Out Of Options Players: Fantasy Notes by Brad Johnson March 11, 2020 On Monday night, MLB Trade Rumors dropped their annual “Out Of Options” post rounding up all the players who can’t be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. Teams will often go out of their way to keep their “assets” even if it means deploying a slightly inefficient Opening Day lineup. After all, depth is at least as important as quality (ask the 2019-2020 Yankees). Consider this, the Rays have a first base prospect you may know by the name of Nate Lowe. He’ll likely spend most of 2020 in Triple-A while Ji-Man Choi and Jose Martinez handle a goodly chunk of the first base reps. If Lowe were out of options, the Rays probably would have non-tendered Choi. Or they’d trade him in the next couple weeks. They’d do something to make room for Lowe. Because Lowe has options, it’s Choi who benefits. For an exhaustive list of all out of options players, reference the linked post in the first paragraph. I’ll be focusing purely on fantasy relevant names with the potential for expanded roles. Locked in Major Leaguers like Mike Foltynewicz, Renato Nunez, and Tommy Pham will be ignored. Paul Sporer covered many of these players in late-January (National League, American League). Consider this post an update. NL East Braves Adam Duvall Luke Jackson and Grant Dayton will get extra consideration for the Braves stacked Opening Day bullpen. However, Duvall is the guy who might find some fantasy relevance from his triple-O status… assuming an injury or two clears a path. Right now, he’s firmly ensconced as a pinch hitter and very occasional starter versus southpaws. Marlins Magneuris Sierra Jose Urena Under different circumstances, Urena might be sent to Triple-A to remain stretched out as a depth starter. Instead, he’ll get a second chance to claim a late-innings role. His first opportunity wasn’t exactly enticing. Sierra is an interesting speed-first outfield prospect. To me, he reads like somebody who might be ready for the majors… after making consistent adjustments in Triple-A for another three years. He might eventually find himself on the large side of a platoon. Nationals Joe Ross Austin Voth Wilmer Difo Ross and Voth are battling for the fifth starter job. The loser, if he had options, might be sent to Triple-A. Instead, he’ll land in the bullpen. These are both solid starting pitchers. Voth’s shown some success in the bullpen (Ross has not) which might work against him. (UPDATE: Max Scherzer may start the season on the IL, opening a spot for both Ross and Voth) Difo has interesting traits but never got enough time in the upper minors. Now he’s liable to not even make the club – he’d have to sneak past Carter Kieboom. Even that would be a temporary reprieve from facing waivers. Phillies Roman Quinn Quinn is always injured so Philly doesn’t really need options to send him to the minors. An injury will do the work for them. He’s an excellent stolen base sleeper for seemingly the fifth consecutive season. This time, his only competition in center field is prospect Adam Haseley. At the very least, Quinn will likely start against all left-handed pitchers. Mets Unless you’re some kind of Walker Lockett or Tomas Nido truther, there’s nothing to discuss here. NL Central Brewers The Brew-Crew has a handful of OOO players, but they all have comfortable roles. Cardinals Rangel Ravelo Ravelo appears destined to occupy the dustiest corner of the Cardinals bench until they find something with greater utility. He’s a Quad-A bat, the kind the Rays and A’s typically love to nurse into something MLB-ish. Cubs Alec Mills By reports, Mills probably should be the Cubs fifth starter. Instead, it looks like overly-paid Tyler Chatwood will snipe the job with Mills shifting to a bullpen role. This is a surprisingly fugly relief corps so Mills could ascend to something besides long relief if a sixth starter isn’t needed early. Mills looks like a fantastic deep league sleeper. Pirates I considered discussing some of the seven names on the Pittsburgh list, but they really aren’t anything about which to fret. Move along. Reds Lucas Sims Scott Schebler Phil Ervin Sims had a bit of a breakthrough last season at Triple-A but didn’t quite translate it to Cincinnati. He could play up as a reliever, but what he really needs is to relocate to a less homer-happy venue. Sims is an extreme fly ball pitcher. Schebler and Ervin are fighting along with Josh VanMeter and Aristides Aquino for two bench spots. VanMeter and Aquino are clearly both better than this pair, but they have options. Rule 5 pick Mark Payton is hanging around too. Cincy is so deep in the outfield that they might feel comfortable cutting one of these guys loose, ostensibly Schebler. NL West Diamondbacks Christian Walker Ildemaro Vargas Walker’s status is interesting in that I’m convinced Kevin Cron and Seth Beer are already better than him. However, Walker is a passable MLB first baseman so he’ll get to keep the job. #FreeKron #FreeBeer With Domingo Leyba housed for 80 games, Vargas is the primary beneficiary. He’s something like a poor man’s Luis Arraez. Dodgers Austin Barnes Barnes is an able defensive catcher who has never lived up to his one hot season at the plate. Keibert Ruiz could oust him later in the year, but for now he’ll get a healthy role alongside Will Smith. And having once hit well, it’s always possible it’ll happen again. Padres Breyvic Valera Pierce Johnson Javy Guerra Greg Garcia Valera is another sorta poor man’s Arraez except he does have a little bit of pop and speed. The switch-hitter was fantastic with the Yankees Triple-A affiliate last season, and he performed passably in a couple brief MLB stints in New York and Toronto. He’ll latch on somewhere if not San Diego. Garcia is a passive alternative with more defensive flexibility. Johnson shined in Japan last