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The minor leagues have seemingly been emptied of all its promotable elite prospects, but the string of buzz-worthy season debuts hasn't stopped. Last Thursday, we saw Jose Fernandez and Matt Moore make their first starts since having Tommy John surgery, and Patrick Corbin joined that group on Saturday. Corbin's first start since September 2013 wasn't a head-turner; he lasted only five innings and produced three strikeouts. Then again, he held the Rockies scoreless, didn't walk a batter, and made the most of his 76 pitches.
Corbin is owned in just 51 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, but another pitcher getting a late start to 2015 is owned at a similar level, yet had a far more impressive season debut. I'm speaking of Ervin Santana, and because he was returning from a PED suspension and not Tommy John surgery, he was not similarly encumbered by a pitch count.
Santana's strong debut has earned him a place on our Most Added Players list, but how much stock should we put in this one start? In today's edition of this column, I'll tackle that question, as well as make the case for adding a pair of outfielders who are gaining in popularity, yet remain underappreciated.
Ervin Santana, SP, Twins (61 percent owned)
Santana's 80-game PED suspension was a blow to those owners who drafted him, and that was no minor deal, as he was typically taken in the middle rounds in standard mixed league drafts. In his 2015 debut, Santana rewarded those who stuck with him or picked him up, as he held the Royals to two runs over eight innings. Most surprising and impressive, Santana got eight strikeouts against the team with the lowest strikeout rate in the majors.
Because we have seen Santana have stretches of greatness, only to regress to a more pedestrian level, I am tempted to discount the impact of this one outing. However, it does bear mentioning that last season, Santana experienced a spike in the whiff rate on his slider, and that helped to fuel his highest K/9 ratio (8.2) in six seasons. According to BrooksBaseball.net, Santana threw 36 sliders against the Royals and induced 10 whiffs for a robust 27.8 percent swinging strike rate.
Even with all of the strikeouts, Santana only mustered a 3.95 ERA a year ago, so this performance may still not be reason enough to pick him up. If you need pitching depth, he should be reasonably reliable, but if you need a difference-maker on your staff, the odds are against Santana being the pitcher you need. If you have room to stash Santana, it could pay off to pick him up and see if he can make more progress on his strikeout rate.
David Peralta, OF, Diamondbacks (34 percent owned)
Seven home runs and 16 doubles in 223 at-bats...that's not bad power production, even for an outfielder, yet owners in nearly two-thirds of the leagues on CBSSports.com haven't seen fit to add Peralta, who owns those numbers. A few weeks back, the hesitation to use a roster spot on him was understandable. Peralta was part of a crowded outfield mix in Arizona, and playing time had been sporadic, particularly early in the season.
With the departure of Mark Trumbo to Seattle and the shelving of Ender Inciarte (hamstring) on the DL, Peralta has literally been an everyday player for more than three weeks. He has started 22 consecutive games, putting up a .289/.372/.470 slash line over that string of games. When Inciarte returns, Peralta could lose some playing time, but manager Chip Hale has seemingly settled into a using a steady lineup, giving Jake Lamb, Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed more regular playing time, with Aaron Hill and Cliff Pennington being used more sparingly. As long as Peralta keeps hitting, there is a good chance he could remain in the lineup as well.
With a .262 batting average versus lefties, he is doing a creditable job against southpaws, giving owners one less reason to avoid him. You can still do better than Peralta in a 12-team mixed league with three outfielders, but in formats that are deeper than that, it's time to give him a try.
Thomas Pham, OF, Cardinals (4 percent owned)
Pham has been filling in for Jon Jay (wrist) as the Cardinals' center fielder for just three games, but he has made a big impression in that short time. On Saturday, Pham led off, notched his first career hit, stole a base and scored twice, and in Sunday's series finale against the Padres, he hit a home run and a double and drove in three runs. In just two games, Pham provided a microcosmic glimpse into his potential. Over ten seasons in the minors, he has shown the ability to provide speed, a high on-base percentage and moderate power.
Pham's stay in the majors may only last as long as the disabled list stints of Jay and Matt Holliday (quad) -- in other words, not long. That probably makes Pham too risky to pursue in most leagues, but in deeper mixed and NL-only leagues, he is worth a flier. In the event that he is in the Cardinals' lineup more than a week or two, Pham could provide a boost to your team's home run, stolen base and runs scored totals.