This week’s Deep League Report features several players who are way too good to appear in this column under normal circumstances. However, these are not normal circumstances. The trade deadline is today, and several teams have decided to beat the rush and trade for players in the other league a few days early. If you’ve been saving your FAAB dollars for NL imports in your AL-only league or AL imports in your NL-only league, this is the week you’ve been waiting for.
AL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
The outfielder formerly known as B.J. is the first of this week’s players who are too good to be featured in the Deep League Report unless they switch leagues. The funny thing about Melvin Upton is that at the start of this season, he would have fit right in with the reserve players and platoon players that usually populate this column. He was coming off a decent half-season in San Diego after two-and-a-half truly awful seasons split between San Diego and Atlanta and he wasn’t expected to be an everyday player for the Padres back in April. Since then, though, he has shown that his second half resurgence last year wasn’t a fluke. So far this year, he has posted a .252/.299/.431 line with 16 home runs, 20 stolen bases, 45 RBI, and 47 runs.
Now a member of the Blue Jays, Upton should be in line for a decent amount of playing time, but maybe a little less than he was getting in San Diego. Initial reports indicate that he’ll be on the bad side of a platoon with Justin Smoak, but I think he’ll play more than that. In addition to his rediscovered offensive value, he’s still good defensively in an outfield corner. Toronto is currently playing Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders in their outfield corners, two guys who have been injury prone throughout their careers. I suspect that before long, the thoroughly mediocre Smoak will end up on the bench most nights with Edwin Encarnacion at first base, Upton in an outfield corner, and either Bautista or Saunders at DH in an effort to keep them upright and intact.
Upton will probably be the best power-speed combination available for bidding in AL-only leagues. If that combo is your biggest need, go big with your bid. Don’t be afraid to spend eighty to ninety percent of your remaining FAAB on him. Otherwise, you end up with a ton of FAAB left at the end of the season or you’ll overpay for guys like the ones listed in as Other Options in this section. Neither of those options are as attractive as making an aggressive bid on Justin’s big brother.
Guillermo Heredia is a Cuban defector signed by the Mariners during spring training this year. As you know, data from the Cuban League is wildly variable, but he was widely regarded as one of the top position players there. The problem is that before he signed with Seattle, he hadn’t played in the Cuban League or any other league since the end of the 2013 season. The long layoff prompted Seattle to make sure that he was major-league ready, assigning him to Double-A to start the season. In 58 Double-A games, Heredia hit .293/.405/.376, earning a promotion to Triple-A where he hit .340/.385/.462 in 26 games before being summoned by the big league club.
He doesn’t have much power or a clear path to playing time, but it sure looks like he can hit. He’s probably more of a next-year play than a this-year play unless Seattle loses a few outfielders to the DL or trades them away. However, if the 25-year-old keeps hitting like he did in the high minors and his glove is as good as its reputation, he could end up playing more frequently a month from now than it looks like he will. He’s worth a small bid in deep keeper leagues but probably won’t play enough to merit a bid in deep redraft leagues.
Prior to this season, Bruce Maxwell hadn’t hit much. This is the entire writeup for Maxwell in the 2016 BP Annual: “Bruce Maxwell keeps throwing out baserunners in his quest to be the thief-stopping caddy to an offense-oriented catcher, but even backups have to hit a little bit.” This year, he started to hit in Triple-A, and more than a little bit. In 219 plate appearances in Nashville, he hit .321/.393/.539 with ten home runs. If he can keep that up in Oakland, he could be the starting offense-oriented catcher himself while continuing to throw out baserunners.
He might be back in the minors as soon as Tuesday, the earliest Stephen Vogt could be return from the family leave list. In deep redraft leagues, that makes him a poor option for FAAB dollars. However, in deep keeper leagues, Maxwell is worth a stash bid since the A’s have shown a willingness to move the defensively challenged Vogt to 1B or DH and Josh Phegley isn’t a long-term solution.
He’s not an ace or anything close to one, but he’s worth starting in deep leagues, especially since he’s now pitching for the probably-playoff-bound Rangers. Newly imported from the NL by way of Atlanta, Lucas Harrell is a back-end starter who doesn’t quite strike out enough batters and issues too many walks. Still, wins and average-ish innings from starting pitchers are hard to come by in deep leagues. If Harrell hadn’t been imported from the NL, he would have already been taken in deep AL-only leagues. He’s definitely worth a few bucks if you need starts or innings, but don’t go too big since his strikeouts and rate stats won’t help you enough to merit more than a small percentage of your remaining FAAB.
