Fantasy baseball Roundtable: What should Ryan Braun's owners do?
What should owners do if their players are suspension targets? Can Yasiel Puig be the next Mike Trout? What's the outlook for Stephen Strasburg after his most recent injury? Our experts Michael Beller and Eric Mack discuss.
Do you have a fantasy question that you want our experts to answer? Leave it in the comments below or find Beller and Mack on Twitter. We will be printing and answering them every Wednesday in the SI.com Roundtable.
1. With news breaking Tuesday that Ryan Braun, among others, could face a major suspension for alleged PED use, what should fantasy owners do?
Beller: At this point, all owners can really do is hope and pray that he does not get suspended, but prepare for the worst. Keep in mind, it's not just Braun -- Everth Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and Bartolo Colon all could be suspended. Alex Rodriguez faces a potential 100-game suspension, but no one is counting on him this year, anyway. Gio Gonzalez was named in the Miami-area clinic's documents, but reports say he received only legal substances.
If you own any of these players, you need to start planning backup options right now. The player's association would certainly appeal any decision, but MLB appears to want to take a hard line with this case. If the suspension comes down and you own Braun in a keeper league, he's worth stashing for the rest of the year. As for the rest of the players, we'll have to wait and see how long the suspensions are, assuming they end up facing discipline.
Mack: The news is certainly not good, but we have to remember the language of the news right now: "Baseball will seek to suspend." The burden of proof is still on baseball and we all know how strong the Players Union and these players' lawyers are. Baseball is reportedly seeking 100-game suspensions for Braun and A-Rod because they see two violations: 1. Dealing with Biogenesis for banned substances (50-game suspension); 2. Lying about their involvement to baseball's investigators (100 games). It is going to be tough for baseball to prove those things.
Braun told reporters after Tuesday night's game, "I've already addressed everything related to the Miami situation. I addressed it in spring training. The truth has not changed. I don't know the specifics of the story that came out today, but I've already addressed it. I've commented on it. I'll say nothing further about it."
There's no doubt that players will fight, and any appeals to imposed suspensions could take months to carry out. This battle will determine the strength of baseball versus the strength of the Players Union, a battle that has been waged for decades.
So among all of the hype and overreaction, owners are best off holding Braun, Melky Cabrera and others. And, if anyone is selling, you might want to try to take advantage. It is a gutsy move, but with the burden of proof on baseball and the historical strength of the Players Union you are justified hoping the players make it through most of the rest of the season in litigation or appeal.
2. So, I have Yasiel Puig on my bench. Is he the new Cuban Trout/Harper or is he more of a Cespedes home run/strike machine? #MLB
Beller: Puig's not going to come up and be Trout because no one can just come up and be Trout. But Puig's skills are legit -- he should be universally owned, and he probably should be starting in all mixed leagues. He's nowhere near a strikeout machine; in 167 plate appearances with Double-A Chattanooga, he struck out 29 times. He's not Trout, he's not Harper and he probably isn't Cespedes, either. Don't hold that against him.
Mack: You would have to think he is closest to Cespedes, but his two-homer effort Tuesday night certainly makes him a must-have and must-start in all leagues immediately. Puig can be better than Harper was as a rookie, perhaps even better than Cespedes was, but anyone expecting him to produce on the legendary rookie level of Trout is expecting way too much right away.
3. Do you think BJ Upton can come out of the slump? Better rest of season than Josh Reddick or Brandon Moss as a fifth outfielder?
Beller: BJ Upton's season has been all sorts of terrible, and there's really no positive spin you can put on it. He's striking out one-third of the time and has a ridiculous 30.2 percent infield-fly-ball rate. You can't even really point to his .208 BABIP as an outlier because he's popping the ball up so often. Even with all this, though, I like him better than Reddick and Moss. Upton is still just one year removed from a 28/32 season, and two years ago he went 23/36. Those skills are still there, no matter how dormant they've been this season. I wouldn't lose all faith just yet.
