“Alluhring Strategy” The (NL) West Coast Bias: Early Injury Impact
One month down, is the 2015 Major League Baseball season. There have certainly been some surprises and disappointments. Some teams are already falling out of post-season contention. Others are playing above expectations and hoping to stay healthy to make a run over the marathon season. In such a short time, injuries have already had a huge impact on MLB team’s early season performances. The NL West is no exception. A quick look at the standings on May 1st does look a little different than I expected. Let’s take a look at how some key injuries have impacted the NL West clubs, and how they might impact them AND your fantasy teams going forward this season.
|Los Angeles Dodgers||14||8||.636||–||11-2||3-6||108||77||+31||W2||5-5|
|San Diego Padres||12||12||.500||3||7-7||5-5||119||111||+8||W1||3-7|
|San Francisco Giants||10||13||.435||4.5||5-6||5-7||69||96||-27||W1||6-4|
Los Angeles Dodgers
As I discussed in my Dodgers team preview, I believed they were still the cream of the West Coast crop. They have been able to overcome a slew of early season injuries to hold on to the division lead as of May 1st. The Dodgers came into the season a little short-handed in their Starting pitching with Brandon Beachy recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery and Hyun-Jin Ryu with a shoulder injury. This past week, 4th Starter, Brandon McCarthy underwent Tommy John surgery on his elbow.
Impact: Kershaw and Greinke then pray for rain. Unfortunately, Southern California is in the midst of a drought and I don’t foresee too many postponed games. Carlos Frias got the start Friday night (May 1st) and Scott Baker slots in as the Number 4. This is not the makings of a Division Champ. Can they afford to go through May with this rotation? Will Ryu and Beachy come back healthy enough to make an impact? It may be time for Andrew Friedman to call up Ruben Amaro and open up a dialogue for Cole Hamels. There is no chance they trade top prospects Joc Pederson, Corey Seager or Julio Urias. However, they may have enough to pull off a trade with their depth in 2nd tier prospects. Hamels will be expensive, especially at this point of the season, but he is under club control through 2019 and the Dodgers aren’t afraid to take on salary. Without a top tier prospect, the package will likely have to include four to five players centered around Alex Guerrero. If they add two more bats (Alex Verdugo & Scott Schebler) and two high ceiling arms (Grant Holmes and Jose DeLeon), the Phillies could instantly replenish their farm system and have an impact bat in Guerrero that could immediately inject some life into that lineup. Don’t mess this one up, Ruben!
They have also been missing their closer, Kenley Jansen, and his 44 Saves and 101 K in just over 65 innings. They are hoping his foot heals enough to return later this month. The primary closer as been Joel Peralta, with 3 saves. Unfortunately, he was placed on the 15 Day DL this week with dead arm.
Impact: Next man up is Yimi Garcia. He’s only had an opportunity for one save and converted it. He has only allowed one round this season in 11.2 IP with 19 K and a 0.71 FIP. The 24-year-old reliever is definitely worth a short term add in all formats. He offers value beyond the save opportunities and may still be on the waiver wire in shallow leagues. He has been a hot commodity in dynasty leagues and you will likely have to overpay for him in those leagues.
Manager, Don Mattingly, does not seem to like Alex Guerrero. When Yasiel Puig goes down with a hammy last weekend, he slots in Andre Ethier as the every day RF, despite Guerrero’s insane 1.077 SLG and 1.505 OPS in his limited work. Carl Crawford goes down with a strained oblique and now we get to see what Alex can do in an everyday role. Wrong!!! Scott Van Slyke and Guerrero seem to be in a true platoon situation in LF now.
Impact: Guerrero is getting more playing time, but not enough to count on in most standard leagues. He’s long gone in dynasty leagues and his price has recently gone through the roof. The Dodgers seem to be using this opportunity to showcase him for a potential trade for starting pitching (as mentioned above) rather than integrating him into the offense. They don’t seem to think he has a position, but I question if that is enough of a reason to ignore his production with the bat. He likely won’t keep up the high average or OBP, but this is there shot to sell high. If he gets traded to an AL team (or the Phillies), he is “must add” in all formats immediately, if not sooner. Keep a close eye on this. Meanwhile, the Dodgers will likely ride this out with the outfield depth until their starters come back.
