Summer officially begins next week, and hopefully, your fantasy offenses are starting to heat up along with the weather. The baseball season has already brought its fair share of disappointments, so here’s to a more bountiful deep-league waiver wire as more minor leaguers get looks, injury replacements emerge, and other fantasy owners whose teams are flailing lose interest. It’s getting more and more difficult to gauge what a ‘deep-league’ pick up looks like, given the enormous range of league setups, depth, rules, and roster construction, but we’ll keep doing what we do here and try to highlight some names that are on the lower end of the fantasy baseball ownership spectrum. This week we’ll take a look at players who are owned in 10% or less of CBS leagues, including a few who have made the biggest gains in ownership over the last week or so.
Tyler Wells. We’ll start with the highest owned player on this list, and Wells hit 10% ownership this week, up from 7% last week. He’s a 2022 Rule 5 pick who had a little heat as a potential sleeper for saves this winter, so it was a surprise to some when we learned that he’d get stretched out and join the Orioles’ rotation. His tenure as a starter has been a mixed bag so far, starting with a disastrous first outing where he gave up four earned runs and couldn’t get out of the second inning. Since then, he’s had mostly mediocre outings but they’ve added up to numbers that are more than respectable overall: 3.86 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 33 Ks and 11 walks in 53.2 innings. The incredibly low K rate will likely keep Wells from ever being a legit mixed league option, but since he’s still managed a solid 3.00 K/BB rate, I’ve given him a look not just on my AL-only team but a couple others as well. He could be a useful streamer depending on the matchup like he was when I streamed him in a 15-teamer last week against the Royals and was rewarded with a quality start/win. Turns out I should have kept it going: as I write this, Wells is finishing up another solid if not eye-popping start against a tough opponent, turning in six innings of one-run ball Thursday against the Blue Jays.
Matt Strahm. I don’t always mention relievers since that landscape gets so much attention on its own, but Strahm makes this list by being one of the most added under 10% players of the week, going from 2% to 9% owned. Anyone following the Boston bullpen situation even from afar knows it’s been a huge mess this year, and ‘closer-by-committee’ doesn’t really begin to cover it. No fewer than seven pitchers have saves for the Red Sox this season, though I didn’t realize until I looked it up that Strahm is the only one with three. Tanner Houck may be leading the committee for the moment (or he may not – who knows?!), but owners are adding Strahm both because of those three saves, and also because his pitching overall has been serviceable enough to provide some value, as he also has two vulture wins and 21 strikeouts in 18 innings.
Danny Mendick. Let’s drop right down to a 3% owned player, up from 1% last week. Mendick’s time filling in (and at times leading off) for Tim Anderson at short may be limited, but he’s proven to be a successful backup at least. He’s now hitting .287 on the season (80 at bats total) with 18 runs scored, 3 homers, 14 RBI, and a steal. He’s played four positions for the White Sox (18 at SS, 6 at 2B, plus 1 each at 3B and OF), so he should keep seeing at least some at bats as a utility player, and could continue to fill the proverbial ‘better than nothing’ role on deep league rosters.
Orlando Arcia. Arcia went from 1% to 3% to 8% over the course of 48 hours as I prepared this blurb; the result of course of his emergence as the regular/semi-regular second baseman for the Braves in light of Ozzie Albies’ foot injury. Arcia is no Albies, but he’s off to a great start trying to prove otherwise, hitting .375 with 3 homers and 12 RBI in 56 at bats. I’m leaving him on this list even as his ownership has risen and he may no longer be available in the deepest leagues because I think he’s at least worth a look in slightly shallower formats while we see how the playing time continues to develop, and what Arcia does with it. He only qualifies at OF in most formats going into the year but should add MI eligibility in many before too long, and I know I for one have been hurting at middle infield in a few leagues of various depths. Even if 2017, when he hit .277 with 15 homers and 14 steals in 506 ABs, was a career year for Arcia (and this is his age 27 year, so who knows), he could continue to provide decent production in a Braves lineup that is finally firing on all cylinders.
Matt Reynolds. The Reds’ utility man is up to 4% owned (from 1%) this week, even after Jonathan India’s surprise activation off the IL early this week. The vibe I’m getting out of Cincinnati is that they’ll keep trying to get Reynolds in the lineup if he keeps hitting, and he’s already appeared in a game at 1B, 26 at 2B, 11 at SS, 5 in the OF (and 2 on the mound, for what that’s worth). He’s also already been an under-the-radar deep league player who’s helped a little bit in all five roto categories this season: .270 average, 17 runs, 3 HR, 13 RBI, and 4 SBs.
Zach Thompson. I rostered Thompson in one league, a draft and hold from early in the winter, but have never had him in my active lineup. His numbers as a starter for the Pirates this year are bad, to put it simply: 4.50 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 18 BBs/39 Ks in 50 innings. But when I noticed that he made the gainers list this week – up 3% in CBS ownership, from 4 to 7%, I thought I’d take a look to see if he’s been making strides in the right direction. He’s only had one excellent start this year (6 scoreless, 1-hit innings against the Reds on May 14th), but his last three have been decent to good, including 5.2 innings against the Dodgers and 5 against the Braves, where he allowed 2 earned in each of those matchups. There are no underlying signs of a dominant pitcher here right now, but if he can continue to limit the hits and walks, he could be a serviceable deep league option, with the occasional slightly-less-deep-league stream, as 2022 progresses.
Nomar Mazara. I’m typing this as quickly as possible, and I’m afraid it still won’t be fast enough and Mazara’a hot streak will be over by the time you read this. Or, maybe it won’t, because the Padres are heading to Colorado for a three-game series this weekend. At any rate, Mazara feels worth a mention, because he’s been performing a lot more like a medium league option than a guy who’s still just 3% owned in CBS leagues (up from 2% last week). He’s been a huge help to one of my NL-only teams this week, but I also plugged him into one of my RCL lineups a few days ago, and I see no reason not to keep him there a while longer if he can do anything close to what he’s done of late while playing regularly against righties as the Padres designated hitter. In the last twelve days, his average has gone from .250 to .350, and after a homer on Thursday he has 9 RBI over that span. I’d like to go back and retroactively grab those RBI in about four other leagues!