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Depth Chart Review: Pavin Smith, Shane McClanahan & Pitcher Injuries

by Corbin Young | @corbin_young21 | Featured Writer
May 4, 2021

So, uh, can we turn injuries off on this video game? It seems like every week that more injury news floods into our feeds. Unfortunately, we experienced too many pitcher injuries, including Jesus Luzardo, Matthew Boyd, and Brady Singer. We also got some especially unfortunate news for Dustin May and Luis Robert, two of the more exciting young talents in the game.

However, on a positive note, we witnessed several prospect call-ups, including Shane McClanahan and Daniel Lynch. The minor league season kicks off this week, and we have a few top prospects landing at Double-A and Triple-A, meaning they could receive the call sooner than later. That said, let’s dive into this week’s Depth Chart Review. As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @Corbin_Young21.

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Depth Chart Review for 10-12 Team Leagues

Luis Robert (OF –  CHW)
Early indications from Luis Robert’s hip flexor injury don’t sound positive. The White Sox noted that Robert has a Grade 3 strain or complete hip flexor tear. It sounds like Robert will consider the next steps of either rest and rehab or surgery.

All that said, Robert won’t participate in any baseball activities for 12-16 weeks. If we assume the longer end of that timeframe, he could resume in September, but that’s a long time to stash a player, especially with no injured list spots.

This is quite unfortunate news for Robert, as he had been making positive strides in lowering his strikeout rate to 27.2% with a .316 batting average, one home run, 11 runs, eight RBI, and four steals. Robert’s increased contact rate of 68.8% jumped from 61.4% in 2020, which provides cause for optimism. This is a major blow for the White Sox, especially after losing Eloy Jiménez to a pectoral injury.

Keston Hiura (2B – MIL)
We figured this might happen with Hiura, as he struggled mightily in 89 plate appearances — the Brewers sent him down to their alternate site. Hiura has one home run, eight runs, five RBI, and one steal with a .152 batting average. His contact rates dropped significantly with a 58.1% Z-Contact% and 55.3% Contact% compared to a career 71.4% Z-Contact% and 62.1% Contact%. I hope that Hiura figures out what’s going on. Buy low where you can, particularly in dynasty leagues.

Travis d’Arnaud (C – ATL)
Atlanta catcher Travis d’Arnaud suffered a thumb injury over the weekend and then landed on the 60-day injured list. In 15-team leagues with no injured list spot, he is cuttable for any catcher receiving playing time. Through 87 plate appearances, d’Arnaud hit two home runs, five runs, and 11 RBI with a .220 batting average. This came after d’Arnaud had a .321 batting average, nine home runs, 19 runs, 34 RBI, and one steal in 2020. A few catchers to add to replace d’Arnaud in deep leagues include Mike Zunino, Kurt Suzuki, and Kyle Higashioka.

Omar Narvaez (C – MIL)
Omar Narvaez landed on the 10-day injured list with a hamstring injury. This is unfortunate news, as Narvaez had hit three home runs, seven runs, and 11 RBI with a triple slash of .368/.443/.529. He continues to show that he’s one of the better hitting catchers outside of an outlier 2020 season where he had a .176 batting average. Hold on to Narvaez in 10-12 team leagues, assuming you have an injured list spot.

Nate Pearson (SP – TOR)
Recent reports indicate that Nate Pearson’s return continues to inch closer. The Blue Jays reinstated him from the 10-day injured list with a groin injury and optioned him to their alternate site. 

Assuming the rest of his rehab goes well, Pearson should return relatively soon after ramping up his pitch count. In 10-12 team leagues with an injured list spot, fantasy managers probably kept him stashed. Do a quick scan on the waiver wire to make sure he’s not available because of his massive strikeout upside. We know the Blue Jays desperately need starting pitching help even though Hyun-Jin Ryu, Robbie Ray, and Steven Matz have pitched well enough. 

In the limited sample of 2020, Nate Pearson’s pitches recorded quality swinging-strike and whiff rates. Pearson’s slider had a 14.8% swinging-strike rate and 34.7% whiff rate. Meanwhile, he threws his four-seam in the mid-90s with an average velocity over 96 mph in 2020. Four-seamers up and sliders down could hold up even he controls the walks and earn him some whiffs.

