Greetings, deep-league friends! Welcome to the small but comfy little corner of Razzball where we talk about baseball players who may be relevant to those playing in AL-only, NL-only, and other deep leagues. Last week we concentrated mostly on the 1-2% owned types that are likely only on the radar of those involved in the deepest NL or AL-only leagues. This week, we’ll open it up a bit and consider players as long as they fall under the 20% owned threshold, while still dipping all the way down to the 1% types. (All % owned stats are from CBS sports leagues. This, in my opinion, tends to be the best happy medium of ownership thresholds, between the sometimes wacky shallowness of Yahoo/ESPN leagues, and the oft-crazy percentages you’ll see on a site like Fantrax with all of their daily-change leagues). Since we have more players to cover than usual, let’s get right to it:
JaCoby Jones. 10% owned. Jones is seeing regular playing time in Detroit, and rightfully so, as he is off to a .293, 2 homer, 3 steal start to 2018. The ZIPS and Steamer types project Jones to be about a .220 hitter, so one would expect to see some regression here. But in watching him play, I’ve noticed that he has an awful lot of spunk. Last time I checked, there was no “spunk” column on any Fangraphs chart, and spunk can sometimes play a bigger factor than you’d think in a ballplayer’s success.
Derek Fisher. 8% owned. There may be some wishful thinking involved in this one, as I own Fisher in a dynasty league and would really, really like to see him not suck as baseball this season. Fisher has had a fairly disastrous start to the year, and I waited until the last possible moment to set my lineup this week because I was so sure there would be news that he’d been demoted. Instead, he was in the Astros’ starting lineup on Tuesday and got a couple of hits, including his first home run. That demotion could still come at any time, but it’s also possible that Fisher keeps getting chances and puts a little hot streak together.
Joey Wendle. 5% owned. Wendle may not be lighting the world on fire, but who would expect that out of a 5% owned player? What he has been doing lately is playing second base for Tampa Bay, hitting well over .400 with 7 runs scored and two stolen bases over his last six games.
Adeiny Hechavarria. 3% owned. Don’t look now, but Hechavarria is batting .462 (.529 OBP) with a homer and 6 RBI over the last week. Actually, you should look now, since this pace is unlikely to continue much longer for a career .256 hitter (was actually surprised to see a number that high; I would have guessed .240). If you need a middle infielder in a deep league and can plug him into your lineup before this magic little run ends, go for it.
Mark Canha. 3% owned. Another guy with a hot start that can’t be sustained, but why not try to ride the wave in a deep league while you can? He’s batting .342 with 3 homers since he was called up to Oakland, and has an 8-game hitting streak to boot. Not exactly a lot of upside here as he’s a 29-year old, career .240 hitter, but he hit 12 homers in 81 games for the A’s last year, so if nothing else we should continue to see some power out of his bat.
Leury Garcia. 2% owned. He’s a one category player, but if the one category you need some serious help in in a deep league is stolen bases, Garcia may be worth a look-see. He may pick up a few extra starts, what with Avisail Garcia’s recent trip to the DL, and the fact that Garcia is outperforming Adam Engel at the plate so far this year. Keep in mind that “outperforming at the plate” means that Garcia is hitting .184 to Engel’s .157. Like I said, it’s the seemingly-harder-than-ever to find steals that we’re looking for here, and Garcia has 4 of them, which puts him on pace for 32 on the year.
Daniel Palka. <1% owned. Called up to the White Sox due to the Avisail Garcia injury (see 5 or 6 lines above). When he gets in a game it’ll be his major league debut. He’s 26 years old and not owned in my deepest AL-only keeper league where it seems like everyone who has ever played baseball at any level ever is owned, so that makes me wary. But he was off to a solid start at AAA this year and has shown impressive power in the last few years, so that makes me at least a little tiny bit intrigued.
