USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale breaks down the story lines to watch as baseball’s regular season begins.
USA TODAY Sports
Many fantasy owners will have their drafts this weekend so they have the most up-to-date information available. However, there are many other leagues that have drafted and are already looking to improve those rosters through the waiver wire.
So many things have happened over the past week as MLB teams make their final roster moves before opening day. Let’s take a look at how they affect fantasy owners.
Suggested bid values based on $100 FAAB (free agent acquisition budget). Feel free to exceed the recommendation if league dynamics or team needs warrant.
OF Delino DeShields, Texas Rangers
($21 AL, $10 Mixed)
Two years ago DeShields was a fantasy star, parlaying a .344 on-base percentage into 25 stolen bases and 83 runs. But he was a dud in 2016 (.209/.275/.313), fading from fantasy relevance. This spring he came to camp a reported 30 pounds lighter, and his performance has improved markedly. He’s hit .317, walked more than he’s struck out, and gone a perfect 12-for-12 in stolen base attempts. As the season begins, DeShields looks to have overtaken Jurickson Profar and Ryan Rua as the starter in left field.
RP Blake Treinen, Washington Nationals
($20 NL, $8 Mixed)
Just named the Nats closer, Treinen has a power sinker that would be much more valuable if he could use it to get out of jams with runners on base. That’s how he was used last season — and he thrived.
But now he’ll mostly enter games in the ninth inning with no one on base, negating his biggest strength. It may only be a matter of time before the Nats go in a different direction and put Shawn Kelley or Koda Glover in as closer, so don’t go all-in on Treinen. He’ll get the first chance for saves, but he’ll likely be the third-most valuable reliever in the Washington bullpen by the end of the season.
OF Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
($16 AL; $7 Mixed)
If Judge wasn’t already drafted in AL-only leagues, he definitely deserves a roster spot now. The Yankees named the hulking slugger their starting right fielder after he won the job in spring training by hitting .344 with three homers and a .557 slugging percentage. He, along with catcher Gary Sanchez and first baseman Greg Bird, represent the future of the Yankees. And it looks pretty good.
1B Jesus Aguilar, Milwaukee Brewers
($14 NL, $5 Mixed)
Perhaps the biggest surprise of spring training, Aguilar came over as a waiver claim from the Cleveland Indians organization. He started the spring hot and never really cooled off. Aguilar, 26, is among the spring home run leaders with seven and is sporting an otherworldly 1.420 OPS. Yes, it’s only spring training, but those numbers can’t be ignored. Even if he doesn’t get full-time at-bats, he could spell Eric Thames at first base against lefties.
C Derek Norris, Tampa Bay Rays
($10 AL; $2 Mixed)
Early drafters didn’t have Norris in the AL player pool since he was acquired from Washington just last week. He’ll get the majority of at-bats as the Rays starter behind the plate — at least until Wilson Ramos is healthy enough to catch again following his offseason knee surgery. Norris’ defensive skills should keep him a viable player all season long. And in two-catcher AL-only leagues, his at-bats have value even if he doesn’t do a whole lot with them.
1B/3B David Freese, Pittsburgh Pirates
($9 NL, $2 Mixed)
No one knows how Jung Ho Kang’s legal situation will play out, but the Pirates re-signed Freese for a reason. It’s possible he could end up starting all season, so he has more value in NL-only leagues than he does in mixed ones due to the options (or lack of them) in the different formats. As long as he can do what he did last year (.270/.352/.412), he’ll hold off John Jaso, Alen Hanson or Adam Frazier for playing time.
SP Nate Karns, Kansas City Royals
($8 AL, $3 Mixed)
An offseason acquisition from Seattle, Karns was named the Royals’ No. 5 starter after putting up some impressive numbers in his six spring starts. The ERA was a tad high (3.91), but he struck out 30 batters and walked six in 23 innings. He also seemed to get better as the spring progressed. For owners who lack depth in their pitching staff, Karns is a decent fill-in.
OF Gerardo Parra, Colorado Rockies
($8 NL, $2 Mixed)
David Dahl’s stress fracture in his ribs will force him to start the season on the disabled list. That opens up playing time for Parra in the outfield — and possibly at first base if Ian Desmond’s recovery from a broken hand takes longer than expected. Parra should put up solid fantasy stats at home in Coors Field, but that’s what we thought would happen last season and he was a major disappointment.
OF Jacob May, Chicago White Sox
($5 AL, $0 Mixed).
Here’s a real flyer for owners in AL-only leagues. Take that in any number of ways. The speedy center fielder will make his MLB debut as the White Sox starter due to an injury to Charlie Tilson. He stole 37 bases two seasons ago at Class AA and 19 more last year at Class AAA. He’s been hitting leadoff this spring, but will likely hit ninth once the regular season starts. Tilson isn’t expected back until at least mid-May.
1B Byung Ho Park, Minnesota Twins
The American League version of Aguilar, Park was caught in a numbers game in Minnesota. The most obvious number: 13, which is how many pitchers the Twins are keeping on their 25-man roster. There just wasn’t room for Park’s bat, even though he hit .353/.414/.745 with six homers in 51 at-bats. They’d still need to clear a spot for him on the 40-man roster, but with his ability to barrel the ball frequently, he should get a shot at some point.
OF Angel Pagan, free agent
Admittedly, this one’s a long shot. But with teams always susceptible to injury, Pagan is a ready-made replacement. He’s a solid defender and is in game shape after playing (and hitting .303) for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.