What a difference a week makes. Since we last chatted, we’ve had one of the best middle infielders in each league become suddenly unavailable to their fantasy owners, and what’s followed has been, if not life imitating art, at least the fantasy community imitating major league baseball. Jonathan Aranda, Osleivis Basabe, Vaughn Grissom, and Nicky Lopez were largely unowned in redraft leagues of almost any format or size, but all four have experienced at least a small ownership jump as they, for the moment at least, become replacements for their real-life teammates. I’m not only rostering but actually playing Basabe this week in a mixed league where I’ve recently taken a middle infield depth hit, grabbing him without really even worrying about his hitting metrics or how much of a chance he had to help my fantasy team. I was really just looking for a player who’d get a chance to play regularly on a solid offensive team, with the bonus of having a great deal of motivation to make a solid impression.
When guys like Basabe and Nicky Lopez are getting added to even some shallower league rosters, it really points out how slim the pickings are at this time of year when it comes to deep leagues. Since there are so few players who I’d even consider putting in a lineup that meet our usual deep-league ownership thresholds, this week we’ll branch out a bit, casting a slighter wider net than usual as we look for replacement or reinforcement options. This week, we’ll jump up a 20% ownership threshold, as we look at a handful of players who’ve had the largest jumps in ownership over the last week, but are still owned in less than that 20% mark in CBS leagues:
Javier Assad (from 2-17% owned). Assad’s ownership was at 13% on Tuesday and already up to 17% by Thursday after he filled in for a still-injured Marcus Stroman in the Cubs rotation. It ended up being his second solid start in a row, as he gave up 2 runs in 6 innings against the White Sox (after an impressive 7 innings of 1-run ball against the Blue Jays last week). He feels to me like one of those guys who often outperforms his peripherals (in the course of his 104 major league innings, he has just 79 strikeouts and a not-good 1.33 WHIP, yet a relatively lovely 3.12 ERA), but where it’s hard to tell if it’s luck or if he’s just good at making the most of his skill set and limiting damage. At any rate, those of us who are desperate for starting pitching may be willing to roll the dice either way, assuming he continues to get opportunities in the rotation and keeps getting fairly deep into games. His next start is tentatively scheduled for Monday in Detroit, which doesn’t sound quite as tempting as it did before the Tigers started hitting recently, but does make him a possible 2-start pitcher next week (with the potential second start in Pittsburgh), and a relatively intriguing one at that given most of the other options likely to be hanging around the waiver wire.
Jonathan Aranda (12-19%). As you may have heard in the opening of this post or perhaps elsewhere, there’s been a bit of a void in the Rays’ middle infield of late. Aranda is a guy I’ve had on an AL-only keeper team for a couple of years and had higher hopes for than what has played out so far, namely that he’s given me solid-utility-guy-at-best vibes at this point in his career (he’s 25 now). I was surprised to see that he’d taken such a large ownership jump, especially since it doesn’t seem like he’s going to be a fixture in the Rays’ everyday lineup, but we’ll see how things play out over the coming weeks and if he can take advantage of his current call-up. He was having a monster year in the minors for what that’s worth, hitting .339 with a .449 OBP, 25 homers, 82 runs, and 81 RBI.
Lawrence Butler (2-10%). It’s difficult to gauge what the phrase “one of the A’s top prospects” really means anymore, but since Butler does fit that bill I suppose it’s no surprise that fantasy owners are giving him a look now that he’s on the major league roster. The more you read about him, the more there is to like; he’s a 6′ 3″, 210 lb. left-handed hitter who was batting .284/.350 OBP in the minors, with 15 homers and 21 steals. He cut down on his strikeouts enough to warrant a trip to the show, and since one would assume he’s up to play every day as the season plays out in Oakland, there’s at least a shot he becomes mixed-league relevant over the next month-plus.
Andruw Monasterio (5-10%). It may still be a very small sample size, but the fact that Montasterio has been playing quite regularly and quite well for the Brewers for over a month now has me looking his way in a couple 15-team mixed leagues. I’m a sucker for a guy with a solid OBP, and Monasterio’s current mark of .386 over his 160 at bats this year certainly catches one’s attention. He’s been providing a little production across the board, with 27 runs, 3 homers, 14 RBI, and 5 steals, and he’s played three positions (20 games at 2B, 29 at 3B, and 5 at SS). I’m trying to forget the fact that I had him for about a week in an NL-only keeper league and then dropped him only to let him get scooped up by another owner, since I could use that production now, and since it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Monasterio is worth future fantasy consideration as well.
Osleivis Basabe (1-6%), Nicky Lopez, (1-5%). The aforementioned Lopez may not continue to hit, but the ridiculous streak he went on upon joining the Braves may have jumped him right over Vaughn Grissom on their depth chart. And it sure seems like the 1% owned version that we’ve all come to know over the last few years is the real Nicky Lopez, but literally, anyone who is regularly in the Braves sick lineup is worth a look in many leagues. Basabe may hit roadblocks early and often in his first MLB stint, but the combination of opportunity and some potential speed-with-a-tiny-bit-of-pop upside has me playing him in at least one mixed league, as I mentioned earlier.
Wade Meckler (1-4%). Meckler came out of nowhere (well, triple A, where he was hitting a juicy .379/.463/.522) to jump up a couple notches on the Giants’ outfield depth chart and right on to the major league team. He’s a 23-year old, 8th round pick from 2022, and given that he’s already gotten a shot at leading off, he may get a long-ish leash as the Giants take a look at him in a big league uniform over the remainder of the season. There’s a non-zero chance he helps in deep-league fantasy this year, and I’ve also picked him up in an NL-only keeper league in case he has trouble adjusting to MLB pitching in 2023 but remains in the picture when it comes to the Giants’ future plans.