Finally. Baseball is back. No need for a lengthy introduction. Let’s get this Deep League Report rolling.


Jacob May (OF)—White Sox

Starting position players don’t appear too often in the Deep League Report because starters, usually, already are owned in deep AL-only and NL-only leagues. May is probably the most-unlikely starter in the American League this April, so he makes the cut. If it wasn’t for a foot injury to Charlie Tilson, May might not have even made the Opening Day roster. With Tilson shelved until late May at the earliest, May should have a pretty long leash in center for the White Sox. He’ll bat ninth rather than leading off, at least to start the season. As a roto player, he has little power and is unlikely to have a batting average north of .270, but he has shown a lot of speed in the minors: 37 steals in 2014, 38 steals in 2015 and 19 steals in 2016 in only 83 games.

Abraham Almonte (OF)—Cleveland

With Lonnie Chisenhall on the DL with a shoulder injury, Almonte will get the bulk of playing time as the lefty-hitting side of a platoon opposite Brandon Guyer. Almonte showed a little home-run power a few years ago in the minors but it hasn’t translated to the major leagues, where he has only 11 homers in 233 career games. He can still run a little, though, and should be able to throw in a few steals while racking up some runs and RBI until Chisenhall returns to Cleveland’s lineup.

Mikie Mahtook (OF)—Tigers

Like the first two players in this section, Mahtook is making an appearance here as an injury fill-in for a regular starter. In this case, the ailing starter is J.D. Martinez. Mahtook and Tyler Collins are expected to split time in right field while Martinez is out, but Mahtook should get most of the playing time despite that he bats right-handed, while Collins bats lefty. The 26-year-old Texan impressed in his major-league debut in Tampa in 2015, hitting .295/.351/.619 in 41 games with nine home runs and four steals. He took a step backward a year ago with the Rays, hitting .195/.231/.292 in 65 games, with only three homers and no steals. As a roto player, he offers a tempting combination of power and speed, although he also presents a significant batting-average risk. He also barely ran in 2016, casting some doubt on his stolen-base potential going forward. He offers more upside than Collins, but he offers more downside, too. Take a flier on Mahtook but be ready to send him back into the free-agent pool if he can’t post a batting average that’s significantly better than his previous result.

Other Options: Paulo Orlando, Ronald Torreyes, Guillermo Heredia


Bruce Rondon—Tigers

He’s been around for a while, so it feels like Rondon should be older than 26. Some quick fact-checking proved that it’s true—the big righty won’t turn 27 until December. He still throws really hard, although maybe a tick or two slower than he did when he made his debut with the Tigers in 2013. That slight decrease in velocity might be strategic, rather than a sign that the Venezuelan just can’t throw as hard as he could a few years ago. Rondon was a lot more useful a year ago than he ever had been before in the majors, and it was mostly due to the fact that he lowered his BB/9 from 5.5 in 2015 to 3.0 in 2016. He threw only 36 1/3 innings, but if he can sustain that improvement in his walk rate, while posting a K/9 over 10.0, there will be calls for Rondon to displace Francisco Rodriguez and his ninth-inning tightrope act before too long.

Nate Jones—White Sox

As David Robertson’s setup man on the South Side of Chicago a year ago, Jones was fantastic, posting a 2.29 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP, while the closer scuffled with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. Robertson had 37 saves but blew seven for the second-consecutive year, as his BB/9 ballooned from 1.9 to 4.6, his worst mark since 2011. Conversely, Jones posted a 1.9 BB/9 and a 10.2 K/9 in a career year. If the rebuilding White Sox deal Robertson or if he struggles again in the closer’s role, the 31-year-old Kentuckian would be the clear first choice for saves. Even without the saves, he offers a lot of value to roto owners via his strikeouts and rate stats.

Jason Grilli—Blue Jays

A neck injury to Roberto Osuna has opened the door for Grilli to pick up saves in the short term. It’s not clear how long Osuna will be out, so it’s not clear how long the 40-year-old will occupy the role before the 22-year-old returns to action. It doesn’t seem like Osuna will be sidelined for too long, though, so don’t expect an extended run of saves from Grilli. Hope for a handful and ditch him as soon as it seems like Osuna is back to form.

