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.
Cleveland called up slugging first base prospect Bobby Bradley this week, immediately adding some desperately needed “oomph” to their lineup. He’s already up to 22% of Yahoo leagues, so he won’t be featured below, but he is worth a look in 12-plus-team leagues thanks to that raw power. Don’t be surprised if strikeout issues seriously hamper him in The Show however.
Here are some lesser owned players to consider in deeper leagues as well—enjoy!
Willians Astudillo, C/3B, MIN (7% Owned)
I’ve been waiting for my chance to write about the man they call “La Tortuga.” I drafted him as my only catcher in a 10-team AL-only league and was forced to drop him when he was demoted. Thankfully I picked up Roberto Perez in his place, but I ended up picking Astudillo back up as a second catcher anyway.
Anyway, after a rough start to the season that saw Astudillo slash just .250/.273/.357 with a pair of home runs and 16 RBI, Astudillo was sent down to Triple-A Rochester. His stay in the minors was a short one, and in four games since returning, the big fella has hit .308 with another round-tripper.
More than anything else, Astudillo is worth consideration because of his potential multi-position eligibility. Astudillo is eligible at catcher and third base in Yahoo leagues and could get outfield eligibility very soon. That alone makes him an appealing C2 in shallower formats and an enticing starting catcher in deeper formats. With Mitch Garver and Jason Castro both killing it this year, Astudillo’s path to playing time may be as a super-utility player.
If you need a flexible bench bat who will help stabilize your batting average, see if you can snatch up Astudillo if impatient owners dumped him. He’s worth it for more than just the entertainment value.
Aaron Civale, SP, CLE (7% Owned)
Indians right-hander Aaron Civale really impressed in his big league debut against the Tigers on Saturday, throwing six shutout innings with two hits, three walks and six strikeouts. While he’ll surely be a hot commodity on the waiver wire, there are some concerns about his performance—namely a poor 15/85 CSW rate and the fact that he was facing a Triple-A lineup in Detroit.
He did have some success in the minors however and is expected to draw the Orioles next, which is an easy start. I’d want to stream him for that outing everywhere possible, but the possibility that Mike Clevinger returns after that could send him back to Triple-A. Even if it doesn’t, he’s a risky regular option outside of AL-only or similarly deep formats.
Don’t miss out on that sweet Baltimore start though.
Teoscar Hernandez, OF, TOR (2% Owned)
A quick look at Hernandez’s .210/.284/.376 slash line on the year, complete with a 28.9% strikeout rate and a brief demotion to Triple-A, and most fantasy owners are going to run for the hills.
However, it really has been a tale of two seasons for Hernandez in 2019. Prior to his May 6 demotion, Hernandez was slashing .189/.262/.299 with only three home runs in 141 plate appearances. Since returning in early June, Hernandez has posted a considerably better .259/.333/.556 line, along with four of his seven home runs, nine of his 24 RBI, and two steals.
He’s not only hitting more line drives, but he has started to hit the ball the other way as well, a good sign that he is seeing the ball better than at the start of the year.
Of course, Hernandez is prone to hot streaks, and there’s no guarantee this kind of production continues, especially because his strikeout numbers haven’t changed. It’s worth checking into in deeper formats though, at least while he’s hot at the plate.
JaCoby Jones, OF, DET (5% Owned)
I try to vary my recommendations each week, but this will be the third week in a row that Tigers center fielder JaCoby Jones is listed here.
Owned in just 5% of Yahoo! leagues, Jones is absolutely scorching the ball for the Tigers this season. I know his .252/.321/.455 slash line doesn’t jump off the page, nor his nine home runs and six stolen bases, but his Statcast data is rather jarring:
Jones’ exit velocity and hard-hit rate are both in the top 10% of the league, and his .192 ISO is no joke. With everyday playing time, Jones is an easy 25-home run threat.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss his speed, which is also among the best in the league. I could see a 25/15 season from the Tigers outfielder, and while that will come with a .250 average, it still holds a lot more fantasy value than he is getting credit for.
Of course, his monstrous strikeout issues (29.8%) are still present, even though he has lowered his O-swing rate and his swinging-strike rate from last season. His walk rate is up as well, sitting at 7.2% this season after a 5.1% mark last year.
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.
Tom Murphy, C, SEA (3% Owned)
Finding catchers who offer any kind of production in deeper leagues is a huge challenge, as so few teams have a true everyday catcher anymore. At that point, you’re often forced to look for the guys who just simply get at-bats—with anything else a bonus.
However, Mariners backup catcher Tom Murphy has been able to provide ample fantasy value this season, even though his playing time is sporadic at best. In 107 plate appearances, Murphy has eight home runs, 18 RBI, and one steal with a very nice .287/.318/.574 slash line. That is absolutely worth owning in deeper formats or two-catcher leagues, even if he’s only starting a few times a week.
Of course, those numbers come with a horrendous 3.7% walk rate and 35.5%(!) strikeout rate, along with a xSlash of .202/.280/.411. Yikes.
In AL-only or similarly deep leagues, Murphy is not a bad plug and play. He’ll sit most days, but if he gets a few knocks and a home run or two, you’ll take it. Should anything happen to regular starter Omar Narvaez, Murphy would become a must-add in most fantasy formats.
Trent Thornton, SP, TOR (6% Owned)
Blue Jays starter Trent Thornton keeps finding his way onto these lists. His season line is pretty meh (2-5, 4.25 ERA, 1.40 WHIP), but he has displayed consistently solid strikeout stuff (9.47 K/9) and is prone to excellent streaks, like his current one.
His past two games have been at Houston and at Boston, yet he posted a pair of quality starts with a 14:4 K/BB ratio. If he can do that against those two teams, it makes you wonder why he gave up 13 earned runs in the four previous starts—although the fact that he walked three in each of those games helps paint a clearer picture.
Bottom line is Thornton has excellent strikeout stuff (his fastball and curveball both boast elite spin rates), but he doesn’t have great control and rarely goes deep into games, which limits his value and will make him prone to blow-ups—against anyone.
That makes him a tough streaming option—I mean no one likely streamed him against Houston or Boston, yet two of his worst starts this year have been at Baltimore and against San Francisco.
I’m willing to ride the wave in deeper leagues for the strikeout potential, but he’s a tough sell as a streamer in shallower formats. It depends how lucky you are feeling that day.
Mike Yastrzemski, OF, SF (1% Owned)
The grandson of Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, Mike has done his best to make a name for himself with the Giants this season. A stellar showing in Triple-A got him the call to The Show, and he has blasted five home runs in just 26 games, along with a .244/.298/.453 slash line.
The 28.7% strikeout rate is certainly a concern, and the .244 average comes with a .228 xBA, which isn’t great. However, it’s hard to ignore anyone who hits three home runs in a week, especially since that earned him a boost to the No. 2 spot in the batting order.
Yastrzemski won’t keep up this torrid pace, but in deeper leagues, he could be a cheap source of runs and RBI at the top of the order, with the occasional home run as well.
(Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire)