Chris Young, Seattle Mariners - Young signed a one year major league deal with the Mariners Thursday to reasonably just keep the seat warm until Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker are healthy. Young hasn't pitched since 2012 with the Mets but in his Grapefruit starts with the Nationals he clocked around 88 MPH, much higher than he threw in '12. In that 2012 season, Young went 4-9 with a 5.43 xFIP and a 6.26 K/9. Based on looking at the Mariners schedule Young slots in to start one game against the A's, two against the Rangers, and one possibly against Houston if he indeed lasts the whole month in the rotation. His start against Houston could be worth a spot start pickup, but outside of that there are many better options out there.
Aaron Harang, Atlanta Braves - The Braves released Freddy Garcia this week and replaced him with Aaron Harang, who was shelled in his debut with the team (6 runs in 5+ innings). Since recording back to back 5+ win seasons with the Reds in 2006-07, Harang has regressed to a 1-1.5 win pitcher. In 2012 with the Dodgers, the righty went 10-10 with a 3.61 ERA which is not too bad, but he was helped greatly by his team as his xFIP was 4.95. Harang ultimately fits in similarly with Chris Young, as he will hold a rotation spot more than likely until Ervin Santana and Mike Minor return from injury in April. He may be worth a spot start the Marlins or Mets if he gets slotted in to start a game in those series.
Dallas Kuechel, Houston Astros - Kuechel earned a spot in the Houston rotation and could be an interesting pickup in AL leagues and deep mixed leagues. Granted his traditional stats (6-10, 5.15 ERA) do not look good, at all, but he outpitched his ERA by almost two runs with a 3.58 xFIP. He struck out over seven batters per nine last year and was good at getting hitters to swing and miss. His SwStr% was 8.9 and was able to make batters chase 31.7% of his pitches that were out of the strike zone. Both of those numbers were better than in 2012, and if he can continue that climb there is a solid chance he can add some value to a few fantasy teams.
Erik Johnson, Chicago White Sox - After his debut in 2013, Johnson came into spring training with a shot of locking down a rotation spot with Chicago and did just that. He went 3-2 in his debut with a 3.25 ERA (4.73 xFIP) and but had an underwhelming spring giving up 12 earned runs in 17 innings. He did have a jump in strikeouts this spring (14 in 17 innings) compared to his debut last year where he had a career low 5.86 K/9 in his 27.2 innings. Throughout his minor league career he sat in the 7-8 K/9 range and could be a solid source of strikeouts but the lack of run support from the White Sox offense could limit his win totals in 2014.
Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians - Gomes played exceptionally well in 2013 for the Indians and enters this year as the primary catcher with Carlos Santana moving to third base. Gomes launched 11 homers in 88 games and batted .294. His average was a career high thanks in part to his .342 BABIP. His BABIP may be able to stay elevated as he made better contact in 2013 boosting his line drive and fly ball rates compared to his '12 campaign. The one thing holding him back is his horrific BB/K rate as he had walked in just 5.5% of his major league at bats and struck out in over 20% of them. His rates were better in the minors with him earning a few more walks but he has always had a propensity to swing and miss at a high rate.
Tanner Scheppers, Texas Rangers - Scheppers has gone from possible back end rotation starter or reliever to the opening day starter in just a few days due to the injury to Yu Darvish. Scheppers has long been a top prospect for the Rangers due to arsenal of pitches, and was a key part of the bullpen last year going 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA. Scheppers, who will be the first pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela to make his first big league start on opening day, will hope to fill a void in the relatively unknown Rangers rotation. Scheppers calling card is his ability to strike people out with his 2013 6.93 K/9 being the lowest of his professional career. He gets a potentially favorable first start against the Phillies, which might make him a worthy opening day add if he is still available in your league.
