Another week, another pair of long-term absences for elite players. Starling Marte’s PED suspension will keep him out until August, while Madison Bumgarner’s dirt bike joyride resulted in shoulder and rib injuries that could cost him as much as two months. Both were drafted in the top five at their respective positions, so fantasy owners will have a tough time replacing them. Today, we’ll look at two starting pitchers and two outfielders who could fit the bill, one each coming in under the 50 percent and 25 percent ownership rate thresholds in both Yahoo and ESPN leagues.
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Lynn missed the entire 2016 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he’s a full 18 months removed from the procedure. He hasn’t looked rusty so far, pitching to a 2.70 ERA and 1.03 WHIP through four turns. Lynn owns a career 3.37 ERA and 8.7 K/9, and has averaged 15 wins in his four full MLB seasons as a starter. While he's never been an asset in terms of WHIP (logging only one mark below 1.30 as a starter), the veteran has kept his ERA down by limiting the long ball. Since 2012, only four starting pitchers with at least 750 innings have allowed a lower HR/9 than Lynn - Clayton Kershaw, Jake Arrieta, Gio Gonzalez, and teammate Adam Wainwright.
Shelby Miller, Arizona Diamondbacks
Miller’s 2016 season was a disaster, hitting the trifecta of awful numbers (6.15 ERA, 1.67 WHIP), injury, and minor league demotion. The 26-year-old righthander has gotten off to a much better start this year, winning two of his first three starts while striking out nearly a batter per inning and posting a 3.50 ERA. While it’s obviously still early, almost every indicator looks positive for Miller so far. He’s added two miles per hour to his fastball, and his cutter and curve have looked much sharper. As a result, he’s limited homers and other hard contact and induced more ground balls.
Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays
Injuries limited Kiermaier to 414 plate appearances in 2016. Bad news for him and the Rays, good news for fantasy owners on the hunt for a bargain this year. While primarily known for his stellar defense in center field, Kiermaier hit 12 homers and stole 21 bases last year despite that missed time, and nearly doubled his walk rate for good measure. He’s hitting .282/.370/.394 with a homer and four steals to his credit, and locked into the #2 spot in the Rays’ order.
Conforto won’t help you replace Marte’s speed, but he’s got the skillset to be a high-average hitter with pop. The Mets’ rash of injuries has forced Terry Collins to finally put the 24-year-old in the starting lineup, and he’s making a strong case to stay there. Conforto has hit .313/.400/.625 with three homers in just 40 plate appearances, looking much more like the budding star from his rookie year than what we saw in his sophomore slump in 2016.
Kyle Bishop is a lead MLB columnist at RotoBaller.com. His articles and Fantasy Baseball Rankings are your secret weapon for winning fantasy leagues.