The hitting options in this week’s Deep League Report are thin, especially in the AL. The pitching is pretty interesting, though, particularly on the AL side, where there are several relievers with double-digit K/9 potential. Beyond that, there’s a recently traded outfielder who’s been getting a lot of playing time in his new home, a hitter on the wrong side of a platoon who hasn’t been good since 2015 and a starting pitcher filling in on a team that’s close to a lock for the playoffs. OK, no more spoilers. Just keep reading.
AL-only position players
He has very little power, never hitting double-digit home runs in a season throughout his professional career. Freeman has shown a knack for posting .300-plus batting averages in the high minors over the past few seasons, though, including .404/.451/.553 line at Triple-A Tacoma this season. He can steal a few bases, too, although his speed now is more of the 10-12 stolen bases per full-season variety, down from the 25-30 steal seasons he posted in High A and Double A a few years ago. He hasn’t done much with the bat so far in his 55 major-league plate appearances, but with Robinson Cano banged up, he could be in line for a little more playing time than he would be otherwise.
Daniel Roger Robertson—Indians
The injury to Abraham Almonte opened up some playing time for Robertson in the Cleveland outfield, but the call-up of Bradley Zimmer probably soaks up most of it. At 31 years old, Robertson isn’t a prospect, but he can steal a few bases and can play all three outfield spots. He’s only worth a look in the deepest of deep AL-only leagues, but if you’re in one of those and looking to scrape a steal or two out of the free agent pool, think about spending a buck on Robertson. Try not to confuse him with Daniel Ray Robertson of the Rays (profiled in the Deep League Report a week ago).
He hasn’t done much at the plate this year, posting a .207/.233/.276 line over 30 plate appearances and earning himself a three-week demotion to Triple A in the process. The 28-year-old is back in the majors and back on the bad side of a platoon with Matt Joyce in right field. Despite his struggles, Canha isn’t that far removed from his 2015 season when he hit .254/.315/.426 with 16 home runs, 70 RBI, 61 runs and 7 stolen bases in 485 plate appearances. He’s worth a dollar or two of your FAAB budget as a bet that he returns to something close to his 2015 form.
Pazos was one of the three non-closing relievers I picked up via FAAB in my deep AL-only league Sunday night. The 26-year-old has a 2.65 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP with 22 strikeouts and eight walks in 17 innings with the Mariners this year, making himself one of the more reliable options in the Seattle bullpen. And with Edwin Diaz recently removed from the closer’s role, you don’t have to squint to see a scenario where the big southpaw starts picking up some saves, especially if the opposing team has a few lefties due to bat in the ninth inning.
In addition to Pazos and James Hoyt (profiled a week ago in the Deep League Report), a third non-closing reliever I added was Wahl, a tall righty in the Oakland bullpen with a mid-90s fastball and a strikeout rate that reaches well into double digits. The 25-year-old posted a 1.93 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP with 14 strikeouts and four walks in 9.3 innings in Triple-A before making his major league debut with the A’s. In 3.7 innings in the bigs, Wahl has a 4.91 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP with five strikeouts and two walks. He should post big strikeout numbers if he sticks in the major league bullpen, and I think he’s a decent bet to stay in Oakland for a while.
Danny Barnes—Blue Jays
The Blue Jays don’t seem inclined to give Barnes much in the way of high-leverage innings, and don’t seem likely to keep him with the big club for much longer. It’s hard to see why, though, especially after the stellar minor-league numbers he posted last season. In 2016, he had a 1.01 ERA and a 0.60 WHIP with 40 strikeouts and four walks in 35.7 innings in Double A followed by a 0.35 ERA and a 0.32 WHIP with 37 strikeouts and two walks in 25 2/3 innings in Triple A. His numbers in the majors a year ago were pedestrian, but he did enough to get himself added to the playoff roster. The righty’s fastball tops out in the low-90s, which might explain Toronto’s reluctance to allocate regular innings to him in the majors. At some point, though, the numbers in the strikeout and walk columns matter more than the numbers on the radar gun. He’s currently sporting a 1.35 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP with 13 strikeouts and three walks in 13 1/3 innings with the Blue Jays this year. If he keeps that up, the team will find innings for him.
