How to Handle Players Glued to my Bench

One of the interesting challenges with a 40-man roster in Ottoneu is figuring out the best way to use that depth. Having 18 bench spots means you can carry a deep roster of MLB talent, a bunch of upside players, or anything in between. Which means that you, almost inevitably, have players on your roster that you just aren’t using.

Ottoneu’s Team Production page is a great way to figure out who you aren’t using and start to make some decisions about how to handle those players.

There are a variety of reasons a player might be glued to your bench: they could be an upside play (not a prospect, who I ignored for this exercise, but a player you are hoping to see do more in the future. They could be a good player buried at a deep position. They could also just be, you know, bad.

But whatever the reason, you want to be sure you are maximizing all of your roster spots and having a guy you almost never use is likely not optimizing. It might be, but it probably isn’t.

Wednesday, I went through all of my leagues and identified at least one player who had been in my lineup less than five times this year. I ignored prospects and injured players – I wanted to focus on players I could use, but I am choosing not to. And then, I wanted to figure out why they are glued to my bench and decide what to do about it.

League 1 (4×4) – Nolan Schanuel

Schanuel is an interesting case because, on the one hand, he has done some really impressive things! But they haven’t added up to much. Schanuel flew through the minors, opened his career with an extended on-base streak, and posted a .402 OBP as a 21-year-old rookie without almost no pro experience. Despite all that, through 186 MLB PA, he has a .224/.360/.283 slash line with just two HR (a roughly 6-HR pace over a full season).

I held Schanuel in league 1 because it is 4×4 and I figured he would be a net positive in OBP, while not killing me in any of the other categories (HR, R, SLG). So far this year, the OBP is bad – .259 – but figures to improve. He is still walking at a good clip and the .100 BABIP won’t continue.

But everything else is bad and doesn’t look likely to improve. His plate discipline, which seemed great last year, has become too passive, resulting in a 24.1% K-rate despite just a 6.3% swinging strike rate. Per Statcast, his zone swing rate is the lowest in baseball at 48.8%. He makes contact when he swings, but that contact is not very good.

He needs to be more aggressive in the zone to turn some of those called strikes into balls in play. More importantly, he needs to figure out how to get much, much harder contact, and soon. His xwOBAcon (expected wOBA when making contact) is .263. This means that even when you eliminate the 24% K-rate and 14% walk-rate, he is performing really poorly.

At this point, Schanuel is a cut. There’s enough underlying skill to continue to dream on what he could become. But Ottoneu value will require him to do one of three things:

  1. Show he can punish a baseball, even occasionally. His career max EV of 103.5 isn’t good enough.
  2. Show he can get close to that max EV far, FAR more often. 103.5 might work if he was hitting the ball close to that hard a very high percent of the time, but he isn’t/
  3. Move to a more valuable position. Right now, he is a poor man’s Steven Kwan (or Luis Arraez) but instead of having OF or MI eligibility, he is 1B-only.

League 13 (FanGraphs Points H2H) – Alec Bohm

Schanuel is underperforming and buried behind two other 1B – Vinnie Pasquantino and Josh Naylor – who are killing the ball. Bohm is underperforming, but has less competition. Kind of.

My started 3B in that league is typically Alex Bregman, but Bregman has both been hurt and putting up a weak 3.34 P/G himself. So there has been an opportunity for Bohm, but he has struggled enough that when I need an extra 3B, it has made more sense to use an extra MI and play one of Spencer Steer, Nolan Gorman, or Isaac Paredes at 3B. With Vaughn Grissom back soon, the space for Bohm is going to get even tighter.

Unlike Schanuel, Bohm has a history (albeit a brief one) of being a useful 3B, as he posted 4.98 P/G in 2023 – perfectly adequate for a backup 3B. He was also great through the fantasy playoffs last year and helped carry this team to a title, so I have a hard time just letting him walk.

Bohm is swinging the bat less this year, but is also making a lot of contact. His K-rate has increased despite a lower CSW (called strikes + whiffs) against him. Basically, he is less likely than ever to swing through a pitch or take a called strike, but is striking out more. He is also walking a lot more and, as a whole, this feels like a positive development. Hopefully that K-rate starts to come down.

The problem for Bohm, like Schanuel, is a lack of loud contact. His EV, Hard-hit% and barrel% are all way down. His max EV looks fine and his historical quality of contact suggests he can and should get back to his 2023 levels before long. If that happens and there are some real plate discipline gains, he could surpass his 2023 4.98 P/G. For now, I am willing to wait and see.

League 32 (FanGraphs Points) – Jake Fraley and Ryan O’Hearn

These two have combined to be in my lineup for 10 games and have scored 70 points over those ten games, so this is not a performance issue. No, this is a depth issue.

