So much for the juggernaut Yankees lineup, at least for a little while. With Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar joining Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius on the DL, the Bombers are dipping further into their reserves than they hoped they’d have to at any point.
Andujar’s labrum tear might have the most important fantasy ramifications of the injuries, since season-ending surgery is going to be a possibility if his shoulder doesn’t respond well over the next few weeks. But while Andujar figured to be a very good fantasy third baseman once again, there’s a fine argument that DJ LeMahieu is the better third base option for the Yankees, given the huge difference in defense.LeMahieu is a viable mixed-league option again now, though I don’t expect him to prove to be all that much of an asset, at least not unless he can convince the Yankees to hit him at the top of the order. He’s no longer a basestealer, and while Yankee Stadium will give him a chance to reach double figures in homers, much as Coors did, he’s really only a batting average guy unless he’s hitting first or second.
Stanton’s biceps strain is rather scary, too, since while he’s not going to miss all that much time, his power might be diminished initially when he does come back. There’s always the chance the injury could recur, too. There’s still no sign of Hicks returning from his back problems, so the Yankees will play Brett Gardner regularly and alternate Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier for now. Gardner is an adequate play in mixed leagues while leading off, though I’m not so sure LeMahieu wouldn’t be the better choice there. The other two probably won’t be worth using outside of AL-only leagues. Greg Bird is now a better play in deeper mixed leagues.
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American League notes
– Aroldis Chapman isn’t one of the Yankees on the DL, but it looked like he might be headed there when he came out throwing 95 mph in his season debut. Chapman isn’t normally much of a slow starter in the velocity department; he averaged at least 99 mph with his fastball in his first appearance each of the previous three years. He was up to 97 mph on Monday, and that’s also about what he averaged while giving up two runs Tuesday against the Tigers; he topped out at a season-best 99.5 mph on the 16th of his 23 pitches, but there were an unusual amount of 95s mixed in. So, maybe he’s fine, but it’s still a situation worth watching closely. With Dellin Betances out, Zach Britton is probably next in line for saves in the Yankees pen, though Adam Ottavino would also factor into the mix.
– That Chris Sale averaged only 92.2 mph with his fastball on Opening Day, compared to 94.7 mph last season, came as no surprise given the reports from spring training. However, that he was mostly in the high-80s and hit 92 mph just once Tuesday against the A’s seems like a bigger concern. Still, the Red Sox did ask Sale to back off some during his abbreviated exhibition season. He seemed plenty comfortable after a rough first inning Tuesday, and he threw a little harder as the outing went along. I don’t think it’s panic time here. I’m not ruling out a physical problem, but Sale did just get an extensive physical before finalizing his $145 million contract and the Red Sox made that commitment to him while knowing more about the condition of his shoulder than has been publicly released. It might well be that the plan here is for Sale to save his 94-mph fastballs for the summer and October.
– After already having dumped Kendrys Morales, the Blue Jays unceremoniously moved on from Kevin Pillar on Tuesday, sending him to the Giants for a couple of recently DFA’d guys in right-hander Derek Law and utilityman Alen Hanson, plus former Yankees prospect Juan De Paula (he went unpicked in the Rule 5 draft over the winter after the Giants got him in the Andrew McCutchen deal last August). Promoted in Pillar’s place was Anthony Alford, whose stock is back on the upswing after a brutal 2018 season in which he hit just .238/.314/.339 in the minors. I doubt Alford will offer mixed-league value right away, but he does possess upside as a potential leadoff man with 20-steal ability and a little pop.
– I didn’t watch David Hess throw his 6 1/3 hitless innings against the Blue Jays on Monday, so I was totally fine dismissing it as a fluke afterwards. Then I noticed that Hess averaged 94 mph with his fastball in the game, which was up two mph from last year. His slider was up a full three mph, jumping from 80 to 83 mph, and he used it more frequently than he did while going 3-10 with a 4.84 ERA in his 19 starts as a rookie. Hess still has too high of a mountain to climb to be of any use in mixed leagues – overcoming bad teammates, the tough AL East and a good home run park in Camden Yards is too much to ask – but he’s gone from afterthought to becoming perhaps the Orioles’ most interesting pitcher. He could be worth a try in AL-only formats.
– It was known the Orioles intended to mix and match in the ninth this year. The situation hardly seemed worthy of much attention with the team likely to rack up 110 losses again, but the Orioles are a pretty shocking 4-1 thus far, with Mike Wright, Paul Fry, Richard Bleier and Miguel Castro all having earned saves. Missing from that group is Mychal Givens, the presumed favorite for saves going in. Givens still seems like the best bet from here, though he’s nothing more than a fringe guy in mixed leagues. Bleier, who has typically been tremendously effective as a major leaguer, doesn’t seem to be 100 percent yet after missing the final 3 ½ months of last year with a torn lat. If not Givens, Castro would be my pick to lead the Orioles in saves, in part because Givens and Bleier are such good bets to be traded this summer if they prove effective.
– Joey Wendle’s hamstring strain cleared up some of the Rays’ infield logjam for a spell; now both Brandon Lowe and Daniel Robertson can get more at-bats. Both have more fantasy potential than Wendle, too, although neither makes for a great play in shallow leagues at the moment. Lowe has more potential, but that he’s still likely to sit against lefties hurts his case.
