Photo credit: By ぽこ太郎 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
The Yulieski Gurriel Era is finally underway. After two rain delays, the Astros finally faced off against the Orioles on Sunday, with Gurriel in their lineup as their designated hitter. As of this writing, he has a career 1.000 batting average, having lined a single into shallow center field in his first major league plate appearance.
That first trip to the plate doesn’t change this: Gurriel, for the time being, is a wild card. There’s not much we can tell from his 15 minor league games. His 15 strikeouts to two walks in 61 plate appearances aren’t especially encouraging, but his strikeout rates in Cuba compared favorably with those of Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes. It’s really hard to know if he will be a better contact hitter in the majors than in the minors, or if he will be able to hit for power right away.
As Fantasy owners, we don’t get a pass just because we lack information. As we work on setting our lineups for the coming week, we have to make difficult decisions like this one.
— Nick Palczak (@Cusefan20) August 21, 2016
While this particular conundrum is one faced only by Todd Frazier owners, it’s typical of the types of dilemmas that Gurriel’s owners will face. Frazier is a top 10 third baseman in both categories and points formats, if we exclude third base-eligible players who could be used at a middle infield position. He’s been just good enough to start every week, but not so good that benching him for an unknown quantity like Gurriel seems ludicrous.
That said, it’s inadvisable to sit Frazier in Rotisserie formats, where he could be used in a corner infield slot in the event that he is not your best third base option. In standard Head-to-Head formats, it’s a tougher call. Frazier has been slumping hard of late, so it’s conceivable he won’t produce like a top 10 third baseman in the near term.
But what if Gurriel doesn’t pan out? If you lose Frazier, then at best, your waiver options start with the likes of Yasmany Tomas, Martin Prado and Danny Valencia. Unless you’re sure that Frazier will keep slumping, that will probably be quite a dropoff in your third base production from this point forward. Not only is there the risk of Frazier bouncing back to his 2016 season-to-date levels, but he’s a BABIP correction away from getting back into the Adrian Beltre/Justin Turner/Anthony Rendon range. (Frazier entered Sunday with a .205 BABIP.)
So it’s not a good idea to sit Frazier for Gurriel, even in a Head-to-Head points league. The next tier of third basemen, including Tomas, Prado and Valencia, are more easily replaced. Then again, each of those three have been hitting well, so you’re better off sticking with the hot hand than replacing them with the untested Gurriel. For that matter, Maikel Franco, Hernan Perez and Alex Bregman are going well, too, so in just about any conceivable situation, it’s a wait-and-see kind of week for Gurriel in 12-team mixed leagues. Only in deeper formats, where you may be relying on a third baseman in the Cheslor Cuthbert or Trevor Plouffe range, does it makes sense to start Gurriel in his first full week of play.