Every Monday from now until the end of the season, we will take a look at players with less than 10% ownership (Yahoo!) who should be on your radar in deep leagues. The majority of fantasy baseball leagues are mixed leagues with 10 to 12 teams, though we know many of you play in 18- to 20-team leagues and/or AL- or NL-only formats. This column is for you all.
One player in particular I wasn’t able to include in this column is Renato Nunez, who blasted five home runs between May 20 and May 25 for the Orioles. However, his ownership has climbed to 13% on Yahoo, and I’m trying to stay below 10% going forward.
Nunez should be added in all leagues deeper than 12 teams, as the raw power has always been there for the third baseman, and even though he doesn’t offer much else, he still has value in deeper leagues.
Here are seven other players under 10% who should be considered in deeper formats, starting with one of Nunez’s teammates around the infield.
Hanser Alberto, 2B/3B, BAL (3% Owned)
Somewhat quietly, Orioles shortstop Hanser Alberto has put up a very nifty .296/.312/.393 slash line with three home runs, three stolen bases, 12 runs scored and 14 RBI in 141 plate appearances on the season. Originally a utility player, the longtime Rangers farmhand took over as Baltimore’s starting shortstop not too long ago and has even dabbled as the team’s leadoff hitter in recent games.
Alberto has never flashed much power, and indeed, his exit velocity and hard-hit numbers are among the worst in the league, but he does have some speed to burn, which could make him valuable in deeper formats.
As long as he is starting nearly every day and hitting atop the order in Baltimore, he’s worth a look in 14-team or deeper leagues for those desperate for steals. He won’t kill your batting average either, although don’t expect too many more home runs.
Mark Canha, 1B/OF, OAK (6% Owned)
Mark Canha burst onto the scene in 2015, blasting 16 home runs in just 485 plate appearances as a rookie outfielder for the A’s. Injuries and ineffectiveness rendered him nearly useless from 2016-2017, but he was back again in 2018—hitting 17 home runs in just 411 plate appearances and making him a nice deep sleeper heading into the 2019 season.
Now, Canha has already blasted eight home runs in just 89 plate appearances, boasting a ridiculous .370 ISO and a 90.1 mph average exit velocity—yet despite his previous sleeper status and obvious power, he’s only owned in 6% of leagues.
Part of that is an early-season IL stint and inconsistent playing time even when he is healthy. Another part of that is his less-than-stellar .224 batting average—although that’s being bogged down considerably by an unsustainable .184 BABIP. Plus, his 14.0% walk rate is giving him a .355 OBP, and his 21.5% strikeout rate is right in line with what he posted last season.
Canha’s current power surge is almost certainly unsustainable, but the sleeper outfielder for whom savvy owners were looking is clearly still around, and as long as he is getting everyday at-bats (which he will as long as Khris Davis is on the IL), then he should be picked up in 14-team or deeper leagues.
Jordan Luplow, OF, CLE (3% Owned)
We talked about Luplow in this spot last week, as he had seemingly earned a starting nod in Cleveland’s outfield thanks to his raw power, despite huge strikeout issues. Nothing has changed that dramatically, although Cleveland did DFA Carlos Gonzalez, which should allow Luplow to remain the starting left fielder for the time being.
Luplow homered and stole a base against the Rays in a game last week and now has six round-trippers and a pair of steals on the season. He’s still striking out at an exorbitant 30.6% clip, but it has been trending in the right direction, even if some of his power numbers are coming down along with it.
Still, I like Luplow as a cheap source of power and occasional speed in deeper leagues, especially now that his starting job looks secure going forward.
Oscar Mercado, OF, CLE (9% Owned)
Luplow was not the biggest beneficiary of the DFA of Carlos Gonzalez, as that belonged to rookie Oscar Mercado. Mercado was recalled earlier in the season but has been residing in a fourth outfielder role thanks to a crowded but not very good Cleveland outfield. However, with Gonzalez out of the picture, all signs point to Mercado playing fairly regularly going forward.
Sunday’s game saw Mercado blast his first home run of the season, and he is now sitting with a .296/.387/.519 slash line through 31 plate appearances. Although he hasn’t swiped a base yet, Mercado’s minor league track record indicates that he should be a good source of steals for the rest of the season, especially if he gets everyday at-bats.
I’d be taking Mercado in anything 14-team leagues or deeper, and he’s not a bad gamble for those in 12-teamers either, particularly if you are hurting for steals.
Rowdy Tellez, 1B, TOR (4% Owned)
My early season muse in these columns was Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull, but now that he has graduated to over 10% owned I have swung my focus to Blue Jays slugger Rowdy Tellez. Tellez likely won’t break into a star the way Turnbull did, but he’s a reliable source of home runs and RBI who has already put together a solid start to the season and is still available in 96% of leagues.
Tellez is slashing .243/.301/.467 with nine home runs, 19 runs scored and 25 RBI, putting him squarely on pace for a 25-home run/80-RBI type season. Sure the average isn’t great, but Tellez does boast a .260 xBA, which is lifted by his 14.9% barrel rate and 91.1 mph exit velocity, both of which place in the top 20% of the league.
The big slugger does strike out a lot, I mean a lot, but his raw power alone should make him worthy of a roster spot in deeper fantasy formats, especially as long as he continues to hit in the heart of the order in Toronto.
Trent Thornton, SP, TOR (8% Owned)
Another holdover from last week, Trent Thornton went ahead and struck out 10 Padres over six innings in his most recent start, giving him a very solid 26% strikeout rate on the season. He’s still only posting a 4.42 ERA, and his 4.70 FIP and 4.35 SIERA certainly don’t inspire a ton of confidence.
Thornton’s primary issue is walks. His 10.8% walk rate is bad, and until he can limit baserunners via the free pass, he’s going to have his issues, as his 1.27 WHIP suggests.
Still, a pitcher with his kind of strikeout potential and his nasty stuff (his curveball is in the 98th percentile in spin rate, and his fastball is top 25%) should merit at least some fantasy consideration, at the very least as a streamer against poor-hitting teams.
Jose Urena, SP, MIA (10% Owned)
Urena’s season stats aren’t good (4.30 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 5.98 K/9), but most of that is thanks to three really ugly starts to begin the year. Since April 14, Urena has a 2.80 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP, while tossing quality starts in six of his past seven outings.
Of course, being on the Marlins, he’s only gone 2-3 in that time frame, but those in quality starts leagues should take note.
That 2.80 ERA is supported by less than stellar peripherals however, as he boasts a 4.26 FIP and an ugly 5.80 K/9 in the same window. Urena has never been much of a strikeout pitcher, and that severely dampens his fantasy appeal outside of very deep leagues.
Bottom line: If you are in a deep quality start league, Urena is worth a look as either a streamer or a bottom of the rotation add. Just don’t expect many strikeouts.
(Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire)