Fantasy Baseball Digest: Fallout of Kimbrel, Keuchel signings

Welcome back to the digest! After a week’s hiatus (we all go on vacation), there’s some big news, and we discuss how it impacts the fantasy landscape.

Additionally, we’ll look at some players who have disappointed so far – as noted by the readers – and give a few options for waiver pickups this coming week.

But first, let’s discuss the two signings we’ve all been waiting for.

Ownership percentages and season ranks courtesy of Yahoo Fantasy Sports.
Numbers updated Saturday, June 8
ADP courtesy of FantasyPros

The ripple effect of Kimbrel and Keuchel

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The Chicago Cubs signed closer Craig Kimbrel to a three-year contract and the Atlanta Braves shored up their rotation by adding southpaw Dallas Keuchel for the remainder of 2019. If you drafted either and resisted the temptation to cut bait, your patience is that much closer to paying off.

However, their signings do somewhat complicate matters. Kimbrel will be the Cubs’ closer as soon as he’s ready, and there will be virtually no reason to hold onto Pedro Strop or Steve Cishek once that happens. Strop is still heavily owned across fantasy leagues and Cishek is rostered in close to 40 percent. Even the injured Brandon Morrow, who hasn’t pitched this year, is being stashed in more than 10 percent of leagues.

All three can be safely dropped in standard leagues. And if there is an appealing alternative on the wire, don’t wait until Kimbrel is activated to pull the trigger.

A similar situation is brewing in Atlanta. When Keuchel is ready to take the mound, someone will lose their job in the starting rotation. Mike Soroka – and his 1.38 ERA – is safe. Likewise, Julio Teheran has brushed back critics with a serviceable, if unspectacular, 13 starts. His 3.03 ERA and 8.61 K/9 is nice – the 4.31 BB/9, less so. And though Max Fried is coming off his worst start, you shouldn’t anticipate a demotion anytime soon.

That leaves Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman. One of those pitchers will likely be moved to the ‘pen unless Atlanta opts to go with a six-man rotation. Gausman (2-5, 6.15 ERA) is the logical decision for a demotion, but Foltynewicz hasn’t looked right since returning from injury. He’s limited his walks but has given up 15 home runs in 44 1/3 innings (3.05 HR/9), which is the second-worst rate among any pitcher who’s thrown 40-plus innings.

Most owners have cut bait on Gausman already, but if Folty is the one to lose his spot, it will impact a larger portion of the fantasy population. Unless he gets shoehorned into the closer’s role (which is unlikely due to Luke Jackson’s generally solid play), he will be expendable in redraft leagues. Unlike the Kimbrel situation, this requires more of a wait-and-see approach, but don’t hold a flame for Foltynewicz if he can’t keep the ball in the yard.

Two more frustrating fantasy options

There were bound to be omissions from our list of disappointing players. Sure enough, some feedback revealed a pair of names that weren’t initially mentioned.

Jason Miller / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Chances are you drafted Bauer as your top pitching option, unless you went heavy on starters with your first few picks. He hasn’t fit that bill, as every aspect of his game has regressed.

Year ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
2018 2.21 1.09 11.34 2.93 0.46
2019 3.93 1.16 10.11 3.93 1.28

True, he threw 175 1/3 innings in 2018 compared to 91 2/3 so far this season, but he’s struggled to string together positive outings. Even though he pitched eight innings his last time out, he allowed five runs and three homers (all to Max Kepler). Right now, Bauer is providing innings and strikeouts, and not much else.

He’s an intriguing buy-low candidate, but Cleveland is not a good team and the offense will severely limit his chances to win games.

Joe Sargent / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Aguilar hit 35 home runs during his breakout 2018 campaign and ripped the starting first base job away from Eric Thames in the process. He’s slashing .192/.297/.308 with four home runs and 23 RBIs through 56 games this season and went from being a consensus top-100 pick to being rostered in fewer than 50 percent of leagues before the midway point of the season.

Part of that is coming from an abysmal .235 BABIP, but he’s hitting fewer fly balls, more grounders, and is making significantly less hard contact than a year ago. He’s been a mess.

You wouldn’t be faulted for dropping him, especially at a position like first base. Hopefully, you drafted a backup like Pete Alonso or Josh Bell in the later rounds and they’ve immediately filled in and made the decision to drop Aguilar an easier one. Otherwise, you can rest easy and pick up someone such as Brandon Belt (15 percent owned) instead, as Aguilar isn’t starting as often as he once was.

Top waiver wire options

Daniel Shirey / Getty Images Sport / Getty

A horrific April really got Laureano off on the wrong foot offensively. Since the beginning of May, he’s hitting .282/.321/.476 with five home runs, 12 RBIs, 19 runs scored, and three stolen bases. He’ll be streaky, but he’s looked far more like the player we expected to break out following a nice audition in 2018.

Valdez has been inserted into the Astros’ starting rotation after pitching exclusively out of the bullpen in the early going this season. His first start came Saturday against the Orioles, and he allowed one run over seven innings while punching out seven. As long as he’s in the Astros’ rotation, he’s worth a look in standard redraft leagues.

Gardner is consistently the most underrated outfielder in fantasy. He’s already got eight home runs and six stolen bases through 57 games. Part of this is due to the injuries that have piled on the Yankees’ roster, but Gardner has refused to drift off into the sunset despite seeming like his time as a relevant player was all but done. Until he hangs em up, he’s a cheap source of speed and power in a pinch. He’s a high-floor option in case you’ve been hit with a few injuries.

Jason Wilson is theScore’s resident fantasy baseball obsessive and has watched “Bull Durham” 89 times. He can be found on Twitter at @Jason_C_Wilson or jason.wilson@thescore.com for any fantasy-related questions or requests.