Kelly Johnson, New York Yankees - Joe Girardi has named Kelly Johnson his every day starter at third base to start the season. Johnson could be a sleeper pick for close to 30 homeruns in Yankee Stadium if he keeps the job all season. In another hitter's park, Arizona, Johnson launched 26 homers with a .212 ISO which were both career highs. With the short porch in right and Johnson being a pull hitter, there is a chance he could launch quite a few homers this season.
Dillon Gee, New York Mets - Gee will take the hill opening day for the Mets after and outstanding spring where he allowed just two runs in 20.2 innings. He's coming off arguably his best season for the Mets with a 12-11 record and a 3.62 ERA (4.07 xFIP).Gee is an interesting debate for fantasy owners as he will likely not earn a lot of wins with the Mets this season and he also does not have a single standout category to outweigh that. His 6.42 K/9 last season was average to slightly above average at best, and that was his highest besides an outlying 2012 season. Batters also made more contact against Gee in '13 compare to '12 (80.5% in '13, 76.6% in '12), trending him the wrong way for fantasy teams in 2014.
Minor League Watch:
Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates - Polanco will start the season in AAA Indianapolis as the Pirates decided he needs a little more seasoning with just a handful at bats above the High-A level. Polanco will still make his debut in '14 and needs to be owned in every dynasty/keeper league that allows people to stash minor league players. Jose Tabata and Travis Snider will man the position, but surely the Pirates have to be salivating at the idea of adding Polanco to and exciting outfield of Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen.
Arismendy Alcantara, Chicago Cubs - Alcantara's future gets a little more dicey with the emergence of Mike Olt at third and Javier Baez now taking reps at second base. Baez has significantly more upside than Alcantara and based on his performance this spring he may be viewed as more major league ready than him too. Alcantara will likely open the season at AAA Iowa, with Baez, and it could be an interesting battle between the two to see who gets the call first.
Fransisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians - Lindor will likely be the starting shortstop going into 2015, and may even get that shot in 2014. He is viewed as a Gold Glove caliber shortstop already and his bat is still emerging much more than some scouts expected. Asdrublel Cabrera will be a free agent at the end of the season and if the Indians fall out of contention, they could deal Cabrera to a contender to open the doors for Lindor. If Cabrera were to come down with some sort of injury, there is a reasonable chance that Cleveland decides to call up Lindor right away and see how he can fare at the position.
Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles - Machado will in fact no be ready for opening day and will begin the year on the 15 day disabled list. Just five months removed from knee surgery, Machado had hoped to be back for opening day but is not where he hoped to be and decided it would be best to start the year on the DL. Machado was fantasy gold last season and there is a good chance a lot of his doubles turn into homers as his power keeps developing. He is an excellent choice to draft and stash in a DL spot until he comes back in mid-late April.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers - Ryu threw a bullpen session Friday to test out his right big toe that he injured in his first start in Australia. He is slated to Sunday barring a setback that comes from the session. Ryu was excellent in his 2014 throwing five shutout innings with five strikeouts and just one walk. If Ryu is unable to go, Dan Haren will be the favorite to take the mound in what would be his first appearance of 2014.
Doug Fister, Washington Nationals - Fister left his minor league start with a lat strain as he was working to return to form after he suffered from elbow inflammation in the early spring. With this latest setback, it appears more likely than not that Fister won't be ready for the start of the season and will start on the disabled list allowing someone to take his place in the rotation until he is ready. Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan will both make the rotation in place of Fister, with one of the two being sent to AAA once he is able to rejoin the Nationals.
David Hernandez, Arizona Diamondbacks - The right-handed reliever is seeking a second opinion on his elbow as it looks likely that he will be the second D'Backs pitcher to recently undergo Tommy John surgery. Hernandez was one of the top set up men in the majors in 2011 and 2012 notching 23 and 25 holds respectively in those years. He was very valuable in leagues that rewarded holds and also in normal leagues due to his low ERA and WHIP combined with a 9 or better K/9 rate. JJ Putz and Brad Ziegler are the next in line at the 8th inning spot and will likely be called upon to pitch the ninth if Addison Reed is unavailable.