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Fantasy Week 4 | MLB Week 4

Playing Time Increase

Tue Feb 20 12:58pm ET
By MIKE BARNER
Contributing Writer

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Grissom set for every day role


One of the more exciting topics to cover heading into every season is young players who are primed to take on expanded roles. Hitting on these players in fantasy drafts can go a long way towards the hope of bringing home a title. Let’s discuss five such players who are primed to provide increased production in expanded roles.

Royce Lewis, Minnesota Twins

Lewis provided some impressive numbers in the minors, but injuries delayed his path to the majors. He finally made it there in 2022, although he only appeared in 12 games for the Twins. Last season provided his most exposure to the majors with him playing in 58 games at the level. As far as initial returns could go, things went about as well as they could have for Lewis. He recorded a .240 ISO, .393 wOBA and finished with 15 home runs to go along with six stolen bases.

Heading into this season, Lewis is locked into the starting third base job for the Twins. They traded away Jorge Polanco and will undergo a youth movement with both Lewis and Edouard Julien expected to start in their infield. While he’s unlikely to duplicate his .309 batting average from last season, he doesn’t strike out a ton for a player with his power upside. He also has the potential to steal 20 bases at some point in his career. He is not flying under the radar with his current ADP being 61, but his upside still makes him worth considering at that point in drafts.

Nolan Jones, Colorado Rockies

The Rockies didn’t have many bright spots last season, but Jones was one of them. He began the season in Triple-A, posting a 1.192 OPS over 39 games. He mashed 12 home runs during that span, while posting a 17.6 percent walk rate. The Rockies called him up in May and he stuck with the team for the remainder of the season. His 29.7 percent strikeout rate was a concern, but his overall stat line was impressive. Over 106 games, he hit .297, posted a .395 wOBA and recorded 20 home runs and 20 steals.

Heading into this season, Jones is locked into a starting job for the Rockies. Asking him to bat .297 again is probably unrealistic, given his abnormally high .401 BABIP. His 15.7 percent barrel rate certainly helped in that department, though. He didn’t have crazy home and road splits, either, posting a .266 ISO and a .393 wOBA away from Coors Field. The hesitation is, his current ADP is 48. He’s going ahead of players including Mike Trout (55), Manny Machado (57) and Paul Goldschmidt (65). That comes with lofty expectations that he might not be able to meet.

Yainer Diaz, Houston Astros

Diaz spent much of last season as the Astros number two catcher, garnering 377 plate appearances over 104 games. Still, he slugged 23 home runs and hit .282. What’s impressive is that he only had a 19.6 percent strikeout rate to go along with his .256 ISO. That comes on the heels of a successful 2022 campaign in the minors that included him hitting .294 with 16 home runs and a 17.8 percent strikeout rate over 48 games at Triple-A.

After spending each of the last four seasons with the Astros, Martin Maldonado joined the White Sox this winter. That sets up Diaz to be the Astros’ top catching option. Behind him will be Victor Caratini, who has been a backup for most of his career. With the potential that Diaz could surpass 450 plate appearances this season, he could be well worth his current ADP of 105.

Vaughn Grissom, Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox didn’t make many big splashes during the offseason, bringing back a similar roster to last year. They did add Tyler O’Neill to their outfield and they acquired Grissom in a deal that sent Chris Sale to the Braves. Not only did the Red Sox rid themselves of Sale’s contract, but they hope that Grissom can be their starting second baseman for years to come.

Grissom largely had his path to the majors blocked because of the loaded Braves’ roster. He only appeared in 23 games for the Braves last season, which came on the heels of playing 41 games for them in 2022. In his 64 career games, he has hit .287 with a .326 wOBA, five home runs and five stolen bases. He’s not one to strike out much, never finishing with a strikeout rate above 14.9 percent at any of his stops in the minors. However, his lack of power should limit his update. Still, he should play a lot, while having the potential to hit .280 and steal 15 to 20 bases. His current ADP is 235, making him someone worth a late-round flier.

Bo Naylor, Cleveland Guardians

Naylor is another young catcher who has shown a good eye at the plate. Across 60 games at Triple-A least season, he had an 18.1 percent walk rate and a 19.3 percent strikeout rate. Over his 67 games in the majors, he recorded a 13.0 percent walk rate and a 23.0 percent strikeout rate. After hitting 13 home runs at Triple-A, he slugged 11 more in the majors.

Heading into this season, Naylor’s main competition for playing time behind the plate is Austin Hedges. Hedges is a viable veteran backup, but he has a career .568 OPS. He has batted below .185 in each of the last five seasons. As the Guardians search for more offense, expect Naylor to be their primary option behind the plate and have around 400 plate appearances when all is said and done. With his current ADP of 201, he’s a viable target for those who decide to not spend early draft capital on a catcher.

Mike Barner has been covering fantasy sports since 2007. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, SportsLine and RotoWire. Mike was also a finalist for the 2018 FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. Follow Mike on Twitter @rotomikebarner.

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