Here we are in week 8, so you know what time it is: it’s time to take advantage of the apathy of others. It was a rough weekend in the Holt household, as I checked in Sunday afternoon to find that Tajuan Walker, the one guy who’d been healthy and pitching semi-decently on my deepest NL-only team, had randomly hit the DL with a blister issue. Meanwhile, Trevor Cahill, who’d practically been carrying my pitching staff in the same league before he got hurt, was headed for an MRI that gave me the sinking feeling that he wasn’t gonna be pitching again any time soon. After slamming my computer shut and spending about an hour behaving like a 7-year old having a bad round of miniature golf, I needed an attitude adjustment. I went and saw Guardians of the Galaxy, and remembered that if Chris Pratt can go from being a tubby sitcom fifth banana to a universe-saving mega-movie star, I can keep fighting in the world of fantasy baseball until October. Now that I’m looking at the comparison with a clear head, sure, it may make no sense whatsoever, but it inspired me to spend an hour Sunday night scouring my various league waiver wires in an attempt to improve my teams. By the way, if you missed out on Parks and Rec when it was on the broadcast television, it’s one of the rare network sitcoms of the last decade that’s worth going back and watching, IMHO (has it been so long since anyone used the term “IMHO” that it’s retro now?)
Back to fantasy baseball, this is the worst time to give up, IMHO (I’m gonna try to bring it back!). Impatient owners are looking at their injury-plagued teams and throwing in the towel, which means there is that much less competition when a potentially serviceable player hits the waiver wire. Of course, when other owners stop paying attention and are not doing everything they can to set an optimal lineup, it also means it could be just a bit easier for you to move up a few points in a category or three. Depending on your league parameters, the teams that are still in the race may have to throw players to the curb to make room for others due to having too many injured players to roster. Other teams may have guys coming off the DL where they have to get rid off a fill-in player who might not crack their now-healthy lineup, but could be a boon to your beat-up squad – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all. And in re-draft leagues, who knows what currently off-the-radar minor leaguers will come up to the show and make a splash in June or July or August? The owners who are checking out may not be thinking about just how much baseball we have left before us… almost three-quarters of a season still! Don’t make the same mistake and think that that isn’t enough time for your league standings to turn upside down (or at least wiggle around quite a bit).
With that in mind, we move on to some names to think about this week in fantasy baseball’s deep-league world.
Chad Pinder. He’s been getting regular at bats for the A’s, as he’s now had multiple appearances at second, short and the outfield, and has started 4 games in a row as I write this. It doesn’t sound like Marcus Semien is close to returning from his wrist injury, and Adam Rosales is, well, Adam Rosales. Pinder, meanwhile, is making the most of his PT, as he suddenly has 5 homers, 11 RBI, and a steal in 49 at bats. His minor league numbers aren’t bad at all – he’s always shown some pop, and he’s moved up nicely one level per season. He went 13/12 with a .287 average in high-A in 2014, hit 15 home runs and batted .317 in his AA year of 2015, and last year hit 14 homers in 107 games in AAA.
Yolmer Sanchez. Everyone’s been so busy wondering about how Yoan Moncada is doing in AAA and when that call up might come, that they may not be paying any attention to the current state of the major league Chicago White Sox infield. Tyler Saladino has been terrible and is now dealing with back pain. Sanchez, on the other hand, is playing, recently had a 12-game hitting streak, and is now at .314 on the season with 2 homers, 2 steals, 13 runs, and 13 RBI. He’s now played 25 games at second plus 3 at third, and should be owned in just about any AL-only league while he is producing.
Brad Peacock. Got the spot start against the Tigers on Monday, filling in for Dallas Keuchel. Peacock got as far as a limited pitch count could take him, going 4 1/3 while allowing only 1 hit, no runs, 2 walks, and a whopping 8 strikeouts. He may not get another start any time soon, but injuries can change rotations in a hurry, and it was nice to see that the he was the guy Astros gave the ball to when Keuchel went down. Even as a reliever there’s no reason he shouldn’t be owned in across the board in AL-only; he now has 30 strikeouts in 20.7 innings, an 0.87 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 2 wins in relief.
