This is it, friends! We’re almost at the end of the line for regular season baseball in 2022, and I hope the season has treated you well. If it hasn’t, well, at least we had a season… remember back in March when it actually looked like it might not happen at all? Anyhow, I want to use this little bit of remaining time to give a huge shout-out to MattTruss and my fellow owners in RCLs 26 and 39. How Truss is able to not only run the RCLs, but also keep up with numerous teams, dominating most of his leagues while he’s at it, is almost beyond comprehension. Meanwhile, I knew I overstretched myself with the number of teams I drafted this spring while anxiously awaiting lockout news, but I thought I’d be able to make up for it with a strong late-season push. What I wasn’t expecting was the often wire-to-wire commitment that so many of my fellow owners put in this year as they secured their places at or near the top of the standings. I am incredibly impressed by the group in RCL #39, and while I knew I was going to be going toe to toe with some incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated owners in #26 (including Young Guns, who was #5 in the overall competition in Truss’s post this week!), they far exceeded my expectations. And that doesn’t even touch on the insanely fun and competitive Night of the Living Zombinos RCL, which could have warranted its own daily post all season long to discuss all of the smart and timely batty calls, heartbreaking son-of-a-benches, and soul-crushing injuries.
I know many of us are already thinking about next spring, so as we close things out in 2022, let’s take a look at some hot finishers who are largely under the fantasy radar. While some of these players may not make any fantasy impact at all in 2023, I always like to at least be aware of who had a surprisingly solid end to the year as the first step in next year’s draft prep; it’s just one more tool we can use to evaluate players when the time comes. And if it’s a tool that others don’t have in their boxes because they were checked out of what was going on in baseball the previous September, all the better!
Livan Soto. I feel like I’ve heard a lot of folks talking about Soto lately, so I was quite surprised to see he’s at “1% owned/0% started” in CBS leagues. I was also surprised to see how well he’s been hitting: in his first 10 games/29 at bats playing shortstop for the Angeles, he’s got a .379 average with a homer, 5 RBI, and a steal. Obviously that AVG number is unsustainable, especially given that Soto has plenty of swing and miss to his game. But, he had a better year in the minors than I’d realized (an impressive .281 average with a just-as-impressive .379 OBP, with 6 HRs and 18 SBs), given that I’d gotten the vibe that much if not most of his real-life value was in his defense. We’ll see how real Soto’s offensive improvements are, but the incredibly good first impression he’s making is worth noting.
Conner Capel (2% owned in CBS leagues). I was going to mention Capel this week anyway, as it’s always worth at least a quick deep-league glance to check in on new faces on bad teams (he’s an outfielder for the A’s). What I didn’t realize what just how hot he’s been at the plate (unless a .474 average/.524 OBP/.895 SLG with 2 homers and 7 RBI doesn’t appeal to you). Yes, it’s a grand total of 19 at bats, but Mark Kotsay has also gone on record saying lots of positive things about Capel’s makeup and whatnot for whatever that’s worth, so why not file all this info away somewhere? It’s also interesting, to me at least, that his good-but-not great season in the minors this year included 21 stolen bases.
Reese McGuire (3% owned). I’m pretty sure I’m the only person on the planet currently thinking about whom I might draft as my second catcher in AL-only leagues next March, but that is indeed what I’m doing right now, which brings us to this blurb on McGuire. With Christian Vasquez out of Boston, McGuire has picked up plenty of playing time, and I can see giving him a look next year in deep leagues whether it looks like he’ll be starting regularly or not. A .271 average over 84 games this year is a great place to start in finding a deep-league catcher who won’t hurt you even if he doesn’t help you much. And since we’re looking at strong finishers, it’s time to point out that McGuire has been truly excellent over the last three weeks, with a .320 average, .393 OBP, and three homers.
Hayden Wesneski. At 13% owned, these next two players have a significantly higher ownership level than their AL counterparts on this list, but they’ve both played so well of late that the numbers should probably be much higher than that. Even in slightly shallower keeper leagues where you have room to add, no reason not to get in on the ground floor now in case they pan out in the future, and they are easy drops if they don’t. Wesneski came to the Cubs via a super low-profile trade from the Yankees (for Scott Efross); he was projected to be a bullpen guy but Wade Miley’s injury opened up a rotation spot for him soon after he arrived. He’s been great so far with his new team: in 27 innings (3 starts and 2 relief appearances), he’s got a 2.33 ERA/0.96 WHIP, with 6 walks and 27 Ks. He’s outperforming both his peripherals and his minor league numbers (he was having a very good but not spectacular year at triple A: 3.92 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 106 Ks, 36 BBs in 110.3 innings), but the analytics types tell me that he has an impressively low hard-hit rate. That combined with his initial success in the big leagues probably may make him worth a deep-league watch heading into 2023.
Bryan De La Cruz. De La Cruz has been available in my shallower NL-only keeper league for a while, so I finally picked him up just in case he heads into next year with a regular OF gig for the Marlins, and just in case he replicates some of the production he’s had over the last month or so. He’s been on fire since returning from triple A in August — his last 28 games, for those that haven’t noticed, have been borderline ridiculous: .421 average, .453 OBP, with 12 runs scored, 5 homers, and 17 RBI. Did the 25-year-old figure something out after he was demoted, and finally find a way to translate his impressive minor league numbers (1860 ABs: .277 AVG/.346 OBP/32 HR/38 SB) to success with the big club long term? I’m not sure yet, but I’ll likely be monitoring him next spring.