Most MLB teams started their season yesterday with 12 games on the schedule and a baseball marathon from 1:00 PM ET well past midnight on the East Coast. The fantasy baseball stars were out in full force as Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Chris Sale, and Justin Verlander all played up to their high preseason billing and came up large for their fantasy owners.
In this series of posts which you’ll find all season here at FantasyCPR, our focus isn’t on big-name stars since, for the most part, their fate was determined on draft day. We’ll focus on the surprising performances and highlight players stepping up that can be found on waiver wires in most leagues if your team needs a boost.
Not every player is right for every team obviously, but based on your league and your team needs, some of these players could be useful. The percentage included after their name is percentage of ownership on ESPN as of late last night. For this first day of the season, I’m not able to include starting pitchers since almost all aces are universally owned. They’ll be back as soon as some waiver-wire pitchers start contributing.
Here’s the sleepers who stepped up yesterday:
Sleeper Starting Lineup
C- Chris Ianetta-LAA: (0.8%) On an afternoon where the Angels “big 4″ of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Mark Trumbo went a combined 2-25, all the team’s RBI came from catcher Chris Iannetta. Iannetta went 2-6 with three RBI and a run scored. He homered in the third and then drove home Hamilton and Howie Kendrick in the top of the 13th in LA’s 3-1 win over Cincinnati. Ianetta had a great Cactus League ad could be a solid low-end catcher since the lineup he’s in should provide him with plenty of opportunities if he can rise to the occasion like he did yesterday. If you get stuck at catcher at the end of the draft or need help with OBP, Ianetta is a low-end option with some upside offensively.
1B- Yonder Alonso-SD: (4.6%) As the Padres were getting pounded by the Mets 11-2, Alonso connected on his first home run of the season. It was his only hit of the day, but last year his first home run didn’t come until May 11. If he can add some power to his game, he’ll have some decent upside in NL-only leagues at least after hitting .273 with a .348 OBP. He’ll be hurt by Petco as his home park, but was a big trade acquisition for the Padres last year who could break out this year. Keep an eye on him.
2B- Mark Ellis-LAD: (1.4%) As long as Ellis holds his second spot in the Dodgers lineup, expect plenty of runs scored. He went 2-3 yesterday in the opener with a double and a run scored. He won’t steal much, but his solid singles and runs production can make him a bargain option if you need a second baseman on the cheap.
3B- Chris Johnson-Atl: (1.0%) Johnson starts the year platooning with Juan Francisco at third for Atlanta, but he got the start yesterday and continued his hot-hitting from Spring Training. He went 2-3 with a run, double, and walk in the opener. How much he plays determines his mixed-league value, but when he gets hot he can be a huge help to your team.
SS- Jean Segura-Mil: (10.1%) The key player in the Zack Greinke trade, Segura looked good in his opening day start collecting a pair of hits and going 2-4 in the Brewers extra-inning win over the Rockies. If you need an batting average and speed value at a middle infield spot, Segura could make a nice pickup since the plan is for him to get plenty of playing time.
OF- Collin Cowgill-NYM: (0.4%) The main source of offense for the Mets in their 11-2 trouncing of the Padres was Cowgill who finished with a double and a home run as part of a 2-5, two-runs-scored, four-RBI opening day for Cowgill. If he can stay healthy, he should get plenty of playing time and could be a solid contributor if he can translate his solid spring into regular season production.
OF- Gerardo Parra-Ari: (0.4%) Parra had four hits in the Snakes opening win over the Cardinals. Parra had three doubles, and a run scored as part of his 4-5 day from the leadoff spot. He should remain atop the order at least until Adam Eaton returns making him an attractive option if you need leadoff-type production from an outfield spot short-term. Parra has been limited by lack of playing time, but if he gets regular time picking him up could pay off.
OF- Franklin Gutierrez-Sea: (0.4%) With his defense unquestioned, Gutierrez led off for Seattle and drove in the only two runs of the game with his only hit of the day. Gutierrez has shown flashes of potential but has been unable to remain healthy. If you need a low-cost option while he’s healthy and in the lineup, he should get plenty of at-bats and doesn’t have to worry about playing time at this point in the Mariners outfield. He has potential if he stays healthy, but be ready to move on if he goes down.
Relief Pitcher- Kyuji Fujikawa-ChC: (29.5%) After Carlos Marmol almost blew the game, Fujikawa recorded the one-out save giving him his first conversion in his MLB debut. The Japanese hurler appears to be in line to inherit the role as Marmol continues to struggle. He’l be the Cubs closer, so his upside is limited to when the Cubs win, but he’s a closer to be had on the waiver wire which makes him a coveted commodity.