Fantasy Baseball Depth Chart Review: Week 7
Welcome to another Depth Chart Review! I’ll be breaking down all the major (and sometimes minor) transactions, injuries, and notable lineup changes around the league from Week 7 to evaluate how they affect the fantasy baseball landscape.
Brewers select Keston Hiura from Triple-A and place Travis Shaw on the 10-day IL with a wrist strain
Shaw has been utterly dreadful thus far, and it’s fair to wonder if the wrist strain has been bothering him all season. Either way, Hiura is the type of prospect who could take the second base job and never relinquish it, pushing Mike Moustakas back to his natural position at third base. His first hit was a 103.6 mph missile up the middle, followed later by a 107 mph liner to left for his second single. A consensus top-10 prospect, Hiura has elite bat speed and an ability to hit to all fields.
Shaw did hit 63 home runs in the last two seasons combined, so it’s hard to see the Brewers moving on entirely from a player they acquired in 2017, especially if injuries played a role in his poor performance. Plus, Hiura is not a strong defender and his strikeout rate jumped precipitously this season in the minors, so his promotion doesn’t come without a few red flags. However, Hiura could easily hit for average while pounding double-digit home runs and two-baggers into the gaps for the remainder of the season. The long-term upside for .300, 20/15 is there. With the ability to call Miller Park home, he is arguably the number one prospect to add this week, with one possible exception…
Braves select Austin Riley from Triple-A and place Ender Inciarte on the 10-day IL with lower back tightness
Riley hit a grand slam in his final appearance for the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate, and that was his 10th home run in 13 games this month. He clobbered 15 total home runs to pair with a .299 batting average before going yard once more in his Braves debut. The only player posting unreal power numbers in the minors like that is Yordan Alvarez. Unlike Hiura, Riley’s 70-grade power is top tier, and he’s actually cut his K-rate down 10% so far this season. He almost certainly would have elevated himself to top-10 status on most prospect lists’ midseason rankings updates. Riley won’t get to play his natural position (third base) with Josh Donaldson in Atlanta, but Inciarte’s futility and injury could mean Riley sticks in the outfield if he hits even half as well as he did at Triple-A. The Braves only gave Riley four games in the outfield before this promotion, so there is a chance that his defense becomes a liability in left field, mounting even more pressure on his bat.
There’s also the chance that even if he does mash, Atlanta may take him out of games early and use Inciarte as a late-inning defensive replacement, thus costing Riley some plate appearances. However, the immense power and impending dual eligibility could make him the preferred add over Hiura despite the greater need for many fantasy owners at second base. Even projections have Riley belting over 20 home runs rest of season.
Yankees place Miguel Andujar on the 10-day IL with a right labrum tear
Andujar will undergo season-ending surgery, so this should solidify Gio Urshela’s playing time going forward. Urshela is the latest in a continuous line of somewhat unheralded or underperforming prospects (Luke Voit, Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorius) who have turned to gold once the Yankees get their hands on them. Urshela does an excellent job of making contact, but his .377 BABIP is simply unsustainable. He’s neither fast nor particularly powerful, but his strong contact skills make him a viable add in leagues where CI help is needed or injuries have left anyone searching for help at the hot corner. His stellar defense should also keep him in the lineup all season.
Indians recall Oscar Mercado from Triple-A and place Tyler Naquin on the 10-day IL with a calf strain
Naquin wasn’t completely horrendous in his 30-game stint (81 wRC+), but a hot start could easily result in Mercado running away with the starting outfield job. Mercado has stolen over 100 bags in his last three minor league seasons. With the exception of Mallex Smith, who should be recalled back to Seattle any day now, there arguably isn’t a better stolen base option to emerge from the minors. Fans will surely point to the speed and .294/.396/.496 slash line in 30 games at Triple-A as reasons to get excited, but Mercado owns a .254/.321/.357 career line across seven minor league seasons. His hit tool profiles as below average, so keep expectations in check despite the speed upside. In fact, if you’re looking for speed, a better option may be the Royals’ call-up below.
Royals select Nicky Lopez from Triple-A and option Jake Newberry to Triple-A
Lopez was sitting on a minuscule 3.6% K rate with a 14.5% BB rate. He’s a speed threat like Mercado, but unlike Mercado, Lopez has a stronger hit tool with plus bat speed, solid contact skills, and above-average plate discipline. He makes for an excellent MI option for those in need of speed who also want AVG or OBP protection. The Royals seem determined to reduce the wear and tear on Whit Merrifield by placing him in the outfield, giving Lopez regular time at second base. The newcomer doesn’t have much power, but his ability to take a walk and avoid strikeouts makes him a sneaky points-league add. His speed (nine SB before his call up) makes him a target in any league given the dearth of stolen base options and the Royals’ propensity to run, run, and run some more. A modest projection would be a .270 BA and double-digit steals rest of season.
