“Next man up.” It’s the saying that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin uses regularly during his press conference when someone gets injured or suspended. While DeAngelo Williams will be that guy in Pittsburgh this year thanks to Le’Veon Bell’s reported four-game suspension, it applies to baseball and Fantasy baseball, as well.
Injuries have opened the door for these players, and they can be the key piece you need to acquire at the trade deadline in hopes of leading your team to a Fantasy championship.
Jurickson Profar – As Michael Florio wrote in his waiver wire column, Prince Fielder could be facing season-ending neck surgery, which could potentially threaten his career. Florio mentioned Joey Gallo – a personal favorite of mine – as an option to replace Fielder, and it could very well happen. However, with Gallo’s recent struggles and as a main trading chip for the Rangers to get some pitching, I’m looking at the former No. 1 prospect in all of baseball instead.
Profar, who missed the majority of the 2014 and 2015 seasons with shoulder injuries, got the call to the big leagues this year when Rougned Odor was suspended for a mean right-cross to Jose Bautista’s jaw. Profar filled in nicely for Odor and for Adrian Beltre when he missed time with a hamstring injury. However, since Beltre returned to the lineup, playing time has been scarce for Profar.
However, with Fielder going on the DL, the door is now open for Profar to get his back in the lineup every day. On the season, Profar has a .304/.351/.435 slash line, with four home runs, 14 RBIs and 10 walks with 26 strikeouts in 148 plate appearances. What makes Profar unique for Fantasy owners is that he carries 1B, 2B, SS and 3B eligibility in Yahoo! leagues, and 2B, 1B and 3B eligibility in ESPN leagues.
In Wednesday’s game, Profar led off for the Rangers while playing second base, with Odor serving as the designated hitter. Profar is the main beneficiary of Fielder’s injury, and he should get regular playing time going forward with Texas. If the Rangers decided to move him, and they’ve reportedly gotten many, many calls on him, he will be an impact bat right away for the team receiving him.
Profar should be owned in all 12-team mixed leagues and all AL-only leagues.
Randal Grichuk – Let’s be honest here. Heading into the season, there was a 50 percent chance that Grichuk was going to flop. Loose math, sure, but the industry as a whole was really high on both Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. They both certainly wouldn’t live up to the hype.
Piscotty did, but Grichuk has struggled in 2016 so far. His April, May and June numbers are atrocious, as he hit eight home runs combined and struck out 54 times with just 18 walks. The Cardinals sent Grichuk down, but with Matt Carpenter getting placed on the disabled list with a Grade 3 oblique injury, Grichuk has been the beneficiary of the playing time for the Cardinals.
In 11 starts in July, Grichuk, who has been leading off for the Cards, has a .304/.333/.630 slash line with four home runs and eight RBIs. He’s still striking out a ton (14 strikeouts to two walks in July) but he looks like the player we expected to see coming into the season. Sure, his BABIP is .357 during the month, so regression is expected. But even with power at an all-time high, Grichuk provides value for roto league players since outfield has been pretty bad this season.
Those in 12-team leagues with five outfield spots should own Grichuk now, and those in three-outfielder leagues can pick him up and play the matchups with him while we see if he can continue to hold his current pace.
Tyler Naquin – I was asked the other day if I preferred Naquin or Nomar Mazara the rest of the season. As soon as he asked, Naquin hit a home run. I responded Mazara because I just don’t believe in what Naquin is doing. About an hour later, he hit another home run.
Despite losing two outfielders to PED suspension and one with a never-ending shoulder injury, the Indians continue to dominate in real baseball and Fantasy. One of the reasons has been Naquin, who has earned a spot in the outfield for the foreseeable future.
Naquin currently has a slash of .324/.387/.636, with 12 home runs, three steals and 29 RBIs in 196 plate appearances. What stands out are the home runs. Since he was in Low-A ball in 2012, Naquin has hit a total of 23 home runs in the minor leagues across all the levels. His .313 ISO is his highest in his career, with his second-highest coming in at .167 in 50 Triple-A games last season.
Also screaming regression are his .417 BABIP, .426 wOBA and 171 wRC+.
So while Naquin has been great, just expect him to be good the rest of the way.
His strikeout and walk rate are both on par with his minor league numbers, and he’s been smoking the ball, which has helped lead to the numbers he has. His 42.6 percent hard hit rate, if qualified, would slot in sixth in all of baseball, directly behind Josh Donaldson, Trevor Story, Joey Votto, Carpenter and David Ortiz.
Naquin is also spraying the ball all over the yard, which lines up with his pull (39.3), center (35.2) and opposite field (25.4) percentages. But as his spray chart below shows, nine of his 12 home runs have gone to right-center field or right field.
Do I still prefer Mazara to Naquin for the rest of the season? Yes, absolutely. However, if you’re the type of team that likes to ride the hot hand, give Naquin a shot in a 12-team mixed league. Over the past 30 days, Naquin has 15 runs, seven homers, 15 RBIs, one steal and a 1.164 OPS, making him the 35th ranked hitter in Fantasy during that stretch.