By Sam McPherson
Every year, there are surprises in the first month of the MLB season. Veterans who used to be reliable for fantasy statistics have suddenly dropped off a cliff in terms of production, while that player no one had ever heard of on draft day is now suddenly leading the league in a key stat category.
Fantasy baseball owners need to be vigilant, always on the lookout for a player that can improve their roster. You can't cling to old favorites or local prospects; the owner that wins the league is the one that makes decisions with their brains and ignores what the heart wants.
As we head into Week 4 of the fantasy season, many players are finding their groove for 2015; you can assess which players are settling in for a successful season, and which ones are not. That knowledge helps you scour the waiver wire for pickups that will improve your team while also enabling you to let go of the players who just aren't adding anything positive to your roster.
Players to Get Into Your Lineup
1. Danny Salazar, SP, Cleveland Indians: The 25-year-old hurler has exactly 168 innings so far in the major leagues, and his stat line is very appealing. Salazar has struck out 195 batters in those innings, while walking only 52 hitters. He's only going to get better, and since he began the season in the minor leagues for some reason, perhaps he's still available in your league. Grab him now.
2. Stephen Vogt, C/1B, Oakland Athletics: The veteran isn't going to start every day, but he's probably going to play every day with a manager who likes to platoon and pinch-hit. His position flexibility is nice, too, now that's Vogt is eligible at catcher again. He has power and generally won't hurt you in batting average. The A's offense also protects him well in the lineup.
3. Carlos Martinez, SP, St. Louis Cardinals: Like Salazar, the Cards starter has enough innings pitched now in the majors (130 2/3 since 2013) to gauge his long-term value. He doesn't strike out as many hitters as the budding Cleveland stud, but you have to like the track record of the St. Louis organization when it comes to developing young pitchers.
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees: Opinions varied on how A-Rod would fare after sitting out last season due to suspension, but hate him or love him, the guy can still hit—and this is fantasy baseball, not real baseball. Who cares about his checkered, Barry Bonds-like past? He has four home runs already at a position that is short on talent.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Erick Aybar, 2B/SS, Los Angeles Angels: Woe is the owner who had to draft him in the first place, but a weak hitter has become even weaker in 2015. Aybar was an All-Star last season, so optimism may have been too high for him this year. But it's not happening: .196 batting average, .488 OPS and no steals or home runs. You can find something better on the waiver wire.
2. Rick Porcello, SP, Boston Red Sox: Ignore the silly contract extension he just signed (four years, $104 million through 2019) and think "Barry Zito"—with a career 4.34 ERA, he's not worth that money at all. Lifetime, he's given up 10 hits per nine innings pitched, and that's a ERA/WHIP disaster waiting to happen ... one you can't afford on your team.
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/SS, Tampa Bay Rays: Sometimes, it's better to get a middle infielder who doesn't start into your lineup. This is one example why: Cabrera hasn't hit over .246 since 2012, and that 2011 season—the 25 HRs and 17 SBs—was a long time ago in fantasy terms. He also has no HRs and no SBs yet this season; bench him for now and hope he finds a groove later.
4. Drew Hutchison, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: He's only 24 years old, and Hutchison struck a batter per inning in 2014. But he still gives up too many home runs to run him out there every start. You might have to be selective when you get Hutchison into your lineup—only in spacious ballparks, for example—because while his Ks are still there, the ERA is just too high to risk right now.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A's. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.
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