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.
This week’s unintentional “theme” is post-hype sleepers. You’ll find a handful of players who were once promising prospects, had some struggles at the big league level but for whatever reason should capture our attention now. Enjoy!
Cam Bedrosian, RP, LAA (2% Owned)
Los Angeles Angels reliever Cam Bedrosian has been teasing fantasy owners ever since he posted a 1.12 ERA and a 11.38 K/9 in 40.1 innings back in 2016. He took a huge step backward over the next two seasons, however, only earning seven saves (while blowing 12) with a 4.06 ERA and 9.11 K/9 between 2017 and 2018.
The Angels went out and acquired Cody Allen with the hopes that he would be their closer this season, but after a disastrous stint with the team, he was recently designated for assignment. That leaves Hansel Robles and Ty Buttrey as the primary beneficiaries, although Bedrosian’s recent performance on the mound should put him in that category as well.
So far in 2019, Bedrosian sports a 2.41 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and a 39:15 K/BB ratio in 33.2 innings. He has served as a late-inning stopper and an opener this season, but no matter where the Angels pitch him, he has done a great job of getting outs.
The Angels have kept Robles in the closer role for most of the season, and Buttrey has looked excellent for most of the year as well, which makes it hard to envision a ninth-inning role for Bedrosian right away—especially not if Keynan Middleton returns later in the year.
However, Robles has a 3.80 SIERA and a 4.46 xFIP, while Buttrey has a 3.80 xFIP and a 3.46 SIERA. It’s not crazy to expect those two to fall off in the second half, which could make Bedrosian a solid target for owners in deeper leagues who are desperate for saves. Either way, he’s not a bad option in leagues that count holds or K/9.
Dylan Cease, SP, CWS (8% Owned)
Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn excited prospect lovers and White Sox fans last week when he hinted that a call-up for star right-hander Dylan Cease may not be far away. Hahn said that the team has no plans to rush Cease, the 23-year-old right-hander who is ranked as one of the top 20 prospects in all of baseball by multiple outlets, but did indicate that he is not far away from being big league ready.
Cease’s 4.37 ERA and 1.49 WHIP at Triple-A certainly don’t look appealing, but he does boast a stellar 9.36 K/9 and a 3.84 FIP. Plus, his numbers are inflated by one particularly terrible outing, an outing that Hahn called a “really good development day” for the young right-hander.
Behind budding star Lucas Giolito, Chicago’s rotation has been awful this season. Reynaldo Lopez, Ivan Nova, Carlos Rodon, Dylan Covey and Manny Banuelos have each been terrible at keeping runs off the board, and there’s no reason Cease couldn’t come in and hold onto a rotation spot for the rest of the season.
Once he is called up, Cease should be an immediate add in 12-plus-team leagues. Walk issues may prevent him from reaching his full potential right away, but there are few pitchers available on the waiver wire who could affect a fantasy team more than Cease right now.
If you have a roster spot, he’s worth a speculative add. You don’t want to wait too long.
J.D. Davis, 1B/3B/OF, NYM (2% Owned)
Look, I know Statcast batted-ball data isn’t everything, but sometimes instead of me typing everything out it’s just easier to take a look at a player’s chart to see what all the fuss is about:
As you can see, Mets utility guy J.D. Davis is absolutely crushing the ball this season. His slash line of .276/.339/.476 is extremely solid, and he has eight home runs and 22 RBI in 186 plate appearances on the year.
Statcast thinks he’s been even better than that, as he has an xSlash line of .313/.354/.522 thanks to his 47.2% hard-hit rate and 10.1% barrel rate.
Davis was always a power-hitting prospect, but one of the most encouraging signs for the young slugger has been his rapid decrease in strikeouts. He is currently sporting a 19.4% strikeout rate, way down from the 25.7% and 29.4% he posted in his two previous big league cameos with the Astros.
Davis’ power and improving approach at the plate make him a very interesting fantasy asset, but concerns about playing time are holding him back. Even with Brandon Nimmo, Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie all on the IL, Davis still doesn’t have a path to everyday at-bats. Jeff McNeil, Carlos Gomez, and Michael Conforto are starting in the outfield, with Todd Frazier, Pete Alonso, and Dominic Smith handling the corners.
Davis does draw plenty of starts in left field, but his fantasy value is dimmed by his lack of playing time. In deeper leagues with daily lineup changes, Davis is not a bad option to stash on the bench and start on days that he is in the lineup. If he hits his way into regular at-bats, which seems very possible, he could be an asset in 12-plus-team leagues.
