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.
A pair of highly-touted starting pitchers —Dylan Cease and Brendan McKay are up with the big clubs now. McKay’s debut went excellent, with Cease set to debut on Wednesday. Both are above 10% owned, but I’d be looking at both of them in most fantasy formats—although certainly prioritize McKay over Cease.
Additionally, I need to give a personal PSA to please check out the amazing podcast our fearless leader, Nick Pollack, did with Ross Stripling last week. It was amazing. Today’s podcast with David Cone will be even better, so give that a listen as well.
Here is a healthy mix of AL/NL players to consider for those of you in deeper fantasy formats:
Nick Ahmed, SS, AZ (7% Owned)
Nick Ahmed is boring. I mean, even his name sounds like someone yawning. And while his .258/.308/.416 slash line is, you guessed it, boring, he does have seven home runs and five stolen bases on the year, along with 20 doubles, three triples, 42 runs scored, and 35 RBI.
His Statcast data is eh, with a 30.8% hard-hit rate and an average exit velocity of 86.6 mph, and his strikeout and walk numbers are nearly identical to his 2018 season, when he posted a .290 OBP along with 16 home runs and five steals.
So Ahmed isn’t about to break out or anything, but he’s a reliable middle infielder in deeper formats, capable of producing in four categories, and he’s not a terrible drag on the batting average. If you are in a 14-plus-team league and need some help in the middle infield, Ahmed is a safe, unexciting option.
Cheslor Cuthbert, 1B/3B, KC (1% Owned)
Quietly, Royals corner infielder Cheslor Cuthbert has been having himself a nice season. He’s boasting a .301/.333/.466 slash line with four home runs, 15 RBI, and one stolen base in 108 plate appearances. The return of Hunter Dozier should have pushed Cuthbert into a bench role, but the demotion of Ryan O’Hearn and the poor, poor performance of Lucas Duda has opened up an opportunity for Cuthbert to continue seeing everyday at-bats.
Cuthbert’s .386 BABIP probably won’t hold, and his 4.6% walk rate and 24.1% strikeout rate are problematic, but a 36.1% hard-hit rate suggests that Cuthbert could provide double-digit pop if he gets consistent at-bats. He won’t keep hitting over .300, but in deeper leagues and AL-only formats, he’s a solid corner infield option.
Ariel Jurado, SP, TEX (6% Owned)
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that Rangers right-hander Ariel Jurado is some hidden gem. He’s a soft-tosser with virtually no spin on his fastball or his breaking pitches who is sporting a 6.40 K/9 and a 4.72 SIERA.
However, he does have five wins and five quality starts on the year, and while he doesn’t generate a lot of strikeouts, he is good at limiting walks and hard contact, which makes him at least worth considering in very deep leagues or AL-only formats.
I’m OK streaming him against poor hitting teams, especially after he threw seven scoreless innings against the hapless Tigers late last week, with one walk and four strikeouts.
Don’t count on some big second half from Jurado, but as an occasional streamer or deep league bottom of the rotation arm, you could do worse.
Drew Pomeranz, SP, SF (1% Owned)
Look, I get it. The Dirty Cheerleader is not what he once was. He’s sporting a ridiculously bad 6.25 ERA and 1.72 WHIP on the year, with a 4.26 BB/9 and a staggering 15 home runs surrendered so far this season.
However, it’s hard to ignore his past two starts. Pomeranz went five innings against both the Rockies and the Diamondbacks in late June, giving up just two earned runs with a ridiculous 18:4 K/BB ratio and only one home run surrendered. It’s probably just a flukey pair of outings, but Pomeranz does boast a 10.94 K/9 on the year, so it’s not like the strikeouts are a surprise. And he is suffering from a ridiculous .370 BABIP and 22.7% HR/FB rate. And his SIERA is 4.39, a much more palatable number than his 6.25 ERA indicates.
Pomeranz isn’t going to be a mixed-league asset any time soon, but in 16-plus-team leagues or NL-only formats, I’m keeping my eyes peeled. He’s always been a streaky pitcher, even at his best, but the kind of strikeout numbers he is putting up can help boost a deep-league team considerably, even if the ratios take a hit.
Miguel Rojas, 1B/2B/3B/SS, MIA (3% Owned)
Another versatile infielder who is quietly having a nice season, Miami’s Miguel Rojas is slashing .287/.350/.358 with 29 runs scored, 23 RBI, and six stolen bases on the year. He doesn’t have any home runs, which is a disappointment after he mashed 11 last year, but it is worth pointing out that he only hit one in each of the four previous seasons.
So while power may not be in the cards, Rojas is providing a solid average and adding on a few steals, which is always valuable—especially from a player who is eligible nearly everywhere on the diamond.
His plate discipline is outstanding as well, with a 8% walk rate and a 12.2% strikeout rate. Assuming he keeps putting the ball in play and drawing walks, he’ll be a nice fantasy asset in 14-plus-team leagues and could even hit himself into 12-team relevance if his power returns.
Chance Sisco, C, BAL (7% Owned)
Young Orioles catcher Chance Sisco is doing his best to get out of his catching platoon situation, having homered in consecutive days over the weekend after sitting the previous four contests. Sisco now boasts a very nice .267/.389/.644 line with four home runs and 14 RBI in 54 plate appearances.
Unfortunately for Sisco, fellow O’s backstop Pedro Severino is also playing well, which is hurting Sisco’s playing time. The catching position is a tough one in fantasy, as the players so often split time. More often than not, fantasy owners are better off streaming catchers than holding on to one all year, unless they have one of the very few studs at the position.
In deeper leagues, catching is even more barren, and backups or platoon options become vital. That’s where Sisco and his high-average, steady power bat will come into play. He’s probably going to see less than 50% of the at-bats, barring an injury, but his production still merits consideration in 14-plus-team leagues and definitely in AL-only formats.
Dominic Smith, 1B/OF, NYM (6% Owned)
Dominic Smith‘s first two stints in the big leagues in 2017 and 2018 did not go so well, but it looks like the third time is truly the charm with the Mets’ new left fielder. Through 141 plate appearances, Smith is slashing a blistering .328/.418/.590 with eight home runs, 14 RBI and 29 runs scored. Those numbers are bolstered by an outstanding final week in June, where he blasted four home runs and scored seven runs, while adding a stolen base just for good measure.
The Mets have juggled a ton of players around in left field, and Smith’s playing time is far from guaranteed, but while he’s hitting like this and starting nearly every day (seven of the past eight), he is worth owning in all deeper formats and is a borderline roster candidate in 12-team leagues as well.
My biggest concern is playing time, although the .390 BABIP and 25.0% HR/FB rate are obviously due for some regression as well—especially when he boasts a league average hard-hit rate. Still, I wouldn’t wait too long to grab the 24-year-old.
(Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)