Fantasy Baseball Depth Chart Review: Week 8
Welcome back to the Depth Chart Review! Every week we’ll be going over injuries, transactions, and lineup changes around the majors and how they affect fantasy baseball. This week we, unfortunately, need to talk about another suspension, as well as some injuries and prospects out west.
Robinson Cano Breaks Hand, Receives PED Suspension
No one in the majors had a worse week than Robinson Cano, who broke his hand after being struck by a pitch on Sunday only to be served with an 80 game suspension for PED usage on Tuesday. Cano’s owners were already going to be without him for an extended period, but now he won’t be eligible to play until August. The silver lining, if any, is that his injury status allows owners to stash him on the disabled list for a good portion of his suspension.
Whether he is worth holding for that duration depends on league context and situation. If I owned him, I’d try to hang on to him as long as possible, but if a DL crunch popped up, I’d be okay dropping him. Ultimately we’re looking at about a month and a half of production for Cano after three months of waiting.
Another reason that he’s not a great hold is that one of Cano’s best skills over the past few seasons has been durability and volume. He hasn’t had less than 600 plate appearances since 2006, and never had less than 500. Other than his 2016 power explosion, Cano has relied on volume to deliver value during his tenure with Seattle.
When it comes to internal options, the Mariners don’t have much to replace Cano. Gordon Beckham looks to receive the lion’s share of playing time at the keystone, but with a career .239/.303/.368 slash line offers little fantasy value even in AL-only leagues.
Other options for them would be Andrew Romine or Taylor Motter, but both have worse career offensive numbers than Beckham. Moving Dee Gordon to second base may be a possibility down the line, but since he hasn’t taken groundballs yet, it sounds like we’re a few weeks away from that.
Luckily in fantasy, we don’t have to deal with a cavalcade of replacement level utility men to fill our hole at second base. Here are some solid options to cover the keystone that are owned in less than 30% of Yahoo leagues as of writing this.
Jedd Gyorko (1B/2B/3B – STL): 21% Ownership
Gyorko has pulverized the ball since returning from the disabled list with a 1.064 OPS through his first 22 games. Even if he’s due for regression Gyorko has legitimate power and has had an ISO over .200 each of the past two seasons. The knock on him is a lack of every day playing time, but the Cardinals can’t justify playing Kolten Wong (.591 OPS this season) over him much longer.
Howie Kendrick (2B/OF – WAS): 17% Ownership
It’s not easy to find reliable batting average on the waiver wire, but Kendrick provides it. He’s got a career .291/.334/.422 slash line and is hitting .299 this season. He also has a career-high 40% hard contact rate and 25% line drive rate, a recipe for base hits. This is a short-term option until Daniel Murphy returns from the disabled list.
Brad Miller (2B – TB): 1% Ownership
Few players have been unluckier than Brad Miller this season. Per Statcast, he has a career-high 91.5 MPH exit velocity, 15.3-degree launch angle, and 49% hard-hit rate. Despite those improvements, he has just four home runs and a .229 AVG.
Statcast gives him a .538 xSLG, a significant increase over his current .406 SLG. Statcast’s .538 xSLG is higher than the .482 SLG he had in 2016 when he hit 30 home runs. The batting average won’t be good, but there is power to come for Miller.
A.J. Pollock Suffers Fractured Thumb
A.J. Pollock was forced to exit the Diamondbacks’ game against the Brewers on Monday with a hand injury. He dove for a flyball and missed, injuring his thumb in the process. The injury was diagnosed as an avulsion fracture of the left thumb, and he has a four-to-eight week timetable for return.
The Diamondbacks promoted Christian Walker to take Pollock’s roster spot, but Walker is primarily a first baseman and won’t see much playing time in Pollock’s absence. Chris Owings got the start in centerfield for the Diamondbacks on Tuesday and might see increased playing in center.
Owings has had a rough start to the season with a .209/.269/.327 slash line with just two homers and one steal, so he doesn’t offer much fantasy value even with increased playing time. There is some appeal to Owings since he’s shown 20-steal ability in the past and is eligible at second base, shortstop, and outfield, but he only has value in deeper leagues.
Jarrod Dyson is another candidate to get playing time, though he’s been even worse than Owings with a .184/.245/.333 slash line. He does have five steals, and Dyson would have significant steal upside if he got regular playing time.
