By Ryan Carey
Smoak 'em if you got 'em
Now that the season has finally started, the focus shifts from who to draft to who to pick up off waivers. Of course, there's Matt Lindstrom, who will open the year as the Chicago White Sox closer over Nate Jones, and Sergio Santos, who will fill in for Casey Janssen and could easily keep the job all year if he pitches well. I would spend more on Santos if I were searching for early saves, since unlike Lindstrom, I truly believe he can keep the job long-term.
Beyond the two new closers from the AL, there are not so many slam-dunk waiver picks to open the season. One thing I do know is that fantasy players are an impatient lot, so often the best pickups come from other teams' drops. So make sure to keep an eye on your league's transactions in the early going, because often other teams will drop players that will be an upgrade for your squad.
Many of the players listed below are guys I talked about at different points in the preseason, and in some cases when I did, steady playing time may still have been an undecided question. Here is a quick second look at a bunch of position players from the American League that are worth taking a second look at for deep leagues and AL-only leagues.
Sometimes the best early season pickups aren't the most costly ones. They are just guys who have the opportunity to succeed. The rest often comes down to the ability to hit a curve or play solid defense. Still, with so many leagues and so many different formats that I play in, I expect to be grabbing a lot of these guys in the coming days to fill my various rosters.
Josmil Pinto, Minnesota Twins
The rookie catcher made the Opening Day roster as the backup to Kurt Suzuki. The latter is the starter and somehow found himself hitting in the two-hole on Monday night. But Pinto is clearly the player with the bigger upside here; he's worth stashing in hopes that his defense is solid enough that he can at least earn a 50-50 split with Suzuki right out of the gate.
Pinto has to improve with his work behind the plate, but the fact he is in the majors to start the year puts him one step closer to taking over as the everyday starter by mid-season.
Adrian Nieto, Chicago White Sox
Nieto was a sneaky grab by our own Lawr Michaels in AL Tout Wars, and he landed the backup catching job to Tyler Flowers to start the year. The interesting thing about Nieto is he is a Rule 5 pickup, meaning he must remain on the major league roster all year or be offered back to his original club. So if he shows he can handle backup duty, he'll stick around all year.
Seeing as Flowers is a career .199 hitter, Nieto likely has a bigger opportunity to make an impact than most Rule 5 picks, and if he hits, it isn't that hard to see him winning the starting job outright at some point this year.
Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners
Smoak has let down his believers so many times that his stock was at an all-time low heading into this season. But there he was on Opening Day, starting at first base and batting cleanup for the Mariners. He went 2-for-4 with a home run, three runs scored and three RBI.
I couldn't blame anyone for not wanting to take a chance on the former top prospect, but having Robinson Cano hitting in front of him can only be a good thing. He has always had the pedigree, but all that has been missing is consistency. He has always been a streaky hitter and should benefit from an improved lineup around him.
A few more sleepers....
Mastersball, founded in 1997, is a leader in providing in-depth analysis, research, projections and applications to the advanced fantasy baseball player. A 2010 merger brought the writers of CREATiVESPORTS into the fold, widely known for 15 years of insightful fantasy analysis and commentary.
Don't miss these great reports....