Under The Radar Signings
With Yadier Molina expected to miss some time at the beginning of the season, the Cardinals' signing of former Reds' Catcher Brayan Pena looks that much better with the season approaching. Pena is a viable backstop with plenty of experience having played in the Majors since 2005. Pena won't hold too much Fantasy value this season but he's still worth keeping an eye on.
Mike Napoli CLE 1B
34 year old slugger Mike Napoli should be able to step in right away and be the Indians Designated Hitter come Opening Day. For his career, Napoli has 204 home runs which includes a streak of at least 20 long balls every season from 2008 to 2013. Over the past three seasons Napoli has hit .286 and posted a .403 OBP against South Paws (.226 average and .329 OBP against RHP in that span). The Indians as a team hit .265 and recorded a .333 OBP against lefties in 2015. Napoli will also be a solid backup First Baseman to Carlos Santana.
Dae-ho Lee SEA 1B
Adam Lind will likely be the Mariners' starting First Baseman entering the season, but; should he scuffle, he'll probably be replaced by 33 year old Korean slugger Dae-ho Lee. The 6' 4" 250 pound power hitter has won several awards overseas including four Golden Glove awards and a regular season MVP award (2010). Lee is worth keeping an eye on in leagues this season because the Mariners might end up tabbing him as the club's Designated Hitter to start the year.
The Indians made a key pickup this off season when they signed Juan Uribe to a one-year deal. Cleveland saw their young Third Baseman Giovanny Urshela struggle offensively last season so bringing in Uribe may take some pressure of the kid. Uribe, if given the nod at Third, could end up being a great pickup late in Fantasy drafts if he can continue to hit for power. Last season Juan recorded a career best 21.3 HR/AB rate.
Hak-Ju Lee SF SS
Hak-Ju Lee will probably open the season in the minors but he should be considered the top in-house replacement option to Brandon Crawford should he get hurt at anytime this year. Lee was signed by the Chicago Cubs out of South Korea as a 17 year old kid in 2008. In 2011 he was dealt to Tampa Bay as part of the Matt Garza trade. On November 23, 2015, the Giants signed the 25 year old to a minor league contract after he was designated for assignment by the Rays. Lee profiles as someone who can play good defense and be, at best, an average hitter with minimal power.
Jimmy Rollins CHW SS
With Tyler Saladino slated to be the White Sox Opening Day Shortstop, General Manager Rick Hahn and President of Baseball Operations Kenny Williams brought in veteran Jimmy Rollins on a minor league deal. Tim Anderson is the future at the Shortstop position in Chicago but he'll likely stay in the minors for the first half of this season. Rollins will be able to come in right away, play good defense and offer a few highlights at the dish until Anderson is promoted.
Hyun-soo Kim BAL OF
The Orioles have created a competition for two Outfield spots between Mark Trumbo, Dariel Alvarez and the newly acquired South Korean Outfielder Hyun-soo Kim. Kim is my pick to win one of the open spots as he profiles as high average hitter from the left side who can play above-average defense. Kim enters the season as one of my favorite "under the radar" signings.
Rajai Davis CLE OF
It's starting to look like Rajai Davis will start the season in Left Field for the Indians as Michael Brantley recovers from surgery and Abraham Almonte serves his 80-game suspension for PED's. The veteran speedster could hold good value in roto leagues this year if he's able to play a full season and tally over 500 at bats. Last year Davis stole 18 bases ending his six-year streak of swiping at least 34 bases per season.
The Astros brought in Doug Fister on January 28th on a one-year contract valued at $7 million. Fister, a 6' 8" groundball Pitcher, will likely serve as the club's fifth Starter and be an inning's eater this season. Fister struggled a bit last season in Washington posting a 4.19 ERA in 15 starts and 10 relief appearances. His presence on that young club will be invaluable as he has 24 more postseason innings than the rest of the Astros' Starters combined. Fister, from a Fantasy perspective, will be a Spot Starter to begin the year but he's still worth keeping an eye on.
Mat Latos CHW SP
I've always been a Mat Latos fan but it's been a long time since he's been relevant in the Fantasy world. Latos has dealt with a few injuries since his time with the Cincinnati Reds. In 2014 he had bone chips removed from his pitching arm and he's underwent a few knee surgeries over the past few years. Now in Chicago, Latos has an opportunity to resurrect his career pitching for an upstart White Sox club. If he's healthy entering the season Latos could end up being someone worth picking up in Fantasy leagues at some point this Summer.
Yasiel Sierra LAD SP
The Dodgers signed the 24 year old Cuban defector to a six-year $30 million deal on February 21st. The Right Hander is considered a polished Pitcher who's fastball hovers in the mid-90's. Sierra could make the Dodgers' rotation sometime in July or August. This signing isn't new to the Dodgers as they've acquired several Cuban players over the past few years including Yasiel Puig and Yadier Alvarez.
The Mariners have three viable options at the back-end of the bullpen right now in Joaquin Benoit, Steve Cishek and Charlie Furbush. At seasons' end I think we'll be able to add a fourth name to that list - Joel Peralta. The veteran will turn 40 years old on March 23rd but still has a lot to offer if he's given a chance.
Bobby Parnell DET RP
The Tigers did a great job of essentially signing a completely new bullpen this past off season. The additions of Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson should keep Detroit in the playoff race throughout the season but; as we all know, the deeper the pen, the better. The Tigers made one of the best "under the radar" signings this winter when they brought in Bobby Parnell. Parnell underwent Tommy John surgery after blowing a save on Opening Day in 2014. Last season he came back to New York making 30 appearances but posting a horrendous 6.38 ERA. Parnell is worth keeping an eye on as he'll be a deep sleeper for save opportunities this season in Detroit if he gets back to his 2013 form.
Casey Janssen SD RP
As of today, Fernando Rodney is projected to be the Closer in San Diego when the season begins. With that being said, I wouldn't be doing my due diligence if I didn't write about a player, or two, that will be in the mix to replace him halfway through the season. Rodney will turn 39 years old on March 18th and although he tallied 133 saves from 2012 to 2014 he's still a risk entering the 2016 season. Last season Fernando blew seven save chances, posted a 4.74 ERA and had a -0.5 WAR. From a Fantasy perspective it's vital to always be on the lookout for new Closers throughout the season. In San Diego, Relief Pitchers like Brandon Maurer, Kevin Quackenbush and the newly acquired Casey Janssen could be in the running to take over 9th inning duties if and when Rodney struggles. Janssen was acquired via free agency on February 20th. Casey, in nine Major League seasons, has never walked more than 21 batters in any single season. Casey's elite control (129 walks in 533 career innings) could help him see time late in Padres' games this year making him someone to watch.
Obviously there were several other signings worth mentioning but I just wanted to write a little bit about the players listed above before the season starts. There are a lot of undervalued players on this list; I'm going to keep an eye on them throughout the season, you should too.
February 27th, 2016