The passing of the trade deadline means that the Deep League Report won’t be featuring many solid, well-established major leaguers for the rest of the year. Besides waiver trades, the best sources of production in the free agent pool in deep AL-only and NL-only leagues are late-season call-ups and newly minted closers. We have both in the column this week. Let’s get going.
AL-only position players
Called up as a stopgap replacement while Avisail Garcia and Leury Garcia were injured, Nicky Delmonico wasn’t expected to do much and wasn’t expected to stick around for long. The 25-year-old hit .262/.347/.421 in 99 games at Triple-A this season which isn’t terrible but isn’t much to dream on, either. Avisail Garcia recently returned to the lineup but the rookie third baseman stuck with the big-league team on the strength of his .400/.455/.533 line in his first eight games as well as an injury to regular third baseman Matt Davidson. It looks like Davidson will be returning to the lineup fairly soon, so Delmonico might not get regular playing time for much longer. On the other hand, it’s not like the White Sox lineup is stacked, so he wouldn’t have to keep hitting like Ted Williams to secure a decent chunk of playing time in their lineup. Bid $1-2 in deep AL-only leagues and cross your fingers.
The Astros were expected to send J.D. Davis back to the minors when they activated George Springer, but instead they sent down Tyler White. It certainly wasn’t a hot start in the majors that kept Davis in the bigs, since his line is a meager .143/.250/.143 in eight plate appearances. The 24-year-old was having a great season in the minors, though, hitting .279/.340/.510 with 21 home runs and five steals in 87 games at Double-A, and hitting .295/.370/.623 with five home runs and no steals in 16 games in Triple-A. Manager A.J. Hinch has a penchant for making lots of lineup changes from day to day, so with several position players nursing injuries and the Astros having the luxury of coasting to a division title, Davis could get a fair chunk of playing time down the stretch. Bid $2-3 expecting a little more playing time than backups typically get and add a couple of bucks to that in keeper leagues.
After spending parts of eight seasons in the majors, we know that Drew Butera is a bad hitter. His career line of .203/.257/.301 in 1,095 plate appearances speaks for itself. That said, the 34-year-old will be getting most of the starts behind the plate for the Royals while Sal Perez is on the DL. Even if his rate stats stay at their career levels, the playing time that the veteran will be getting until Perez returns gives him more value than pretty much any other catcher likely to be available in the free-agent pool in deep AL-only leagues because playing time translates into counting stats, even when it comes with bad rate stats. Don’t bid more than $1 under any circumstances, but you should definitely place a dollar bid on Butera if you have a dead spot at catcher.
Coming off a great season with the Nationals last year, Matt Belisle has been mostly mediocre this year with the Twins, posting a 4.34 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 45 2/3 innings with 40 strikeouts and 19 walks. What makes him interesting is that it looks like he’ll be getting most of the saves in Minnesota after incumbent closer Brandon Kintzler was traded to Washington at the deadline. Saves are nearly impossible to find in the free-agent pool in deep AL-only leagues, so if you need saves, you should be willing to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-75 percent of your remaining FAAB on the 37-year-old righty.
After missing more than two months due to an oblique strain, A.J. Griffin returned to the Texas rotation during the first week of August. While he hasn’t been great in the two starts he has made since his return, he has managed to lower his ERA from 5.77 to 5.40. He’s definitely a risky play in roto due to his home ballpark, his high home-run rate and his sub-90-MPH four-seamer, but if you need starters in a deep AL-only league to chase wins or to make your league’s inning minimum, the 29-year-old is probably one of the better options likely to be available in the free-agent pool. Bid $4-6 if you need starts but be ready to jettison him if he gets lit up a couple of times in a row.
The departures of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson have moved Simon Castro up the bullpen depth chart quickly in Oakland. The veteran righty has been good with the A’s, posting a 2.63 ERA with a 0.80 WHIP in 13 2/3 innings with 13 strikeouts and two walks. Santiago Casilla’s inconsistency in the closer’s role could lead to save chances for Castro at some point, but Castro doesn’t need to get saves to merit consideration in deep AL-only leagues. Bid $1 if you need someone for the back end of your bullpen, and hope that he can keep up the good work, helping your strikeout totals and your rate stats in the process.
NL-Only position players
Things are a little different for both the Giants and Pablo Sandoval than they were in the fall of 2014. The Giants had just won their third World Series in five years and the Venezuelan third baseman had just signed a big-money free-agent deal with the Red Sox. This season, San Francisco is one of the worst teams in baseball and Sandoval was released during the third year of his contract due to poor performance and an inability to stay healthy. The 30-year-old will likely get most of the starts at third base for the Giants down the stretch, although he could sit against lefties considering his feeble .136/.174/.136 line against them this season. He probably won’t do much for your team this year or next since it’s been a long time since he was a useful roto player, but he’s worth a dollar gamble in deep NL-only leagues in case he starts hitting again.
I wrote the fantasy take for the Call Up feature on Rhys Hoskins for Baseball Prospectus earlier this week. Rather than plagiarize myself, I’ll provide a link to that article. In deep NL-only leagues, you should be willing to spend somewhere around half of your remaining FAAB on the rookie.
Primarily a catcher in the minors, Kyle Farmer has yet to appear behind the plate since the Dodgers called him up. He played two innings at third base for Los Angeles but has otherwise been used exclusively as a pinch hitter. That role could suit the 26-year-old considering that prior to his promotion he hit .339/.411/.468 in 33 games in Double-A and .316/.363/.503 in 48 games in Triple-A. It will be hard for Farmer to get much playing time with Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes ahead of him on the depth chart at catcher and Justin Turner firmly entrenched at third base, but as the team coasts to a division title, backups like the rookie could get more starts while the veteran regulars rest for the playoffs. Bid $1 if you have a dead spot at catcher, especially if you like to gamble.
He missed the entire 2016 season, but the numbers that Carter Capps posted in 2015 were eye-popping: a 1.16 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP in 31 innings with a staggering 58 strikeouts and seven walks. After spending more than half of this year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, the 27-year-old made his season debut on Monday. He has been hit hard so far, allowing five earned runs with no strikeouts and two walks in 1 2/3 innings spanning two games. With Brandon Maurer and Ryan Buchter traded at the deadline, Capps could find himself in the mix for saves if he can approximate the form he showed with the Marlins two years ago, but that’s far from guaranteed. He’s worth a speculative $1 bid in deep NL-only leagues, but he’ll have to start striking people out to make himself worth keeping.
He wasn’t expected to throw a pitch in the majors this year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October—since the recovery time is usually around 12 months. Surprisingly, Zach Duke was added to the Cardinals’ major-league roster July 21, a little more than nine months after he went under the knife. The veteran lefty won’t get many saves in St. Louis, but he can help your roto team with strikeouts and rate stats. Don’t bid more than $1 since his upside is limited, but put him on your list of relievers worth a dollar of FAAB in deep NL-only leagues if you need bullpen help.
Acquired by the Diamondbacks at the deadline after four months of solid performance with the Angels, David Hernandez should be an important part of the setup crew in front of Fernando Rodney. He has posted a 2.08 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP with 40 strikeouts and eight walks in 39 innings. While it might be tempting to think that the 32-year-old could end up getting some saves since Fernando Rodney continues to be Fernando Rodney, Hernandez is likely behind Archie Bradley, Andrew Chafin and Jake Barrett in the pecking order. Bid $1 for his strikeouts and rate stats in deep NL-only leagues, not as a speculative saves play.