Today we go real deep to find you potential hidden treasure that will catapult your fantasy teams into Yoo-Hoo shower stardom. Then again, you’re all definitely in first place already, because you read RotoGraphs every day and get the best advice on the planet.
Cody Allen | CLE RP | 4% Owned
Chris Perez hit the DL on Monday and was diagnosed with tendinitis in his right rotator cuff. That’s not good and he could be out a while. In a somewhat surprising move, Terry Francona already named Vinnie Pestano the fill-in closer. I consider this a surprise because Pestano himself was on the DL for a couple of weeks with right elbow tendinitis. His walk rate is up and his fastball velocity was down in his last two outings. He doesn’t seem to be healthy and I don’t think he’ll last in that closer role.
That leaves a plethora of other options including Allen, Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith. Shaw is solid enough, but his gmLI tells us that he has been used in low leverage situations all season long, so he’s probably last in the pecking order. Smith is a side-arming right-hander who features a fastball/slider combination. You know what that means — platoon issues! He hasn’t been horrible against left-handed batters, but he sports an xFIP of 4.85 this season and 4.56 against them over his career. You don’t want your closer to display those type of splits, so cross him off the list.
That leaves us with Allen. He, too, has been used in relatively low leverage situations, so that’s a strike against him, but really, the only one. He throws hard, owns a 2.35 SIERA this season, and although has also displayed platoons splits over his short career, left-handers don’t handle him nearly as well as they do Smith. Also, lefties have been held to an xFIP of just 2.23 this year, so perhaps he is doing something differently than what he did last year when they clobbered him for a 5.59 xFIP. If Allen does not get a chance to close soon, at the very least, you’ll have a pretty good middle reliever that will earn positive value in AL-Only leagues.
Brandon Barnes | HOU OF | 1% Owned
The Astros outfield carousel never stops going ’round and Barnes is the latest beneficiary. After Robbie Grossman was demoted, he’ll get a chance to play center field every day until Justin Maxwell returns. He even took over Grossman’s spot atop the lineup. Barnes isn’t exactly a prospect — he turned 27 earlier this month. He also strikes out a lot (which fits perfectly in a swing and miss happy Astros lineup!) and has typically posted below average walk rates. Basically, he’s not a leadoff hitter. But, as I continue to say, as long as managers are making questionable lineup decisions, fantasy owners should take advantage!
Barnes has power and has hit as many as 27 homers in a season with ISO marks ranging from the mid-.150s to .250. He also possesses above average speed and stole 22 bases combined in his time at Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors last year. In fact, ZiPS has Barnes hitting 8 home runs and stealing 7 bases over the rest of the year. Given his propensity to strike out and his power/speed combination, he doesn’t seem all that different than the man who might swipe his job when he returns from injury. Given that no one in the Astros outfield has cemented themselves as guarantees to start all season, Barnes could remain a starter if he performs well before Maxwell does return.
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