This morning, I decided to look at my deepest NL-only league to see who the highest-ranked player who went undrafted was. It didn’t take long to find him: as of Tuesday morning, Anthony Senzatela was ranked as the eleventh most valuable pitcher in standard, mixed 5×5 fantasy baseball leagues. My NL–only league includes a fairly complex farm system as well, so it is beyond hard to find a diamond in the rough, since most minor league players with any decent prospect status at all were drafted years ago. It’s clear why Senzatela slipped through the cracks, though – he was a mid-level prospect at best, who entered spring training as a long shot to be part of a pitching rotation in the worst pitchers’ ballpark baseball has ever seen…
Will Senzatela still be the eleventh best pitcher in fantasy at the end of 2017? Uh, no. We’d have to expect some major bumps along the way even if half of his starts weren’t going to come at Coors Field. But he’s owned in just 20% of Yahoo leagues (21% of ESPN), which I think is too low. I am basing this almost entirely on the gut feeling I had while watching him pitch. In fantasy, upside can be overrated: just ask the Robert Stephenson owner in the league I mentioned above. Stephenson has been taking up a minor league spot on his owner’s roster for four years now. Even worse, now that he’s on the big club and his owner feels pot-committed to him, Stephenson and his 5.40 ERA are taking up a valuable active roster spot. There is no guarantee that even the highest-ranked prospects will even reach star status, either in real baseball or the fantasy variety. Taking a flyer on gut feeling won’t always work out either, and sometimes can be fairly disastrous, but it’s a risk that I think you need to take from time to time in a deep league. Otherwise, how will you ever find this year’s Junior Guerra — that guy whose past statistics make you absolutely sick to your stomach, but looks damn good on the mound every time you watch him pitch… and before you know it, has been a major contributor to the success of your single-league team.
Moving on to some other deeper-league names, starting with the AL…
Jordan Montgomery. Like Senzatela, a guy who seemingly leapfrogged a few pitchers with more potential to earn the 5th spot in his team’s rotation. I watched much of his start against the White Sox Monday and thought he looked a little better than his line showed (6 INN, 7 H, 2 BBs, 4 Ks, 3 earned — he’d pitched six scoreless, then came out for the 7th and gave up two unimpressive singles followed by an Yolmer Sanchez 3-run bomb). One of the knocks on Montgomery seems to be that he doesn’t have an out pitch to put hitters away, which could obviously be a problem. But going back to intangibles, Girardi was quoted after the game as saying that part of the reason Montgomery got a shot in the rotation is that he’d pitched in the College World Series and handled the pressure/attention well. We’ll see how many more starts he gets, but I’m holding him in an AL-only where I need some warm starting pitching bodies to keep my team afloat.
Avisail Garcia. Well, his ownership percentages have been skyrocketing since I starting jotting down notes for this week and are now way too high for him to be included in a deep league discussion (from 8% to 41% owned in ESPN leagues in a week!). OMG, he literally hit another 3-run bomb just now as I was writing this! If he’s still unowned in your shallower league, it may be time to take a look. He’s batting .447 and is on pace for 135 RBI, so his hot start is unsustainable to say the least, but he lost 18 pounds during the off-season. In one of my favorite early-season player quotes, Garcia said in response to his weight loss, “I feel more alive.” I’ve picked up players for dumber reasons…
AJ Griffin. He feels like another one of those guys who you’ll pick up and have missed his best start of the season (he beat his former team, the A’s, with 6 scoreless: 1 hit, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts on Monday), but in a deep AL-only if you need pitching you’ve gotta throw a lot of stuff on the wall and see what sticks. It’s now been exactly three years since his TJ surgery, his K rate should be at least decent, and he’s still just 29 — so while he probably has some bad starts in him, there may be a few more good ones as well.
Dylan Covey. See above, re. throwing things on a wall. When you’re a Rule 5 player, you sometimes make the starting rotation despite never having appeared in the majors and having a spring ERA of 7.82! He’s not a strikeout guy, but has shown solid control in his career and should induce a lot of ground balls. Also, he has an amazing story – he was drafted just after Chris Sale in 2010, then discovered after taking his physical that he had type 1 diabetes with ultra-critical hemoglobin levels that probably would have killed him within two weeks had he not been immediately rushed to the emergency room. The fact that he’s pitching in the majors at all seven years later is beyond cool; you can’t really expect him to do it well, can you? See, I told you all last week that sometimes I get a little too emotionally invested in these guys!!
