No big life lessons to cover in the introduction to the Deep League Report this week. The only thing you need to know is that you should maximize the percentage of innings thrown by your roto team against Atlanta.
AL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
With Daniel Nava on the DL, Rafael Ortega has taken over the everyday starting duties in left field for the Angels, at least against righties. The good news: he’s young (24) and was pretty good in Triple-A last year (.286/.367/.378 with 17 SB). The bad news: he’s not a big guy and doesn’t have much power. He’s getting a starter’s share of plate appearances, though, and he should run a little, so he’s definitely worth a lineup spot in deep leagues. He’ll take a walk, too, so he’s especially useful in OBP leagues.
With two lefties on the schedule next week in the White Sox’ hitter-friendly home park, and with none of those lefties being Chris Sale, Chris Young should get a few more plate appearances than usual. He’s not young like Rafael Ortega, but he has a little pop to go with some favorable matchups.
The Blue Jays are facing four lefties in their six games next week against the Rangers and Dodgers. One of those is against Clayton Kershaw, though, which isn’t a good matchup for any hitter. Justin Smoak is the nominal starter at 1B for Toronto with Chris Colabello suspended, but he hasn’t done much more than walk so far this year. That’s great for OBP leagues (Smoak is at .425 on the year), but his .207 average and three extra-base hits aren’t enough for a 1B in MLB or in fantasy.
Matt Dominguez will probably be used to give Smoak, Edwin Encarnacion, and/or Josh Donaldson a day off or two against this string of lefties. Of course, Dominguez isn’t much of a hitter, so he might not do much with any plate appearances he gets. Well, there isn’t much out there. This column isn’t called the Shallow League Report.
If nobody minds, I’ll just get to it and leave the surname-based puns to Mike Gianella and the Flags Fly Forever crew. The Oakland bullpen was horrendous last year, but it’s been terrific so far this year. I’ve already written about John Axford and Fernando Rodriguez in the last two editions of the Deep League Report, and now it’s Ryan Dull’s turn. In 12 2/3 innings, he’s allowed five hits and two walks while striking out 12. He doesn’t throw very hard, but hitters have a hard time squaring him up. He won’t get you saves unless things get weird, but he should be a solid contributor in rate stats and strikeouts.
In keeper leagues with minor league systems, Sean Manaea probably isn’t available since he was ranked in the 40s in BP’s Top 101 Prospects list as well as BP Dynasty’s Top 101 list. The A’s called up Manaea to fill the spot in the rotation that became available when Erik Surkamp was demoted. He has had a series of health problems dating back to college, but if he stays in one piece, ha has a lot more upside than most pitchers available in the free agent pool.
How long does Ricky Nolasco have to be good for roto players to forget about the last few years? I don’t know, but it’s time to ask the question. He isn’t throwing any harder this year, but he’s striking out almost a batter per inning and has only issued three walks across four starts. He gets two starts next week, facing the Astros on Monday and the White Sox on Sunday. If you have the stomach for it, this is the week to grab Nolasco. If he’s good this week, half the owners in your league will be bidding on him next week, and at least one of them will outbid you.
NL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
Melvin Upton, Jr.
In roto, Melvin Upton, Jr. presents the same dilemma as Ricky Nolasco. How many weeks of decent production does it take to remove the stink of multiple years of poor performance? As with Nolasco, the time to gamble on the older Upton brother is now, since the rest of your league will be figuring out how to discount the last few years soon if they haven’t already. He’s only hitting .243 but he has six steals and 10 walks, making him more than playable.
This isn’t a bet on Brandon Drury’s skills. It’s a bet against Nick Ahmed’s anemic bat. Despite his defensive prowess, Ahmed is going to have a hard time staying in Arizona’s lineup if he doesn’t take a huge step forward in the very near future. If Ahmed loses his job, the most likely scenario is that Jean Segura becomes the everyday shortstop while Drury becomes the everyday second baseman. He didn’t hit many homers or steal many bases during his ascent through the minors, but with a starter’s share of plate appearances, he should provide a steady supply of runs and RBI and could help in AVG, too.
As recently as last week, Peter Bourjos was benched to work on his approach. The Phillies’ roster is thin at both corner outfield spots, though, so he doesn’t have to provide much to outperform his competition. He still plays great efense, which should help get his bat in the lineup a little more often, and he can still run, which makes him worth a look in roto. Next week, the Phillies are scheduled to face three left-handed starters, so Bourjos should get multiple starts. One of Philadelphia’s other right-handed options against lefty starters, Darin Ruf, has been awful so far, which only enhances Bouros’ value.
He’s facing Atlanta next week. In case you haven’t heard, they’re bad. They’re really bad. Especially at hitting. You probably don’t need a fantasy baseball columnist to tell you to start as many pitchers as possible against Atlanta, granted. It doesn’t hurt to double check, though.
In a bullpen that has been shaky all season, Hector Neris has been the most reliable option. His main weapon has been a nearly unhittable slider, as George Bissell noted earlier this week. Jeanmar Gomez seems to have developed a surprisingly tight grip on the closer’s role in a relatively short time, but his stuff is still mediocre. If Gomez comes back to earth at some point, Neris could get a shot at saves. Even if Gomez holds on to the closer’s role all season, Neris looks like he’ll provide good rate stats and strikeouts in deep leagues.
You know who Bartolo Colon is. He’s old and husky and funny and doesn’t strike anyone out any more. Next week, though, he has two starts, one against Atlanta and their historically punchless offense and one against the Padres in pitcher-friendly San Diego. That makes him a decent play in deep leagues.
This isn’t really fantasy relevant, but I like pointing out that the one Cy Young Award winner in the Mets rotation isn’t any of the four young studs. It’s the last active Expo and Twitter’s favorite batter. Keep throwing strikes as long as they’ll let you, big guy.