Mac Williamson. 17%. 24% owned. OK, I’m cheating on this one, because Williamson’s ownership has gone up 7% just in the 24 hours since I wrote this, and will probably continue to if he keeps showing off his power by hitting homers, as he did both Monday and Tuesday. I was so busy trying to get over my frustration that I couldn’t make Steven Duggar happen to start the year, that I wasn’t paying attention to Williamson’s call-up and didn’t grab him in any of my NL-only leagues where he was available. May regret that. Once you get past Andrew McCutchen, the Giants outfield is a black hole right now, so it sure seems like Williamson could be up for a while after what has been an impressive 2018 debut.
Albert Almora. 18% owned. I was pretty darn surprised to see that Almora still gets under my 20% ownership threshold for the week, given that he seems to be getting a legitimate shot to lead off for the Cubs and is hitting .409 with a homer and 8 runs scored over his last 5 games as I write this on Tuesday. He may be hitting over his head right now, but even part-time duty at the top of that lineup screams potential value to me – and Joe Maddon sure seems to be crushing on Almora a lot more than he has been on Ian Happ lately. (Note: Happ seems to have noticed this as well, since he is clearly doing whatever he can to prove he belongs in the lineup every day, including a 3-hit game with a home run on Tuesday. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out as the season progresses…)
Jason Heyward. 18% owned. Speaking of seeing how the Cubs outfield plays out as the season progresses, I would feel remiss to not mention Heyward, also a 18% owned player. If we polled fantasy baseball owners and asked which player they have felt the most burned by owned the last ten years, I feel like Heyward would do very, very well in that contest. But if Heyward can regain even a smidge of his former success, he could be valuable in the right league. Small sample size, but the thing I find most interesting about his numbers so far this season is the fact that he has as many walks as strikeouts (8).
Jedd Gyorko. 17% owned. Don’t completely forget about Gyorko, who is off the DL after dealing with a hamstring injury. Gyorko never has a place to play, and Gyorko always hits a bunch of home runs anyway. No reason to think it will be different this year.
Tyler Flowers. 10% owned. On a AAA rehab assignment, and apparently almost ready to return from an oblique injury. I still think Flowers .281 average last year was one of fantasy’s bigger anomalies, but he did hit .271 the year before, so maybe he really has figured some things out and it’s not all BABIP luck. Either way, the Flowers/Kurt Suzuki platoon worked out very nicely for all involved last year, and if you need a catcher in a deep league and Flowers is available, I can’t think of a reason not to grab him and see if things work out similarly in 2018.
Tommy Hunter. 4% owned. I’m realizing that there is a “Forgotten Men of the DL” theme developing here, but sometimes the DL is an incredibly good place to look for deep-league value. Hunter comes off the DL this week to finally start his season as a member of the Phillies’ bullpen. Their pen has actually looked pretty great lately — Hector Neris has five scoreless appearances (with four saves) in a row after a couple early blips, and guys like Edubray Ramos (0.96 ERA) and Victor Arano (10 innings without an earned run) have done a remarkable job stepping up. Plus, the Phils still have Pat Neshek waiting in the wings recovering from a shoulder injury. Why is this blurb about Tommy Hunter then? Well, I’m not really sure now that I think about it, but probably because the baseball season is a long one, and Hunter feels like a guy who could have value down the road when the rest of the Phillies’ pen comes back down to earth.
Sean Rodriguez. 1% owned. Rodriguez is one of those utility guys who doesn’t seem worth even a $1 desperation bid to fill a hole at the end of your NL-only auction, then at the end of September you realize he hit .270 with 18 home runs on the season (which he did in 2016) and wish you’d just drafted him and left him in your lineup all year, instead of unsuccessfully trying to cobble together some value out of your utility spot. Rodriguez seems to have finally fully recovered from his scary car accident a year or two ago, and is back in Pittsburgh where he looks most comfortable. He’s only batting .194, a number that is likely to go up, and he has 3 homers (on pace for 23… probably not going to happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he winds up with at least 15).