Fantasy Busts and Opportunities: AL West

Yesterday, I kicked off a six-part series to answer the following question – which current MLB starters might flop in 2017, opening an opportunity for a prospect or non-full time player? During Spring Training, we’ll go into a full dive on team depth charts, fleshing out these opportunities in more detail. This post is meant to be quick and dirty. You can find the NL East here.

I’ve constrained myself to players I believe may predictably fail. The person who asked the question used the Tigers rotation, Jimmy Rollins, Shin-Soo Choo, and Luke Gregerson as examples. He or she profited from Michael Fulmer, Tim Anderson, Ken Giles, and Nomar Mazara.

In the NL East post, we had a good chat about Jeurys Familia in the comments. I highlighted Addison Reed as a guy who could take Familia’s job. To be clear, they’re both top 15 relievers, it’s just that Reed happens to be better than Familia. And he doesn’t have domestic violence suspension ruining his April. If Reed has a sub-2.00 ERA and domineering stuff when Familia returns, it’s going to be awfully hard to demote him. The best use case for Familia owners is if the Mets decide to use Reed like Andrew Miller.

Returning to the matter at hand, let’s head west…

AL West Opportunities

Angels

The Angels lack near-majors prospects, leaving us with very little opportunity to exploit the roster. Last year, the team wasn’t deep enough to fill a viable starting lineup. Now they can stretch and just barely cover every position.

Jefry Marte is the obvious odd man out on the first base/designated hitter depth chart. As an extreme pull hitter, he could experience occasional homer binges. Too bad his home park is pitcher friendly. Any backups acquired between now and Opening Day could benefit from the shallow infield and outfield. Cameron Maybin and Ben Revere are scheduled to share left field. They aren’t going to stay healthy all season.

On the pitching side, there will be opportunities for starters. None of the depth is particularly valuable right now so our job is to watch for breakouts as they happen. The bullpen is a little more interesting. Cam Bedrosian has the actual closer profile while Huston Street and Andrew Bailey have the experience. I’m putting my money (maybe a dollar) on Bailey as the Opening Day closer. He’s a spin rate darling. Bet on Bedrosian taking the job by midseason.

Astros

When the Astros went and acquired Brian McCann, I thought for sure Gattis would be gone in a matter of days. Maybe that was the plan but the glut of sluggy cornermen has delayed the outcome. For now, McCann and Gattis form a weird platoon. Third stringer Max Stassi has a bit of Cameron Rupp in him.

While the rest of the infield is solid, first base is a mess. Yulieski Gurriel figures to get the first look with Marwin Gonzalez backing him up. If Gurriel fails, A.J. Reed is next on the list. Then Tyler White and Jon Singleton. Gattis could also claim a lion’s share of the job at any time.

Houston’s outfield is deep with multiple redundancies. While I wouldn’t stash them, keep half an eye on Teoscar Hernandez and Tony Kemp. They could become useful fantasy streamers with the right opportunity.

Three pitchers outside of the starting rotation draw my attention. Joe Musgrove is currently sixth on the depth chart. He’s a stashable quality player, even if he begins the season in Triple-A. The Astros rotation has enough health risks that Musgrove won’t be down for long.

Brad Peacock showed some signs of improvement in 2016, enough to merit a closer look if he’s starting. Chris Devenski was much better as a reliever, but he was also good enough as a starter. The Astros have additional prospect depth beyond the top eight.

In the bullpen, Ken Giles’ hold on the closer gig is tenuous. He has a history of very slow starts to the season. Gregerson and Will Harris had success in the ninth inning. Devenski would fit too if the club didn’t prefer him in the Miller-role. Michael Feliz also has closer stuff.

Athletics

The A’s recently signed Trevor Plouffe. His role will set off a chain reaction throughout the lineup. If he wins third base as expected, Ryon Healy moves to first with Yonder Alonso and Mark Canha disappearing onto the bench. I still half expect another veteran signing for a corner position. Where’s Country Breakfast when you need him?

The club has a useful trio behind the plate. Stephen Vogt might be pushed towards the DH slot so Bruce Maxwell and Josh Phegley can play more consistently. Vogt and Maxwell are both left-handed batters. Phegley is the right-handed lefty masher.

Jed Lowrie is the second baseman. He’s backed up by Joey Wendle. The former Indians farmhand spent most of September batting leadoff for the Athletics. They like what he can bring to the plate. Lowrie is often injured.