Yankees reinstate Aaron Hicks from the 10-day IL and place Jonathan Loaisiga on the 10-day IL with a right shoulder strain; Yankees also reinstate Clint Frazier from the 10-day IL
Loaisiga will be out awhile and can safely be dropped in all leagues. If Hicks was dropped in your league, go pick him up. Batting leadoff for the Yankees should guarantee elite run potential, and he also boasts a power-speed combo. So long as Frazier keeps hitting (108 wRC+), he should remain a lineup fixture as well and is also worth an add if he was dropped for some reason. It should be interesting to see how New York’s outfield shakes out once everyone is fully healthy.
Twins place Mitch Garver on the 10-day IL with a left ankle sprain and reinstate Miguel Sano from the IL
Garver had been producing like one of the best hitting catchers in baseball before this injury, slowly taking on the lion’s share of catching in Minnesota. His injury should ensure more playing time for Willians Astudillo. Consider Garver worth the IL stash in a barren catching landscape if you have room. Sano returns to a Twins team that no longer needs him to be their face of the franchise. After missing over 40 games with a laceration to his foot, he hit .316 with four doubles and two home runs during his 10-game minor league rehab assignment. He faces uncertain playing time with super utility man Marwin Gonzalez and Astudillo also battling for playing time at third base and Nelson Cruz occupying the DH spot. However, Cruz recently got an MRI on an ailing wrist and hasn’t played yet this week. Improved conditioning and a better attitude could make Sano a sneaky add if he’s still available on the wire. He’s still capable of massive raw power output.
Red Sox place David Price on the 10-day IL with elbow tendinitis
It remains to be seen if this is a Fortnite-related injury, but the good (and serious) news is that Price should be able to return by the end of the week.
Reds select the contract of Josh VanMeter from Triple-A and option Cody Reed to Triple-A
VanMeter had already accrued four multi-homer games at Triple-A on his way to bashing 13 dingers before his call-up. Consistent playing time may be hard to come by unless Derek Dietrich stops raking and Jose Peraza continues to crater. Scooter Gennett will also be back eventually as well. VanMeter does bear watching in case he goes full Christian Walker and keeps mashing at the MLB level.
Athletics reinstate Mark Canha from the IL and trade Kendrys Morales to Yankees
For whatever reason, the A’s never gave Chad Pinder an everyday role while both Canha and Matt Olson were on the shelf. Their addition of Morales was seemingly an indictment of Pinder as a regular, especially since they moved Morales to the Yankees now that Canha and Olson are back. Either way, Canha offers very little fantasy value while Pinder’s figures to remain more or less the same.
Phillies select Cole Irvin from Triple-A and option Austin Davis to Triple-A
Cole Irvin limits walks but can’t seem to even top 90 mph with his fastball, so he will live and die by command. Fortunately, Irvin has above-average command of five pitches. The former fifth-round pick profiles as an unspectacular, even boring, back-end starter, but his stellar precision should make him reliable. Irvin can post respectable ratios with his ability to throw strikes, and he’s a viable streaming option.
Astros select Corbin Martin from Triple-A
Martin can top 95 mph with ease and may very well have replaced Collin McHugh in the rotation for good after leapfrogging top prospect Forrest Whitley for a promotion. Many had high hopes for McHugh, but it doesn’t appear he will stick as a starter in Houston. Martin looked fantastic in his debut, giving up only three hits and two earned runs with nine strikeouts and just one walk against the Rangers. He elicited only 10 swinging strikes, but he’s got three plus-pitches (mid-90s heater, slider, and a changeup) and excellent mechanics. He hasn’t gone deep in games in the minors this year, so he may struggle to post quality starts. However, there is a ton of upside in an Astros starter with number two potential who can win games behind a potent lineup while posting solid ratios and strikeouts. Consider him a priority add everywhere.
Giants claim Aaron Altherr of waivers from the Phillies and option Dereck Rodriguez to Triple-A
Altherr was once a waiver-wire darling (.272/.340/.516 with 19 home runs in 2017), but he failed the test in 2018 (.282 wOBA in 105 games) and lost a chance at regular playing time. The Giants continue shopping among other teams’ scrap heaps, turning over their outfield in search of production. Altherr goes from cozy Citizens Bank Park to cavernous Oracle Park, so he’s unlikely to make much noise in San Francisco. He should be ignored for fantasy purposes for now. As for last year’s waiver-wire gem, look for the Giants to shuttle Rodriguez back and forth between the minors and MLB as needed.
Nationals reinstate Juan Soto from the 10-day IL and option Jake Noll to Triple-A
Soto missed some time with back spasms after a slow start to the season (.243 average), so the hope is that his back issues were fixed with added rest. Look for the young slugger to find his groove soon.
Blue Jays acquire Edwin Jackson from the Athletics for cash
There is likely very little fantasy value in this transaction, though Jackson did luck his way into a 3.33 ERA and six wins last season). The mention here is solely due to the fact that the 16-year veteran made baseball history by landing with his 14th MLB team. After making Wednesday’s start for Toronto, he set a record for most franchises played.
