Batter’s Box: Using Your Bench Spots

Everything Scott Chu thinks you need to know about Wednesday's best hitters is right here in the Batter's Box.

A theme you’ll find in today’s assortment of blurbs is that many of these hitters don’t play every day. For those of you in 10-team leagues or shallow weekly formats, you probably can’t afford to roster many players who don’t start five to six times per week, but for everyone else, there’s potentially a treasure trove of value on your waiver wire that, if you’re crafty, you can plunder with minimal consequences.

The easiest and most logical part-time player who has value is the platoon bat. Corey Dickerson, who I’ll talk about more later, is an obvious example of a platoon player. Enrique Hernandez, who I won’t discuss today, is another. They predictably start every game when they have the platoon advantage and have a long track record of results against pitchers on the opposite side. Lefties are the preferred platoon players to use, as they tend to get more run (considering that many more starters are right-handed than left-handed, which is why we say lefties are on the “strong side” of a hitting platoon). Righties can be valuable as well, but require a little more TLC to maximize value out of.

Thankfully, sites like ESPN and Yahoo now show the opposing starter when setting your lineup, which saves precious time and clicks. If you’ve been slogging your way through the season with a carousel of hot-then-cold outfielders in your fourth or fifth slot, you may find more consistent production using a platoon. It’s especially useful when you are in a league that limits waiver moves on a weekly or full-season basis.

The other type of part-time player I want to discuss is the backup and/or utility player. Yairo Munoz is today’s example below, and I suppose you could classify Greg Allen as one of these as well. It’s more of a speculative and unpredictable play for deeper formats, but these players might be worth the dice roll if they provide a stat you need. Allen, for example, is a speedster who has a history of stealing bases. While he might not get consistent playing time, he’s been electric when on the field this season (see below for more details). Munoz, on the other hand, is more of an all-around contributor when he plays, while teammate Jose Martinez is a power and average bat who often rides the pine for extended periods due to his miserable defense. When given full playing time, these players are well worth a roster spot. The issue, of course, is that they don’t have that full-time role yet, and when they do, they might get scooped up or cost a FAAB fortune to acquire. If you have bench space, they can be useful to grab right when you see a glimpse. At worst, you’ll simply cut them, but you can get a fair bit of value using these types of players.

All of this, of course, requires bench depth. The last little thing I want to say on this topic is on just that. Most fantasy players hold on to too many players for much too long. They roster players who are at or below fantasy replacement level for sentimental reasons or because they still have a good number on the 15- or 30-day Player Rater. Cut. That. Out. Like anything else, those numbers are merely historical. Just because Brandon Crawford has been one of the best shortstops over the last 14 days doesn’t mean he should be on your mixed-league roster! It means he hit three home runs in a night. Instead of grabbing a random guy on a hot streak or worse, holding a guy who had a hot streak end two or three weeks ago, let them go. In most cases, you can probably get them back. Kole Calhoun, also mentioned below, might be worth a roster spot right now, but he’s also likely to fall off a cliff. He’s not the guy you should be holding on to “just in case,” especially when something better might be on the wire. Throw that fish back and look for a bigger one.

Paul DeJong (SS, St. Louis Cardinals)—4-4, 4 R, 3 HR, 2B, 5 RBI. A very slow month-and-a-half saw him dropped in the batting order, but he’s turned it back on since the All-Star break with five home runs and 13 RBI in his last 12 games.

Starling Marte (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)—4-5, 2 R, 3 2B, 3 RBI. This might be the first full season of his career where he steals fewer than 30 bases, but he is on pace to set career highs in runs, home runs, and RBI to go along with 20 to 25 steals and a .288 batting average.

Greg Allen (OF, Cleveland Indians)—3-4, R, RBI. It’s part-time work, but he’s been fantastic since his recall back on July 6. He’s slashing .500/.581/.769 in 31 plate appearances and might be able to carve out more regular playing time with these strong performances. There isn’t much power in his bat, but he can make plenty of contact and steal bases. The Indians have a plethora of outfielders, but if Jordan Luplow or Tyler Naquin falter at all, Allen will be waiting to steal more of their at-bats.

Jose Altuve (2B, Houston Astros)—3-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. In his 13 appearances since the All-Star break, Altuve has eight multi-hit games, five home runs, two steals, 12 runs, and 13 RBI. Apparently, really good players don’t suddenly become not good out of nowhere. The return of stolen bases has been quite a relief, as he only stole two in 238 plate appearances prior to the break.

