Regan's Rumblings: Unsettled Situations

Regan's Rumblings: Unsettled Situations

This article is part of our Regan's Rumblings series.

In fantasy as well as reality, players' fortunes can change quickly. Injuries happen and new guys step in. Players underperform and slowly, or in many cases quickly depending on the player, start to cede playing time to other guys in a team's effort to fix a broken situation. I get asked about different playing-time situations all the time, particularly through our Ask an Expert feature, so let's take a look at my top-10 unsettled situations and see how things might shake out.

Reds Bullpen
The candidates aren't exactly Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton, and Randy Myers. We could call them "Nasty Boys 2", but that would be more a reflection on their ERAs as opposed to their stuff. The candidates to close are:

J. J. Hoover – ERA of 15.26 and hitters pummeling him to the tune of a .390 BA. But hey, those six career saves…

Tony Cingrani – Two runs in his last 6.1 innings, but I'm not sure an 8.3 BB/9 is good.

Caleb Cotham – Intriguing for his 1.54 ERA. Less intriguing 9:5 K:BB in 11.2 innings.

Ross Ohlendorf – 6.75 ERA, but has a 0.96 WHIP and he's a veteran.

Blake Wood – Averages 95 mph with the fastball, but has more walks than strikeouts.

Robert Stephenson – One way to limit his innings and get a regular contribution would be to use him in the bullpen I suppose.

Dan Straily – With his stuff and lack of control, I'm not sure he makes it as

In fantasy as well as reality, players' fortunes can change quickly. Injuries happen and new guys step in. Players underperform and slowly, or in many cases quickly depending on the player, start to cede playing time to other guys in a team's effort to fix a broken situation. I get asked about different playing-time situations all the time, particularly through our Ask an Expert feature, so let's take a look at my top-10 unsettled situations and see how things might shake out.

Reds Bullpen
The candidates aren't exactly Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton, and Randy Myers. We could call them "Nasty Boys 2", but that would be more a reflection on their ERAs as opposed to their stuff. The candidates to close are:

J. J. Hoover – ERA of 15.26 and hitters pummeling him to the tune of a .390 BA. But hey, those six career saves…

Tony Cingrani – Two runs in his last 6.1 innings, but I'm not sure an 8.3 BB/9 is good.

Caleb Cotham – Intriguing for his 1.54 ERA. Less intriguing 9:5 K:BB in 11.2 innings.

Ross Ohlendorf – 6.75 ERA, but has a 0.96 WHIP and he's a veteran.

Blake Wood – Averages 95 mph with the fastball, but has more walks than strikeouts.

Robert Stephenson – One way to limit his innings and get a regular contribution would be to use him in the bullpen I suppose.

Dan Straily – With his stuff and lack of control, I'm not sure he makes it as a starter. Maybe he becomes a failed starter/solid reliever story.

Likely scenario: There really isn't one, but I'll say that Cotham leads the team in saves this year. The Reds aren't competing, so they won't be trading for a closer outside the organization.

Dodgers' #3, #4, and #5 starters

Clayton Kershaw/Kenta Maeda is a solid 1-2 punch, but let's look at the rest of the rotation:

Alex Wood – 4 starts, 6.00 ERA, 12:11 K:BB in 20 innings.

Scott Kazmir – 4 starts, 6.63 EA, five home runs in 19 innings.

Ross Stripling – Great first start, No. 5-starter production in starts 2-4.

The Dodgers also have five potential options sitting on the DL:

Mike Bolsinger (oblique – May return)

Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder – June?)

Frankie Montas (rib – June)

Brandon McCarthy (elbow – June)

Brett Anderson (back – August?)

Likely Scenario: The current five will continue to be run out there until Bolsinger is ready. At that point, either Stripling will be sent down or Wood will head to the bullpen. Given that Stripling's innings are going to be capped this year, he could also be sent to the bullpen. Assuming everyone is healthy (except Anderson) come July, the rotation will likely be Kershaw, Maeda, Kazmir, McCarthy, and Ryu. Assuming one of those guys is hurt, sub in Bolsinger. I also don't expect to see Julio Urias or Jose De Leon until September.

Red Sox Catcher
I was pretty happy with Swihart as a $3 keeper in an 18-team two-catcher league, but yeah, that didn't work out. Swihart was demoted to Triple-A after just 18 at-bats in which he hit .278/.391/.278, a move that likely had more to do with Christian Vazquez's superior defense than Swihart's relatively slow start. Vazquez hit just .240/.308/.309 in 175 at-bats for the Red Sox last year and has the reputation as a glove-first guy, but he does have a good batting eye, so it does seem he's passed Swihart as the team's likely catcher of the future. Swihart is seeing time in the outfield in Triple-A to increase his versatility, though the Red Sox have said he will continue to play catcher as well.

