Happy Labor Day, deep-league friends! Hope you’re out of the path of any stormy weather and that the weekend treats you well, whether you are laboring or kicking up your heels as we head into the final month of baseball. I’ve noticed my virtual inboxes filling with fantasy football offers, announcements, and other updates, which of course means just one thing to me: even more folks will be tuning out of their less successful baseball leagues. Hopefully, this will lead to a better opportunity for those of us who are still paying attention to find a hidden gem — or at least a mildly useful player — to help us either in 2023 or 2024. Let’s take our weekly look at some deep league players (all under 10% owned in CBS leagues) who’ve recently had ownership bumps and/or have been playing surprisingly well of late:
Slade Cecconi. Cecconi has been pitching extremely well for the Diamondbacks lately for those that haven’t taken notice; in 21 innings (3 starts) he’s rocking a 2.57 ERA/0.90 WHIP. He’s only got 14 Ks in those 21 innings, which is quite the red flag, but he’s also only walked 4 so that kind of control, even in a tiny sample size, always gets a huge gold star in my book. His minor league career WHIP/ERA are basically horrible, but he does have a decent K rate, with 294 in 291 innings, versus only 81 walks. So, it’s really difficult to predict how this one’s gonna turn out either in the short term or long term — but since he’s been pitching more effectively than most starters on most of my teams of late (and by “of late” I mean all season long), he may deserve a closer look.
Zach Thompson. Thompson is one of the only other starters who has had a significant ownership jump over the last week but remains under our 10% threshold, going from 5 to 8% owned. He’s planted in the Cardinals rotation for now, and the fact that he’s gone just four or five innings in all of his last 5 starts, for a team not winning a ton of games no less, shows us just how slim the pickings out there are these days. Thompson is walking way too many guys — 4 in his last start alone, which almost makes me physically ill — but he’s also getting strikeouts, with 47 in 39 innings. His 1.54 WHIP suggests to me that his 3.92 ERA is more likely to get higher rather than lower by season’s end, but he hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of those four last starts. If you really need a starter to help you with wins and/or Ks, perhaps he’ll be able to piece a few more decent outings together.
Carter Kieboom. I just recently mentioned Kieboom, but feel the need to double down. I didn’t grab him in either of my NL-only keeper leagues and perhaps it’s just as well — he may just be an albatross that I wouldn’t know what to do within the off-season. But I’m starting to wish I’d gotten at least one share of him, just in case he’s finally healthy heading into next year and suddenly looks like the starting third baseman the Nationals have been dreaming about for what seems like forever now. And that doesn’t even count the help he could give me in September if he keeps hitting. He only has 22 at bats since his recall, but he’s hitting .273 with 3 homers, which is more than enough to get my attention for the time being. If nothing else, I’m thinking I might draft him at the end of one of my super early, 50-round type draft and hold leagues.
Jake Cave. Looking at 5×5 roto production for hitters over the last two weeks, there are only two players in the top 40 who are less than 10% owned; D.J. Stewart, whom we chatted about last week, and Cave, who checks in at #37. It’s hard to recommend him in even deeper leagues since most of that came almost two weeks ago in a hot three-game stretch where he had 2 homers; he hasn’t been playing a ton and hasn’t been hitting much when he has played since then. He could still end up being an option in the deep league ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ world, though, as a veteran who qualifies at 1B and OF in most leagues and should continue to see at least part-time at bats against righties as the currently-hot Phillies march towards the playoffs.
Michael A. Taylor. I knew old friend Taylor had been hitting well lately, but he’s been even better than I’d realized as he checks in as the 14th most valuable AL player in terms of 5×5 roto value over the last two weeks. His hot streak may be over, but he’s only owned in 8% of CBS leagues so given that he’s a guy on a team that’s playing well, who can pop a homer and/or steal a base on any given day, he could be a deep-ish league rest-of-season option rest. I’m playing him in a 15-team league where I just need to kind of hold and stay put in the offensive categories to finish in the money, so I’m hoping that Taylor can do me more good than harm on that front over the final month of the season.
Connor Wong. Wong has had a small jump in ownership lately, from 3 to 5%, likely I guess just because he’s a healthy catcher who is playing semi-regularly and not destroying one’s average. There’s something appealing about a .250 hitter at your second catcher spot if you’re fighting for average points and need someone who’s not going to hurt you in that category more than he’s helping in others, particularly if you don’t really have points to gain or lose in those other categories anyway. This is at least the third season in a row where I’ve just flat-out gone without a second catcher in leagues where I’m in a batting average dogfight, but picking up a guy like Wong where available might be an alternate option.
Ryan McKenna. McKenna is a 0% player, and probably rightfully so given his lack of a path to playing time in the Baltimore outfield. He’s been on a tiny little tear recently, though, with 4 RBI and 3 steals over two games earlier this week, one of which he didn’t even start. He could be a not horrible end-of-your-roster option in deep leagues where you’re looking for whatever counting stats you can find (particularly steals) as the Orioles roll toward October, especially if that roll includes some regular resting of their outfield regulars.