San Diego Padres
The new look Padres have taken a big step forward this season and could be a legitimate threat to the Dodgers for the entire season. They have a nice young pitching staff, but they are inconsistent. The big surprise in my mind is how well the offense has come together. It appeared that new GM, Aj Preller, was just looking to get butts in the seats with some big name players. At first glance, they were all low OBP, aggressive hitters that I thought would struggle to score consistently. After the first month, the Padres lead the division in Runs Scored with 119. The unorthodox lineup is working for now and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” They are at .500 as of May 1st, but as the starting pitching settles in, they have a chance to improve in the standings. Remarkably, San Diego has not suffered any long-term significant injuries to this point in the season. Ian Kennedy is back and now pitching more effectively. Brandon Morrow has been healthy and has pitched well as a 5th starter. His strikeout rate is way down with 6.3 K/9 but so is his walk rate (2.0 BB/9 compared to career 4.1 BB/9). The Padres will take it for as long as they can get it. Morrow could be a nice depth starter for your fantasy team as well.
The surprising Rockies are always a threat to score runs, but no one trusts them to pitch. Not only do they have the disadvantage of the thin air at home, but their rotation is filled with a bunch of 5th Starters and a rookie prospect. They have pitched as expected, supporting a Team 4.62 ERA. This isn’t due to injury, but a lack of quality starting pitching. Despite this poor showing, they have managed to stay around .500 and tied for 2nd place in the division. One thing that could cause them to falter is failure to close out close games. The injury bug has struck twice already in April to Colorado Closers. Opening Day closer, 42-year-old, LaTroy Hawkins, was removed quickly from the role after blowing two of his first three games. Everyone just assumed he was ineffective, but it turns out he was hurt. He is currently on the 15-day DL with bicep tendonitis. Adam Ottavino was promoted to the closer role and was fantastic. He has yet to give up a run this season in just over 10 IP and is 3-for-3 in save opportunities. Then he went down with a triceps injury.
Impact: Next man up is John Axford. We have seen this before. If you are desperate for saves and strikeouts, he might be worth a temporary add. He is not a long term solution, as I would speculate that Ottavino gets the job back when healthy. This would be in the best interest of the Rockies to stay in this race for most of the year. Unfortunately, their lack of starting pitching will likely cause them to fade shortly after the All-Star Break.
Surprisingly, the Diamondbacks are only one game behind the Padres and Rockies. This has been mostly due to an expected top ten performance in team batting average and on base percentage. Ender Inciarte has taken over as the everyday LF, and Trumbo has been a pleasant surprise with his .542 SLG and .319 AVG. The only significant injury to starting hitters is 3B, Jake Lamb, who was off to a scorching hot start slashing .414/.514/.690. There was no way to sustain that but it was nice to see some offensive production to go with his solid defense.
Impact: The Lamb injury gives manager Chip Hale the excuse to get Yasmany Tomas in the lineup everyday. Tomas still is struggling in the field (only one error, but he doesn’t look comfortable). We have yet to see the power, but he is getting on base and represents better long-term value to your fantasy team. The Diamondbacks we already carrying him on the roster as a bench player. This will make their lineup a little deeper.
I was not impressed with Arizona’s Opening Day rotation. I had wrote about it in my Diamondbacks preview suggesting you leave the entire rotation on the waiver wire. Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo were already out with Tommy John surgeries and Dbacks fans were waiting on the promotion of top prospect, Archie Bradley. They only had to wait a week before he made his debut on April 11th. Bradley flashed his ace “stuff” as he led the team to three wins in his first three games. Unfortunately, game number four did not go as well for him, as he took a comebacker to the face in the 2nd inning. Back to the drawing board?
Impact: Yes…back to the drawing board. The Dbacks were only one game behind the pack, exceeding my expectations up to this point. The could get through the Lamb injury because they had a hitter to take his spot. It is difficult to replace a Rookie of the Year candidate who had instantly became the team Ace. The team will look to fill the void with some combination of Robbie Ray (tentatively getting next start on 5/5), Vidal Nuno and Allen Webster. None of these guys have any reason to be on your roster unless you are in a super deep league or looking for streaming options. There will be times that the offense will slump and they don’t have the pitching to stay in the race down the stretch, even with a healthy Bradley. There is only so much he can do.
San Francisco Giants
And finally…The Last Place, Defending Champion, San Francisco Giants. I projected that the Giants would take a significant step back this season, as they lost way too much talent this offseason and have no farm system to pull from. I did not expect them to be dead last. The only significant injuries were placed on the disabled list prior to Opening Day (Pence and Cain). Journeyman Justin Maxwell has filled in adequately for Pence, and Chris Heston had three quality starts to begin the season as Cain’s replacement. Despite this, they find themselves in last place in the NL West. There just has not been enough pitching and the lineup is dreadful. Their 3.00 runs per game is good for 29th in the Major Leagues. It just seems like in odd years, the organization just punts the season and prepares for the Championship run every even year.
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday May 3rd from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in at 646-915-8596. This week we will be discussing everything out west. The A.L. & N.L. West divisions and everything fantasy relevant within.