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Drops & Disasters: Fantasy Baseball Roster Moves (5/5)

MLB Fantasy



Last week, I lamented the never-ending parade of injuries during the first month of the season, which coincided with a lack of notable prospect call-ups to replenish the player pool. Well, that changed this week. The injuries still are never-ending, but tonight NFBC fantasy managers will have an opportunity to bid on a number of recently-promoted prospects, including Christian Scott, Joey Loperfido, Tyler Black and Jordan Beck. As managers figure out who to target and how much to bid on them, care should be taken to avoid player drops that will be regretted sooner, if not later. In making these decisions, managers may want to consult my introductory article, where I discuss many of the factors that should be considered in evaluating potential drops.

For this article, I want to briefly summarize some of the steps and considerations that I follow in my own FAAB process.

  • In addition to noting possible FAAB targets throughout the week, one of the first things I do is identify my potential drops. I will first group such players into two categories: (1) definite drops; and (2) potential drops depending on further analysis and available alternatives.
  • As we get to the weekend, I analyze starting lineups assuming no roster additions. For hitters, I want to see whether there are positional holes to fill as well as the opposing pitchers matchups, especially for hitters who may be in platoons. For pitchers, I review projected matchups and try to determine how many satisfactory options I have for the following week. It goes without saying that pitching matchups are critical for start/bench/drop decisions – a marginal starter may be an easy start at home versus Colorado and an easy bench (or possibly a drop) if pitching at Atlanta. For most pitchers, and especially the ones I plan to bench, I will review their projected matchups for several weeks. A marginal pitcher with a tough upcoming matchup may be held if his matchup the following week is appealing, whereas I am far more likely to drop a marginal pitcher who I otherwise would bench for several weeks. Ideally, I want at least 10 pitchers I could live with starting the upcoming week (which accounts for the possibility of a surprise Monday injury scratch).
  • For definite drops, I want to make sure my bid strings are sufficiently long. In very competitive leagues, I’ve had 10-player strings that have failed to land me a new player. Relatedly, while the top targets in a string usually are easy to identify, managers should devote adequate time to the specific ranking of players, even those well down a string. There are few things more frustrating in FAAB than winning your seventh-ranked player in a bid string only to see your eighth- or ninth-ranked player – who you would have won had you ordered your string differently – massively outperform the player you did win.
  • For potential drops, numerous considerations should be evaluated. Initially, assess how that player likely will perform moving forward for at least some period of time. Try not to drop a player simply because they had a bad or even terrible week. Do not “anger drop” a starting pitcher who just got blown-up. Try to make drop decisions as emotionless as possible. If you decide to drop a certain player, does he need to be replaced by a player eligible at a certain position? For hitters, ideally, I would like to have at least one or two bench bats such that I can start 14 healthy hitters on a Friday even if I have to replace one of my non-catchers during the week. That noted, I will not be a slave to having backups at all non-catching positions if there are sufficiently attractive FAAB targets available at other positions. Rather, all I am suggesting is that in preparing FAAB strings, give due consideration to how the potential addition and subtraction of players would impact your roster. Finally, when reaching the decision to potentially drop a certain player, that does not mean you have to drop that player. Many of my FAAB strings are very short, where I am willing to drop a player but only if I win a specific player, or small number of players. While I am very active in FAAB, I am not particularly interested in depleting my budget by making what are no more than “sideways” moves.

Some of the players who should at least be considered as potential drops this week are set forth below in the following two tables – the first includes hitters and the second includes pitchers. In addition to the player’s name, team and position, the tables include the player’s ownership percentage in the premier 15- and 12-team contests: the NFBC’s Main Event and Online Championship, respectively. Finally, the tables list my rankings as to how strongly – or not – I feel each particular player should be dropped in those 15-team and 12-team formats, respectively. The key to these rankings, from 0-4, is as follows:

  • 0 = Do not drop
  • 1 = Team context dependent; probably should not be dropped on most teams
  • 2 = Team context dependent; compelling arguments to drop and not drop
  • 3 = Team context dependent; probably should be dropped on most teams
  • 4 = Drop