Kole Calhoun (OF, Los Angeles Angels)—3-4, R, HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI. I discussed him a bit yesterday with respect to his streakiness, and it looks like he’s in the midst of a hot streak. That’s worth a look as a fourth or fifth outfielder in most formats as long as you’re cold-hearted enough to cut him when he starts to slow down.

Didi Gregorius (SS, New York Yankees)—3-5, R, 3B, 2B, 3 RBI. The guy is absolutely dialed in. He’s not an exciting option at shortstop (for the reasons I detailed yesterday), but he’s not a bad one, either. Power and counting stats are going to be there as part of the heart of the Yankee lineup.

Yairo Munoz (2B/3B/SS/OF, St. Louis Cardinals)—3-5, 2 R, 2 2B, RBI, 2 SB. This was his second three-hit game in his last four starts. This is only the second time this season he’s logged four consecutive starts, but nights like this like help him carve out more regular playing time to showcase his blend of decent power, speed, and batting average.

Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, San Diego Padres)—3-5, 2B, RBI. Three multi-hit games in a row flies right in the face of the regression narrative going around, and while I went deep into this topic in an article last week, there are a few things that do frighten me, like the 37.0% strikeout rate in his last 54 plate appearances. Don’t think I hate the kid—I definitely don’t. However, adjustments will continue to be made by him and by opposing pitchers.

Justin Turner (3B, Los Angeles Dodgers)—3-4, R, HR, RBI. A .296 batting average is actually a bit low based on his prior seasons, but he continues to be a consistent provider of ratios and a decent amount of power and counting stats. When healthy, he’s a solid contributor in all formats.

Stephen Vogt (C, San Francisco Giants)—3-4, 2 2B, RBI. It has been over a month since he started back-to-back games, but the veteran southpaw has slashed .275/.345/.527 in limited playing time and is a rather valuable in DFS formats when he starts (usually against right-handed pitchers). NL-only players can also squeeze some extra value out of his bat with the semi-regular time if you need a catcher or a fill-in utility spot.

Yonder Alonso (1B, Colorado Rockies)—2-3, 2 R, 2 2B, BB. You know, I really felt like the ONE thing the Rockies were missing was another infielder to muddy up the waters. I don’t think anyone but NL-only folks can do anything with Alonso and his strong performance, but it did happen, and I’m sure some desperate folks out there might be tempted by this new guy in Colorado.

Luis Arraez (2B, Minnesota Twins)—2-3, 2 R, BB. More contact. More walks than strikeouts. More production. He just keeps doing it. At some point, he might get thrown into the top of the order, but even if he doesn’t, he can keep scoring runs and providing value.

Nelson Cruz (DH, Minnesota Twins)—2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. The 27.2% strikeout rate is about 5 percentage points higher than his career rate, which might be an indication that his 39-year-old bat is a little slower than it used to be. He’s still hitting home runs and has a nice spot in the middle of the strong Twins lineup, so he’s still a great fantasy asset. The wheels aren’t falling off, at least not yet.

Corey Dickerson (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)—2-3, 4 R, 2 2B, RBI, 2 BB. In his first 40 games this season, he’s slashing .310/.374/.517. He doesn’t really hit against lefties, but being on the strong side of the platoon still gives him enough starts each week to be worthy of roster consideration in 12-teamers at the back end of the outfield. The lack of home runs is a bit of a surprise, but the strong plate discipline and doubles should continue even if the home runs don’t reappear. He’s especially valuable in points leagues or leagues that value total bases.

Edwin Encarnacion (1B, New York Yankees)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI.  That’s home run No. 30 for EE, making it eight consecutive seasons reaching that mark. He should also get to 100 RBI for the fifth consecutive season (and in seven of the last eight—he only got to 98 in 2014 in 128 games). He’s a premier power bat who will push for 45 home runs. The batting average isn’t there anymore, but the OBP is still solid thanks to his double-digit walk rate.

David Fletcher (2B/3B/SS/OF, Los Angeles Angels)—2-4, R, SB. He’s my favorite utilityman at the moment due to his ability to make a ton of contact and play all around field. He’s mostly valuable in points leagues, but he’s worth a grab in really any format at the moment if you need a fill-in somewhere and like a strong batting average.

Dan Vogelbach (1B, Seattle Mariners)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. Fantasy owners in standard leagues may be disappointed by the .233 batting average, but OBP players have to love the 16.6% walk rate that’s leading to a .361 OBP, especially considering that he’s already hit 25 home runs and is on track for about 35 home runs by season’s end.

Rougned Odor (2B, Texas Rangers)—1-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. Well, there’s a very real chance that I might have been wrong and he might be doing exactly what he did last year.

(Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

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