We’re another week into the season, so chances are another injury has come up that you need to deal with. Or maybe enough is enough and you are finally moving on from one of your struggling hitters. Perhaps you checked the standings and are scanning the waiver wire in search of adding more home runs or stolen bases. Whatever the reason may be, I’m here again to help you get ahead in your H2H leagues and Phill up your offense. Because as they always say, the best pitching is a great offense!
I am aware that there are varying league and roster sizes and that some of the guys I recommend may not be available anymore. I go by ownership percentage, but I realize the Razzball community is smarter and more well informed than your typical fantasy baseballer. So I tried to include some lower owned players, but if you would like to see more deep league options in the future just let me know below. Most of the following are owned in ~50% of leagues so at least a few of these guys should be available to you.
I have broken down these suggestions into: One guy that should be owned already in your league, four guys that could be owned, and one guy that will be owned shortly…
Should Be Owned
Jed Lowrie – 2B, Oakland Athletics (68.9 owned in ESPN, 68% in Yahoo)
Lowrie’s biggest obstacle in his career has been remaining healthy. He played over 150 games last year for the first time since 2013, and the second time ever in his career. Last year, Lowrie showed us how effective he can be in a full season. He slashed .277/.360/.448 while adding 14 home runs, 86 runs, and a nice 69 runs batted in. To put his season in perspective, he was 8th among all middle infielders with a wRC+ of 119. He has continued that success into this year, slashing .346/.404/.605 through 89 plate appearances with 6 home runs, 11 runs scored, and an MLB leading 21 runs batted in. While the average obviously isn’t sustainable (.389 BABIP), he is likely to settle in the .270/.280 range. That is a solid mark, especially when you consider he’s good for another 10+ homers this year. Oakland has a sneaky good offense (3rd in runs with 92) and he is smack dab in the middle of it, primarily hitting 3rd. Hitting behind him are Khris Davis and the Matts (Chapman and Olsen), so he should continue to get plenty of opportunities to score. He’s currently 3rd on our Player Rater, but somehow available in ~30% of leagues so I had to include him.
Could Be Owned
Odubel Herrera – OF, Philadelphia Phillies (53.6% owned in ESPN, 58% in Yahoo)
Odubel was a guy I was high on coming into this year, so I was a little nervous when he didn’t start Opening Day. Fear not, as he has settled into an every day role since and has started each of the past 11 games for the Phillies. He has responded well, slashing .323/.373/.452 in 67 plate appearances, adding 1 home run, 9 runs, 5 runs batted in, and 1 stolen base. That average will surely come back down, as its propelled by a .388 BABIP. However, he did hit .281 last year on a .345 BABIP, and his continually improving plate discipline should allow him to meet or exceed that mark. He has seen his strikeout rate fall from 22.4% to 17.9%, and has increased his walk rate from 5.5% to 7.5%. It is true that we are still dealing with small sample sizes, but Herrera looks like he has further improved his approach. He hits in the heart of the order for a Phillies team who is 8th in runs scored so far with 88. Herrera is sandwiched between a perennially high OBP guy in Carlos Santana and a huge power threat in Rhys Hoskins, so teams can’t exactly pitch around him. This is a guy that had 15 home runs and 25 stolen bases in 2016 and while he may not hit that mark again this year, a 15/15 season is definitely attainable. Herrera’s balance makes him a great H2H player, especially in categories leagues. His career .290 average, power/speed combo, and favorable placement for counting stats makes Herrera a 5-category threat and a great addition to your squad.
Jose Pirela – OF, San Diego Padres (47.8% owned in ESPN, 48% in Yahoo)
Pirela has had one of the most under the radar seasons thanks to playing for the small market Padres. He is 2nd in the MLB with 24 hits, behind only Jed Lowrie. His 7 doubles and 2 triples are also tied for 2nd most in the majors. Pirela is slashing .273/.304/.398 through 92 plate appearances, scoring 12 runs, knocking in 10, and swiping 2 bags. He has yet to record a home run, but his 10 in 344 plate appearances last year mean he should hit nearly a dozen by the end of the year. If that is the case, we are looking at a guy that could go 10/15 with decent counting stats out of the leadoff spot. If he will remain there, especially once Margot comes back, remains the question but if he continues to produce like this he may be their best option. His average will likely fall due to his .353 BABIP and lowly 3.4% walk rate, but even as a ~.260 hitter he should be able to help you out in the other offensive categories. The Padres are not a sexy team by any means, but they are actually middle of the pack (15th) in runs scored with 76. If you are in search of an outfielder or want some balanced production out of a utility spot, Pirela seems poised to continue his hot start.
