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What might be the toughest decision for a Fantasy owner this season is whether to release a player or place him in one of your limited DL slots. I’m a proponent of unlimited DL slots, but most leagues aren’t set up that way. I have one team that right now has nine players on the DL, and like many others, I have tough choices ahead. It’s easy to release a back of the rotation starter, but what about a player who can contribute when healthy? What about a player you know will be claimed as soon as that player hits the waiver wire? Choose wisely. Pitchers are generally easier to find than hitters. Look at your waiver wire to see if there is a position that has more available talent than others. It’s a strange season in Fantasy baseball and it looks like the team that stays the healthiest will have the best chance to win.
1. Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees: All signs are coming up positive for Hicks. In his second season in New York, he is finally starting to show why he was once a top prospect in the Minnesota organization. He’s currently batting .315 with an OBP of .426. That is simply an outrageous number. He also has eight HRs, as many as he had last season. Will he continue to keep it up? Probably not, but manager Joe Girardi has stated that Hicks has earned the right to play, so he’s not necessarily going to be nailed to the bench if/when Jacoby Ellsbury returns from his concussion. Someone will have to sit, however, as the Yankees will be juggling Brett Gardner, Matt Holliday, Aaron Judge, Hicks and Ellsbury. That’s five players for four spots.
2. Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres: He got off to an extremely start to the year, which accounts for his low batting average (.211) but a .250 average for the rest of the season, to go along with the power he provides from behind the plate, could be upcoming. Catching in general has been a vast wasteland this season, with most of the big names coming up empty, but Hedges, or at least his power, has been a bright spot.
3. Jimmy Nelson, Milwaukee Brewers: You know it’s a strange season when a pitcher like Nelson is still available on your waiver wire, and you’re dying to get him. His ERA for the season is 3.45 but over his last six games it’s 2.33, and it’s 1.71 in his last three starts. When you consider that his home ballpark is one of the better ones for hitters in the National League, we’re even more impressed. I do worry about what will happen if/when the Brewers fall out of the playoff race and decide to sell off some of their assets but they are in first place now, and Nelson is a big part of the reason why. He’s a must add for me.
4. Neil Walker, New York Mets: Everyone was worried how the Mets offense would react when Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring) went down. Well, the team may be falling apart, but it’s not because of the offense, and Walker is one of the bigger reasons why. Yes, he’s an injury risk, as he has a wonky back, but over his last 30 games he is batting .303 with six HRs and 20 RBIs. The batting average is likely unsustainable, but Walker should still be a solid source of power from this point forward in what could be a long summer in Queens.
5. Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks: It’s hard to trust Ray, especially when you look at his home and road numbers. At home, his ERA is 5.67 with a 1.47 WHIP but on the road, those numbers shrink to 0.64 and 0.76. What do we make of this? Can we only start him away from Arizona? Well, his last home start was a gem, as he only allowed one ER in 6.7 IP, but that was also against the offensively inept Padres. I want to trust him, and for now he’s in my lineup no matter where his next start is, as the strikeouts are just too much to ignore.
1. Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs: Unless you live in a cave, you know that Russell is involved in a domestic abuse investigation. He is sitting out for a second straight game Friday and there is no answer to the question of when the Cubs may insert him back into the lineup. Perhaps this investigation, along with other personal problems, can explain why he is having a terrible season in batting average (.209), power (3 HRs) and speed (2 SBs). Right now, he isn’t helping your Fantasy team and at the very least you may want to consider placing him on your bench.
2. Jonathan Lucroy, Texas Rangers: As mentioned above with Hedges, the catching position has been a dud this season and Lucroy, who was a Top 3 consensus overall player at the position entering the season, is one of the reasons why. It’s June 9 and he only has 13 RBIs. That’s 13 more than me, and I haven’t stepped in a batter’s box in quite a long time. In two-catcher leagues, there is nothing you can do as there isn’t likely going to be a solid replacement on your waiver wire. In solo catcher leagues though, it will all depend on whom you can replace him with.
3. Jacob deGrom, New York Mets: The Mets have a dumpster fire this season, but originally it was thought that the reason for that fire would be because of the offense, not the starting rotation. But deGrom has now given up 15 ERs covering his last eight IP over two starts. He’s still striking out a batter per inning, but those numbers are alarming to say the least. Now you’re not going to release him, but I’m on board with planting him on my bench until he works out whatever problems he is going through.
4. Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants: Shortstop is another position that has seemingly seen more valleys than peaks this season. Crawford may not have been a starting SS for most Fantasy teams, but he was at least a MI. Like so many others, he’s just not providing any Fantasy value. His average is a slight drag, provides little to no speed, and not enough power to justify a roster spot. It’s time to move on.
5. Brad Miller, Tampa Bay Rays: Miller was placed on the disabled list with a groin injury earlier this week, but even if he was healthy, it’s time to move on here. Miller was a surprise last season when he belted 30 HR, but right now he only has two long balls and it’s not like he is helping you with a .194 AVG. Don’t waste one of your precious DL slots on Miller.