So I’ve been trying to look for silver livings when it comes to the slow starts of the hitters I have rostered in my deepest leagues and I’ve come up with this: at least I have a sense of calm knowing there’s really nothing I can do about it. While I actually had to stop and think when to bench/drop the likes of Avisail Garcia and Trent Grisham, for example, in a 15-team league, I have each of them in at least one deep NL-only league where there’s just no one available in the free agent pool. In those leagues, I’m basically forced to just keep them in my lineup while I wait to see if they can figure things out. If they do finally put a few good games together I’ll be happy I was forced to hold, and if they don’t, at least I’ll know that there was really nothing I could have done in terms of finding upgrades. If you’re in a league this deep, you know how it feels, and there’s a chance that even the likes of the uninspiring waiver wire fodder (in most leagues) we’ll be chatting about this week is all long gone from your FA pool. Here’s to hoping for good health and improved play from the guys some of us have stuck in our lineups, and let’s also hope that there’s a name or two on this list that can help those in the “normal” deep league world. The diamonds in the rough are few and far between, but it only takes a week or two of over the top play from a Taylor Ward to remind us all how quickly a player who was barely on the deep league radar a month ago can become a mixed league fantasy staple.
Brandon Drury (4% owned). I never thought I’d regret not grabbing Drury in an NL-only league or two, and yet here we are. He’s been surprisingly consistent for the Reds, who have been downright hard to watch this year, as a utility guy/Jonathan India fill in. While he came into the season qualifying only at third in most leagues, he now qualifies at second, third, and outfield in many (and has also played a game at short this season), so that’s always a nice deep-league perk. His average is at just .233, but he already has 4 homers and
9 10 RBI, which is kinda like 7 homers and 18 RBI in the before times. He should continue to see fairly steady ABs given the current status of the Reds’ roster.
Jordan Luplow. Any time a 1% owned guy (at least according to CBS leagues) cracks the top 20 on Razzball’s player rater, you’re probably going to hear about him here at Rolling In The Deep. It’s beyond unlikely that Luplow will merit standard league consideration in 2022, but he’s trending in the right direction of late. The fact that he’s number 16 on the player rater over the last week – sandwiched in between Juan Soto and Austin Riley – tells you he’s had a solid seven days. (It was really a very solid two games, one of which featured two homers and the other which included two RBI and a steal as the Diamondbacks on the whole finally began to show some life at the plate). With Seth Beer going ice cold after a decent start (0 for his last 28 as I write this!), Luplow has seen more starts against righties in addition to the lefthanders he was already regularly facing. While this may be a career week, he has earned more playing time for the immediate future, and at bats are at bats.
Yadiel Hernandez (9% owned in CBS leagues, so likely long gone in most deep NL-only formats). I meant to draft Hernandez as my fifth outfielder in my deepest NL-only league, but somehow I screwed up and took a pitcher instead, and ended up having to get Alex Dickerson out of the free agent pool after the draft. So, I’ve had the joy of seeing Dickerson go 4 for 33 before being DFA’d by the Braves, while Hernandez got scooped up by another owner and is off to a .371 start with a stomach churning (for me, since I don’t own him) 14 RBI. There will no doubt be some rough patches as that average inevitably regresses, but Hernandez has done enough to keep the playing time coming in Washington. He’s not likely to rack up the homers or get tons of steals so his fantasy value will always be limited, but he sure would look good at the end of my NL-only team about now, and he should continue to be a serviceable fill-in even in slightly shallower leagues.
Edward Olivares. Olivares is now 8% owned in CBS, and all the way up to 22% owned in Fantrax, so he’s yet another guy that may not be hanging around in your deepest leagues. The season-ending injury to Adalberto Mondesi has caused some lineup shifting in Kansas City, and Olivares has been placed at the top of the Royals’ lineup for a few days. Those of us who have been anxiously waiting for what seems like forever for Olivares to get a chance to play every day (he’s 26 already! When did that happen?!) are waiting with bated breath to see what the coming games bring. Will Nicky Lopez lead off against righties? Will Olivares be inexplicably demoted – again – and none of us will even know it’s happened until we see that horrible little green flag next to his name in our Fantrax leagues? Or will the Royals finally do the right thing and give Olivares and his power/speed combo, along with the .364 average/.400 OBP he’s opened the season with, the chance to play at the top of the lineup every day so we can all finally see what he’ll do with the opportunity? (I’m hoping for option C!!)
Trevor Larnach. I feel like Larnach’s best case fantasy scenario is to become a serviceable outfielder in deeper leagues, who won’t hurt you, but doesn’t really help you all that much either, which I suppose is about what you’d expect from a 7% owned player. I drafted him in one deep league when he’s parked in my active lineup, and he continues to be a guy who always seems to play good real-life baseball when I’m watching daily highlights and tuning into games, but rarely delivers actual helpful fantasy stats. Perhaps this is a time to remember that in 5×5 leagues, there are two whole categories that aren’t home runs, RBI or stolen bases, and so far this year Larnach is pretty good at both of them: he’s hitting .300 and has scored ten runs. I’m prepared for the average to come down, but Larnach was a .292 hitter (.375 OBP) over his minor league career, so it could continue to be a strength for him as the season continues. If he continues to be in the Twins’ starting lineup, which he has been more often than not lately, perhaps he’ll even throw me an occasional homer or steal to thank me for rostering him.
Tyler Wells. A 4% owned starting pitcher for the Orioles? You know you’re in deep water now. Wells was getting drafted in deeper leagues over the winter as many surmised he’d be given a chance to close in Baltimore, but instead, he’s been stretched out and is officially a member of their rotation. His first start was an unmitigated disaster, as he gave up four runs on three hits and two walks in Tampa Bay, and couldn’t get out of the second inning. It’s gotten better since then – after five starts he’s pitched just 18 total innings, but he’s already gotten to a closer-to-respectable 4.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and he has 14 Ks versus 4 walks. I watched most of Wells last start against the Twins, and he looked pretty good, at least compared to what we saw the first week of the season… I’m holding on in one AL-only league where I’m already besieged with pitching injuries and have to cling to any starter I’ve got, and hoping for the best.
Brett Phillips. The 1% owned Phillips is not a new name to those desperately searching the deep league free agent pool, so this is really just a friendly reminder that he exists. He’s been playing a bit more for the Rays lately after they demoted Josh Lowe and Ji-Man Choi hit the IL, so there may actually be a place for him in the right (ultra-deep) leagues. He’s hitting an ugly, under-the-Mendoza line .196 in 43 at bats, but he does have 8 walks and has already managed 2 homers and 3 steals in limited duty (which is more than I can say about several of my mixed league players who haven’t been able to do it even in non-limited duty).