Players Opting Out Creates Opportunity and Fantasy Value for Teammates
Updated: 3 days ago
As the start of the regular season draws near, more and more active players will likely choose to opt out. So far, four (now up to 7 and will continue to grow) somewhat regulars have announced they'll be sitting out the 2020 shortened season. The few players choosing to sit out the season due to health and safety concerns, opens up playing time for teammates, increasing their fantasy value. Let's review which players are opting out and which of their teammates benefit the most. (The opting out player is listed first, followed by the players with increased value.) ** This list will constantly be updated throughout "Summer Training" and the regular season.
Ian Desmond OF, Colorado Rockies
Sam Hilliard OF
With the announcement of Ian Desmond opting out, Charlie Blackmon testing positive for the coronavirus, and the DH coming to the NL, a ton of new playing time opens up for the Rockies, and Sam Hilliard is the first name that comes to mind. Someone I was already high on before the DH and absent players, the 6'5" left handed hitter Hilliard, now has a clear path to everyday at bats and should produce at a high level. A power hitter with great speed, evident by his 35/22 season last year in AAA and his 7 home runs and 2 steals over 77 at bats at the major league level, Hilliard has an excellent chance to produce big time numbers (with possibly a low batting average) for fantasy teams and the Rockies.
Garrett Hampson 2B/SS/OF
Most likely to be given starts at second base, with Ryan McMahon going to first, and Daniel Murphy moving to DH, Hampson can now also fill in for Desmond who was expected to platoon in the outfield vs. lefties. He hit .284 with a .804 SLG in the second half last season and stole 11 bags in only 169 AB's. With even more spots opening up, expect the former prospect to play often and be a nice source of steals, while not hurting you in any other category.
Matt Kemp OF
Kemp was added by the Rockies after the Marlins left him off of their 60 man roster. He hasn't shown much in recent times, but if Kemp has anything left in the tank, Colorado is the place to do it. He's only a year and a half removed from being an All Star, and if he can somehow make the team, he could start at DH vs left handed pitching, something he has done well at in the past.
Ryan Zimmerman 1B, Washington Nationals
Howie Kendrick 1B/2B/3B
Zimmerman was originally slated to platoon at first base and come off the bench as a late-in-game pinch hitter, but when the NL DH was announced, it was thought that he and Kendrick would share time at DH and 1B (along with Eric Thames and Asdrubal Cabrera). That no longer being an option, the club will rely even more heavily on the soon to be 37 year old Kendrick. If everything goes as planned, Eric Thames will start at first base vs righties switching off with Kendrick against lefties. Howie would presumably move to DH vs righties with Asdrubal Cabrera DH'ing vs lefties. (That is if the Nationals do hand the starting third base job to Carter Kieboom.) Kendrick will still need the occasional days off, especially with the grueling schedule, but if he can return to or even come close to the .966 OPS, 142 OPS+ player he was last season, Kendrick will be a steal in the late rounds.
Eric Thames 1B
If Thames can continue to cut down on his K rate (35% in 2018, 30% in 2019), he could become fantasy relevant again. Back in 2017, when he returned to MLB, he showed massive power and great ability to get on base. After that first year however, the strike outs rose, especially vs left handed pitching, and he became more of an after thought in fantasy leagues. The Brewers regulated him to platoon duty and he hit for a .219 BA with a 77 OPS+, causing the Crew to decline his option. The Nationals smartly scooped him up with 1 year deal worth 4 mil (with mutual option for 2021) and now with Zimmerman out for the shortened season, it's looking like an even sweeter deal. Without a ton of healthy, young options in Washington, if Thames can repeat what made him so valuable two seasons ago and can continue to hit home runs like he did last year (25 in less than 100 games started), he will not only find himself on the field more often, but in fantasy lineups as well.
Asdrubal Cabrera 2B/3B
The thought was, if top prospect Carter Kieboom earned the starting third base job, the journeyman Cabrera, would likely be left without a starting position. With Zimmerman no longer in the picture however, Cabrera who actually hit well for the Nationals last year, may find himself not only subbing in all over the diamond, but DH'ing quite often as well. If he finds near full time playing status, he could have value in leagues that require MI and CI spots.
Mike Leake SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Merrill Kelly SP
With the Arizona staff as it was, the D'backs looked to have 6 obvious starters with a few younger options. With the absence of Leake, Merrill Kelly should be the first choice to move back into the rotation. An average arm at best last year, Kelly showed resilience when fans were down on him and he continued to produce decently as a #5 starter, winning 13 games and striking out 158. He'll have to beat out teammate Alex Young for the 5th and final starting spot however, who surprisingly did show some potential last year. In the right match up, Kelly does possess some value, especially in weekly leagues where he lines up against two weaker opponents. The NL West will only be facing west coast teams this season, so some nice matchups vs the Mariners and Giants could be just what the doctor ordered.
Alex Young SP
The 43rd overall pick in the 2015 draft took his lumps in AAA, but was good enough last season to get the call up and did not disappoint. Over 15 starts and 2 relief appearances, Young produced a 3.56 ERA with a quaint 1.19 WHIP. His K's weren't very high and his peripherals showed he got consistently lucky (4.81 FIP), but nevertheless Young won 7 games for the D'backs and held opposing hitters to a .226 BA. If given the chance in the rotation or as the likely first replacement, particularly in a year that's going to see a ton of roster turn around, Young makes for a nice NL only arm and a valuable watch list candidate in mixed standard leagues.
