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.
Happy All-Star break! While it may be a boring time in the fantasy baseball season, now is also a good time to go hunting for those hidden gems on the waiver wire, the kind of players who could end up winning you your league down the stretch.
Those players are definitely harder to find in deeper leagues, but here is a look at seven players who are owned in less than 10% of leagues. Hopefully there are guys that aren’t owned in your 14- or 16-team league who you can snag and ride to victory in the second half.
Nick Ahmed, SS, AZ (6% Owned)
Last week, I called Diamondbacks infielder Nick Ahmed boring. And while I stand by that, he actually dropped in ownership rate despite hitting .304 with two home runs and a steal this past week. That gives him nine home runs, six stolen bases, and a respectable .262/.311/.429 slash line on the year.
His 46 runs scored and 39 RBI put him on pace to post a 90-run, 80-RBI season—and while I’m not predicting he’ll reach that necessarily, I do think he has more value that he is getting credit for. In 14-team or larger leagues, Ahmed is a completely rosterable middle infielder, and it’s not a stretch to pick him up in 12-teamers either, especially if you are hurting in the middle infield.
Anything deeper than that, he should be automatically picked up. As long as he is playing every day in Arizona, he will continue to boast solid—if rather boring—fantasy numbers.
Luis Arraez, 2B/OF, MIN (3% Owned)
If you’ve been following along with Pitcher List this year, you know how much we love our elite contact hitters. That’s why we are so fascinated by Twins utility player
Willians Astu Luis Arraez, who is boasting a ridiculous .393/.453/.524 slash line through his first career 95 plate appearances.
95 plate appearances is not a tiny sample size, and it’s pretty darn impressive to still be hitting nearly .400 at that stage. It’s obviously not sustainable (hello .413 BABIP), although his .320 xBA shows that he is striking the ball well and should continue to provide a high batting average for interested fantasy owners.
Unfortunately, that’s about all you’ll get out of him. He has a pair of home runs and a steal, but his minor league numbers don’t show a whole lot of prowess in either category, making him a one-category contributor.
So those in deeper leagues, enjoy the 10.5% walk rate and 8.4% strikeout rate, but don’t expect Arraez to provide much in the way of counting stats—and when the Twins are fully healthy, there’s a real chance he is relegated to a bench role or a spot back in Triple-A Rochester.
Jeimer Candelario, 3B, DET (2% Owned)
After a really promising debut with the Tigers in 2017 and an up-and-down but still semi-promising 2018 campaign, things have been bad for third baseman Jeimer Candelario in 2019. His .214/.309/.362 slash line is proof of that, as are the handful of stops he has made in the minor leagues.
He’s back now, however, and over the past seven days he went 7-26 (.269) with four of those hits going for round-trippers. Settling in as the team’s No. 5 hitter, Candelario possesses enough power to challenge for 25 home runs on the season and a good enough eye at the plate to be relevant in OBP formats, particularly 14-team leagues or deeper.
The 27.8% strikeout rate is definitely a concern, and his hard-hit rate isn’t the most inspiring thing in the world, but you could do worse than the Candy-Man as a 3B plug-in, even in 12-teamers if they count OBP.
Nate Lowe, 1B, TB (3% Owned)
Speaking of guys who are back, Rays first baseman Nate Lowe is trying to make sure his most recent call-up will keep him up for good. He’s already homered in two of his four games since coming up from Triple-A, the first two round-trippers of his big league career.
His call-up is a result of injuries for both Ji-Man Choi and Brandon Lowe, so it is entirely possible he ends up back in Triple-A when those guys are healthy. But if he keeps hitting, the Rays will have to find a spot for him to play. And considering he’s hitting .290 with 12 home runs in 68 games at Triple-A, there’s a very good chance he keeps hitting.
In AL-only formats, I’m jumping all over Lowe. In fact, I’d consider him in 12-teamers—although it’s fair for owners to wait and see on him before grabbing him there. Anything deeper than that, you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss out.
Miguel Rojas, 1B/2B/3B/SS, MIA (9% Owned)
When we last talked, Rojas was a hot deeper-league commodity because he was leading off every day in Miami and had swiped a few bases, but the lack of power was holding him back. Last week, Rojas blasted his first home run of the season, while also hitting .367 as Miami’s top of the order hitter. That saw him jump from 3% to 9% owned in Yahoo! leagues—a nice jump but enough to keep him on my radar for this article.
Rojas has elite contact skills, with a 12.4% strikeout rate and a 7.4% walk rate, and while I don’t expect a massive power surge is coming any time soon, he has the potential to steal 10 bases with four to five home runs and a .290 batting average in the second half.
In 16-team or deeper leagues, that’s very valuable. His positional versatility makes him even more valuable—putting him on the radar in shallower leagues as well.
Pablo Sandoval, 1B/3B, SFG (1% Owned)
Guys. Pablo Sandoval is good this year. I mean he’s not the Panda we all loved five to seven years ago, but he has quietly posted a .288/.325/.571 slash line with 11 home runs, 33 RBI and—shockingly—a stolen base, his first since 2012. In fact, his 11 home runs is his highest total since 2014, and his 127 wRC+ is his highest since 2011.
Statcast actually backs up a lot of what Sandoval is doing at the plate. He’s boasting a .280 xBA and a 46.6% hard-hit rate, suggesting his results are not entirely flukey.
In fact, an overall look at his Statcast data is a nice little throwback to the beginning of the decade, speed and all:
The Panda is back for now, although the warning signs are loud and clear. He has a 5.2% walk rate and a 25.0% strikeout rate—which would mark his highest full-season mark ever. Plus, he’s not playing every day and seems like a very likely trade candidate for a rebuilding Giants team. If he does get unloaded, I suspect he’d end up in a platoon/bench role with his new club, which would obviously hamper his value.
Still, in NL-only leagues and similarly deep formats, I’d happily be rostering Sandoval while he’s hitting well.
Joey Wendle, 2B/SS/3B/OF, TB (6% Owned)
Oh, how I wish I could quit you baby Wendle. After missing most of the year with a wrist injury, Wendle returned and looked rather lethargic, leading to a season line of just .200/.277/.256. His last week saw him hit a more respectable .278 but with only four runs and three RBI, and still no home runs on the season.
The main reason he’s listed here, and the only real reason you should be considering him, is for steals. Wendle swiped three bases this past week alone, reminding fans and fantasy owners that he still has the ability to change a team’s composition.
Speed and positional flexibility are scarce, and while Wendle will need to find some of his power to gain real relevance—which may be hard coming off a wrist injury—he still has some value in deeper leagues, enough to consider him in 14-team and deeper leagues and AL-only formats.
(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)