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. Last week’s article could still be relevant depending on who is remaining on your free agent wire, and you can read those recommendations here.
Mixed League Players
Jeanmar Gomez, RP, Phillies
They say saves are saves, and that phrase was invented for this situation. David Hernandez looked like Philadelphia’s closer coming into the season. Then Andrew Bailey was the frontrunner in spring training. By Opening Day, Dalier Hinojosa looked like the guy. Now it’s Gomez’s turn. He got the opportunity on Saturday, and converted the inning on six pitches. While Gomez doesn’t have closer’s stuff, with a fastball that averages in the low 90’s, he’s pitched relatively well since being converted to full-time relief over the last two years, with a 3.10 ERA and 2.20 K/BB ratio in 2014-15. He also has a poor 5.8 K/9 and 1.41 WHIP over that time, but beggars can’t be choosers. He’s the man, for now. Hernandez still has the pedigree and has generally been the better major leaguer when healthy, so this probably isn’t the last change we’ll see.
Helpful for: All Leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No
Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Rockies
Through five games, Reynolds has seen four starts at first base for the Rockies. It looked like Ben Paulsen would be the starting first baseman coming into the year vs. right-handers, but that’s apparently not the case, with Reynolds starting against two of the three right-handers the team has faced. Reynolds has far more major league experience, but since 2010 his batting average is .214 and his power fell off last year in St. Louis. The streaky Reynolds hasn’t done anything yet, and players with his skillset often breakdown around his age (32). That said, every regular in Colorado is worth a look, and Reynolds’s history shows a player capable of 20-plus homers with multi-position eligibility as a bonus.
Helpful for: 14-team leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No
Michael Taylor, OF, Nationals
Not many players were hotter than Taylor this spring, even as he remained on the bench on Opening Day. However, Ben Revere suffered an oblique injury just a few innings into the season, allowing Taylor to take over at center field. There’s no clear timetable for Revere’s return, and oblique injuries can often take a month or more to return (see Jarrod Dyson). Taylor hasn’t done anything with his regular at-bats this week, not even getting a hit through Saturday. Still, the toolsy Taylor had 14 homers and 16 steals through 472 at-bats last season and showed 30/30 upside in the minors. Even if he doesn’t hit for average, the power and steals make him enticing, as does Dusty Baker’s decision to hit him in the leadoff spot so far.
Helpful for: All leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? Possibly, considering that he could remain in the lineup all year if he performs well.
Bryan Holaday, C, Rangers
The Rangers were rumored to be interested in a new starting catcher this offseason, and GM Jon Daniels could be on the phone now that Robinson Chirinos has fractured his forearm and will miss at least one month. That injury is on top of Chris Gimenez’s ankle infection that has him on the DL. Holaday was acquired from Seattle just before Opening Day, and should see regular at-bats for now. He’s a .249-3-31 hitter over 265 major league at-bats, and his minor league numbers are similarly mediocre. But two-catcher AL-only leagues require anyone with playing time to be owned, even Holaday.
Helpful for: Two-catcher AL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No, Holaday could be pushed to the bench when Gimenez returns, or the Rangers could make a trade.
Max Kepler, OF, Twins
Minnesota made waves by calling up Kepler Saturday night to replace the injured Danny Santana. The top prospect got a cup of coffee last year, and there’s no clear spot for him to play. Still, one would figure that he’d get a few looks in the lineup given his status as a top prospect. Kepler doesn’t have much power, but he’s an on-base machine, posting a .410 OBP mostly at Double-A last season. He also hit .318 with 19 steals and performed at all three outfield positions.
Helpful for: 12-team AL-only leagues and all keeper leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? Only in keeper leagues
Nick Tropeano, SP, Angels
Andrew Heaney’s elbow injury allows Tropeano to get a shot in the rotation. He didn’t have a great spring, losing the fifth starter spot to Matt Shoemaker, but still looks like an interesting arm based on his recent results. Over 59.1 major league innings, he has a 4.10 ERA and 7.7 K/9, mostly as a starter. Tropeano has an average low-90’s fastball but gets whiffs with his plus changeup, which has allowed him to post a 3.49 ERA and 9.3 K/9 as a minor leaguer, including 3.77 ERA at Triple-A. Stat heads really like him. The problem is that his margin for error will be small with Tyler Skaggs likely ready to return by the end of the month. If Tropeano isn’t effective immediately, he could be demoted again.
Helpful for: 12-team AL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No, but there is nice upside
Jeremy Hazelbaker, OF, Cardinals
So maybe you predicted a good first week from Trevor Story or Tyler White…but Jeremy Hazelbaker? He’s only seeing playing time because of Tommy Pham’s Opening Day injury, yet he already has two home runs and one steal in five appearances. This is his first go-around in the majors, and the Cardinals are his third organization at age 28. While the former fourth-round pick has shown tools in the minors, with as many as 19 homers and 63 steals in one season, he never hit above .273 in a season until 2015. At that point, he was just seen as a minor league veteran and actually spent half the year at Double-A. Give the Cardinals credit for not overlooking Hazelbaker when they needed an outfielder this spring. All he’s done over the last year is hit (.313-13-68 in the minors in 2015, .321-3-22 in the Venezuelan Winter League), so it looks like he could stick around for a bit. St. Louis doesn’t have much athletic depth, even after Pham returns, and Matt Holliday and Randal Grichuk haven’t exactly been durable over the last year.
Helpful for: All NL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No. Even if he sticks on the roster, Hazelbaker should lose most of his playing time after Pham returns.
Tommy La Stella, 2B, Cubs
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said La Stella would see more time at third base following the Kyle Schwarber injury, with Kris Bryant getting some time in left field. Acquired for Arodys Vizcaino last year, La Stella was a solid, under the radar prospect in Atlanta. He was a career .320 hitter with a .404 OBP in the minors, though La Stella has shown limited power or speed and has been seen regularly on the DL. It looks like he will get a few starts per week, at least until Javier Baez returns.
Helpful for: 12-team NL-only leagues
Worth Breaking the Bank? No
James Loney, 1B, Padres
Loney signed a minor league deal with the Padres this week. It’s a good fit for him considering current first baseman Wil Myers can shift to the outfield to help strengthen the team’s thin outfield. It’s no mystery what Loney can do offensively after 4,680 at-bats as a .285 hitter. It’s really a question of whether he will get an opportunity. The hot starts by Jon Jay and Melvin Upton Jr. this week don’t help his chances, but Loney would probably be the first call up if one of San Diego’s outfielders or Myers gets hurt.
Helpful for: 12-team NL-only leagues if he’s called up
Worth Breaking the Bank? No