We’re one-third of the way through the 2019 baseball season, and let’s remember one thing: it is really, really difficult to predict what major league baseball players are going to do. I just looked up the stats on starting pitchers this year in terms of who has provided the most standard, 5×5 fantasy baseball value so far in 2019. I am now going to jot a few names down to keep with me at next year’s drafts, as a reminder that no matter how dire things look in the middle of a draft or auction, there are options out there, even in the deepest of leagues. So far this season, Justin Verlander ranks number one in 5×5 fantasy pitching value so far, which is not a huge surprise. He is followed by three players who may have had injury/age concerns, but whom we all knew could be great: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Grienke, and Stephen Strasburg. Then, things get interesting, as the next three guys probably were not even drafted in standard leagues: Jake Odorizzi, Lucas Giolito, and Matthew Boyd. Are all three of these guys overperforming and due for some serious regression? Perhaps. (Though I’ve become a pretty big Matthew Boyd fan and am heavily invested… fingers crossed). But even two months of top-10 level production from them is enough to make a huge impact on a deep-league fantasy team, as those of you who own any of them probably know. Just something to keep in mind in future drafts, while for now we stay focused on 2019 and look to see who might be out there that could be of interest to those of us in NL-only, AL-only, and other deep leagues.
DJ Stewart. It looks like Stewart will see some time in the Orioles’ outfield, with Trey Mancini covering first in the wake of Chris Davis’s hip injury. Stewart was having a great season in triple A, hitting .316 (.425 OBP) with 8 homers and 4 steals, and in 2017 he was the first (AA) Bowie Baysox player ever to go 20/20. Even with the acquisition of Keon Broxton and the more-than-respectable performances of Dwight Smith Jr. and Stevie Wilkerson, there should be a fair number of at bats for all involved as the O’s try to figure out what their outfield of the future might look like.
Devin Smeltzer. Smeltzer’s a 23-year-old, left-handed starting pitcher for the Twins who has made one big league start and looked awfully good doing it. He pitched 6 scoreless innings against a tough offense (i.e. the Brewers), with 7 strikeouts and nary a walk. Our friends at Rotographs recently called him a “peripheral prospect,” which sounds pretty good to me for a guy who’s unowned in my AL-only keeper league. He’s averaged almost exactly a strikeout per inning in the minors, doesn’t walk a ton of guys, and it looks like he’ll get at least one more start for Minnesota in the very near future.
Zach Plesac. Much of Smeltzer’s blurb could also apply to Plesac (though Plesac is a 24-year-old righty on the Indians), given that Smeltzer has made one great good start against a strong offensive team (in this case, the Red Sox). Plesac pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up one run on 4 hits and a walk (2 Ks). As with Smeltzer, it’s been announced that Plesac will get at least one more turn in the rotation after he’d gotten off to a spectacular start in the minors: in 37 1/3 double A + 20 triple A innings this year, he had a 1.41 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and 57 Ks.
JaCoby Jones. I drafted Jones in a couple deep leagues last year looking for cheap speed… he did wind up with not only 13 steals, but 11 homers as well on the season (129 games), but his .207 average scared me away indefinitely. Now, I’m tempted to give him one more try, despite the fact that he’s only hitting .218 this year (.291 OBP). I just can’t help but wonder if there might be a 20/20 type guy in there somewhere if he can find a way to get on base with some regularity and get in a groove at the plate. I’m not overly optimistic that that’s going to happen, but it’s worth noting that as I write this, Jones has a 6-game hitting streak and is 10 for his last 23.
Elias Diaz. Diaz got off to a slow start this year after missing most of spring training with an illness, but now seems to be rounding into form. He’s been the Pirates’ starting catcher over the last week or so with Francisco Cervelli on the IL due to concussion issues, and is now hitting .265 on the year (83 at bats). While he doesn’t have a homer yet, one would think we’d see some power from him before too long given that he had 10 HRs in 82 games last year. Given Cervelli’s history with concussions, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Diaz continue to get regular playing time, but he could provide some deep league value this summer even in a limited role.
Matt Beaty. I’m not sure where the Dodgers keep finding under the radar guys who make a sudden and surprising impact at the major league level, but we can add Beaty to that list as he’s now appeared in 13 games over the last 2 weeks. He’s hitting .303 and had a 3-hit game Wednesday in the Dodgers’ come-from-behind, walk-off victory over the Mets. Beaty’s minor league numbers show a solid average without much speed or power – not so tempting from a fantasy perspective. If he can manage to keep hitting, though, Dave Roberts will find at bats for him, and at bats in one of baseball’s best offensive lineups are always tempting from a deep-league fantasy perspective.
Franchy Cordero. Cordero has been sidelined most of the season with an elbow injury, but after weeks of radio silence from the Padres as to its severity, he’s begun a minor-league rehab assignment. He was off to a nice 5 for 15 start this year before he got hurt, and one would think he’d get a pretty good shot at semi-regular at bats once he’s back, given his status as a left-handed batting centerfielder, coupled with the fact that Manny Margot has basically been a disaster at the plate this year. In his 246 major league at bats, Cordero is only hitting .240, but he’s a guy who can steal a base or pop a homer if you’re searching for some deep-league counting stats.
Greg Garcia. Sticking with the Padres, I felt the need to at least mention Garcia as my “0 to 1% owned” type guy this week. He’s done a fine job as a fill in with Fernando Tatis Jr., hurt, and Ian Kinsler and Ty France struggling at the plate – in the last week, he’s gotten starts at second, third, and even DH when the Padres were playing the Yankees in New York. No, he’s not going to pile up the homers or steals, but he’s been better than nothing for me in a couple of NL-only leagues where I’ve been dealing with multiple injuries and have holes in my lineups, as he’s now scored 18 runs (and has 2 homers and 10 RBI) this season.