Pirates acquire Chris Stratton from the Angels for cash
Stratton has not been good at the MLB level, but he does possess elite spin rates on his four-seamer and curveball. That alone will continue to make him an appealing flier to analytics departments around baseball. Stratton can’t seem to make it work as a starter, and the Pirates will likely be the latest team to see why. That said, put him on watch in case his latest team can unlock something new.
Braves reinstate Jonny Venters from the 10-day IL and option A.J. Minter to Triple-A
Minter’s demotion makes Luke Jackson the preferred option in the ninth inning for now and heightens the chances the Braves will go after Craig Kimbrel in June. Minter is a better pitcher than the numbers indicate, but the fact that he is left-handed and hasn’t been able to run with the closer job in Atlanta despite having ample opportunity over the last two seasons probably means the Braves won’t be willing to give him another extended look in the role. He can safely be dropped in all leagues.
Mariners recall J.P. Crawford and Shed Long from Triple-A and option Chasen Bradford to Triple-A and place Dylan Moore on the 10-day IL with a right wrist contusion
Long profiles as a double-digit power-speed threat who could thrive in a utility role. Best case, Long produces the way Ronny Rodriguez has thus far — some pop, some steals, and multi-eligibility both in the infield and outfield. Crawford may not get much of a chance to prove himself since Dee Gordon‘s wrist injury may only sideline him a few more days. However, Crawford was hitting .319 at Triple-A, and as the centerpiece in the Jean Segura deal, he could receive playing time if either Gordon or Tim Beckham get hurt or traded.
Rays activate Austin Meadows from the 10-day IL and place Mike Zunino on the 10-day IL
Meadows had been hitting like a top-10 outfielder before getting hurt, and he’s already hit two home runs while going 5-for-15 in his first five games back from injury. Any owners who waited on his return are almost surely unwilling to sell now, but consider Meadows a buy if his owner is willing to move him. Zunino seemed to be thriving in Tampa, but he can be dropped for now and picked back up later if needed.
Mets place Steven Matz on the 10-day IL with radial nerve discomfort, retroactive to 5/5, and recall Dominic Smith from Triple-A
Unfortunately for Smith, Pete Alonso has already established himself as the future at first base in New York, while Matz stays true to form with yet another IL stint. Matz likely doesn’t have the upside (or reliability) to stash him except in the deepest of leagues, and Smith is merely depth for the Mets.
Giants recall Tyler Beede and Aramis Garcia from Triple-A and place Drew Pomeranz on the 10-day IL with a left lat strain and Buster Posey on the 7-day concussion IL
Beede has yet to post a clean outing this year at the big league level despite early-season success at Triple-A suggesting he had turned the corner as a starter. Although he’s been better as a bulk reliever than the initial seven-run bludgeoning the Reds handed him in an early May start, the upside and role are severely limited. Posey should be back by the end of the week, and Pomeranz can safely be dropped in all but the deepest of NL-only leagues.
Tigers reinstate Christin Stewart from the 10-day IL and place Jordy Mercer on the 10-day IL with a right quad strain
Stewart was an intriguing late-round flier in some drafts this offseason, but hitting in a weak lineup and seemingly stuck in a platoon with Niko Goodrum caps his value outside of deeper AL-only leagues.
Rays option Nate Lowe to Triple-A
Well, that was anti-climatic. Many fantasy owners spent large chunks of FAAB or high waiver priorities on Lowe when he got called up, but there was never a clear role or spot for him in Tampa. Lowe profiles as a strong OBP bat with power, but he struggled to acquit himself during his nine games with the Rays (.257/.289/.314). He should be dropped for now, but keep an eye on what he does in Triple-A. If he starts raking and the injury bug hits the parent club, be ready to pounce.
Nationals reinstate Anthony Rendon from the 10-day IL
I saw some folks on Twitter tossing around the idea that the best way to capitalize on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s hype was to try and flip him for Rendon. While that’s a topic for another day, what’s important to glean here is that Rendon is a great third baseman who is guaranteed to provide four-category production so long as he’s healthy. The Nationals are getting back Rendon and Soto at the right time.
Angels reinstate Cody Allen and Zack Cozart from the 10-day IL and designate Peter Bourjos and Chris Stratton for assignment
It remains to be seen whether or not Cody Allen gets another chance to close or whether the job now belongs to Hansel Robles. If Allen was dropped in your league, he should be added as a speculative pick for any teams desperate for saves. His skills have eroded, but more and more teams are using their best relievers in higher-leverage spots before the ninth inning, and the Angels are clearly doing just that with Ty Buttrey. At the very least, Allen should get a chance to save a few more games since that is indeed why the Angels signed him in the first place.
Angels activate Shohei Ohtani from the 10-day IL and option Luis Rengifo to Triple-A
Ohtani is already hitting 110+ mph homers again, so continue to ride him if you managed to hold onto him this long.
Cubs recall Carl Edwards Jr. from Triple-A and option Dillon Maples to Triple-A
The Cubs’ bullpen remains a mess, and Edwards should find himself inserted into high-leverage spots once again. He was once an excellent option in leagues that reward holds, and he’s already struck out five in four innings pitched since his return.