They say fantasy baseball leagues are won in-season. If you actually believe that’s the case and your league uses free agent acquisition budget (FAAB) for weekly pickups, then this weekly article is for you.
Even if your league uses another free agent system like waivers or first-come, first-served, hopefully you can use the tips and analysis for guidance to help win your fantasy baseball league this season.
The difficulty in writing this article is catering to as many types of leagues as possible. Rotoworld Season Pass readers play in everything from 8-team mixed leagues to 20-team AL- and NL-only leagues. With that being the case, I’ve included headings and notes that will hopefully help you browse quickly to the players that are most pertinent to your league.
The two notes are “Helpful for” and “Worth Breaking the Bank?” Definitions:
Helpful For: The minimum league size where the player is better than a typical replacement-level player. For example, “12-team leagues” in the Mixed League Players section indicates the player can help in a 12-team mixed league or larger.
Worth Breaking the Bank? Is this player worth a significant portion of your FAAB budget or a high waiver priority? Since I don’t know what positions and categories you need or your FAAB budget after this week, it’s difficult to be more specific. However, I will try to provide some guidance, if possible.
Overall, keep in mind these recommendations are for 5x5 leagues with standard rosters (14 hitters and 9 pitchers).
This week we’re looking at players who have gained value within the last seven days.
Mixed League Players
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Royals
Cuthbert has been mentioned in the AL-only section before, but Mike Moustakas’ season-ending injury makes him a consideration in all leagues. He has a pedestrian .608 OPS and one home run in 67 at-bats, though Cuthbert has been playing regularly at third base for the Royals, hitting seventh most of the time. Cuthbert got off to a tremendous start at Triple-A this season with seven homers in 24 games, but his history shows more of a 15-plus home run hitter, hitting 23 homers in 843 at-bats over the last two seasons. The upside is limited, but it’s enough to take a look if you’re desperate for some corner infield pop.
Helpful for: 15-team mixed leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No, the upside is limited as a career .262 minor league hitter with teens pop potential.
Michael Feliz, RP, Astros
A middle reliever in the mixed league section? Feliz has pitched so well that he deserves consideration, and he’s available in the vast majority of mixed leagues. While Feliz has a 4.50 ERA in 20 innings, his components are phenomenal. The hard-throwing 22-year-old has a 33/4 K/BB, meaning that he has a 14.9 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9. He allowed nine earned runs in his only two April appearances. Since that point, he’s allowed only one run in 14.2 innings and hasn’t walked a better during May. The strikeout rate puts him on pace for more than 100 strikeouts, and as the ERA continues to drop, Feliz registers positive value in mixed leagues now. More interesting, the former minor league starter could get a look in the rotation during the second half if the Astros fall further out of contention.
Helpful for: 12-team mixed leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? Not in a middle relief role, though it’s likely you won’t need to spend much to get him because of that role.
Julio Urias, SP, Dodgers
If you didn’t know all about Urias before last week, you probably do now after the media hyped up the 19-year-old’s major league debut. It didn’t go well, and he was demoted back to Triple-A following his start. Urias still showed flashes of why he’s so acclaimed, and it probably won’t be long before he’s back with the Dodgers. He’s been dominant at Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, posting a 1.10 ERA in 41 innings with a 5.50 K/BB ratio. That command certainly wasn’t on display in his major league debut, and it seems likely Urias will get some time as a reliever in the majors with the Dodgers’ bevy of starters making their way back, starting with Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers also want to limit Urias’ innings, as he’s never thrown more than 87.2 innings in a season. That number is already up to 43.2 innings this season, and certainly more innings will be spent at Triple-A.
Helpful for: 14-team mixed leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? Only if you’re in a keeper league. It’s difficult to see Urias throwing more than 50 innings in the majors this season, and many of those innings will probably be in a relief role.
Paulo Orlando, OF, Royals
Orlando opened the season as Jarrod Dyson’s replacement, but lost his regular role after struggling early. He’s back to playing regularly, and won’t have a threat to everyday playing time until Alex Gordon returns from injury. The Brazilian is also on a great hot streak, now hitting .383-1-10 with two steals in 26 games. We saw some flashes from Orlando last season, and he’s a career .275 hitter with regular double-digit steals in the minors. Plate patience has been a major weakness for Orlando since he was promoted last year, now with 7/71 BB/K over 321 plate appearances. Still, he’s shown a batting average that won’t hurt, and the speed is enough for consideration.
