2019 Fantasy Baseball: Early Season Injury Replacements
The season is a week old which can only mean one thing; your team is riddled with injuries. If that’s the case for you and you’ve already lost a key hitter to the IL, we will help identify some potential replacements, widely available in most leagues to ease your suffering.
Firstly, shortstop and first round pick Trea Turner broke his index finger while bunting and is likely to miss 4-8 weeks, depending on the specifics of the break. It’s obvious you can’t replace Turner like for like but there are some options to cushion the blow
The biggest hole to fill will be the stolen bases, so Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks can help with that. Ahmed is the everyday shortstop so alleviates playing time concerns and is a Gold Glove winner meaning his defense will keep him in the lineup. His career stolen base ability is questionable as he’s swiped 17 from 33 attempts before this year but is 2 for 2 through the first week and providing he maintains a solid success rate, he should get more opportunities. He’s hit seventh in the order every game so counting stats won’t be readily achieved but he also flashed some pop last year with 16 homers.
A deeper dive into the waiver wire will uncover the Baltimore Orioles’ Richie Martin. Martin won the shortstop job in spring having been claimed off waivers this offseason. He has struck out seven times in his first seventeen plate appearances, has only two hits and bats ninth for the Orioles. But Martin was a first-round draft pick in 2015 and hit .300 last year with 25 stolen bases in Double-A. If he can figure things out at the plate, he could be a very widely available source of steals.
While delving through middle infielders, Colorado Rockies’ Daniel Murphy also fractured a finger and is set to miss 4-8 weeks also. Although Murphy was playing first base for the Rockies, he was mainly a second baseman in fantasy so it’s there we will seek replacements.
Like the Turner replacements, there is a solid speedster to consider in the Boston Red Sox’s Eduardo Nunez. Currently filling in at second base for the injured Dustin Pedroia, Nunez managed just seven steals last year while hampered by a knee injury. Now healthy, he’s already swiped two bases this year (getting caught once) so looks capable of returning to the guy who stole 64 bases in the previous two years combined. Although Boston have gotten off to a slow start and even hitting in the bottom half of the lineup, Nunez will still tally enough runs and RBIs to be useful and a handful of homers are possible. Expect Nunez’s playing time to dwindle once Pedroia is back however.
If you don’t need additional stolen bases and want more rounded numbers to offset Murphy’s loss, the Miami Marlins’ Starlin Castro fits the bill. Predominately the Marlins’ clean-up batter, Castro is a career .280 hitter and is off to a solid start with two homers with a .321 average through seven games. Even in a weak lineup, hitting fourth will offer runs and RBIs to Castro and is the most well-rounded second baseman you will likely find on waivers.
The New York Yankees have been hit by the injury bug more so than anyone else with Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar hitting the IL on the same day. We will look at Stanton replacements shortly, but third base is where we shall start. Andujar is due to be reassessed in a couple of weeks after suffering a partially torn labrum which could end his year if he needs surgery. You will need to consider a long-term replacement for Andujar should you have him on your team.
The most widely available third baseman with a similar skillset to Andujar is the Detroit Tigers’ Jeimar Candelario. Another hitter who predominately slots in at clean-up behind Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera. Although not as prolific as Andujar, Candelario hits doubles (28 in 2018) and has some home run power (19 in 2018). After missing some time last year with wrist tendonitis (which may have dampened his power), Candelario could hit twenty homers and drive in enough runs to warrant being Andujar’s replacement all year.
Another name to consider is Brandon Drury of the Toronto Blue Jays. Drury is predominately being used as the leadoff hitter for Toronto so has a nice pathway to scoring runs and as a career .263 hitter, he should stick atop the lineup and see every day at-bats if healthy.
Just like Turner, Stanton has a category you aren’t going to replicate. He does however occupy a position which is easier to fill in on waivers. Corey Dickerson has also hit the IL and while the hope is Stanton will be back within a fortnight, Dickerson may miss a few weeks and with Aaron Hicks and Justin Upton still weeks away, finding an outfielder may be a necessity for some of you.
Franmil Reyes might seem like an odd selection given he has just one hit on the year. But the .067 BABIP highlights his misfortune and his 60% hard hit rate suggests he’s due for better things ahead. Reyes has power potential and has been hitting cleanup for the San Diego Padres so providing he does stay in the lineup, he should start seeing the results improve.
The first honourable mention goes to Lewis Brinson of the Miami Marlins, who struggled in his rookie year but seems to be hitting better and even though he has yet to homer or steal a base, was considered a 20/20 threat as a rookie.
Whilst I can’t really condone playing a San Francisco Giants outfielder, Steven Duggar deserves some consideration in deeper leagues being he’s the predominant leadoff hitter so should still score some runs. He will steal occasionally too and has a 50% hard hit rate in the early goings.
Lastly, Teoscar Hernandez has hit third through sixth so far this year and showed what he can be capable with regular playing time in 2018 with 22 homers in 134 games. Another one off to a pretty slow start and like Reyes, has a low BABIP (.200) which suggests he too is due to pick things up and get his season going.
There is one final hitter to consider, especially for those looking to add power for the loss of Stanton and that’s Christian Walker of the Arizona Diamondbacks. With Jake Lamb heading for some time on the IL, Walker should assume regular first base duties. Now 28, he hit 50 home runs across 2017-18 in 217 games and already has three long balls in six games this year, taking his career Major League homers to 9 in 77 games since 2014. Hopefully a run of regular games will see Walker harness his power more and I don’t think 30 by season’s end is completely out of the question.