Fantasy baseball pickups: Opportunity knocks in Chicago

Injuries often open up opportunities in fantasy baseball. Will Leury Garcia take advantage? AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

In a season thus far filled with injuries, fantasy managers are surely seeking replacements. Here are three players well worth adding in ESPN leagues:

Leury Garcia, OF/2B/SS, Chicago White Sox

With Garcia, we're talking about a high-floor, albeit low-ceiling, performer. In short, you know just what you're getting here, though in the wake of Nick Madrigal's shoulder injury, that might be more than enough to fill the gaps on a fantasy team. He's been a .276 hitter since the beginning of 2017, not to mention a consistent game-over-game batting-average performer who, outside of a 20-game span from Aug. 7 to Sept. 1, was usually within range of that number. He also has enough quickness to swipe 20 bases in a full 162-game season.

Garcia also brings with him the advantage of triple eligibility and the role as the White Sox's first fill-in at shortstop (where he had been subbing for the injured Tim Anderson), second base (where he should settle in Madrigal's place after Anderson's return) and right field. No, Garcia isn't much in the power department and he hits too many ground balls to be expected to raise his batting average to .300 or better, but he's finding ways to get into the every-day lineup between those three positions and is certainly slated for regular play in light of the aforementioned injuries.

Spencer Howard, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

In fantasy terms, Howard might be the exact opposite of Garcia. It has been quite the week of prospect debuts, from Nate Pearson to Madrigal to Jo Adell. In this season of frequent schedule shuffling, spontaneous doubleheaders -- and therefore a greater need for fill-in/sixth starters -- it seems fitting to profile another prospective debut. Howard, the Phillies' 2017 second-rounder and top overall prospect entering 2020, is the leading candidate to join their big-league rotation on Sunday, which is when they'll need a sixth starter due to Wednesday's doubleheader.

Though Howard has only six starts' worth of experience at Double-A ball (and none in Triple-A), he brings a high-90s fastball, a changeup that showed considerable advancement in Arizona Fall League action in 2019 and a solid slider. He also throws a curveball that, with more polish, could give him four big-league-quality pitches. The sum of all these pitches resulted in a 32.8% strikeout rate during his 47 starts in the minor leagues, and 31.1% in his aforementioned six Double-A starts. This strikeout potential is the reason to speculatively add Howard in all formats now.

Howard's control, though, is a question, and it's the reason to keep your expectations in check. He walked 10 of the 83 hitters he faced in the AFL, and in his nine-start professional debut in low Class A ball, he had a 14.6% walk rate. That could be a problem in the majors as he adjusts, and tougher matchups might require fantasy managers to avoid him accordingly. Still, Howard is the kind of prospect who, upon his promotion, will be up for good, pressing his way through the inevitable rough patches.

Pablo Lopez, SP, Miami Marlins

Overall, Marlins players generally saw their roster percentages plummet during the week that the team's games were entirely postponed following their COVID-19 outbreak. Despite a great outing by Lopez in the team's return to the field on Tuesday, he has seen his number only rise to 11.7% -- just 2% greater than where it was on Opening Day. Considering his skills, that performance and his locked-in role as a member of the team's rotation, however, he should be one of the top pitchers on your "add" list.

Remember, Lopez was beginning to figure it out at the big league level at the time of his shoulder strain in June 2019, tossing five quality starts in a six-start stretch before the injury and posting a 3.57 FIP and a 1.12 WHIP in his first 14 turns of 2019. What stands out are his control, his career big league walk rate of 6.1%, his ability to generate ground balls (career rate of 45.4%) and his high-quality four-seam fastball and changeup. Considering that Lopez appears to be leaning more on a cutter this year, there's reason to believe that his elevated strikeout and ground ball rates from his first turn might extend to the majority of 2020. Surely he's worth the flier, even in mixed leagues.