Helpful for: All AL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? His playing time probably won’t last past Gordon’s return, but he’s capable of a handful of steals until that time. That could be worth a significant investment if you’re desperate for steals.
Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers
It’s very good to see Profar back healthy after two lost years due to shoulder issues. The former top prospect is still only 23, and was hitting .284-5-26 with four stolen bases at Triple-A Round Rock prior to his call-up this week. He’s getting regular playing time at second base during Rougned Odor’s seven-game suspension, and is already off to a nice start through two games. Unfortunately, Profar will probably be sent down following Odor’s return, but he’s a candidate to be traded later this season and is certainly capable of starting in the middle infield somewhere. It’s worth remembering that Profar hit .281-14-62 with 16 steals in 126 games at Double-A Frisco at age 19, and is showing similar performance now with the shoulder issues behind him.
Helpful for: All AL-only leagues while he’s starting
Worth Breaking the Bank? He should be a major asset when he plays, but Profar could have to wait a while after this week. If you have enough bench spots to stash Profar, he’s worth a healthy bid.
Whit Merrifield, OF/2B, Royals
Royals manager Ned Yost likes himself some utilitymen, and Merrifield has the upside to be a super utilityman in the majors. With only eight major league games under his belt, Merrifield has made four appearances in left field, three appearances at second base, and one appearance at second base. A career .274 minor league hitter, Merrifield had 16 steals in 17 attempts prior to his call-up, and swiped 32 bases at Triple-A last season. Already age 27, Merrifield has slowly and consistently worked his way up through the minors, and has convinced Yost to give him regular playing time around the diamond to this point.
Helpful for: All AL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No. He’s playing regularly now, but the minor league track record shows a player who probably won’t hit much. The steals are still valuable if you need them.
Chris Heston, SP, Giants
Matt Cain’s hot streak ended this week with a hamstring injury that will force him to the DL. The Giants haven’t announced a replacement, but 2015 rotation member Chris Heston seems likely. Heston served well as San Francisco’s fifth starter for much of last season after posting a 3.95 ERA in 31 starts last season. The groundball pitcher started this year off slowly, but has allowed only two runs over his last two starts in the minors. His performance will be significant given the way Jake Peavy has struggled this season, as a more long-term spot in the rotation can’t be completely ruled out.
Helpful for: Deep NL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No, Heston showed the upside last season. It isn’t much beyond a sub-4.00 ERA and some wins.
James Loney, 1B, Mets
Loney was already mentioned here when he signed with the Padres, but the situation changes now that he’s in Queens. He’s expected to serve as New York’s regular first baseman against right-handed pitching, at least until Lucas Duda returns from his back injury. It sounds like the timetable will be at least one month for Duda, so Loney will have significant time to contribute. Loney’s skillset really isn’t a mystery as a career .285 hitter with limited power. While he was hitting .342 at Triple-A El Paso this year, it’s worth remembering El Paso is one of the more hitter-friendly ballparks in a very hitter-friendly league. Loney seems likely to hit closer to the bottom of the Mets batting order, which will limit his counting stats.
Helpful for: All NL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No, he’s only helpful for batting average and RBI, and will be relegated to the bench or worse whenever Duda returns.
Peter O’Brien, OF, Diamondbacks
O’Brien is one of Arizona’s top hitting prospects, and has been raking at Triple-A Reno this season. His stat line is .306-12-32 in only 42 games, though it’s disturbing that the impatient O’Brien has been even more impatient than usual, with 6/54 BB/K. Regardless, he’s one of the upper minors’ best power prospects, hitting 26 homers last season and 34 between High-A and Double-A in 2014. O’Brien is likely to be sent down next weekend when David Peralta returns from injury, but Arizona does have some outfield at-bats available now if they choose to use O’Brien. His batting average should be considered a major question mark, but the power potential, especially at Chase Field, is interesting.
Helpful for: Deep NL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No, his playing time will be very limited for now.