Well, the All Star break may not be until next week, but we’re already more than halfway through the season, folks, as just about all MLB teams played their 81st game earlier this week. As we look over the season’s first half from a fantasy perspective, it’s clear that some suggestions for deep-league pickups have been more successful than others. Let’s focus on the positive: starting with the NL this week, let’s take a look at a few of our own Deep League Fantasy All Stars, guys who were mentioned in this column earlier in the season and weren’t even drafted in most leagues. Each of these players has managed to achieve at least some degree of mixed-league relevance, and we’ll look at them with an eye towards the hope that they can continue to provide value in slightly shallower leagues over the second half of 2019.
Colin Moran. I grabbed Moran for a buck at the end of two NL-only auctions this spring, and encouraged you to consider him as well in my first post of the year back at the beginning of April. He’s now up to 23% owned in CBS leagues, having provided his owners with a .276 average with 10 homers and 41 RBI in the first half of the season. I drafted Moran looking for a player who would provide a small amount of pop in limited at bats, who wouldn’t hurt me in average, also figuring that Moran might get some extra ABs since Jung Ho Kang was likely to miss some time due to either injury or personal screw-up… and lo and behold, everything pretty much went according to plan on all fronts. Kang is now back, but Moran has already given me much more deep-league value than the $1 I paid for him; I’m going to happily hold on to him and hope for a second half similar to his first.
Dominic Smith. Smith was also featured back in that first column, and lately I’ve seriously been regretting not taking more of my own advice, as I own Smith in only one of my deep leagues. A forgotten man going into the season due to the expectations everyone had for Pete Alonso, it didn’t help Smith that Alonso performed not only up to those expectations, but seriously outdid them. Somehow, even without a place to play, Smith has hung on, making a big statement in limited at bats. He has been absolutely on fire lately, including homering in three games in a row this week, and has basically forced the Mets to open up a regular spot in the outfield for him. There will be some regression ahead in terms of his current .339 batting average, but it will be fun to see if he can take the opportunity it looked like he may never have to play regularly and run with it… if he does, he should be owned in way more than the 10% of CBS leagues that currently roster him.
Luke Jackson. Jackson has been a tough player to figure out: his minor league numbers didn’t necessarily suggest major league success, and he has indeed had some very bumpy patches in the almost two months that he has been, for the most part, serving as the Braves’ closer. Few of his saves have been without angst, and almost every time he’s appeared at the end of a game it’s looked like it might be his last chance. Yet the saves have continued to come, as he now has 12 on the season (though, even as I write this, I’m still not sure whether or not they will keep coming). Those 12 saves have been a godsend for me in the NL-only leagues I grabbed Jackson in, and he’s clearly been helping folks in much shallower leagues as well – his CBS ownership is now up to 63%. With the Braves adding an extremely effective Anthony Swarzak to their bullpen and returning A.J. Minter (who got a 4-out save himself on Wednesday) to the fold, one has to once again wonder if the Braves are already in closer-by-committee mode. Jackson’s numbers on the year are not stellar – 3.00 ERA/1.26 WHIP, but he has definitely had some bad luck along the way, as his BABIP on the season now stands at .355. And the strikeouts are there: 54 in 39 innings, against 12 walks. That’s a 12.46 K/9 rate, which Jackson has eclipsed only once in his minor league career. Overperforming to even get as far as he has this year? Perhaps, but for now, I’m going to hold tight with Jackson and hope he somehow manages to avoid more shaky appearances and continues to produce those oh-so-valuable-in-fantasy saves.
Jordan Lyles. His current IL stint (due to a bad hamstring) has obviously put a giant dent in his value, but I still need to give Lyles a shout out as a guy I picked up in the free round of my deepest NL-only draft. He’s treated me very well for the most part, especially for a guy who was literally free for the taking in a deep NL-only auction league. His first half numbers: 3.64 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 66 Ks in 64.1 innings. He is supposed to return to the Pirates’ rotation this weekend, so we’ll see how that goes. For now, of the once-1%-owned-or-less NL starters this year, Lyles feels like the player who is most likely to have at least a little mixed-league relevance in the second half… and it appears the rest of the fantasy community agrees, as his CBS ownership is at 52% even though he’s been on the shelf for 3 weeks.
Kevin Newman. Newman is our most recently-mentioned player; he has now clearly taken over the leadoff spot in Pittsburgh, and now qualifies at 2B, 3B, and SS in most leagues. He’s hitting .333 with 4 homers, 27 RBI, and 5 steals on the season (186 at bats). Hmm, he is also the third Pirate on this list, which I didn’t realize until I typed his name just now. At any rate, I sadly do not own him in any of my NL-only leagues, but did pick him up recently in a shallower league with the express hope that he starts running more and can deliver some desperately-needed steals. (By the way, if it seems like stolen bases are harder to come by than ever lately in this homer-happy era, apparently it’s because they are: I heard a stat watching a game a couple of weeks ago claiming that MLB in on pace for the fewest steals since 1971). Newman is currently 25% owned in CBS leagues, and I would not be surprised if he continues to be added over the coming weeks as more mixed-league folks become aware of the sneaky fantasy value he’s been providing.