Potential Hitter Drops

Name Team Position Roster% (15tm) 15tm Drop? Roster% (12tm) 12tm Drop?
Mike Trout LAA OF 100% 0.5 100% 1
Masataka Yoshida BOS OF 100% 2.5 98% 3.5
Ryan Noda OAK 1B 9% 4 N/A 4
Leody Taveras TEX OF 86% 1.5 32% 3.5
James Outman LAD OF 97% 1 75% 2
Charlie Blackmon COL OF 65% 3.5 23% 4
Trea Turner PHI SS 100% 0 100% 0
Brendan Rodgers COL 2B 93% 1.5 26% 3
Colt Keith DET 2B/3B 72% 1 37% 3.5
Spencer Torkelson DET 1B 100% 1.5 100% 2.5
Matt Mervis CHC 1B 53% 4 6% 4
Jarred Kelenic ATL OF 91% 2.5 54% 3.5

What? Mike Trout on a potential drop list? It feels sacrilegious to even consider dropping Trout. Importantly, however, I am not advocating that fantasy managers do so … Well, at least not yet. Trout was off to a very hot start this season, invoking envy from all managers who failed to roster him. Through 29 games, Trout had 10 HR and 6 SB (the same number of bases he stole from 2020-2023). Unfortunately, it was announced earlier this week that Trout had a torn meniscus in his left knee requiring surgery, and that he would be out indefinitely but expected to be back at some point this season. In considering whether to drop Trout, managers should look beyond his name and evaluate the situation objectively. When I do so, I see that: (a) Trout remains a premier power hitter who hits a ton of fly balls with a strong HR/FB ratio; (b) he is stealing bases again, something he really has not done since the 2019 season; (c) although Trout only was hitting .220, he has been unlucky with a .194 BABIP (his xBA is .273); and (d) a rebound in batting average seems somewhat likely thanks to a dramatically reduced K%, which is roughly 25% less than it was during the 2021-2023 seasons. On the negative side, considerations that come to mind are: (a) Trout is going to miss a significant – albeit still uncertain – amount of time; (b) when he returns from knee surgery, he might steal less (or not at all), which would cap his fantasy value; and (c) the Angels are bad team, meaning not only will Trout’s counting stats be limited by his inferior supporting cast (despite 10 HR, Trout has only 14 RBI), the Angels likely will be out of playoff contention sooner than most teams and will have little incentive to rush Trout back into action. While there is at least a plausible case that can be made for dropping Trout, especially for teams with multiple stashes, his skills and upside are high enough that, in most cases, I think holding until more information on Trout’s recovery time frame becomes available is prudent.

Trea Turner now warrants a similar evaluation, although I believe the case for holding here is more compelling. Turner suffered a left hamstring strain on Friday. On Saturday, the Phillies placed Turner on the IL, and Turner indicated that he expected to miss at least six weeks, and that a sooner return “would be a win.” While Turner’s fantasy managers are looking at an extended absence and should undertake a similar type analysis as discussed above for Trout, some differences in the two situations are: (1) Turner arguably is the better player for fantasy at this point in time; (2) running is a major part of Turner’s game and he seems less likely to stop or slow down stealing bases when he returns than Trout; and (3) the Phillies are a much better team, expected to compete for a spot in the playoffs, and so his team context is far superior to that of Trout.

Masataka Yoshida is having a disappointing season. While he’s hitting .275, fantasy managers were hoping for more than 2 HR and 0 SB. Making matters worse, Yoshida has not been playing every day; the Red Sox view him as a defensive liability (he’s logged only one game in the outfield, the rest at designated hitter). Yoshida recently went on the IL with a left thumb strain; disconcertingly, surgery has not yet been ruled out. Yoshida had a solid 2023 season with 15 HR, 143 R+RBI, 8 SB and a robust .289 AVG. When healthy, he remains capable of posting comparable numbers. Thus, if only out a few weeks, I might consider holding, especially in 15-team leagues, depending on who else managers might be stashing. If Yoshida requires surgery, I would drop him. It recently was disclosed that Yoshida is seeking a second opinion, which is rarely good news. Between what could be a lengthy absence, a partial reduction in playing time that likely will continue if Boston doesn’t trust him with a glove and a profile that is not especially impactful for fantasy, I do not think Yoshida is worth holding for an extended period of time. I think he’s droppable now for most teams but can understand if managers in 15-team leagues want to hold for a week in hope of getting more news on how long Yoshida is likely to be out.

