(Photo by Tim Spyers/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.
I’ve realized a lot of the players I select for this are very close to the 15% owned marker, and thus are not available in a lot of deep leagues. I’m keeping the 15% as the benchmark, but will try to find players who are even less widely available going forward. This week features six players, all who are under 5% owned.
David Fletcher, SS/3B, LAA (0.6% owned)
Fletcher has been a short-sided platoon option at third base, starting (and leading off) against left-handers while Luis Valbuena gets the bulk of starts against right-handers. However, on Monday Fletcher started at third against right-hander Lucas Giolito. There’s no word of an injury to Valbuena, so this could be a changing of the guard for the Angels. With Zack Cozart out for the year, Fletcher has a chance to hold down the third base job for the rest of the season.
Fletcher likely earned the job thanks to his .326/.340/.370 slash line on the year against right-handers. He doesn’t provide a ton of power or speed, and his 4.2% walk rate is pretty bad. However, his 11.6% strikeout rate is phenomenal, and hitting in LA’s stacked lineup should afford him plenty of opportunities for runs and RBI’s. I’d consider him in any format deeper than a 14-teamer.
Jace Fry, RP, CWS (0.6% owned)
Nate Jones just suffered a set-back in his recovery from a muscle strain, and will not throw for two weeks. While the expectation is that he will throw again this season, it won’t be for a while. Joakim Soria is the incumbent closer in Chicago, but he is likely to be dealt before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. That leaves the left-handed Fry, who has a 11.10 K/9 in 30 innings this season, as the likely closer going forward.
His 3.90 ERA is backed up by a 2.32 FIP, so it’s entirely possible Fry could pitch his way into a top-15 closer ranking ROS. Not bad for a guy owned in 99.4% of ESPN leagues.
John Gant, SP, STL (4.1% owned)
Gant debuted on The List at No. 89 this week, one spot ahead of fellow St. Louis starters Daniel Poncedeleon and Austin Gomber. When Carlos Martinez returns from the disabled list, one of those three will be bounced. Gant is the safest bet to keep his job, having already made seven starts this season. He has a 3.76 ERA as a starter, along with a 7.51 K/9. His 3.99 FIP points to some possible regression, but Gant is still worth owning or at least streaming in deep leagues.
Mychal Givens, RP, BAL (1.3% owned)
You can copy a lot of what I wrote for Fry here for Givens. Baltimore closer Zach Britton is a near lock to be traded in the next week. Eighth inning reliever Brad Brach has a good chance to be traded too, as Baltimore is trying to clean house and acquire as much prospect capital as possible. Givens could end up in the closing role in Baltimore in less than a week, if all goes well.
The 28-year-old has a 4.50 ERA but a 2.70 FIP. His 10.26 K/9 is solid, although his 4.14 BB/9 could use some work. He’s been better in July, with a 7/0 K/BB ratio and a 2.57 ERA. Givens is no guarantee to take over as closer, but he’s worth a speculative add in deeper formats where saves are at a premium.
Renato Nunez, OF/3B, BAL (0.1% owned)
Nunez appears to have taken over as Baltimore’s starting third baseman, indirectly replacing Manny Machado with Tim Beckham sliding over to shortstop. Nunez’s primary competition for starts at third are Jace Peterson and Danny Valencia, so it stands to reason that the Orioles will give the 24-year-old slugger a chance to win the job outright. Nunez was slashing .289/.361/.443 with a 10.5% walk rate at Triple-A, and although he only has five home runs he did hit 32 in AAA for the A’s last season.
Felix Pena, SP, LAA (3.1% owned)
Pena has made five starts for the Angels this season. He is boasting a 2.66 ERA with a 11.41 K/9 and just a 3.42 BB/9 in those five starts. His 2.99 FIP and 2.92 xFIP tell you all you need to know: this dude is legit. He’s a 28-year-old journeyman, and his stickiness in the rotation will depend on the health of other arms around him, but for now he’s worth owning in leagues as shallow as 12-teamers. At the very least, he should be considered a strong streaming option going forward.