By now, most of you have drafted your fantasy baseball teams, and while there may be a few stragglers, the majority of you will be turning to Razzball for in-season info, not draft info. You can no longer wait till the wee rounds of your home league to grab that super sleeper you have been pining for since the Winter Meetings. Adding clutch players will either have to be done via trade or the waiver wire. In my weekly “Deep Impact” series, I’ll be focusing on the players that you can acquire from the latter from of those transactional options — the waiver wire pick up.
If you haven’t seen my great and illustrious name grace the pages of Razzball for a while, it’s because I’ve been on the writers’ DL. Countless surgeries have rendered me as useless as a screen door on a submarine. One after the other, as each injury struck, it even had me questioning my very existence. Am I really the child of Mr. and Mrs. DaSportsMan, or am I some sick, mutant deformity, spawned at a Carlos Gonzalez and Gavin Floyd-sponsored orgy gone awry?
One day, my true origins may be uncovered, but for now, I’ve got what you readers want, and that’s some good ol’ fashioned deep league waiver wire gems.
I’m not gonna waste your time or insult you by suggesting you add Carlos Beltran (“now that he’s healthy, he can really take advantage of that short porch in right field”) or Jedd Gyorko (“a bounceback season is in store after dealing with injuries for most of 2014”). Instead, this column will help you procure players owned in 10 percent or less (give or take) of your leagues. I’ll be using ESPN’s ownership percentages, so don’t come charging at me with a splintered bat telling me my suggested player is 25 percent-owned on Yahoo. Each week’s column might have a different theme, whether it be by position, or category provided, or preferable schedule, but for Week 1, I’m gonna give you the low down on one guy from each infield position whom I think can help you right out of the gate.
*Also, bear with me a bit, as I may overload you with a lot of content after having not been able to put my baseball thoughts onto paper for so long…
Catcher – Stephen Vogt, Athletics (0.8% owned): Now, I may be cheating a little here, because he’s only listed as a first baseman in leagues that require 20 games to have position eligibility. But the good news is the A’s open the 2015 campaign with 10 straight games, take one day off, and play 10 more, so as Oakland’s starting catcher, Vogt should earn his backstop credentials within two weeks. After spending seven years in the minor leagues, Vogt finally made it up with the Rays in 2012, though he didn’t do much with the opportunity. It wasn’t until last year with the A’s that Vogt made a name for himself. He endeared himself to fans with his comically spot-on basketball referee impressions (the charging call had me in tears), but also as a clutch hitter who could play all over the field. When injuries struck, the now 30-year-old was ready to play anywhere for his club, logging 40 starts at 1B, 13 in RF, one in LF, and eight at catcher. He’ll carry over that 1B eligibility and will add catcher to it, making him a nice add for teams looking for some positional flexibility. The A’s lineup is drastically different from last year, and Vogt looks to be pencilled in to the No. 6 or 7 spots, depending on the opposition, and the way the A’s lineup is shaping up this season, that part of the order should actually be prime for RBIs. Due to his inability to hit lefties (8-for-39, 4 XBH last year), Vogt will likely cede starts to Josh Phegley when theres’ a southpaw on the hill, but that’s not a bad thing for your fantasy team. As we’ve learned over the past few years, guys are platooned for a reason, and it will only help to decrease the chances that he’ll negatively impact your fantasy team. If you start him solely vs. right-handed pitchers (.291, 8 HR, 29 RBI), he can be a very nice rotational guy on your fantasy team. He hit 9 HR with 35 RBI in just 287 PA last year and doesn’t strike out a lot. With even 425-450 PA, I think he can be a 12-15 homer guy and knock in 50-70 runs.
First Base – Adam Lind, Brewers (9.6% owned): At his ownership percentage, the former Blue Jay just qualifies for this piece, but he’s worthy all the same. Lind was a draft darling for me, and I made sure to scoop him up on many of my teams. He’s coming off a year in which his power dropped dramatically (a mere 6 HR), but he hit .321/.381/.479 and still managed just two less doubles (24) than the previous year, and did so in 47 less games. I’m sure most of you are well aware that Lind couldn’t hit a lefty if his life depended on it (.588 career OPS compared to .860 vs righties), and assuming manager Ron Roenicke doesn’t stand by his seemingly LSD-induced ideas, Lind is primed to be a top 1B this year. In fact, I have him as a top 20 first baseman in my FantasyPros.com player rankings. Miller Park may not quite be the hitter’s haven that the Rogers Centre is, but it was the sixth-best NL stadium to hit in last year, according to ESPN’s Park Factors stats. If Lind can stave off the pesky back problems that have been plaguing him of late, a near .300 BA with 20-25 HR and 80 RBI is a very reachable goal. He could be the corner infield steal of the season.
