Is it still “the beginning” of baseball season? I’m thinking no. We’re now a little more than 20% of the way into the year – still an extremely small sample size, but enough that we can see patterns starting to emerge, and it’s getting easier to evaluate fantasy teams’ strengths and weaknesses. If your team is going to have an overabundance of power or strikeouts, or will have trouble contending due to a complete lack of speed or saves, you’ve probably figured it out by now. While you don’t want to panic over poor starts by players that are still likely to turn things around and help you, there’s no reason not to be pro-active if you know your team is lacking in a certain area. Of course, this is easier said than done in a deep league, where there are few serviceable players sitting on the waiver wire, and trade partners may be hard to find since every team probably feels stretched thin and owners may not feel like they have a true surplus in any category. All the more reason to be extra vigilant about free agents, potential trade scenarios, setting your lineup properly, and anything else that can give you an edge based on the rules and parameters of your league… you don’t want tuning out for a few days in May to cost you valuable points that could make a big difference in September. For now, we do our usual: look at a handful of players that could be relevant to those livin’ the deep league life.
Seung-Hwan Oh (Tyler Clippard/Ryan Tepera/James Axford). I can’t really remember the last time a closer went down (and as a current and perhaps soon-to-be-former Roberto Osuna owner, I’m thinking he could be down for a while) on a team whose bullpen features three former closers plus a player who has established himself as a successful eighth-inning guy. We’ll see how this plays out… will it be Tepera, who has locked down the set-up role this year, or will the Blue Jays not want to change his current role? Will it be Clippard, who has been pretty dominant lately in some high-leverage situations? Or will it be Oh, who has closed successfully most recently (don’t’ forget, 20 saves with the Cardinals last year before he starting falling apart). And don’t forget “The Ax Man,” who the internet tells me has 144 career saves. I’m going to have to put my money on Oh, mostly because of that recent closer experience thing, but also because, while I own Clippard and Tepera in the deep AL-only league that I have Osuna in, Oh has been on another owner’s team all season, and as we all know, fantasy baseball isn’t fair.
Alex Gordon. Gordon is currently hitting .288, while he hit just .208 over the course of a full season last year, and his 3-year average is .231. It doesn’t take a math expert to guess that Gordon is likely going to regress before long, but if you need an outfielder in a deep league, you might want to try to grab him before his current little streak of hotness ends – he’s hitting .333 with 2 homers over his last 5 games. Who knows; maybe he’s even figured some things out. (And you can add 4 hits, 2 runs, and 3 RBI to those numbers, as Gordon was right in the thick of Kansas City’s blowout win Tuesday after I wrote this.)
Mikie Mahtook. Recalled from AAA Tuesday to take Leonys Martin’s roster spot, and should see regular playing time in the Detroit outfield. Mahtook struggled to open the season, hitting just .129 before his demotion, and wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire in Toledo, hitting .250 with 29 strikeouts to 7 walks in 88 at bats. A little motivation can go a long way, though, and if Mahtook can find a way to take advantage of his 2018 second chance, he could be a serviceable deep-league guy… he did hit a very respectable .276 with 12 homers and 6 steals in 109 games last year, after all.
Ehire Adrianza. We’ve now come to the portion of our program that will interest only those in the deepest of AL-only leagues, namely those that have a middle infield hole to fill and are just looking for someone – anyone – that might get some at bats. Adrianza is a 1% owned, defense-only guy, but he is getting those at bats of late, starting regularly at short for the Twins while Eduardo Escobar fills in at third for the injured Miguel Sano.
Rajai Davis. No, it’s not exciting to add Rajai Davis to a fantasy team, but the guy is still running, and anyone that has the potential to rip off a couple of steals in any given game (including those that he doesn’t start – nothin’ wrong with a line of zero ABs, 1 run, 1 SB every once in a while) should be owned in more than 6% of CBS leagues in my opinion. Rajai started the season ice cold at the plate, even for him, but has picked it up lately, hitting .375 with 4 runs and 3 steals over his last five. Even as a one-category guy there is a right time and place for Rajai in deeper leagues, but who knows — depending on when you grab him, he might even help you in two or three.
Kolten Wong. He may not be available in the deepest of leagues, but Wong is only 8% owned in CBS leagues. The reason he is only 8% owned in CBS leagues, FYI, is because he’s been absolutely horrible this year. He’s been trending up a bit lately, though, so he might be worth taking a look at if you’re in need of a middle infielder. His batting average may only be .212, but it was .133 on April 21st, so at least he’s going in the right direction. And if nothing else, perhaps his dramatic 10th inning walk-off homer against the rival Cubs over the weekend gave him a burst of confidence. Even as I type this, I’m thinking Wong may have already worn out his fantasy welcome in even the NL-only world, but I’m going to give him a couple more weeks to see if he can put anything together and prove he belongs on a deep-league roster.
Austin Jackson. Hunter Pence was pulled off his rehab assignment since his thumb still hurts, so Jackson has some time to prove he deserves to be starting more. His numbers on the season are lackluster at best, but he’s been hot of late, hitting .375 with 6 RBI and a steal over his last 5 games or so. I’m monitoring the situation while not expecting much.
Luis Gohara. Called up by the red-hot Braves after recovering from his sprained ankle and spending the last few weeks at AAA, but relegated to the bullpen. His 4 AAA starts were quite atrocious (a 2.04 WHIP is bad, right?) and the Braves aren’t exactly in dire need of a starter these days, but man did I like Gohara as a deep-league sleeper coming into the season. I’m assuming a lot of folks who were holding him will let go now due to that whole “bullpen” thing, but my winter memories of what I thought he could possibly be this summer are enough for me to at least keep an eye on him from afar.
Gerardo Parra. I’m still not sure why Parra ever had a job in the Rockies outfield this year. I’m also unsure as to why he’s still playing somewhat regularly, even in a platoon-type situation. But there he is, finding himself in the Rockies’ starting lineup from time to time, and he’s even hit cleanup recently. After an ugly start to the year, he’s actually been hitting decently of late… no matter what you think of the way the Rockies have handled their outfield situation this year, anyone who is getting some starts in the middle of the Rockies’ lineup, especially in Colorado of course, is of potential deep-league interest, especially if you happen to be in a daily change league.
Wilmer Difo. Was going to mention him last week but didn’t get around to finishing a blurb on him before I posted my article, but he gets the nod this week as he’s put a rather spectacular little run together, with 13 hits in his last 29 at bats. He won’t keep hitting at that pace obviously, but he should at least keep getting the chance to play, with the Adam Eaton/Daniel Murphy injury sagas looking like they might by never-ending. Difo qualifies at 2B, SS, and 3B in most leagues, and should be owned at least in NL-only for the time being.