Hey friends, can you believe it? It’s our last deep-league dive before the season starts. I don’t know about you, but I still have a couple drafts left – and after another long off-season, the last thing I want to do is miss any late injuries or spring training position battle surprise outcomes as I’m trying to get all of my rosters together this week. So, let’s press on and take one more look at a handful of players whose stock has risen at least a little bit of late, to the point where they may now be more prominently on the radar for those of us in NL-only, AL-only, and other deep leagues.
Adbert Alzolay. Not gonna lie, I’ve actually drafted Alec Mills in a few leagues, perhaps letting his 15 minutes of no hitter fame in 2020 blind me to his overwhelmingly mediocre skillset. You can never have too much starting pitching depth, as the kids say, so I may hold him in a deep NL-only league even after it’s been announced that he’ll start the season in the Cubs’ bullpen. Moving on to why we’re here, though, let’s take a look at Alzolay, a guy who unlike Mills HAS been named as a member of the Cubs’ starting rotation. Alzolay started four games last year for the Cubs after spending most of the mini season at their alternate site, and was generally effective (2.95 ERA/1.17 WHIP). Some of his underlying numbers were good (e.g. a 33% K rate) and others less so (he had a noticeably low BABIP that will probably correct itself into some overall uglier numbers this year). I’m a gal who’s never been much into guys with bad walk rates, and that’s the most concerning thing about Alzolay for my money… but I’m intrigued enough by the notion of Alzolay taking a step forward this year that I’ll end up rostering him in a very deep league or two, at least to open the season.
David Bote. Bote’s been handed a chance to play regularly at second base for the Cubs to open 2021 with the demotion of Nico Hoerner. The Cubs may have made the Hoerner decision for service time reasons, but it’s a justifiable one for the time being anyway, as Hoerner basically did nothing with his 48-game opportunity last year, and then got outplayed by Bote this spring to boot. While Bote’s shown mild power flashes in the past, he’s 27 now and feels like he should probably be a utility guy at best, but in the deepest leagues those of us chasing at bats will be watching to see if he can take advantage of the opportunity he’s being handed.
Kevin Newman. If you can stand to let yourself think back to the innocent, carefree days of late winter 2019/2020, you’ll recall that things were very different then. One thing that was different was that Newman actually had a little sleeper heat on him as a cheap middle infielder and decent contact hitter who might lead off for the Pirates and perhaps be a cheap source of steals. That dream, like many others we had during that long-ago era, was thoroughly crushed by the reality that was Newman’s 2020 season (he not only hit a miserable .224, he failed to steal a solitary base in 44 games). Getting back to our current reality, there are many aspects of life that I think will be better in 2021 than they were in 2020, and even though it’s not saying much I think I’m ready to add the fantasy stock of Newman to that list of potential improvements. He’s had a huge spring, which should guarantee him every day playing time to start the year (not that the Pirates have a ton of legit competition for him hanging around these days anway, but I digress). Who knows, maybe he’ll even get around to stealing a few of those bases that we thought he might swipe last year.
Enrique Hernandez. Kiké gets a late spring training bump after Red Sox manager Alex Cora basically said over the weekend that he’ll be the Red Sox leadoff hitter to start the season. I’m not convinced that Hernandez is one of those players that will suddenly be twice as valuable in fantasy if he’s getting twice as much playing time, so it will interesting to see how he adapts (will he learn to take a walk this year?) if he becomes anything close to an every day player. I’m doubtful, but he’s certainly worth keeping an eye on — when his power game is on and he gets on a tear, he can put up a ton of stats in a hurry (and the 2B/OF eligibility is always nice in deeper leagues).
Cedric Mullins. Mullins has had a meh spring (.265 with one homer), but that hasn’t stopped him from being penciled in at the top of the Orioles’ starting lineup pretty much on a daily basis. He has stolen three bases, and if the trend continues and he gets handed the leadoff gig when the games start counting, there could be some fantasy gold (or at least an amethyst or two?) to mine here. (Note: after I wrote this, I see Austin Hays hit leadoff in Monday’s spring game, so we’ll see how this lineup plays out… either way I wish I’d grabbed Mullins in more than one deep league, just in case).
David Dahl. It’s not really spring if we’re not taking a moment to dream about what could be for Dahl. All I know is he’s had a few nice games of late, and last I checked all of his limbs are properly attached (sorry if I’ve jinxed things and he’s hurt by the time you read this). We all know the story of how much promise was there and how likely it is that it will never come to fruition. I’m making Dahl my last official blurb of the spring, though, because I’ve realized that I absolutely must draft him in at least one deep league each year to avoid the heartache that will come with his breakout finally arriving during the one season that I’ve quit him entirely.