Going Deep — Replacing Miguel Andujar
April injuries can really take the wind out of your fantasy sails, undercutting that “Hope Springs Eternal” feeling you get when a new season begins and leaving you scrambling for coverage. Miguel Andujar owners everywhere woke up Monday to the news that he has a small tear in his labrum — an injury that potentially threatens the rest of his season. While the New York Yankees are going to see if they can salvage some of his 2019 with other treatment options, you should go ahead and prepare for life without the slugger, even if it is just for the interim.
Given that we do not have a lot of data to draw from in 2019, the following players are a mix of options I think could help based on past performance, opportunity to play, and overall potential. While I do go over several options you could choose from to replace Andujar’s bat in your fantasy lineups, let’s start with the one I think has the best chance of surprising in 2019: Jeimer Candelario.
Jeimer Candelario – 10.9% ESPN, 7% Yahoo
Candelario is a player I have liked ever since his debut in 2017. His overall numbers last season were a bit pedestrian (.224/.317/.393, 19 HR, .169 ISO) though they were hampered by a wrist injury later in the season. Here are his first and second half splits:
While his first half production did have its warts, Candelario posted top-15 marks in ISO, wOBA, and HR among third basemen before the break. His walk rate for the season (10.4 BB%) was consistent with the higher rates he posted in the minors and his strikeout rate (25.8 K%), while slightly elevated, was not at a concerning level.
Candelario looked healthy this spring (.292/.382/.625 with three HR) and will get consistent playing time on a rebuilding Detroit Tigers roster. Apart from one monster game this past Sunday (5/6 with two RBI), his 2019 has been quiet, but he offers impressive potential at the top of Detroit’s lineup this season, especially given his sub-15% ownership rates in most leagues.
Yandy Diaz – 5.1% ESPN, 14% Yahoo
Yandy Diaz came to the Tampa Bay Rays in a swap for Jake Bauers — another talented up and coming bat. Diaz slashed .312/.375/.422 in 39 games with the Cleveland Indians last season, generating strong amounts of hard contact (44.4 Hard%). His ability to create such strong levels of contact make him a Statcast darling (.314 XBA/.346 wOBA/.443 XSLG) and an interesting fantasy option despite the lack of power typically seen in corner infielders.
Yandy is off to a hot start for his new club (.353/.450/.647) and has the potential to offer production similar to peak Martin Prado with consistent playing time. Unless he can alter his current approach, you should not expect too much power; at the worst, Diaz offers a strong batting line with the occasional steal and show of power, like this laser-shot off of Gerrit Cole this past weekend:
Brian Anderson – 52.2% ESPN, 22% Yahoo
Brian Anderson has gotten off to a rough start after a blazing spring (Grapefruit League stats, am I right?), but showed enough in his rookie year to warrant a further look in 2019. Things to like from his 2018: 87 Runs, .357 OBP, 19.3 K%. Things you’ll like less from his 2018: 11 HR, 65 RBI, 51.8 GB%.
He is not going to come anywhere close to replacing the pop you would have received from Andujar, especially given how often he hits the ball on the ground and his home park (30th in HR Factor in 2018). He does hit the ball hard enough that an improvement in launch angle could bring him closer to 15 HR though.
Think of Anderson as a solid, replacement-level fantasy bat, especially in OBP leagues. While Anderson’s ownership rate on ESPN is higher than I generally like to include for replacement lists, his lower Yahoo rate pushed me to include him as an option.
Jung Ho Kang – 9.2% ESPN, 30% Yahoo
Colin Moran – 1% ESPN, 1% Yahoo
The Pittsburgh Pirates‘ third base situation is an interesting one to watch the rest of the way. Jung Ho Kang currently holds the title of starter for the Bucs and was a solid performer in 2015/2016 before DUI-related issues kept him off of the field for much of the last two seasons. He had a great spring (seven home runs) and is still young enough (31) to produce despite his long layoff from MLB.
If Kang can recapture his earlier form, he will provide above average production given his current ownership rate. Don’t count out Colin Moran, however. Moran was the primary third baseman last year for Pittsburgh and is the next man up if Kang falters or gets injured. He needs to improve against lefties and hit the ball a bit harder if he is going to take the next step forward, but he has the potential to be a solid contributor should a pathway to playing time open up.
Photo by Jeff Chevrier/Icon Sportswire