One by one the blows came in what may be a defining weekend for this Fantasy Baseball season. If it wasn't for bad news, we'd have no news at all.
Bad News Item No. 1: Dustin May will have Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of 2021. Probably part of 2022, two -- I mean, too.
Bad News Item No. 2: Luis Robert has a torn hip flexor and will be shut down for 12-16 weeks. It's possible we don't see him again until 2022, too -- I mean, either.
Bad enough for you yet? Well, how about the series of blows the catcher position took over the weekend? First there was Omar Narvaez going down with a hamstring strain. He had gotten back in Fantasy players' good graces with a .368 batting average. Then there was Travis d'Arnaud spraining his thumb so severely that he'll undergo surgery and miss the next four months. Adding insult to injury was Alejandro Kirk, the 22-year-old up-and-comer, straining his hip flexor right after a breakthrough two-homer game.
And let's not forget the winner of the self-inflicted injury category: Jesus Luzardo and his video game escapades.
Bob Melvin says Luzardo has a hairline fracture in the pinkie finger. He said Luzardo was playing a video game before his start yesterday and bumped his hand on a desk. Luzardo and staff were OK with him pitching and an X-ray showed the fracture after his start. #Athletics— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) May 2, 2021
Bumped his hand? Bumped it? What, is his finger made of after dinner mints? Is this like that time I "barely touched" my dad's display case only for it to wind up in a thousand pieces?
I think we all know what actually went down.
Point is we're hurting right now. They're hurting, and we're hurting. Everybody's hurting. It's times like these that people turn to Uncle Scotty for answers, as if I have them or something.
Ah well, I can play along.
We talk Dustin May and if Andrew Vaughn will benefit from Luis Robert's injury on the Fantasy Baseball Today in 5 podcast. You can follow us to get the latest episodes on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
On Dustin May (and a little bit Jesus Luzardo)
Tommy John surgery always feels like the worst possible outcome because it's a definite season-ender with a timetable that often extends into the following season. The timing for this one is especially aggravating because Dustin May had just learned how to optimize his arsenal for whiffs. You may not have paid for him to be an integral part of your staff, but he was becoming one nonetheless.
The good news for Dynasty players, though, is that Tommy John surgery is projectable. He'll serve his time and then probably make it back OK late next summer. It sounds like an eternity from now, but in the fourth wall-breaking words of Ferris Bueller, life moves pretty fast.
Luzardo's injury of course isn't a season-ender, and while a broken bone typically requires a 4-to-6-week recovery, a hairline fracture could be significantly less. Manager Bob Melvin also mentioned that Luzardo should be able to keep his arm in shape while recovering. He did, after all, take the mound after already suffering the fracture.
The Athletics were going-six man at the time of the injury, so the Dodgers' rotation opening is the more interesting one. It'll eventually be filled by Tony Gonsolin, of course, but he's still 3-4 weeks from returning. Sounds like David Price (hamstring) is even further away.
Josiah Gray is a pitching prospect of some renown, having compiled a 2.28 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 10.2 K/9 between three stops in 2019, and at 23, he's probably close to being major league-ready. The Dodgers have already pulled the ripcord on Edwin Uceta, though, who himself had a 2.77 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 10.3 K/9 in 2019. He's a prospect of little renown, but everyone the Dodgers touch seems to turn to gold. He at least shows some swing-and-miss potential with a rising fastball and bottom-out changeup, so it's something to keep an eye on.
Starting pitcher is one of those positions that you're never done pursuing on the waiver wire anyway, so I don't know that anyone I reveal here will be someone you haven't considered before. But it's good to get all the names in one place:
Michael Kopech CHW RP
Madison Bumgarner ARI SP
Andrew Heaney LAA SP
Dylan Cease CHW SP
Robbie Ray TOR SP
Shane McClanahan TB SP
Yusei Kikuchi SEA SP
Nate Pearson TOR SP
Daniel Lynch KC RP
Elieser Hernandez MIA SP
Tony Gonsolin LAD SP
Griffin Canning LAA SP
Adbert Alzolay CHC SP
Garrett Richards BOS SP
Some of these pitchers (Madison Bumgarner, Dylan Cease, Robbie Ray, Griffin Canning and Garrett Richards) have shown signs of turning the corner recently. In particular, Bumgarner, Ray and Richards appeal to me, the former two showing improved velocity this year and the latter seeing an uptick in whiffs his last two times out thanks to a mechanical change.