Other Options: Luke Gregerson, Sean Doolittle, Andrew Bailey


Tony Wolters (C)—Rockies

A spring-training injury to Tom Murphy gave Wolters an unobstructed shot at the starting catcher job in Colorado for the first few weeks of the season. Once Murphy returns, the two are expected to split time behind the plate, so Wolters’ usefulness won’t expire when Murphy returns. The 24-year-old Wolters hit .259/.327/.395 in 230 plate appearances in his major-league debut, making a good impression on his team if not making the enormous splash that Gary Sanchez did in the Bronx around the same time. Alongside the three homers he hit in the majors a season ago, Wolters also stole four bases, so he could chip in with a few more steals in the early going this year, something that’s not too common among catchers. Since his playing time isn’t expected to dry up when Murphy is activated, Wolters holds a little more value than most of the injury fill-ins listed this week. The fact that he plays half of his games in Colorado doesn’t hurt, either.

Andrew Toles (OF)—Dodgers

Toles sat out the entire 2015 season after topping out in High-A in 2014. A season ago, he started in High-A and blew through Double-A and Triple-A by midseason. He landed in Los Angeles with the Dodgers in July and just kept hitting. Take a look at his lines from High-A through the majors a year ago:





















The 24-year-old stole 24 bases across all levels this past season, giving him a fair amount of value in the current low-steal environment. While he hit 10 home runs between the minors and the majors, power is the least-developed part of his game right now. He should be considered more of a steals, runs and average play for the time being. But don’t be surprised by anything he does, especially at the plate.

Derek Dietrich (IF/OF)—Marlins

Starting third baseman Martin Prado is expected to miss most if not all of April with a hamstring injury suffered while playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic in March. Dietrich will get most of the playing time at third in Prado’s absence. Dietrich is coming off a solid season with the Marlins in which he hit .279/.374/.425 in 412 plate appearances across 128 games, with seven home runs, 39 runs scored, 42 RBI and one stolen base. He doesn’t offer much in terms of homers or steals, but he can hit and get on base, so he should be able to contribute to roto teams in average and in runs. His 7.8 percent walk rate also gives him a little added value in OBP leagues. Come to think of it, the low home-run and stolen-bases totals combined with the ability to hit for average and get on base make his profile fairly similar to that of the guy he’s replacing.

Other Options: Tucker Barnhart, Hernan Perez, Aaron Altherr


Hector Neris—Phillies

With strikeout stuff and a shaky closer in front of him, Neris might be the most-popular closer-in-waiting in fantasy circles. Jeanmar Gomez posted a 6.2 K/9 this past season, which seems almost impossibly low for a closer in today’s high-strikeout environment. Gomez survives by getting a lot of ground balls, but that makes him susceptible to swings in batted-ball luck. Should Gomez stumble, Neris is the clear first option to replace him after a 2016 season in which he leaned on his splitter to post a 2.58 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP in 80 1/3 innings, with a whopping 102 strikeouts and 30 walks. The strikeouts and rate stats make Neris valuable in deep NL-only leagues regardless of his role, but he’s also as good of a bet as any set-up man in the game to get a shot at the closer’s gig at some point in 2017.

Shawn Kelley—Nationals

Abut a month ago, I wrote a fantasy profile of Kelley. I don’t want to plagiarize myself, so I’ll just direct you there while noting that, as I suspected, Dusty Baker chose someone other than Kelley to be the Nationals closer to start the season. For now, Blake Treinen will be getting the saves in Washington. Keep an eye on how things shake out because Kelley will be on the short list of replacements should Treinen falter.

Koda Glover

Like Shawn Kelley, Glover is waiting in the Washington bullpen if Blake Treinen struggles in the closer’s job. Throughout spring training, Glover was considered the front runner for the job, so the selection of Treinen was a bit of a surprise. The soon-to-be 24-year-old Glover is a 6’5” righty sporting a classic short-reliever two-pitch mix. His fastball clocks in at 98 MPH while his slider comes in around 91 MPH. He also has a low-80s curveball he throws less than 10 percent of the time, along with a mid-80s changeup he threw only twice a year ago. If he can get his K/9 a little higher than the 7.3 mark he posted as a rookie a season ago while keeping his BB/9 within spitting distance of 3.0, he could pose a serious threat to the Treinen’s job security.

Other Options: Edubray Ramos, Joaquin Benoit, Corey Knebel

Thank you for reading

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I'm glad to see this column back, but dig deeper, please. These players are all very much owned in my AL-Only and NL-Only leagues.
To start the season, there's just not gonna be much here.