Another option for the Diamondbacks would be to use Steven Souza Jr. in centerfield and play Daniel Descalso in the outfield regularly. Souza only has eight career games in center, but this is what the Diamondbacks did to finish out the game on Monday.
Descalso probably deserves more playing time than either Dyson or Owings at this point. He has a .260/.362/.500 slash line, and with Jake Lamb due back from the disabled list soon, Descalso could be without a place to play. If Descalso got regular playing time, he’d be a decent option in deep leagues, especially when on-base percentage is used over batting average. He has a walk rate higher than 11% in each of the last three seasons.
Timetable Pushed Back for Wil Myers, Padres Promote Franmil Reyes
Padres Manager Andy Green told Marty Caswell of 1090 AM in San Diego that Wil Myers won’t return until June. Finally shaking the injury bug was Myers’ key to success in 2016-2017, but he’s only played in 10 games this season, and it sounds like he isn’t close to returning. As frustrating as it’s been for his owners, Myers shouldn’t be dropped. He has the rare combination of power and speed that makes him fantasy gold in standard 5×5 leagues.
The Padres also called up power-hitting outfield prospect Franmil Reyes on Monday. Reyes had been demolishing Triple-A pitching. In 154 plate appearances, he had 14 home runs, a .392 ISO, and 1.180 OPS. Reyes had shown power improvements at the minors, with his ISO increasing every season, but he made a drastic jump in 2018.
With Myers and Hunter Renfroe on the disabled list and Manuel Margot scuffling Reyes should get an opportunity to prove himself. Because of the power potential, Reyes should be added most leagues either as a speculative stash or as a fill-in for somebody like A.J. Pollock.
While on the subject of the Padres outfield there is another name in the San Diego that deserves mentioning, and that’s Travis Jankowski. Jankowski looks to have seized the majority of playing time in centerfield from Manuel Margot. Jankowski has a .370/.463/.522 SLG in 54 plate appearances, and, while those numbers are certainly inflated by a hot stretch, he does have legitimate speed.
Jankowski has already swiped four bags this season and stole 30 in 2016 as a part-time player for the Padres. Strikeouts were always a big problem for Jankowski, but he’s cut his strikeout rate to 13% so far this season. As of writing this he is just 7% owned in Yahoo leagues, so if you need steals this is a great option that is available in most leagues.
D.J. LeMahieu Hits Disabled List with Thumb Sprain
It was not a good week to be a second baseman or a thumb in major league baseball, and D.J. LeMahieu felt that pain when he suffered a sprained thumb on Sunday. Since the results of his MRI aren’t yet available as of writing this, there is no definitive timetable for a return. Rockies’ Manager Bud Black told Kyle Newman of the Denver Post, “What we want to rule out is any sort of fracture or break…if it’s mild or a low-degree sprain, we’re in good shape and he could be back when his time’s up in 10 days. If it’s more significant, or if it’s a bone involved, that’s when it’s more concerning.”
That response leaves us with more questions than answers about LeMahieu’s health. There is such a wide range in his possible timetable right now that it’s hard to speculate on when he might return. In the meantime, the Rockies called up infielder Pat Valaika to take LeMahieu’s roster spot.
Normally when a player gets promoted to the Rockies, there is reason for excitement, but with a career .227/.260/.446 slash line, Valaika deserves no fantasy consideration outside of deep NL-only leagues. The Rockies’ other current option at the keystone is Daniel Castro, but Castro’s .211/.241/.267 slash line makes him even worse than Valaika. Neither deserves much attention in fantasy.
The more intriguing option, the one everyone wishes the Rockies would go with, is Ryan McMahon. If LeMahieu is forced to miss extended time the Rockies might consider McMahon as a regular replacement. McMahon struggled during his time in the majors this season, hitting just .180 in 60 plate appearances. He hit .374 in 314 plate appearances at Triple-A last season, so he has indeed shown the ability to hit in the past.
McMahon has seen time at second base in the minors this season and would be a better fantasy option should he get the second base job. The Rockies were noncommittal in using McMahon early in the season despite massive struggles for regular first baseman Ian Desmond, so it’s hard to say whether they’d give McMahon regular playing time. They probably should play McMahon over Valaika or Castro, but that doesn’t mean they will.