The rotation is a heaping mess for the moment. There are a lot of talented arms in the group. Oakland just needs a few of them to break out. My advice is to monitor rather than stash.

Oakland’s bullpen is crowded with potential closers. Most analysts are paying attention to Ryan Madson, Santiago Casilla, and John Axford. The trio has a lot of closing experience, and they can handle the job in a “good enough” capacity. Well, maybe not Axford.

While the old guys draw attention, let’s take a peak at Sean Doolittle’s 2016 line – a luck neutral 3.23 ERA, 10.38 K/9, and 1.85 BB/9. His fastball velocity averaged a career best 94.8 mph. I think it’s safe to say he’s back. The only blemish on his season was an uncharacteristically high HR/FB ratio. He usually suppresses long balls. Go get ‘im.

Fantasy players tend to love Ryan Dull who I see as a Gregerson clone. It’s perhaps telling that Gregerson spent his career as a setup man despite closer quality numbers. Frankie Montas is also ludicrously talented.

Mariners

Danny Valencia is penciled in as the starting first baseman. A contending Mariners club can do better. Dan Vogelbach is actually projected to outperform Valencia, albeit not by much. Seattle also seems like a logical landing place for one of the many unsigned corner infielders. Somebody like super streaky Luis Valbuena would be a solid platoon partner for Valencia, and there are plenty of starting options out there too.

In the outfield, the M’s have opted for defense over bats. Unless they’re desperate for an injection of offense, I think the All Defense squad is safe. The pitching staff is solid if not thrilling. Ariel Miranda is the sixth starter. With an opportunity and against the right opponent, he has streaming upside. Edwin Diaz is safe in the closer role. Steve Cishek, Tony Zych, and Shae Simmons are the likely back ups. All three battled injuries late last season.

This was the purpose of Jerry Dipoto’s wheeling and dealing. Besides first base, this is a rock solid roster.

Rangers

So here’s the thing. All offseason, we’ve heard about the glut of cornermen. A number of good-not-great players are still free agents. It’s assumed there just aren’t enough jobs for them, yet a perusal of the AL West offers five teams who could easily upgrade at first base.

The Rangers currently have Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo, and Jurickson Profar as their first base options. Ronald Guzman’s waiting back there too. Without a free agent signing, they’re going to be unhappy with the offensive production of anybody they put there. I bet they let Profar run with it as a way to keep his bat in the lineup.

Choo is constantly hurt. That could re-open the door for Delino DeShields and Jared Hoying. Rua and Profar may appear in the outfield in the event of a Choo injury.

The rotation is fragile, but the guys outside the top five don’t offer much fantasy upside. I’m staying away. As always, monitor for breakouts. The bullpen is a different story. Dyson is exactly the type of reliever you want available in any high leverage situation. The club may use a slump as an excuse to demote him. Or they may choose to eschew traditional bullpen roles entirely.

Behind Dyson lurks Matt Bush, Jeremy Jeffress, and Keone Kela. The system is also loaded with hard throwers who could spontaneously emerge. Based on 2016 performance, Bush is the best of the setup men. However, they’re all close enough in talent that even a small change could rearrange the pecking order.

Grid of AL West Opportunities
Potential Bust Players to Stash Players to Stash Players to Stash
Everybody but Trout Jefry Marte
Closer Battle Cam Bedrosian Andrew Bailey Huston Street
Catcher Battle Brian McCann Evan Gattis Max Stassi
Yulieski Gurriel Evan Gattis A.J. Reed Tyler White
Outfield Depth Nori Aoki Teoscar Hernandez Tony Kemp
Rotation Depth Joe Musgrove Chris Devenski Brad Peacock
Ken Giles Luke Gregerson Will Harris Michael Feliz
Corner Battle Trevor Plouffe Ryon Healy Free Agent Signee
Stephen Vogt Bruce Maxwell
Jed Lowrie Joey Wendle
Old Man Closers Sean Doolittle
Danny Valencia Dan Vogelsong
Ryan Rua Jurickson Profar Joey Gallo Ronald Guzman
Shin-Soo Choo Delino DeShields Jared Hoying
Sam Dyson Matt Bush Jeremy Jeffress Keone Kela





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Dyson’s one of my favorite bets to lose a closer job early to Bush or Kela (Kela’s peripherals, especially in the second half, being much better than his results).