Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone! The end of May is always kind of a wake-up call for me when it comes to my fantasy teams, as it more or less marks the end of the first third of the season. Two months of baseball is enough, if nothing else, to see where your teams’ strengths and weaknesses are, and which categories you need to attack to gain a place or two in the standings. Knowing there are still four full months of baseball ahead, though, reminds us that a lot can still happen, no lead is safe whether we’re at the top being chased or doing the chasing, and there may be time for players to turn things around or crash and burn if we want to buy low or sell high. It’s also a time where there is likely a pronounced lull when it comes to waiver wire action now that the Christopher Morels and Mickey Moniaks of the world have reminded us what a huge burst of energy a mid-May addition can give a real life or fantasy team… but that won’t stop us from taking a quick look at some little-owned players who may be of interest to those of us in NL-only, AL-only, or other particularly deep leagues.
Oscar Mercado. Mercado got scooped up quickly in my NL-only leagues, as he was recalled last week by the Cardinals to help in their once-overflowing outfield. He’s already had two big games, one with 2 steals and one with 5 RBI, so we’ll see how much he plays and for how long. I was a believer in Mercado back in his days with Cleveland after he went 15/15 in 2019, in just 115 games, but he’s been a massive disappointment since. He’s 28 now, and I’m not sure I’d bet on him having another 5 RBI game this year, but the speed alone could be worth a look-see if the St. Louis outfield remains banged-up and he continues to get chances.
Dominic Smith. I was a little surprised to see Dom’s ownership had risen of late (granted, a modest 1% CBS increase from 4 to 5%) as he’s been pretty far off my radar, even in deeper leagues. He’s seeing and hitting the ball well enough (.273 average/.360 OBP) and playing pretty much every day for the Nationals (having appeared in 45 of their 48 games as I write this). He’s not exactly a rush-to-the-waiver-wire guy, but I do think that there’s a chance he puts together a handful of good weeks this summer, maybe even involving a little of the power he seems to have completely misplaced, that could make him a decent corner infield choice in very deep leagues.
Adrian Houser. The dearth of free agent pitching options in my NL-only leagues is palpable right now unless you want to take a chance on a rage-dropped Graham Ashcraft or frustration-dropped Alex Wood. I’m not sure I’d touch Houser right now, but evidently many would as he’s had a decent ownership increase of late. I suppose it’s deserved, after an impressive start for the Brewers in which he threw six scoreless innings, against the Rays no less. (And now, while I’m still in the middle of this post Wednesday, he’s done it again, with 5 scoreless innings and a win against another pretty good team, the Astros). This all brings his 2023 ERA to 2.25, but we’re talking about a guy with a career WHIP of 1.35 and a really bad K rate, so I think we know which direction this story is headed… but if you really need a starter, maybe he’ll be able to keep the magic going a bit longer.
Stuart Fairchild. We’ll finish with a “0% owned” player, a classic RITD staple, in this case, a fellow who is basically outfield depth for the Reds. He gets a mention after a big 3-hit game on Wednesday, which earned him a spot in the starting lineup Thursday, with Wil Myers benched on back-to-back days. It took me, sadly, about three weeks longer than it should have to drop Myers in the one NL-only league I was dumb enough to draft him in. It’s taken the Reds significantly longer than that to perhaps realize that they may not be able to turn him into a rebounding every day player that can garner them a nice farm player or two at the trade deadline. Anyhow, we’ll see if Fairchild, who displayed a solid if not spectacular speed/pop combo in the minors, can keep things up while he’s getting the opportunity.
Jose Caballero. I had a little chat about him with Barry Bonds (the Razzball reader and commenter, not the former Giant… as far as I know) in the comments last week, and since then Caballero has homered in back-to-back games this week and earned an official RITD blurb. He’s at .276 on the season now, with an impressive .371 OBP, has 11 runs scored, 10 RBI, and a sneaky-good 6 steals. And that’s all in 58 at bats. One imagines the Mariners didn’t bring Kolton Wong in to sit on the bench. But one would also imagine, given how atrocious Wong has been this year (has there been a recent trade that has worked out so badly for both teams than Wong/Winker?), that if Caballero keeps hitting, he’ll keep playing.
Nate Pearson. Pearson has been operating in fairly random relief for the Blue Jays, after being recalled from triple A (where he also pitched exclusively in relief) the last week of April. He was pitching great in the minors and has carried that over with the big club, with 12 Ks in 12 innings and a 2.25 ERA/1.17 WHIP, plus a win to boot. It doesn’t look like his current role will lead to mixed-league fantasy relevance any time soon… and it may not even lead to deep-league relevance. But he’s a 26-year-old former top pitching prospect, and it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on him to see where the season takes him in his new role as a reliever.
Clint Frazier. He’s up with the White Sox and getting a chance to play a bit before Eloy Jimenez returns. A bench bat/injury fill-in at best as the season progresses, but let’s not forget he had a little sleeper appeal before a myriad of injuries, most notably a horrible concussion, basically derailed his career. I’ve lost track of how many organizations he’s been with now and he may never be “normal” fantasy relevant, but we deep-leaguers have to be aware of who the end-of-the-roster types on each team are in case we need one of them to fill out a roster of our own.
Luis Medina. It’s hard to get excited about anyone pitching for arguably the worst team in baseball, but welcome to the deep league world. With Kyle Muller on the outs in Oakland, Medina’s in the rotation and one would assume has a long leash, for better or worse. His minor league stats are awful, and he hasn’t fared particularly well so far in the majors either, That hasn’t stopped the pitching-starved fantasy community from picking him up to the point of his ownership almost doubling, from 4 to 7%, over the last week, however. He throws hard, so there’s that, but it’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t make more sense even in most very deep leagues to just play a solid middle reliever (Tim Mayza’s been good lately, FYI). Then again, given some of the blow-ups I’ve had recently from my “solid” middle relievers, maybe the going all-in on a volatile and questionable starter isn’t a completely bonkers plan if you really need those SP stats.
Good points all around. I’ve had a lot of injuries and I’ve had to pick up both Caballero and Fairchild. It was great to see your confirmation. I took Ryan Nelson over Houser so we’ll see how that works out but I was curious about.Eder of Miami later this season?
Clint Frazier–Oscar Mercado–kinda like going back 5 years in the time machine huh??
first off, thanx for the shout out—
always read your posts—
and no, i am not the real Barry Bonds–just an admirer of his–always felt like he had a H of F career before all the hoopla–
another guy coming back soon from injury, another golden oldie is Jankowski–
he was really hitting well in that Rangers lineup before he went out-
they still are playing Grossman, for some inexplicable reason–maybe to showcase him for a deadline trade??
anyway, Jankowski doesnt have much in his way to get some solid at bats if he performs well-
Us only leaguers look for nuggets and crumbs everywhere!
Good points all! Nuggets and crumbs, perfectly sums up the deep league waiver wire!