Pavin Smith (1B/OF – ARI)
Unfortunately, Kole Calhoun dealt with another injury, and this time it’s a procedure on his left hamstring. According to Zach Buchanan of The Athletic, it sounds like the timeline could range anywhere from 3-4 weeks or 6-8 weeks. 

Let’s assume the longer end of the timeline. Calhoun could land on waivers in 10-12 team leagues without an injured list spot to stash him. If that ends up being the case, then expect an immediate and long-term playtime bump for Pavin Smith and potentially Daulton Varsho. Smith has already proven his worth by hitting the ball well.

Pavin Smith either led off or hit second in 13 straight games heading into Monday. He has one home run, eight runs, and four RBI with a .291 batting average during that stretch. He also boasts a high zone contact rate at 95.7% with a low 5% swinging-strike rate. Amongst hitters with at least 50 batted ball events, Pavin Smith ranks 31st with a 96.8mph average exit velocity on FB/LD. He is another hitter that’s pushing the fantasy relevancy conversation in 12-team leagues. 

Daulton Varsho (C – ARI)
Daulton Varsho should also warrant some intrigue, particularly in 15-team leagues with two catcher spots. Varsho holds that rare power/speed combination for a catcher-eligible player. In the minors, Varsho totaled 11 home runs and 19 steals in 2018, then 18 home runs and 21 steals in 2019. He hit .286 and .301, respectively, in those seasons, with an OBP north of .363. In a short 115 plate appearances in 2020, Varsho hit three home runs with three steals, though it came with a measly .188 batting average. We’ll note that Varsho pinch-hit in three straight games, then started on Saturday and Sunday over the weekend. 

Update on Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B – PIT)
In a recent injury update, Hayes received positive news after additional examinations on his hand/wrist from Todd Tomcyzk, the Pirates Sports Medicine Director. All signs point to continued progress, and he may return to the major leagues soon. In the meantime, Erik Gonzalez is a name to monitor in 15-team leagues if you’re desperate for any hitters. Over his last 14 days heading into the weekend, Gonzalez had a .280 batting average with one home run, three runs, and ten RBI. That’s decent production for a 15-team league bat. 

Pitcher Injuries 

Brady Singer (SP – KC)
On Friday, Brady Singer left his start against the Twins with a left heel contusion. He took a liner off his foot then ended up leaving the game. The X-rays came back negative on his left heel, and he is currently day-to-day.

So far in 2021, Brady Singer has pitched relatively well with a 3.09 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 26.3% strikeout rate, and 9.1% walk rate. Singer has increased his strikeout rate to a career-high across all levels. He mostly uses his sinker (57-61%) and slider (35-37%), while his slider elicited a 15.3% swinging-strike rate in 2021 compared to 14.7% in 2020. 

If Singer misses time, Kris Bubic could fill in since he received the call over the weekend. In 2020, Bubic threw 50 innings with a 4.32 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, a 22.1% strikeout rate, and a 9.9% walk rate. His walks and hits allowed contributed to the high WHIP. Bubic rocks an above-average changeup that recorded a 14.7% swinging-strike rate. He is someone to monitor in 15-team leagues if he earns some starts. We’ll note this later on, but Jakob Junis moved to the bullpen after the Royals called up Daniel Lynch, who pitched on Monday. 

Matthew Boyd (SP – DET)
On Thursday, the Tigers removed Matthew Boyd from his start with left knee tendinitis. Reports indicate Boyd could only miss one start and not land on the injured list. 

It’s good news so far. Boyd has made an intriguing pitch mix change by increasing his changeup usage by 6%. The changeup looks effective so far, with a 14.5% swinging-strike rate, 30.6% whiff rate, and .207 wOBA allowed.

Here’s the kicker — Boyd tossed all 118 changeups to only right-handed hitters. Although it hasn’t translated into more strikeouts yet, it should, but we’ll take it if he can just keep the ratios in check. 

Marcus Stroman (SP – NYM)
Marcus Stroman left Friday’s game with a hamstring injury. Before leaving the game, Stroman was dealing with eight strikeouts and zero earned runs across five innings of work. Monitor Stroman’s injury since he’s providing elite ratios so far. 

Dustin May (P – LAD)
Unfortunate news for Dustin May, who left Saturday’s game after throwing a pitch. Recent reports from the Dodgers indicate a right arm injury. We’ll monitor the news, but May put up elite numbers so far with a 2.74 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, a career-best 37.2% strikeout rate, and 5.8% walk rate in 23 innings. 

