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
Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox
Boston’s best prospect got promoted from Triple-A just before the team acquired Eduardo Nunez. Nunez’s versatility allows Devers to remain in the majors and see regular at-bats, and he’s off to a nice start. He was 3-for-12 with a home run going into Saturday night’s contest after hitting .311-20-60 between Double- and Triple-A. It’s very notable that Devers is still only 20, which both indicates the upside and should also temper short-term expectations. The Red Sox have been hitting the youngster ninth in the batting order, also limiting his upside.
Helpful for: 12-team mixed leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? Only in keeper leagues. Devers does have power upside in more shallow redraft leagues, but it is limited hitting ninth in the order.
Luke Weaver, SP, Cardinals
Weaver finally got a start this week with Adam Wainwright going on the DL. The DL stint isn’t expected to be long, but pending free agent Lance Lynn could be traded by Monday afternoon. If it happens, Weaver will remain in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Overall, Weaver struggled in 36.1 major league innings last season, but he did have an impressive 11.1 K/9 and 3.75 K/BB ratio. He’s been one of the most effective minor league pitchers in the game over the last three years, and has a cumulative 1.81 ERA for his minor league career. This year his ERA is 1.91 in 13 starts at Triple-A Memphis, with more than one strikeout per inning and a terrific 1.9 BB/9. While Weaver doesn’t have overpowering stuff, he does have nearly perfect control and is clearly ready for the majors. Even if the Cardinals don’t trade Lynn, it would be hard to believe Weaver won’t have opportunities over the last two months.
Helpful for: All leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? Yes. Weaver is clearly ready to contribute, and could be good for a sub-4.00 ERA with strong strikeout numbers, as he had last year. Using 10-15 percent of your budget in shallow mixed leagues is reasonable.
Brad Ziegler, RP, Marlins
Last week Kyle Barraclough was profiled as the likely replacement in the event of an A.J. Ramos trade. Unfortunately, Barraclough went on the DL this week, so Ziegler will get the nod after Ramos was traded to the Mets. Ziegler has 85 career saves, but he has a 6.52 ERA in 34 appearances this season with a horrendous 1.83 WHIP. The good news is that the submarine pitcher hasn’t lost much velocity this year and continues to get grounders at a terrific 65 percent rate. The bad news is that he’s nearing 38 and simply doesn’t have margin for error, and there has been plenty of error this year with a 4.0 BB/9 and 1.31 K/BB ratio.
Helpful for: All leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Saves are saves, but Ziegler could be removed from closer duties quickly if he pitches like he did earlier in the year.
Trevor Cahill, SP, Royals
KC is apparently going for it this year, acquiring Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter from the Padres for Matt Strahm, Travis Wood, and a prospect earlier this week. Moving back to a starting role this year, Cahill has been able to carry over his cutter from last season in the Cubs pen. He has a 3.69 ERA and 10.6 K/9 in 61 innings at the time of the trade, though he struggled against Boston on Saturday. There’s no doubt the move to the AL hurts, but Kauffman Stadium is still favorable for pitchers. The ERA metrics suggested Cahill’s rebound was legitimate before the move, with a 3.40 FIP, though Cahill has struggled recently with four or more earned runs allowed in three of his last four starts.
Helpful for: All AL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? Possibly, if you need strikeouts. Cahill’s strikeout rate has been elite this season, though his recent hiccups are a major concern.
Lucas Duda, 1B, Rays
Duda was sent to Tampa Bay for relief prospect Drew Smith, and is already on a hot streak with two home runs in two games since joining his new team. Duda is having a very Duda-like season, hitting .250-19-40 in 77 games, putting him on a 29 home run pace. Tampa Bay is expected to use Duda as their primary DH against right-handed pitching, and the league adjustment apparently hasn’t been an issue thus far.
Helpful for: All AL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? Possibly, if you need power. There’s no guarantee that there will be a better power option available to the AL at the trade deadline or in August. He’s worth a bullish 20-30 percent of your budget if you don’t mind the batting average, sitting at .246 for his career.
Jaime Garcia, SP, Yankees
Garcia was traded from Atlanta to Minnesota to the Yankees this week. He did make a quality start in his only outing with the Twins, allowing three runs in 6.2 innings. Garcia has been a solid back of the rotation starter this season, posting a 4.29 ERA and 1.34 WHIP with a K/BB ratio that’s barely above 2.00. The lefty’s biggest asset has always been his ability to provoke grounders, which continues this season with a 55 percent groundball rate. The ERA metrics (4.04 FIP, 4.51 SIERA) aren’t far off his actual ERA, with the move to the AL and Yankee Stadium becoming a slight hindrance.
Helpful for: 10-team or deeper AL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No. There is very limited upside, but Garcia is an adequate innings eater who could be good for wins.
Eduardo Nunez, 3B/OF/SS, Red Sox
Nunez was moved at the deadline last year, and he goes back to the AL before the deadline this season. The speedster gives the Red Sox utility insurance, and should get an opportunity to play most days. He hit two home runs for the Red Sox on Saturday night, increasing this year’s production by 50 percent. While Nunez hit 16 home runs last season, that production is a bit of an outlier compared to his career numbers. Nunez has hit .293 since the start of 2015, and he has 18 steals in 77 games after swiping 40 steals in 141 games last year. Nunez has hit second in the order in each of his first two games with Boston, which should be a good spot for him to score runs and steal bases.
Helpful for: All AL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? Yes. Nunez has a chance to be a well above average contributor in at least three categories, including the all-important stolen base category. Add in multi-position eligibility, and Nunez could be the best player to become available in the AL for the rest of the year. He’s worth at least 40 percent of your FAAB budget, if not going all-in.
Carson Kelly, C, Cardinals
Blocked by the league’s most busy everyday catcher, Kelly still got a promotion this week. He will backup Yadier Molina for the rest of the year, and manager Mike Matheny has suggested Molina will get more rest down the stretch. Kelly can swing the bat well for a catcher, slashing .283/.375/.459 at Triple-A Memphis and hitting 10 home runs in 244 at-bats. That’s a career high, but Kelly did start to hit for average last season.
Helpful for: Two-catcher NL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Kelly will only get a couple starts per week, at most, but that could be enough to help.
Tyler Moore, 1B, Marlins
Justin Bour suffered an oblique injury this week, allowing Moore to share at-bats at first base with Tomas Telis. Moore has just a .691 career OPS in 764 plate appearances, but his minor league production has shown upside. He hit 31 home runs twice in the low minors, and Moore has also shown pop this season with six home runs in 115 plate appearances.
Helpful for: 12-team NL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No, but there is some power upside in the short term.