Second Base – Jace Peterson, Braves (3.1% owned): It would’ve been easy for me to choose Micah Johnson here, and even though he’s relatively unowned, for all intents and purposes, his cover’s been blown as a sleeper. So let’s talk Jace. Peterson came over to Atlanta in the deal that sent Justin Upton to San Diego, and while pitcher Max Fried was the prize piece for the Braves, Peterson will be the one having an immediate impact for fantasy owners. The 24-year-old is a shortstop by nature, but the Braves already have Andrelton Simmons manning that spot, so Peterson will slide over to the keystone. He hasn’t officially been named the starter at 2B, but on a team that is far from competing, manager Fredi Gonzalez (honestly, how is this man still employed?) has no reason to sit him so guys like Alberto Callaspo and Phil Gosselin can take away his at-bats. He has almost no power (14 HR in 1,732 minor PA), but he can get on base (.381 minor league OBP) and has lots of speed. During his first three pro seasons, he swiped 132 bases, and that’s something that can help owners when scouring the wire. He’ll also carry very valuable dual position eligibility (2B, SS) into the 2015 season.
Third Base – Luis Valbuena, Astros (2.0% owned): The Astros received Valbuena as part of the Dexter Fowler deal, and they may have actually gotten the better part of it. To be fair, I’ve never been a Fowler fan for fantasy purposes, and never will be, so I may be a bit biased. He’s annually one of the most overrated players in drafts. I always stay away from him at all costs, since his minimal value only comes in OBP leagues. Valbuena is the less heralded of the two, but he’s coming off a very good 2014 season. I don’t use italics lightly, so when I said it was “very good”, I meant it. Valbuena shuttled around the league for years before finally finding a home in the Northside of Chicago with the Cubs. He had a respectable 2013, hitting 12 bombs with an acceptable .331 OBP. But last year, once Mike Olt was deemed unusable, the Cubs turned to the veteran Valbuena as their full-time third baseman — and he responded — smashing 16 HR with 51 RBI and 68 runs scored. Though he played 124 games at the hot corner (compared to 21 at 2B), his 16 HR qualified him for fifth among all second basemen. His K% actually rose 4.6 percent and his walk rate fell almost 2 percent, but his ability to hit righties is real (.811 OPS). He seemed to put it all together this spring, hitting .404/.442/.660 with 2 HR and only 8 K in 47 AB. I don’t usually condone using exhibition stats as a barometer of success, but he fared well enough that the Astros demoted incumbent third baseman Matt Dominguez to Triple-A Fresno. The 29-year-old is another dual-eligibility guy that should be picked up in deep leagues if you want some extra pop and position flexibility. The Astros have an improved lineup and Valbuena will have a shot at building on last year’s home run and RBI totals in the more hitter friendly Minute Maid Park.
Shortstop – Wilmer Flores, Mets (1.7% owned): Shortstop is already the thinnest position in fantasy baseball, so finding guys in deep leagues takes a little extra effort, but the guy under 10 percent owned that stands out the most to me is the Mets’ Wilmer Flores. The knock on Flores is his defensive ability — it’s not very good — and the Mets have been long-known to be in the market for a shortstop, but that never materialized. Ruben Tejada is a fine fielder, but his hitting brings back memories of former Mets three-time Gold Glover Rey Ordonez, and that’s not a compliment. Flores just needs to be adequate on defense, and fantasy owners can reap the benefits. In just 78 games with the big club last year, Flores hit six homers and drove in 26, with four of those HRs and 13 of those RBIs coming in the final month. He really got into a groove over his last 14 games, hitting .352 with an OPS of 1.016, 3 HR, 4 doubles, a triple and 11 RBI. There’s almost no speed there at all, which probably factors into his limited defensive prowess, but the power is real. Last year, between Triple-A and the pros, he hit a combined 19 HR, and in the previous two seasons, he had 16 and 18 dingers. With so few options at SS, Flores makes for a fantastic add if he’s on your waiver wire. He won’t win any batting crowns, but he’s also not gonna kill you in that category like a player such as Javier Baez would. Flores is still just 23, and he’ll keep improving. I legitimately think he can top 18 HR with a full complement of ABs. That’s something you can’t pass up from the weakest position in fantasy baseball.
Follow SethDaSportsMan on Twitter at, you guessed it, @SethDaSportsMan, for quality fantasy sports advice and the deepest veneration of all things Nicolas Cage.