Let’s get the obvious out of the way. No one on the fantasy baseball waiver will be a 1-on-1 replacement for Bryce Harper† The All-Star outfielder had hit an outstanding .318/.385/.599 with a .985 OPS and 15 home runs. He played as a clear NL MVP candidate.
But now he’s ready to be indefinitely after breaking his thumb as a result of being hit by a Blake Fast pitch.
So yeah, no player will replace the production of a Bryce Harper, which is no consolation to fantasy executives who used a top-10 draft pick to select the Phillies superstar.
What fantasy managers can do, however, is look for a prolific, perhaps even underrated, field-eligible player – or more than one – to fill the position while their star recovers.
You could try swinging a fantasy trade to make up for Harper’s loss, but here are five low-roster players to consider today, if you’d rather go the traditional route.
Garrett Cooper, Miami Marlins (39 percent on the list)
Cooper delivered 29 for 80 in June, bringing his season line to .307/.372/.452 with a .824 OPS. Statcast supports that superb line, with its projected average and slugging so far at 0.298 and 0.499, respectively.
Cooper may not deliver Harper’s dynamic numbers, but he’ll help solidify your batting average and give some over-the-fence pop. There is also room for undervalued run and RBI potential at Cooper, which tends to be in the middle of the order for a surprise Marlins attack that might just be playing in a park seemingly no longer suppressing scoring† He also qualifies at first base, which is always a plus.
Jorge Alfaro, San Diego Padres (33% on the list)
Let’s see: A catcher who qualifies in the outfield, hits high in the batting order of a solid offense, and finally gets the consistent playing time he deserves. What’s not to like?
Alfaro’s bat has always had serious potential, even going back to his Miami days, and he could now reach that potential with more chances. Alfaro’s expected numbers are now 0.271 (average) and 0.571 (slugging); those are drool-worthy signs for every fantasy hit in today’s MLB, let alone a CATCHER. His current BABIP is only 5 points higher than his career score, so it doesn’t look like this is just a speck on the radar.
San Diego needs Alfaro’s attack with Manny Machado still offside. Ride the wave.
Jack Suwinski, Pittsburgh Pirates (15%)
Speaking of golf, yet another Pirates rookie hitter impresses. Suwinski has gotten into the energy department on a hot note to kick off his MLB career. Pittsburgh’s number 28-ranked prospect is up to 12 home runs in 171 at bats; hard to see this coming.
Of course, Suwinski comes with a big warning label: He can single-handedly weaken your batting average category. With that, a current .242 BABIP could mean the youngster has had a bit of bad luck (his average exit speed of 112.4 inspires some confidence that his fortune could change), but he’ll have to cut back on his ugly 31.6K percentage to get that. to get going. For what it’s worth, he never lashed out more than 28 percent of the time in the minors; of course the Majors are a different beast.
Suwinski isn’t the first unannounced prospect to make an early impression in MLB this year. If you can stand Suwinski’s average misery – say, if you have guys like… Luis Arraez and Michael Brantley on your team – he may be worth looking for for potential dynamic power and underrated speed as long as the good times last.
Jace Peterson, Milwaukee Brewers (14%)
This pick is exclusively for deep-league fantasy managers who are looking not only for a replacement outfielder, but also someone who can provide a stolen base boost.
Peterson now has up to nine stolen bases a year in limited playing time for the Brewers. He also has six home runs, so a 10-15 season may be on the horizon, especially now that Peterson gets more playing time as a multi-position defender.
Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins (28%)
Full disclosure: Max Kepler might be my favorite pick from this bunch just because of what he could for the rest of the season.
If you open Kepler’s Statcast page, you will witness a glorious sea of red. Kepler is currently lowering a modest .244/.348/.401, but Statcast says he should have an average of .305 and a .523 slugging (not to mention a .393 xwOBA).
Of course, Kepler’s problem was the same as ever: He struggled against lefties (he has a disappointing .642 lifetime OPS against them for his career), but there may be signs of hope this season. The 29-year-old outfielder has put together a .747 OPS this year against left-handed pitchers (not to mention a .360 OBP mark – useful for his potential to score points as part of a powerful Twins lineup).
You want Kepler in your lineup if (and when) his expected Statcast numbers start to take shape on the playing field.