Here we are, just a week from the start of the 2015 season, with a bunch of drafts and auctions behind us, but no doubt with a bunch more ahead. In some leagues--like my NL LABR for instance--there is even a special Saturday pre-season transaction period to fix holes, upgrade, and rectify post-draft-buyer's remorse-second-guessing.
With that in mind, let's take this cycle to look at some late surprises to get some playing time at the Show, and maybe even carve a notch on our rosters for the season.
Matt Duffy (SS/3B/2B, Giants): Duffy, an 18th round pick of the Giants in 2012, did ok after an August big gulp last year, hitting .267-0-8 over 34 games, but he has been red-hot this spring, smacking the ball to the tune of .349-2-9 with a 1.029 OPS. Duffy seems to have survived the latest round of cuts and has a lock on the utility spot in San Francisco, which means Major League time. However, should Joe Panik or Casey McGehee struggle, Duffy might have enough defensive skill and pop to simply step in and pick it up.
Carlos Rodon (P, White Sox): Rodon was maybe the hottest name of the week last week, as he wiped out nine Royals over four innings, bringing his strikeout total to 19 over 12.3 innings, and probably cementing a gig in the rotation, at least until Chris Sale returns. With a 1-0, 3.65 mark over four starts, Rodon is a great nab from the free agent pool if no one has grabbed him as of yet.
T.J. House (P, Indians): A 16th rounder of the Tribe in 2008, House climbed the ladder and debuted with the Tribe last May, earning a job in the rotation, posting a 5-3, 3.35 over 102 innings and 19 starts, whiffing 80 to 22 walks and 112 hits (1.324 WHIP). With a 2-1, 5.60 spring over 17.6 frames, with 15 strikeouts, he has earned a job in the rotation. House makes an ok fifth or sixth starter for now, and his stock and skill set are on the rise.
Blake Swihart (C, Red Sox): How many catchers have the Red Sox paraded past us with the whisper of stardom on their bats, only to struggle and fade away (Ryan Lavarnway, Jarrod Saltalamacchia) recently? Well, Swihart, a first round high school pick in 2011, shot up the chain last year, hitting .293-13-64, primarily at Double-A Portland. Swihart seemed likely to pick it up at Triple-A Pawtucket to start 2015, but his .333-1-5 spring has camp buzzing that Swihart might just make the Opening Day roster with Christian Vazquez injured. Vazquez better watch out, or he could be Pipped.
C.J. Cron (1B/DH, Angels): Another first rounder from 2011, Cron did well enough, hitting .256-11-37 over 79 games and a call-up last year, and coming off his great spring of .407-2-10, Albert Pujols' understudy might well get as much playing time as his mentor between covering first and DH with Josh Hamilton out for awhile. Cron has definite 25-homer pop, and is surely worthy of a pick up in every format.
Justin Smoak (1B, Jays): So many years of promise and disappointments, Smoak does have 74 homers over his five-year career, but just a .224 average and .309 OBP, fueled by 492 strikeouts to 238 walks. Smoak is surely streaky, and if they can simply exploit him against right-handers, and avoid the temptation of everyday play, for which he is simply not suited. Maybe only for use in daily games, or weekend platoons, but Smoak could be a nice cheap source of some power.
Tyler Clippard (P, Athletics): It's settled for now: Tyler Clippard will close in Oakland, at least pending the return of Sean Doolittle. The questions are will he return, and is Oakland better off with the more durable Clippard in the stopper role while Doolittle becomes the lefty specialist, complementing Clippard as a one-two close out punch. I am not so sure Doolittle's arm issues are so simple anyway, and I think Clippard keeps the job for the year, and turns in 30 saves.