Fantasy Baseball Depth Chart Review: Week 12
Welcome to another Depth Chart Review! I’ll break down all the major (and sometimes minor) transactions, injuries, and notable lineup changes around the league from Week 12 to evaluate how they affect the fantasy baseball landscape.
Mets activate Robinson Canó from the IL and place Noah Syndergaard (hamstring) on the 10-day IL
Reports from the farm suggested Cano still can’t run, but he hit his first home run since April 21 on Monday after going 99 consecutive plate appearances without one. After beginning the year with a poor exit velocity and hard-hit rate, Cano has brought those numbers closer to recent career norms. While still nowhere near on par with last year’s highs, he still seems capable of delivering some value as a CI/MI bat or NL-only starting option so long as he can remain healthy. Syndergaard’s “low-grade” strain is reportedly minor, and he figures to only miss one or two starts. Wilmer Font is a leading candidate to fill in while “Thor” heals.
Indians activate Mike Clevinger from the 60-day IL and option Josh Smith to Triple-A; transfer Corey Kluber to 60-day IL
Clevinger returned throwing high-90s heat and sharp sliders. Unfortunately, Texas rocked him for five runs in 4.2 innings pitched. Clevinger walked three but struck out seven, and he should post top-25 starting pitching numbers for the rest of the season so long as he can stay on the mound. With Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco out, Clevinger could easily eclipse Shane Bieber as Cleveland’s best pitcher left standing moving forward.
Twins place Byron Buxton (right wrist contusion) on the 10-day IL and recall Jake Cave from Triple-A
Buxton suffered a bruise after getting hit on the wrist by a pitch last Friday. He is in the midst of a career-best season, so hopefully, this latest IL stint doesn’t derail his momentum and progress once he returns. Cave doesn’t offer much fantasy appeal despite a decent showing last year (32.1% career K-rate), and the biggest beneficiary would seem to be Marwin Gonzalez, who figures to get everyday playing time for as long as Buxton is out.
Blue Jays place Justin Smoak on the IL with a quad strain and recall Justin Shafer from Triple-A
Smoak’s overall numbers don’t look all that impressive, but according to Statcast, his xwOBA and xSLG are off-the-charts elite. Combine that with the fact he has maintained his prodigious power and walk rate while also decreasing his strikeout rate to a career-low 18%, and you have a player ready to bust out. Smoak makes for a fine IL stash, and if he gets dropped by an owner in a roster pinch, he’s a great pickup for anyone in need of power. As for the Blue Jays, he might be their best trade chip as they shift their focus toward a youthful rebuild. Depending on where he ends up, Smoak’s value could continue to rise.
Marlins transfer José Ureña to 60-day IL after recalling Jordan Yamamoto from Double-A
There had been hope with Ureña’s injury that prized prospect Zac Gallen would earn a call-up. The Marlins opted to promote Yamamoto instead. Covered in this space last week, Yamamoto shined in his debut, tossing seven scoreless innings. He profiles more as a back-end starter or long reliever despite plus command and quality secondary offerings. Underneath the surface of his sterling debut is the fact that he still only elicited eight swinging strikes. However, Yamamoto earned the fortune of drawing those same Cardinals again in his second start, and he again pitched seven innings of shutout ball.
Per MLB Pipeline, only 19 pitchers in MLB history had allowed fewer than five baserunners while striking out more than five in greater than seven shutout innings in their debuts before Yamamoto became the first to do it in each of his first two starts. On Tuesday, he elicited 10 swinging strikes. Yamamoto will be a hot commodity for sure, but it’s unclear how good he can be when not facing the Cardinals. Those with space should also consider stashing Gallen, as there’s a realistic chance he will be up sooner rather than later now that Miami placed Ureña on the 60-day IL.
Giants reinstate Buster Posey from IL and option Aramis Garcia to Triple-A
Here’s what I said about Posey just before he went on the IL: “Posey is still on track to return from his hamstring injury, and while he is boasting a strong hard-hit% (76th percentile), his xwOBA (.340) is right in line with last year (.341), suggesting he remains roughly the same player. While he should end up with more home runs than 2018 (a middling three), his days as an elite option at a weak position might be over. His counting-stat production also figures to be somewhat pedestrian going forward on an abysmal Giants team. Still, THE BAT projects a .282 average and five more home runs to go along with a .768 OPS for the rest of the season, with a .332 wOBA making him a top-10 option.” Playing in a bad ballpark for hitters and on a terrible team makes Posey an underwhelming option, but he should finish the season as a back-end starting option. He’s worth an add if dropped in your league.
Padres option Chris Paddack to Single-A and recall Robert Stock from Triple-A
Paddack’s demotion is more about managing his innings than performance-related. He’s worth a stash if you have the room, though it is worth mentioning that he had stumbled a bit in his last three starts before being sent down, never going beyond five innings in any while giving up at least three earned runs in each. His K:BB ratio remained solid (16:2) during that stretch, so it likely had more to do with fatigue and the league figuring him out a little bit. Paddack is still more of a two-pitch starter at this stage of his young career, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an asset down the stretch.
Dodgers place Corey Seager (left hamstring strain) on the 10-day IL and activate Matt Beaty from the IL
Seager is one of 10 players to post a .360 OBP and .500 SLG in a season at 22 years old or younger. Despite a slow start to the year, he had gone from hitting .225 on May 11 to .275 on June 11. Sadly, Seager simply can’t seem to stay healthy. After pulling up lame running to third, the shortstop was diagnosed with a Grade 1/2 hamstring strain — not as severe as the initial “Grade 2 plus” diagnosis — and should miss at least a month. Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernandez figure to pick up most of the slack with Matt Beaty staying involved. Beaty, a 26-year-old rookie, smacked a two-run shot against the Cubs in his first game. He previously hit 34 home runs in 372 minor league games. Then again, for a player with solid plate discipline in the minors, it took him until his 52nd plate appearance to draw his first big league walk. Beaty is unlikely to have much re-draft value.
