Gomes wins regular role with Jays thanks to hot bat, versatility
Yan Gomes' ability to play both corner spots and catch will keep him on Jays roster
Alex Cobb pitched well in first start but may feel pressure from other prospects
Alexi Amarista has been given chance to hold down Padres second base job
The first major leaguer from one of the largest nations in the western hemisphere and two former Angels farmhands are making good in this week's look at players you may not know that much about, but should.
MLB's only "international" team made history last week when Gomes became the first Brazilian to play in the major leagues. Recalled when struggling first baseman Adam Lind was sent to Las Vegas, Gomes filled in at third base while starter Brett Lawrie was serving a suspension for hitting an umpire with his batting helmet. Gomes, a 10th-round pick by Toronto in 2009 who attended both Barry University in Miami and the University of Tennessee, got off to a hot start, collecting four hits, including his first home run, and two walks in his first 14 big league plate appearances. It appeared Gomes would be sent back to Triple A when Lawrie's suspension was over, but his hot start at the plate, plus the versatility that he gives manager John Farrell by being able to play both corner infield spots as well as being able to serve as the Jays' third catcher, has earned him a spot on the big league roster for now. A .284/.338/.471 career hitter in the minors, he's an adequate injury fill-in in AL-only leagues, but should he achieve catcher eligibility, then his value would rise appreciably making him worth a stash.
Jeff Niemann's misfortune was a break for Cobb. The ginormous Tampa Bay right-hander suffered a fractured right fibula when struck by an Adam Lind line drive, sending him to the 60-day disabled list. That facilitated Cobb's recall from Triple A Durham, where, despite a 1-4 record, 4.14 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, he was chosen over fellow prospect Chris Archer due to the experience he had last season when he made nine starts for the Rays (crafting a 3-2 mark and 3.42 ERA). If Cobb's first start of '12 was any indication, that was the right choice as he held the Braves to two runs, six hits and two walks over seven innings in a win. The Rays have among the deepest major-league-ready pitching of any organization, so while Cobb is the current choice to be the fifth starter, he can't afford to string together more than a few bad outings or else the Rays will simply turn to Archer, Alex Torres or Shane Dyer. For the time being, he's a valuable pickup in AL-only settings.
After spending parts of six seasons in the Angels system, the cards are finally turning over in the young second baseman's favor. Blocked in Anaheim by the long-term contract signed by Howie Kendrick and presence of Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar, the Angels shipped their former top infield prospect to the Padres as part of a deal for reliever Ernesto Frieri. Then, San Diego, sinking rapidly in the NL West standings, decided to cut bait on veteran Orlando Hudson and turn to their second baseman of the future. Amarista is intriguing in NL-only keeper leagues in that he can hit for average (.312 lifetime hitter in the minors) and will have job security as long as he produces at the plate and in the field. However, with little power and limited base-stealing ability he's merely a replacement level fantasy player for the rest of this season in shallow leagues. In deeper leagues, especially for those owners who just lost Hudson to the AL, he's likely the best available option.
Shaken by the loss of big money free agent Ryan Madson at the start of the year, Dusty Baker's bullpen has been undergoing another shakeup of late. Fireballer Aroldis Chapman was handed the closer's job while Sean Marshall was relegated to setup work. That leaves Arredondo in the position of being one of the top setup men on one of the NL Central's favorites. Another former Angel farmhand, Arredondo was once one of baseball's most promising relievers, having gone 10-2 with a 1.62 ERA and 1.05 WHIP for the Halos in '08. He seemed destined to become the replacement for Francisco Rodriguez. But instead of going to a young closer as they had done when K-Rod replaced Troy Percival, the Angels decided to sign veteran Brian Fuentes, and Arredondo flamed out in '09, posting a 6.00 ERA in a two-month minor league stint. Things went from bad to worse when it was revealed that he'd need Tommy John surgery. Released by the Angels, the Reds signed him at the start of '10 and shepherded him through his rehab work. He returned to the big leagues last year mainly as a middle reliever, posting a 4-4 record and 3.23 ERA in 53 appearances but with no real fantasy appeal. Fast forward to this season and he's back in the fantasy crosshairs, having racked up three relief wins already, plus his first major league save while bailing out an ineffective Marshall in Yankee Stadium last weekend. Now that he's the top righty in the bullpen and in line for saves when Chapman isn't available, Arredondo is a sneaky good pickup in NL-only leagues or even those mixed leagues where a few more saves can make a big difference.