Welcome back to The Deep League Report, the article that profiles the backup catchers, fourth outfielders, and middle relievers the other websites don’t have the guts to discuss. Scooter Hotz is on vacation this week. I’ll be filling his rather big shoes with knowledge…but also with love. Wow. This got really weird really fast. (All statistics in this article are through Monday night’s games)
AL-only position players
When the Twins promoted Granite on July 8, it appeared he would be nothing more than a fourth outfielder/defensive replacement, but Byron Buxton’s injury has pushed Granite into a starting role. Buxton injury does not seem significant, so Granite’s time as a starter will probably be short-lived, but he could stick with the squad as a fourth outfielder. Granite’s value rests almost entirely on his stolen-base potential. He had 15 steals in 59 games at Triple A this year after stealing 56 bases in 127 games at Double A in 2016. The power has developed a little bit, but this is not likely to translate to more than 8-10 home runs in a full season of at-bats, and even this guess might be generous. In AL-only, it is worth putting a $2-3 bid on Granite and seeing if he can push his way into a larger role down the stretch.
Entering 2017, Robinson was viewed as organizational depth by some and a future utility player by others. He has mostly been the former this year, having spent a total of 11 days in the majors across three separate stints with the team prior to his most recent promotion on July 7. Robinson’s defensive utility comes in handy for the Rangers—in his past 1 ½ seasons at Round Rock, he has played every position but catcher and pitcher—but this may not translate to your fantasy league depending on your in-season eligibility rules. Robinson has been a steady performer in the minors. While his Triple-A numbers haven’t been spectacular, his 11 home runs and seven steals in 309 plate appearances make him worth monitoring should an injury open a spot on the Rangers. Robinson has received some time at third base and left field in the past few days, cycling into the lineup for Mike Napoli and Joey Gallo. Robinson’s three home runs in 25 plate appearances are a fun conversation starter, but he is just a $1 FAAB flier at this point. He has a little more value in OBP leagues.
Colin Moran – Astros
Very little has gone wrong for the Astros this season, but that changed when Carlos Correa tore a ligament in his thumb on Monday. The All-Star shortstop will be out for six to eight weeks. With Houston 16 and a half games up in the standings, it is highly unlikely they’ll make a trade for a top tier player to replace Correa. Enter Moran, who was called up by the ‘Stros to provide infield depth for the next two months. Moran was hitting .308/.373/.543 at Triple-A Fresno, with 18 home runs. Moran isn’t going to supplant Alex Bregman at third, but he could get some at bats at first base for Yuli Gurriel and even play left field in a pinch. The Astros have been very good about keeping their bench players in action this year, in part because they have frequently carried 13 pitchers and are doing so now. Moran is only worth a buck or two FAAB investment and is only worth grabbing if you have a true dead spot in your infield.
A one-time Orioles prospect, Bridwell’s trajectory was thrown off course by injuries and command, and he was flipped to the Angels in mid-April for a player-to-be-named-later or cash. Many saw him as a future middle reliever, but the Angels stuck Bridwell into the rotation at Salt Lake City and promoted him to fill a hole in their rotation in late May. Bridwell added a cutter to his repertoire this season, and while the results have not been spectacular, it has allowed him to survive as a back-end member of a major-league rotation. Bridwell is clearly nothing more than a fourth or fifth starter in AL-only, but he is worth using as a match-up play if he has a slot in the rotation.
Cessa’s claim to fame is being the “other” pitcher in the deal that brought Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets during their run to the World Series in 2015; he was flipped to the Yankees by Detroit along with Chad Green the following winter. Mostly a starter in the minors, Cessa has been a swingman in the majors, but it appears that he will get at least a couple of starts for New York before the non-waiver trade deadline. Cessa started against the Twins on Tuesday night and is slated to face the Mariners over the weekend. As is the case with Cooper, whether Cessa is with the Yankees or the Rail Riders rotation down the stretch is contingent upon if the Yankees are buyers at the deadline. If he does stick, Cessa is a back-end AL option due to the lack of strikeouts. He’s worth $2-3 in FAAB, though he’s a better play in leagues where you can reserve active players and play match-ups.
Treinen went from Opening Day closer for the Washington Nationals to minor throw-in in a trade to bring a new closer to the Nats in mid-July. Treinen lasted all of 10 days as the closer before Dusty Baker pulled the plug and installed Shawn Kelley in the ninth. Lost in all Treinen’s “failures” is that while he might have been overmatched in the ninth he is a solid reliever who has a career 3.38 ERA to go along with a 3.38 lifetime ERA. Santiago Casilla will continue to close for Oakland, but Treinen could find himself getting the odd save here and there and the generous dimensions in Oakland can’t hurt. While many are looking at Treinen as a useless throw-in, he has a successful track record and was the victim of an unlikely .372 BABIP. He’s only worth a buck or two in FAAB, but I like him as a stash for 2018.
