As July heads to a close and the MLB Trade Deadline nears, there have already been numerous depth chart shake-ups, with more to come. In addition, most fantasy baseball leagues will believe it or not, commence with their playoff rounds just over a month from now.
Hopefully, the final push of these articles will be enough to earn some managers wins now while they still have a chance in their standings.
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We have touched on so many players so far in 2023: surprises, a plethora of rookies and savvy veterans that have been difference-makers for their organizations – old or new. Despite the anomaly of players that have delivered career years to this point, star power has proven to still ring true.
The top-10 fantasy leaders in ESPN H2H scoring to this point are:
- Shohei Ohtani (DH – LAA): 640 points
- Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF – ATL): 415
- Freddie Freeman ( 1B – LAD): 366
- Mookie Betts (OF/2B/SS – LAD): 355
- Kyle Tucker (OF – HOU): 320
- Marcus Semien (2B – TEX): 318
- Jose Ramirez (3B/DH – CLE): 315
- Matt Olson (1B – ATL): 313
- Juan Soto (OF – SDP): 302
- Corbin Carroll (OF – ARI): (299)
Sans rookie sensation Corbin Carroll, this list is essentially what is to be expected at the top of the leaderboard when it comes to superstars in the MLB. This list consists of franchise cornerstones that are uncoincidentally also cornerstones of whatever fantasy team they find themselves on.
For teams that missed out on the aforementioned players in their offseason drafts early this spring, there is still hope, given the moving landscape of pieces throughout the league.
Let’s take a look at a few depth chart changes that could provide a boost for fantasy teams over the next month and a half.
Fantasy Baseball Depth Chart Review
The No. 2 prospect in the Milwaukee organization, 23-year-old Sal Frelick, was called up to the Bigs on July 23 and exploded onto the scene with a 3-for-3 debut at the plate while also tacking on a couple of highlight-reel plays in the field. Prior to his call-up, the outfielder had slashed .314/.393/.451 across three seasons in the Minors.
Now, Frelick looks like he will have a place in the Bigs for the foreseeable future, provided he can offer a boost to the NL Central first-place Brewers lineup. Behind Christian Yelich, there is neither much depth nor competition offered in the Milwaukee outfield. Frelick looks like the best bet to hold down a rest-of-season everyday role off the bat.
Frelick has recorded at least one hit in each of his first three games played, and he provides plus speed on the basepaths, in addition to underrated power at times. Barring an ice-cold slump in the coming weeks, there is little reason to believe that Frelick will be demoted again in 2023. He is the Brewers’ right fielder of the future and was drafted 15th overall back in 2021 for a reason.
We are rapidly approaching the final opportunity to either snag Trevor Story off waivers or acquire him for cheap in fantasy leagues as he nears his return from a seven-month elbow injury. Story has been rehabbing with Double-A Portland, where he homered in his first live-game action. He is expected to begin rehab games with Triple-A Worcester this week as he nears an MLB return.
On Tuesday, the Boston Red Sox traded their regular second baseman Enrique Hernandez to the Dodgers, likely signifying that Story’s pending return is imminent. Story could prove to be the piece that contending fantasy teams need to put them over the top this season.
In 2022, Story appeared in just 94 games but managed 22 doubles, 16 homers, 66 RBI and 13 steals in what was to be considered a down season. The 30-year-old has previously been known for his power, as he has surpassed 30 round-trippers twice in his career while also possessing plus-speed, reaching the double-digit mark in five out of his seven campaigns.
Upon return, Story should see consistent playing time for the Sox right out of the gate, especially as they contend for a last-ditch playoff spot in the waning months. He is a no-brainer pickup right now if he is still somehow floating around on waivers.
Thanks to the organization he’s ended up in, there is a chance we see Noelvi Marte’s MLB debut during the 2023 campaign. Cincinnati management has made it clear that they will not hesitate to call up prospects that are producing in the Minors to the Bigs without hesitation. This has already been seen with the likes of Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain and Christian Encarnacion-Strand this season.
The moves have worked, as the Reds have had a strong stretch of winning and currently find themselves in second place in the NL Central at 55-47, just 1.5 games back of Milwaukee. Marte could be the next key piece that Cincinnati rolls with as the Summer comes to a close.
21-year-old Marte was a key piece in the Luis Castillo trade, and for good reason. Across four years of Minor League ball, he holds a .285/.367/.470 slash line with 54 homers and 77 stolen bases. This season, Marte is slashing .289/.356/.469 with nine long balls and 13 steals across 70 games to this point.
A key factor potentially holding Marte back from a call-up this year could simply be the Reds’ out-of-nowhere depth they’ve ended up having in their lineup. Marte looks like he will end up being a long-term third baseman rather than shortstop when he eventually makes it to the m=Majors, and right now he would be log-jammed behind De La Cruz, McLain and Jonathan India.
Nevertheless, if Marte continues to impress at the plate, the Cincinnati brass will have no choice but to call him up, just as they have with these other mentioned players throughout the campaign. He is also talented enough to make a difference for fantasy teams if he were to get the necessary playing time. I’ll be intrigued to see if Marte will be able to find his way over to Great American Ball Park in the next 30 days or less.