Mariners reinstate J.P. Crawford from 10-day IL; recall Matt Festa from Triple-A; place Brandon Brennan (strained right shoulder) on the 10-day IL; option Shed Long to Triple-A
A lot of moves here, but the most relevant is Crawford’s return. Some had speculated on Brennan to factor into the mix for saves, but with Hunter Strickland due back soon, Brennan can safely be dropped in all leagues while Seattle’s late-inning relief core continues to be a mess. Crawford’s development has been one of the rare bright spots for a Mariners team quickly circling the drain. In a deeper 15-team and AL-only format, he could provide some value hitting near the top of the lineup.
Royals recall Jorge Bonifacio from Triple-A and option Ryan O’Hearn to Triple-A
O’Hearn hit 10 home runs and knocked in 24 RBIs through his first 30 games in 2018, becoming one of three American League players to ever do that. Baseball Prospectus’ Mike Gianella had a great tweet comparing similar stats over the last calendar year for O’Hearn and Jose Abreu.
In any case, O’Hearn heads back to Triple-A courtesy of a .188/.286/.333 slash line across 213 plate appearances this season. It should be noted that he was suffering from a low BABIP (.225), and he’s worth a look again for those in need of power in AL-only and deeper mixed formats if the Royals call him back up this season.
Angels recall Taylor Cole from Triple-A and designate Cody Allen for assignment before granting him his unconditional release
The Angels had hoped Allen would hold down the closer role for them this season, but it looks like Hansel Robles‘ job to lose for now. Allen’s struggles (6.26 ERA) forced the issue, and he’s likely not going to have much value moving forward regardless of which team takes a flier on him. Allen’s numbers last year (4.70 ERA, 4.56 FIP, 1.36 WHIP) were a signal of what would come this season for the former star closer, so Allen now sadly becomes the latest example of how fickle relievers can be.
Blue Jays add Nick Kingham to the roster and option Thomas Pannone to Triple-A
Kingham showed promise in Pittsburgh with two plus pitches (slider and curveball), but volatility plagued his rookie campaign last season. The Pirates organization, once famed for Ray Searage’s ability to develop young arms into studs, has quickly devolved into a factory of slider and offspeed-suppression in favor of pitching to contact. Kingham’s stuff makes him an intriguing add for those looking to take a deep flier in dynasty leagues. It’s possible Toronto will be able to channel Kingham’s strengths in order to make him a strong rotation piece down the line. For now, he’s figuring things out in the bullpen. His first pitch as a Blue Jay — a slider — was blasted for a home run.
Cubs place Kyle Hendricks on 10-day IL (right shoulder inflammation), recall RHP Rowan Wick from Triple-A
Shoulder injuries are never a good sign. There’s no timetable for when he will return from shoulder impingement, but the Cubs don’t want to rush him back. He had been enjoying a solid campaign (3.36 ERA, 3.48 FIP) with a slightly better K/9 and lower BB/9 compared to last season. As a viable mid-rotation fantasy starter, he’s worth stashing on the IL, and his injury could represent a buy-low opportunity for those desperate for starting pitching stability once he returns.
Yankees acquire Edwin Encarnación from Mariners for Juan Then and cash; option Clint Frazier to Triple-A and reinstate Giancarlo Stanton from 10-day IL
Encarnacion, the current AL home run leader who’s also boasting an .880 OPS, brings an offensive boost to the Yankees just as they’re getting back Stanton. It’s a bit of a curious move for a team that needs pitching, but New York figured it was better to upgrade its greatest strength (power) ahead of an active starting pitching market that figures to have a lot of competition at the deadline. Frazier’s demotion is disappointing considering how well he hit (.843 OPS, .349 wOBA), but it was inevitable that he would get sent back down once the Yankees were healthy and Encarnacion forced him out of the lineup. Barring injury, Frazier may not find himself back on the big league roster any time soon and can safely be dropped in all re-draft leagues for now. Expect him to be a hotly rumored trade chip leading up to the deadline.
The trade is a boon to Encarnacion’s fantasy value, while Stanton’s risk of reinjury theoretically increases the more time he spends in the outfield with Encarnacion as the primary DH. In a bit of irony, Seattle traded away Then to New York in 2017, and he has done little to prove himself since then (no pun intended). The Mariners are also paying half of Encarnacion’s salary as they continue their teardown.
Reds reinstate Robert Stephenson from 10-day IL and place José Iglesias on the paternity list
Stephenson endured a rough stretch recently (5.87 ERA, 1.30 WHIP in May) after beginning the year as one of National League’s best relievers, but his 12.33 K/9 puts him in elite company. He remains a solid option in leagues that reward holds, and it’s possible a pitcher with swing-and-miss stuff like his will be sought after at the deadline.
White Sox place Welington Castillo (strained left oblique) on 10-day IL; reinstate Jace Fry from 10-day IL; purchase contract of Zack Collins from Triple-A
Castillo’s injury could cost him weeks, and the White Sox were rarely letting him start more than one game at a time behind the dish anyway. His performance thus far (.196 average) made him essentially unusable even in two-catcher leagues. Collins, Chicago’s first-round pick in 2016, was hitting .250/.374/.482 with nine home runs in Triple-A before his promotion. He has some power (15+ home runs in each of the last two seasons in the minors) and decent plate discipline, but he strikes out a ton (32% K-rate), making him a worthy add in two-catcher leagues, but likely nothing more.