In a season filled with injuries thus far, fantasy managers are surely seeking replacements. Here are three players well worth adding in ESPN leagues:
Clint Frazier, OF, New York Yankees
In four years since coming over from the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 deadline deal for Andrew Miller, Frazier has had three separate stints during which he started at least 75% of the Yankees’ scheduled games over at least an 18-game stretch within a single season. Here are his stats during those time periods:
July 1-Aug. 8, 2017 (28 of 33 starts): .243/.274/.477, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 12 R
April 2-June 16, 2019 (51 of 66 starts): .283/.330/.513, 11 HR, 34 RBI, 25 R
Aug. 12-Sept. 2, 2020 (16 of 18 starts): .294/.410/.608, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 9 R
Forgive the first stretch, which was Frazier’s first as a big leaguer at the age of 22, but even then he showed a hint of power that has been present in either of the two since. While injuries have been a persistent problem for him — it’s an apparent theme among Yankees outfielders — he has performed as a star himself when given a chance to fill in for the team’s other absent stars.
Create or join a league today >>
Cheat Sheet Central >>
Frazier has settled in as the team’s regular right fielder (and occasional designated hitter), looks much improved on defense compared to 2019, and might be able to hold that role for the remainder of the regular season, what with there being no specific return date projected for Aaron Judge (calf) or Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring). At any moment, either could return and bump Frazier to the bench, but with his offensive promise and current playing time, there’s no way he should still be available in as many as 70% of ESPN leagues.
Tyler Mahle, SP, Cincinnati Reds
He’s another opportunity-driven selection for this column’s edition, but Mahle is also a pitcher I talked up considerably during the first half of 2020 for his improving skill set. Since that time, he has done two troubling things: Given back some of the walk-rate improvement he showed during the second half of 2019, with his current number 9.8%; and surrendered an extreme, 50-plus-percent fly ball rate that’s troubling for a pitcher who gives up a fair amount of hard contact.
That said, the 2020 season to date represents, by definition, a small sample size, and Mahle has maintained the elevated four-seam fastball average velocity he showed in 2019, averaging 94.3 mph so far. He has also struck out a career-best 28.5% of the batters he has faced with a personal-best 12.7% swinging-strike rate supporting it.
The Reds are currently absent Wade Miley (shoulder) and at times have missed Anthony DeSclafani, and they have a pair of doubleheaders remaining on their schedule, so there should be room for Mahle to make another four starts. To be clear: They’re not the easiest of matchups (@CHC, @STL, CWS, @MIN). But the right-hander has done enough to warrant more of a look, even in mixed leagues.
Franklin Barreto, 2B, Los Angeles Angels
After a pair of players long gone in “only” leagues, let’s get to the deep-dive add: Barreto, the newest member of the Angels, who made his debut for them on Wednesday as a pinch-hitter (who then struck out). He’s an almost complete unknown fantasy-wise, having played in only 15 games with 10 plate appearances for the Oakland Athletics this season — all that the result of his being out of options and therefore forced to be exposed to waivers if the team chose to demote him. In four years of big-league action, he has a grand total of 96 games played and 220 PAs, which almost entirely came as a reserve player with only very limited stints as a regular.
Barreto’s strikeout rate during that time has been astronomical (42.3%), but before making this entirely about the negatives in his game, remember that he was considered one of the better prospects on rankings sheets at the time of his 2017 debut. With his having seen limited action, I’d be more forgiving of his struggles at the game’s top competitive level, especially since he has been trying to transform into more of a fly ball hitter while here. His career isolated power is .179, approached .250 between the majors and minors in 2018-19, and he has hit a fly ball nearly 50% of the time as a big-leaguer.
I’m curious to see what Barreto could do with extended, everyday action, and the Angels seem committed to granting it, as manager Joe Maddon said he’ll play Barreto “literally everywhere” during this final month.