Welcome to another edition of M-SABR’s fantasy baseball analysis! Each week, members of our staff will provide their take on notable players to help inform your decisions in your own fantasy baseball leagues. With the trade deadline passing in most leagues, it is more important than ever to properly scout the waiver wire and make smart free agent pickups. In this week’s edition, we cover some important free agent targets that can help you down the stretch and whether or not it is time to jettison star players who are currently on the disabled list.
Max’s Players to Target
Danny Jansen, C, Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays announced that Danny Jansen would be called up for Monday’s contest against the Royals. Jansen, presumably, is not being called up to sit on the bench so fantasy players and fans alike will get an opportunity to see the slugger in a full-time role. His defense is still a work in progress, but fortunately, that does not matter for fantasy purposes. Jansen is a near must-add in all formats if he is not owned, as he has triple-slashed .275/.390/.473 with 12 HR and 34 extra-base hits in 88 games at Triple-A this year. Most impressively, he has exhibited incredible plate discipline during his tenure in the minor leagues; Jansen owns an 11.1% walk rate and 12.4% strikeout rate over six seasons in the minors. Whenever a possible impact prospect like Jansen gets called up, I always say that it is best to add him as quickly as possible and ask questions later.
Carlos Rodon, SP, Chicago White Sox
I have set the ownership cutoff for players eligible for this article at 50% owned on ESPN and, somehow, Rodon is below that mark. This is in spite of the fact that since July 1st, Rodon owns the second-lowest ERA in all of baseball (1.27; Chris Sale is at a ridiculous 0.30). The 3.48 BB/9 is far from desirable but also will not kill your fantasy team, and the 7.22 K/9 is not the mark we are used to seeing from Rodon, but if it’s working, it’s working. Rodon’s peripherals scream regression, but for now, it’s time to ride the wave.
David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies
Dahl is yet another player who should be well above the ownership cutoff for this article and is inexplicably not. After triple-slashing .315/.359/.500 in a 63-game big league sample during his rookie campaign in 2016, Dahl got injured and was unable to return to the big leagues in 2017. This year, though, the 24-year-old outfielder is back and chipping in multi-category production. Through 40 games, Dahl is triple-slashing .272/.323/.474 with five home runs and three stolen bases. His strikeout and walk rates are right in line with what he did in his rookie season, so expect him to continue to produce if he remains healthy.
Joe Musgrove, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Musgrove has quietly rattled off four quality starts in a row. During that span, he has a 2.30 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. The reason he is not getting more love is that he has amassed just 12 strikeouts over 27 innings in his last four starts, but once again, results are results. It helps that he has walked almost nobody during this run of dominance, with four walks in 27 innings (1.3 BB/9). Musgrove can be a very solid back-end starter prone to the occasional blowup (the last start before his most recent four-start stretch was a 7.2 IP, 5 ER outing) and if that’s what you’re in the market for he makes a great trade target or waiver wire add.
Tyler Glasnow, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Glasnow was dealt to the Rays for Chris Archer at the trade deadline and, interestingly enough, I think Tampa was an excellent landing spot for the young lefty. He has had an opportunity to start (and actually start, none of that opener stuff) with the Rays and the results have been excellent: 12 IP, 6 H, 3 R (all earned), 3 BB, 20 K. Yes, you read that correctly, Glasnow has a 20:3 K:BB since joining the Rays.
Part of what made the Rays such a great place for Glasnow to end up is that they are extremely conscious of guys facing a lineup more than twice through, so the soon-to-be 25-year-old’s two-pitch arsenal has not yet had the opportunity to be destroyed. Glasnow has an excellent fastball-curveball combo, but it’s extremely difficult for starting pitchers to have success with just two pitches more than once through the order. That’s why it’s excellent that he is on the Rays; the team just pulls him after twice through the order, maximum, and is not afraid to go to the bullpen early in ballgames.
Glasnow should be eligible as a starter and reliever in most leagues and is worth a pick up for the teams that need cheap strikeouts. Three-to-four innings twice a week from Glasnow is certainly worth owning, even if it comes with almost no chance of a win or quality start.
Sean Reid-Foley, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
It looks like the Blue Jays have finally decided to take a look at their promising youngsters. The aforementioned Danny Jansen will be catching his Triple-A battery mate, Sean Reid-Foley, in what will be an interesting MLB debut for both players.
Reid-Foley was selected by the Blue Jays in the second round of the 2014 draft out of high school and has progressed fairly quickly for a high school arm. Through 126.2 innings across two levels (AA and AAA) this season, the 22-year-old has a 2.98 ERA, 10.4 K/9, and 3.3 BB/9. If Toronto opts to shut Reid-Foley down this season due to an innings count, there is the possibility that he will stop pitching after five or six starts, but he’s a worthy lottery ticket pickup for any teams chasing the playoffs right now.
Sahil’s Struggling Stars
This week’s edition of struggling stars will focus on key fantasy players that are currently struggling with injuries and have no firm timetable for return from the disabled list. With the fantasy season nearing the conclusion, I will look at three injured players and explain why you either should or should not stash them.