Next, let’s look at a group of underperforming players, starting with Spencer Torkelson, a former top overall draft pick. For the second season in a row, Torkelson is struggling early. Last year, he came on strong and finished the season with 31 HR, 182 R+RBI and a .233 AVG. While fantasy managers would prefer a higher average, they are willing to accept a low one for a strong power bat. So far this season, however, a low average is all Torkelson is providing. He enters today hitting .205 with 0 HR and 0 SB. Tigers manager AJ Hinch recently stated the following concerning Torkelson’s recent move down to seventh in the batting order: “You see him steadily moving down in the order and the next step is next to me. We’re trying to keep supporting him because he’s a good player. But he’s not in a good spot.” Yikes. While it may be premature to drop Torkelson, especially in 15-team formats, it is not too early to start considering it. Importantly, the fact that Torkelson overcame a slow start in 2023 and tallied 30+ HR means that he has the capability to do it again but does not mean that he will do it again. Torkelson appears lost at the plate, and at this point a demotion to the minors could occur before he ever hits that first home run. I lean toward keeping Torkelson in 15-team leagues but am making sure I have a backup rostered in the event of a midweek demotion and may start that player over Torkelson. For 12-team leagues, I think holding versus dropping is a tougher call, but Torkelson currently is not worth starting and “Plan B” should be formulated even if not yet implemented.

James Outman is another hitter disappointing his fantasy managers. Outman broke out on the scene last season with 23 HR, 156 R+RBI, 16 SB and .248 AVG. So far this season, Outman seems like a different player, with 2 HR, 16 R+RBI, 1 SB and a .165 AVG. Outman currently sits against left-handed starters and, if he does not improve quickly, may lose playing time against righties. As I dig into Outman, I see largely the same player, but one who has been less fortunate this season. Outman is striking out at a slightly lower (albeit still very high) rate, but his BABIP has fallen from .343 in 2023 to .226 in 2024. BABIP is not pure luck, and there can be skills-related reasons for a major decline. In this case, while Outman is hitting a few more fly balls (which generate a lower BABIP), his exit velocity and hard-hit rate are nearly identical to what he generated in 2023. Significantly, however, Outman’s barrel rate has dropped from 11.1% to 5.5%, and his HR/FB similarly has declined from 18.4% to 8.7%. Outman has never maintained such a low HR/FB (including all stints from Rookie ball in 2018 through Triple-A in 2022). I would be inclined to hold Outman, especially in 15-team leagues, but, like Torkelson, benching him until if and when he starts to turn things may be prudent.

I’m less optimistic about Charlie Blackmon, who has started the season with 1 HR, 20 R+RBI, 1 SB and a .212 AVG. As opposed to Torkelson and Outman, who should be nearing their peaks, Blackmon is at the end of what has been a fantastic career. He currently is at career-low levels in exit velocity and maximum exit velocity. While a rebound in batting average still is possible – if not somewhat likely (Blackmon still possesses above-average contact skills), I fear that the home runs and stolen bases are likely to remain in single-digits, and on a team as bad as the Rockies, his counting stats are unlikely to produce real fantasy value. At this point, I see Blackmon as an empty average, and he’s not even providing that currently. He theoretically could be used as a streaming option when Colorado is home and facing right-handed starting pitchers, but I do not think he should be rostered as an everyday option.

I’m also pessimistic about one of Blackmon’s teammates, Brendan Rodgers. As I dive into Rodgers, I don’t like what I see. Rodgers broke into the majors in 2019 and has never played 140 games (he’s only played 100 games twice), has never hit more than 15 HR, has never tallied 75 R or 65 RBI and has never stolen a single base. This season, Rodgers has been surprisingly healthy, but his 1 HR, 20 R+RBI, 0 SB and .230 AVG is helping no one. Rodgers’ BABIP is right in line with his historical norms, but his batting average is being weighed down by a sharp increase in his K% (28.3% versus 17.4% to 21.4% from 2021-2023). Rodgers is hitting twice as many ground balls as fly balls and seems a poor bet to break 20 HR this season. At 10 years younger than Blackmon, Rodgers has a better chance of turning his season around, but I think his upside is low and team context is terrible. With a week of home games coming up, there is no need for fantasy managers to panic, but if I was rostering Rodgers in a FAAB league, I would be evaluating second base options on a weekly basis.

