Need reinforcements for a team that is off to a rough start or beset by injuries? You’ve got something in common with the Yankees.
Entering their three-game series with the Tigers on Monday, the Yankees found themselves short-handed, adding Giancarlo Stanton (strained biceps) and Miguel Andujar (shoulder, labrum tear) to an already crowded injured list. They called up Clint Frazier and Tyler Wade to take their places on the roster. Much to the chagrin of Alex Chamberlain, Frazier — and not the recently-acquired Mike Tauchman — is expected to be the main playing time beneficiary during Stanton’s absence. Wade, on the other hand, will fall behind DJ LeMahieu on the third base depth chart.
For fantasy owners who need infield help, the playing time windfall befalling LeMahieu may not be much help, as he is already heavily owned (e.g., 68 percent in CBS leagues, 59 percent in ESPN leagues). Daniel Murphy’s fractured left index finger creates the possibility of regular playing time for Garrett Hampson, who is more likely than LeMahieu to be available on waivers in 12-team mixed leagues. But targeting Murphy’s replacement may not be that straightforward, as Mark Reynolds could fill in at first base, possibly keeping both Hampson and Ryan McMahon from getting regular reps at second base.
The fallout from the Rays’ loss of Joey Wendle (hamstring) to the IL is also unclear. Even without him and Matt Duffy (hamstring), they have plenty of flexibility in assembling an infield, but there is now a greater chance of Brandon Lowe and Daniel Robertson being in the lineup together, as they were in Monday’s series opener with the Rockies.
Playing time alone won’t necessarily make any of these potential injury replacements worth picking up in fantasy, depending on your league depth and format. Each has something to offer, so here is a breakdown of what each player could bring to the table.
Clint Frazier, OF, Yankees
As a prospect, both in Indians’ and Yankees’ systems, Frazier showed an enticing combination of power, speed and the ability to get on base. It’s hard to know exactly how that skill set might translate to the majors, as he dealt with the aftereffects of a concussion last season and was likely impacted by an oblique strain for much of his time with the Yankees in 2017. Even in that initial season in the majors, Frazier didn’t lack for power, finishing with four home runs, nine doubles and four triples in 142 plate appearances, which was good for a .216 ISO. However, he also had a .268 OBP and one stolen base.
We should probably disregard his major league numbers to date, but projecting from his time in the minors, it’s reasonable to expect a batting average in the .240s with a .200-plus ISO like he had two seasons ago. Given that Stanton is not expected to be out more than a month, Frazier may only chip in three or four homers, possibly to go along with a stolen base or two. That may not sound like much, but prorated over a full season, you’re essentially looking at Jackie Bradley Jr. with a few more homers and fewer steals. That’s good enough to make Frazier a borderline option in 12-team mixed leagues and a must-add in any format deeper than that.
DJ LeMahieu, 2B, Yankees
As mentioned above, LeMahieu will be harder to find on waivers, but he needs to be added almost everywhere he is available. Andujar could be out for an extended period, and if he opts for surgery, he would miss the remainder of the season. That would open up an everyday job for LeMahieu, at least until Didi Gregorius’ anticipated return around the middle of the season, if not beyond.
In his final season with the Rockies, LeMahieu made a modest trade-off of batting average for power, hitting more flies and pulled balls. Predictably, he set a career high with 15 home runs, but his .276 batting average was his lowest since 2014. In the worst-case scenario — less power with no batting average rebound — LeMahieu would still be a top 20 second baseman. More likely, whether he clouts 15 homers again, bats .300, or is somewhere in between, he will be in the vicinity of the top 12 at the position. Better yet, he will soon gain eligibility at third base.
Garrett Hampson, 2B/SS, Rockies
If Hampson were to become an everyday player, his likely contributions to batting average and stolen bases would make him a top 20 option at both second base and shortstop (though he is not yet eligible for the former position on ESPN and CBS). However, he is unlikely to reach that level, as Murphy could be out for as little as a month, not to mention that Hampson could get squeezed for playing time by some combination of McMahon, Reynolds and Pat Valaika.
Even though the odds may be against Hampson for achieving enough value to be used in a 14-team mixed league, it’s worth stashing him in any league that’s at least that deep. He didn’t show that much power in the minors, but between his contact skills, plate discipline and speed, he could produce enough to give Bud Black a reason to keep his bat in the lineup. Hampson is not sufficiently devoid of power or flyball tendencies for his ISO to not get something of an assist from Coors Field.
Mark Reynolds, 1B, Rockies
To his credit, Reynolds’ numbers held up well after moving from the Rockies to the Nationals last season. His numbers against righties suffered somewhat, as his contact was less solid (fewer line drives, more popups), and his role was more limited. Reynolds’ power was largely intact, though, as his 92.3 mph average exit velocity on flyballs and line drives was less than 1 mph down from 2017.
Still, the best-case scenario for Reynolds, if he were to play full-time over the course of the season, was to have a line similar to that of C.J. Cron, but with more walks. Hitting around .260 with 25-to-30 home runs makes him a marginal option at first base in a 12-team mixed league, and there is no reason to expect Reynolds to have a substantial role once Murphy returns. We shouldn’t even count on him to play every day while Murphy is out. He is best suited for owners in deeper daily lineup leagues who can stream him off their bench when the Rockies are at home.
Brandon Lowe, 2B, Rays
Among the replacement options for Wendle at second base, third base or shortstop, Lowe has the advantage of being left-handed, whereas Robertson and the just-promoted Christian Arroyo are not. While Wendle may not be out more than the minimum 10 days, Lowe may have enough of an opportunity to show that he deserves steadier playing time. It’s probably unrealistic to expect him to earn a true everyday role, given the infield depth the Rays possess, and for that reason, there is no need to pursue him in a standard 12-teamer.
Even with as few as 450 plate appearances, Lowe could turn in a 2019 campaign much like the season Aledmys Diaz had in 2018 (.263/18/55/55/3). If that seems underwhelming, we should note that Diaz created about as much value in standard 15-team Roto leagues last season as Marwin Gonzalez and Niko Goodrum did. Lowe should have some value in that format.
Daniel Robertson, 2B/SS, Rays
Unless Wendle is out longer than expected, there is little reason to pursue Robertson in just about any mixed league. Owners in AL-only leagues and deeper mixed leagues that include OBP as a category should consider stashing Robertson or at least putting him on your watch list. Last season, he struck out a little too often against righties (25.8 percent K%), but he hit for decent power against them (35.2 percent hard contact rate, 13.6 percent HR/FB), so there is some potential for him to get semi-regular starts. Robertson also owns a career 11.9 percent BB%, so he does have a little extra value for OBP leagues.
Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.