Likely scenario: Vasquez plays excellent defense, but his lack of offense will lead the Red Sox to recall Swihart within three weeks. They'll split time and have negligible fantasy value outside of deep two-catcher leagues.

Nationals Shortstop

Danny Espinosa and Stephen Drew are the guys here right now, but let's not kid overselves -- Trea Turner is the guy. Espinosa is hitting just .182/.324/.200 in 55 at-bats, while Drew is even worse at .143/.182/.286 in his 21 at-bats. Meanwhile, Turner has cooled off down in Triple-A, but is still batting .357/.430/.529 with a pair of home runs and six steals in 18 games. It's obvious what's going on here, as the Nationals intend to keep Turner's service clock stalled so they can gain that additional year of team control.

Likely scenario: The Nationals figure out that they should go for it this year given Stephen Strasburg's pending free agency and they call Turner up by this weekend.

Dodgers Outfield
Depth has certainly been important in the team's rotation, but it's proven similarly important in the outfield. Fortunately, Yasiel Puig has put his hamstring injuries behind him so far, and Joc Pederson has been healthy, but Carl Crawford and Scott Van Slyke have both missed significant time, and Andre Ethier is on the DL with a leg injury. That's given time to Trayce Thompson who is hitting a so-so .268/.318/.415 in 41 at-bats. Enrique Hernandez has seen time in the outfield, as has Howie Kendrick and even Charlie Culberson.

Likely scenario: Puig plays pretty much every day. Pederson plays against all right-handers and the occasional southpaw, with Hernandez in CF against the rest of the lefties. Crawford and Thompson platoon in left field until Crawford's next injury. Ethier returns in mid-June, tears up the league, and is traded to Boston for Rick Porcello. Thompson takes over regular duties in left and has a strong finish, taking the Dodgers to the World Series. Yes -- this is wishful thinking.

The Yankees' Three-Headed Relief Monster

Aroldis Chapman is eligible to return from suspension on May 9, with the presumption that he's a lock to supplant Andrew Miller as closer and push Dellin Betances further back on the depth chart. I'm not quite convinced guaranteed to happen. Miller so far this year in nine innings has been virtually unhittable, allowing zero runs on three hits with a 15:0 K:BB. This, after blowing just two of 38 save chances last year and recording a 2.04 ERA, 14.6 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9. Considering the walk rate was a bit high for an elite closer last year and considering it's 0.0 so far in 2016, Miller looks to have taken his game to a whole new level yet again. What about Betances? Well, he's had the audacity to actually allow a run (a homer to relatively unknown Rangers catcher Brett Nichols) in 10 innings to give him a 0.90 ERA, while making up for it with a pretty good 23:2 K:BB, a K% that translates to a solid 20.7.

Likely Scenario: So when Chapman returns, the top two guys he'll be paired with might be just as good, if not better, relievers than he projects to be the rest of the way. Ultimately, I figure Chapman gets the closer gig, but I do think there is at least some possibility that Joe Girardi starts him off in a setup role and makes him pitch well enough to deserve the reins in the ninth.

Melvin Upton Jr.'s Future

Upton hasn't return to the levels he showed in Tampa Bay, but at least he's showing that he's not quite ready to play himself out of the league. Despite a tough environment in San Diego for hitters, Upton is batting a decent .256/.346/.400 while providing a pair of home runs and six steals for fantasy owners who took a flier with him this spring. After showing improvement last year, Upton has seemingly made some further adjustments this year, as his 12.3% BB% is so far his highest mark there since 2008, while his 18.5% K% is a massive improvement over last year's 27.2%. Upton is also continuing to hit the ball hard, building off last year's trend.

Line Drive Rate:
2011-2014: Between 18.3% and 18.9%
2015: 24.3%
2016: 23.6%

You would probably agree that hitting the ball harder increases the likelihood that batted balls will find holes in defenses. He's also already attempted a stolen base per nine plate appearances after attempting one every 19 PA's last year.

Likely scenario: I'm hesitant to say Upton is a no-brainer pickup in 12-team mixed leagues, but if you need stolen bases, you could do worse. DFS players would be best served by using him against LHP (.300/.345/.460) on the road (.313/.388/.438).

