Fantasy Baseball Depth Chart Review: Week 1
Welcome to this season’s first Depth Chart Review! We’ll be breaking down all the major (and sometimes minor) transactions, injuries, and notable lineup changes around the league to evaluate how they affect fantasy baseball. We haven’t even completed a full week of fantasy baseball yet, and a flurry of movement has already inundated the fantasy landscape like a hurricane.
Frazier has been a prospect long on talent, but he opened the season blocked by Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Aaron Hicks in the outfield. New York has both Stanton and Hicks signed to long-term deals and almost certainly will sign Judge to one as well, but with both Stanton and Hicks injured, Frazier will get his opportunity to play. The former first-round pick has a career .820 OPS in the minors, and he’s worth a look in five-outfielder mixed or AL-only leagues given his power/speed combination and pedigree.
There was some excitement during spring that Loaisiga would get an opportunity at some point in the Yankees’ rotation. He posted a 12.04 K/9 in four starts last year and is a young, live arm that has the makings of an impact starter who can miss bats. With Sabathia, Luis Severino, and recently acquired Gio Gonzalez set to join J.A. Happ and Masahiro Tanaka in the rotation at some point, it’s hard to see Loaisiga — who is also competing with Domingo German — carving out a spot for the duration of the season. He’s worth a stream for now, and if he performs well, perhaps a hold until the other pitchers can prove they’re healthy.
Blue Jays sign Randal Grichuk to a 5-year extension through 2023
Grichuk figures to be part of Toronto’s long-term plan as it rebuilds around a younger core. His floor offers an average in the .240 range with mid-20s homer power, but poor plate discipline has always kept him from breaking out. Grichuk is entering his prime at age 27, and he did walk seven times while only striking out six during spring training, so Toronto’s investment might be a clue that fantasy owners should do the same. If Grichuk can improve his plate discipline, he could uncork over 30 homers with a decent average.
Mariners reinstate Anthony Swarzak from the 10-day IL
Hunter Strickland will be out a while, and Swarzak could be the preferred closer considering he was inserted into the ninth inning during his first game back off the IL. Swarzak is 33 with only seven career saves, but four of them came last year with the Mets, where he was emerging as the favorite for the role after injuries decimated New York’s bullpen. Of course, Swarzak got injured himself, and he’s had trouble staying on the field recently. Swarzak’s last great year in 2017 proved that he could elicit ground balls, get strikeouts, limit walks, and avoid hard contact. Assuming health, he has the requisite skills to close for an upstart Seattle team all season. That makes him an immediate add if you’re looking for closer help.
Braves sign Ronald Acuña Jr. to an 8-year deal with club options for 2027 and 2028
Acuña is set for life, it seems, and so are you if you own him in a keeper or dynasty league. You already knew he was a stud, so you didn’t need this deal to confirm it. However, knowing where he will play through most of his prime allows us to better forecast what the future may hold.
Alford has long teased fantasy owners with his potential, seemingly breaking out in the minors with a .797 OPS and 19 stolen bases. The Pillar trade opens up an opportunity for Alford to flash his power/speed potential, while Pillar brings a similar — albeit more consistent and proven — skill set to San Francisco. Alford makes for an intriguing AL-only speculative play. Pillar immediately becomes the best player in a weak Giants’ outfield, almost guaranteeing he will play most days. Pillar’s career .296 OBP doesn’t jive with the new direction GM Farhan Zaidi wants to take the team, but he fits a need as a right-handed outfielder with some pop and speed. Consider him an add in NL-only leagues for now.
Yankees place Miguel Andujar on the 10-day IL with a right shoulder strain and call up Tyler Wade from Triple-A
Those relying on Andujar to start at third base or in a corner infield spot on fantasy rosters will be without him for a while. Early reports indicate season-ending surgery is not out of the question now that Andujar is dealing with a labrum tear after diving back into third during his last game. Needing healthy bodies, the Yankees added Tyler Wade for depth. An owner of a .162/.216/.246 slash line in 130 MLB at-bats, Wade isn’t an impact bat. He did, however, steal 66 bases across the upper levels of the minors and will see action all over the infield.
Those looking for an internal replacement should probably turn to DJ LeMahieu, who earned the first start at third in Andujar’s absence and slotted into the seventh spot in the lineup. LeMahieu figures to see some statistical regression now that he’s no longer calling Coors Field home, but he still offers a solid batting average floor. If he can work his way higher up the lineup, there’s potential to score some runs as well. It’s possible to see around 10 steals and home runs each if he gets extensive playing time.
This is a devastating blow for those expecting a career year for Murphy in his first season with the Rockies. Unfortunately, he’s little more than an injury stash now. If there is tendon damage to the finger, the wait could be significant. We’re already looking at a minimum three-week recovery time, with six to eight weeks more likely. Before anybody rushes to assume this will free Garrett Hampson for more playing time, consider how much depth the Rockies have. Ryan McMahon beat out Hampson for the starting second-base job out of spring, and Mark Reynolds can also fill in at first. Hampson was likely drafted in most leagues, but he’s definitely worth an add if still out there. Just temper expectations and be patient.
Clayton Richard went undrafted in most leagues, but Reid-Foley could surprise with this call-up. A former second-round pick from 2014, Reid-Foley has the ability to miss bats, as evidenced by a career 10.01 K/9 in the minor leagues and 11.46 K/9 in seven major league starts last year. He could represent a decent streaming option in the right matchup, but it’s hard to recommend committing a roster spot to him considering his 5.67 BB/9 for the Blue Jays during limited spot-start duty in 2018. He’s someone to monitor if he can keep the walks down in Toronto.
Wendle was a MI option for some in deeper leagues, and Arroyo probably won’t have much value despite being a former first-round pick of the Giants traded to Tampa Bay in the Evan Longoria deal. Arroyo profiles as more of a middling average hitter with gap power and very little speed, making him a far-from-appealing fantasy option.
Margevicius came up for a spot start and acquited himself well by only giving up one run in five innings against the Giants. Then again, it was the Giants. Also, his fastball hovers in the high-80s. Since he hadn’t seen Double-A oppostion or higher and didn’t dominate in Single-A, there probably isn’t any reason to speculate here.
Mariners trade for Tom Murphy and send Jesus Ozoria to the Giants
Maybe this matters in two-catcher leagues. A better question might be why anyone plays in a two-catcher league. Omar Narvaez should draw most of the starts behind the dish for Seattle, but Murphy should spell him when he needs an off day.
Notable Moves from Last Week
This move has less to do with Morales than it does with Matt Olson and Chad Pinder. Many hoping for a Pinder breakout assumed Olson’s injury would lead to more playing time, but the Morales acquisition deflates that possibility a bit. Expect the Athletics to rotate their options to fill in for Olson, making all of them inconsistent assets that only have value in AL-only and the deepest of mixed leagues.
Indians place Francisco Lindor on the 10-day IL
New reports suggest Lindor could miss three weeks. It’s reasonable to be concerned about his productivity when he returns. Lower-body injuries can sap a player’s power, depriving batters of the ability to drive the ball. Lindor also may not run much, if at all, once he comes back. It’s probably prudent to entertain selling high if you still can once Lindor gets close to returning.
The Indians’ outfield is unattractive for fantasy purposes, but getting Zimmer back will eventually help. Ramirez did hit .286 with 30 home runs in 2016, but he’s definitely at the end of his rope now. It’s hard to justify using a roster spot on him despite the opportunity for playing time.