He won’t be closing games for the Blue Jays unless something happens to Roberto Osuna, but he has stabilized the eighth inning for Toronto since he was acquired from Atlanta. His performance was rough to start the season but has improved each month. His ERA went from 6.75 in April to 4.00 in May, 2.79 in June, and 2.00 in July while his WHIP went from 2.25 to 1.22 to 1.45 to 0.44 over the course of the same few months. He should be able to contribute to your team in deep AL-only leagues with his 13.1 K/9 and his rate stats. If you need a stable non-closing relief option, Grilli is worth a buck or two, maybe even three in holds leagues.
Activated from the DL on July 22, Jake Diekman has reverted to form, allowing no runs, one hit, and one walk while striking out four across five appearances and 4.7 innings. He’s a good, safe option in deep AL-only leagues for good rate stats and strikeout numbers. With regards to his rate stats, he’s having the best season of his career, posting a 2.39 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. If you’re protecting a lead in ERA or WHIP by a slim margin, Diekman is a much better bet than a spot start from the type of starter available in the free agent pool in deep AL-only leagues. And if your league counts holds, by all means, snatch him up ASAP.
NL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
He’s in the middle of what will almost definitely be his career year, hitting .296/.325/.439 with 12 home runs and 27 stolen bases for the Twins before being traded last week to the Giants. He’ll be an every day player for as long as Matt Duffy remains on the DL, which could be another 1-3 weeks. Once Duffy returns, Nunez is likely to become a utility player, although he’ll probably play a little more than most utility guys even if the San Francisco infield stays healthy through the end of the season due to the skills he brings to the table and his ability to play just about anywhere on the diamond. He’s worth a sizeable bid in deep NL-only leagues, somewhere in the neighborhood of half of your remaining FAAB due to his broad base of skills and his positional flexibility. Be careful bidding more than that, though, since he has several years of major-league mediocrity on his resume prior to 2016.
He doesn’t have an everyday role with the Pirates and he has virtually no home run power, averaging one home run per season over his four-year professional career across all levels. Adam Frazier can still provide a decent amount of value in deep NL-only leagues, though. He has stolen 20 bases between Triple-A and the majors so far this year and could easily steal six to eight more by the end of the season. He has also made significant strides with the bat this year, hitting .333/.401/.425 in 299 plate appearances in Triple-A and .372/.413/.605 in 46 plate appearances with the big-league club.
That major league line is obviously unsustainable—the 24-year-old doesn’t project as a future MVP. What that line will do is get him a lot more plate appearances over the next few weeks than he would have gotten if he was hitting below the Mendoza Line. Manager Clint Hurdle has already played Frazier at second base, third base, left field, and right field, and he’ll keep finding ways to get Frazier in the lineup for at least a few more weeks due to his scorching hot start. He’s worth a buck or two in deep NL-only redraft leagues and a couple more in keeper leagues.
Aaron Altherr was expected to be the Phillies everyday right fielder coming into the season. That plan was derailed when he tore a tendon in his left wrist in March and missed the first four months of the season. Activated last week, he has reclaimed his role as the starting right fielder in Philadelphia. He offers a promising combination of power and speed to roto owners. If he can post even a mediocre batting average, he should be more than useful in deep NL-only leagues. The fact that he plays good defense should give him a longer leash than a bat-only corner outfielder, too. Feel free to bid a decent chunk of your remaining FAAB on the 25-year-old if he’s available, somewhere around ten to twenty percent of it. Add a few bucks to that in keeper leagues.
You know who Joe Nathan is. He’s 41 years old and has 377 saves. Last week, he made his season debut for the Cubs. So far, he’s been electric: 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP with four strikeouts, one walk, one hit, and a win in two innings across two games. At best, he’s the third option for saves on the north side of Chicago, but if he keeps mowing down batters like this, he’ll provide plenty of value in deep NL-only leagues via the strikeout, ERA and WHIP categories, and he’ll provide a little extra value in leagues with a holds category.
You know who Aroldis Chapman is, too. He throws really hard, he strikes a lot of guys out, and he doesn’t allow many baserunners or runs. Acquired for a king’s ransom of prospects from the Yankees, he steps right into the closer’s role for the Cubs. He’s obviously too good to be available as a free agent in any leagues besides NL-only ones, and he’s only available in those leagues because he wasn’t in the NL until he was traded.
There aren’t many closers worth the vast majority of your remaining FAAB, but the 28-year-old with the 105 MPH fastball is one of them. He might even be the only one. And for what it’s worth, I got him in my deep NL-only league for $70 of my remaining $84. The next two highest bids were $66 and $63. I probably don’t need to tell you to go get him, but in case I do, go get him.
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