JaCoby Jones, OF, DET (9% Owned)
JaCoby Jones is the kind of outfielder who belongs on the Milwaukee Brewers. They’ve long coveted the toolsy, defensive-minded center fielders who have almost the entire package but are limited by massive strikeout issues (see Keon Broxton, Lewis Brinson, Corey Ray, Domingo Santana, etc.).
However, Jones is with the nearby Tigers instead and is putting together a very solid campaign in his third big league season. Presently, he is slashing .243/.317/.436 with eight home runs and six stolen bases in 203 plate appearances. The strikeout issues have not gone away (30% on the season), but when he does make contact, he absolutely scorches the ball:
Jones’ combination of power and speed make him a very intriguing fantasy target. Even after only hitting .207 with a 30.4% strikeout rate last season, Jones still managed 11 home runs and 13 steals. With a batting average that is 40 points higher and an improved walk rate (from 5.1% to 7.5%), there’s reason to believe Jones could get to 20 or even 25 steals. And if he keeps hitting the ball hard, 20 home runs isn’t out of the question either.
Jones reminds me a lot of Broxton, who had one great season (20 home runs, 21 steals) even with a .229 average and a horrible strikeout rate. Jones is in the midst of his breakout season, and while it may not last forever, I do think 20/25 is a real possibility here.
If you can stomach the strikeouts and the low average, Jones is worth a look in 14-plus-team leagues thanks to his power/speed combination.
Colin Moran, 3B, PIT (10% Owned)
Prior to the start of the 2019 season, most expected Pirates third baseman Colin Moran to take a bench spot, allowing Jung-Ho Kang to start at third base. Moran ended up winning the job outright, however, and has quietly put together a nice season. In 214 plate appearances, the left-handed hitter is slashing .269/.322/.467 with 10 home runs, 40 RBI, and 25 runs scored. Considering he had 11 home runs and 58 RBI in well over double the plate appearances last season, it’s a bit of a surprise Moran isn’t getting more attention in fantasy circles.
There are, of course, some red flags, namely the decline of his walk rate (from 8.4 to 7.5%) and the spike in his strikeout rate (from 17.6 to 24.8%) as well as the fact that his hard-hit rate and exit velocity are merely league average. In fact, Dan McNamara’s outstanding new metric called predicted home run rate (or pHR) shows Moran at 8.2 home runs, not the 10 that he actually has. It’s a small difference but does point to a little luck on his side so far this season.
Still, Moran is an everyday third baseman, hitting fifth in a solid Pirates lineup, and showing at least enough power to put together a 20/80 season with a .270 batting average. That’s probably not quite relevant in 12-teamers, but Moran is a nice pickup in any deeper format where he is still available.
Christin Stewart, OF, DET (2% Owned)
Tigers slugging outfielder Christin Stewart‘s overall season numbers (.232/.320/.401 with five home runs) are nothing to write home about, but it is worth noting that his bat has started to heat up in recent weeks.
After a horrific month of May where the 25-year-old hit .203 with zero home runs, Stewart has slashed a tidy .300/.379/.480 in June with two home runs. He boasts a 12.1% walk rate in June as well, although it still comes with a 25.1% strikeout rate.
Stewart is in the mold of Adam Dunn, a classic three-true-outcomes slugger. However, he’s doing too much striking out and not hitting enough home runs this season.
However, pHR has him at 8.4 round-trippers as opposed to the five he actually has.
If June is any indication, it looks like Stewart is starting to find his rhythm at the plate. There’s absolutely the potential for 15 to 20 home runs for the rest of the season, and while the strikeouts aren’t likely to subside, folks in deeper leagues should consider adding Stewart. There aren’t a lot of sluggers with his kind of power potential just laying around.
Joey Wendle, 2B/3B/SS/OF, TB (8% Owned)
Rays infielder Joey Wendle is back from the injured list after a six-week stay with a wrist injury. He’s picked up right where he left off, which in this case is not a good thing. Following an 0-for-3 day on Sunday, Wendle is now slashing a horrific .121/.194/.152 through 10 games.
That’s a tiny sample size, however, and it’s worth remembering that Wendle hit .300 with seven home runs and 16 stolen bases for the Rays last season, numbers that make him fantasy-relevant in deeper formats. Factor in his incredible positional flexibility, and he becomes an asset in 14-plus-team leagues.
Clearly Wendle’s current performance is unrosterable, but a .182 BABIP is pretty obviously unsustainable. He’s worth keeping on the watch list in deeper fantasy formats. If/when he starts to heat up, he’s a great add in any 14-team league or deeper.
(Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire)