If there’s a common thread between guests of the deep league wire, it’s that they typically don’t enter the fantasy picture because they were anyone’s ideal choice for playing time — they get their opportunities because others go down with injuries or are simply too awful to deserve major league starting jobs. This week’s candidates prove no exception, though both have the potential to contribute in NL-only leagues. As a reminder, I use CBS for the ownership percentages.
Scott Baker / SP / Los Angeles Dodgers / 2%
Brandon McCarthy is done for the year thanks to a torn UCL, and the 33-year-old Baker has first dibs on replacing him in the rotation. Despite taking the loss Sunday in what was his first appearance of 2015, Baker held his own against a Padres team that’s featured one of the best offenses in the NL so far this year, allowing three earned runs over seven innings. That followed what was a very successful three-start stint in Triple-A, where he nearly pitched a perfect game against Iowa and was named the PCL’s pitcher of the week on Monday.
Baker has carved out a decent major league career, though his glory days in Minnesota were some time ago, and he’s been unable to stay healthy for a prolonged period of time since posting 14.9 WAR from 2007 to 2011. Last year in Texas, Baker pitched mostly out of the bullpen, but he was lit up with a 5.47 ERA, and the home run ball — a recurring problem in his career — was especially vicious to him, as his 1.67 HR/9 rate was third-highest among pitchers with at least 80 innings.
Of course, a lot of pitchers have trouble in Texas, and for Baker, a man with a career 45.6% FB%, perhaps finding a proper home would go a long way toward restoring his fantasy usefulness. He can still deliver strikeouts at an acceptable clip and doesn’t hurt himself too much with walks, and he’s joining a winning environment in Hollywood, where the ballpark plays fairly neutral and the team’s outfield defense ranks among the top 10 in both UZR and UZR/150 in this young season.
Baker isn’t going to set the world ablaze, and he’s almost certain to have his health problems, but he’s going to get a shot at proving he can hold down a rotation spot for a winning team. Until the Dodgers can find a better option, or Baker pitches his way out of his opportunity, he’ll be worth a look.
J.T. Realmuto / C / Miami Marlins / 13%
Yes, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was off to an abysmal start this year and was already losing playing time to Realmuto when he went on paternity leave, but it was still surprising that the Marlins DFA’d him with two years and $15 million left on his contract. The 24-year-old Realmuto probably isn’t complaining, however, as he’s now been promoted as the team’s No. 1 catcher.
Over the offseason, Kiley McDaniel found Realmuto to be the team’s second most valuable prospect, though much of that owes to his defense. Still, he’s showed decent contact ability in the minors and nearly identical splits against both left- and right-handed pitchers, and he’s basically held his own against major league pitching so far in April without crazy BABIP luck, though an 0-for-4 performance against the Mets Monday plunged his average from .265 to .237. Owners shouldn’t expect much, if anything, from Realmuto in the power department — and that’s before you consider Marlins Park as his home address — and, as Paul Sporer noted last week, he has just 13 Triple-A plate appearances to his name, so he’s going to be a bit raw in his first go-around in the majors.
But a full-time job is a full-time job, and if Realmuto can pull off plays like this with regularity, he shouldn’t be hurting for at-bats. With a spate of big-name backstops out for prolonged periods of time, Realmuto might be a decent NL-only option to consider.
Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.