Well, kids, June has arrived. It’s time for fantasy teams to get it into gear if they want to get to or stay at the top of the standings, but unfortunately, I feel like several of mine have been lazily idling instead. We still have several first or second round players who are struggling mightily, and for the rest, I’m starting to come to terms with the reality that they might not all come around in time to salvage their seasons, and mine. This time of year makes me appreciate our RCL leagues here at Razzball. While it’s an immense challenge to stay on top of one team let alone several, especially given the tough competition in many leagues, I like the feeling of being more in control of my own destiny — for better or worse — by freely adding and dropping players from a bountiful free agent pool and re-shaping my lineup on a daily basis. It certainly beats the feeling of doom in a deep-league, weekly change league when a Cedric Mullins-level injury happens on Monday (WHY do they happen so often on Mondays?!), and I, a) lose my best hitter, b) have to sit with a zero in my lineup all week, and c) have no decent option available to me to replace him for next week. It does magnify the value of the rare helpful and productive deep league free agent pickup, so with four months of baseball left let’s keep scouring for that elusive diamond in the rough. On that note, time to once again look at some names that may be of interest to NL-only, AL-only, and other deep leaguers.
Patrick Bailey. A player who qualifies at catcher and doesn’t completely suck is a rare commodity in a deep league, and in an albeit tiny MLB sample size Bailey has fit that bill. He was lost in the shuffle for a while after being picked 13th overall in the Covid draft of 2020, but of late Bailey’s rise through the minors has been fast and furious. He finished 2022 at High A, and has been hitting at each quick stop at every level since (including his .333 average with 2 homers and 12 RBI in 11 games with the Giants). Even if Bailey can’t keep up that level of production, I’d be getting very worried if I were the still-injured Joey Bart… and for now, Bailey is worth watching in slightly shallower leagues even if he’s been snapped up in those of the NL-only variety.
Julio Teheran. We often end up with a “what’s old is new again” vibe here at RITD, and never more so than with the next three entries this week. It was surprising enough to see Teheran starting for the Brewers last week, and even more surprising to see him turn in a solid five innings of one-run ball against the Giants. So, it was a bit mind-blowing when he followed with 6 shut out innings and a win in Toronto on Wednesday. Pretty sure if he sticks in the rotation there’ll be a wee bit of regression from his current 0.82 ERA… but I feel like we’re kind of in the Wild Wild West when it comes to starting pitching this year, so why not ride the hot hand while you can. In what I’m now thinking is the ultimate 2023 move, in one of my leagues someone dropped Shane Bieber for Teheran over the weekend — and managed to trade the absolute pummeling Bieber got from the Orioles this week for the aforementioned gem from Teheran. Things aren’t always going to work out quite that well, but after a week of more pain from Aaron Nola plus two tummy-punch outings from the up-until-now-reliable Joe Ryan and Logan Gilbert this week, I’m starting to wonder why I haven’t rolled the dice with the Teherans and Ben Livelys of the world more often.
Rougned Odor. Odor keeps coming up as the highest-ranked player available when it comes to the last couple weeks of production in some of my deeper leagues, so he gets a mention even though it’s hard to imagine he’ll be able to keep it up. He’s batting only .200 on the year (.284 OBP), but in 85 at bats has scored 14 runs, with 4 homers, 17 RBI, and 2 stolen bases. I don’t need to tell you that up to now, that’s production on par with several guys many of us drafted painfully early this year, so for the time being Odor has worked his way into deep-league relevance.
Yuli Gurriel. Gurriel is another player who went undrafted even in many deeper leagues, who if you’d just stuck him at the end of your active roster has quietly provided a smattering of production across the board in limited playing time so far this year. He has a .282 average with a .350 OBP in 124 at bats, with 13 runs scored, 3 homers, 12 RBI, and 3 steals. That won’t move the needle in any standard-ish league but deserves a look in the deep-league world.
Akil Baddoo. He may never be an everyday player, but at least he’s on the strong side of a platoon — and he got bumped up to hitting second for the Tigers on Wednesday after they lost Riley Greene to what sounds like a long-term injury. Baddoo has been hitting well — very, very well this week, actually, as he’s 6 for his last 15 as I write this, with 2 homers and a steal. Maybe he can continue to recapture some of that Rule 5 magic from a few years ago and be a solid deep-league contributor from here on out in 2023.
Ben Joyce. His ownership not surprisingly leapt from 7 to 16% in CBS leagues this week now that he’s joined the Angels relief core. He performed as advertised in his first appearance with the big club, throwing almost every pitch over 100 MPH. We’ll see if the control is there as his major league control continues — along with lots of strikeouts, he had a 1.28 WHIP this year in the minors and his minor league career mark is 1.22, so not exactly pristine. If it is, I expect he’s up for good, so while he’s probably long gone in keeper leagues, I think he’s worth grabbing in shallower leagues if others are snoozing on him as he could make a legit re-draft fantasy impact before the end of the year.
Grant Anderson. Anderson is another hard-throwing pitching recently up from the minors, and his big league debut with the Rangers couldn’t have gone better (unless you have a problem with 7 Ks in 2.2 scoreless innings while picking up a win). For what it’s worth, he’d been used primarily in relief at triple A as well and had 38 Ks in 21 innings. While we can’t expect sailing as smooth as his first MLB appearance from here on out, he is definitely a bullpen arm to watch for both this year and beyond.
Daniel Lynch. Of course, it’s only in the deep league world where we’re talking about a starter recently off the IL with a shoulder strain, with horrible career numbers, pitching for a last-place team. A rotation spot is a rotation spot in some leagues, and Lynch has one. He got through 5.1 innings against the Nats allowing 2 runs in his first start (with an ugly 3 walks but less-ugly 6 strikeouts)… that’s not great, but as I’ll refer to at least one more time later in this post, it’s a lot better than the performances of several starting pitchers whom I was naively counting on for fantasy help earlier this week.