Finally, let’s look at Jarred Kelenic, a “post-hype sleeper” in the opinion of many during draft season. I have Kelenic on one big team, and while he’s periodically been on my bench, I’m now planning on conditionally dropping him if I can win one of a limited number of players. Kelenic provides me with an excuse to provide an important reminder to our subscribers – and to myself – of the need to continuously evaluate your own rosters in addition to potential FAAB targets. Until this week, I had not realized quite how ineffective Kelenic has been. Yes, he’s hitting .278 coming into Sunday’s game, but that’s where the good news ends. Kelenic’s fantasy managers are still waiting for his first home run and first stolen base. Hitting near the bottom of the Braves lineup, which has been less prolific than in 2023, Kelenic has a mere 8 R and an almost-nonexistent 4 RBI. For whatever reason, Kelenic is not doing much and, while he is capable of turning things around, I am not seeing any reason to give me confidence that markedly improved performance is around the corner. Frankly, I think I could cheaply stream equal or better stats than what I’m getting from Kelenic right now, and there’s also a strong chance that I’ll be able to acquire a more impactful bat on a longer-term basis.

Potential Pitcher Drops

Name Team Position Roster% (15tm) 15tm Drop? Roster% (12tm) 12tm Drop?
Merill Kelly ARI SP 86% 3.5 78% 4
Griffin Canning LAA SP 98% 2.5 32% 3.5
Yariel Rodriguez TOR SP 95% 3 82% 4
Justin Lawrence COL RP 98% 2 45% 3.5
Adbert Alzolay CHC RP 90% 3.5 75% 4
Trevor Rogers MIA SP 100% 4 97% 4
Abner Uribe MIL RP 35% 4 33% 4
Kevin Ginkel ARI RP 100% 0.5 97% 1.5

Last week, I recommended that Merrill Kelly be dropped in 12-team leagues and the vast majority of 15-team leagues. Although Kelly has been a consistent, solid starting pitcher in recent years, I do not think he is quite at the level where he should be held through a very lengthy IL stint. To my surprise, Kelly is still rostered in 86% of Main Event leagues and 78% of Online Championship leagues. Although the marketplace disagreed with my drop recommendation, I am doubling down on it now. Earlier this week, Arizona moved Kelly to the 60-day IL. At this point, I think Kelly is a clear drop in all formats for three reasons: (1) he is going to be out a minimum of two months and to stash him not only would mean a long-term loss in roster flexibility, there also would be the opportunity cost in not being able to add new players to fill his roster spot; (2) we still do not have a clear projection from Arizona as to how long Kelly will be out; all we do know is that he will be out for a minimum of 60 days, and possibly longer; and (3) based on the nature of his injury – a teres major strain in his right shoulder – there is no guarantee that Kelly will be the same, strong pitcher when he does return.

Next, I’d like to discuss a quartet of relief pitchers, all in different situations. To the surprise of many, Abner Uribe won the closer job out of spring training for Milwaukee in the wake of Devin Williams’ injury. Things started off great – in his first three appearances, from March 29 through April 2, Uribe tallied 3 saves, and then picked up a win on April 5. It’s been downhill since then, and while Uribe scored another win on April 17, he’s had zero saves since April 2 and recently was demoted with a terrible 6.46 ERA and 1.76 WHIP. At this point, there is no reason to hold Uribe in any format. The odds of Uribe turning his season around, being recalled to the majors, outpitching Trevor Megill and Joel Payamps, and reclaiming the closer role before Williams’ return is infinitesimal.