Christian Villanueva – 3B, San Diego Padres (39.2% owned in ESPN, 57% in Yahoo)
Wait… You’re not suggesting adding another player from the Padres are you? Well, I am not in love with the Padres but like I just mentioned they are right around league average (15th) in runs scored. If you are primarily looking to add some power then Villanueva should fit nicely on your squad. The rookie 3rd baseman has slashed .340/.450/.780 through 60 plate appearances, adding 6 home runs, 10 runs scored, and 13 runs batted in. While he won’t sustain that pace and his average will fall, I’m not entirely convinced he will finish with the ~.230/.240 mark most of the projections have him ending the year with. He did slash .296/.369/.528 over 454 plate appearances in AAA last year, so don’t be surprised if he ends up at .250/.260 as opposed to .230/.240. Now here come the bad parts. He has struck out in nearly a third of his plate appearances (31.7%) which will surely cut into his average if that pace continues. He also struggles heavily against righties (1 HR, .207 average) which will prove to be a challenge unless that improves. On the flip side, he smokes lefties as evidenced by his 5 HR and .524 average against them. Also promising is that Villanieva belted 4 home runs in just 32 plate appearances after being called up last year. He could finish the year with 20+ home runs, which would represent quite a nice find on the waiver wire.
Cesar Hernandez – 2B, Philadelphia Phillies (36.8% owned in ESPN, 55% in Yahoo)
Don’t worry it’s not another Padre, just another Phillie! Cesar Hernandez has primarily been batting leadoff for a much improved Philadelphia offense. Hernandez has quietly put together a couple of great seasons his past two years, hitting exactly .294 in each of them. That was good enough to be the 6th best average among 2B last year. Additionally, he was 5th in OBP (.373), 10th in runs scored (85), 7th in stolen bases (15), and 8th in wRC+ (111) among all 2B. In nearly every facet he was a top 10 2B, but was not drafted as such this year. He seems poised to finish as a top 10 2B again, currently slashing .271/.419/.407 in 74 plate appearances with 2 home runs, 13 runs, 5 runs batted in, and 4 stolen bases. He has recorded 15+ SB in each of the past 3 seasons and is well on his way to doing so again. Though his strikeout rate is currently 22.9%, Hernandez has actually improved his plate discipline significantly. He is swinging at less pitches in general (33.1%), and more importantly swinging at less balls out of the zone. His O-Swing% (percentage of swings at pitches outside the strike zone) has fallen from 20.3% in 2017 to just 14% this season. As a result, his walk rate is a spectacular 21.4% compared to his 10.6% mark last season. While it’s likely won’t remain at over 20%, it is further indication that he is improving his approach. Hernandez will help you with his .290+ average, modest pop, great speed/SB potential, and figures to score plenty of runs atop the Phillies lineup.
Will Be Owned
Mallex Smith – OF, Tampa Bay Rays (Owned in 19.4% of ESPN leagues, 32% in Yahoo)
This is a guy who could make this list based on his name alone. Mallex. What a sweet name! It’s like a combination of Malik and Alex. Or a name out of the “Interdimensional Cable” episode of Rick and Morty where everyone’s name begins with “Schm”. “Schmlandula, Schmlonathan, Smallex?!” Apologies if you don’t watch Rick and Morty and don’t get the reference, but if we’re being honest that one is on you anyway…Now that I got that out of my system let’s talk about Mallex. He already had some appeal in deeper formats as the Rays’ 4th outfielder after his strong start. He’s slashing .373/.418/.510 through 56 plate appearances with 6 runs scored, 3 runs batted in, and 3 stolen bases. His stock received a sharp increase after news broke that Kevin Kiermaier is set to miss ~12 weeks due to injury, propelling Mallex into the everyday CF role. Expect the average to come down a lot, and don’t count on him for power. However, his prized tool is definitely his speed, as he went 16-for-21 in stolen base attempts last season in just 81 games. If he can continue to get on base, Mallex is a threat to swipe 25-30 bags this season. Moving up in the lineup is something we’d like to see as it would increase his potential to score more runs. However, hitting later in the lineup actually bodes well for his stolen base opportunities as they’ll be more likely to let him run loose with no strong bats behind him. Wherever he ends up hitting, I think Mallex represents the best opportunity to add speed through the waiver wire.
Thanks for the input ??
@BR808: you are welcome?!? Was trying to understand your bench/pitchers. If my response was contradicting, I’d try to bring the offer down a little.
@Yost: lol I accidentally hit the ??. I was actually thankful for the advice! I ended up working a deal for Paxton – Shaw – Swanson for Trea & Fuller!
@BR808: Haha no worries, but I’m glad to hear. Wow, sounds like an excellent trade congrats!