NL-only position players
Since the Padres acquired him last week from the Cubs, Szczur has started every game. That was kind of a fluke, though: The Padres had back-to-back series in AL parks after acquiring the 27-year-old, allowing them to bat a DH in each of those games. He should continue to play fairly regularly, though, since Hunter Renfroe’s stat line is pretty bad—despite his recent hot streak—and since Cory Spangenberg is still Cory Spangenberg. The Cape May native’s ability to play all three outfield spots credibly, and that he started his tenure in San Diego on a hot streak should translate into a decent amount of playing time in the short- and medium-term.
The injury to A.J. Pollock means Fuentes and Gregor Blanco will split time in center field for Arizona for the time being. Both players bat left-handed, so they can’t be deployed in a platoon. The veteran Blanco will probably get most of the playing time in center at first, but a hot start from the former top-prospect Fuentes would force the Diamondbacks to give him a bigger share of the job in Pollock’s absence. For what it’s worth, the 26-year-old was tearing up Triple A this year prior to his call-up, hitting .376/.403/.481 with no homers, 13 RBIs, 25 runs scored and nine steals in 144 plate appearances. The best-case scenario for him in the majors would be along the same lines: a good average with lots of runs and steals. Just don’t expect him to contribute in HR or RBI.
The injury to Denard Span allowed Hernandez to play nearly every day in center field in San Francisco. He didn’t do much with the opportunity, posting a .172/.250/.230 line in 96 plate appearances so far. The only thing that kept him in the lineup was the Giants simply didn’t have anyone else on their roster who could legitimately play center field. Span returned from the DL recently, relegating Hernandez to the bench most days, limiting him to a role as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement. Given the way the Giants have struggled to keep outfielders healthy, though, it wouldn’t take much to get Hernandez playing again soon.
After more than a hundred games finished with no saves prior to 2017, Albers has picked up two saves this season with the Nationals—to the delight of Effectively Wild listeners everywhere. He has been the best pitcher in the Washington bullpen, posting a 0.61 ERA and a 0.55 WHIP with 13 strikeouts and one walk in 14 2/3 innings. Given his performance and the struggles of nearly every other reliever who Dusty Baker has at his disposal, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Albers pick up a lot more saves over the course of the rest of the season. Even if he doesn’t, though, he should be an asset in deep NL-only leagues for his rate stats alone.
The good news is that Law is filling in as closer for the Giants while Mark Melancon is on the DL. The bad news is that Melancon is expected to be activated from the DL on Friday. Law being San Francisco’s first choice for saves behind Melancon means that they trust him, though, which is a good thing, especially if Melancon ends up back on the DL or is traded at the deadline. The 26-year-old doesn’t need the saves to be worth a buck or two out of your FAAB budget, though, since he’s a good bet to provide decent rate stats while striking out roughly a batter per inning.
Called up to replace Brett Anderson in the rotation, Butler could stick with the Cubs for a while. Anderson is about as injury prone as a pitcher can be, and his awful 8.18 ERA and 2.09 WHIP don’t have the reigning World Series champs desperate to get him back into the rotation. A former top prospect, the 26-year-old Butler has looked reborn outside the unfriendly confines of Colorado, posting a 1.17 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP with 17 strikeouts and eight walks in 30 2/3 innings in Triple A, and throwing six shutout innings in one start with the big-league club so far. It wouldn’t take much for Butler to hold onto his rotation spot once Anderson is ready to return from the DL, and he’s already got one excellent performance under his belt. He’s worth an optimistic $3-4 FAAB bid in deep NL-only leagues, and maybe a little more for owners desperate to add starting pitching.