Multiple newly minted closers, multiple everyday players with at least a little upside. There’s more value available in deep leagues right now than there usually is due to roster turnover, role changes, and minor-league call-ups. You can’t determine which pickups will work and which won’t, but in competitive deep leagues, you can guarantee that the team that wins the league will have made sizeable profits on a few of their FAAB pickups. You can’t win if you don’t play in the free agent pool. Let’s dive in.
AL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
He’s not an unknown commodity—he was ranked the 19th-best prospect in baseball in BP’s Top 101 Prospects list this year. Tim Anderson made his MLB debut at shortstop for the White Sox last Friday after the release of Jimmy Rollins. The South Siders will give him every chance to keep the spot, too. He had good roto numbers in Triple-A prior to his call-up: .304 AVG, 11 SB, and four HR. However, his contact ability might not be enough to overcome his raw approach at the plate. He posted a 4.4 percent walk rate in Double-A in 2015 and a 3.1 percent walk rate in Triple-A this season. His aggressive approach and the fact that he might not stick at shortstop in the majors make him a risk, but he has the talent to be a .280 hitting shortstop with 12-14 steals and 2-3 homers this year, which is nothing to sneeze at.
The next guy getting a shot at first base for the Yankees in the wake of the injuries to Mark Teixeira and Chris Parmelee is Ike Davis. Released by the Rangers earlier this week, the 29-year-old lefty has gone from Triple-A depth in Texas to the best option at the major league level in the Bronx in short order. He hit a respectable .268/.350/.437 at Triple-A Round Rock and should play nearly every day the Bombers, offering some pop at a corner infield spot. Pay extra attention to Davis in OBP leagues since he’s had double-digit walk rates in five of his six seasons in the big leagues. And if you round his 9.6 percent walk rate in 2015 up to 10 percent, you can make it six-for-six.
He hasn’t done much in his limited exposure to the major leagues so far. In 113 MLB plate appearances, he’s hit .210/.265/.257 with no homers and no steals. Todd Cunningham has been fantastic so far in Triple-A so far this year, though, to the tune of a .299/.401/.382 line with two homers and 13 steals. The demotion of Rafael Ortega has given the 27-year-old Cunningham a clear path to playing time in left field for the Angels. A regular spot in the lineup combined with stolen base potential and an advanced approach at the plate make Cunningham a viable low-cost option for roto players, especially in OBP leagues where his above-average walk rate plays well.
Paul Molitor has decided to split the Twins save chances between Brandon Kintzler and Fernando Abad until Glen Perkins returns from a shoulder injury. Since Perkins had a setback a few days ago, that return could be a ways off, leaving lots of save opportunities for the Twins to split. Kintzler has the righty side of this job share while Abad has the lefty side, so Kintzler should get the lion’s share of saves for as long as the job share lasts. As good as Kintzler’s numbers are, though, Abad’s are better this year, and with Perkins and Eddie Guardado before him, the Twins have shown a willingness to install a lefty as their closer if that lefty is the best pitcher in their bullpen. Kintzler is definitely worth a pickup if you’re chasing saves, but he’s not a sure thing.
Despite the fact that he gave up a walkoff home run to Edwin Encarnacion last Friday, Brad Brach is as reliable as middle relievers come. So far this year, he’s posted a 1.04 ERA with a 0.92 WHIP and 40 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings. Despite the heavy usage, Brach has yet to show any signs of slowing down. If you play in a deep AL-only league and your choices in the free agent pool are the four or five worst starters in the junior circuit or a non-closing bullpen arm like Brach, you’ll do better with the bullpen guy most of the time.
I co-wrote a fantasy take on Daniel Mengden for BP last week along with the excellent Brendan Gawlowski, so I’ll direct you to that post rather than repeat myself here. The one point worth adding now is that Mengden was decent in his debut against the Reds: two earned runs, six hits, four walks, and five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
NL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
The injury to Francisco Cervelli opens the door to playing time for Chris Stewart, but it doesn’t make him a good hitter. His .235 career average is a good baseline for what you should expect going forward. In deep leagues, for someone expected to get a starter’s share of plate appearances at catcher for at least the next few weeks, that plays, even if it isn’t terribly exciting.
Roto owners who have been hoping that Pete O’Brien would play well enough behind the plate to get catcher eligibility will not be getting their wish any time soon. However, O’Brien’s top-tier power should play at any position. For the time being, O’Brien will get most of his starts against lefties. He strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk much, so he presents a substantial risk to your batting average, but his Trumbo-esque upside can’t be ignored.
The injury to Jorge Soler prompted the Cubs to re-acquire Chris Coghlan to provide outfield depth. The Albert Almora call-up doesn’t leave a lot of everyday plate appearances for Coghlan, though, making it likely that he revisits the supersub roe he played for Cubs last season. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, since Coghlan was quite productive in that role last season, hitting sixteen home runs and stealing eleven bases in 503 plate appearances. The fact that he should be eligible at second base, third base, and outfield in most leagues makes him even more useful in deep leagues.
He was awful last year, but he was pretty good several years in a row prior to 2015. There’s no telling what version of Garza we’ll see this year, but in a thin Brewers’ rotation, he’s worth a $1 FAAB gamble in deep NL-only leagues. If you need help in your rotation, give him a shot, but don’t give him a long leash.
With Jake McGee sidelined due to a knee injury, Walt Weiss has decided to give Carlos Estevez the first shot at saves for the Rockies. He certainly fits the closer profile: he’s big, he’s young, he throws hard, he strikes batters out, and he walks more batters than he probably should. His numbers so far this year aren’t that great, and his peripherals suggest that those numbers are right around where they should be. His performance could be just as spotty going forward, but he’s getting the saves right now in Colorado and he doesn’t have much competition for them. That’s what matters.
I wrote up Shawn Kelley in this space in week seven as a value play while he was stuck behind Jonathan Papelbon for saves in Washington. Needless to say, if he was worth owning when he wasn’t getting saves, the fact that he’ll be closing while Papelbon is on the DL makes him even more desirable.
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