Fantasy Baseball Depth Chart Review: Week 11
Welcome back to the depth chart review! Every week I’ll be going over lineup changes, transactions, and injuries around the big leagues and how they affect fantasy baseball.
Ohtani Diagnosed with Grade 2 UCL Sprain, Won’t Have Tommy John Surgery
Since leaving his last start on June 6th with a blister we get new news every day about Shohei Ohtani. On Friday it was reported that Ohtani was only supposed to miss one or two starts, then four hours later he was put on the disabled list with a Grade 2 UCL sprain. Then on Sunday Pedro Gomez reported that Ohtani will likely need Tommy John surgery, which led to Angels GM Billy Eppler telling reporters that there was no recommendation for Tommy Surgery for Ohtani and later it was reported that the Angels are cautiously optimistic that he’d return this season, at least as a hitter. The news has been all over the place, but the team is officially stating that Ohtani won’t have Tommy John surgery. Ohtani received a platelet-rich plasma and a stem cell injection last week which can be an alternative to surgery, but would still require some time for recovery and rehab. There is no timetable for his return, but we should expect Ohtani to be sidelined for several weeks if not months. Try and hold him on a DL spot at least until he is reevaluated in three weeks.
Ohtani’s injury has a big impact on both the Angels lineup and rotation. In the lineup it allows Albert Pujols to return to the DH spot, making Jose Miguel Fernandez the regular first baseman for the Angels. Corner infielder Jefry Marte left the Angels’ game on Monday with a wrist injury, and while no official diagnosis or timetable has been released yet, his injury takes away some of the main competition at first base for Fernandez. While he’s making his major league debut, Fernandez isn’t the typical rookie. He is a 30-year-old Cuban defector that was hitting .345 at Triple-A before his promotion, though his numbers came in the notoriously hitter-friendly PCL. Fernandez also struck out only 8.4% of the time and had a 1.05 BB/K ratio in the minor leagues this season. In the Cuban league, he struck out only 118 times in 2646 plate appearances, a 4.4% strikeout rate. For reference, Joey Gallo has struck out 94 times already this season in 264 plate appearances. Fernandez could be a sneaky player to add in AL-Only or deeper mixed leagues. He profiles similarly to Houston’s Yulieski Gurriel. Like Gurriel, Fernandez doesn’t have a high strikeout rate and hits for a good average, but his power is lacking for a first baseman.
Jabari Blash is the other interesting player that could see increased playing time. Blash was dominating the PCL before his call-up on Monday with a .324/.421/.746 slash line and 18 home runs in 202 plate appearances. He was striking out nearly 30% of the time in the minors and his average won’t be anywhere close to .324 in the majors, but he could be a nice source of power. With Ohtani, Marte, and Kole Calhoun all injured and Chris Young scuffling to a .154 AVG and 47 wRC+, Blash could carve out a regular role for himself.
Ohtani’s injury affects the Angels’ pitching rotation too. The Angels had been implementing a six-man rotation, but with Ohtani joining J.C. Ramirez and Matt Shoemaker on the disabled list the Angels don’t really have the depth to keep using a six-man rotation. Rather than being shuttled between Triple-A and the majors Jaime Barria will probably stay on the major league roster permanently. The only obvious option that could be a sixth starter currently in the Angels system is Parker Bridwell. Bridwell made 20 starts for the Angels with a 3.64 ERA last season but peripheral stats suggested that he was pitching above his head. Bridwell had a 4.84 FIP, 5.06 SIERA, 15% strikeout rate, and was allowing 1.41 HR/9. He got shelled in his only start this season for six runs in 1.2 innings on April 6th and has an 8.68 ERA in six starts at Triple-A. He is not remotely a fantasy option, but the most likely internal option for the Angels if they were to continue with a six-man rotation. It would be better for fantasy if they used a traditional five-man rotation as it would mean more two-start weeks and more starts in general for their current staff.
Rays Promote Adames and Bauers, Trade Brad Miller to Milwaukee
The Rays have promoted two of their biggest position player prospects in 1B/OF Jake Bauers and SS Willy Adames. To make room for Bauers they designated Brad Miller for assignment last Thursday and traded him to the Brewers in exchange for Ji-Man Choi. Adames was called up to take the roster spot of Daniel Robertson, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list Monday. Robertson expects his DL stint to be the minimum of 10 days, but that doesn’t mean Adames won’t stay in the majors when Robertson is back. I went in-depth on Adames when he was first called up in an earlier edition of the Depth Chart Review, but the quick version is that Adames looks ready to hit in the major leagues, though he currently lacks the power and speed to make a big impact with counting stats. He’s worth a speculative add if you can make room because in recent history we’ve seen highly touted prospects hit for more power at the major league level upon promotion. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are two examples of hitters that displayed moderate power in the minors but have demolished the ball in the majors.
