(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)
Every Tuesday from now until the end of the season, we will be taking a look at players with under 15% ownership that should be on your radar in deep leagues. The majority of fantasy baseball leagues are mixed leagues with 10-12 teams, however we know many of you play in 18-20 team leagues and/or AL/NL only formats. This column is for you all.
Players who endured 80-game suspensions prior to the start of the season are back, and they are featured along with some other high performers in this week’s edition:
Jorge Bonifacio, OF, KC (1.0% owned)
Bonifacio returned a few days ago from his 80-game suspension. He has gone 4-for-12 since his return as Kansas City’s right fielder. If everyday at-bats are in store for Bonifacio going forward, he will no doubt have value in 14+ team leagues. Last year was his rookie season, and the 25-year-old slashed .255/.320/.432 with 17 home runs in just 384 at-bats. He played in 13 games for the Royals Triple-A affiliate while on suspension, and slashed a blistering .392/.466/.529.
Bonifacio is definitely strikeout prone (28% last year) and his 18.3% HR/FB ratio last year looks a little flukey, especially considering his 32.2% hard-hit rate. Still, an everyday outfielder with solid pop is worth a look in deeper formats, and Bonifacio has the potential to hit 15-20 home runs this season.
Max Fried, SP, ATL (3.6% owned)
Fried returned after a month in Triple-A to post an outstanding 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 11 K performance on Saturday. He took the place of Brandon McCarthy, who is out with a knee injury for an undisclosed amount of time. Fried’s value is tied to whether or not he stays in the rotation, but if he does he is absolutely worth owning in nearly all formats. He debuted at No. 83 on The List this week, and his high strikeout upside make him an arm worth paying attention to. His path in the minor leagues has been a roller coaster, but he was the seventh overall pick in 2012 and definitely has the potential to be a solid big league contributor.
Matt Harvey, SP, CIN (13.0% owned)
In case you haven’t heard, Matt Harvey (No. 86 on the list) is throwing the ball quite a bit harder now that he’s not in New York. Since joining the Reds, Harvey has thrown 57 1/3 innings with a 3.86 ERA and a 6.7 K/9. He’s still nowhere near the elite Harvey from a few years ago, but his dramatic velocity increase (1.8 miles per hour more on his fastball) has helped him regain at least a little of his dark knight magic. Harvey was a rain delay away from a third consecutive quality start on Sunday, tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts. He’s not a must-own in ten teamers yet, but he’s worth keeping an eye on in 12+ team leagues.
Joe Jimenez, RP, DET (7.0% owned)
It’s long been expected that Joe Jimenez will take over the closer role in Detroit when Shane Greene gets traded. With Greene headed to the disabled list, fantasy owners get an early Christmas present. No word on how long Greene will be out, but there’s a chance his job may not be waiting for him when he returns. Jimenez has been shaky in his last couple of outings, including blowing his first save opportunity since Greene went on the DL. However, the hard throwing right-hander sports a stellar 2.77 ERA and 1.08 WHIP on the year, with a 10.15 K/9 and a 2.08 BB/9. I’d expect Jimenez to be a top-20 closer ROS, and that is worth owning in nearly all fantasy formats.
Collin McHugh, RP, HOU (9.4% owned)
Like Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock before him, McHugh has taken over Houston’s lights out middle relief role. An increased use in his slider, along with abandoning his changeup, has led McHugh to a 0.97 ERA and 0.81 WHIP this season. He also has an outstanding 51/9 K/BB ratio. The issue with McHugh is that his middle relief role doesn’t afford him any saves or holds. In K/9 leagues, his dual SP/RP eligibility makes him an appealing target. But unless he moves up in the pecking order, he’s likely only useful in deeper formats. Still, it’s hard to ignore a guy with a sub-1.00 ERA and WHIP.
Wily Peralta, RP, KC (7.6% owned)
When the Royals traded Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals, their bullpen was instantly in flux. Kevin McCarthy was the expected heir, but despite solid results the Royals have decided to crown former Brewers starter Wily Peralta as their closer. Peralta earned two saves last week, striking out three and walking none. He’s no doubt on the low end (bottom?) of the closing totem pole, but in deeper leagues – saves are saves.
Jorge Polanco, SS, MIN (3.1% owned)
Jorge Polanco was a trendy preseason pick after racking up 13 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 2017. However, just before the season Polanco was hit with an 80-game ban for PED use. He’s back now, and the Twins are planning to have him serve as their everyday shortstop. He hit .293 with 10 home runs and seven steals in the second half last season, and it seems entirely possible that he can repeat that line again ROS. That’s valuable in most formats, and I’d be looking at him in 12-teamers and deeper.
Danny Valencia, 1B/3B/DH, BAL (2.4% owned)
Danny Valencia has taken over the every day third base role for Baltimore this season. Unsurprisingly, his numbers have been better against left-handed pitching, although the splits are much closer than usual. He is slashing .279/.354/.500 against left-handers and .274/.324/.421 against right-handers.
In addition to relatively even splits, Valencia is also boasting a career-high 9.3% walk-rate and an 18.1% strikeout rate, his lowest since 2011. His .182 ISO is his highest in three years, and his eight home runs in 57 games put him on pace to eclipse 20 for the first time in his ten year career. Valencia isn’t the sexiest name out there, but his consistent playing time, solid performance and positional flexibility make him appealing in deeper leagues.