Others sort of fit the Dustin May model of offering big upside with considerable workload concerns, with the most obvious examples being Michael Kopech and Shane McClanahan. Adbert Alzolay and newly arrived Daniel Lynch also fit the bill, if to a lesser extent. Same goes for Nate Pearson, Elieser Hernandez and Gonsolin once they're recovered and built back up from injury.
On Luis Robert
Depth looked to be an issue for the White Sox coming into the season, and it's played out in the most unfortunate way. They're expected to explore the trade market and obviously have a need for a competent defender in center field, but if there is a silver lining to this injury, it's that hopefully -- hopefully -- rookie Andrew Vaughn sees more time in left. He's been making only two-thirds of the starts out there, which may be preventing him from finding any sort of rhythm at the plate, but no longer can manager Tony La Russa turn up his nose to offense.
Or so we hope.
Of course, if you're replacing Robert in a traditional 5x5 categories league, you're going to need more than just a big bat. In fact, given some of his deficiencies at the dish, Robert's base-stealing ability is mainly what had him so high in the rankings -- that and just raw upside.
Not all of these outfielders are capable of contributing to the stolen base category, but some are:
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Andrew Vaughn CHW LF
Tommy Pham SD LF
Ian Happ CHC CF
Nick Senzel CIN CF
Adolis Garcia TEX CF
Justin Upton LAA LF
Clint Frazier NYY LF
A.J. Pollock LAD LF
Tyler O'Neill STL LF
Josh Rojas ARI SS
Jo Adell LAA RF
Michael Taylor KC CF
Jarren Duran BOS RF
Austin Slater SF CF
Many of these outfielders are recent additions to the waiver wire. They're simply off to slow starts, and in some formats, it's easier to cut them than wait for them to come around. That's especially true in three-outfielder leagues, which is why you shouldn't sweat Robert's loss so much in those. You're never far from another attractive outfield pickup.
If you play in a five-outfielder league, though, you'll need to get a little more creative. Jo Adell is a Robert-level talent and looked more comfortable at the plate this spring after disappointing last year. He figures to be up in the next month or two. Same for Jarren Duran, who's an even better bet for batting average and stolen bases and looks like he may be growing into some power. If you need more immediate help, I still think Michael Taylor and Austin Slater have a possible five-category outcome (batting average being the weakest category) even though they're off to slow starts.
Those who show signs of heating up include Clint Frazier, Tyler O'Neill and Josh Rojas. The ones most likely to give you a respectable steals total are Tommy Pham, Nick Senzel, O'Neill, Adell, Taylor, Duran and Slater.
On the spate of catcher injuries
I always say catcher is one of the easiest positions to fill off the waiver wire -- not because it's overflowing with talent, but just because the threshold for competence is so low. It's why two-catcher leagues work. In one-catcher leagues, there are way too many interchangeable players, so unless you invested in one of the few studs at the position, you'll just be swapping out hot hands all year.
And I've got to tell you, I'm not totally sure Omar Narvaez was more than a hot hand. Based on the way he started this year, it's also possible that's all Travis d'Arnaud was last year.
I'm not sure in either instance and of course would have kept riding with them if they hadn't gone down. But their injuries give you a chance to explore what else is out there at a position where no one ever feels the need to double up:
If it were me, I'd probably just pick up Dom Nunez and not give another thought to it. I've already done it in like half my leagues. He doesn't starts much against lefties, but dude knows how to put the ball over the fence and plays half his games at Coors Field.
The one of this group who's most clearly his team's No. 1 catcher is Wilson Ramos, who also has a lengthy track record but is old and has cooled off after a hot start. Austin Nola, Kyle Higashioka and William Contreras (d'Arnaud's replacement) are at least in a position to secure half their team's at-bats. Francisco Mejia and Daulton Varsho both have a significant upside if they can carve out more regular roles.