Several major-league teams have been scrambling to patch holes in their lineups caused by injuries. Chances are that if you play in a deep league, your team has a dead spot or two due to injuries as well. Most of the hitters listed below are getting bumps in playing time due to injuries to players ahead of them on the depth chart.
The pitchers this week are mostly non-closing relievers with high strikeout rates and good rate stats. Most of them also struggle to keep their walk rates reasonably low, putting them on a tightrope that’s harder to walk than Gerardo Parra.
AL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
With Andrelton Simmons on the DL for a couple of months, Cliff Pennington is expected to get the majority of the starts for the Angels at shortstop. His lifetime .244/.312/.344 line shows that he’s not much of a hitter. He’ll be getting regular playing time, though, which means that he’ll help your team compile counting stats. The Angels brought in Brendan Ryan once Simmons hit the DL, and he’ll steal a few plate appearances from Pennington here and there on the strength of his glovework. Pennington should remain the primary starter, though, since Ryan makes him look like Bryce Harper by comparison.
Mike Moustakas’ injury opened the door for Cheslor Cuthbert to get a few weeks of plate appearances at the major-league level. While it seems like he’s been around as a prospect forever, he’s still only 23 and has some upside. He was off to a hot start at Triple-A so far this year, hitting .333 with a .402 OB, .624 SLG and seven HR in 24 games. Christian Colon could get some starts at 3B while Moustakas is out, too, but it looks like the Royals prefer to keep Colon in his customary utility infielder role and give Cuthbert the bulk of the starts. He won’t help much if at all when it comes to stolen bases, but Cuthbert has legitimate power and could give your team a boost for a few weeks.
We know what Drew Stubbs is: a 31-year-old who plays excellent outfield defense with serious contact issues that prevent him from taking advantage of his power and speed. He has been a good roto player throughout his career, topping the 20-homer mark once and the 20-steal mark four times, but he did all of that on the other side of his thirtieth birthday. The 2016 version of Stubbs was designated for assignment by the worst team in baseball before being signed as a free agent by the Rangers.
Stubbs won’t save your team, as he’s a fourth outfielder for the time being and is unlikely to hit any higher than .230. However, with Delino DeShields struggling at the plate and Lewis Brinson seemingly on track to debut in 2017, the Rangers have to strongly consider giving Stubbs a decent chunk of playing time in center field on the strength of his defense, which is still top-notch. If he gets playing time, Stubbs can still steal some bases and could even pop a few balls over the fence in hitter-friendly Arlington. He could just as easily end up designated for assignment in a few weeks, though, as Shin-Soo Choo and Josh Hamilton return to the lineup. Consider this less of an endorsement of Stubbs’ abilities and more of a vote of no-confidence in DeShields.
This spring, Carson Smith was coming off an outstanding rookie season in which he put up a 2.31 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP with 92 strikeouts in 70 innings for the Mariners. After Fernando Rodney lost the closer’s job in Seattle last season, Smith also racked up 13 saves before stumbling slightly and losing the closer job himself. Traded to the Red Sox in the offseason, Smith was expected to be one of the better non-closing bullpen options in roto this year. A forearm injury suffered in spring training changed that, landing Smith on the DL prior to Opening Day. Activated earlier this week, Smith has already been slotted into a prominent role in the Red Sox bullpen and can be expected to provide numbers similar to the ones he posted last year.
Small sample size warning: Cam Bedrosian has only thrown 7 2/3 innings for the Angels so far this year. That said, those innings have been dominant: 1.17 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 12 strikeouts. Before this season, his numbers at the major-league level have been pedestrian, primarily due to his walk rate. If he can reign in his tendency to issue free passes without hurting his strikeout rate, Bedrosian’s breakout could turn out to be a real one. He won’t win a Cy Young Award like his dad did, but he could be pretty valuable in roto if he can keep this up.
It’s the middle of May and Joba Chamberlain has a 0.87 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP. That’s better than the last reliever on just about any roto team, even in deep leagues. His velocity and pitch mix are about the same as they were last year and his 7-to-3 K:BB ratio isn’t exactly elite, so he probably won’t keep his ERA below 1.00 all year, but his 2.52 FIP suggests that his hot start isn’t entirely attributable to good luck, either.
NL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
Second base and third base have been nightmarish for the Brewers so far this year, especially since Scooter Gennett hit the DL. Yadiel Rivera and Colin Walsh each sport an OPS under .500 while Aaron Hill has dragged his OPS up over .700 for the season after posting a sub-.500 OPS of his own in April. The only player who has hit consistently for the Brewers at 2B or 3B this year is Hernan Perez, who has a 1.033 OPS along with a .308 AVG, three HR, and three SB. He’s a good bet to keep getting plate appearances in Milwaukee while Gennett is on the DL. However, that might not last long, since Gennett has already started his rehab assignment and is likely to return next week. If Perez keeps hitting, the rebuilding Brewers will be hard pressed to keep him out of the lineup even after Gennett is activated.
He hasn’t gotten his bat going yet this year, but Clint Robinson hit 10 HR and knocked in 34 runs in limited at-bats last year. With starting first baseman Ryan Zimmerman struggling so far, the Nationals are likely to give Robinson a few extra starts in an effort to bolster the non-Harper parts of their lineup. Zimmerman’s two-homer game a few days ago might buy him a slightly longer leash, but that two-homer game tripled his HR total for the season. It’s going to take more than one game to ease the Nationals’ doubts when it comes to Zimmerman, especially if the rest of the NL decides to pitch around Harper and make Zimmerman beat them. If Zimmerman can’t turn his season around soon, Robinson could get the chance to hit in the middle of the Nationals’ order.
With Cory Spangenberg, Alexi Amarista, Yangervis Solarte, and now Jemile Weeks on the DL, the Padres have turned to Adam Rosales as their starter at second base despite his career .224 AVG and .294 OBP. Jose Pirela, promoted to back up Rosales at second base until Weeks returns, has some upside as a 26-year-old who posted a .390 OBP in 60 games at the Triple-A level last year. At 32 years old, upside is something that Rosales hasn’t had for a while. Unless Rosales gets hot, Pirela could end up with a decent share of the playing time at second base and he could do it sooner rather than later.
Yes, he got destroyed in his first start of the year, allowing four runs in 3 2/3 innings with four strikeouts and two walks. Mike Foltynewicz was much better in his second start, allowing only two runs in seven innings with eight strikeouts and no walks. He’s a volatile roto asset, but he has a lot of upside, especially when it comes to strikeouts. If you’re in a position to gamble on starting pitching, especially in keeper leagues, Folty offers as high a return as anyone else you’re likely to find in the free agent pool or on the waiver wire in deep leagues.
After spending the last few seasons in a swingman role for the Giants, Yusmeiro Petit has been used exclusively in relief by the Nationals so far this year. He hasn’t been deployed like a typical one-inning reliever, though, throwing two innings or more in each of his last four appearances. He didn’t strike out a batter per inning last year and he hasn’t this year, either, but he’s on pave to throw around 90 innings out of the bullpen this year, a lot more than most relievers. Those extra innings will help him rack up a lot of strikeouts without an elite K/9 rate.
Ryan Buchter has been a pleasant surprise out of the bullpen for the Padres so far this year with a 0.61 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in only 14 2/3 innings. He’s big and he throws hard, averaging 93.5 MPH on his fastball. He has also already walked eight batters, so if you’re vulnerable in WHIP, you’ll probably want to avoid Buchter. The free passes haven’t hurt him yet, though, and the strikeouts are pretty attractive. And if Buchter can bring that walk rate down without hurting his strikeout rate, watch out.
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