Unlike a week ago, there are no big names or hot prospects in this week’s Deep League Report, just the usual collection of players on the bad side of platoons, backups and non-closing relievers. Feels like home. Come on in, I’ll pour you a drink and turn on one of the West Coast games.
AL-only position players
Activated from the 10-day DL late this past week, Rickard should get a fair amount of playing time in left field for the Orioles against left-handed starters. He offers some stolen-base potential in deeper leagues. Considering the quick hook that Baltimore has had with Hyun Soo Kim in the past, it wouldn’t take much of a slump for Rickard to get starts against righties. The bigger threat to Rickard’s playing time might be Trey Mancini, who started the season hot but has cooled off considerably over the past few weeks.
He doesn’t have a lot of power, but Gamel brings a little bit of everything else to the table for roto owners. The 24-year-old hit .308/.365/.420 in Triple A a year ago, with six home runs, 19 steals, 51 RBIs and 80 runs scored in 533 plate appearances. He has a clear shot at playing time in Seattle for the next 3-4 weeks while Mitch Haniger is sidelined with an oblique injury. At a minimum, he should steal some bases and score some runs. He will also draw some walks, so add a buck or two to your bid in OBP leagues.
With a career .217/.253/.289 line in the majors, Sucre is a fairly typical defense-first, light-hitting backup catcher. What makes him interesting in deep leagues is the fact that the starter ahead of him at Tampa Bay, Derek Norris, has struggled through the first month, hitting a meager .192/.228/.274 in 21 games. Sucre’s offensive numbers are a little better this year than they have been in past seasons, but there is little reason to believe that the 29-year-old has taken a step forward with the bat. There is, however, reason to think that he’ll take playing time away from Norris as long as he continues to struggle. More playing time means more counting stats, and counting stats are hard to come by in deep leagues.
After putting up a solid season with the Mariners in 2016, Vincent has been even better this season. The 30-year-old has a 2.25 ERA and a 0.67 WHIP with 10 strikeouts and two walks in 12 innings. He could also be first in line for saves if Edwin Diaz stumbles in the closer’s role or is deployed in an unconventional way, costing him traditional save opportunities. Even without the saves, though, Vincent is a good middle relief option in deep leagues.
A month into the 2017 season, it’s getting hard to ignore the numbers being posted by Swarzak. The 31-year-old has a 0.00 ERA and a 0.32 WHIP with 14 strikeouts and one walk in 12 1/3 innings with the White Sox so far. He has added a tick to his fastball velocity in each of the past two years, and it looks like the velocity bump is helping. Given his role as a multi-inning reliever, Swarzak is one of the least-likely options for saves in the bullpen for the South Siders, but the extra innings he gets from throwing more than an inning at a time will help him rack up more strikeouts than he would as a one-inning reliever.
The most notable thing Barnes has done this year is throw behind Manny Machado’s head, an act that earned him a four-game suspension. Having served it, the 26-year-old returned to the Boston bullpen Sunday and threw a scoreless inning against the Cubs. His 4.9 BB/9 is a little high, but he strikes out a batter per inning and sports a 3.27 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP as Boston’s primary setup man. He’s worth a modest bid in deep AL-only leagues.
NL-only position players
Unless I’m forgetting someone, Blash is the first player to make a repeat appearance in the Deep League Report this year. The first time I wrote him up, I said that he could it some homers, draw some walks and strike out a ton if he could find some playing time. Well, he didn’t find that playing time and was sent to Triple A shortly after that column was posted. The injury to Travis Jankowski opened up playing time for Blash, who was promoted and has been getting the majority of starts in left field for the Padres since his recall. He hasn’t started hitting yet, but he’s been drawing plenty of walks. His competition for playing time in left field in San Diego isn’t very stiff, but if he can’t bring his average up soon, he could start to lose playing time to Rule 5 pick Allen Cordoba and the motley crew of backup outfielders and utility infielders that populate the bottom half of the Padres’ 25-man roster.
The season-ending injury to Adam Eaton has left Taylor at the top of the depth chart at center field for the Nationals. The 26-year-old is a legitimate stolen-base threat who could easily hit double-digit homers if he played every day for a full season. The issue with Taylor is contact, as he has yet to post a strikeout rate below 30 percent in any of his four seasons in the majors. Those contact issues keep him from posting decent batting averages—his subpar .231 mark a year ago was a career high. He plays great defense in center field and doesn’t face much competition from anyone on Washington’s current roster, so he should have a fairly long leash unless his team decides to make a deal.
Injuries to David Freese and Adam Frazier left the Pirates short-staffed in the infield. Ngoepe got the call, reaching the majors for the first time in his eight-year professional career and becoming the first African-born major leaguer in baseball history. The 27-year-old isn’t much of a hitter, posting a .217/.289/.355 line in Triple-A in 102 games a season ago, but he’s a whiz defensively at any infield position, which could earn him more playing time and give him more of an opportunity to compile counting stats. His hot start could earn him extra playing time, too—he’s hitting .444 through his first four games. Don’t expect much from him as a fantasy player given his offensive limitations and the fact that he’s unlikely to remain in the majors once Freese and Frazier return from the DL, but feel free to bid a buck if you need help in the infield and are willing to gamble.
No longer a closer, Rosenthal is trying to get his career back on track as a middle reliever in St. Louis. The 26-year-old is doing a pretty good job of it, posting a 3.68 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP with 15 strikeouts and two walks in 7 1/3 innings. The fact that he’s striking out more than two batters per inning is eye-popping, but the most important number is his walk total, which translates to a 2.5 BB/9. Walks were his undoing last season, so the fact that he is posting an above-average walk rate is encouraging going forward. If he can keep his walk rate low, he’ll be an asset in deep NL-only leagues.
After a rough season in the Rockies’ rotation, the veteran lefty is being used exclusively as a reliever for the first time in over a decade. The early returns are good—he has a 2.53 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP with 12 strikeouts and two walks in 10 2/3 innings with the Diamondbacks. The 36-year-old has quickly become one of the most-reliable options in the Arizona bullpen, and that should give him plenty of opportunities to strike batters out without hurting your roto team’s rate stats.
The closer carousel is whipping around at breakneck speed in Philadelphia after Hector Neris’ three-homer meltdown in Los Angeles over the weekend. As a human with a pulse in the Phillies’ bullpen, Ramos has as much of a chance at being the closer a few months from now as anyone else. His 4.76 ERA and 1.32 WHIP aren’t pretty, but his underlying stats suggest that he has been a bit unlucky. In 11 1/3 innings, he has struck out 15 and walked four. He can help roto teams in deep NL-only leagues via his strikeouts and his rate stats, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him get some saves before long if the relievers ahead of him on the depth chart keep coughing up late-inning leads.