If you’re a long-time rotisserie baseball player, you surely remember the days of just having an active lineup and nothing else. In fact, I’m sure some readers still play in leagues like that—my biggest home league is like that, and has been since it was formed back in 1984. However, as the game has expanded and developed, it has changed. It is now the norm to have multiple reserve/bench spots, and I play in leagues where that number ranges anywhere from three to eight. Those bench spots are valuable commodities and can be used in any number of ways.
Essentially, the choice of how you use your each of your bench spots comes down to the following question: Do I want to extract small pieces of value throughout the entire season or do I want to stash a high-upside player who may have potentially significant value down the line? More often than not, these bench spots are used on pitchers who can be plugged in as need be to boost your performance in pitching categories. But there are other options. In fact, I wrote back in February about the potential benefit to using the opportunity cost of a bench spot as part of a position player platoon. However, the ends of benches are best left for the potential fantasy gold mines—and that’s why this column exists.
Now that the background is out of the way, let me introduce you to the first installment of The Stash List. The purpose of it is to rank the top 25 players who are not active contributors to fantasy teams for 2013 only. Again, it does not take into account future value, which would result in a very different order. This list will include five different types of players, with specific restrictions attached:
Minor Leaguers: anyone currently in the minors. There is no ownership restriction for this category.
Major Leaguers on the DL: anyone current on the disabled list that is owned in fewer than 25 percent of leagues. The restriction is there to exclude obvious players like Hanley Ramirez or Zack Greinke, as I find it hard to believe they’d be on the wire in any leagues.
Closers-in-waiting: any reliever who is not actively getting saves and is owned in fewer than 25 percent of leagues. This excludes pitchers who are in “committees” and setup men who are widely owned for their own values, like Aroldis Chapman during April and May of 2012.
Others-in-waiting: any other player who is not currently active in the role that would net him the most fantasy value. This includes pitchers who are in line for a rotation spot but are not currently there, and position players who are not receiving regular playing time. These are players who would see a huge uptick in value from a change in role, like Kris Medlen in 2012.
As an added bonus, throughout the course of this series I am going to sporadically add content from BP’s scouting and injury experts on players who warrant it—all to get the best information to you, the readers, about these players. And now, I’ve officially rambled enough in the introduction, as I’m sure you’re all waiting for me to stop typing so we get to the list faster. It’s okay, I get it. So when it’s all over, let me know if you like it. I plan on putting a lot of effort into this over the course of the season, so if it’s not a valuable resource, I’m happy to put that effort in elsewhere.
Without any further ado, here is the inaugural version of The Stash List:
Profar might not be the player you’d expect to see at the top of this list, but I just don’t see how the Rangers can continue to run Mitch Moreland out there with his Hall of Fame caliber 38 OPS+. They are trying to win a division after all. Whether Ian Kinsler or Lance Berkman moves to first base, someone’s going to do so in order to make room for the number-one prospect in the game. And with his second-base eligibility, Profar could certainly be a top-10 option at the position once he’s up. After all, the 12th– and 13th-most valuable fantasy second basemen so far in 2013 are Yuniesky Betancourt and Chris Getz. Seriously.
In reality, Myers is more of a 1a instead of truly being second fiddle to Profar. With that said, even though the safe money is on Myers beating Profar to the majors, I consider the safe money to be on Profar outperforming him for fantasy purposes once he’s there.
Mmmm… steals. There’s an opening for Hamilton when he’s deemed ready, but he’s still learning to play center field, and he’s been struggling offensively to start the season. Hamilton’s speed is no joke—if he can find his way to the majors by June 1, he could steal 40 bases easily.
And, we finally have our first non-prospect on the list. Right now, it looks like Marcum will potentially be back in the Mets rotation as soon as Saturday against the Phillies. He has one last test remaining, an extended spring training start on Monday, where he’s expected to throw 70-75 pitchers. Health is always going to be an issue with Marcum, but when he pitches, he’s productive for fantasy. He hasn’t had an ERA over 4.00 or a K/9 under 7.0 since 2007.
With a potential mid-May return, Eaton still could rack up enough at-bats once he’s off the disabled list to notch 25 steals and 75-plus runs scored. The Diamondbacks love Eaton and should get him in the lineup nearly every day, despite the solid play they’ve received from Gerardo Parra and A.J. Pollock in his absence.
Arenado is off to a fast start this year, hitting .389/.417/.759 with three homers, 11 doubles and 19 RBI in just 54 at bats. And while it is Colorado Springs and the PCL, he won’t exactly be going to a pitcher-friendly park when he gets the call. So far, the Rockies have been one of the most surprising teams in baseball, sitting in first place, but that has come despite sub-700 OPS efforts from both Chris Nelson and Josh Rutledge.
7) Oscar Taveras, OF, St Louis Cardinals
If this were a keeper or dynasty league list, Taveras would be way up at the number-two spot, but the ways that he would hold serious fantasy value in 2013 are difficult to predict with any certainty. That’s especially the case with Matt Adams killing it as the first guy off the bench (or in the lineup in case of injury). However, if Taveras were to get the call and see regular playing time, he’d immediately be at least a top-50 outfielder.
I’m going to group Cole and Wheeler into the same writeup, since I’d rather not just flat-out repeat myself. When these two pitchers are deemed ready by their organizations, they will get the call—neither team is dripping with starting pitching talent at the major-league level. However, they’ve also both started out being uncharacteristically wild, as Cole has walked 11 batters in 16 1/3 innings and Wheeler has issued 12 free passes in 18 1/3 frames. I still expect both to be up by June 1 and I still love both of these guys long term, but their 2013-only outlooks are starting to get a little murkier.
