Better late than never: Walker to start for Mariners

Walker had a 3.23 ERA in six minor-league rehab starts.

Mark J. Rebilas/Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The weekend saw more closer changes, an interesting trade and a high-profile promotion, but we’re going to start today with the 2014 debut of Mariners SP Taijuan Walker, who is scheduled to come off the DL tonight to start against the Astros. Walker was shut down during spring training due to shoulder soreness, and had his rehab delayed in April when the problem recurred. However, on the heels of a complete-game shutout at Triple A last Tuesday, Walker is ready to go.

After a terrific 2013 season in the minors, Walker started a few games for the Mariners late in the year, and expectations were high coming into 2014. He was rated as Baseball America’s No. 11 overall prospect, ahead of starters like Yordano VenturaKevin Gausman and Andrew Heaney. Fantasy analysts generally had Walker rated as a mixed-league SP5, with only an innings limit (now obsolete) to worry about. He’s a blue chipper, folks.

Walker mixes a high-90s fastball with a good cutter, and should be ready to pitch pretty well immediately. He’s owned in 20.1 percent of leagues, and you should pick him up right away if you can. Other than the usual caveats about rookie starters – you never know, right? – Walker figures to be better than most widely available fantasy options. To add a real baseball note, the Mariners have allowed the fewest runs in MLB, and their rotation is about to get a big boost. Playoffs, anyone?

Sunday’s studs & duds


Stud: Marlon Byrd hit two homers for the Phillies, and now has 15 on the season. Didn’t see that coming.

Stud: Jose Altuve stole two bases on Sunday. Big deal, right? Yes, since that gave him 10 steals (along with 13 hits) over his last six games.

Stud: Do I have to pick between Clayton KershawFelix Hernandez and Homer Bailey? They were all fantastic.

Dud: Let’s go with Cardinals SP Shelby Miller, who allowed six runs in five innings, and now has a 4.10 ERA. He’s been quite the fantasy disappointment.

News & notes

Bryce Harper hit three homers in a minor-league rehab game on Saturday, and is expected to be in the Nationals’ lineup tonight. Here’s an article detailing all the possible lineup scenarios for the Nats.

You’ve probably heard that the Red Sox called up prospect Mookie Betts on Saturday. Betts is owned in 8.4 percent of leagues, and while he’ll play mostly outfield, he’s eligible at shortstop for fantasy purposes. Betts batted .345 with eight home runs and 29 stolen bases in the minors before his promotion. He’s an interesting pickup if you’re in need of speed, but I’m not as bullish on his 2014 fantasy prospects as many others are. The guy has 110 plate appearances above Double A, and he’s 21 years old. He might struggle, and putting him among fantasy’s top 15 shortstops seems aggressive.

The Giants have removed Sergio Romo from the closer’s role, and will use a Santiago Casilla/Jeremy Affeldt committee for now. I prefer Casilla to Affeldt, but wouldn’t drop a closer with a job to get him.

After relieving Ronald Belisario from his closer duties on Friday, the White Sox gave Zach Putnam a save opportunity on Saturday, and let Jake Petricka pitch the ninth on Sunday. The White Sox say they’ll go with a committee for now, but if you’re going to speculate, Javy Guerra would be my recommendation, because he throws hard, misses bats and has closing experience.

The Angels swapped Ernesto Frieri to the Pirates for Jason Grilli on Friday. I think Mark Melancon is pretty safe as the Bucs’ closer, but the Angels’ situation is different. Per the Orange County Register: "For now, Grilli is going to pitch in a setup role for Joe Smith, but if he shows he’s back to form, he is likely to go back to closing, with Smith as the setup man." The Angels’ website says Grilli "figures to get a shot at the ninth inning at some point." Grilli is still available in 49.7 percent of leagues for those that want to speculate for saves. I’d do that in a deeper mixed league, but not in a 12-teamer.

It sounds like Mets 3B David Wright (shoulder) will head for the DL if he isn’t ready to play tonight, and we won’t know more details until later today. If you own Wright in a weekly lineup league, consider benching him to avoid the risk.

Dodgers SS Hanley Ramirez was out of the lineup again Sunday, this time with a strained calf. He’s day to day.

Blue Jays OF Jose Bautista (hamstring) made a pinch-hitting appearance on Sunday, and hopes to be in the lineup on Tuesday. Bautista hadn’t played since June 22.

Diamondbacks SS Chris Owings (shoulder) has been placed on the DL. A combo of Didi Gregorius and rookie Nick Ahmed will replace Owings, and neither should be considered outside of NL-only leagues.

OF Christian Yelich came off the DL and was back in the Marlins’ lineup on Sunday. Start him if you’ve got him.

A’s OF Josh Reddick (knee) is back on the DL

Streaming starters

Kevin Gausman got beat up on Friday, Roenis Elias wasn’t good on Saturday, and Drew Smyly was terrible on Sunday; we’re down to 50-38 after that debacle of a weekend. Today’s pick is the aforementioned Taijuan Walker (20.1 percent owned) at Houston, while Tuesday’s selection is Mike Leake (27.2 percent owned) at San Diego.

See you back here tomorrow morning.