Nice work Yost! Trade question involving me picking up Villanuvea.
I give Thor – Shaw – Acuna – Swanson
I get Trea – Fulmer then Pick up Villanueva / OF off waivers
12 team HTH points league. My current starting lineup is
C-Suzuki / (Perez)
of-Olsen / Hanniger/ Acuna
U – Hosmer / Devers
Start 3 SP
Rp- Norris (Knebel)
@BR808: Thank you! I honestly think your team looks better as it is now opposed to doing that trade. Is there someone you could drop to snag Villanueva? Unless you can only start 3 of those pitchers a week because in that case you have solid depth and could afford to deal Thor. I’d try to pull that trade with maybe Corbin/Paxton instead first but if that’s the asking price, while hefty, I think you could afford it
I didn’t spend big money on catchers this year. I thought I’d try catching some lightning in the bottle and streaming catchers. I do have Wieters and A.Barnes….meh.
As far as the waiver wire goes, the last 14 days most ABs have gone to: Severino, C.Joseph, J.Bandy, O.Narvaez, J.Castro, V.Caratini, B.Holaday. CBS is predicting big things in the next period for: T.Flowers (off the DL) L.Malle, J.Castro, and A.Knapp.
Do any of those names sound better than my guys in my 5×5 OBP roto league or should I just keep Barnes and Wieters?
@Doug French: I would drop Wieters for Flowers as long as Flowers appears to be on track to be back by Monday.
Keep Kevin Plawecki in mind for a pick-up flyer the following week — he is supposed to be back around April 30. He will be the Mets starter once back and has a higher floor and ceiling than most people realize. He did not acclimate to the majors well in 2015 and 2016, but he hit a respectable .260 with 3 HRs in 100 ABs last hear (after raking .328 with 9 HRs in 247 ABs in the PCL) and has been a surprisingly consistent hitter in the minors (lifetime .297 with a pace of 14 HRs/500 ABs).
@Doug French: Catchers are always a pain, start 1 or 2? Wieters has been picking it up lately so you could hold onto him and stream the other catcher slot based on who is hot. Like he said Flowers could be a solid pick up going forward
@Yost: Thanks, guys. It is a 2-catcher league so I will probably keep Wieters and drop Barnes. I will see if I can grab Plawecki maybe…or Flowers.
Good stuff, Yost! Couple (3) things…
1) Michael Brantley is only owned in 40% of Yahoo leagues. Whaaaaaa? As long he’s playing, he’s got to be rostered, no?
2) What’s up with Grey bashing H2H on the pod? He made a luck/skill argument for why he doesn’t do H2H. I’ve found that skill tends to even out the luck in H2H – when we look at stats vs wins, no one is ever more than 2 or 3 spots away from where they would have been in Roto. Our league switched a couple of years ago, and based on our yearly discussion, the luck element and the opportunity to win later in the season makes it MORE engaging in a lot of ways. Thoughts?
3) Any reccos for weekend steals? Trying to catch a few to nab a tie/win (need 2+).
@Jose Buendía: Thanks, much appreciated!
1) Agreed on Brantley, surprised to see his ownership so low. If healthy he could potentially go 15/15 with a ~.300 average. My guess is that owners are scared off by his injury but like you said while he’s playing he’s going to produce. Hitting clean up for Cleveland too…only a matter of time before they start clicking.
2) I think it’s just because roto is the traditional format and he’s been doing it for so long that he prefers to play that way. I agree with him that more luck is involved than in roto. I also think that is more true in categories leagues with a single win/loss instead of each category since not every win or loss is equal. But like you pointed out I think that luck is overstated and that over the course of a full season things tend to equal out. I’ve always loved H2H because it feels like people are more engaged in it since you are playing a new team every week. Especially for people that may not be hardcore baseball fans, I think the H2H format makes it more fun and engaging. I see the luck argument, but if we’re being honest any fantasy format in any sport takes a whole lot of luck. Look at fantasy football. Those are all H2H leagues and BY FAR the most popular fantasy sport. There is a lot of luck involved in that especially when you consider it is a shorter season. But that doesn’t stop people from playing it for big money/making it the most popular fantasy sport. H2H leagues just add that element of increased anticipation/excitement. But to each their own!
3) Aside from Mallex, I’d say Michael A Taylor should be able to add a couple. The Nationals attempt the most SB per game with 1.47, and Taylor has already been able to swipe 6. He’s struggled getting on base which is obviously important, but still should be able to snag one or two this weekend. Tim Anderson if he’s still out there is another guy that could help you out. White Sox are 2nd in SB attempts per game and he’s already got 8. If he’s not available, Jonathan Villar has been getting on base more and swiped 2 bags in his past 3 games.