For pretty much all fantasy baseball players, none of us have ever played more than high school ball. The closest most of us have to come to having MLB success is getting a great deal for tickets on the secondary market and finding great parking, but that doesn’t mean us commoners don’t get emotional about our teams. Most of us are in it to win it and, when things go south with a key player on your roster, it can feel as bad as having to pay $20 more for parking than you had planned on.
People can disappoint you, even MLB players. Emotions can take over and force you to take drastic measures. They can make you do things like, oh, I don’t know … bench Aaron Judge.
Fantasy baseball talk around Aaron Judge
I took Judge with the number five pick in my fantasy league’s draft. In most leagues, Judge was a top 5 pick. A month into the season and Judge is looking a bit like a bust. Not exactly Juan Soto bust (batting just .183 with four homers and nine RBI), but disappointing for sure. Before Wednesday’s 3-for-4 effort in Minnesota, Judge was hitting a career low .244 batting average. Outside of his rookie season and the 2020 shortened season, Judge is having career lows in average, OBP (.352) and slugging percentage (.511). Wednesday’s game helped in lifting his average to .261, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Over the past two weeks, the Bronx Bomber has struck out 18 times in 45 plate appearances. Judge is tied for third-most strikeouts in the entire league with 35.
I recently started benching Judge and playing guys like Philadelphia’s Brandon Marsh and Cub Ian Happ instead. Now Judge has a new hip injury that will likely keep him out of this weekend’s series in Arlington against the Rangers and possibly the series with Cleveland back in the Bronx. It would be a safe move for Aaron Boone to rest him until next weekend’s divisional series in Tampa Bay, but I guess they’ll see how that hip feels after the weekend.
Although disappointed by the injury, Aaron Judge owners were likely already trying to figure out what to do with his roster spot while waiting for him to heat up. If you’re with me in this Aaron Judge boat, I have a few options on the waiver wire to keep your team afloat, including one from an unlikely lineup.
Everyone who has ever heard of baseball knows that the 2023 Oakland A’s are absolutely terrible. With a league worst 5-21 record and a whopping -113 run differential, the A’s are horrible as a team. I don’t know if they’ll duplicate the 1932 Red Sox who finished with an eye-popping/jaw dropping/mind blowing -349 run differential (wow, how is that even possible?) but they’re certainly on pace to be MLB’s worst. The team is bad, but could there be a single Athletic out there worthy of a fantasy roster spot to spell Judge?
Fifth-year journeyman outfielder Brent Rooker has been the lone bright spot in the A’s lineup so far this season. Among the usual starters in Oakland, Rooker leads the team in batting average (.305), OBP (.417), slugging (.695), OPS (1.112), WAR (0.9), home runs (seven), RBI (18) and total bases (41). On top of all that, Rooker only has 13 strikeouts and 12 walks, two fewer walks than Judge in 33 fewer at-bats. Rooker has three home runs in the past week alone. The only thing this guy isn’t doing is stealing bases.
The A’s are home this weekend against the Reds, then host Seattle before hitting the road to face the Royals and Yankees. Even though Rooker seems to be a lone beam of light for the A’s, his numbers at The Coliseum are poultry at best, hitting just .217. It’s been away from Oakland where Rooker has excelled, batting .361 and hitting six of his seven home runs. If he can stay with the club, maybe he can take those road numbers with him when the team moves to Las Vegas. As always, monitor those home/away splits before you plug and play with Rooker.
If you’re one who just doesn’t touch an Oakland A, then I would recommend looking about 3,000 miles southeast for a Judge replacement.
One could say the 2023 Tampa Bay Rays are the exact opposite of Oakland. The Rays sit atop MLB with a 21-5 record and sport a league best +96 run differential. They’ve scored the most runs (171) and are the only team left who has given up less than 80 runs. The Rays have five guys batting over .300 and, as a whole, seem a bit unstoppable heading into May.
One of those .300 hitters is Harold Ramirez. Ramirez is batting .354 with five home runs and 11 RBI, including .353 and two homers over the past week so he is rocking steady at the plate. He’s got a nice OBP (.417) and slugging it at a good .677. For fantasy lineup purposes, Ramirez also provides owners some flexibility as he’s listed as both an outfielder and first baseman in most leagues.
One thing to keep on eye on with Ramirez is that Tampa Bay just activated Jose Siri off the IL, making it a bit crowded in the Rays outfield. Surely manager Kevin Cash will want to keep the steady bat from Ramirez in the lineup as much as possible, but will also want to get guys days off, so always keep an eye on those daily lineups.
OK, that’s it. Good luck!
Note: All numbers were heading into play on game on Friday, April 28.