By Sam McPherson
The Oakland Athletics made some history on Saturday when three of their rookie players—shortstop Franklin Barreto, center fielder Jaycob Brugman and right fielder Matt Olson—each hit their first major-league home runs in the same game. The last time this happened was back in 1914 during a Federal League game between the Kansas City Packers and the Chicago Chi-Feds at Weeghman Park, the baseball shrine now known as Wrigley Field. However, does this kind of performance warrant a fantasy baseball owner to pick up any of these three rookies?
That’s always the tough question with fantasy baseball and rookies. For every Aaron Judge and Gary Sánchez, there’s Byron Buxton and Christian Arroyo. Fantasy owners want to take the risk in case they strike gold, but more often than not, it’s just fool’s gold. While Barreto is a highly regarded prospect, Brugman and Olson are less likely to stick in MLB right now, if ever. The challenge as a fantasy baseball owner is to recognize the difference, and there’s no sure-fire formula for doing so. Thus, always proceed with caution when it comes to fantasy baseball rookies.
Players to Get Onto Your Roster Now
1. Jacob Faria, SP, Tampa Bay Rays: Generally, the Rays have had some great fortune with bringing up pitchers from their minor-league system. After all, everyone remembers David Price and James Shields. Now, it’s Faria, and his numbers in the minors (3.13 ERA, 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched) suggest his early MLB success (3-0, 2.10 ERA, 10.2 Ks/9) won’t be too much of a fluke. He will be 24 in July, and Faria has worked his way to the majors the right way. Don’t think twice about this acquisition.
2. Matt Davidson, 1B/3B, Chicago White Sox: Even though he played 31 games for Arizona back in 2013, Davidson is still a rookie by MLB standards due to only 89 plate appearances prior to this season. Regardless, he’s slugged 17 HRs in just 60 games this year to establish himself in the majors at age 26. That’s slightly behind the ideal curve, and Davidson only has 12 walks this year to go along with 85 strikeouts. The power is real, but his batting average (.265) may not hold water for the rest of the year.
3. J.A. Happ, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: He’s not a rookie at all, as Happ has been around the majors for awhile. He’s actually 34 years old, but Happ won 20 games last year before getting hurt early this season. He’s back now and healthy with 49 Ks in just 44 2/3 innings, along with a 1.119 WHIP currently. Back in 2009, Happ finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting with a 12-4 record and a 2.93 ERA for Philadelphia, so he’s an honorary member of the rookie batch here this week.
4. Trey Mancini, 1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles: Last week we told you to cut bait on Chris Davis, and Mancini is one reason why. His power is real (16 HRs in 65 games now), as his current slugging percentage in the majors is very close to what it was at his highest level of minor-league play. You can expect that .322 batting average to decline to the .280 range eventually, but Mancini is going to keep hitting homers. That’s why the Orioles won’t have a need for Davis anymore, even when he’s healthy again.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Antonio Senzatela, SP, Colorado Rockies: This was a good story early on, but recently, Senzatela has been getting pounded. He’s given up five earned runs per start since late May, and Senzatela’s 6.4Ks/9 aren’t enough to offset the current 4.79 ERA. If you’ve had him on your roster all this time, you got nine wins out of a pitcher no one had any inkling about at the draft. Consider yourself lucky and waive him before he does any more damage to your team numbers.
2. Kyle Schwarber, UTL, Chicago Cubs: He’s not a rookie, but Schwarber was hitting like one (.171 average) when the Cubs sent him down. After all but missing the 2016 season, the Chicago phenom just couldn’t get it together at the plate this season. Stash him on your bench, for now, because you know he will be back. With potential eligibility at catcher, first base and the outfield, Schwarber has tremendous value if he’s hitting well, and he should be able to do that sooner rather than later.
3. Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros: He hit two HRs in five games before being sent down again, simply because the Astros don’t have room for him on the roster right now. However, whether it’s because of injury or ineffectiveness, we can’t see all Houston’s outfielders playing well enough to keep Fisher in the minors for the rest of the year. He’s posted a .938 OPS in 91 games at the Triple-A level, so stash Fisher on your bench and reap the rewards after the All-Star break.
4. Jeff Hoffman, SP, Colorado Rockies: The team’s hot start was due to its two rookie starters, but unlike Senzatela, this rookie isn’t fading fast. Hoffman had a bad start last week, but otherwise, he had given up just seven earned runs in his previous five starts. His peripherals (9.6 Ks/9, for example) are solid, so fantasy owners can overlook the rough outing at Coors Field. However, be wise in when you decide to deploy Hoffman, benching him when he starts at home against good teams. That way, you can benefit from his talent without being hurt by his inexperience.