Thanks to the trade deadline, the players in this week’s Deep League Report are a lot better than the usual crop of utility infielders and middle relievers. This week is when a disproportionately large amount of FAAB will and should be spent since players this good won’t end up in the free agent pool in deep AL-only and NL-only leagues again this year. If you’ve been saving your FAAB dollars, this is the week and these are the players you’ve been saving for. Go big and get the guys you want.
AL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
The trade of Jonathan Lucroy to the Rockies has left Robinson Chirinos as the starter behind the plate for the Rangers with Brett Nicholas as the backup. Nicholas has yet to do much at the plate in the majors, but he was having a great season in Triple-A prior to his callup, hitting .311/.353/.469 with seven homers and two steals in 293 plate appearances. Chirinos hasn’t done much with his playing time so far, either, so it wouldn’t take much for the catcher position to turn into a time share between the two. That would work in Nicholas’ favor since he hits lefty while Chirinos hits righty. There’s no need to bid more than $1 unless you have a dead spot at catcher and no better options to pursue.
The emergence of Derek Fisher didn’t leave much playing time for Norichika Aoki in the Houston outfield. That made the 35-year-old expendable, and sure enough, he was traded to the Blue Jays along with a prospect at the deadline for Francisco Liriano. The veteran corner outfielder won’t be a starter in Toronto, at least for the time being, but the three outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart have lengthy injury histories and Steve Pearce’s hot streak can’t last forever. His .272/.323/.371 line this season is down slightly from the .283/.349/.388 line he posted last season, but not enough to worry that his performance has dropped off a cliff. Bid a buck or two and hope that he finds his way into a little more playing time north of the border.
The season-ending injury to Carlos Correa locked Marwin Gonzalez into an everyday role, leaving an opening for a utility player in Houston. Enter Tyler White, who was promoted to fill this role. The 26-year-old is primarily a first baseman but has also played both second base and third base at the major league level. He was having a great season in Triple-A prior to his callup two weeks ago, hitting .299/.371/.517 with 19 home runs and three stolen bases in 408 plate appearances. White won’t be a starter in Houston, but there’s a good chance he’ll get a fair amount of playing time down the stretch as the Astros take advantage of their sizeable lead in the AL West and give their regulars some rest before the playoffs start. Bid $1 – $2 in deep AL-only leagues, especially if you need power or play in an OBP league.
Traded from the Phillies to the Orioles at the deadline, Jeremy Hellickson impressed in his first start with his new team, throwing seven scoreless innings with five hits, one walk and three strikeouts. Bucking leaguewide trends, his K/9 has dropped significantly from 7.3 last year to 5.2 this year. Similarly, his ERA has increased from 3.71 to 4.73 and his WHIP has increased from 1.15 to 1.26. Despite the fact that these numbers are all moving in the wrong direction, the 30-year-old still represents an improvement for Baltimore and its troubled rotation. He’s worth a $5 – $6 bid in deep AL-only leagues if you need innings.
Part of the deal that sent Trevor Cahill from San Diego to Kansas City, Ryan Buchter should be a valuable part of the Royals bullpen down the stretch. The big lefty is in the middle of a second consecutive solid season, posting a 2.88 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP with 48 strikeouts and 20 walks in 40.7 innings so far this year. That walk rate isn’t ideal, but his ability to miss bats allows him to limit hits while striking out tons of batters. If you need bullpen help in a deep AL-only league, bid $2 – $3.
With Craig Kimbrel securely installed as the closer on his new team, Addison Reed won’t be getting many more saves. However, he should be able to keep doing what he’s been doing all year, which is pretty good. In 50 innings, the 28-year old has a 2.70 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP with 49 strikeouts and only six walks. His rate starts and strikeouts should help owners in deep AL-only league even if he doesn’t pick up another save this year. Bid $1 – $2 if you need bullpen help.
