him intriguing is that he also has a real chance to stick in Texas' rotation, as the team was receiving a 6.95 ERA from No. 5 starter Ross Detwiler before his disabled list trip. Gonzalez struck out just two batters to five walks in his debut, but racked up a bunch of groundballs and got out of the outing unscathed. He looks more like an AL-only option than anything else, but if he does end up sticking in the rotation, he could follow the Chris Heston path to Fantasy relevance.
Michael Feliz, Astros (2 percent owned)
If you're looking for a really deep stash candidate, Feliz showed what makes him so interesting in a very brief cameo over the weekend. Feliz came up for one relief appearance and flashed a fastball he can dial up to the high-90s and a slider/changeup combo that could be weapons down the line. Feliz didn't rank on the BA Top 100 list, but he was the Astros' No. 5 prospect at MLB.com entering the season. He has pitched just four innings above Class A in the minors, so his return to Double-A didn't come as much of a surprise. However, he has struck out 151 batters in 139 1/3 innings since the start of the 2014 season and could be on the fast track to a rotation spot later in the summer if he can parlay the confidence gained from a major-league callup into dominance at Double-A.
Chad Bettis, Rockies (15 percent owned)
Bettis didn't make his major-league debut this weekend, but he did garner his share of headlines by taking a perfect game into the eighth inning against the Phillies. Given the opponent, that isn't a terribly impressive feat, but Bettis has actually been very impressive through his first four starts. He is sporting a 2.96 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings, including 14 Ks in 16 1/3 innings over his last two starts, both wins. Bettis was a Top 100 prospect once upon a time and he showed the kind of skill set that could make him one of the few pitchers to find some measure of success in Colorado, allowing just 0.6 HR/9 with a 3.03 ERA. He is avoiding walks and picking up a solid amount of groundballs this season and could have some appeal in deeper leagues, especially away from Coors Field.
Justin Bour, Marlins (14 percent owned)
First base is such an absurdly deep position, it's difficult to break into the ranks of Fantasy relevance as a mid-season replacement. However, Bour has managed to do that over the last two weeks, ranking 10th at the position in Rotisserie scoring over the last two weeks, when he became the Marlins' de facto starter. With Michael Morse on the disabled list, Bour is going to get the bulk of the playing time against right-handed pitchers and has done nothing but mash in the majors, sporting a .324/.386/.496 slash line since last season. He probably isn't a long-term option, but as long as Morse is on the DL, Bour is worth owning at least in NL-only leagues, especially after going deep in three straight games.