Joe Ross SP, Washington Nationals
Austin Voth SP
Voth is a strong candidate to earn the 5th starting job for the Nationals. In the mix even before Ross opted out, Voth, a 7 year minor league vet, contributed nicely with a fine 3.30 ERA (3.79 FIP), a 1.05 WHIP, and more than a K per inning over 43 and 2/3 innings for the World Series Champs. He shows good command, keeps the ball in the yard, and induces weak contact (22% of the time). A four pitch pitcher, who mainly sticks to a fastball/curve ball combination, Voth has the ability and surrounding cast to be a viable, end-of-rotation type in most fantasy leagues.
Erick Fidde SP/RP
Fidde who was optioned to AAA in the end of March, started 12 games for the Nationals last season and also pitched in relief. The one time, highly valued prospect out of the University of Nevada, has struggled to find his footing over the last few years in the organization, yielding mixed results. A sinker ball pitcher, who walks too many and gives up plenty of home runs, only seems to pitch well in AA where he keeps being reassigned. After his demotion he performs very well, just to be called up again to disappoint. Maybe this is the year he puts it all together and with Ross's absence, it may open the door for Fidde to prove himself once again. The organization hasn't given up on him, and neither should fantasy owners. He's someone to monitor as the season goes on.
David Price SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Dustin May SP
Dustin May is the Dodgers top pitching prospect and performed very well last season. With a fastball that touches the high 90’s and a filthy cutter/slider, May could be the next young, ace-type starter the Dodgers farm system continues to produce. He deserves a spot on all fantasy rosters and should be the first in lone to take over for Price.
Ross Stripling SP/RP
Stripling was great when given a chance to fill in as a starter in 2018. Then with high expectations the following year, many owners spent an early mid-round selection on him only to be left scrambling to replace the injured starter. When Stripling did return, he did so as a reliever. He's always been a good arm regardless of when he pitches, regularly producing an ERA in the mid 3's, with more than a strike out per inning, and a very low WHIP. If the Dodgers don’t hand the keys to Dustin May out of the gate, Stripling would likely get the first crack as a starter/opener and could stick all year, greatly increasing his value from fringe player to must start.
Felix Hernandez SP, Atlanta Braves
Sean Newcomb SP
Not that King Felix was ever a shoe-in for the Atlanta starting 5, but after a nearly flawless shortened spring, many were projecting he would earn the role. Newcomb would return to the bullpen where he'd had success and the younger guys would return to the minors and continue to develop. That no longer being the case, the young guys are thrown right back into the mix with Newcomb as the front runner. He had a fine rookie and sophomore season, but eventually his control problems proved to be too much and was sent to the bullpen. A 4 pitch pitcher who leaned less on his changeup after moving to the pen (his least successful offering), thrived by focusing mainly on his fastball/curveball combination. If he can parlay that formula back into a starting role, he may end up a valuable piece in the young Braves rotation. It's been reported however, that the Braves will be cautious with their starters, limiting them to 2 to 4 innings their first couple times through the rotation, further limiting their fantasy value.
Kyle Wright SP
While Wright didn’t fare nearly as well in his initial call up as Newcomb, he did pitch effectively in the minors. Armed with a mid 90's fastball who averaged more than a strikeout per inning last year in AAA, young pitchers in the Braves origination are always worth monitoring. If he can beat out his teammates over theses next few weeks of summer training, he could have some value down the road.
Bryse Wilson SP
Wilson, like Hernandez shined early in Spring Training, garnering attention and rumors that he may be a strong contender for a starting job. With Cole Hamels originally sidelined due to injury, the Braves had a significant opening in their starting five, but with the delay has since returned. The absence of Hernandez however, reopens a spot and Wilson could be the guy that fills it. The Braves unfortunately will stick to short outings over the first month of the season however, limiting his value. Ultimately, they’re going to redo another shortened version of Spring Training and it will be up to the players to go out and win the job. The situation deserves monitoring as the season draws closer and could result in a helpful back of the rotation piece for fantasy teams.
Adam Duvall OF/1B
Duvall, originally projected to platoon with Markakis vs lefties, should have an opportunity to play every day now. In 120 at bats last season, Duvall hit an impressive 10 home runs with a .267 BA and a 121 wRC+. He destroyed minor league pitching and if you go back a couple of years, he was an All Star with the Reds. If he can slightly increase his production against righties (only batted .230, but did hit 6 home runs in 81 AB's and drove in 11), then he could be a valuable source of power off the waiver wire. Depending on how long Freddy Freeman is out for could also increase his playing time.
Austin Riley 3B/OF
After crushing 9 home runs over his first 18 games, Riley became susceptible to the down and away slider and his numbers tanked. If he can make the adjustment this season, he could go back to his mashing ways and the 2015 first round pick out of high school could find himself somewhere in the lineup everyday. Look for him to rotate between third, first, the outfield, and DH. He's worth a late round flier.
Ender Inciarte OF
Remember a couple of seasons ago when Inciarte was going in the mid-rounds due to high average and steals potential? That seems like an ancient memory now after a down 2018 and an injury filled 2019. Replaced by the wunderkind Ronald Acuna, Inciarte's pretty much a forgotten man in Atlanta these days, but with the current state of things, it's not that hard to imagine Inciarte producing again at only 29 years old. He may sit against lefties, but he could be a late source for steals if he's able to constantly get on base. He's a wait and see candidate with rebound potential.
Cristian Pache OF
There's a chance the Braves look to their future and decide to promote their top prospect (ranked 12th overall in MLB), Cristian Pache. He's a dynamic, 5 tool player that is still developing, but did spend an ample amount of time in the high minors last season. If Atlanta does go this route, look for the 21 year old to produce in all 5 roto categories, just don't expect anything substantial. He probably won't play much as it is, but you never know with players dropping like flies. He's someone to keep an eye on.