By: Jack Moore
Each week we’ll be providing you with insight into the best (and worst) baseball players to play in your fantasy baseball league.
One week of the MLB season is in the books and we’ve got some key players to put in rotation. Whose stock is rising with the early action?
1. Hector Santiago, RP, CWS: The closer mystery in Chicago was unsolved until the ninth inning in Texas Saturday night, when Santiago rose to warm up after Alex Rios broke a tie game with a home run to center field. Santiago went on to record the save with a clean inning. He didn’t have great minor league numbers (ERAs ranging from 3.56 to 4.15), but most of his action came as a starter. Life is easier as a reliever, and the White Sox believe his left-handed screwball can be a big weapon in the majors.
2. Nick Markakis, OF, BAL: Markakis homered in the Orioles’ first game, and it was a home run to left field. This is important because the last time the left-handed Markakis hit a home run to left field was 2008. He hit 20 home runs that year compared to just 18, 12 and 15 the last three years. He followed up that Opening Day homer with a second one in the Orioles’ second game to boot. At 28, Markakis is in his prime, and the signs for a power surge are there early.
3. Chad Billingsley, SP, LAD: Yes, it was the Padres. Yes, he did it twice in 2011, a year he put up just a 4.21 ERA and 11 wins. But it was tough not to be impressed by Billingsley’s double-digit strikeout performance against the Padres Friday night, in which he struck out 11 over 8.1 innings of work. Billingsley is just one year removed from a 3.57 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 171 strikeout season. Given the forgiving park he works in and his age (just 27), it wouldn’t be surprising if Billingsley rebounded in 2012.
4. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, OAK: Seriously, just watch this home run he hit Friday against Seattle. Then he hit yet another home run Saturday to raise his early-season total to three. Will he provide anything else? He’s striking out about half the time, and if that holds, he won’t hit for any sort of average. But power is power, and Cespedes looks like he’s capable of a 30-homer season. Limiting him to 30 might even be overly cautious.
5. Aaron Hill, 2B, ARI: Hill socked two home runs off San Francisco starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner in the latter’s first start of the season Saturday, equaling his total from 33 games as a Diamondback last season. But Hill has showcased great power before, as he hit 62 home runs combined between 2009 and 2010. Arizona is a fine park to hit in, so Hill could be an option for power speculation at the keystone.
Meanwhile, it’s taken just a few games for these players’ stocks to start trending downward.
1. Brent Morel, 3B, CWS: To be fair, he already was likely only owned in deeper or AL-only leagues, but we live to serve all fantasy players. Whatever value Morel held in these leagues is likely gone now – after starting 0-for-8 in his first two games, the White Sox handed a third base start to utility man Eduardo Escobar, who rewarded the Sox with a triple in his first game. Don’t be surprised if Morel’s playing time takes a serious dive as a result.
2. Greg Holland, RP, KC: Holland is a very talented reliever and it wouldn’t shock us to see him in the closer’s role at some point this season, but for now, the job is Jonathan Broxton’s. In many cases, he’s worth holding on to for the strikeouts, ERA and WHIP, but there probably won’t be consistent saves here until the save deadline at the earliest.
3. Phil Hughes, SP, NYY: Hughes only gave up two runs in his first start, but he also needed 99 pitches to get through just 4.2 innings. Every rough start for Hughes could be costly, as the Yankees will have Andy Pettitte to add to the rotation soon and could add Michael Pineda at some point as well. Will he be able to beat out Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia for that final spot, or will he be sent to the bullpen?
4. Francisco Liriano, SP, MIN: It all started so well for Liriano, who struck out the side in his first inning of action in 2012. But then it all went downhill, as Liriano gave up five runs on eight hits over the next three innings and didn’t even make it to the fifth. Some experts are high on Liriano making a comeback this year, but he already had the low quality of Minnesota’s hitting and defense working against him; throw in a horrible first start and it’s obvious why teams are dropping him by the hundreds.
5. Yonder Alonso, 1B, SDP: Alonso’s first three games at PETCO Park? 2-for-12 without an extra base hit. San Diego is an exceptionally difficult place to hit, and it’s doubly so for left-handed batters. It took a special one with insane opposite-field power to do so in Adrian Gonzalez; no other left-hander has really sustained success in San Diego since the Padres’ move. Even if Alonso’s power develops, it probably won’t play well as a Padre.
Jack Moore is a writer for CBS Local Digital Media. His work can also be found at FanGraphs.com, DisciplesOfUecker.com, RotoWire.com, AdvancedNFLStats.com and ESPN. Follow him on twitter at @jh_moore.