10) Francisco Liriano, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Look, I know: I’m a sucker for Liriano and I’m not afraid to admit it. I thought I was done with him, but moving to Pittsburgh sucked me right back in. Not only is PNC Park a great place for a southpaw to call home, but Russell Martin should also have a positive effect on his performance. There’s always a ton of risk with Liriano, but he just might have the highest upside of any pitcher on this list.
It seems clear at this point that Straily is the A’s sixth starter, and being the sixth starter for an organization that is relying on Brett Anderson and Bartolo Colon is a beautiful thing. Straily has been dominant against Triple-A lineups this year, accumulating 27 strikeouts and one walk in 19 1/3 innings. And yes, I’m including the Astros in that group.
Beachy is still on the path to recovery from Tommy John surgery that he underwent on June 21, 2012. It’s tempting to think that he might be back before the end of June this year, but I usually add an extra month into my expectations with Tommy John returnees. This ranking is assuming he’ll be back in the second half of July, as he’d be much higher if we were talking about the potential of four months of Beachy.
I know Zunino has been very impressive in his short time in the minors, but this is actually a very aggressive ranking for a catcher. Catchers are slower to be fantasy relevant than players at any other position, and really the only exception to this we’ve seen in the last decade or so has been Buster Posey. That, combined with the depth of the position for fantasy, puts him outside the top 10. One caveat: He clearly moves up if you play in a two-catcher format.
The cries in Detroit for Smyly to join the Tigers rotation only got louder when Rick Porcello allowed 10,000 runs in less than an inning this past Saturday. Smyly has always been the higher-upside option of the two, both in real life and fantasy—and the sooner the Tigers realize this, the happier we’ll all be.
These two starters are grouped together as well, as they are essentially like Cole and Wheeler, except slightly less talented and with slightly more competition for any potential rotation opening. Gausman has been the darling of scouts since the start of spring training, but despite a great 21-to-1 K:BB, he’s gotten hit around a bit in Double-A. Bauer’s been great in his two minor league starts, but in his one start for Cleveland, he was back to his old tricks (seven walks in five innings).
17) Erasmo Ramirez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
The Eraser has been sidelined so far with a triceps injury, but with how awful Brandon Maurer and Aaron Harang have been in front of him, I can’t imagine it takes too long for him to get back in the rotation. Lots of fantasy owners have forgotten about Ramirez by now, but don’t let yourself fall into that category.
18) Colby Lewis, RHP, Texas Rangers
The Rangers still expect Lewis back by June 1, and he is currently throwing side sessions in advance of a trip to extended spring training. And Matt Harrison’s injury only makes Lewis more valuable upon his return.
19) Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, St Louis Cardinals
There’s no reason why Rosenthal shouldn’t be the closer in St Louis once he works out his early-season kinks. Edward Mujica is fine, and he’s a pretty good reliever, but Rosenthal could be a top-five option if he were to get the job.
20) Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
“Archer came to Tampa Bay as a key piece in the trade that sent Matt Garza to the Cubs back in 2011. Since then he was been pitching very well for the Rays AAA team in Durham. Don't let his record down there fool you; the kid can pitch. His fastball is consistently in the 92-94 range, but he has the ability to reach back when need be and get it up to 96. As good as his fastball is, it is his second best pitch to his filthy slider. This slider I speak of is and has been a MLB quality pitch. He throws it in the low-90s range and the nasty, almost-violent break it possesses can over match even the better hitters in the big leagues. Archer has a decent changeup but it needs some work and fine-tuning. That being said, the fastball-slider combo is impressive. He's averaged a cool 11 K/9 in the minors and nine K/9 in his six big-league appearances last year (four starts).
The big question about Archer's MLB readiness is his control. He walked 62 in 128 innings at Triple-A last year. The good news is, most think the control issue is more mental than mechanical. He won't need to change his delivery or anything major mechanically. This is where playing in the Rays system is huge for a player like him. The Rays have a great track record dealing with live young arms like Archer's. With Jeff Niemann out for the season already, that just leaves Roberto Hernandez as his only roadblock to a spot in the Rays’ big-league rotation. Hernandez hasn't looked all that great so far this season, so it could be much sooner than later before the Rays make the call to the farm for Archer and his slider to join the Rays in the bigs.” —Chris King
He’s returning this Wednesday against the Mets, but he still counts, since he’s on the disabled list and owned in far fewer than 25 percent of leagues. He should have a rotation spot for a while with both Chris Capuano and Chad Billingsley on the shelf.
22) Danny Hultzen, LHP, Seattle Mariners
The back end of the Mariners’ rotation has room for both Ramirez and Hultzen. And Hultzen’s control appears to be back in the normal range after his meltdown in Triple-A last season.
23) Matt Adams, 1B, St Louis Cardinals
Adams has made a mockery of the baseball so far this season, hitting over .500 with a home run every eight at-bats. Unfortunately, he’s just not going to get the playing time with the talent in front of him on the depth chart unless there’s an injury. And even if he does, he’ll have Taveras breathing down his neck.
Luebke may have had his Tommy John surgery a month earlier than Brandon Beachy, but he’s also already had what could be referred to as a mild setback, and he’s just not as good as Beachy when healthy. If he gets back on a mid-June track, he could take a healthy move up this list.
25) Jose Valverde, RHP, Detroit Tigers
Because, hey, you never know.