Bauers was the 55th ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline coming into the season, and his best attribute as a prospect has been plate discipline. He has had walk rates north of 10% in his last three minor league seasons between Double-A and Triple-A. Bauers doesn’t have the power one would expect from a first baseman as he has never hit more than 15 home runs or had an ISO above .150 at the higher minor league levels. He should be a solid source of batting average and is even better in on-base percentage leagues, but Bauers doesn’t have the power to make a huge impact at first base yet. Again, he could grow into power in the majors like so many top prospects have done, but that’s not something on which we can rely. Since the Rays ousted Brad Miller, Bauers seems more likely to have regular playing time compared to Adames. He’s someone that is worth a speculative add if you can make room, but he’s more of a stash than a player to start right away.
It didn’t take long for the Rays to find a home for Brad Miller, as they traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday in exchange for Ji-Man Choi. Miller will report to Triple-A for now and play both second base and shortstop but should be in the majors soon. Offensively he would be an upgrade at either second base or shortstop for Milwaukee. Brewers’ second basemen have hit .239 with a 72 wRC+ this season, while their shortstops have hit .196 with a 43 wRC+. Miller’s overall stats aren’t exactly eye-popping with a .256/.322/.429 slash line and five home runs in 174 plate appearances, but with a 107 wRC+ as a first baseman Miller has been better than anything the Brewers have had to offer this year. Miller’s Statcast numbers are encouraging too. He has a 91.7 MPH average exit velocity, putting him 30th among 258 hitters with at least 90 batted ball events. He also has a .503 xSLG and .349 xwOBA, suggesting more power to come for Miller. The park upgrade is big for Miller too, as Miller Park has the eighth highest home run factor in the majors, while Tropicana Field is tied for the fourth lowest in the league. Miller is a sneaky player to add in NL-Only or deep mixed leagues.
Syndergaard to Get Second Opinion, Archer Suffers Setback
Two high-end pitchers on the mend got bad news this week. Noah Syndergaard will get a second opinion on the strained ligament in his finger, and Chris Archer got shut down from rehab activities. Syndergaard was originally supposed to only miss one or two starts with the injury, but it sounds like he isn’t making much progress in recovery. We’ll know more about the injury after he gets the second opinion, but normally a player getting a second opinion is a bad sign. Players don’t seek second opinions if they are satisfied with their original diagnosis. Seth Lugo performed well in Syndergaard’s absence on Sunday, posting six scoreless innings against the Yankees with eight strikeouts and no walks. Lugo has been lights out all season whether it be in the bullpen or as a starter. He has a 1.77 ERA, 2.62 FIP, and 5.22 K/BB ratio in 45.2 innings this season. Lugo is someone worth adding even when Syndergaard returns because the Mets could easily push Jason Vargas out of their rotation. Vargas has posted a 7.71 ERA and 5.18 FIP in seven starts and has already had his turn skipped in the rotation twice by the Mets.
There isn’t much clarity with Chris Archer either, and it sounds like he could be out until the All-Star break. He has been shut down from rehab activities for a few days and might need a minor league rehab assignment. Even though Archer has been underwhelming when he’s pitched with a 4.24 ERA and 2.92 K/BB ratio he is still worth holding, as a fully healthy Archer is one of the best strikeout pitchers in baseball. The Rays’ options to replace him are thin. They have been using an opener in many of their games, with only Blake Snell and Nathan Eovaldi trusted to start games. Ryan Yarbrough may have been promoted to a starter as he started the game on Monday, but the Rays will continue to use an opener in some of their games. Matt Andriese and Austin Pruitt have been getting the majority of innings in those opening games. Andriese is the more interesting pitcher as he has had a 3.58 ERA, 3.18 FIP, and 5.43 K/BB ratio between the rotation and the bullpen. Andriese is having this newfound success by using his changeup 42% of the time this season. Batters are hitting just .228 against the changeup with a 17% whiff rate. He’s been mostly a two-pitch pitcher between the changeup and his fastball this season, but he could still find success in the rotation.