Injuries are part of the game. They happen to the best of them. Whether you’re Aaron Judge or an unknown journeyman backup catcher, a visit to the IL can happen at any point. Much like the Brian Cashmans of the world, fantasy baseball owners must be ready to act quickly when a guy producing lands on the injured list.
There have been a few noticeable players to land on the IL recently, so this week let’s take a look at who’s hurt and how to survive without them on your fantasy baseball team.
INJURED: Jose Alvarado, Philadelphia Phillies
Phillies closer Jose Alvarado was placed on the IL May 10 with elbow inflammation, a few days after registering his fourth hold of the season versus Boston. Alvarado had been hot, closing out April with five saves in 10 days before blowing his first save opportunity of May a week before going on the IL. Philly is in the NL East second-place mix and needs Alvarado back as soon as possible, but will likely have to wait until next week for his return. Phillies manager Rob Thomson has turned to Gregory Soto to team up with Craig Kimbrel to finish out games for the time being, but I think you should look elsewhere.
Option 1: Alexis Diaz, Cincinnati Reds
The 2023 Reds have been a very streaky team. Three wins here, three losses there. Five wins in a row followed by six losses in a row. Streaky. A team with that type of instability may not be one to look for consistency in, especially on the mound, but alas the fantasy gods have bestowed a waiver wire gem from the Queen City that may be a long-lasting jewel in your fantasy lineup.
As a team the Reds may be inconsistent, but their closer Alexis Diaz has been rock steady. Coming off a three-save week, Diaz will look to get his saves total into double digits this week after notching save number nine Saturday in Miami. The 1.1-inning, three strikeouts, three walks effort over the weekend was Diaz’s fifth save of May. The outing also marked the first time since April 8 that Diaz had given up an earned run.
Diaz is successfully building off a nice rookie 2022 season where he notched 10 saves and 13 holds in 59 appearances, adding a 7-3 win/loss record and a 1.84 ERA. In 16 appearances so far this season, Diaz is holding down 2.40 ERA and impressive 0.87 WHIP. A little deeper dive into Diaz’s numbers makes his 2023 campaign look all the more impressive. Along with the saves, a hold and a 1-1 win/loss record, Diaz’s opponents are only batting .120, have a .241 OBP and a thin .140 slugging percentage. On top of all that, his strikeouts per 9 inning ratio has jumped to 17.4 from 11.7 in his rookie season. Additionally, Diaz’s ERA in May (1.50) is half of what it was in April (3.00). The Reds closer is also not giving up many walks, just seven total on the season thus far, with only one of those walks coming at home.
On paper, the Reds upcoming schedule looks favorable for potential Diaz owners. A trip out to Colorado to start this week followed by a homestand that welcomes the Yankees and the NL Central last place Cardinals.
Option 2: Will Smith, Texas Rangers
Even when things go wrong for the Rangers this season, they not only seem to land on their feet, but they excel. Corey Seeger goes down early, Ezequiel Duran thrives. Jacob deGrom lands on the IL, long reliever Dan Dunning steps up. Bruce Bochy isn’t super thrilled with closer Jose Leclerc, lefty Will Smith steps in strongly.
The 13-year veteran southpaw Smith is coming off a World Series title with in-state rival Houston and Rangers fans hope Smith can help bring glory to the Metroplex this fall. Bochy made the move to Smith as the primary closer May 3 and, for the most part, it’s paid off. After blowing a save May 5 in Anaheim, Smith has converted three of three save opportunities since and has four saves this month.
Smith didn’t exactly come out of nowhere as a closer. Smith had three saves in April along with four holds and has been an integral part of the Texas bullpen all season. Throughout his career, Smith has primarily been a reliever aside from his rookie season where he went 6-9 as a starter for the Royals way back in 2012. Cue Men In Black 3 (I promise that will be the only Will Smith reference). Back in 2019 with the Giants and 2021 with the Braves, Smith recorded 34 and 37 saves, respectively, so 2023 isn’t exactly his first rodeo as the primary closer.
Admittingly so, Smith’s saves this month haven’t exactly come against MLB’s elite with three of them coming against AL West foes Oakland, Seattle and the Angels. His other save this month was at home against a competitive Diamondbacks team, so there’s something of value for potential fantasy owners to hang their hat on with Smith. The Rangers host the Braves and Rockies this week before heading off to Pittsburgh for a series with the Pirates early next week.
Good luck out there!