The theme of this week’s Deep League Report is injuries. Most of the players mentioned below have either been called up or received a bump in playing time due to injuries to their teammates. These players definitely have their flaws – if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have been in the minors or on the bench to start the season. In deep leagues, though, playing time is currency, and anyone playing regularly can help your team.
AL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
Just when you thought Manny Machado couldn’t get any more valuable, he gracefully slides from third base to shortstop to fill in for the injured J.J. Hardy. Ryan Flaherty has gotten most of the playing time at third base while Machado mans short. His average will probably hurt, but Flaherty has some pop. If you need power and can take the hit in average, Flaherty is a decent option as long as Hardy stays on the DL.
The injury to Alex Rodriguez allows the Yankees to take Carlos Beltran out of right field and play him at DH while Aaron Hicks takes over in right field. Hicks is a tremendous defensive outfielder, which doesn’t directly impact any roto categories but does get him a few more plate appearances than he might otherwise.
Hicks hasn’t shown the ability to hit for average at the major league level, but does have power and speed, at least in theory. In practice, Hicks is hitting .077 with a .143 OBP. Those comically bad numbers are driven by an absurdly low .087 BABIP. The rest of his component stats don’t point to any specific issues, though. His walk rate is in line with his career numbers and his strikeout rate is actually significantly lower than his career rate. There could be something more going on with Hicks than bad luck on balls in play, but there probably isn’t. Take the power/speed combination with a low average for as long as A-Rod is out of the lineup.
First things first: Seth Smith is the left-handed side of a platoon in Seattle and the Mariners are scheduled to face left-handed starters in three of their six games next week. That said, when he plays, Smith has been killing the ball to the tune of a .277 average, .388 OBP, .471 SLG, and four home runs. Barring multiple injuries in the Mariners’ outfield, Smith won’t get a shot at a full time job, but he does enough on the good side of a platoon to be useful in deep leagues.
It’s May and Fernando Abad hasn’t allowed a run all year. Even with Glen Perkins on the DL, Abad still probably won’t get a shot at closing for the Twins, but a 0.00 ERA, a 0.75 WHIP, and a 10.5 K/9 are valuable whether they come with saves or not.
Unlike Fernando Abad, Joe Smith is getting a clear shot at saves while his team’s usual closer is on the DL. With an average fastball velocity below 90 MPH and a 4.15 K/9, Smith doesn’t fit the classic closer’s profile, but he’s been getting the job done so far and he doesn’t have anyone threatening to take the gig from him. The Angels haven’t determined how long Huston Street will be sidelined, so keep an eye out for updates to give yourself a rough idea of how long Smith will be closing.
Earlier this week, it looks like Orioles’ closer Zach Britton’s ankle injury could land him on the DL, giving O’Day an extended chance to accumulate saves. Now it looks like Britton will avoid the DL, ending O’Day’s time as closer almost as soon as it started. The veteran sidearmer should still be on your radar, though, as he’s doing exactly what he’s done for the last few years: striking out lots of batters while putting up great rate stats. If Britton’s ankle injury worsens, the saves for O’Day would be a nice bonus, but he doesn’t need to get saves to be a contributor to your roto team.
NL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
He doesn’t have the home run power of a prototypical corner outfielder, but Alex Dickerson can hit. His lowest batting average in his minor league career is .288 and he hits tons of doubles. The outfielders ahead of him on the Padres’ depth chart, Melvin Upton Jr. and Jon Jay, aren’t exactly world-beaters, so Dickerson could go from a backup role to a more prominent role sooner rather than later if he can make the most of the intermittent plate appearances he’ll be getting.
After starting the season with a glut of outfielders, the Cubs are suddenly thin in the outfield. Matt Szczur went on the DL Tuesday with a hamstring strain and Jason Heyward has been struggling with a wrist injury. Ryan Kalish was called up to help fill the gap. He was hitting a scorching .368/.471/.509 at Triple-A and has shown the ability to hit when healthy throughout his career. Now 28, if he gets a shot at regular plate appearances, he could do some damage.
Even with Miguel Montero on the DL, David Ross won’t get a usual starter’s share of playing time behind the plate for the Cubs due to his age. He has hit well so far this year, though, putting up numbers similar to his best years in Cincinnati and Atlanta. It’s unlikely that he’ll keep producing at this level, but as long as Montero is on the DL, he should get enough plate appearances and hit well enough to contribute to your team, mostly via counting stats like R and RBI.
Last year, Justin Grimm put up a 1.99 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP with 67 strikeouts and 26 walks in 49 2/3 innings. This year, despite a slightly higher 2.16 ERA, Grimm has arguably been even better. He has yet to walk a batter while boosting his already stellar strikeout rate. He won’t get a shot at the closer’s job any time soon, but he’ll help your team with his rate stats and strikeouts, especially if he can maintain his newly acquired control.
Derek Law has strikeout stuff and he’ll be getting some innings out of the Giants bullpen while Sergio Romo is on the DL with a flexor strain injury in his forearm that will keep him sidelined for at least a few weeks. He’s behind Santiago Casilla, Hunter Strickland, and most of the rest of the guys in the bullpen for saves in San Francisco, but his rate stats and strikeouts are potentially valuable, especially in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.
In 2015, Addison Reed pitched his way out of the closer’s role in Arizona with an ERA over 4.00 before being traded to the Mets. After arriving in Queens last year, Reed turned his season around, posting a 1.17 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP down the stretch as the Mets made their run towards the division title and the pennant. Reed has sustained that success with the Mets this year, recording 16 strikeouts against four walks in 12 1/3 innings so far. He won’t supplant Jeurys Familia any time soon, but he looks like a decent bet as a non-closing reliever, especially in leagues that count holds.
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