Hitters on the bad side of a platoon and lots of non-closing relievers—the Deep League Report has settled into midseason form a little earlier than expected.
AL-only position players
Spending significant parts of four-consecutive seasons in Triple A seems like a good way to get tagged as a quad-A player. Davidson has done just that, but you wouldn’t know it from his .355/.364/.742 line with the White Sox so far. He’s currently on the bad side of a platoon with Cody Asche, but if Davidson can keep hitting and Cody Asche keeps on being Cody Asche, he’ll start getting a lot more playing time.
A few years ago, the idea of playing Decker in center field would have raised a few eyebrows. He was viewed as a bat-first player who was stretched defensively as a corner outfielder. He’s improved defensively, but he still has managed to accumulate only 283 plate appearances in the majors at age 27. As a hitter, he has a lot of patience and a good eye, so he should get on base at a decent clip. He stole 19 bases a year ago between Triple A and the majors, so he could chip in with a few steals, as well. And if he keeps hitting, Rajai Davis and/or Matt Joyce will have to start—or else they’ll find themselves behind Decker on the depth chart in short order. If you’re in an OBP league, add an extra buck or two to whatever you would have bid in an AVG league.
He’s 33 years old and has never been an everyday player in the majors, but Gentry could be useful this year in deep leagues. He brings two things to the table that the Orioles conspicuously lack: speed and excellent outfield defense. What he has never done is hit enough to play every day, although he has been good against lefties throughout his career. His glove will get him a little more playing time than other fourth outfielders, thanks to the subpar defenders than Baltimore pencils into the lineup most days, and his legs will get him plenty of pinch-running appearances. If you need steals in a deep AL-only league, Gentry is worth a speculative FAAB bid.
One of the biggest surprises from spring training was the Yankees naming Montgomery to the rotation. The big lefty has looked like he belongs through his first two starts, striking out 11 and walking four over 10 2/3 innings, posting a 4.22 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP and a win. The 24-year-old won’t have a long leash considering his age and relative lack of experience above High A, but if he can hold down a rotation spot in the Bronx, and the young Yankees hitters keep hitting, he could deliver a few wins to the first owner to gamble a buck or two on him.
I’m having a hard time finding a reliever with a better line than Putnam’s. He has a 0.00 ERA and a 0.29 WHIP with eight strikeouts and no walks over seven innings for the White Sox. He’s clearly the third option for the ninth behind David Robertson and Nate Jones, so don’t expect any saves. If you need strikeouts and help lowering your rate stats though, Putnam is about as good of an option as you’re likely to find in deep AL-only leagues. For what it’s worth, I picked him up for $1 in FAAB in my AL-only league Sunday night, and I’m pretty happy about it.
A surprise demotion coming out of spring training due to attitude issues, Kela has rejoined the Rangers bullpen. Under normal circumstances, Kela would have been exiled to Triple A for a few more weeks, or relegated to mop-up work with the big-league club as a result of his behavior in March. However, given the disastrous state of the Texas relief corps, Kela could pitch his way into a high-leverage role in short order. Even if he doesn’t end up getting any saves, he’ll rack up tons of strikeouts.
NL-only position players
The broken clavicle that sent Jarrett Parker to the DL has opened up a fair amount of playing time for Marrero in left field for the Giants. The 28-year-old will be splitting time with Gorkys Hernandez, who brings better defense but less offensive potential. Marrero hit .284/.344/.494 at triple-A Pawtucket a year ago with 23 home runs in 131 games, so he could bring some pop and other counting stats to your team while Parker recovers. He didn’t even attempt to steal a base in those 131 games in Pawtucket, though, so don’t expect help there.
A 21-year-old Rule-5 pick who hadn’t played above rookie ball, Cordoba wasn’t expected to play much this season as the Padres tried to stash him on the major-league roster so they could retain his rights. It looks like he’ll be getting more than a handful of plate appearances; he has appeared in nine games so far, posting a .417/.500/.667 line that practically demands more opportunities. With the 33-year-old Erick Aybar ahead of him on the depth chart, there isn’t much standing between Cordoba and regular playing time, considering he spent all of the past season in rookie ball.
Called up when starting shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria hit the DL, Riddle has been backing up Miguel Rojas. Riddle hasn’t done much with the bat so far, but Rojas isn’t exactly a proven commodity either, so it wouldn’t take much more than a hot week for Riddle to leapfrog up the ladder. The 25-year-old’s time in the majors could be short, though, as Hechavarria is expected to return to the Marlins’ lineup by early next week at the latest. Riddle doesn’t have much power or steal many bases, but he has made decent contact throughout his minor-league career, which could bode well for his future.
Before this season, Torres had appeared in only 10 games above High A. Despite his lack of experience in the upper minors, the 23-year-old made the Padres roster out of spring training on the strength of a 16-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 10 innings. He has impressed in the early going with a 3.38 ERA and a 0.50 WHIP in eight innings, with 11 strikeouts and no walks. Given the lack of prominent names in the San Diego bullpen, the hard-throwing lefty could find himself in a high-leverage role soon while providing lots of strikeouts and good rate stats along the way.
The Phillies started the season with Jeanmar Gomez as their closer. He promptly relinquished the role, allowing seven earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, allowing Joaquin Benoit a shot at saves in Philadelphia. Like Gomez before him, Benoit promptly blew a save, opening the door for, well, pretty much anyone else in the bullpen. Neshek is one of those anyone elses, and unlike most of his colleagues, he’s performing well, posting a 0.00 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP across 5 2/3 innings, with four strikeouts and two walks. The veteran submariner probably isn’t even one of the next two options for saves behind Benoit, but he should be a useful option for roto owners looking for decent rate stats from non-closers. Given the disarray in the Phillies bullpen ahead of him, saves could be in play at some point, too.
Off to a strong start, Strickland clearly is the top setup man behind Mark Melancon in San Francisco. The 28-year-old hasn’t yielded a run yet in 5 2/3 innings, striking out seven while allowing only two hits and two walks. He should continue to strike out plenty of batters and post good rate stats behind Melancon, and would be the first option for saves should the incumbent closer pitch himself out of the role or hit the DL.