Going Deep — Options to Replace Daniel Murphy
Fantasy owners who bet on Daniel Murphy in 2019 were dealt a big blow this past week.
With second-base eligibility and a move to the spacious Coors Field, many owners were willing to accept the risk of Murphy’s 2018 knee injuries that required microfracture surgery, as evidenced by his consensus ADP of 73, per FantasyPros.
But those who opted to let Whit Merrifield go and drafted Murphy in the sixth or seventh round to play second base instead were left scrambling when the latter landed on the injured list with a broken index finger on Monday. Let’s dive into some potential waiver wire targets for all of you Murphy owners (myself included), including some sleepers, upside plays and hot hands. Joey Wendle was going to be on this list before he, too, hit the IL on Monday.
I know, you just groaned. And I get it: DJ LeMahieu is not exciting, and he’s in the opposite scenario Murphy was in that he just left Coors Field behind. But the 2018 NL Gold Glove winner is, at the very least, not going to hurt you, and there may be some upside with him in one of the best lineups in baseball.
LeMahieu is all but guaranteed regular at-bats in the Yankee lineup for the time being, as Miguel Andujar landed on the IL the same day as Murphy and Wendle. Simply being an average player in the Yankees’ lineup should mean scavenging some runs and RBI.
In 2018, LeMahieu had a BABIP more in line with those who don’t get to call Coors Field home (.298) and still posted a more than respectable .276 batting average. Even outside of Denver, he should be good for close to double-digit home runs.
Two questions, one more serious than the other: 1. Are Yahoo owners awake? 2. Did you know Adam Frazier posted a 116 wRC+ in his 352 plate appearances last season? Neither did I, to be honest — at least not until I started exploring Murphy alternatives.
Frazier has been a surprisingly competent hitter in his major league career for someone who has never really been given a shot at a full-time job. That’s changing, as the Pirates have him penciled in at second base for 2019, since Josh Harrison left in free agency.
Frazier has a solid, contact-oriented approach without being a free swinger. In his professional career, he has never posted a walk rate lower than 6.9% and it has been at 7.9% or higher each of his years in MLB. Couple that with a whiff rate that has never been above 8.2% in the majors and you’re getting a ton of balls in play, which is especially good, considering his penchant for avoiding soft contact. Only 16.4% of the contact he has made as a big-league hitter has been soft. Frazier also has outfield eligibility and popped 10 home runs in roughly half the PAs a full-time player would get over the course of a season.
The shine has sort of worn off of Ben Zobrist in recent years, and “Zorilla” admittedly is no longer close to his 2009 peak when he put up 27 home runs, 17 steals and a 152 wRC+, but those are numbers you find in the MVP race, not the waiver wire.
A down year in 2017 was the first time in his career he was a below-average hitter based on wRC+, but the Cubs’ utilityman was hampered by a .251 BABIP that year and bounced back to right where he was before that in 2018. His elite on-base skills are still very much intact, and that should pay dividends when leading off in a lineup with Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.
Zobrist is not without his power either, as his slugging percentage, excluding the apparently unlucky 2017, has not fallen below .440 since 2015.
The Cardinals’ second baseman is listed last here for a handful of reasons. 1. Kolten Wong is more of a player who is riding a hot streak than one whose track record suggests he’s a long-term fix. 2. Because of that hot streak, he’s starting to get snapped up. In ESPN, his ownership has spiked more than 21%.
That said, he is in the midst of a streak that could really jolt a team. In the Cardinals’ first four games, he has three home runs, six RBI and two stolen bases. Wong has been a useful offensive player before, as his 2017 slash line was .285/.376/.412 and he chipped in eight steals. But he took a substantial step back in 2018, as all of those numbers dropped by 30 points or more. Don’t count on Wong to carry you through the season, but he could certainly keep up this run for long enough to buy you some time.
(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire).