Injuries to prominent players such as Gary Sanchez, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Trea Turner have freed up playing time for some bench players. A closer lost his job, too, and the guy who is taking over isn’t the guy that most people thought it would be. Plus, the usual assortment of bullpen arms with good strikeout rates or a shaky closer ahead of them and hitters on the bad side of a platoon. It might be mid-April, but the Deep League Report is rounding into midseason form.
AL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
He wasn’t a lock to head north with the big club after spring training, but Guillermo Heredia made the Mariners roster. The 26-year-old Cuban is a plus defender at all three outfield spots with a good approach at the plate, but he doesn’t have much in the way of home-run power or stolen-base potential. He’s a fourth outfielder for now behind Leonys Martin, Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger, so he won’t get regular plate appearances for the time being, but Dyson and Haniger haven’t been everyday players in the majors before, so it’s not-too hard to imagine one of them struggling and Heredia getting a shot at a larger role. And note that he’s a better bet in OBP leagues than AVG leagues due to his plate discipline.
The injury to Sanchez has given Romine a shot at regular playing time behind the plate for the Yankees for around a month. He’s not much of a hitter with a career line of .219/.256/.324 in 371 plate appearances, but in deep AL-only leagues, a starter’s share of playing time is a big asset, even if the guy doing the hitting isn’t a particularly strong hitter. Kyle Higashioka was recalled to back up Romine, but he shouldn’t pose much of a threat to Romine’s playing time unless Romine really craters. Anecdotally, I bought Wilson Ramos in my AL-Only home league this past Saturday, giving me zero plate appearances for the first few months of the season at one of my catching slots. It made sense for me to pursue Romine to give me a good number of plate appearances at a slot that otherwise would be a dead one. I bid $6 of my $100 FAAB budget on Romine for this coming week and won him, causing me to do a little fist pump after the bids were processed. Deep AL-only and NL-only leagues make us do weird things.
The knee injury that landed Bradley on the DL has landed Chris Young a spot in the Boston lineup for as long as Bradley is out. So far, there is no timeline for Bradley’s return, so there’s no way to say how long the 33-year-old Young will be in the lineup. He has been a batting-average risk in the past but, to his credit, he has hit above .250 in each of the past two seasons. His speed on the base paths is mostly gone, but he still has a bit of home-run pop and will be hitting in a high-scoring Red Sox lineup. If you’re short on plate appearances, Young can help until Bradley gets back.
When he was added to the Astros roster at the start of the season, Peacock was expected to be a long reliever. So far, he has thrown 3 2/3 innings across three appearances, which isn’t terribly long. Those innings have been very good, as he’s currently posting a 0.00 ERA and a 0.55 WHIP with six strikeouts and two walks. He’s about as far down the list for saves in Houston as it gets, so don’t expect anything from him in that category, but he could be useful for rate stats and strikeouts going forward. Plus, writing about Peacock lets me link to this clip, which is nice.
The fact that Adam Warren can throw multiple innings per outing makes him a valuable asset to the Yankees out of their bullpen and makes him a valuable asset to his owners in deep AL-only leagues, too. Like Brad Peacock, he’s unlikely to get within spitting distance of saves. What Warren should do is post good rate stats and a decent number of strikeouts. Yes, I know that the 29-year-old has never struck out a batter per inning in a full season, but his ability to throw multiple innings and even pick up a spot start or two allow him to throw more innings than most relievers, enabling him to rack up K's. And for what it’s worth, he has a perfect 0.00 ERA and a perfect 0.00 WHIP with seven strikeouts (and no walks or hits, obviously) in six innings across three appearances.
