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While 2015 has become known as the Year of the Prospect, there has also been a great deal of excitement in Fantasy circles when established pitchers have returned from a long injury-induced layoff. There were rushes to pick up Kris Medlen, Patrick Corbin, Martin Perez and Brandon Beachy when each returned from Tommy John surgery. The same was true for Drew Smyly when he came back from his torn labrum last month.
Results have been mixed; Corbin has been solid, Smyly has been erratic, Medlen has been disappointing, Perez has been merely decent, at least of late, and Beachy was awful. So what, then, to make of the surprising return of Marcus Stroman? Presumed to be out for the season, he is about to complete his speedy recovery by starting against the Yankees on Saturday. That puts Stroman in play for the final stretch in Fantasy, but is he worth the cost of whichever player you would have to jettison in order to make room for him?
That, of course, depends on which player you would have to sacrifice, but we also need to take account of what is reasonable to expect from Stroman himself. He is already among the most added players in CBSSports.com leagues, but if we put the hype aside, there are several risks to consider.
Marcus Stroman, SP, Blue Jays (42 percent owned)
Unexpectedly, Stroman is on the verge of returning from the torn ACL in his left knee that he sustained in spring training. Now that he's nearly back, is it time to join the crowd of owners snapping him up off of waivers?
It was about this time a year ago Stroman was winning over skeptics. Not that he had all that many detractors, but Stroman had hit a rough patch in August, enduring a four-game stretch that produced an 8.66 ERA with slightly reduced velocity. Over his final six appearances, Stroman's velocity didn't bounce back, but he picked up his strikeout, whiff, strikes thrown and ground ball rates and compiled a 2.56 ERA.
There is no question that Stroman has demonstrated an enviable skill set, both in the majors and minors, but he brings considerable risk to the owners who will use him right away. Even if Stroman weren't coming off a serious injury, his lack of consistency as a major leaguer makes him less than an ideal rotation candidate for the Fantasy season's final weeks. Also, the fact remains that he is coming off a serious injury and a long layoff, and as he have seen with others in a similar situation, there is a mixed track record.
The biggest risk of all, though, is that we still don't know what Stroman's role will be beyond Saturday's start. If we assumed that Stroman would start every fifth game going forward -- which seems extremely unlikely -- he would not line up for a two-start week until the final week of the season. If you have room to stash Stroman without losing a valuable member of your existing rotation, he could be worth hanging onto until Week 26, but given all of the risks associated with him, he is far from a must-add.
J.T. Realmuto, C, Marlins (26 percent owned)
Realmuto may be getting a few looks from owners after Tuesday's two-homer effort against the Brewers, but many may want to see more from him before taking the plunge. After all, Realmuto doesn't get on base (.281 OBP) and is installed in a Marlins lineup that is not exactly an offensive powerhouse. He was also cold before his one-game power outburst, hitting .2o0 with one extra-base hit over his previous 20 games.
Despite these shortcomings, Realmuto ranks 13th among all catchers in Fantasy points and 15th in Rotisserie value. In other words, he is viable as a starting catcher in standard mixed league formats, even in one-catcher points leagues. Things could get even better for Realmuto, as he has taken his power game up a notch in the second half, even with his recent cold snap. His Isolated Power has increased from .132 in the first half to .178 in the second half, coinciding with an increase in his hard contact rate (per FanGraphs) from 26 to 35 percent. He would actually be an upgrade over a slumping Salvador Perez or Derek Norris, both of whom have seen their power evaporate.
Domingo Santana, OF, Brewers (13 percent owned)
In three brief stints with the Astros dating back to last season, Santana brought his issues with making contact with him from the minors, but only some of his power. Since joining the Brewers, he has been a vastly different hitter. Santana has increased his contact rate and now sports a solid 0.62 BB/K ratio. For Fantasy owners, this has translated into a .300/.413/.640 slash line in 15 games in Milwaukee.
Santana has been a regular in the Brewers' outfield for a mere two-and-a-half weeks, so one can get only so enthusiastic about his All-Star quality numbers. Despite the small sample, though, we shouldn't be quick to completely dismiss his exploits. As a Brewer, Santana has moderate flyball and pull rates, so his .294 BABIP is utterly believable. According to BaseballHeatMaps.com, his flyballs have traveled an average distance of 313 feet, so his five home runs and .340 Iso are not as fluky as they may appear to be.
As good as his recent numbers have been, it's asking a lot to rely on the inexperienced Santana in three-outfielder leagues during the most critical part of the Fantasy season. He could be worth trying in five-outfielder leagues, and at the very least, he needs to be owned in many more deep leagues of various formats.