Adbert Alzolay is more established than Uribe, but he too recently lost his closer role to Hector Neris (who manages to simultaneously convert nearly every save opportunity while causing his fantasy managers to pull their hair out). While Alzolay had 22 saves last season and finished the season as the Cubs closer, there is little reason to expect a near-term return to that role. Alzolay already has lost four games this season and has a 5.54 ERA and 1.54 WHIP. Equally important, Alzolay’s skills have declined since last season. His swinging-strike and strikeout rates are down, his walks are up, and he’s given up a whopping 5 HR in 13 innings. If Alzolay remained the Cubs’ second option for saves, you could almost talk yourself into stashing Alzolay in the hopes that he regains the closer role with a few strong weeks coupled with Neris’ luck running out. At this point, however, Alzolay appears behind Mark Leiter Jr. and Yency Almonte in the Cubs’ leverage ladder, meaning he’s unlikely to regain the closer role anytime soon. There should be better saves speculations available in FAAB across 12- and 15-team formats.

Justin Lawrence remains the Rockies closer but currently is away from the team on paternity leave. Lawrence should return, and resume his role as team closer, come Tuesday. Thus, why should fantasy managers drop an active closer? In many cases, they should not, but with Lawrence, I think it is a fair scenario to at least evaluate. This will be a surprise to no one reading this article, but the Rockies are a really bad team. Save opportunities are not exactly an everyday occurrence. Thus far, after six weeks, Lawrence has a total of 2 saves, plus a win. The entire team only has 4 saves, second-worst in MLB (shockingly ahead of the Astros with 3 saves). In exchange for those 2 saves, Lawrence’s fantasy managers have been treated to a 6.00 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. To be sure, Lawrence can convert additional saves moving forward while also improving his ratios, but I think it would be tough for his owners to convince anyone that rostering Lawrence has been worth it so far. Also, do not forget, for many teams, Lawrence has been occupying one of nine pitching slots all or most weeks. Thus, his managers have been foregoing having better pitchers in their weekly lineups who can contribute more wins and strikeouts, and better ratios, than Lawrence. Currently in the Main Event, Lawrence has a higher ownership percentage than the following relievers who lack a full-time closing role: (1) Jeff Hoffman (2 W, 2 SV, 1.20 ERA, 0.83 WHIP); (2) Reed Garrett (5 W, 1 SV, 0.53 ERA, 1.00 WHIP); (3) Justin Slaten (2 W, 1 SV, 0.95 ERA, 0.68 WHIP); and (4) A.J. Minter (5 W, 0 SV, 2.40 ERA, 0.87). To be sure, I cherry-picked those relievers for comparison purposes, but I would speculate that in every league that Lawrence is rostered, I could easily find at least a half-dozen more skilled relievers who are available in FAAB. Thus, the question becomes: at what price is it worth rostering a bad closer on a bad team over a strong non-closer on a better team? Managers must answer that question for themselves, and it may depend on the other potential sources of saves on their rosters and available in FAAB. Rather than necessarily advocating that managers immediately drop Lawrence, the points here are that: (1) they should be evaluating their own rosters in addition to potential FAAB additions, and (2) while saves are an important category, in some cases they may cost more to acquire than they are worth.

Kevin Ginkel is a strong relief pitcher who has done a solid job this season (1 W, 5 SV, 2.77 ERA, 1.00 WHIP). The problem for Ginkel’s fantasy managers (including myself) is that Paul Sewald is expected back soon – possibly as early as Tuesday – and likely will reclaim his role as the Diamondbacks closer before too long. Despite his anticipated change in role, I think Ginkel should be held, at least for another week. First, Sewald’s return date is uncertain – he already experienced one setback in his recovery – and until he’s back, Ginkel is the team’s closer. Second, whenever Sewald is activated, it remains to be seen whether he reclaims the closer role immediately or is eased into it over a short period of time. Third, even if and when Ginkel transitions from closer to set-up man, he remains a skilled reliever who can provide the occasional win or save while providing solid ratios. Thus, while the case for dropping Ginkel may be stronger next week if Sewald reclaims the closer role this week, I would hold (and start) Ginkel in virtually all 15-team leagues and most 12-team leagues, unless his roster spot is needed for a player more likely to have longer-term value.

