Fantasy baseball can be a lot like dating. Well, perhaps you’ve never made this particular comparison, but it comes into play time and time again for me. Sometimes it’s easy to spot a jerk – for instance, even if a fellow treated you pretty darn well for most of 2016, once he gets accused of assault, you realize he has outstanding DUIs in like 4 different countries, and then isn’t even allowed to come back to the U.S., it’s obviously time to cut the cord. (Obligatory shout out to the Pittsburgh Pirates: sending a pitching machine to a guy who fits the above description so he can keep practicing baseball, which I heard you did, might not be the best way to cut the cord). Then there’s the one that got away, the guy you avoided because he just seemed too good to be true. This can lead to heartbreak, like when you didn’t believe a beautiful, muscular, 6-foot tall 30-year old whose nickname in Korea translated to “God” was the real deal, and you miss out on what would have been one of the most beautiful relationships of your young life. (Note to self: when someone’s nickname is “God,” in real-life or fantasy baseball, that could be important). Then there’s the guy who you dated for months – you waited so patiently while he would go days without texting you, and then when he finally did take you out, you went to a chain restaurant for a meal you ended up paying for. You just KNEW he had it in him to be a great guy… but finally had to give up and dump him, only to see him treat his next girlfriend to handpicked flowers every morning and gourmet meals every night (so far in 2017, I call this guy Jason Heyward).
Here’s one important difference between real life and fantasy baseball, though: there is almost no risk in taking a chance on a guy in fantasy. Well, he can hurt you emotionally (boo to you Jake Lamb, waiting until 2016 to break out after I carried you on my roster for all of 2015 and your 6 measley home runs!). But he can’t leave any physical scars or say mean things about you on Facebook, so why not take a chance on someone you think might have a little potential. No, the pool of guys to choose from isn’t pretty in a really deep league, and it can feel pretty uncomfortable to be interested in someone whom no one else in your league sees any potential in. But the good news is that if he turns out to be a complete dud, you have a quick and easy way out – you can just send him right back to the waiver wire and know that you never have to hear from him again if you choose not to.
Enough rambling, who the hell’s idea was it to let women write for this site?! Here’s a few players to think about in leagues of the non-shallow variety:
Aaron Altherr. It’s hardly encouraging that a rebuilding team like the Phillies thought so little of Altherr this season that they signed the likes of Howie Kendrick AND Michael Saunders to man their outfield. But any player who I know could go deep or steal a bag in any given game is a guy I like in a deep league. With Kendrick’s oblique injury, Altherr is at least getting a chance to show the Phillies that the answer was right under their noses the whole time. Don’t forget that he was impressive enough to be handed a shot at playing time and the chance to establish himself in 2015 — my friends at Fangraphs tell me that at that time, Altherr’s exit velocity ranked in the 83rd percentile, which is really good. A wrist injury ended said opportunity, however, and while Altherr’s power was not on display when he returned in late 2016, we all know how well wrist injuries and power hitting go together. (They don’t). If he’s finally healthy now and can find his power stroke while continuing to be a threat on the basepaths, he could earn more playing time, with a ceiling of a player you wouldn’t hate to see in your lineup even in shallower leagues.
Manny Pina. I’m assuming Austin Hedges and Jett Bandy are no longer available in deeper leagues, but if Pina is still around and you need catching help you might want to take a look. Bandy and Pina have each started 12 games for the Brewers, which seems like the definition of a timeshare. 50/50 Timeshare + Mixed League = No Thank You. 50/50 Timeshare + Deep League = Sure! Pina’s .426 batting average has no where to go but down, but in 2015 he hit .304 in 77 games at AAA, and when he was called up last year he was hitting .329, so it’s not like he’s never shown any ability beyond his defense. He’s never hit more than 8 homers in a minor league season, but once it heats up at Miller Park this summer, I like Pina’s chances to go yard a time or two.
Jose Martinez. Only for the deepest of NL-onlys unless he comes into more playing time for the Cardinals, but he’s been contributing in the few chances he’s had, starting the season with 11 hits in 29 at bats. He turns 29 in July, so he’s no youngster in baseball terms, and there’s not necessarily much upside here. But in my deepest league, I’m rolling with Martinez at Utility over guys who get more ABs but are batting average liabilities (the other day, he even rewarded me with a stolen base!)
