Fantasy owners don’t like waiting for their hitters to hit, especially when we’re a week into a new season and the numbers get particularly ugly. The Houston Astros are one of four clubs on the wrong side of hitting .200, and of the 203 players with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title -- it’s early! -- the bottom two are, of course, Astros. Catcher Evan Gattis blasted a ninth-inning single Monday night to finally get into the hit column while first baseman Chris Carter also has only one base knock, and it sure didn’t go 400 feet. These flawed sluggers, expected to reach a combined 60 home runs at the least, are 2-for-46 with 21 strikeouts, nary a run scored or run batted in, and they won’t help in stolen bases.
While I’ve been an advocate of Carter’s power in the top 100 and wasn’t as optimistic that Gattis would be a better fantasy option despite shedding the tools of ignorance behind the plate, it’s April 14 and the smart thing for a fantasy owner to do is show patience with proven players sputtering along. It’s not easy, I know. We all know. But one of the toughest things for a fantasy owner to do is realize that the numbers that have passed, especially in the smallest of sample sizes, often have little to no correlation to numbers that will come. The power these gents possess isn’t in question. They won’t be hitting below .050 for long which means, whether you’re an optimist or not, the best really is yet to come.
With Carter, I can’t say I have any major concerns. Try to overthink this all you want, but he’s a swing-and-miss guy and they tend to be more prone to slumps than contact hitters. Gattis dealt with a wrist injury in spring training and perhaps it’s still an issue, but one would think if it was, the Astros would place him on the disabled list and let him rest. After all, prospect Jon Singleton is off to a nice start for Triple-A Fresno, which also tells us nothing about the rest of his 2015 campaign, but still, the team has options. I think Carter remains a 30-homer threat and Gattis a top-10 catcher. Remember that Gattis was a National League player and it’s also worth noting he didn’t see the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers pitchers in spring games because the Astros play in Florida in March. Nothing has really changed except that they’ve started slowly and faced quite a few strikeout pitchers, such as Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and on Monday, Scott Kazmir. On Tuesday, the Astros face ground baller Kendall Graveman. I still like Graveman for deep formats, despite his nasty first outing. This should be interesting.
AL report: New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner left Monday’s game early, a few innings after being hit on the right wrist with a pitch. The X-rays were negative, Gardner should be fine. … Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi held the mighty Toronto Blue Jays offense to two hits and one run over eight innings, winning his second start. Odorizzi is making his case for top-40 starting pitcher status, and so far at least my comp to Kluber looks good. … Los Angeles Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun sat another game with a sore calf, so Collin Cowgill led off and hit a home run. Actually, Cowgill would have been in the lineup anyway against lefty Ross Detwiler, but lefty-hitting Matt Joyce stayed in the lineup and hit an RBI double. Joyce is off to a slow start, but there’s mid-teens power lurking. … What else can we say about Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts? He produced a home run, two stolen bases -- on one play -- and a well-timed leap to rob Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper of a home run. He keeps rising in my rankings. … Detroit Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez is slugging .710 and has four home runs after his two-run jolt off Pittsburgh Pirates closer Mark Melancon. It sure doesn’t appear that Martinez was a fluke last season. What a draft-day steal. … If I own Detroit’s Victor Martinez, I don’t panic. Be patient. He’ll hit.
NL report: Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton got Monday off to deal with a minor finger injury. He should return to running wild Tuesday. … There’s some concern that terrific Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco could hit the disabled list soon with a hip injury, so plan ahead. … The Miami Marlins placed right-hander Henderson Alvarez on the DL with a shoulder injury, and David Phelps is expected to handle his rotation spot. Alvarez, coming off a 2.65 ERA last season, doesn’t pile on the strikeouts, thus he is owned in roughly a quarter of ESPN standard leagues and should be let go in fantasy leagues. … Marlins right-hander Mat Latos made it out of the first inning Monday, but it was still not pretty. He went four innings and permitted five hits, three walks and three runs, two earned. With declining velocity, it’s sure looking like his arm isn’t right. … Washington Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann just didn’t have it at Fenway Park on Monday, but man, the defense behind him was horrendous. Only shortstop Ian Desmond, of course, was charged with an error, but several catchable fly balls fell to the ground. The outing didn’t need to be so horrendous. Trade for Zimmermann. … I caught some of St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina at the plate recently and he’s just not driving the ball at all. He remains a top-10 catcher for me, but after last season, it’s not an inspiring start. … Speaking of uninspiring, Colorado Rockies right-hander Eddie Butler didn’t allow a run in San Francisco on Monday, but it wasn’t pretty. He walked six in 5 1/3 innings. He won’t last long with that command and I still wouldn’t own a Rockies starting pitcher.
Closer report: Meanwhile, Rockies manager Walt Weiss certainly threw fantasy owners a changeup when he announced that struggling right-hander LaTroy Hawkins would be removed from the closer role not for setup man Adam Ottavino, but former closer Rafael Betancourt. Of course, Betancourt saved Monday’s game in San Francisco, fanning two of the three hitters in a clean inning. Don’t give up on Ottavino earning the role, though. He was unavailable Monday. I still predict Hawkins gets another chance. … Yankees right-hander Dellin Betances didn’t shower his owners with confidence when he threw only 10 of 24 pitches for strikes in Baltimore. It’s pretty clear Andrew Miller is Joe Girardi’s closer, and there’s no reason to think that changes soon. I wouldn’t outright cut Betances yet, but that day is apparently coming. … The Boston Red Sox activated closer Koji Uehara, and he’ll get the next save chance, so you should activate him as well.