Jorge Bonifacio. He’s a 23-year on a crummy team, getting a chance to play more over struggling veterans and former top prospects who may never live up to their potential… what’s not to love about that in a deep AL-only league? Jorge Soler hasn’t proven to anyone that he belongs on a major league team yet, and Alex Gordon is hitting .175 on the year without a homer. (Gordon also left the team Sunday for a few days of paternity leave, which is kind of like winning one of the luxury reward challenges on Survivor right when you need to be proving your worth back at camp. You get to fly off the island and have an exhilarating, once-in-a-lifetime experience, only to return and discover that your alliance has dumped you and you’re about to be voted out). Meanwhile, Bonifacio has been productive even without every day at bats and has really heated up since he’s been in the lineup more regularly – he’s hitting well over .300 over the last couple of weeks, and has 3 home runs since last Friday, bringing him to 5 bombs and 11 RBI on the year. (Yo, just noticed that he hit a 2-run shot Tuesday night after I wrote this. Dude’s a little hot right now!)
Matt Adams. One of the hotter NL-only pickups/trade targets this week with his trade to the Braves. I don’t know how much the Braves will start him against lefties, but no matter what he’ll be getting more playing time than he’s had in ages as he fills in for Freddie Freeman. I was thinking he’d had at least one monster power year in the past and was surprised to see that his career high is just 17 in 2013 (granted that was in just 108 games; he also hit 16 bombs last year in 107 games). We’ll see if his emotional state plays into things as he seemed fairly shell-shocked to be leaving St. Louis, but if he’s ever going to be an asset for an NL-only team — or even a power-hungry team in a shallower league — this is his chance. (Okay, he has homers in both his games since I wrote this — guess we don’t need to worry about that emotional adjustment, but we might need to worry if he’s still available in any NL-only leagues!)
Eric Sogard. To say Sogard has had a career week-plus is what we call an understatement… he’s batting .500 (11/22) and he’s already gone 2/2 with 6 runs and 7 RBI. His career average of .243 would suggest that his current clip might come down a tad, and I think my favorite part of these stats is that he’s already tied his career high in homers matching the 2 he had in 130 GAMES for Oakland in 2013. Unless the Brewers continue to struggle with injuries, it’s hard to believe he’ll continue to get regular playing time, let alone show any real production. An owner paid a shockingly large chunk of his annual FAAB for Sogard in one of my leagues over the weekend, but I just don’t get investing in him at this point, so if you already missed out on him in your NL-only league, I wouldn’t panic.
Rene Rivera. Entered the season as the Mets’ backup (or was it backup backup?) catcher, but we all know that “backup” has a different meaning when we’re talking about the Mets… something closer to “starter for at least a chunk of the season due to more team injuries than a sane person can keep track of.” Rivera’s been hitting way beyond his means while Travis D’Arnaud’s been hurt, currently at .308 for the season; like Sogard’s stats, this number is, uh, just a smidge higher than his .219 career average. D’Arnaud is close to returning, but it looks like this is going to be a platoon situation going forward if Rivera keeps doing anything close to what he’s been doing at the plate lately. If you desperately need a backstop in a 2-catcher NL-only league and Rivera’s available, or gets dropped when D’Arnaud returns, it might me worth a shot to see if he can continue catching lightning in a bottle.
Ty Blach. Blach was quickly picked up in all of my NL-only leagues after he entered the Giants rotation, but dropped in at least a couple of them after his disaster in Cincinnati (11 hits, 8 runs, 1 walk, no Ks in 3 innings). In one league where I dropped him myself, I quickly realized just how desperate for starting pitching I was, so I picked him right back up, and he’s actually been pretty darn good since then. If no one in your league has noticed that he’s been decent of late and he’s available, it might be time to swoop in. Blach’s K rate has always been dreadful and probably always will be (if it’s strikeouts you’re chasing, you might actually be better off with a K-happy middle reliever), but as we know in deep leagues, beggars can’t be choosers. His WHIP over his 42 innings this year is at 1.18, and he now has three quality starts in a row (and those came against some decent competition: a re-match with the Reds, the Dodgers, and the Cubs).
Brad Hand. Well, I think mid-May is about the time we all suspected that Brandon Maurer would implode as the Padres’ closer, and we were right. On May 8, Maurer had a 2.02 ERA/0.68 WHIP; after 4 bad appearances in the last 5, those numbers are now 6.88/1.41. The timing would have been perfect for pre-season saves sleeper Carter Capps if he was effectively recovering from TJ surgery, but he’s busy having trouble with his mechanics at AAA. While Capps is figuring things out, it seems like the 9th-inning door should be open for Hand and his sparkling 2017 stats (24 innings, 1.88 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 31K/9BB). I’ve also grabbed Ryan Buchter in a couple leagues (both Hand and Buchter are lefties, which I must say makes things even more confusing in trying to sort out the Padres bullpen). It’s a pen that obviously should be avoided altogether in shallower leagues. Those of us in deep NL-onlys, however, know that we can’t afford to let a single save go unturned.