NL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
Having his best season since 2011, Alex Avila provided a surprising level of production with the Tigers prior to the trade that send him to the Cubs. Granted, he had slowed down a bit after a huge first half and was starting to lose playing time to James McCann. On the north side of Chicago, Avila will clearly be backing up incumbent backstop Willson Contreras, further diminishing his playing time. Still, even if he just gets a backup’s share of plate appearances behind the plate over the course of the rest of the season, his .271/.391/.471 line is a lot better than you could expect from any of the other backup catchers likely to be available in your deep NL-only league. Bid $8 – $12 on the AL import if you don’t have two starting catchers on your roster.
The prize of last year’s trade deadline was practically an afterthought at this year’s deadline. The Rangers sent Jonathan Lucroy to the Rockies for considerably less value than they sacrificed a year ago to acquire him. Last year, the Rangers were trading for the remainder of that season plus this season at a below-market price, while the Rockies are traded for two months of the 31-year-old’s services. That certainly lowered the pricetag on Lucroy this year compared to last, but the main factor depressing the veteran’s trade value is his suddenly diminished performance. Last season, Lucroy hit .292/.355/.500 with 24 home runs in 544 plate appearances while this season he has only hit .242/.297/.338 with four home runs in 306 plate appearances. And while his defensive numbers don’t have a fantasy impact in just about any leagues, it’s worth noting that his framing numbers have cratered this year, too, as Lucroy has seemingly transformed from an above-average framer into a below-average one. Moving to Colorado should help his numbers, although the Globe Life Park in Arlington isn’t a bad place to hit, either. Bid $12 – $20 in deep NL-only leagues, especially if you’re thin at catcher, but don’t expect the kind of numbers he put up from 2012 through 2016.
After a rough start last year, Hyun-soo Kim pulled it together and ended up posting a .302/.382/.420 line with six homers and one steal. His performance took a step back this season. His line now stands at ,226/.314/.286 with one homer and no steals in 153 plate appearances. Traded from Baltimore to Philadelphia at the deadline, the 29-year-old is expected to back up Nick Williams, Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr in the outfield. The fact that he can’t beat out any of the outfielders on one of the worst teams in baseball tells you a lot about how far he has fallen since last season. Still, that ability to but a .380+ OBP is still in there somewhere, and he might get a chance to play more and rediscover his form before the season is out. Bid $2 – $3 in deep NL-only leagues as a speculative outfield play and add a couple of bucks to that bid in OBP leagues.
The Dodgers made their deep rotation even deeper, acquiring the best starting pitcher on the market at the deadline in exchange for multiple prospects. Yu Darvish should help Los Angeles bide their time until the injured Clayton Kershaw returns from the DL, making their playoff rotation downright intimidating. In deep NL-only leagues, the 30-year-old is the kind of player on whom you spend all of your remaining FAAB. Bid as much as you can on him and hope that nobody bids more.
For the time being, it seems like Sean Doolittle will be closing in Washington. That leaves AL import Brandon Kintzler as plan B or potentially plan C behind Ryan Madson. Without the saves he was getting in Minnesota, Kintzler’s value takes a hit in Washington. His low strikeout rate limits the categories in which he can provide fantasy value even more. Still, given the chaos that has been the hallmark of the Nats’ bullpen all season, it’s not difficult to envision a scenario in which Kintzler ends up getting saves in the nation’s capitol this year. Bid $3 – $4 for his rate stats and hope that he ends up with a shot at the closer’s role at some point.
After posting a 3.75 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP with 132 strikeouts and 36 walks in 115.3 innings in Triple-A, Atlanta decided to give Lucas Sims a shot at one of the recently opened spots in their starting rotation. The rookie was solid in his major league debut, throwing six innings and allowing three earned runs with three strikeouts and no walks against the Dodgers. He’ll get the ball every fifth day down the stretch for Atlanta unless he struggles or the team decides to shut him down to limit his innings. Bid $4 – $5 in deep NL-only leagues, more in keeper leagues.