NL-only position players
A sixth-round pick by the Houston Astros in June 2012 draft, Phillips was part of the package the Brewers received in 2015 for Carlos Gomez. Phillips didn’t play much during his first stint in Milwaukee, but has split time center field with Keon Broxton this time around. Broxton has been terrible this month, with a .083/.195/.167 line in 41 plate appearances, and while that is what we industry types like to call a small sample, Broxton’s 2017 has been subpar across the board. It is unlikely that Phillips wrests the job away from Broxton, but Broxton’s streakiness means that Phillips could continue to get three or four starts a week in center field. Phillips had a .293/.358/.582 line with 17 home runs and five steals in 313 plate appearances at Triple A. This sounds wonderful until you realize that the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate is in Colorado Springs. Phillips has been a solid minor-league hitter but he has not put up big time minor league numbers since he was in A-ball. Phillips is only 23 years old and it is far too soon to write him off, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done on Phillips’ mechanics and approach at the plate if he is ever going to stick as a regular. He does have a shot at some playing time, and in leagues where you can stash players he’s a must-own if you have Broxton.
Called up by the Cubs after Chicago decided to cut ties with Miguel Montero, Caratini has started three games out of 15 since his call-up, and while this doesn’t sound like it is worth your time, keep in mind that there are 24 catching slots in a standard NL-only league and only 30 major league catchers. I thought Caratini might land as a personal catcher for at least one of the Cubs starters, but thus far this arrangement has not materialized. Caratini was hitting an impressive .343/.384/.539 at Triple-A Iowa, with eight home runs in 271 plate appearances. I don’t usually recommend spending even a dollar on a backup catcher who isn’t playing, but in Caratini’s case I like him because the bat is special relative to his position, not merely in fantasy but in real life. It is a shame he isn’t in the American League, because he hits enough that he could have been the rare backup catcher who picked up the odd start at first base and DH. There are rumors circulating that the Cubs might try to upgrade behind the dish at the deadline, with Jon Morosi linking the Cubs to Alex Avila.
It is unclear if the Marlins will go into full-blown rebuilding mode at the trade deadline, but if they do Moore could become an everyday player. Moore has had the best season of his career since his rookie campaign in 2012, putting up a solid .270/.296/.551 line in 95 plate appearances with six home runs and 21 RBIs. Moore’s value down the stretch hinges almost entirely on if the Marlins decide to flip Justin Bour for prospects, but it also is possible that he picks up some starts in left field if Christian Yelich gets moved. I wouldn’t pick up Moore just because of the possibility of a trade, but if the rumors surrounding the Marlins heat up, you should stash Moore for a dollar and see what happens.
The Nationals have needed bullpen help all season long, and they finally pulled the trigger Sunday, acquiring Madson and Ryan Doolittle from the Athletics for Blake Treinen and minor leaguers Sheldon Neuse and Jesus Luzardo. Madson didn’t join the Nationals until last night’s game against the Angels so at press time we did not have an opportunity to see how manager Dusty Baker would use his new and improved bullpen in a save situation. Madson was terrific in Oakland, posting a 2.06 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP to go along with 39 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings. Dusty Baker wouldn’t commit to naming a closer after the trade was announced, but if he plays match-ups, Madson should be favored to get most of the save opportunities because he is right-handed. If you weren’t allowed to bid on Madson on Sunday, as was the case in both LABR and Tout Wars, you will need to spend at least $30 if you want him. In the CBS NL-only league, which allows daily transactions, Madson went for $35 late Monday night.
It is difficult to call Doolittle the “other” part of the Nationals trade, as Madson and Doolittle have both been terrific. Doolittle “only” has a 3.38 ERA, but his 0.66 WHIP and 31 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings for Oakland give you a better idea of how dominant Doolittle has been. Barring a trade for another reliever, Doolittle should at least get a handful of saves. Baker might favor Madson for the role not only because Doolittle is a southpaw but also because Doolittle has not pitched more than 40 innings in a season since 2014. I’d bid $15-20 for Doolittle and hope that he gets five to seven saves to go along with a great ERA and WHIP. Doolittle cost $22 in the CBS NL-only league on late Monday night. Doolittle picked up the first save for the remodeled bullpen late last night in Anaheim.
Romano throws mid-90s heat, but any Italian worth his salt calls it Romano Cheese. He combines that cheese with a mid-to-upper-80s slider. The problem: This is nearly all of Romano’s repertoire. You’d expect more strikeouts from a pitcher who throws this hard, but even in the minors a two-pitch pitcher is not going to dominate the second and third times through the lineup. Romano’s minor-league numbers were solid (a 3.47 ERA in 49 1/3 innings in 10 starts), but a strikeout rate under six batters per nine at Triple A is not a good omen for long term major-league success as a starter. I’d roll the dice in deep leagues like the ones you play in if you are reading this, but don’t play in this end of the pool if you don’t want your ERA and WHIP torpedoed.