Mack: Yes, Upton can still be a serviceable fantasy player. He homered Tuesday night and is better than a .154 hitter. It has been a maddening wait for him to get hot, but you are better off holding Upton, particularly if you can reserve him. Reddick and Moss just don't have the ceiling Upton has, especially in rotisserie formats because of the steals (once Upton finally starts getting on base).
4. I have a weak catcher with an even weaker FA crop. Any catchers coming up after the Super Two deadline worth a stash?
Beller: The only catcher who's really close to The Show who can also make a fantasy impact is the Mariners' Mike Zunino. He's hitting just .228 but has 11 homers and is slugging .515 with Triple-A Tacoma. The Mariners are taking their time with him, but with the Mariners unlikely to be part of the playoff picture this year, they may want to give him an extended look in the majors. If he can prove that his defense is sufficient, he should be due for a promotion in the not-too-distant future.
Mack: Beller is right on. The Mariners have decided to end the Jesus Montero catching experiment, sending him to the minors where he played some first base. Just days after his demotion, Montero was diagnosed with a torn meniscus and will have knee surgery Wednesday that will sideline him in Triple-A for 4-6 weeks. With journeyman Kelly Shoppach and never-will-be backup Jesus Sucre as the Mariners' catching options right now, it might just be days -- not weeks -- before we see Zunino in a Mariners uniform. His debut could come around one-calendar-year mark since he was the third-overall pick of the 2012 First Year Player Draft.
The next most-intriguing catcher in the minors is Travis d'Arnaud, but he recently received terrible news on his broken foot: It is still broken and he needs to stay in his protective boot. That figures to leave him out of Triple-A action until the All-Star break and it might take another month thereafter to prove healthy and productive enough for a call-up. If you cannot get Zunino, you are best off going for the flavor of the week off the waiver wire or buying low on a slow-starter like Yasmani Grandal.
As an aside on Montero, who is reportedly among the 20 or so names attached to Biogenesis: Since he is still on the 40-man roster, he is still under the protections of the Players Union. We saw earlier this spring former Miami Hurricane Cesar Carrillo lose his 40-man roster spot and then get hit with a 100-game suspension, because he was no longer under Union protections.
5. Stephen Strasburg left last Friday's start early and was diagnosed with a mildly strained lat. What are the chances this keeps him out for more than one start, and should owners be worried about a possible DL stay?
Beller: Owners should always be worried about DL stints when pitchers leave games early with injury, but Strasburg owners should be relieved at the diagnosis of a lat injury -- that's a less troublesome. He has already been scratched from his scheduled start Thursday, but Washington is hopeful he can start Saturday. For now it appears Strasburg owners, not to mention the Nationals, have dodged a bullet.
Mack: I am not as sure as Beller that Strasburg owners truly dodged a bullet. The Nationals are notoriously cautious with their prized right-hander, so Saturday's projected start should still be in question. If he misses that one, he almost certainly will be placed on the DL. He will throw a bullpen session Wednesday to determine the status and with Strasburg and the Nationals, you have to expect the worst -- at least in terms of this week in fantasy.
6. What's the outlook for Edmundo -- I mean Nick -- Franklin this season?
Beller: Franklin has been an on-base machine his entire professional career. He took that to new heights with Triple-A Tacoma this year, where he hit .324/.440/.472 in 177 plate appearances. He doesn't offer much power or speed, but he can be a huge asset in the rate categories. Second base remains one of the shallowest positions in fantasy baseball. Anyone who can bring an elite skill to the table, regardless of what it is, can be a major asset. Franklin should be owned in most mixed leagues, and could hit .300 with a .370 OBP.
Mack: The question is an obvious shot at Yahoo's fantasy game for listing Nick Franklin as Edmundo in their player database. MLB.com and Baseball-reference.com list Franklin's full name as Nicholas Edward Franklin, so there is no reason he should be listed as Edmundo. There are plenty of reasons to own Nick Franklin in fantasy, though. He has gotten off to a solid start and should provide enough offense -- even if streaky -- to be useful at second base or shortstop in your mixed-league lineups.