Happy mid-September, friends! The excitement that was in the air this spring as we headed into a full year of baseball after 2020’s bizarre mini-season feels like it happened a lifetime ago; we’re at that point of the year where it’s just about impossible to care about your fantasy baseball teams if they’re stuck at or near the bottom of the standings. Congratulations to everyone who is still in the thick of things with something to play for as we enter the home stretch, and let’s do what we like to do here — this week we’ll stick to the National League, as we look at a few NL hitters of varying ownership levels that may be of interest to those in deep — or maybe even slightly shallower — leagues.
Lane Thomas. Thomas is
11% owned 14% owned in CBS leagues, so long gone in your NL-only/ultra deep league I’m sure. But let’s lede him up this week so that we can chat about him for a moment as a deep-ISH option, and also take a pause to think about if he’s a guy we might like to target next year. I’m going to cut right to the chase and say yes, I will think about targeting him next year, even though I’ll likely be doing so with tempered expectations. He looks like he might be exactly who we thought he was a couple of years ago: a guy with a dicey injury history, enough power and speed to make you take a look but not enough to get terribly excited about, who’s probably a 4th outfielder on a team with better options. The Nationals haven’t had better options lately though, so we’re seeing what Thomas can do with every day playing time. I’m encouraged by the number of walks he’s drawing (his current average is .238 but his OBP is.349), and if he can convince Washington that he deserves to be one of their regular outfielders in 2022 (his age 27 season, for what it’s worth), my guess is we’re looking at a 20/20 year that doesn’t kill your average as a ceiling. Getting back to 2021, Thomas is about as hot a hitter as you’ll find of late; over the last two weeks he comes up as the 4th most valuable NL outfielder in terms of 5×5 stats — he’s hitting .298 with 4 homers and 12 RBI over that time. I can see riding with him over the next three weeks in just about any size league in case he stays hot, and since the Nationals have no reason not to run him out there every day to get as good a look at him as possible.
Seth Beer. I’m not sure if Beer was on my radar for my keeper leagues a few years ago because he was actually an intriguing prospect, or just because he has a super memorable name. Reminding myself that Beer was a first round pick of the Astros in 2018 (he went to the Diamondbacks in the 2019 Zack Greinke deal), I’m thinking it’s a little of both. He’s still carrying enough prospect clout that he’s 9% owned despite only having 8 major league at bats (he’s gotten hits, including one homer, in four of those ABs), but I feel like he’s relatively under the radar as we finish up 2021 and might also be as we head into 2022. It would be hard for Beer not to be at least somewhat off the grid given the fact that he’s A) on the Diamondbacks, a team most people are paying little attention to either for real-life baseball or the fantasy variety and B) that whole no minor league season last year thing. Beer had an excellent season in triple A this year, though, hitting .287 with a .398 OBP and 16 home runs. He’s a left-handed hitter who may only face righties, at least for the time being, but he could be a sneaky source of a little pop as the year winds down, as well as a name to watch in 2022.
Alfonso Rivas. Let’s switch gears slightly and get right back to our super-deep roots and move on to two players who are currently listed as 0% owned in CBS leagues (though one thing they both have in common is that they were both picked up in free agent bidding in at least one of my NL-only leagues over the weekend). The first is Rivas, a first baseman for the Cubs who’s been called up but — and here’s a phrase I wouldn’t have predicted I’d type in 2021 — is currently blocked by the Cubs most productive hitter of late, current first baseman Frank Schwindel. Rivas is 25 and came over from the A’s last year in a thorougly non-memorable trade for Tony Kemp. He hit .284 (with an impressive .405 OBP) in 187 at bats in the minors this year (he had a total of four homers and doesn’t steal bases, so don’t start getting too excited about counting stats). He only has 25 official at bats in the majors this year, but he’s hitting .280 and has already drawn 4 walks, which is nice to see if nothing else. I can see him being a better-than-nothing (very) deep league fill-in to close out the year.
Matt Vierling. Our second 0% owned guy is Vierling, a 24-year old outfielder who now has 31 MLB at bats for the Phillies after being up and down a few times this year. He’s listed as an outfielder (and has 12 OF appearances this year), but he’s also played 4 games at first for the banged-up Phillies — and that 1B designation makes it easy to overlook the fact that Vierling actually has profiled as a potential power/speed guy. He only has one steal for the Phillies in 2021, but he went 11/10 in 293 at bats in the minors this year and stole 22 in his 2019 (high A) season. He’s a righty whose at bats may be limited to facing only left handers for now, but could be an interesting name to plug into an NL-only type team to close out the year, and I wouldn’t completely lose sight of him for 2022 as well.