By Sam McPherson
As the Major League Baseball season heads into the month of May later this week, fantasy baseball team owners have had enough time to assess the strengths and weakness of their rosters by now. What that means is that it’s time to make those wholesale changes you’ve been thinking about with your team now, since most MLB teams have played around 20 games this season so far.
That’s almost one eighth of the season already gone, so owners cannot be afraid of change at this point. That low-risk, high-reward slugger you picked in the final round is still hitting under .200, so why bother keeping him around? That fringe starting pitcher you took a chance on in the draft hasn’t won a game yet, so there has to be someone better on waivers.
Change is hard for fantasy owners: We fall in love with players—or rather, the idea those players can produce amazing stats and make us champions. However, we also have to know when to sever ties with those “hunch” picks. This is that time when we know it isn’t going to happen this season. All owners have to learn this hard lesson, as well as the “I’ll grab him again next year, and things will work out better” plan.
The deeper the hole your team falls into in April, the harder it is to recover in September. Don’t be stubborn as your team sinks in the standings; make the right changes this week, and your roster can rebound to the top of the league by the All-Star break. After all, holding on to a losing hand is never a winning strategy in any game.
Players to Get On Your Roster Now
1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Detroit Tigers: It seems like he has been around forever, but Salty turns just 31 this week. He also doesn’t have a lot of mileage on him, having played just 80 games a year or so during his career. But in Detroit’s lineup, Salty is hitting well right now. If your catcher slot is hurting you, add him now, and he will help you for as long as this hot streak lasts. Besides, if you don’t have a top catcher, riding the momentum of one player to another at this position is a smart move.
2. Hector Santiago, SP, Los Angeles Angels: He has a career 3.51 ERA, but somehow, Santiago goes undrafted in most leagues every March. That’s usually because his second-half mark (3.94) isn’t as good as his first-half number (3.19). The smart move is to pick him up now and then trade him later. At age 28, maybe this is the season he goes wire-to-wire as an effective SP, but until he does, be ready to trade Santiago around the All-Star break for someone more reliable in the second half.
3. Drew Pomeranz, SP, San Diego Padres: The A’s traded him away for nothing, and now he’s pitching really well for the Padres (25 Ks in 17 2/3 innings). He may not win a lot of games with that San Diego lineup, but Pomeranz will help you in three other categories—especially while pitching half his games in PetCo Park. Remember, he was once a first-round draft pick, so he has the arm to deliver what your fantasy team needs.
4. Rick Porcello, SP, Boston Red Sox: We can’t believe we’re actually recommending him, but Porcello may have finally turned the corner at age 27. He still is giving up too many home runs (five already this year), but Porcello is 3-0 with a solid offense behind him. Also, he’s finally learned how to rack up the Ks. In the past, he has not been able to do that. Pick him up and cross your fingers that Porcello stops coughing up HRs.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Shelby Miller, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: Something has gone terribly wrong with Miller, and you don’t want to stick around to find out what it is. Suddenly, he’s giving up more hits and walks than ever, while his strikeout rate drops. These are not good signs, no matter what kind of numbers Miller posted from 2012-15. He was an All-Star selection last year, but Miller is not performing well at all this year. Bench him for now and see what happens.
2. Sean Doolittle, RP, Oakland Athletics: While Doolittle did earn a save last week, he’s already given up three ninth-inning HRs this season. Ryan Madson seems to have the confidence of Manager Bob Melvin more than Doolittle does when it comes to closing games for the A’s now. Doolittle may earn the occasional situational save this season when lefties are due up late in the game, but he’s not going to be pitching the ninth enough anymore to matter in fantasy baseball.
3. Scott Kazmir, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: We have never been big fans of Kazmir’s when it comes to fantasy baseball, but he’s turned in some stellar first-half efforts the last few years when he was with the A’s. This year, he is not doing that same dance for the Dodgers. Kazmir has given up five HRs already, and he’s become very hittable in general. We’d usually recommend trading him after the first half, but if this is what he has to offer in 2016 before the All-Star break, Kazmir is going to have a long season. Don’t let it be on your roster.
4. Evan Gattis, DH, Houston Astros: This late-blooming power hitter never hit for high average, but he also started out this season injured. Since returning 10 games ago, Gattis is hitting .188 with just one RBI. There are better hitters out there, of course, and his position limitations also make him a roster burden. Chances are he finds his power stroke again sometime this summer, but it’s up to you if you want to keep Gattis on your bench that long.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.