Finally, let’s discuss two struggling starting pitchers. First, Griffin Canning has been a major disappointment for his fantasy managers. Coming into the season, I was high on Canning. While he pitched for a poor team, he had 139 strikeouts in 127 innings in 2023 and recorded a 4.32 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. His SIERA was 3.80, and given improvements in his K% and BB%, I hoped Canning’s fantasy value was on the upswing. Well, that swing has crashed this year, and his managers have 1 win with a 7.45 ERA and 1.55 WHIP to show for their faith in him. He is striking out far fewer hitters and walking more of them. Now, without Trout, the Angels’ prospects appear about as dim as Canning’s looks right now. I think Canning already is droppable in 12-team leagues. It is a little closer call in 15-team leagues, due more to a scarcity in starting pitchers than anything Canning has shown to date. Nevertheless, for deeper formats, Canning is projected to have home starts for the next two weeks (v KC and STL), and so I can understand waiting another week or two to see if he’s able to turn things around.

I would not wait any long to bench or drop Trevor Rogers. The Marlins pitcher has made seven starts so far and has zero wins and horrific ratios (6.15 ERA, 1.72 WHIP). On Saturday, he gave up 8 earned runs in 2.1 innings at Oakland of all places. Getting shelled by a bad team in a pitcher’s park makes it tough to trust Rogers against any team, and with a matchup against the Phillies this week, only his biggest fans and family members would start him for that. Looking under the hood, Rogers has the lowest K% of his career and his BB% is closing in on double-digits. While he has been the victim of a high BABIP, the Marlins are a dumpster fire of a team and, absent a trade, there is little reason to think things will improve materially for Rogers, and his upside (assuming he still has one) is not high enough to hold until if and when he is traded.

Potential Disaster Starts

Set forth in the table below are starting pitchers I believe have real disaster potential for the coming week. In order to make this section of the column as actionable as possible, pitchers who are sparsely rostered have been excluded. Instead, I am going to challenge myself by focusing solely on pitchers who are at least 90% rostered in the Main Event or at least 60% rostered in the Online Championship. The pitchers are ranked from 1 to 10 for disaster potential in the coming week, with the highest numbers reflecting pitchers I am highly unlikely to start and who strike me as the biggest potential disasters.

Pitcher Team Matchup #1 Matchup # 2 Disaster Level Notes
Brandon Pfaadt ARI @ BAL 6.5 Pfaadt is a good pitcher with a home run problem facing the MLB leaders in team HRs
Michael Soroka CWS @ TB v CLE 7.5 Soroka is coming off two decent starts and has decent matchups; I still don’t trust him
Braxton Garrett MIA @ LAD v PHI 9.5 Welcome back, Braxton, now go face two of the league’s best hitting teams
Edward Cabrera MIA @ LAD 8.5 Cabrera is good for strikeouts, but that’s about it; horrible matchup to go after Ks
Jose Quintana NYM v ATL 8 The Braves lineup has underperformed so far; Quintana will help fix that
Marcus Stroman NYY v HOU 8 He’s capable of pitching well, but tough to trust him; this week, don’t tempt fate
Michael King SD v LAD 6.5 King pitched well beating Arizona; doesn’t mean I’m starting him versus the Dodgers
Andrew Heaney TEX @ OAK @ COL 8 I don’t trust Heaney; heck, I’m projecting a bad week despite a two-step versus bad lineups

My Week 6 results were a mixed bag. I nailed several poor starts but did not foresee Cole Irvin shutting down the Reds in Cincinnati or Jose Soriano stifling the Guardians in Cleveland. Indeed, I was feeling particularly snakebitten until Michael Wacha “came through” with a terrible start at home versus the Rangers. In the interests of accountability, set forth below are the results of my “Disaster” picks thus far. Week 6 shows results through yesterday’s games and will be updated next week with the results of James Paxton’s start today against the Braves.

Week IP H+BB ER Wins Strikeouts ERA WHIP
Week 2 55.2 (11 GS) 69 28 2 60 4.53 1.24
Week 3 33.0 (8 GS) 55 14 2 30 3.82 1.67
Week 4 40.0 (8 GS) 55 21 3 36 4.73 1.38
Week 5 36.0 (6 GS) 32 11 2 38 2.75 0.89
Week 6 40.0 (7 GS) 49 18 3 31 4.05 1.23
Season Totals 204.2 (40 GS) 260 92 12 195 4.05 1.27
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