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Impact Report

by Seth Trachtman
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

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).

 

Just remember, I’m here to help you. If you have a suggestion about the format early this season, please don’t hesitate to email me or Tweet @sethroto.

 

This week we’re looking at players who have gained value within the last seven days.

 

Mixed League Players

 

Koda Glover, RP, Nationals

 

Ryan Madson went on the DL this week, meaning he’s Washington’s third straight closer to see that fate. The Nats would probably like to have Brandon Kintzler or Shawn Kelley on their roster now, but I digress. The next man up is Glover, who currently sports a 7.36 ERA. That said, he got the save opportunity on Thursday, and he also has some experience from early last season before the Nationals tried Blake Treinen. The reasons for his closing opportunities are both his excellent stuff (96 mph average fastball velocity) and decent minor league track record, with a career 2.19 ERA, 15 saves, and 6.05 K/BB ratio. Despite that success, he’s yet to find himself in the majors.

Helpful for: 12-team mixed leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Glover could be good for a few saves, but he’s only an option for the desperate. His hold on the closer job is far from secure, and he will certainly be demoted in the pen when Kelvin Herrera returns this week.

 

 

Brian Johnson, SP, Red Sox

 

Boston got bad news this week when Sale went on the DL for the second time with shoulder inflammation. He threw five scoreless innings after coming off the DL, but the recurring issue is a major concern that could keep him sidelined much longer than the minimum amount of time given that it’s his second stint. Johnson returns to the rotation, as a result. He’s certainly no Chris Sale, but Johnson has been solid in a swingman role this season with nine starts and 22 relief appearances, posting a 4.00 ERA. The lefty’s performance as a starter has been better than relief with a 3.40 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 2.39 K/BB ratio in 47.2 innings. He profiles best as a back of the rotation starter, but his Triple-A track record is proven with a 3.18 ERA in 50 career starts. Now that he’s here to stay in the rotation for the foreseeable future, Johnson could be an asset as a streamer.

Helpful for: 12-team mixed leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Johnson has limited upside, but he can be a solid addition as a matchup play.

 

 

Taylor Ward, 3B, Angels

 

A first-round pick in 2015 out of Fresno State, Ward is having a breakout year with the full-time move from catcher to third base this year. He hit .349-14-60 with 18 steals and 65 walks in 446 plate appearances between Double- and Triple-A prior to his promotion after hitting near .250 in each of the previous two seasons. The early returns have been just as favorable in five games with the Angels, hitting .333-1-4 so far. With a renewed focus on hitting, Ward is looking like a potential building block for the Angels at age 24, and should be able to pencil in a spot for Opening Day, 2019, if his solid hitting continues.

Helpful for: All leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? Possibly. Ward has been a hitting machine this year, and has shown no sign of letting up since being promoted. While he’s been buried at the bottom of the Angels batting order, Ward has enough batting average potential to still be a solid addition down the stretch.

 

 

AL-only Players

 

Jorge Lopez, SP, Royals

 

Acquired at the trade deadline from Milwaukee along with Brett Phillips for Mike Moustakas, Lopez is getting a shot in the Royals rotation. He’s spent most of the year as a reliever between Triple-A and the majors, but Lopez has 120 minor league starts for his career. A former top prospect, his status has soured in recent seasons due to struggles at hitter-friendly Triple-A Colorado Springs and inability to throw strikes against more advanced hitters. The stuff that made Lopez an elite prospect is still there, with a 94 mph average fastball, along with a presentable curveball and changeup. He struggled in his first start with KC, but they can afford to give him a long leash, especially with few alternatives.

Helpful for: 12-team AL-only leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Lopez has some upside, but he’s struggled too much to be relied on for this season.

 

 

Adam Plutko, SP, Indians

 

With Trevor Bauer’s potentially season-ending leg injury, Plutko finds himself back in the starting rotation. The right-hander has been a home run machine with 12 homers allowed in only 48.2 innings, but his control has made an impression with a 2.2 BB/9 so far. After really struggling at Triple-A last season, Plutko has rebounded to post a 1.70 ERA in 14 starts with a 0.74 WHIP and 1.7 BB/9. The profile is similar to Josh Tomlin as an extreme flyball pitcher (55 percent flyball rate) who doesn’t miss many bats and has limited margin for error.

Helpful for: 12-team AL-only leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No, but Plutko can be useful if you avoid using him against the elite power-hitting teams in the league. Fortunately, he should have some good opportunities against AL Central teams.

 

 

Sean Reid-Foley, SP, Blue Jays

 

One of Toronto’s best pitching prospects, Reid-Foley struggled in his first two MLB starts this week. His opportunity should be extended now that Marcus Stroman is on the DL with a blister, and the upside is too good to give up on just yet. The 22-year-old had a 2.98 ERA and 10.4 K/9 between Double- and Triple-A in 126.2 innings this season, but he’s finding throwing strikes to be a tougher task in the majors. The 2014 second-round pick has averaged 94 mph on his fastball and has four pitches, but control has been his undoing for much of his career. He had a mediocre 3.3 BB/9 this year prior to his promotion, and Reid-Foley walked three batters in each of his first two starts.

Helpful for: 12-team AL-only leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Reid-Foley is still showing that he’s very raw, but he remains a high upside pitcher who should get at least a few more chances over the last six weeks.

 

 

NL-only Players

 

Austin Dean, OF, Marlins

 

Last week Rafael Ortega was the Marlins outfielder worth a look, and this week it’s Dean. The 24-year-old had a breakout year at Triple-A New Orleans, hitting .326-9-54 with 33 walks in 358 plate appearances. Added to his .420 batting average 22 games at Double-A Jacksonville, he’s hit .345-12-68 in the minors this season. That follows up a decent year at Double-A last season in which he hit .291-5-37 in 61 games. Dean’s major league career got off to a nice start in his second game with a home run, and he’s hit sixth in the lineup in his three starts in left field.

Helpful for: 12-team NL-only leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Dean has limited power or speed, but the batting average that he’s shown over the last two seasons is more than worthy of a look if you need at-bats.

 

 

Adeiny Hechavarria, SS, Pirates

 

Hechavarria was acquired from Tampa Bay on August 6, and is now seeing regular playing time at shortstop as a result of Jordy Mercer’s injury. Pittsburgh also called up shortstop prospect Kevin Newman, but for now it’s Hechavarria that’s getting the playing time at shortstop. Now nearly 3,000 plate appearances into his MLB career, we know what Hechavarria is and what he isn’t. He’s a career .256/.291/.345 hitter with only 26 home runs. While Hechavarria did regularly attempt steals early in his career, he’s never been efficient and has just one attempt this season.

Helpful for: 12-team NL-only leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No. You’re adding Hechavarria for the sole purpose of at-bats. There’s no offensive upside.

 

 

Dominic Smith, 1B/OF, Mets

 

Smith is set to be promoted today and could see regular playing time the rest of the way as the Mets see what they have in the 23-year-old. This year has been a sorely disappointing year for Smith, who failed to win a spot in Queens at the start of the year due to injury and has struggled with his bat at Triple-A while transitioning to the outfield. The former first-round pick has hit just .255-6-38 in 348 plate appearances after hitting .330-16-76 at that same level last season. He will likely stick in the outfield over the long term due to Peter Alonso’s emergence in the minors, but needs to get his bat on track for the Mets to count on him heading into 2019.

Helpful for: 12-team NL-only leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No. It’s much too early to give up on Smith, especially considering how he performed last season, but expectations should be limited for the stretch run given how poorly he’s hit this season. The Mets also have Jay Bruce returning within the next week, who could eat into Smith’s playing time.