I was all over Victor Reyes in the preseason. I hyped him every chance I got. He finished 2019 on a remarkable hot streak after winning the starting job. From July 30 (the day he started playing full time) to the end of the season, he had the 10th-best batting average in baseball and tied for the 14th-most stolen bases. I was all in. I assumed that within a week, he’d be batting first or second every day and we’d be rolling in fantasy profits.
Well, suffice to stay it hasn’t quite worked out that way so far. While he has stolen three bases, improved his plate discipline, and has played almost every day, he’s batting in the bottom half of the order and before his four runs scored last night, hadn’t really provided much in the way of any category (besides the steals). I’m still holding him wherever I can, but he’s been a roster casualty on more than one occasion in quite a few leagues.
So how long do you keep believing in one of these preseason picks you had in a shortened season like this? With a constant stream of players hitting the IL and entire series being postponed with little-to-no notice, can you afford to keep rostering a player like Reyes?
Short answer: yes with an “if”, long answer: no with a “but”. (Kudos if you get that reference)
If you have bench spaces available and your wire doesn’t have much, it is OK to hold on to players with a slow start. That’s a pretty big “if”, frankly, and the more shallow the bench, the more likely you will have to cut bait and keep them on your watch list. In a format like NFBC and TGFBI, you have virtually no bench space and can only make adds and drops once a week, so if you need at bats, you have to aggressively cut fringe guys who you hoped could break out. In a standard Yahoo league where starting lineups are small, benches are relatively large, and you can make daily transactions, you can generally afford to wait an extra week or two until you actually run into a point where you don’t have a viable starter for more than a day or two.
Have a player you can’t cut (but think you should)? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to help. If nothing else, I can try to be a virtual shoulder to cry on.
Alex Verdugo (OF, Boston Red Sox)—2-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB. A very nice day for the 24-year-old, who now has a .294/.368/.559 line through 11 games. Going forward, the batting average could easily stay up above .280, but I’d be shocked if he slugged over .500 for any extended period of time. Even so, he could be a top-40 outfielder for 2020 and beyond.
Daniel Murphy (1B, Colorado Rockies)—2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI. Murphy hasn’t quite lived up to expectations so far in Colorado after his two breakout seasons with the Nationals in 2016 and 2017, but so far in 2020 he’s been as good as ever, hitting his third home run in 11 games and driving in six runners in just his last two appearances. I’m not sure that I’m ready to call him a top-15 first baseman or anything, but it’s getting tougher not to with each passing day.
Austin Nola (C/1B, Seattle Mariners)—2-4, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. If you need a catcher and missed the boat on Travis d’Arnaud or Isiah Kiner-Falefa, run (don’t walk) to your wire and grab Nola right now. He should now be catcher eligible in most formats and is owned in fewer than 10% of leagues at the time of this writing. He’s got multiple hits and RBI in three straight and is batting fifth in an everyday gig. It’s very tough to find a catcher on the wire with this kind of role and lineup spot so you need to take advantage when you can. The Mariners also have a pretty soft week coming up against the Rangers and Astros pitching staffs, so I’m sure Dave Cherman will be mentioning him in his Catchers to Stream piece as well this Sunday.
Jose Iglesias (SS, Baltimore Orioles)—4-5, R, 2B, 3 RBI. A solid batting average and a little bit of speed is definitely something Iglesias can provide, and he’ll have better counting numbers than usual as the three-hole hitter for the Orioles. This isn’t really a 10- or 12-team play, but deep leaguers in need of a middle infielder can take a flyer as long as they don’t need any power.
Erik Gonzalez (SS/3B, Pittsburgh Pirates)—4-5, R, HR, 2B, 6 RBI. So far this week, Gonzalez is 6-19 with no walks, no strikeouts, and an even 1.500 OPS. The career reserve infielder has played on and off over the last five years and has shown the ability to hit for a pretty standard batting average (as far as reserve infielders go) with no power and limited speed. It’s cool he’s done so well this week, but you can’t use him outside of very deep NL-only leagues where simply getting at-bats is valuable.
Phillip Evans (SS/3B, Pittsburgh Pirates)—3-6, 3 R, HR, 4 RBI. Another relatively unknown Pirates infielder having a great week? Yup, it’s happening. Three multi-hit performances in four games should put him on the NL-only radar, especially since he’s hit second and sixth in those contests. If he continues to hover around the middle of the order, he could have some sneaky value in NL-only thanks to his rather decent contact ability and mild-to-moderate power.
Niko Goodrum (1B/2B/SS/OF, Detroit Tigers)—2-6, 2 2B, 5 RBI, BB. The current leadoff hitter for the Tigers was probably in danger of losing that role after a brutal .161/.222/.323 line, but may have earned a little bit of goodwill in his excellent performance. The real issue for Goodrum has been the strikeouts—even in last night’s explosion, he struck out three more times and has a 44.2% strikeout rate on the season. It’s hard for any manager to watch their first batter strikeout every game, so I suspect it is a matter of time before Gardenhire turns to other options. Despite the impressive positional flexibility, I’m not all that interested in Goodrum in 12-team leagues.
C.J. Cron (1B, Detroit Tigers)—1-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB. It’s been a weird start to the year for Cron, who is striking out a bit more than usual, but is walking WAY more than usual. His 19% walk rate in 2020 looks downright bizarre next to his career walk rate of 5.7%. Some of it may have to do with the fact that Cron is certainly the most dangerous power threat in the Tigers lineup by a wide margin, though no one has actually intentionally walked him as of yet. His batting average has been down to start the year as well, but he has managed three home runs and should be considered a top-20 first baseman going forward.
Renato Nunez (1B, Baltimore Orioles)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. Make it five home runs in seven games for Nunez, who has started the season hot. He’s hitting the ball hard, taking plenty of walks, and making better overall contact when he connects (though he’s also striking out a bit more than usual). He’s received surprisingly little love for a 26-year-old coming off of a 30 home run, 90 RBI season, and is available in about half of leagues if you want some power in your lineup. The .292 batting average isn’t going to stick around, but the power and counting numbers will.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (C/3B, Texas Rangers)—2-4, R, SB. Four steals and a .353 batting average from a catcher is impossible to ignore (though he’s only a “catcher” for fantasy purposes—his real role is the starting third baseman). He bats towards the bottom of the order and had a rough 2019, but should provide enough batting average to utilize his speed and be an effective fantasy catcher.
Mallex Smith (OF, Seattle Mariners)—2-4, RBI, SB. Look, he can’t hit. I don’t know what happened, but he has seemingly lost the ability to hit since going to Seattle. He’s batting ninth and while he does run, he doesn’t do it quite enough. There simply isn’t 12-team consideration here in my eyes.
Bryan Reynolds (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)—3-6, 3 R, BB. Five hits in his last two games will hopefully remind folks that Reynolds can provide solid batting average and some counting stats, but if you want to drop him for a guy like AJ Pollock or Joc Pederson or Teoscar Hernandez—I get it. There isn’t much power here, so if you aren’t concerned with batting average, Reynolds probably isn’t going to be what you want.
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