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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


Chris Shaw, OF, Giants


With the trade of Andrew McCutchen this week, the Giants have at-bats available in the outfield over the last month. They’ve remedied that situation with the promotion of Shaw from Triple-A. A natural first baseman, Shaw has been shifted to left field this year with the presence of Brandon Belt and Buster Posey in San Francisco. The 31st overall pick in the 2015 draft, Shaw has plenty of power, hitting more than 20 home runs for the third consecutive season this year. Unfortunately, his weaknesses have been on full display with a full year at Triple-A Sacramento, with 21/144 BB/K in 422 plate appearances this season. That 34 percent strikeout rate comes after fanning 106 times in 360 plate appearances (29%) last season. The result of his poor contact rate has been a career-worst .259 batting average this season, though he’s made up for it with 24 home runs and a .505 slugging percentage. The lack of contact remains a concern for Shaw’s ability to hit for more than power in the majors, but the Giants should give him semi-regular at-bats this month.

Helpful for: 12-team mixed leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No, unless you’re in a keeper league. Shaw has pure power but could need some time to work out the contact issues.



Luis Urias, 2B, Padres


The long-awaited arrival of Urias has finally come. The 21-year-old has been an on-base machine in the Padres system since 2014, as a career .306/.397/.405 hitter in the minors. Those numbers include a solid year at hitter-friendly Triple-A El Paso this season, hitting .296-8-45 with a .398 on-base percentage prior to his promotion. He’s spent most of his time at second base this year but has also played at third and shortstop, two additional considerations for his long-term value. There is very limited power or speed in Urias’ game, as his eight homers at Triple-A this year were a career high and he’s been caught stealing more than successful in attempts, but Urias has never hit below .296 in a season. For his first four MLB starts, the Padres hit Urias in the two hole.

Helpful for: 12-team mixed leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Urias is a better real-life contributor than fantasy, but he should still be a solid contributor for a long term. For fantasy purposes, the ability is similar to what we’ve seen from DJ LeMahieu.



Framber Valdez, SP, Astros


Valdez has been terrific for the Astros in three appearances while taking the injured Lance McCullers’ spot in the rotation. With McCullers likely to miss the bulk of September, Valdez should continue pitching every fifth day in the Astros rotation. An unheralded prospect, Valdez has an impressive power sinker that produced a 57 percent groundball rate at Double-A in 94.1 innings this season and has produced 70 groundballs in 14.1 innings with Houston.  Splitting time between starting and relief, Valdez had a 4.10 ERA at Corpus Christi but also had a terrific 11.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. The control improvement is a significant step forward for Valdez over what he did before 2018, but he’s struggled to throw strikes with the Astros so far.

Helpful for: 14-team mixed leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No, but the extreme groundball rate does make Valdez an intriguing arm for the long term. The lack of control prevents him from being more than a streamer for now, however.



AL-only Players


Dawel Lugo, 2B, Tigers


With Jose Iglesias going on the DL this week, the Tigers are getting a look at Lugo. Acquired from Arizona for J.D. Martinez last season, Lugo is having a down year offensively relative to his history, hitting .269-3-59 with 12 steals and 9/66 BB/K in 523 plate appearances at Triple-A. The 23-year-old hit .277-13-65 at Double-A last season and also showed a much better walk rate with 33 walks in 557 plate appearances. The Tigers have rightfully buried Lugo at the bottom of the batting order early on.

Helpful for: 12-team AL-only leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No. At this point, Lugo’s addition is purely for at-bats.



Andrew McCutchen, OF, Yankees


San Francisco failed to move McCutchen before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, but they were successful moving him before the waiver deadline. The long-time Pirates outfielder joins the Yankees as their leadoff man while Aaron Judge continues to recover from injury. He’s having arguably his worst season, hitting just .255-15-55 with 13 steals and a .772 OPS. Despite the offensive struggles, the Yankees are expected to hit McCutchen leadoff. That fact, along with the move to Yankee Stadium, makes this trade a coup for McCutchen owners in mixed leagues.

Helpful for: All AL-only leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? Yes. McCutchen is very likely to be the best hitter available the rest of the way in AL-only, and potentially hitting leadoff gives him even better five category potential. There’s no reason to hold back if you have FAAB remaining.



Daniel Norris, SP, Tigers


It’s been yet another disappointing year for Norris, a former top prospect, who returned this week from a groin injury that cost him most of the season. He’s yet to throw more than 101.2 innings in an MLB season due to injuries and inconsistent performance, and Norris’ velocity was well down early this year. Norris’ velocity remained well down in his return on Saturday, but the lefty still managed to allow only one hit in 4.1 innings with seven strikeouts vs. the Yankees. He’s likely to finish out the year in Detroit’s rotation as he prepares himself for 2019.

Helpful for: 12-team AL-only leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Norris has shown upside in the past, but the decreased velocity – down three mph on Saturday relative to last season – is a huge concern.



NL-only Players


Lucas Duda, 1B, Braves


After hitting 30 home runs between the Mets and Rays last year, Duda was having a disappointing year in KC with only 13 home runs and a .723 OPS in 87 games. The Royals traded him to Atlanta at the waiver deadline, where he will serve as a pinch-hitter and depth behind Freddie Freeman. It’s not exactly a role that will generate much fantasy value, but it’s also not impossible Freeman would get another look at third base like he did last year, opening up some time at first base for Duda.

Helpful for: 12-team NL-only leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Duda really needs help to find playing time over the final month. It’s still not impossible if Freeman shifts elsewhere or the team uses Duda in left field, where he’s played earlier in his career.



Curtis Granderson, OF, Brewers


For the second straight year, Granderson has been traded for the stretch run. This time it’s to Milwaukee, where he will give a crowded outfield yet another option. The 37-year-old has started to show his age in part-time duty for Toronto this season, hitting just .245-11-35 in 349 plate appearances. He could still be looking at a few starts per week, as the Brewers try to keep Ryan Braun healthy for the stretch run.

Helpful for: 12-team NL-only leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Granderson has some pop but probably won’t play enough to really help.



Kevin Newman, SS, Pirates


A solid middle infield prospect in a system that has many, Newman is seeing some regular at-bats at shortstop. Jordy Mercer’s return from the DL is likely to eat into Newman’s playing time, but the former first-round pick has reason to get a look down the stretch as the Pirates see what they have for 2019. He’s rebounded at Triple-A this season, hitting .302-4-35 with 28 steals and 31/50 BB/K in 477 plate appearances. He steals have been a pleasant surprise considering that he’s never swiped more than 13 bases leading up to 2018, though Newman hasn’t had an opportunity to show the speed hitting at the bottom of the order in Pittsburgh.

Helpful for: 12-team NL-only leagues

Worth Breaking the Bank? Possibly, if you’re desperate for steals. Newman probably won’t play every day this month, but he does have batting average and steals upside.