The 4.50 ERA that Parker is sporting right now isn’t all that attractive, but the rest of his line is: a 0.75 WHIP with seven strikeouts and no walks in four innings out of the Angels bullpen. I watched him throw an inning during the first week of the season, and the batters he faced looked uncomfortable. I couldn’t tell if it was the movement on his pitches or his annoyingly twitchy pre-pitch routine that unsettled his opponents, but whatever it was, he looked like he was in complete command of each plate appearance. At 31 years old, the 6’3” righty is no rated rookie, but he could be helpful with rate stats and strikeouts in deep leagues for owners looking to fill in a vacancy on their staff via the free-agent pool. And given the uncertainty in the Angels’ bullpen, it isn’t difficult to imagine a scenario where Parker inherits the closer’s role a month or two from now thanks to his own hot start and the failings of the pitchers ahead of him on the depth chart.
NL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
The injury to Turner (along with another to Stephen Drew) means more playing time for Difo and in the short term. The 25-year-old Difo doesn’t have a lot of power, but he has legitimate speed and could pick up a handful of steals in short order before Turner returns. It looks like Turner won’t be out much longer, so don’t expect more than a week or two of starter’s playing time from Difo. If you could use some steals in the short term, though, Difo is a decent bet.
He doesn’t have regular playing time at second, shortstop or third with Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and David Freese starting, but none of those three are great bets to hit enough and stay healthy enough to keep Hanson on the bench all season. The 24-year-old doesn’t have much home-run power, but he has stolen more than 30 bases in four of the past five minor-league seasons. In the current low-steal environment, Hanson could swipe enough bags to be an asset in deep NL-only leagues, even if he spends the year as a utility infielder.
If you need power in a deep NL-only league, take a long look at Jabari Blash. Throughout his minor-league career, the 27-year-old has been a classic Three True Outcomes hitter, launching loads of home runs and drawing plenty of walks while striking out a ton. The 6’5” outfielder hasn’t gotten much playing time yet, but he could at least end up on the bad side of a platoon if any of the trio of young outfielders starting for the Padres struggle for an extended period of time. His walk rate makes him an appealing option in OBP leagues, but if he can’t get his career strikeout rate below 40 percent sometime soon, he won’t get a chance to draw many walks.
In the wake of Jeanmar Gomez’ implosion over the weekend, Joaquin Benoit was named the new closer in Philadelphia. The 39-year-old was a bit of a surprise selection over Hector Neris, who was stashed by many owners in deep leagues in their auctions. Benoit might have been selected as much for his guaranteed contract as he was for his pitching ability—each save racked up by the arbitration-eligible Neris would increase his probable salary in arbitration. This isn’t a problem with Benoit since he has a guaranteed contract. What matters for roto purposes is that Benoit will be getting the saves for Phillies for the foreseeable future, and that makes him pretty valuable in deep NL-only leagues, where saves are only available in the free-agent pool a few times per season. If you need a closer, you should feel comfortable bidding 30 to 40 percent of your FAAB on the veteran.
He picked up a save during the first week of the season, but Buchter isn’t the closer in San Diego. For now, anyway. The 30-year-old is currently the setup man behind Brandon Maurer and managed to pick up that save when Maurer was unavailable after pitching in each of the two previous games. The big lefty piles up lots of strikeouts, posting an 11.1 K/9 last season and a 12.3 K/9 in the early going this season. Maurer is far from a sure thing, so if he stumbles, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Buchter start racking up saves in addition to strikeouts despite the aversion that many teams have toward naming lefty closers.
A favorite of mine for the past few years, Kevin Siegrist is off to a poor start in St. Louis with a 19.29 ERA and a 3.43 WHIP in 2 2/3 innings after a disastrous outing against the Nationals in which he surrendered five runs in 1/3 of an inning. Walks always have been the most troublesome aspect of Siegrist’s profile and they have hurt him this year, as he has issued four already across three appearances. More troubling is that Siegrist hasn’t been striking out guys like he has in years past, with only one strikeout so far. With only 2 2/3 innings thrown, we probably can’t draw credible conclusions, and the safest bet would to assume that the 27-year-old will stabilize and return to the level he established over the previous two seasons. However, it just might be that I need to stop living in the past and entertain the possibility that one of my favorite non-closing relievers isn’t as good as he used to be.