season while Guerra shifted from shortstop to pitching with instantly attractive results. They’ll be stuffed into the shallow end of a very effective Padres bullpen. Rockies Raimel Tapia A half dozen pitchers including a couple bubble arms (Jeff Hoffman and Antonio Senzatela) are also out of options. However, Tapia is probably the greatest beneficiary of this status. Once a well-regarded prospect, there is no longer any sign he’s a must-roster MLB player. There’s simply too much swing-and-miss in his game for a low-power bat with below average defense. He’s still worth watchlisting in case he finds himself in a regular role with Coors Field starts. AL East Blue Jays Derek Fisher Anthony Alford Presently, Toronto is sorting through a jumbled mess of options for right field, first base, and designated hitter. Fisher and Alford should both make the roster and might even backdoor their way into useful fantasy output. Fisher suffers from too much patience. A little more selective aggression could finally unlock a tolerable triple slash with both power and speed. Alford is more of a speed-first outfielder with too much swing-and-miss. The Jays didn’t sign Rafael Dolis with the intent of shifting him to Triple-A – which is good because they can’t! I mention him because he’s a closer deep sleeper if Ken Giles’s elbow asplodes. Red Sox Kevin Plawecki Tzu-Wei Lin Plawecki is the backup with a guaranteed contract which isn’t great news for the Jonathan Lucroy Revival Tour (he’s in Sox camp as an NRI). Lin is a patient super utility type. He’s kind of a crappier version of a guy (Jose Peraza) already on the roster. Rays Ji-Man Choi Another strike against Lowe… Choi is out of options. The Rays also won’t be able to shuffle Chaz Roe or Oliver Drake this year in their usual game of Durham Reliever Roulette. Yankees Mike Tauchman Gio Urshela Kyle Higashioka If Urshela and Miguel Andujar’s options were reversed, Urshela might find himself ticketed to Triple-A even though he’s clearly the best third base option on the roster. As it stands, he’s now very safe. Injuries have opened a clear path for Tauchman. Higashioka has sneaky-good power. He’s competing with NRI Chris Iannetta. Orioles Baltimore has six out of options players, but we either already expected them to start or they aren’t fantasy relevant. AL Central Indians Adam Plutko Christian Arroyo Injuries have probably made the Plutko decision very easy. At one point, he looked like he might be the seventh starter. Now he’s lined up fourth or fifth in the rotation. Arroyo, once an over-hyped Giants prospect, has struggled to stay on the field in recent years. He briefly flashed spicy at Durham last year. Royals Jorge Lopez Brett Phillips Bubba Starling Lopez feels like somebody who could play up in the bullpen. He’s an abysmal starter. Brady Singer is threatening to skip Triple-A to take Lopez’s rotation slot. Phillips and Starling are only notable for their former prospect clout. They figure to be very infrequently used bench pieces. Tigers Jeimer Candelario Dawel Lugo This “dynamic” duo is competing for the starting third base role. On a blasted roster, there’s plenty of room for either or both to squat in the dugout. Candelario might be fringe-usable in very deep formats if he wins the everyday job, especially in OBP leagues where his 10 percent walk rate could play up. Just yesterday, I passed up a shot to take Lugo in the 50th round of a 15-team draft and hold (I selected Ildemaro Vargas instead). White Sox Carson Fulmer Evan Marshall Fulmer is a former eighth overall pick who lacks sufficient stuff and command to thrive in the majors. There’s enough pedigree here that interesting things could happen given enough opportunities. Marshall is a ground ball specialist who could be relevant in holds leagues. Twins Max Kepler, Tyler Duffey, and Jorge Polanco need not fear demotion – both because they’re good and they’re out of options. We don’t need to say words about Matt Wisler. This is already too many. AL West Angels Brian Goodwin Max Stassi Goodwin is going to start for the Angels. Maybe in a very different league, Jo Adell would have his job. Stassi has on occasion pretended like he can hit. If Roberto Perez can fire off 24 home runs, Stassi could squeeze by Jason Castro and deliver a surprise 20-spot. Astros Austin Pruitt Dustin Garneau Nobody is talking Pruitt about as a potential fifth starter. I’d put money on him making at least 15 starts, barring injury. Especially now that Verlander has Verlanded on the injury list. Garneau is most notable in that he’s preventing an actually fantasy relevant catcher, Garrett Stubbs, from making the OD roster. Damn you, Garneau! Athletics Tony Kemp Franklin Barreto Jorge Mateo Chris Bassitt Bassitt gets a nod even though he’s deservedly won the fifth starter role (barring catastrophe). There is room on the roster for all of Kemp, Barreto, and Mateo, but that certainly doesn’t feel ideal. Barreto is having a huge spring and could win the second base job outright. He features power, speed, and crazytime whiff rates. Mateo finally found some pop in Triple-A last season, but he still profiles mostly as an empty-speed, high whiff utility guy. Kemp is exactly the sort of patient nobody the Athletics love to turn into somebodies (see Mark Canha, Chad Pinder, and Robbie Grossman) Mariners Carl Edwards Jr. Matt Magill Sam Tuivailala Dan Altavilla Dan Vogelbach Vogey is an interesting inclusion in that Evan White can’t simply shunt him down to Triple-A. Instead, Vogelbach will need to hit enough to justify a DH role. Should be easy enough for now. Long term, I’m skeptical. All four listed relievers could nab a handful of saves or more. Many have assumed that Magill is the “closer,” but I prefer to gamble on Brandon Brennan (he still has options). Rangers Some pitchers you don’t care to read about and Danny Santana.