Chad Kuhl. I was gonna write about Matt Cain, mostly to cheer myself up after waking up Monday and remembering that I paid more FAAB dollars than I care to report for him in one league Sunday night. But after a nice start against the Dodgers Monday, Cain was pulled with a tweaked hammy, so depending on how serious it is, my Matt Cain experiment may already be over. (And yes, part of me knows that getting the stats from Cain’s good start and then having him hurt badly enough that I have to immediately drop him is probably the best thing that could happen to my team). Anyway, I was starting to crush on Kuhl a little, right up until his meltdown against the Cubs Monday, which was one of the uglier starts we’ll probably see from anyone this year (9 earned on 9 hits and 4 walks without making it out of the second inning). Oh, wait, here’s Amir Garrett begging to differ with me, trying to “top” Kuhl’s performance with a vomit-worthy one of his own, but falling just short (9 earned on 8 hits and 4 walks in 3.1). The good news is if you started both of them, you got two strikeouts! Anyway, Kuhl obviously has less upside than Garrett (I actually hadn’t realized just how into Garrett folks are… 93% owned in CBS leagues!), but no one is this bad (pause while I answer a phone call from 2012 Jason Marquis begging to differ). Kuhl really was looking pretty good in his first few starts, so if you’re in a deep NL-only league where he was owned and dumped, it wouldn’t be crazy to consider him and see what happens.
Nick Pivetta. Filling in for Aaron Nola in Philly for a start or two. From what I’d read about him, he projects as a middle reliever with below-average control. His AAA numbers as a starter this year are eye popping, though: an 0.95 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, and most delicious of all, 2 walks to 24 strikeouts in 19 innings. I’m glancing his way just in case someone that resembles that version of Pivetta shows up in the majors – he might be worth keeping tabs on even if he’s only up for one start for now.
Yonder Alonso. Alonso had a spectacular spring, during which he told reporters that he had changed his hitting mechanics somewhat, making a concerted effort to hit more fly balls, as well to just plain hit the ball harder. He’s never been a bad hitter (I was surprised to see he hit .282 during his 2015 season in San Diego) and with an albeit small sample size, whatever’s he’s doing seems to be working so far: he has 3 home runs and 10 RBI in 17 games — and it’s not at the expense of his average, which is currently .292. Not surprisingly given his new approach, his K% is up to 20% this year (his career average is 14.5%), but I’m thinking of targeting him in a trade in one of my deep AL-only leagues where I’m a bit homer-starved, since it probably won’t cost me much to see if his attempt at a power surge comes to fruition.
Aaron Hicks. He’s now appeared in 13 games in the Yankees’ outfield, and he’s hitting .303 with 4 home runs and 2 steals. Last year his BB% was 8.3 and his K% is 18.8, this year his BB% is 22.7 and his K% is 9.1. Also, last year’s BABIP/BA: .248/.217, this year: .231 BABIP, .303 BA. Those are such big shifts that I’m not really even sure what to make of those numbers, but they intrigue me even with an itty bitty sample size.
Trevor Plouffe. I was mildly devastated after I ended up with Plouffe as my starting third baseman in an AL-only auction where all of the mid-range guys I was targeting went for way more than I expected and I realized two-thirds of the way through the auction that I was going to end up with a two or three dollar guy at the hot corner. There’s already been a fair amount of injury news and disappointment when it comes to AL third basemen, though, and I’m suddenly fine with seeing Plouffe in my lineup every day. After a 4-for-26 start without an extra base hit, he seems to be settling in with the A’s and now has 4 homers. His average will be bad, but I think Plouffe flew under the radar a little this season after dealing with a fractured rib, and oblique and intercostal strains in 2016 (hey, I never said he wasn’t injury-prone). If he gets anywhere close to his 2015 for the Twins (22 HR, 74 R, and 86 RBI) I’ll be a happy camper.
Norichika Aoki. Moving to a super deep league fella, Aoki’s been swinging a pretty hot bat, as they say. He’s hitting .325 and already has a homer and a steal (on pace to go 8/8!) The guy has a solid career average of .287, so if you need to plug a hole with someone who will not hurt you and could occasionally help the tiniest bit (a la the Jose Martinez example above), he could be your guy. (Bonus note: just checked box scores and see that Aoki had three more hits after I wrote this. Just sayin’).
Ryan Rua. Officially named the Rangers starting left fielder on Tuesday. I know how bad Profar and DeShields have been, but Rua certainly wasn’t on my radar as having done anything special so far this year (looks up stats). Holy crap, Ryan Rua is hitting .115 with zero RBI and he just was named the Rangers starting left fielder! This is like a fantasy nightmare wrapped inside an MLB nightmare, but at least we know who’s getting the PT now, I suppose.