I don’t know about you, but I’ve been finding it more difficult than ever this year to analyze both disappointing starts and players who’ve had a surprisingly good first few weeks. Perhaps it’s the new rules and pitch clock, with players like Manny Machado and Juan Soto freely admitting that they’ve had some trouble adjusting. Is feeling rushed why so many pitchers, from starters to middle relievers, just haven’t looked quite comfortable on the mound (man, did I overestimate Alex Vesia’s ability to help me to begin the year)? Whatever the case, it almost makes it a relief in my deeper leagues, where I have rosters dotted with injuries, surprise demotions, and ice-cold starts. In some ways, it would be nice to have plentiful waiver wire options to fill in the blanks, but for now, I’m hoping that not having those options will lead to me holding at least one or two players who I would have cut otherwise, but can’t because I just have no one to replace them with. In the meantime, we’ll keep pressing on and trying to find additional help, remembering that even in the deepest leagues there’s someone out there who might positively add to our rosters, and even if we feel like blind squirrels, we’re bound to stumble upon a nut from time to time, as the saying goes. I feel like we’re already in the lull between “waiver wire picked clean after some surprise hot starts” and “maybe there will be some interesting call-ups in a month or two,” but let’s take our weekly look at some true deep league names, all of whom this week are 5% owned or less, according to CBS.


Pavin Smith. Since I only have Jake McCarthy on one team, I hadn’t really noticed his horrible start or, more importantly, the fact that he hasn’t been playing every day. Smith, on the other hand, has been red hot and seems to have earned himself semi-regular playing time in Arizona for the time being. Smith has started the year 8 for 21 and already has 2 homers and 10 RBI, plus he’s only struck out 4 times against 3 walks. Given the depth in the Arizona outfield, he was barely a blip on even the deepest league radar heading into the season. But at this point, even once he cools down a bit, he could be a deep-league OF option for the foreseeable future.

Jose Barrero. Barrero may have finally realized that there are about a dozen incredibly talented infielders breathing down his neck in the Reds’ minor league system, because he has, well, not completely sucked for about a week now. He’s still piling up the Ks, but he has a homer, a steal, and 8 RBI on the year, and as I write this he’s hitting .263 over his last 5 games. The number that really stands out is his .391 OBP over that little span, so I’m intrigued enough to keep an eye on him in case he has finally turned a corner with the plate discipline and can actually manage to establish himself as a competent regular in Cincinnati this year. In addition to 11 games at short so far, Barrero has played in 5 in the outfield, so he may get a little value boost in some deeper leagues if and when he qualifies at both MI and OF.

Sam Hilliard. I picked up and immediately dropped Hilliard in my deepest NL-only league at the start of the season, and have already regretted that drop. Another owner swooped in quickly, and has been enjoying Hilliard’s very solid first few weeks: .375 AVG/.474 OBP, with a homer and 3 steals. He’s not going to suddenly turn into a season-long every day regular for the Braves, but I do think he’ll continue to accumulate at bats when the matchups are right and while filling in due to injuries, rest, and poor performance by his fellow outfielders… really would like to go back in time and just keep him as my 5th OF in that deep NL-only league.


Leody Taveras. Wasn’t going to include him in this post since I assumed he was more than 5% rostered, yet he checks in at exactly 5% owned so I’m gonna blurb away. After a late start to the season due to an oblique injury, Taveras started his year 2-18, keeping him completely under the fantasy radar.  He showed sudden signs of life, though, with a 3-hit game on Wednesday, and I think he’ll see plenty of playing time moving forward. If you grab him and his hitting continues to disappoint he’s an easy drop, but if he finds a groove you might be glad you stashed him while you could. He doesn’t exactly profile as a fantasy monster and the AVG/OBP will be a liability — but a little pop, decent speed, and a handful of counting stats aren’t out of the question as the season continues.

Corey Julks. Much like Pavin Smith, Julks suddenly is getting playing time in what we thought would be a very crowded outfield (Houston’s, that is) due to several injuries. He’s 17 for his first 43 and has turned some heads with two homers. He has 17 strikeouts already, though, and just as problematically hasn’t drawn a single walk. This coupled with the theoretical return of some of the hurt Astros has me pessimistic that his future is particularly bright when it comes to long-term fantasy value of any kind, but he might suffice as a temporary, very deep league fill-in.

Michael A. Taylor. Sure feels broken-record-ish to mention Taylor, but somehow he has yet again managed to find himself on the very deep-league outfield radar. He’s been a major leaguer for about 8 years now, and if you could pick and choose a few weeks at a time from each of those seasons to make one patchworked season, it would be an incredibly impressive fantasy year. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works, but if you’re desperate for outfield help now, Taylor is getting playing time with the Twins and is off to a nice start, with 3 homers and a steal already. I don’t think I need to tell you that those stats alone have technically given him more 5×5 value so far than some fellows that we all drafted higher than we’d like to think about right now.