As we inch towards Opening Day, one of the more frustrating things is waiting for teams to place players on the Disabled List, so you can do the same in your Fantasy league. But once it actually happens (or before if you can get your commissioner to accommodate you) you've got roster spots to fill. And I've got players to fill those spots.
When Neil Walker signed with the New York Yankees, it was largely met with a collective groan from the Fantasy Baseball community. We wanted Gleyber Torres' upside in the major leagues. Or at least Miguel Andujar. Walker was viewed as a fairly boring option who could probably be ignored in standard mixed leagues. But I'm starting to think we were wrong.
The most distinctive feature of Yankees Stadium is the short porch in right field. It has helped Didi Gregorius reach 20 home runs two years in a row despite mediocre batted ball data. It's been abused by left-handed hitters for years. While Neil Walker is a switch hitter, he'll take a majority of those hacks from the left side, and he looks primed to take advantage.
Over the past two seasons Walker has posted a fly-ball rate and pull rate above 40 percent. His hard contact rate has been above 32 percent for each of the past three seasons. Pulling a lot of fly balls in Yankees Stadium is an excellent way to inflate your home run rate from the left side of the plate, and Walker looks like an prime candidate to top his career-high of 23 home runs.
Those two marks were set playing half of his games at Citi Field and PNC Park. Both of those parks rank below average in terms of park factor for left-handed home-run hitters. The one time Walker played in a good home park was last year Milwaukee, and he posted and 1.135 OPS in 90 plate appearances. He won't be that good, but he could be a more-than-adequate replacement for Daniel Murphy owners and a great source of power at middle infield.
Here are six others you should add before the season starts on Thursday:
Ryan McMahon Colorado Rockies 3B
|Ryan McMahon fought an uphill battle just to make the Rockies roster out of camp. Now he has to find playing time. That shouldn't be too big of an issue as the 23-year-old is clearly a big part of the team's future and there are big question marks surrounding both Ian Desmond and Gerardo Parra . McMahon has top-12 upside as an everyday first baseman in Coors Field.|
Amed Rosario New York Mets SS
|It was shocking how often Amed Rosario struck out last year, because it hadn't been an issue in the minors. He only struck out eight times over 51 plate appearances in the spring, so hopefully that's past. Rosario has 20-steal potential and could post an average above .300. I'd feel comfortable starting him as a middle infielder in Week 1.|
Sean Newcomb Atlanta Braves SP
|While Rosario battled strikeouts, Sean Newcomb's biggest problem has always been walks. Incredibly, he walked more than five batters per nine innings last year and still posted a respectable, if not good, ERA. This spring he's showed better command. If Newcomb could improve his walk rate even marginally his upside is through the roof. Between Triple-A and the majors he struck out 182 batters in 157 innings last year.|
Dominic Leone St. Louis Cardinals RP
|With Luke Gregerson starting the year on the disabled list Leone will get the first crack at the closer's job in St. Louis. If he pitches like he did last year, he won't ever give it up. Leone posted a 2.56 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 in Toronto last year.|
Brad Boxberger Arizona Diamondbacks RP
|The Diamondbacks finally picked a closer, and it's Brad Boxberger . For all the consternation about the humidor's effect on Diamondbacks hitters, it should be a benefit to Boxberger and the pitching staff. It should also lead to more one-run games. Boxberger saved 41 games in 2015 for the Tampa Bay Ray and has a K/9 of 11.6 for his career.|
Jack Flaherty St. Louis Cardinals RP
|With Adam Wainwright starting the year on the disabled list, Jack Flaherty will be the fifth man in the Cardinals rotation. This doesn't look like a full-time gig necessarily but that could change depending on Flaherty's performance. The 22-year-old had a 2.18 ERA in the minor leagues in 2017 and is a consensus top-100 prospect.|