It’s difficult to find a clear replacement for May with Tony Gonsolin also on the injured list with a shoulder injury. They could probably piece together a bullpen game, or they could activate David Price from the injured list. Price has made seven relief appearances in 2021 with a 5.59 ERA and 1.86 WHIP. We know that he presents SP2 or SP3 upside, so he could slide back into the rotation.

Update: In about a week, Dustin May will undergo Tommy John surgery after an MRI that showed UCL damage. That’s awful news for May, the Dodgers, and fantasy managers after an exciting start.

Jesús Luzardo (SP – OAK)
Over the weekend, Jesús Luzardo landed on the 10-day injured list with a fracture in his left pinky finger. I’m not sure how this continues to happen, but baseball players have the weirdest injuries.

Luzardo hurt his finger from “hitting his hand on a table while playing a video game,” per A’s beat writer Shayna Rubin. The team even let him pitch on May 1st, and he struggled, allowing five hits, three earned runs, and two walks with one strikeout. Hopefully, he won’t sit out for long — he had just recorded back-to-back solid starts where he posted a 30.4% strikeout rate, 6.5% walk rate, 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP through 12 innings pitched. With a left pinky injury, it makes us wonder how or if that might impact his ability to grip and throw his changeup.

Depth Chart Review for 15-Team Leagues

Sam Hilliard (OF – COL)
The Rockies optioned Sam Hilliard to their alternate site last Thursday. Hilliard had a .108 batting average with two home runs, five runs, and four RBI in 39 plate appearances. It looks like this means increased playing time for outfielder Yonathan Daza. Through 69 plate appearances, Daza had a .284 batting average with one home run. Back in 2019, Daza totaled 11 home runs and 12 steals with a .364 batting average in Triple-A.

Daza doesn’t light up the Statcast data, but he makes above-average zone contact and contact overall. Daza rocks an 86.8% Z-Contact% and 80.3% Contact% so far in 2021. However, he chases a bit, as his 36.8% O-Swing% reveals. With so many players hitting the injured list, don’t sleep on Daza for some potential batting average with some counting stats. 

Update: The Rockies recalled Hilliard once Carlos Estevez landed on the injured list. Unless Hilliard heats up, he is hard to roster in 15-team leagues, although the outfield pool tends to dry up in deep leagues.

Ryan Jeffers (C – MIN)
Last week, the Twins optioned Ryan Jeffers back to their alternate site, which solidified playing time for Mitch Garver. In a brief debut in 2020, Jeffers totaled three home runs with a .273 batting average in 62 plate appearances. After some buzz as a deep-league sleeper, Jeffers underwhelmed so far in shared playing time with zero home runs, a .147 batting average, and a 48.6% strikeout rate. In 15-team leagues, cut Jeffers for someone like Francisco Mejía, Luis Torrens, or Jason Castro

Mariners’ Rotation

With Nick Margevicius and Marco Gonzales landing on the injured list, Ljay Newsome pitched on Saturday against the Angels. Prospects Live ranked Newsome No. 21 amongst Mariners prospects. He boasts above-average command and control, evinced by his minuscule 5% walk rate so far in 2021. In 2021, before his start over the weekend, he primarily came out of the bullpen with a 1.69 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 10.2 innings. Even when he made starts in 2020, they ended up as short stints no deeper than 4.1 innings. However, Newsome’s start on Saturday ended awfully, with eight earned runs, seven hits, two walks, and one strikeout in two innings pitched. 

If Margevicius and Gonzales miss extended time, I’d speculate on Chris Flexen or Justin Dunn in deeper leagues. Flexen threw back-to-back quality starts against the Astros and Red Sox with ten strikeouts, one walk, a 1.38 ERA, and 1.15 WHIP in 13 innings. He uses a four-pitch mix with a four-seamer (34%), cutter (32.8%), changeup (17.8%), and curveball (14.6%). Flexen’s cutter and changeup elicited positive results so far.

Unlike Flexen and Newsome, Justin Dunn doesn’t limit the walks with an 18.7% strikeout rate and 16.8% walk rate through 72.2 career MLB innings. Dunn’s breaking pitches look slightly below average with his curveball, resulting in an 8.4% swinging-strike rate and a 27.8% whiff rate. Interestingly, Dunn’s swinging-strike on the curve dropped from 12% in 2020. However, his curve also has a ton of horizontal movement with 8.3 inches above the league average. Prioritize Flexen and Dunn over Newsome in 15-team leagues for a streamer in a decent matchup.

