Since we’re slowly but surely inching forward to the halfway point of the baseball season, I’m going to toss out a friendly reminder to pay attention to your categories. In standard format leagues, you probably know by now where you can gain points and where you just need to maintain your numbers. In one of my shallower leagues, I was looking at 2-start pitchers heading into the week in a standard attempt to pad my stats, and realized I hadn’t closely checked the standings in a while. Lo and behold, I have a rather comfy lead in both wins and strikeouts in that league (but could use a little help in ERA and WHIP), so at this point it makes no sense for me to go for quantity over quality. I’m leaving Jake Odorizzi and his 2 starts on my bench this week so that I could get Hector Rondon in my lineup, since I do need saves and I don’t trust Odorizzi to do enough in the ERA/WHIP department this week where I’m comfortable he’ll help me rather than hurt me in those categories.
Of course I would drool at the thought of having a spare part like Odorizzi in an AL-only league. But since there’s not going to be anyone like that floating around on waivers in the deepest of leagues, we’ll get back to reality. The waiver wire in my deepest leagues continues to be extra thin of late, but here’s this week’s handful of potential deep-league options (along with their current ownership percentages in CBS leagues, just because I’m in the mood for extra numbers today).
Tom Murphy (
5% 8%). Just when some of us had finally forgotten about him, Murphy has been recalled by the Rockies and already got a start on Tuesday. (Hmm, now it’s Wednesday and he’s starting again, after an excellent day at the plate on Tuesday.) It’s hard to get excited when the team is still carrying 3 catchers, but when you look at what Chris Iannetta and Tony Wolters have been doing offensively this year (i.e. nothing), and then realize that Murphy was hitting .289 with 16 homers in AAA, it’s hard NOT to get a little excited. (And as you can see, others are indeed getting excited, as his ownership has been creeping upwards in the 24 hrs. since I started his blurb).
Cory Spangenberg (4%). Spangenberg had a horrible start to the season, got demoted, got recalled, and was still horrible. Then, however, he went on a crazy little tear, which put him on my deep-league radar for the moment. His average (.205) and OBP (.238) are still difficult to look at, but he has 6 homers, 4 steals, 15 runs, and 14 RBI in just 44 games. That’s enough production to make him useful in certain leagues, and he qualifies at 2B, 3B, and OF.
Wilmer Flores (4%). Began a rehab assignment Monday and should be re-joining the Mets soon. The Adrian Gonzalez experiment is mercifully over, and one would hope the demise of the (even more mindbogglingly ill-advised) Jose Reyes experiment will soon follow. Flores always seems to find some playing time with the Mets when he’s healthy, and he could offer a little pop to a deep-league team.
Erik Kratz (0%). He’s a 37-year old backup catcher who has already bounced around between a few teams this year and has played in only a handful of major league games. So is he worth a mention in regards to even the deepest of fantasy leagues? Probably not, but I’m going to do it anyway because that’s just how dire the NL-only catching scene continues to be. Kratz is somehow hitting .435 with 3 home runs in just 6 games since he became a Brewer. I’m starting to think that if you’d just drafted Nick Hundley and Kratz in a 2-catcher NL-only league and never thought about it again, you’d be better off than just about any other plan you came up with at the position.
Jung Ho Kang (8%). Given all of his off-field issues, I don’t think many of us expected Kang to successfully get back to the U.S., let alone back into the good graces of the Pittsburgh Pirates. On a real-life level, I don’t really get why the team wants anything to do with him at this point, but he’s raking in the minors so one would assume it’s just a matter of time before he’s back in a Pirate uniform. He could end up with a pretty big slice of the 3rd base pie if Colin Moran and David Freese continue to display the various shades of meh we’ve seen from them so far this year.
Jordy Mercer (5%). Sticking with the Pirates infield but moving on to someone who is actually playing, Mercer is on a little streak hot enough to get him a shout-out. He’s one of those guys that is just completely under the fantasy radar across the board, but can be helpful in deep leagues if the timing is right. He’s been having a great week or so, hitting well over .300, including a 2-hit, 3-RBI game with a homer on Tuesday. If you need a deep-league middle infielder ASAP, you might want to grab him before he comes back down to earth.
Paul Blackburn (10%). Don’t bother looking Blackburn’s way if you’re in need of Ks, because they have never been his thing. He has managed decent if unspectacular overall numbers despite that limitation, however, with a 3.24 ERA/1.25 WHIP in his minor league career. He looked good enough in his MLB debut against the Royals, picking up a win after allowing 1 run in 6 innings. Proceed with caution, but Blackburn could be a serviceable deep-league pitcher when the matchups aren’t too scary if he can keep doing his ‘lots of ground balls/not a lot of homers’ thing.
David Hess (5%). In case you can’t get enough of the low-K pitchers who have still managed to be effective so far this season, we’ll mention Hess as well. Going into his start against the Red Sox Tuesday, he was rocking a 3.07 ERA/1.19 WHIP despite striking out just 16 batters in 26 1/3 innings. Well, to no one’s surprise, he got fairly obliterated against Boston, and he has another horrible matchup with the Nats coming up next… but if you’re desperate for a starter in a deep/AL-only league, he could be worth keeping an eye on if he sticks in the rotation once the matchups get better.
Jose Miguel Fernandez (5%). The playing-time dominos have been falling into place for the Angels after Shohei Ohtani’s injury, and the 30-year old from Cuba seems to be one of the beneficiaries so far. He came into the year qualifying at 2B in most leagues, and has now played 4 games at 1B this season. He’s gotten off to a great start, with 5 hits in his first 12 at bats, so if things continue there could be some deep-league value here – he was hitting .345 (.412 OBP) with 10 homers and 2 steals in AAA this year.
Kevan Smith (2%). As in the NL, the catcher pickings are slim… I have one AL-only, 2-catcher league where I’ve just had a hole in my lineup for the last few weeks because there is just no one available in the free agent pool to fill the void with. Smith was recalled about a week ago and already has 8 hits in 19 at bats, so you’d think he’ll continue to get some playing time for the White Sox while Wellington Castillo continues to sit on the time out bench and Omar Narvaez continues to flirt with the Mendoza line.
Mike Fiers (12%). I grabbed Fiers in one of my leagues where I’d been ravaged by starting pitching injuries and stuck him in my lineup out of desperation a couple of months ago. Sadly, he’s been about the most consistent pitcher I own in that league, and I’m just going to let him hang out in my lineup until he gives me a reason not to. He’s not exactly striking out the world, but he’s also limiting his walks (50 K/14 BB in 67 1/3 innings). He’s had some gutsy-if-not spectacular performances, including a win against the Yankees a week or so ago.
Ronny Rodriguez (0%). John Hicks will get the majority of the playing time at first base for the Tigers with Miguel Cabrera down for the season, but it is Rodriguez who was recalled from AAA in the corresponding move when Miggy was DL’d. There’s no reason to think Rodriguez will get much playing time, and in the small sample of MLB at bats he has had, he’s only 2 for 19. It’s his stats in the minors this season that make him worth keeping a just-in-case, deep-league eye on, though: he was hitting .320 with 9 homers and 9 steals for Toledo.