– Taylor Rogers got the save for the Twins on Opening Day against the lefty-heavy Indians lineup, but on Tuesday, he was brought in to begin the eighth in a tie game. Blake Parker ended up with the save after pitching a scoreless 10th with a 5-4 lead. The Twins might be the AL team most committed to the closer-by-committee approach. I’m still hopeful that Trevor May breaks out and ends up leading the Twins in saves, but he seems to be behind both Parker and Rogers in the pecking order at the moment. May is still the one I’d most want to own in a mixed league.
– With Hunter Strickland out, Anthony Swarzak was thrown right into the fire Tuesday in his return from the IL and picked up a two-out save after coming in with two on in a one-run game against the Angels. Swarzak looked like the best bet to close for the Mariners before Strickland was signed, and he seems like the best bet again now, as Strickland apparently will miss a couple of months or more. He’s worth a try in mixed leagues.
National League notes
– I hope Trea Turner works on his bunting technique while taking the next month or so off due to a broken finger. Alternatively, he could choose to never bunt again; he was practically begging to be hit on the bunt attempt that left him injured Tuesday night. The Nationals will go with Wilmer Difo as their primary shortstop for now. Victor Robles figures to move up to the second spot in the Nationals’ order, which could make him a top-10 fantasy outfielder for the duration of Turner’s absence. The injury could help Brian Dozier, too; he’s been stuck hitting in front of the pitcher with Robles occupying the ninth spot in the lineup. I’m guessing the Nationals will go back to a more traditional setup now and have Difo hit eighth.
– There was no doubt that Josh Hader would be the favorite for saves in the Milwaukee pen with Corey Knebel out, but it’s interesting to see how quickly the Brewers have defaulted to using him as a traditional closer. On Tuesday, he got his third three-out save in four days, putting him at five innings in a six-day span. As long as the Brewers reserve him for the ninth, he’s probably fantasy baseball’s No. 1 reliever. Still, it’d be best for the Brewers if Jeremy Jeffress comes back strong from his shoulder problem later this month, giving the team another option in the ninth and allowing Hader to return to something more like his 2018 role, albeit probably with more save opportunities mixed in.
– The Marlins’ Caleb Smith had the highest swinging-strike rate of any starting pitcher the first time through the rotation, coming in at a whopping 21.8% against the Mets. Smith became fairly intriguing in the first half of last year, going 5-6 with a 4.19 ERA and an 88/33 K/BB ratio in 77 1/3 innings before getting knocked out by a shoulder injury. As exciting as his strikeout rate was, his control issues and durability questions tempered expectations coming into this year. Still, after entering March uncertain whether he’d be ready for the start of the season, he impressed enough this spring that I moved him up to 66th in my SP rankings. I still can’t go much higher than that since he’s just not going to work very deep into games, both because of his mediocre control and the Marlins’ desire to be careful with him, and he’s thus going to have a very difficult time picking up victories on a bad team. Also, his career high for innings was 135 in 2015 and he’s thrown 64, 119 and 77 in the three years since. He’s a decent choice in mixed leagues for now, but six months of value isn’t in the cards.
– Julio Urias averaged 95 mph with his fastball while throwing five scoreless innings against the Giants on Monday. That’s up 2.5 mph from where he was in his introduction to the majors in 2016. Urias impressed in the bullpen last fall, too, but Monday definitively answered any questions about whether his stuff would come all of the way back following his major shoulder injury. Now it’s just a matter of keeping him healthy. The Dodgers haven’t announced an innings limit for Urias this year, but they are believed to have one in mind. Urias threw 22 innings last year and 55 innings before getting hurt in 2017. His career high is 128 innings from 2016. The Dodgers are certainly planning to get something out of Urias in the postseason this year, so even if things go perfectly, I’m not sure that he will throw more than 110-120 regular-season innings this year. He needs to be owned in shallow leagues, but if he turns in a couple of more strong starts right off, it’d be a good idea to shop him.
– Drew Pomeranz is another guy who showed some extra velocity his first time out, not only bouncing all of the way back from his disappointing 2018 mark but actually improving on where he was in previous seasons. He’s on a bad team in San Francisco, but that’s still a pretty good situation for pitchers and one that got a little better with the Pillar acquisition Tuesday. He’s someone to watch closely in shallow leagues and pick up in deeper formats.
– One imagines the Giants will run a Gerardo Parra–Steven Duggar-Pillar outfield most of the time, and while that’s still an awful group offensively, it should be quite good defensively. Pillar lost what little mixed-league value he had with the trade; he might hit higher in the Giants order than he did in Toronto, but he’ll still be weak in runs and RBI. Unless he decides to do more basestealing than usual (he’s finished with 14, 15 and 14 steals the last three years), he shouldn’t prove worth using.
– Daniel Murphy’s finger fracture will give both Garrett Hampson and Ryan McMahon a chance to shine in Colorado, so they’re worth picking up wherever they’re available. I’m quite a bit more optimistic about Hampson than McMahon; he’s probably the Rockies’ best option both at second base and in center field.
– After sitting on the bench in four of the Padres’ first five games, Hunter Renfroe punished the Diamondbacks by hitting two homers on Tuesday. Something needs to give soon with the Padres outfield; there aren’t enough at-bats available to keep all five of their quality options on the roster for the long haul. Sending down Franchy Cordero would be the easy move. Like Renfroe, he’s been on the bench four times in six games. Cordero would have a great deal of fantasy upside as a regular, but he’s not getting the chance anytime soon unless someone gets hurt. Given that Franmil Reyes has hit cleanup in all four of his starts thus far, it doesn’t seem like he’s at any risk of demotion. Manuel Margot could be at some point, but he’s so much better defensively in center than Cordero that it’s hard not to use him. Wil Myers is safe, of course.