Injury to Ryan Weathers (P – SD)
First, Adrian Morejon got hurt; now Ryan Weathers has gotten hurt, too. Oh, and Dinelson Lamet is dealing with issues of his own. Although some thought the Padres’ moves seemed unnecessary, they bolstered their depth, which they have truly needed thus far.

A few names to monitor already on their 40-man roster include Nabil Crismatt, Anderson Espinoza, and Reggie Lawson — or maybe the Padres make another trade. I don’t think any of those pitchers provide immediate impact unless MacKenzie Gore receives the call-up, in which case Gore becomes a must-add in all formats. Unfortunately, it’s safe to cut Weathers even in 15-team leagues. 

Update: On Saturday, news broke that Ryan Weathers could make his next start. That’s positive, but we’ll see if that happens — hopefully, it won’t lead to further injuries. On Sunday, Weathers completed a bullpen session with no issues. 

Depth Chart Review for Minor Leaguers

Daniel Lynch (P – KC)
On Sunday, news broke that Daniel Lynch had received the call up into the Royals’ rotation. With Lynch moving up, Jakob Junis has slid back into the bullpen. The value for Junis takes a hit — he had pitched well through six appearances (four starts). Junis has a 3.47 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 28.7% strikeout rate, and 7.4% walk rate in 23.1 innings with a recent nine strikeout quality start, where he allowed two earned runs.

Lynch started on Monday and went 4.2 innings with four hits, three earned runs, four walks, and three strikeouts. His slider looked like straight filth with a 43% whiff rate, though only a 29% CSW% primarily due to his likely lack of command based on his pitch illustrator. He worked up to 74 pitches and primarily used his four-seam (47%), slider (38%), and changeup (12%). Give it time, but Lynch’s stuff looks pretty nasty.

Shane McClanahan (P – TB)
Nasty. Filthy. Velocity. Ridiculous. Enter whatever description you want to use to describe Shane McClanahan’s major league debut. McClanahan started against the Athletics, where he allowed five hits, two earned runs, and zero walks with five strikeouts in four innings. 

He used a four-pitch mix, but he primarily used his slider, four-seamer, and changeup. McClanahan’s slider elicited a 59% whiff rate and 58% CSW%. Wow! Meanwhile, McClanahan’s four-seamer topped out over 100 mph with an average velocity of 97 mph. He sprinkled in a changeup that he threw to only right-handed hitters, which could provide him with a helpful opposite-handed weapon. 

It was nice to see McClanahan work up to four innings and 59 pitches, and maybe he sticks in the rotation. Rays manager Kevin Cash raved about McClanahan with indications he should stick around, although they’ll manage his innings, which isn’t unexpected. He’s a must-add in all league sizes with the tremendous upside. However, in FAAB leagues, be careful in bidding high on a player with helium.

Luis Patiño (P – TB)
This feels a bit unfair, but Luis Patiño followed up Shane McClanahan for two scoreless innings with one hit and two strikeouts. Pairing both of these pitchers could lead to a scary combination for opposing hitters with a hard-throwing lefty and righty back-to-back. In that same game against the Athletics, Patiño used his four-seam and slider combination that wasn’t overwhelming, but it’s still early in his young major league career. Both Patiño and McClanahan have value in 15-team leagues, but you shouldn’t expect either of them to go deeper into games than five innings. 

Wander Franco (SS – TB)
By now, many fantasy managers have stashed Wander Franco in deeper 15-team leagues. However, let’s note the Rays will have him start at Triple-A. With the lost minor league season in 2020, Franco hadn’t played above High-A. The Rays may call up Franco in 2021, but the question remains — when? As arguably the top one or two fantasy prospect in all of baseball, Franco is worth stashing in most formats. 

Other Notable Minor League Placements

The Royals announced that Bobby Witt Jr. would start the year at Double-A. After some speculation that Witt might earn a spot to start the season, they sent him to their alternate site. In Spring Training, Witt hit three home runs with a .289 batting average. We’ll note that Witt currently isn’t on the Royals 40-man roster, so they’ll need to make an additional roster move before calling him up. Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert both have massive upside, but their timeline feels a little bit murkier. Kelenic and Gilbert should be stashed in most formats.

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Corbin Young is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Corbin, check out his archive and follow him @corbin_young21.

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