Ah, the highs and lows we’ve already experienced in a mere few weeks of baseball action. So many players to be optimistic about, yet so many to be worried about. It’s still early, but I’m having trouble keeping myself from daydreaming about how a full season of numbers from my deep-league, off-to-a-great-start guys that I managed to draft late or on the cheap would look on my teams. For me, this group includes Nick Pivetta, Rick Porcello, Tim Anderson, and early-frontrunner-to-be-my-2018-imaginary-fantasy-baseball-boyfriend Josh Hader. On the flip side, I’ve got the guys that I invested early and/or often in, that I’m already feeling very, very queasy about. If these players don’t turn it around, they can sink a team’s season — at least in the deep-league world where they are all you’ve got to field your lineup with, and can’t just be easily replaced on the waiver wire. I’m talking to you Jose Quintana, Jon Gray, Orlando Arcia, and Evan Gattis (okay, I didn’t actually draft Gattis anywhere this year, and you probably didn’t either if you read Razzball regularly, but you get the idea).
Is there anyone you are already feeling that special bond with and feel may be a game-changer for your team(s) this season? And/or, who are you already worrying may have tanked your season before it’s really had a chance to get going? While you’re thinking about that, let’s discuss some guys who may be available and able to offer some assistance in the deepest leagues where you have a dead roster spot to fill.
Niko Goodrum. At 1% owned, a true deep-league name, but the name Niko Goodrum is one I just love saying, so here he is heading up this post. Sure, he’s just a utility man for a not-great team, but he’s stolen three bases this year. As I say in this column most weeks, good SAGNOF – or any SAGNOF – is hard to find in the deep-league world. I picked him up and played him this week in a deep AL-only league where I had an open roster spot… what if he steals one base this week, and at the end of the season, one stolen base is what makes the difference for me to finish that league in the money? A girl can dream…
Isiah Kiner-Falefa. All right, perhaps more than one of these guys caught my attention because of a cool name. But things like being a 1%-owned type who batted second for the Rangers and got four hits on Tuesday can also lead to a blurb in this column. With Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor out, Kiner-Falefa could well see more playing time in the Rangers’ middle infield, especially if if Jurickson Profar’s recent trip through the concussion protocol has any lasting effects. He’s not exactly a top-hitting prospect and just played his first AAA games this year, but last year at AA he hit .288 with 5 homers and 17 steals.
Renato Nunez. In a crazy series of events important only to the people who lived them — or super-deep-league fantasy baseball owners — all of these things happened in the span of like a day: Nunez completed a minor-league rehab assignment for the A’s (in which he hit .350), Nunez was placed on waivers, Nunez was claimed by the Rangers, the Rangers demoted Ryan Rua, the Rangers activated Nunez, and the Rangers started Nunez in left field and batted him sixth on Monday. Expect Nunez to strike out a ton, but he has always shown impressive power, and Wednesday found him in the Rangers’ starting lineup again, this time at the hot corner.
Collin McHugh. As a starter, he’s buried on the comically deep Houston SP depth chart, but perhaps this is a good thing as his stuff seems to be playing much better out of the bullpen. He’s started the year with 10 Ks in 6 2/3 innings, with a tidy 1.35 ERA/1.05 WHIP. He’s not going to pitch a ton of innings in that role, especially with his injury history, but he is serving a valuable purpose for a real-life MLB bullpen, and might be able to help out in certain deep leagues as well.
Ben Gamel. I may just cut and paste this blurb and include it in every post I write this season until Gamel crosses the 10%-owned threshold or crashes and burns, whichever comes first. I think Gamel now passes Mallex Smith as the guy who I’ve already talked about the most this year (and I can’t talk about Mallex in the deep-league world anymore since he is now owned in a full third of CBS leagues!) Anyway, I made a prediction several weeks ago that Gamel’s rehab assignment would take longer than originally planned, but then Gamel would return and have mixed-league value. Well, he’s kept to the first part of that prediction, so now we just have to wait and see how the back half goes. Gamel is only 4% owned in CBS right now, and if he’s available in your league and you have the room, why not give him a look-see… if he fails to live up to my mild hype, he’s an easy drop.
