The passage of baseball's annual trade deadline means new opportunities for certain players, whose role expansions can make big waves in fantasy leagues. Monday's featured names include a trio of universally pickup-worthy players as a result of their roles increasing following their teams' deadline deals.
Felix Bautista, RP, Baltimore Orioles: Among the greater surprises coming at the Aug. 2 trade deadline was the Orioles' decision to trade closer Jorge Lopez, their only All-Star, to the Minnesota Twins. Considering that the team still resides just one game out in the loss column in the wild-card standings six days later, one might have thought the Orioles would "go for it." It's perhaps a testament to the team's standout bullpen, however (ranking third in the majors with a 3.07 ERA), as well as the performance of Bautista, who has managed four saves, 12 holds, a 1.77 ERA, and a 35.8% strikeout rate -- seventh-best among qualified relievers -- during his rookie campaign.
Bautista's stuff is every bit as filthy as his predecessor's, and arguably more so, with a four-seam fastball that averages 98.8 mph and a splitter and slider that both have at least a 46% whiff rate (that's the percentage of misses on opposing hitters' swings). Don't take the Lopez and Trey Mancini trades as white-flag moves, as this is a rising organization that could still make a wild-card run. If so, Bautista should play a big part in that chase.
MJ Melendez, C/OF, Kansas City Royals: The Royals had already been regarding the rookie Melendez as a near-regular before the Whit Merrifield trade, starting him in 69-of-82 games between his May 3 big-league debut and the deadline, including utilizing him in the outfield in 8-of-12 games entering play on Monday. With Merrifield gone, Melendez should join fellow catcher Salvador Perez as almost-everyday players, be it a catcher/DH, catcher/outfielder or outfielder/DH arrangement between them. Either way, the leadoff role appears to be Melendez's, at least against right-handers.
Melendez has been plenty up to the task, batting .297/.356/.563 with four homers and 13 RBIs in his last 17 games entering Monday, and as a big-leaguer thus far he has looked every bit the power source he showed when he hit 41 homers combined between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha last season. Statcast has his average exit velocity in the 81st percentile, a Barrel rate in the 75th percentile and a hard-hit rate in the 70th percentile. I've written many times in this space about the benefits of a catcher-eligible player getting everyday at-bats at other field positions. There's a very real path to his being a top-three catcher over the final eight weeks here.
Reid Detmers, SP, Los Angeles Angels: Noah Syndergaard's trade only increases the chances that the Angels will need Detmers to fill more innings for them down the stretch and, considering the left-hander is on pace for a reasonable 141 frames, he's probably here for the duration. It certainly helps that, during his one-start demotion back to Triple-A Salt Lake in June, he worked specifically on polishing his slider, with the results readily apparent since.
In the five starts since he's been recalled, Detmers has a 1.16 ERA and 38 strikeouts -- 18 of them on said slider -- and he has gotten a 17.3% swinging-strike rate on that pitch, which compares favorably to the 8.1% rate he had in his 12 starts to begin the year (which included his May 10 no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays). Detmers has held some pretty solid offenses in check in the process, like the Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers and Houston Astros, all of which have better-than-league-average runs per game for the season. He might finally be realizing his No. 2/3 starter potential.
Two other players who benefited from deadline moves
Devin Williams, RP, Milwaukee Brewers: Believe what you want about the Brewers' bullpen plans following Williams' losses on Wednesday and Sunday, but I'm still firm on my belief that he's one of the five very best relief pitchers in all of baseball. FanGraphs has Williams' changeup alone as being worth 29.9 runs above average since the beginning of his 2020 rookie season, which is nearly double that of any other reliever's in the game. This is his time to shine in the ninth inning, and there's no reason to look at him now as anything short of a top-five positional option.
Paul DeJong, SS, St. Louis Cardinals: Edmundo Sosa's trade to Philadelphia coincided with the return of DeJong, who had been demoted to Triple-A Memphis in May after batting .130/.209/.208 with a 29.1% strikeout rate in his first 24 games of the year. DeJong straightened things out while down on the farm, batting .249/.313/.552 with 17 homers in 51 games, and since his recall he has batted .240/.375/.720 with three homers and 10 RBI while playing every inning in the team's last eight games. He's a power-oriented bat who offers little else, something that is of greater interest in rotisserie than points-based leagues, but with his regular role he's still worthy of a pickup in either format.