Fantasy Baseball Depth Chart Review: Week 15
Welcome to the Depth Chart Review! Every week we’ll be going over transactions, injuries, and lineup changes around the majors and how they affect fantasy baseball. This week we had a couple outfielders hitting the disabled list, a closer hitting the disabled list and the promotion of an elite prospect.
Astros Promote Kyle Tucker
One of baseball’s most highly-touted prospects was promoted on Saturday in Houston’s Kyle Tucker. Tucker is the eighth-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline and the best prospect in Houston’s loaded minor league system. Tucker’s best skill as a prospect has been his bat, and he experienced a power explosion in 2017. Between High-A and Double-A Tucker hit 25 home runs with a .254 ISO in 523 PA. This season Tucker has 14 home runs, 14 stolen bases, and an .891 OPS in 371 PA at Triple-A. The Astros’ expressed patience in promoting Tucker, but after struggling to get consistent production from the bottom half of their lineup they finally decided it was time for Tucker to get the call. Tucker will take over as the Astros’ left fielder full time and is a must-add player in all league formats. As one of the elite prospects in the game Tucker has sky-high potential and could be one of the biggest impact adds going into the second half. The biggest drawback with Tucker will probably be his lineup spot. The top half of the Astros’ lineup is pretty entrenched in their spots and there isn’t much opportunity for upward mobility. It would be surprising to see him bat higher than sixth on a regular basis, and he seems locked in at seventh right now.
The biggest playing time loser will probably end up being Marwin Gonzalez. After posting a career-best 144 wRC+ last season Gonzalez has come crashing back to earth in 2018, posting an 84 wRC+ and .658 OPS this season. He has been playing regularly at shortstop with Carlos Correa on the disabled list, but once Correa returns there doesn’t seem to be a spot for Gonzalez. The Astros’ would probably send Tyler White back to the minors when Correa returns and Gonzalez will return to a utility role. Gonzalez hasn’t been good enough to roster in standard leagues anyway, but he’ll probably lose a significant amount of value in AL-only leagues when Correa gets back.
Ryan Braun Placed on Disabled List
Ryan Braun’s down season got worse on Sunday when the Brewers’ placed him on the 10-day disabled list with a back strain. Braun has been in and out of the Brewers’ lineup all season with back soreness, and the Brewers decided on Sunday to place him on the disabled list. When Braun has played he’s experienced his worst season as a major leaguer, hitting .235 with a .710 OPS and 84 wRC+. This is the first time in Ryan Braun’s career that he’s graded as a below-average hitter in terms of wRC+, and the underlying indicators aren’t pretty. Braun has a career-low 77.2% contact rate and career-high 11.6% swinging strike rate. His 21.6% strikeout rate also represents a six-year high, and these are the classic signs of age-related decline. The only positive signs for a turnaround are his .262 BABIP, which is over 50 points lower than his career BABIP, and a 91 MPH average exit velocity. There could potentially be some batting average correction coming for Braun, but he’s on a contending team that can’t afford to ride out extended struggles. The Brewers have other options in the outfield, and when healthy Braun may get squeezed for playing time when he returns. If you don’t have disabled list space to hold Braun it’s probably time to let him go.
Eric Thames stands to gain the most playing time with Braun’s injury, and as of writing this Thames is 52% owned in Yahoo leagues, so he is available in plenty of leagues. Thames is following up his 31-homer season with even more power. He has a .324 ISO and 13 home runs in 166 PA. His power is supported by a 92 MPH average exit velocity and .590 xSLG. Thames also helps in OBP leagues with his 11.4% walk rate and chips in the occasional steal, as he is 5-for-5 on steal attempts this season. As a short-term option Thames is a great player to add, and the Brewers may spend the next few weeks with Thames in their lineup and decide he deserves to be the regular left fielder.
Yasiel Puig was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a Grade 1 oblique strain, and while a Grade 1 strain is the least severe type of strain, Puig is still expected to miss a few weeks, and Andy McCullough of the LA Times suggests that Puig would be out for about one month. It’s a shame that Puig suffered this injury because he seemed poised to build on a hot June. Puig hit .303 with an .884 OPS in June and was hitting .348 with a 1.087 OPS through the first week of July. Puig is known for his wild hot and cold stretches and hopefully, this injury doesn’t hinder his production when he returns. Puig is worth holding on a disabled list spot if possible. He has the rare combination of power and speed that is so valuable in traditional 5×5 leagues.
Andrew Toles was promoted from Triple-A to take Puig’s roster spot and looks like the Dodgers’ centerfielder against right-handed pitchers. He’s probably going to platoon with Enrique Hernandez, as Hernandez is a known lefty-masher. Toles was hitting well in the minor leagues, slashing .326/.363/.500 in 146 PA. Those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt since they came in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast league, but Toles has had success at the major league level. In 221 PA Toles has a .299/.348/.490 slash line. He’s not a mixed league relevant player, but Toles is a sneaky player to add in deeper leagues such as NL-only formats, as he should be a good short-term source of batting average.
Sean Doolittle underwent an MRI on Saturday, and while the injury was initially described as “no big deal” by a team official he was placed on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday with a toe strain. Doolittle was in a walking boot on Tuesday but expects to return immediately after the All-Star break. The injury doesn’t seem like it will extend much beyond the minimum time frame, and the Nationals may have used the upcoming break as an opportunity to get Doolittle fully rested and recovered. They promoted right-hander Austin Voth to take Doolittle’s roster spot, and Voth may be used as a spot starter Saturday against the Mets. Voth has pitched well at Triple-A with a 3.55 ERA, 3.17 FIP, and 3.0 K/BB ratio in 76 innings. Even with those numbers and a good matchup versus the Mets Voth isn’t a great streaming option if he makes this start.
The Nationals did us all a favor by naming Kelvin Herrera the closer in Doolittle’s absence. Usually, we’re left scrambling when a closer is placed on the disabled list, but Herrera is the player to add for short-term saves. Herrera doesn’t quite have the strikeout stuff that Doolittle has, but he has been dominant in both Kansas City and Washington this season. He has a 1.89 ERA and 5.80 K/BB ratio in 33.1 innings this season. While Herrera is definitely worth adding, it’s not worth using a significant portion of FAAB to pick him up. I’d look to use somewhere in the 2-4% range on him depending on how bad you need saves. He’s essentially closer for a week, which may result in one or two saves. Every save counts, but there is no staying power for Herrera.