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Part of what made the Nationals such a huge favorite to be the National League's representative in the World Series was the team's incredible top-end talent. Headed by names like Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Bryce Harper, this was a team that could match up with anyone in baseball in terms of pure talent.
However, this isn't your typical top-heavy team that needs everything to go right to be a contender. What makes the Nationals especially dangerous is the depth they can call on, and we're getting a taste of that right now with Michael Taylor and Tanner Roark being asked to step up due to injuries. Fantasy owners should be very interested in both players, as they replace Jayson Werth and Doug Fister, respectively.
Of the two, Roark has the best major-league track record, as he posted a 2.85 ERA in 198 2/3 innings year ago en route to winning 15 games. He isn't a huge strikeout pitcher, but Roark more than held his own a year ago and held the Cubs to five hits and one run in five innings in his first starting opportunity of the season earlier this week.
Fister, recovering from a flexor strain, began throwing for the first time Wednesday, so he likely needs at least a few weeks to get back to full strength. You should get at least a few more starts out of Roark, and with Fister struggling to open the season, the chance Roark locks down a rotation spot long term makes him worth stashing beyond that.
Taylor's track record isn't as extensive as Roark's, with just 145 major-league plate appearances. However, with Werth likely out until August with a fractured wrist, he's got the most direct path to long-term playing time. Of course, there are also some real questions about whether he can turn all of his tools into production at the major-league level.
Taylor is hitting just .167/.216/.250 in 51 plate appearances since returning from the minors in late April, with 19 strikeouts and only three walks to his credit. His plate discipline issues are going to be the biggest obstacle to him making a big impact, but his upside is worth betting on, especially since he is owned in just 20 percent of CBSSports.com leagues.
Taylor's minor-league track record points to his boom-or-bust potential. He was fine in Class A, but never exactly put up All-Star numbers. He hit .254 while averaging 11.3 home runs and 40.4 stolen bases per 162 games. However, he exploded when he got to the higher levels of the minors last season, hitting 23 home runs and adding 34 stolen bases in just 110 games, while hitting .304/.390/.526.
Taylor has to start hitting to live up to his potential, but there's enough there to make getting in on the ground floor a worthy gamble. If things start to click, he could be a 20-20 player, and that upside just isn't readily available on the wire too often.
Cameron Maybin, OF, Braves (28 percent owned)
Early on this season, Maybin was confined to a quasi-platoon in center field and he played just 10 games in the month of April while hitting .175/.283/.400. Given his track record, Maybin was going to need to prove he deserved a role before he was handed one, and that's exactly what he has done over the last month. From April 29 through May 2, Maybin came off the bench in three straight games. He has started every game since and is giving little reason for the Braves to turn back to the light-hitting Eric Young. Since becoming an everyday player, Maybin is hitting .291/.385/.430 with two home runs, 14 RBI, 13 runs scored and four stolen bases, making him a top-100 overall Fantasy option in Rotisserie leagues in that time frame. Maybin is showing better patience than ever before and is combining that with a career-low swinging-strike rate and a career-best line-drive rate. With so many indicators moving in the right direction, Maybin might be a post-hype sleeper worth adding.
Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Cardinals (6 percent owned)
With Matt Adams going down for what looks like a long time, is there any reason to look Reynolds' way? The Cardinals have a pretty good track record of wringing value from unexpected places and Reynolds was once one of the premiere power hitters in the game. That power remains even into his 30s, but it remains mostly irrelevant as long as his contact issues remain so glaring. Reynolds is hitting .253 in his first 99 at-bats with the Cardinals, which is a reason to be optimistic for him. Unfortunately, even that mildly optimistic sign is probably smoke and mirrors, as his strikeout rate has actually spiked to 32.1 percent, the highest it has been since 2010. That average is almost entirely tied to his .361 BABIP. At this point, Reynolds is who he is and that makes him little more than NL-only fodder, even with an everyday role. Expect the Cardinals to find a replacement before long.
Steve Pearce, 1B/2B/OF, Orioles (42 percent owned)
Pearce remains a strange bird, as even when he has started to show some real signs of life, his batting average has plummeted. Pearce has three home runs and eight RBI over his last 10 games, signs that he might be starting to find the swing that turned him into 2014s breakout star. However, he has hit just .214 in that span, while striking out in 30 percent of his trips to the plate. For me, the good outweighs the bad here, as his power production is rare from a middle infield spot. I'll continue to bet on that power playing up while waiting for his BABIP to normalize (.188 over the last 10 games, .200 overall).