Fantasy Baseball Depth Chart Review: Week 3
We’ve already reached week three of the baseball season, and a lot has changed since our last Depth Chart Review. We received news of a shocking PED suspension, closers are dropping like flies, and Eric Thames is acting like he’s the next Barry Bonds. Everyone saw that last one coming, right?
Also, as some astute folks like Ron Shandler foresaw, guys are landing on the disabled list at a seemingly record pace. The introduction of the 10-day DL makes it far more convenient for teams to throw guys on the DL, as the shorter period allows them far more roster flexibility.
Unfortunately, it can be a pain for fantasy owners, but perhaps it beats dealing with as many vague “day-to-day” designations as in years past. Still, it may behoove fantasy commissioners to expand bench or DL spots in coming seasons to account for this rule change. But back to the task at hand — let’s review the biggest fantasy stories of the week!
Starling Marte is a Cheater
On Tuesday, Major League Baseball dropped a bombshell on the baseball world, announcing that Starling Marte was suspended 80 games for performance-enhancing drugs. The news is a huge blow to the Pirates, which will lose a player who had a 121 wRC+ and 4.0 fWAR last year, and will be ineligible for the playoffs should they qualify.
It’s also devastating for fantasy teams that likely spent a second round pick, or dropped a bunch of dough in auctions, to acquire Marte. Those owners are left with a tough decision of what to do with Marte, who is effectively a dead roster spot until mid-July. In deep leagues, particularly ones where owners may be stockpiling prospects or high-upside backups, you’re better off sticking with him because the waiver wire is almost certainly already devoid of much talent.
But in standard formats? Depending on the size of your bench, injury situation, or team needs, you’ll have to consider the horrible thought of dropping your high-priced outfielder. Obviously, hold onto him if you can, but even a player of Marte’s caliber won’t do you any good if your team is already sunk by the All-Star break. You could also consider trading Marte, and while you’ll clearly be selling at the lowest of the low, if your team has clear needs, getting anything useful in return and avoiding the headache is better than nothing.
So who replaces Marte in the Pirates’ lineup? For now, the short-term solution appears to be Adam Frazier, who was already getting a fair amount of playing time in a utility role and figures to soak up most of Marte’s playing time. I mentioned Frazier in this space a few weeks ago, as even then he was an intriguing NL-only piece because he bats leadoff on days he’s in the lineup.
Despite the increased role, he lacks the pop to still be of much interest in standard formats. Including this year he has just six home runs in five seasons across the minors and majors.
But he has enough sneaky speed — 47 career stolen bases in the minors — that he’s worth a look in deeper formats. On the young season, he’s slashing a respectable .295/.353/.455 line.
This could also open up a future opportunity for Austin Meadows, one of the top prospects in baseball. At the moment, he’s scuffling in Triple-A, hitting .162/.220/.270, so he’s not quite ready for “The Show.” However, he turns just 22 years old in May and played well in the lower minors, so he could be an exciting call-up in the coming months if he can turn his season around.
Blake Treinen…He Gone?
We’re not even a month into the season and closers are losing jobs left and right. Is Blake Treinen next?
Right before the season, Treinen was the surprise winner in the Dusty Baker closer sweepstakes. Maybe there was a good reason it was unexpected.
The results have been lacking for Treinen, who has notched three saves, but with a cringeworthy 7.11 ERA, 2.53 WHIP and 17.7% walk rate. He turned in yet another ugly performance on Tuesday night, in which Shawn Kelley had to come to the rescue to secure a save against the Braves. Following the game, Baker said the closer situation “ain’t working,” indicating that a change is on the way.
Given Kelley was the one to save the day (no pun intended), he appears to be the new leader in the clubhouse. However, it’s worth noting that he hasn’t exactly had a clean resume this season either, compiling a 6.00 ERA, but he has an elite 34.6% strikeout rate and 1.17 WHIP. Including last night, Kelley has 12 career saves.
Koda Glover is also worth a look, who late in Spring Training looked to be the favorite to close. Even if Kelley is given the job, he’s had two Tommy John surgeries, so he’s not exactly a beacon of health, and we saw how little time it took before Treinen hit the hot seat. An official announcement hasn’t been made, but both Kelley and Glover are worth speculative pickups in the eternal hunt for saves.
In other closer news, earlier in the week, the Sam Dyson nightmare finally came to a close. After bumbling his way to a 27.00 ERA and 4.38 WHIP, the Rangers mercifully placed him on the DL and anointed Matt Bush as the new closer.
Bush is the strongest arm in the pen — he’s struck out eight batters in 4 2/3 innings — making him the logical choice. However, Bush has dealt with some shoulder issues, and this is still a fluid situation, so Jeremy Jeffress is also worth owning until the dust settles.
Eric Thames the Almighty
Despite his exploits in South Korea, Eric Thames was a giant question mark coming into the season. It’s safe to say if you drafted Thames this season, you’re pretty happy with the early results.
Thames is tied for the league lead in home runs (seven), and among qualified hitters, he leads in a slew of categories including OPS (1.491), ISO (.574), and wOBA (.612). Wow! No doubt, you should be excited if you have him, but be sure to keep expectations in check — he’s not going to keep this up forever.
It’s probably safe to say that won’t happen much moving forward. In 10 plate appearances against southpaws, Thames has six hits, including two home runs.
We don’t know how Thames will perform as the league adjusts to him, but in the meantime, owners should enjoy more consistent playing time. And if he continues to prove he can handle left-handed pitching, it will only increase his rest of season value.