Johnny Field. I don’t know much about the guy, except that he’s 0% owned, and starting in right for the Rays on Wednesday. His minor league page says that he hit .261 and went 12/12 as a Durham Bull last year, and as someone who feels like she could have been Annie Savoy in a different lifetime, I do like me a Durham Bull. Anyway, in a week where Kiermaier went down for a while and I am extra-appreciative of a great baseball name, it felt apropos to at least give Johnny Field a mention.
Tyler O’Neill. Getting called up from AAA as we hear that Tommy Pham will be getting tests on his groin. That sounds unpleasant both for Tommy Pham, and anyone who owns Tommy Pham in a fantasy baseball league. So, both Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill will be on the Cardinals’ major league roster, while Willie Calhoun sits in the minors watching Carlos Tocci (who is now halfway to the Mendoza Line with a 1 for 4 performance Tuesday!) named the starting center fielder until Delino returns, and the Braves have no imminent plans to call Ronald Acuna up? Great. Well, O’Neill was hitting .388 with 6 homers in 12 games in AAA… doubt he’s available in many keeper/dynasty type leagues, but I’m grabbing him in deeper redraft leagues where I can, in case that groin thing doesn’t work out for Pham.
Moises Sierra. Sierra’s up with the Nats due to factors like Adam Eaton being parked on the DL for what could either be a few days, a few weeks, or a few lifetimes, and Brian Goodwin being DL’d with a wrist contusion. (Nice job Brian, right when you were set up to finally get some playing time and, more importantly, had a shot to come out of nowhere and be my imaginary fantasy baseball boyfriend this year!). When you look up Sierra’s three-year averages, all you get is a big line of zeroes, because evidently he hasn’t appeared in a major league game since 2014. That makes it feel like there’s not going to be a lot to recommend here for even the deepest league ever, but Sierra did steal a base on Tuesday, and had a sac fly Wednesday, so there’s that. Did I mention that Brian Goodwin has some damn bad timing?
Robert Gsellman. See the first sentence about Collin McHugh, above, and just change Houston to New York. I guess more folks are already on to Gsellman than McHugh since Gsellman is owned in 12% of CBS leagues compared to McHugh’s 7%, and let’s just say I already wish I could go back in time and replace my #2 or 3 starter with Gsellman in at least 12% of my leagues. He already has a win to show for his 8 1/3 innings pitched to start the year, along with a mouth-watering 14 Ks. (*Well, Gsellman went and spoiled my fun a little by having a less-than-stellar outing Tuesday after I wrote this, giving up two runs on two hits and a walk in two innings. But he did get another K!)
J.B. Shuck. Sure, it’s not easy to get excited about a 30-year old Marlins outfielder who didn’t play in a major league game in 2017, no matter how deep your league is. But if you’re in one of those dire situations where you have holes in your NL-only lineup due to injuries, demotions, or what have you, it’s the J.B. Shuck types that you may need to turn to. CBS claims he’s owned in 0% of leagues, which I know to be inaccurate since he’s been picked up in at least two of my NL-onlys alone! I don’t see the Marlins giving up on Lewis Brinson any time soon, but someone needs to get the at bats in the event Brinson gets more “mental days” to “clear his head” and “gather himself” while he “fine-tunes some things,” “resets the switch,” and “slows the game down” from the bench.
Jose Bautista. I just had to include him after reading the note that a guy named Jose Bautista had been signed to a minor league contract by the Braves and would be reporting to extending spring training, because it actually took a few minutes for me to realize that the player in question was not some random bench-depth type minor leaguer that had been bouncing around for years, but the man they once called Joey Bats. But crazier things have happened in baseball than Bautista returning to the bigs at some point and being at least mildly productive (Have they? Maybe not, now that I’m thinking about it…)