Tyler Collins. Gettin’ some PT in the Tigers OF. Doesn’t really profile as a power guy or a speed guy, though if you combine his best home run total in the minors (21 in AA, 2013) and his best stolen base year (20 in high A, 2012) we suddenly have a 20/20 player! Okay, he’s not going to go 20/20… I’m thinking we might be hoping for 10/5. The funny thing about 10/5 in a super deep AL-only league, though, is that it might actually be of help to you.
Mike Dunn. Not sure what’s going on with the back end of the Rockies’ bullpen, but suddenly Mike Dunn, Adam Ottavino, and Greg Holland are like the Big Red Machine’s “Nasty Boys” trio from the 70’s. 80’s? Or maybe the 60’s? (Okay, all I really know about the Nasty Boys is that they pitched either before I was alive or before I played fantasy baseball. And, really, were any of us truly alive before we started playing fantasy baseball?) Anyway, Ottavino looked a little lost to start the season but has been sharp of late, piling up the Ks. Dunn, meanwhile, has been pitching the 8th in save-situation games. I’m not sure if this is because Bud Black considers him next in line for saves, because Ottavino got off to a tough start, or because if anything happened to Holland, Ottavino could slide into the ninth, keeping Dunn in the 8th, and only moving one pitcher from his regular spot. (There is also the possibility that some NL-only fantasy players read too much into things like this, perhaps spending more time analyzing major league bullpens than their team’s actual managers do). At any rate, the Rockies seem to play a lot of close games, and right now all three of these guys are contributing in NL-only leagues.
Felipe Rivero. One more middle reliever for you… I remember making a note about him at the end of last season, but stupidly forgot to draft him when selecting set up guys at the end of my NL-only drafts this year. I was temporarily blinded by Pittsburgh signing Daniel Hudson, but Hudson has been pretty awful and Rivero got the 8th inning last time the Pirates had a save situation. Rivero has better stuff than either Hudson or Tony Watson (I don’t think it’s even close, really), and I’m a little sad that he’s no longer available in any of my super deep leagues.
Jered Weaver. He went from 4 to 5% owned in CBS leagues after his last start against the Braves (which was his second quality start in three tries), and has a 1.06 WHIP on the season. If you really, really, really need a starter in a deep NL-only, go for it if you’re feeling lucky I guess… but I think I’m gonna just say no and pick up a middle reliever instead.
Devin Mesoraco. Yes, he’s a catcher with an excruciatingly long injury history who will probably still be in a timeshare with Tucker Barnhart if he does finally get completely healthy. He may be back as soon as this weekend, though, and it was just three years ago he had a season that was stellar for a catcher in even the shallowest of leagues, hitting .273 on the year and launching 25 home runs in 114 games.
Adam Frazier. Since Frazier has not only been hitting pretty well, but leading off when he starts, I wrote up a little blurb about him Tuesday morning that I planned to include in this piece. I made note of the fact that Frazier was 5% owned in CBS leagues. Let’s just say that number is gonna be higher by the time you read this, and that while he’s no Starling Marte, you might want to grab him in any NL-only leagues where he’s still available. Reading about Marte’s suspension both temporarily stunned me into silent, frozen sadness, and reminded me how devastating losing a player of his caliber can be in a deep league. I own Marte in two deep NL-onlys, and honestly think this is a blow I may not be able to overcome in either. Frazier was gone in both leagues even before the news hit, and while I own Austin Meadows in one, I’m not sure he’s ready to help lead the Bucs or my fantasy team to victory this year. The top OF waiver options: Jeremy Hazelbaker and Arismendy Alcantara in one league, Alcantara and Ichiro in the other. There was a slight flurry of waiver activity Tuesday involving Jose Osuna, John Jaso, and Alen Hanson (whom I picked up because I couldn’t think of anything better to do… granted, I was still in shock). Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do, kids.
Daniel Nava. Should get some extra playing time for the Phillies with Howie Kendrick hitting the 10-day. So, what was I talking about before? Why, that ugly hole Starling Marte made in your lineup just got filled right up!! (Stops to spend another twenty minutes sobbing. Realizes new stage of grief is happening. Sadness turning to anger. Must work through this before next year, so I don’t bitterly pass on Marte in 3rd round of NL-only draft and watch him go on to win MVP. Aarghh!!!)