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
Franklin Barreto, SS, Athletics
It’s clear the A’s are moving into rebuild mode, sitting at 33-42 and 17.5 games out of first place in the AL West. The indications started when they designated Trevor Plouffe for assignment recently and continued when they did the same with Stephen Vogt. Calling up top prospect Barreto is the next indication. He started at second base in his first career game on Saturday, hitting a home run. The promotion is somewhat surprising considering that Barreto has struggled to make contact against Triple-A pitching this year, with 92 strikeouts in only 309 plate appearances. He’s still hit .281-8-32 with four steals after hitting .284-11-53 with 30 steals between Double- and Triple-A last season. It’s notable that Marcus Semien started a rehab assignment this week and could be ready to return before the All-Star break. Given the rebuild, Oakland seems likely to move regular second baseman Jed Lowrie soon regardless of Barreto’s success.
Helpful for: All leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? Only in keeper and AL-only leagues. Barreto has excellent long-term upside, but the fact he’s struggled to make contact at Triple-A isn’t a great sign for his short-term batting average. He could still be a 10/10 man at the premium position this season.
Jason Grilli, RP, Blue Jays
Unfortunately, regular Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna is going through anxiety issues, and it remains to be seen when he will be available to pitch. The Jays have held off placing him on the DL, but Osuna last pitched on Wednesday. Grilli is the clear replacement despite blowing a saw on Friday and holding an ERA near 7.00 this season. For Grilli’s purposes, his K/BB of 23/9 is still up to his standards, and the 40-year-old’s velocity is actually up from last season.
Helpful for: All leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Grilli will hopefully not get many more save chances as Osuna works out his issues, but saves are saves.
Bruce Maxwell, C, Athletics
Oakland designated Stephen Vogt this week, opening up the door for Maxwell. He’s started three games in a row for Oakland and continues to hit. Maxwell’s offense took off after getting to Triple-A last year, as he’s now a .310-12-55 hitter in 277 at-bat at that level. Granted, Maxwell has also been older than much of the competition now at age 26, and his bat was inconsistent in lower levels. Still, it’s clear that Oakland wants to see what they have in the former second-round pick the rest of the way, and that performance in the upper minors makes him more than intriguing in two-catcher leagues.
Helpful for: All two-catcher leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? Probably not. The upside remains unclear for a hitter who hasn’t performed well for long, but he is well worth owning.
Blake Snell, SP, Rays
Control issues hindered Snell again early this season, and he was demoted to Triple-A Durham after eight starts. He’s posted a BB/9 above 5.0 in consecutive seasons, resulting in a 1.62 WHIP, but there’s reason to believe Snell has made progress after his Triple-A results. The lefty went 5-0 with a 2.66 ERA and 3.1 BB/9 over seven starts, which is the best walk rate of his pro career. The radar gun showed that there was nothing wrong with Snell in his previous opportunity, so he’s well worth another look with his return to the rotation this week.
Helpful for: All leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No, there’s too much risk with Snell’s past control issues, but he still does have huge upside.
Tyler Austin, 1B, Yankees
The Yankees first base merry-go-round continues after the team DFA’ed Chris Carter this week due in large part to his defense. Austin should help defensively, though it remains to be seen what he can provide at the plate. He hit .241-5-12 in only 90 plate appearances last season and has hit .316-4-22 between Double- and Triple-A after losing out on the first base job to Greg Bird in spring training. Austin’s offense has been somewhat inconsistent during his pro career, but he hit .294-17-78 between Double- and Triple-A last year and previously hit 17 home runs in the low minors in 2012.
Helpful for: 12-team AL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Austin has some pop and has hit in the minors, but it’s not exactly reassuring that he didn’t get a shot earlier this year despite New York’s need. Bird should also be back eventually.
Daniel Gossett, SP, Athletics
Gossett is the third A’s player mentioned this week, which shows the rebuilding process in Oakland. After struggling in his first major league start, Gossett has been very good over his last two outings and has walked only two batters in 16 innings. That control is much better than what Gossett showed at Triple-A Nashville this season, with a 2.8 BB/9, but he’s still been strong in that respect. Since being drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Clemson, Gossett has flown through the system and emerged as a very good prospect last year with a 2.69 ERA and nearly one strikeout per inning over three levels. With the A’s rebuilding, Gossett is likely to remain in the rotation for as long as he’s effective.
Helpful for: All AL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No, though Gossett has shown enough over his last two starts to be worth a healthy bid.
Andrew Moore, SP, Mariners
Moore was solid in a spot start for Seattle earlier this week, which gives fantasy owners an opportunity to claim him in many leagues. He’s Seattle’s best upper minors pitching prospect, and the great control he showed in his debut isn’t a fluke. He has a 1.6 BB/9 for his career and 1.9 between Double- and Triple-A this season, resulting in a 2.72 ERA. Moore only averages 91 mph on his fastball but he’s shown an ability to mix his pitches well, and his extreme flyball rate shouldn’t hurt him too much at Safeco Field.
Helpful for: All AL-only leagues with benches
Worth Breaking the Bank? Moore was demoted to Triple-A after his debut, but he should be back soon for a rotation that has struggled to stay healthy. If you can afford to stash him for a short while, Moore is worth a healthy bid.
Carlos Asuaje, 2B, Padres
San Diego’s infield has been a game of musical chairs this season due to injuries and ineffective play. Yangervis Solarte went on the DL earlier this week, giving Asuaje an opportunity. While overshadowed by fellow second base prospect Luis Urias, Asuaje has shown potential in the minors. He hit an impressive .321-9-69 with 10 steals at Triple-A El Paso last year, the second time he’s hit above .300 in his career. This season his bat has been quiet, only hitting .250, but Asuaje’s 40 walks have helped him produce a strong .369 on-base percentage.
Helpful for: 12-team NL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Asuaje showed very limited upside even before his struggles at the plate this season, but he should continue to play semi-regularly until Solarte returns from an oblique injury.
Luis Castillo, SP, Reds
Cincinnati’s young pitching is starting to arrive, with Castillo their first legitimate prospect promotion. He struggled with his control in his debut, but fared well enough to remain in the rotation for now. Castillo jumped from Double-A after posting a 2.58 ERA with a 1.5 BB/9 and more than one strikeout per inning in 80.1 innings. It’s the second straight year that Castillo has posted a sub-2.0 BB/9 in the minors, and shows his readiness to jump Triple-A. The control struggles in his first start are still a big concern, but Castillo has shown elite stuff with a fastball averaging 98 mph and strong changeup that should earn him consideration in deep leagues.
Helpful for: All NL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? Possibly. Castillo does have big upside, but he’s also a short-term risk after jumping Triple-A. The Reds are starting to get healthier in their rotation (Homer Bailey returned on Saturday and Brandon Finnegan returns this week), so he won’t have much margin for error.