A Justin Verlander forearm strain rocked the fantasy industry on Sunday afternoon. The ace will be shut down for at least two weeks, at which time he should start a throwing program. In all likelihood, we will not see Verlander in a Major League game for at least 4-6 weeks. And he may not be as effective when he returns. With just nine weeks remaining in the abbreviated season, I wouldn’t argue with anyone who needed the roster space and shipped the 37-year-old to waivers. But I know that many fantasy managers will opt to be patient with someone they drafted in the first or second round. If I want to spread some sunshine, we are early in the season and there are starters on the waiver wire who are showing exciting potential. Many of them are detailed below.
The first COVID-19 domino fell prior to the first pitch when Juan Soto went on the IL. Soto obviously needs to be retained in all leagues and could be a buy-low target for those competing against a panicked manager. Mike Moustakas landed on the IL after waking up sick on Sunday, and although Moose possesses terrific power skills, he could fall to waivers in some 10-team leagues. But the Marlins reportedly fear a COVID-19 outbreak and at least their Monday game against the Orioles has been canceled. This is clearly something the whole sports world is going to be monitoring in the coming days, and shows how fragile all of this really is as we try to work through an entire season. Our thoughts are with all of them.
Stephen Strasburg (nerve issue in hand) was scratched from a Saturday start. The right-hander has often been a fantasy tease, and therefore is not a good buy-low option at the moment. He could pitch this week, but information is murky at this time.
Ken Giles dealt with elbow soreness during a blown save on Sunday. Although the Blue Jays would likely go to a closer committee in his absence, my best guess on a potential replacement is Anthony Bass.
Pitchers worth more attention
Lance Lynn has the skills to be a top-15 starter. Rostered in 93 percent of leagues, the buy low window is closing fast, but you still have time to take your shot on the trade market.
Ignore Dylan Bundy’s numbers in Baltimore. He now pitches for a solid team with good defense and a productive lineup. I don’t expect every start to go as well as his Angels debut (6.2 IP, 1 ER, 7 K), but he should be a lineup fixture.
Ross Stripling has emerged in July as a terrific sleeper starter. The right-hander has solid career numbers (3.47 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) and the usually-pitching-rich Dodgers actually need reliable mid-rotation arms with David Price opting out and Clayton Kershaw on the IL. Stripling dominated a weak Giants lineup, but he still deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Alex Cobb did some good things (plenty of groundballs, six strikeouts) en route to 5.1 innings of one-run ball against a solid Red Sox lineup. Cobb should be added in AL-only formats, but his uphill battle in terms of bullpen help, run support and home park mean that he belongs on waivers in mixed leagues for a while longer.
Mitch Keller wasn’t dominant (5IP, 1 ER, 2 K), but he finally started to deliver on some prospect hype in a win over the Cardinals. The 24-year-old remains available in half of Yahoo leagues and is a potential streaming option when he pitches at Wrigley Field next weekend.
Surprise bats catching our eye early
Leury Garcia bopped a pair of homers on Saturday, which caused him to be added in roughly 2500 Yahoo leagues. Expecting power from Garcia is a fool’s errand, but the multi-position asset can hit for average and occasionally swipe a base. He’s a 15-team league option at best.
Kyle Lewis has already gone deep twice, after showing some power late last season. The outfielder is going to play every day, making him an interesting sleeper in 12-team leagues. Expect his 43 percent rostered rate to continue to grow.
Kike Hernandez was the hitting star of Opening Day, which has put him second among hitters on the most-added list, trailing only Lewis. Eligible at 2B, SS and OF, Hernandez is a solid bench option until the Dodgers bring Gavin Lux back to the Majors. Fantasy managers should consider him as someone who is here for a good time, not a long time.
Joey Votto was one of the best stories of opening weekend, going deep twice against the Tigers. Despite his advanced age, the veteran could be one of this week’s best roster additions if he can continue to show some power skills. Hitting from a prime position in Cincinnati’s improved lineup will give Votto ample opportunities to rack up counting stats.
Jose Peraza and Jackie Bradley Jr. were among the Red Sox who beat up on a ghastly Orioles pitching staff. Expecting a breakout from Bradley is likely wishful thinking, but Peraza is an interesting waiver option. The middle infielder can hit for average and steal a base, two skills that are in short supply nowadays. A bit of power would push his mixed-league case over the top.
Favorable hitting matchups from Monday-Thursday
The Mets get four shots at an injury-impacted Red Sox staff. Fantasy managers could look to stream Yoenis Cespedes in about half of leagues, Robinson Cano in deeper leagues and J.D. Davis remains available in some shallow formats.
Starters to stream
Aaron Civale, CLE (vs. CWS)
Adrian Houser, MIL (@PIT)
Josh Lindblom (@PIT)
Austin Voth (vs. TOR)
Danny Duffy (@DET)
Jordan Montgomery (vs. PHI)
Brady Singer (@DET)