I’ve been thinking recently about that age-old question: is it better to keep a bad pitcher in your deep-league lineup than no pitcher at all? Maybe I feel this way every season at this point, but right now it seems like there are more starters than ever who are providing negative value. No matter how you plan your draft, in the deepest leagues, you’re probably going to end up with at least a couple of pitchers that no one would sniff at in a “normal” league. If you can figure out which of these guys are going to be able to eat some innings in your lineup without killing your ratios (or if you just luck into an Ervin Santana or Jason Vargas), you’re a step ahead of the game. But in a really deep league, if you get a few duds, it could ruin your year.
Starters that are “supposed” to be good who have disappointing seasons are even harder to deal with. It may be easy to kick Julio Teheran off your team without looking back in a shallow mixed league, but it’s fairly terrifying in a deep NL-only. I had my finger on the drop button ready to dump Teheran in one of my deeper leagues after his last abhorrent start, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. How do you drop a guy you drafted as a number two in a deep league?
In the deepest of leagues, there may literally not be a decent starter option available to replace a ratio-killer like Rick Porcello or Adam Wainwright. But what do you do with these underperformers? Trade them for pennies on the dollar (if you even can), cut them outright, or just ride with them and hope it gets better? Sometimes there may be no answer that leads to victory, and it can be frustrating beyond belief. But in any league that has a waiver wire, there is always hope. Not a lot of hope, maybe, but at least a little, tiny bit that a hidden gem will emerge (or at least a guy who doesn’t suck as bad as Rick Porcello). And now, our weekly list of NL/AL-only guys you might want to consider:
Jacob Faria. He’s joined the Rays’ rotation, what with Matt Andriese’s troubled groin turning into a troubled hip. Seems like Faria may be there a while (I may not know as much about male anatomy as you guys do, but neither of those injuries sounds good). Faria is getting snapped up quickly in the AL-only world, but if he’s still available in your league, it might be time to fire up the FAAB machine. His 2017 AAA numbers feature a 3.07 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 22 BB/84 K. (Is it weird that a feel a little tingle every time I see a WHIP that has a zero before the decimal point?) Once I realized he’d be the lede this week, I knew I had to mention him regardless of how he looked on Tuesday… and he was kind enough to earn his headline (1 ER, 8 Ks, 1BB in 6 1/3, for a W against the Blue Jays). Of course, that also led to another jump in his ownership, and suddenly he may be in the deep-ish mixed league conversation.
Matt Strahm. Getting the start against the Angels Thursday, bumping Eric Skoglund to the pen. His numbers in relief look awful (4.50 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 18 BB, 26 K in 22 IP), but the good news is they’ve actually been getting better and better as the season has progressed — his ERA was 108 after his first outing, around 12 at the end of April, below 6 by the last week of May, and so on. If he gets a real look in the rotation there will be ups and downs, but can he be that much worse than, oh, I don’t know, Rick Porcello? (By the way, I must defend myself by mentioning that the only reason I own Porcello is because this offseason, I took over a keeper-league AL-only team where the only two pitchers I had on my squad heading into spring were Porcello and Yordano Ventura (RIP). Let’s just say I’m not winning).
Chris Carter. Of course since I gave up on him – literally leaving my utility spot in my deepest AL-only league with an injured player rather than Carter, who I figured would continue to do nothing but kill my average – he’s batting .400 with 2 home runs over the last week or so. Owning him in even the deepest format is not for the faint of heart, but if he ever gets moved up in the Yankees lineup, gets some regular playing time, and has a couple of power binges this summer, he could help a fantasy team for whom a handful of homers would make a difference.
Mikie Mahtook. Beggars can’t be choosers, which brings us to the 0% owned Mahtook (I know he’s not really 0% owned in CBS, cause someone picked him up in one of my leagues over the weekend!) He’s started four of the last five games for the Tigers, and over his last seven he’s batting .385 with his first homer. That seems at least slightly better than having an actual zero in your lineup. (And who doesn’t enjoy a 27-year old man named Mikie?)
Jaycob Brugman. Called up from AAA, and has now started five games in a row – it appears he’s getting an extended look leading off for the A’s. Sadly, I’m invested in Rajai Davis in a couple deep AL-only leagues and am still hoping beyond hope that Brugman’s call-up lights a fire under Davis and he turns it around. But word on the street is that Brugman possesses a little something called plate discipline, which seems to always go a long way in Oakland. He’s also opened his big league career 6-for-16, so I’d say Davis (and his few remaining fantasy owners) have reason to be nervous.
Austin Slater. Do the Giants have a secret AAAA farm team full of guys whose ceiling is either as a fourth outfielder/utility man that can come in in a double-switch/guy who can pinch run in an extra inning game? I swear every week a new guy comes up that is completely off the radar and does not have an impressive pedigree, but gets a shot to play in San Francisco. Slater was having a lovely year in AAA (.322 avg/.381 OBP, 4 HR, 4 SB), hit his first MLB homer Thursday, and had another big game Sunday (3 hits and 4 RBI). The Giants’ revolving door in left field continues to turn, and given how bad everyone who has come before him has looked, it wouldn’t take much for Slater to end up with a lot more regular playing time.
Jose Pirela. He’s 26 and probably projects as a super utility guy at best at the major league level, but his 2017 AAA numbers make him interesting enough to at least keep an eye on — .331 average, 13 HR, 8 SB (yes, it’s the PCL, but those numbers are pretty eye-popping, no?) Pirela doesn’t strike out much, which always gets my attention. He’s been leading off for the Padres with Manny Margot hurt, and if he keeps hitting (he’s started off 11 for 22, with 2 homers), who knows how long his stay with the big club could be.
Daniel Descalso. No, he doesn’t play much, but he’s one of those guys who seems to produce when he gets the chance. He now has 5 homers and19 RBI on the year, which is better than nothing if you’re filling out the last spot in a deep NL-only league. Pitifully, it’s not only better than nothing, it’s the same number of homers and RBI than CarGo has.
Trevor Gott. I assume he’s related to Jim Gott, but I’m not even gonna look it up, because the fact that I know who Jim Gott is, makes me feel old. Anyway, Trevor was called up to the Nationals from AAA, where his numbers were good if not spectacular (3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 6 BB/28 K in 30 innings). He’ll probably either be sent down again shortly, or be an unspired and unimportant cog in the bullpen when the Nats finally get a closer (also, Enny Romero looked great on Tuesday, so keep that in mind as well). But we are talking about that bizarre, toothpick-littered theme park called Dustyland, so it’s also possible that Gott could have eight saves by the All-Star break.
Joaquin Benoit. A) Pat Neshek should probably be owned in all NL-only legaues at this point, as he may or may not have supplanted Hector Neris on the closer depth chart, (and maybe if the Phillies ever string a few wins together we’ll all know what’s going on). B) Many folks (including Neshek himself) seem to expect him to be traded by the deadline, though. C) If Neshek departs, they may try Neris again, but I’m also keeping an eye on Benoit. D) I’m still not sure why the Phillies signed Benoit in the first place if they weren’t planning on having him open the season as their closer, building his trade value if nothing else – this is a guy who’s averaged a 2.25 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over the last three seasons. E) This year, his results have been mixed, but he’d had a string of eight scoreless appearances before he hit the DL, so who knows what could happen when he returns. F) Turns out he’s come off the DL since I first wrote this, and has given up run(s) in both of his appearances. G) I’m still keeping an eye on him, just in case… damn, I’m desperate for saves in a couple NL-only leagues!