My most-used OF in this league are: Teoscar Hernández, Bryan Reynolds, Kyle Schwarber, Will Benson, Bryan De La Cruz, and Colton Cowser. Others who have gotten playing time include Max Kepler, Adam Duvall, and Esteury Ruiz. It’s a pretty talented OF, though I think you can make a case I haven’t been using the right players the most often.

The problem is that Hernández and Reynolds should be in my lineup daily. Schwarber probably too, though I think you can make a case for holding him out vs. lefties. Benson is earning time vs. LHP but is a must-start vs. RHP right now. Cowser looks like a must-start against everyone. Fraley and O’Hearn should always start against righties. Duvall should never sit when facing a lefty. But sometimes all those matchups pile up the right (or wrong) way. The result is that Fraley and O’Hearn are sitting too often.

There are a couple of solutions here. One is to do nothing. Continue to trust my decision-making, get those guys in when they are among my best five projected OF for that night and go with it. Another is to off-load one or more OF via cut or trade. That team is 5th in P/G and 9th in P/IP, so it isn’t like I don’t have room to improve. Maybe moving Teoscar or selling high on Benson – and counting on Fraley and O’Hearn to pick up the slack – is a good plan. Or maybe I just cut Duvall or someone else to add a free agent I like.

Before doing that, it is probably worth noting that Fraley has a .485 BABIP and otherwise looks like the same player he was last year. That isn’t a bad player, but it isn’t 7 points per game, either. O’Hearn, on the other hand, is crushing the ball and elevating the ball and not chasing and has generally made meaningful improvements that are pretty intriguing.

Maybe the right plan is to sell high on Fraley? I am not sure how much I can count on him moving forward to be a “must-start” guy vs. a guy who can play on occasion vs. RHP. I am not going to do anything drastic, but I probably will shop some OF for upgrades elsewhere, while also looking for FA options to improve my overall roster.

League 670 (SABR Points) – Elehuris Montero

Montero is also stuck on my bench in 1443, but I am going to talk about someone else there, so he gets discussed here. And this discussion might be short. I already cut Montero. I thought he might take step forward or at least continue to be useful at home. But he has become too frustrating to roster.

Having said that, there are some intriguing signs from Montero. His strikeout rate is way down. He is chasing less, swinging in the zone more, and making a lot more contact. He has meaningfully increased his walk rate. He set a new career-high max EV already. But he still hits very few line drives and his xwOBA is still under .300.

Maybe the cut was pre-mature, given some of those gains, but I am going to need to see results before I want to buy back in.

League 1199 (4×4) – Parker Meadows

Meadows was 1-3 with a HR and a BB on Wednesday and that stellar performance boosted his wRC+ to 37. No, not 137. Not even 73. 37.

The thing is, Meadows has been on my bench because I wasn’t really expecting to count on him immediately. I hoped he would develop into a solid OF option, but I wasn’t expecting him to be an everyday guy from the start. And he is still doing a lot of the things I like.

He is walking 17% of the time. He is showing patience and not chasing too much. His K-rate has skyrocketed due to a decrease in contact rate, but I believe he can get that contact rate back up as he gets his timing rate (which he might have done Wednesday?).

So Meadows is a hold for me, for now, except for one thing: I way overpaid. $12 is just not a price that feels right at this point. If the right free agent opportunity comes along, I may cut him and hope that the $6 price and poor early performance allow him to slide by for 30 days so I can take another shot at him in May. But I don’t need the cash immediately, so we’ll have to see who comes available.

League 1372 (4×4) – Colt Keith

This is another that should be quick. Keith has been bad and I have enough other MI and 3B options to bench him. But he is 22, has elite pedigree, is showing good plate discipline, and has a solid xwOBA (.306 isn’t good enough to be useful, but it is enough to suggest he isn’t overmatched). The future is bright, and I am willing to wait.

League 1443 (5×5) – Elias Díaz

Diaz is off to a great start. But, as in past years, he has been merely okay (by catcher standards) with a .303 road wOBA while killing the ball at home (.417 wOBA). The issue is the Rockies schedule – they have only had five home games and I am not up for playing him on the road.

Maybe that is a mistake – he hasn’t been bad on the road. But my plan this year was to start my primary catcher, Yainer Diaz, every time he is in the lineup, and then use Elias in Coors to fill out the rest of my C games. If I find myself in May or June well ahead of the pace, I’ll start getting picky about Yainer’s starts or maybe benching Elias for tough matchups at home. If I find myself behind the pace, I’ll get a little aggressive with Elias road starts.

But for now, the plan is the plan, and I will stick to the plan. Elias won’t be glued to my bench once the Rockies aren’t glued to the road.

A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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1 month ago

My mind jumps to Wilmer Flores. He’s solid when he plays and typically qualifies at multiple positions, so while the upside is relatively low and he rarely, if ever, cracks the lineup (fantasy or real life), he’s a useful guy to have around.