Now that we’re finally down to the final weekend of the regular season, here’s hoping you’ve already locked up a fantasy title or two (or, like me, have a couple of leagues that are going to excitingly but excruciatingly come down to the final at bats and pitches of the year). But if you haven’t had much to play for recently, you may have missed some of the less splashy guys who have been performing well at the major league level over the last month of two of 2019. And whether or not you’ve achieved fantasy baseball glory this year, as far as I’m concerned, it’s never too late to look forward to 2020. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a handful of players, in no particular order whatsoever, who are relatively under the radar, but have ended the season on a high note and might be of interest to us deep-leaguers (and maybe even some medium and shallow-ish leaguers) next spring.
Garrett Hampson. Hampson was a pre-season sleeper due mainly to his (mostly speed-related) impressive minor league numbers, but he didn’t exactly pan out early on for anyone who invested in him on draft day. But those of us who gave up on him months ago might be interested to hear just how impressively he’s finishing up the season: over the last two weeks, he’s put up some fairly ridiculous numbers, hitting .400 with 5 homers and 7 steals.
Jairo Diaz. Okay, I’ve probably been talking about Diaz way too much, and he gave me a horrible tummy punch at the worst possible time a week or two ago, putting up an ugly 4-spot of runs in a blown save. But overall I think he’s been impressive since being handed the closer reigns in Colorado, and he just has an air of confidence about him when he’s on the mound that feels like one of those intangible things that could get him further in his major league career than most people expected. I don’t know what his role will be in 2020, but he’ll be on my radar one way or another.
Tommy Edman. Edman feels like one of those guys who won’t get drafted in many leagues next year even if he’s on the Cardinals opening day roster if he doesn’t ‘have a place to play.’ In deep and deep-ish leagues, I’ll have my eye on him whether he has a position to open 2020 or not; he’s just been too productive for too long now to not at least take some notice for the future. A guy who’s hitting .299 with 11 homers and 14 steals in 314 at bats, all while remaining unfazed playing in the midst of a pennant race? Yes, please.
Mauricio Dubon. Dubon is concluding 2019 as the Giants’ every-day second baseman, and one would presume he’ll open 2020 in that situation at well. The reports on him seemed to be that he’s a solid but not spectacular hitter with good fundamentals but without tons of power or speed, which is pretty much what we’ve seen so far: he’s hitting .280 in 27 games, with 4 homers and 3 steals. Actually, that projects to 24 home runs and 18 stolen bases over the course of a full season, which is pretty great for a middle infielder. Those numbers seem somewhat lofty and I’m not going to reach for him next year, but I do suspect he’ll end up on an NL-only team of mine or two assuming the price is right.
Nick Anderson. I paid a buck for Anderson in an NL-only auction keeper league this year, and I’ve kept him in my lineup from day one. His first half in Miami was so-so but I held on to him hoping for saves, which never materialized. I held him for the same reason when he was traded to the Rays, and though those saves never materialized either, he has pitched well enough that I think he deserves mention. He’s 29 now but we’ve all seen a late-blooming reliever turn into a star a la Kirby Yates, and Anderson would have been an outright star this summer if he’d been pitching in the 9thinning for a high-profile team. He’s been close to perfect since his arrival in Tampa Bay, and in 27.1 innings since the all star break, he’s rocking a 2.32 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP, with a whopping 52 strikeouts. How many real-life teams are kicking themselves for not grabbing him at the trade deadline?
Austin Hays. Reports in early September suggested that Hays would play in the Arizona Fall League rather than get called up to the big club, but evidently the Orioles changed their minds, and Hays is making the most of his opportunity. A 2-homer game on Monday gave him 4 homers in 16 games and upped his average to .302, and he’s also made about 5 web gems in the last couple of weeks, for what it’s worth. It seems like his days as a promising prospect were ages ago after a couple of injury-filled seasons, but he’s still only 24. I’m not sure why everyone complains about how bad the Orioles are, because from a fantasy perspective I’ve found them to be an organization veritably littered with hitting gems (I love you Jonathan Villar and Trey Mancini!), and I will be anxiously waiting to see how things shake out with the team next spring as I continue to mine Baltimore for fantasy help in 2020.
Tyler Duffey. I’m not sure Duffey will ever have a stretch like the one he’s had lately, and even if he does it may not make him fantasy relevant per se, but I have got to give the guy a shout out here. I kind of randomly grabbed him from the zero-dollar FAAB bargain big and stuck him in my lineup in my deepest AL-only league 6 or 7 weeks ago (he’s a middle reliever for the Twins, by the by), and he has been completely lights out ever since. Dude has not allowed an earned run since July 23rd (23.2 innings pitched since then), and he has 80 Ks in 56.2 innings on the season. July 23rd! That’s insane!
Luis Arraez. Arraez is more about consistency than a hot finish, as his average has never dipped below .332 in his two MLB stints this year, the first of which started on May 18th. I’m not really sure what to make of him from a fantasy perspective, since he seems to be the “more valuable in real-life baseball than fantasy” type. We’ll see where he fits in with the Twins next year (this year he played 49 games at 2B, 16 at 3B, 8 at SS, and 21 in the outfield), but anyone who has been able to maintain a .339 average over 322 at bats in the big leagues has my attention. Even if the power and speed never get fully turned on, and he proves to be just a singles machine, there could be a place for him on a deep-league roster.