We’ve got less than a month of regular season baseball left, which probably feels like an eternity if either your fantasy teams are out of contention, or if you’re holding on to a league lead with a few other teams breathing down your neck. There may not be much help out there in deep leagues, especially with the days of 40-man expanded active rosters long gone. But let’s sniff around and see if we can find a handful of names that are worth a mention and might be of interest to those of us playing in NL-only, AL-only, and other particularly deep leagues.
Kerry Carpenter. Carpenter is owned in 9% of CBS leagues and is likely rostered in AL-only formats, but I’ll throw his name out in case he’s an available OF option in a deep re-draft league. I honestly didn’t realize he’d been up and playing as regularly for as long as he has been; he’s now appeared in 18 games for the Tigers and hit his third homer on Wednesday. If he keeps hitting he’ll likely keep playing, and we should probably highlight the fact that he’d hit 30 homers (in 358 at bats) in the minors this year, to go along with a .313 average/.380 OBP.
Ryan Kreidler. Moving on but staying in Detroit… for every high-profile Josh Jung-type who’s reaching the majors this month, there’s at least one Ryan Kreidler (in this case, a 1% owned shortstop). Will it be exciting to grab Kreidler off the waiver wire? Unlikely, and he may not prove to be of any fantasy help either… but he might be one thing that Jung is not In your deep league, and that thing is available. He’s basically played every day since he was recalled, and while he’s hitting just .200 or so, he did hit his first homer on Wednesday. Let’s also take a look at his minor league numbers this year just for fun: he was hitting .218, with an OBP of .356, which is a very weird stat line. Don’t have to dive too far into the analytics to see that this fellow may have some contact issues. He also had 8 homers and 17 steals, which makes me think I might grab him in my AL-only league where I could really use a few steals and a homer or two, but have a nice cushion in average.
Louie Varland. Varland was called up as the 27th man to start one of the games of the Twins’ doubleheader against the Yankees this week, and turned in a fine performance (2 earned in 5.1 innings, 1 walk, 7 Ks). He also got the whole “give up a homer to Judge” thing out of the way quickly and efficiently, which means he’ll be eligible to appear in the documentary I’m tempted to make where I interview every major league pitcher who threw a strike to Aaron Judge this year and ask each of them what made them think it would be a good idea to throw threw a strike to Aaron Judge this year. Varland is already headed back to triple A, but now that Tyler Mahle is back on the IL, he may get another chance sooner rather than later. Is there reason to expect continued success? Always hard to say with these young pitchers, especially with a guy who pretty much came out of nowhere (he was a 15th round pick in 2019) to successfully burst onto the double A/triple A scene this year. He had 146 Ks in 126.1 innings in the minors this year, but his 1.26 WHIP may raise a bit of a red flag. Still, I can see him as a deep league flyer, especially given the epic disappointments some of my “good” starters have been over the last few weeks.
Lewis Brinson. In case you haven’t been following Brinson’s career trajectory over the last year or so (spoiler alert: it’s not pointing up), he was DFA’d by the Marlins over the off-season, was signed by the Astros in March but never appeared in a major league game for them, and is now a member of the San Francisco Giants. It’s been over five years since the now-28 year old first appeared in the majors, and there’s no metric that wouldn’t count him as one of the bigger prospect busts in recent memory. Back to what we’re here for, though… Brinson somehow is 5 for 15, with three homers, in his first five games with San Francisco. Post hype prospect/scenery change breakout? Or one of the more random teeny tiny sample size anomalies of the season? I’m going with the latter, but that doesn’t mean Brinson isn’t worth a quick glance in the deepest of leagues if you’re desperate for an outfielder.
Ryne Nelson. Nelson made a splash this week in his major league debut starting for the Diamondbacks (7 shoutout innings with no walks, 7 Ks against the Padres) and, not coincidentally, is now up to 8% owned in CBS leagues. I’m having trouble deciding how I feel about Nelson both for what’s left of the season and beyond, so I’ve grabbed him in a league or two but am proceeding with a healthy dose of skepticism. A couple pros (in addition to his impressive debut): he evidently made some solid mechanical adjustments in the minors this year and greatly improved his command, plus there’s the fact that the D-Backs have been pretty good at helping pitchers realize their full potential lately. Well, Merrill Kelley anyway – if we’d all just drafted him in place of Berrios, Manaea, Giolito, or Trevor Rogers this year can you imagine where we’d be?! Anyhow, we’ll move on to the cons, or at least the ugly numbers from triple A: Nelson had a 5.43 ERA, a 1.39 WHIP, and 128 Ks in 136 innings in the minors this year. Are these numbers meaningless since he was pitching in the comically hitter friendly PCL? Maybe… as I said, I’m going to give him a look, but I’m also going to try to temper my expectations about both how much he can help to close out 2022, and his ultimate future.
Ben DeLuzio. I’m not going to pretend that I know much about DeLuzio, but I do know that he is in the St. Louis Cardinals’ starting lineup and playing center field (though he’s listed as a shortstop for most fantasy purposes) as I write this Thursday morning. (First of all, if the 10%-owned-and-rising Alec Burleson is available in your league, and if you’re in a deep NL-only league I’m assuming that’s unlikely at this point, you’ll want to at least consider giving him a look since it sounds like he’ll be getting regular playing time in the Cardinals’ outfield after an impressive run at triple A). But back to DeLuzio, who like Kreidler above, may be much lower profile, but much easier to obtain. He’s a rule 5 guy who was hitting .277 (.353 OBP) in the minors, with 9 homers and… wait for it… 30 steals. Even with sporadic playing time, he could be an option in the deepest leagues for those starved for speed.