Carlos Martinez, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
The first player to be featured twice as a struggling star, Martinez has had an up-and-down season. You wouldn’t guess it from looking at Martinez’s numbers after his first stint on the disabled list, but he posted a pristine 0.99 ERA in April and May before suffering a lat injury. When he returned from the lat injury, he had issues with his control and looked like an entirely different pitcher. Just as it looked like he was turning things back around with two consecutive quality starts in early July, he landed on the disabled list with an oblique strain. The Cardinals insisted he would be good to go in ten days, a fact that every Internet doctor seemed to doubt. Martinez proved the Internet correct by leaving his first start after his second DL stint prematurely, landed right back on the DL with a right shoulder strain, and has been there ever since.
Get all that?
The Cardinals announced that they expected him to miss 3-4 starts while recovering from his latest injury. But given the fact that this is now the third throwing shoulder-related injury he has suffered this season, there is automatically a reason to be skeptical about that timeline. The smart thing to do would probably be to let Martinez sit out the remainder of the season and ensure that their young ace is ready to go without any issues for Spring Training next year. However, the Cardinals seem committed to inserting Martinez back in the rotation this season to help them make a playoff push, evident by the fact that he is already throwing again.
Given these facts, my advice for Martinez owners remains largely the same as my previous coverage. Martinez is worth stashing for now if you are guaranteed a playoff spot or in any league where your trade deadline has passed. After his rough return in June, he seemed to right the ship, walking only 9 batters in his last 7 starts compared to 17 in his first 3 starts off the disabled list. If he is able to put the shoulder injuries behind him after his latest DL stint, he can provide a critical boost to a fantasy team down the stretch. He might not post a 0.99 ERA, but he could still be an effective #3 starter that can make a difference come the playoffs.
However, if you are on the borderline for a playoff spot, and your trade deadline has not passed, it might not be a bad idea to explore trading him to one of the teams with a playoff spot wrapped up. While it is very likely that he will come back this season, it won’t really matter to you if your team is unable to make the playoffs. In that situation, selling him for a lesser starter that can help your chances of making the playoffs in the short-term would likely be the ideal situation. It might suck come playoff time to watch Martinez potentially pitch well for one of your opponents, but it’s better than not making the playoffs.
Verdict: Keep If You Have a Playoff Spot Locked Up, Trade If You Do Not
Kenley Jansen, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers
As usual, Kenley Jansen has been a lights-out closer for the Dodgers this year. Despite a small rough patch to begin the season, he finds himself tied for third in all of baseball in saves. However, an irregular heartbeat discovered on Thursday has landed Jansen on the disabled list and raised concern by many in the Dodgers organization. While his condition is thankfully treatable and should not prevent him from resuming his career, it is currently unknown when he will return to the field. Initial reports have speculated that Jansen will be out at least a month, which could see him return sometime in early-to-mid September. Others seem to suggest that Jansen will be re-evaluated sometime around August 20thand a more firm timetable will be set then.
Even without knowing which information is true, Jansen should be stashed in all fantasy leagues. While saves are a relatively replaceable commodity in fantasy baseball, there have been very few elite, dependable relievers over the past several years that you can plug into your lineup and consistently expect excellence day in and day out. Other than Jansen, the only players that unquestionably fit the bill, in my opinion, are Craig Kimbrel and 2018 Edwin Diaz. To prematurely give up on the potential advantages that Jansen will give you over 99% of relievers in baseball would be foolish. Even if the initial reports are correct and Jansen returns a month from his placement on the disabled list, that will still allow him to contribute during the fantasy playoffs and rack up saves for your team. And there is no reason to not hold onto Jansen for at least another week to see if the reports that he will be re-evaluated on August 20thare correct. Even if that evaluation reveals that Jansen is going to miss more time than initially anticipated, you can simply cut him at that time. After all, the consequences of prematurely cutting Jansen are too devastating compared to burning an extra roster spot or disabled list spot for a week while waiting to receive a full, accurate report on his timetable.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
I can’t imagine it has been a pleasant season to own Josh Donaldson. After serving as one of the premier third basemen in all of baseball over the past 5 years, Donaldson started off the season slow for his standards, batting .234/.333/.423 in 137 at-bats before been sidelined with a calf injury on May 28th. He has not appeared in a major league game since. It is obvious that a healthy Donaldson would be a big boon not only to the Blue Jays lineup, but countless fantasy lineups as well. The potential for elite production has led many fantasy owners to hold onto the 32-year-old third baseman, but is it finally time to let go?
The answer is yes.
Like Martinez and Jansen, Donaldson is a difference-maker. However, unlike Martinez and Jansen, there hasn’t been any semblance of a timetable or firm plan released for his return. A Blue Jays team source recently indicated that Donaldson is “ramping up [the] intensity in Florida over the next several days and, pending his tolerance to this, will begin baserunning and preparation for gameplay”. In other words, it is still unclear whether Donaldson is ready to begin preparing for a rehab assignment, and his actions over the next few days will determine whether or not he will actually start to prepare. While the report is still overall an encouraging sign, it nonetheless shows just how far away Donaldson is from playing in the major leagues again. His lengthy layoff probably means he is due for a lengthy rehab assignment, and there is still no guarantee that he will come up and hit like his former elite self after his poor performance to start off the 2018 season. His seemingly long path to a major league return, coupled with his poor performance when healthy, makes him a pretty easy candidate to cut.