Toronto Blue Jays' Leadoff Hitter

The candidates for the rest of the way are:

Michael Saunders – Considering he's had each of his last three years impacted by injuries, Saunders is no lock to be the team's go-to leadoff man, but if he can stay healthy, he's the choice for now. Saunders is off to a .339/.397/.565 start, and though he's yet to steal a base, Saunders is still just 29, so considering he has a 21-steal season to his credit, he could swipe a dozen-plus while hitting 15-20 home runs the rest of the way.

Kevin Pillar – Even with Saunders out three games with a hamstring injury, Pillar hit further down in the order, meaning the team isn't considering him as even a Plan B in the leadoff spot. He's hitting .268/.302/.341, with three HBP propping up an OBP that's supported by just one walk (and 14 K) in 87 plate appearances. After breaking out last year with 12 home runs and 25 steals, Pillar has zero long balls and two swipes this year, so he's off to a slow start by all accounts.

Ezequiel Carrera – Carrera batted leadoff while Saunders was out, but there's a reason why at 29, he's never hit himself into regular playing time. In 639 career at-bats, Carrera has just six home runs and a .312 OBP, though if he did start regularly due to an injury, his 29 career steals give him some value.

Likely scenario: Saunders is the guy for the foreseeable future, but Devon Travis (shoulder) will return in May and eventually become the leadoff man, pushing Saunders into more of a run-producing spot in the order.

What Will the Rangers Do with Nomar Mazara

With both Shin-Soo Choo and Josh Hamilton likely to return from the disabled list by mid-May, the organization is going to quickly face some decisions. The current starters:

Ian Desmond – Batting just .211/.309/.366, Desmond is off to a poor start as he looks to show enough to gain a multi-year offer this winter. That said, Desmond is 8-for-18 with three home runs, five walks, and three stolen bases in his last six games, bringing his average from .132 back on April 20 to its current .211.

Delino DeShields Jr. – The 23-year-old Rule 5 pickup from a year ago is batting .229/.316/.314 while swiping just two bases out of five attempts. He's also fanning 27.5% of the time, and with his overall lack of power upside, if DeShields isn't getting on base 33-34% of the time, his value is very limited. So, despite last year's surprising season, he's yet to convince anyone that he's a long-term starter.

Nomar Mazara – Impressive rookie is batting a cool .365/.426/.519 through 14 games. Not too shabby for a guy with all of 93 Triple-A at-bats, right? Mazara is just 21, but he's hit from day one, and with very strong ratios (9.8% BB%, 14.8 K%), he's clearly a legitimate big league hitter. Sure, Mazara's .415 BABIP is not sustainable, but he's no fluke.

The Rangers have several options, including making Desmond a utility guy, having Hamilton steal DH at-bats from Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland, or even optioning Mazara to Triple-A to limit service time accumulation. That seems unlikely and unjustifiable to the fan base considering Mazara's performance to date.
Likely scenario: Choo, Desmond, and Mazara play most every day, with Hamilton seeing time at DH and the outfield, and Moreland seeing his at-bats impacted. Desmond could even see occasional time in the infield.

Rays Shortstop

The Rays have a former first-overall pick on their shortstop depth chart, but he's currently listed behind a guy batting .155/.210/.293. Brad Miller is the guy who owns that ugly slash, as the former intriguing prospect who once hit .356/.426/.596 in 26 Triple-A games just hasn't been able to get it done at the big league level. Miller is fanning in over 30% of his PA's while carrying a .211 BABIP, so there's really nothing to like about what he's shown so far this year. In 497 PA's a year ago, Miller recorded a .329 OBP with 11 homers and 13 stolen bases, but he's not been able to take that next step in 2016.

Second on the depth card is the aforementioned No. 1 pick, Tim Beckham. Beckham is 3-for-19 with a 7:2 K:BB on the season, so he's at a crossroads himself at age 26. Beckham has a .680 career OPS in 252 PA's, and at this point despite the lofty draft status, is a bust by all indications. Perhaps the Rays just give him the job and say "sink or swim", but it seems more likely we'll get an early look at prospect Daniel Robertson, the 22-year-old hitting .246/.358/.333 for Triple-A Durham.

Likely scenario: We continue to see the Rays mix-and-match Miller and Beckham before turning to Robertson in mid-June.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Regan
David Regan is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, including the 2015 Baseball Article of the Year and the 2010 Baseball Writer of the Year.
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