Hello again, deep-league friends! Get your calendars out and get ready. If things aren’t going exactly as planned as far as 2018 fantasy baseball goes, don’t sweat it — in case you haven’t heard, next year’s MLB season-opener will be the earliest in MLB history (not counting games out of the country). New baseball that counts will be here before you know it, with all thirty teams scheduled to play on March 28, 2019. And if that news isn’t exciting enough, there’s also going to be actual baseball even earlier than that: speaking of baseball games out of the country, the A’s and Mariners will be playing real games in Tokyo on March 20th and 21st. Just a little something to look forward to if your 2018 fantasy players haven’t been treating you so well (or even if they have). For now, let’s take our customary look at a few players from each league that might be of interest to those in AL-only, NL-only, and other deep leagues as we head into the final few weeks of 2018 major league baseball.
Hunter Dozier. Dozier’s been a bit lost in the September call-up shuffle (just 5% owned in CBS leagues), but he’s started six games in a row for the Royals as I write this. His strikeout rate, which is around 30% on the year, is atrocious, but over the last week he’s playing, and he’s hitting: .440 average with 2 homers over those aforementioned six games. I’m going out on a limb and predicting he’ll be at least 7% owned by next week!
Brandon Lowe. Lowe had a dreadful beginning to his MLB season after he was recalled about a month ago, including an 0 for 19 start. But things have been looking up significantly over the last couple of weeks: he’s playing regularly for the Rays, he probably qualifies at OF and 2B in your league, and he’s been showing a nice little combo of speed and power (3 HR, 12 RBI, and 2 steals in 21 total games now).
Matt Shoemaker. Don’t look now, but Shoemaker looked great upon his return from the DL after being out of commission for five months with some scary-sounding surgery on his forearm. Okay, I guess you should look now, if you really need a deep-league starter. His velocity was as high as it’s been since 2016, so who knows, maybe there is something to see here over the last weeks of 2018.
John Andreoli. Andreoli isn’t playing every day, but is getting at least a little look-see in the Orioles outfield. He’s 28 years old and another 0% owned, true deep-league guy, but he had a nice season in AAA (.287 with just 3 homers, but, of most interest for our purposes, 19 stolen bases).
Patrick Wisdom. He’s about as under-the-radar as they come, still 0% owned in CBS leagues, but he now has 3 homers in 24 at bats for the Cardinals. Can’t imagine he’ll get an enormous amount of playing time down the stretch, but the Cards are one of those teams that just seem to continually spawn random guys who produce for little stretches of time… and Wisdom feels like a guy who could hit 2 bombs on the last day of the season for my fantasy opponent in an NL-only league, causing a 2-point swing in the HR standings and knocking me out of the money.
Chris Shaw. Starting, at least against righties, in the even-more-depleted-than-usual, Andrew McCutchen-less Giants outfield down the stretch. He’s opened his call-up by going 1 for 10, so that’s a bit disappointing, but he did hit his first homer (which was also his first major league hit) the other day coming off the bench in Colorado. Doesn’t seem like he should get full credit for that given the rarified air and all, but I guess it’s better than having your first MLB hit be a swinging bunt that you beat out, or you first homer being hit off of Mark Grace (an asterisk that David Ross will have to live with for the rest of his life). At any rate, it’s hard to get too excited about what we’ve seen from Shaw so far, but he could be a place to turn if you just need some at bats in the NL-only world.
Jesse Chavez. Do you ever look up a player, wondering who he is, and find yourself surprised to see that he’s on your team? Probably not, since you most likely don’t have, ahem, quite as many fantasy baseball teams as I do. But this did happen to me with Chavez, who, for the uninitiated, is a reliever for the Cubs. What a 35-year old guy with a career ERA/WHIP of 4.50/1.35 WHIP is doing pitching near the back-end of a contending team’s bullpen with a 1.07 WHIP on the year and 81 strikeouts in 82 innings is one of the mysteries of baseball that I can’t explain. I’ve grabbed Chavez in a couple NL-only leagues where one save could make a difference but nothing remotely resembling a closer is available… Chavez does have 3 of them on the year, and with Brandon Morrow seemingly down for the count, who knows what craziness could happen in a Joe Maddon-run bullpen over the next few weeks.
Justin Miller/Tommy Hunter. Two more relievers, for the Nats and Phils respectively, who are probably third or even fourth on their team’s closer depth charts, but have been pitching really well and if things break right could steal a save in September. When you’re in a league where Seranthony Dominguez, Pat Neshek, Hector Neris, an injured Sean Doolittle, Greg Holland, and Koda Glover are already owned, ya gotta dig deep! (And if any of those guys are available in a league where you are beyond desperate for saves, some of them might be worth a look-see).
Joe Ross. I’m not exactly optimistic about Ross’s chances for a dominant start on Friday when he’s scheduled to face the Cubs, but he still feels like a name that us NL-only folks might want to have on our radars, especially when looking towards the future. A once-promising starter just coming off of Tommy John surgery can lead to all kinds of outcomes, but like I said, deep-league radar, and all.