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.
There are a handful of starting pitchers who are worth a look in deeper leagues who are just above the 10% threshold, including Asher Wojciechowski, Cal Quantrill, and John Urquidy. Each of those guys are worth a look in 14-team leagues and deeper, and I would take them over any of the starting pitchers listed here.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t like the guys below, which includes a pair of interesting starters and a handful of hot-hitting position players.
Tyler Alexander, SP, DET (2% Owned)
Color me intrigued on Tigers left-hander Tyler Alexander. He’s made three starts for Detroit so far this season, and while he’s only gotten into the sixth inning once, his overall numbers don’t look too bad. He’s boasting a 3.86 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and a nice 14:2 K/BB ratio, along with a 3.65 FIP.
Alexander displayed nice strikeout stuff and excellent control at Triple-A Toledo across 15 starts this season—posting a 94:18 K/BB ratio despite an ugly 5.72 ERA—so the potential is there.
The problem is that his stuff is pretty fringe. He averages a hair over 91 mph with his fastball, and while his breaking stuff has the potential to be above average, he’ll need to command his fastball better and prevent the long ball (18 in Triple-A and two in the bigs) in order to have sustained success.
His three outings have been against the White Sox, Blue Jays, and Mariners as well, so there is definitely reason to suspect that he won’t be relevant against good-hitting teams.
AL-only and similarly deep leagues may want to keep a close eye on Alexander. He draws Texas next and is a potential streaming option in deeper leagues going forward.
Luis Arraez, 2B/3B/OF, MIN (5% Owned)
There’s no way Twins infielder Luis Arraez is going to keep hitting .368, but every time I think he’s going to go on a frigid cold streak, he just keeps hitting. He hit .391 last week with a .481 OBP and six runs scored. He’s still not providing anything else, with just two home runs and one stolen base on the year, but his season average of .368 with a .442 OBP is excellent enough to merit a spot on most deep-league fantasy rosters.
His positional flexibility is an added bonus, as he is now eligible at second base, third base, and outfield in Yahoo! leagues. Arraez has done enough to earn a consistent starting spot in Minnesota’s lineup, although hitting near the back will limit his RBI opportunities.
Regardless, it’s hard to ignore a guy hitting nearly .370, and if you need a batting average stabilizer in your league, it’s hard to go wrong here.
Mark Canha, 1B/OF, OAK (6% Owned)
Mark Canha is having an interesting season. He’s already mashed 17 home runs with 46 runs scored and 31 RBI, despite spending part of the season on the IL and serving as a platoon bat for another portion. Additionally, he has an outstanding 14.4% walk rate on the year, which has lead him to a .384 OBP despite a pedestrian .253 batting average.
Canha has shown nice power and plate discipline in the past but never at this level. The walk rate is miles ahead of his career high, and the 17 home runs match last year’s total in nearly 150 fewer plate appearances.
Is it sustainable? Well, his 37.5% hard-hit rate is his highest career mark, and his 88.3 mph exit velocity and 17.9-degree launch angle are both above the league average, which is a good sign. His 21.5% HR/FB rate is much higher than he’s posted in the past, but his added exit velocity and the extra juice in this year’s baseballs make me think this power surge is somewhat sustainable.
Canha is flying under the radar, but he could realistically finish the season with 30 home runs, 80 runs scored, and a .380 OBP, which is immensely valuable in deep leagues—particularly ones that count OBP.
For those who are concerned about playing time, Canha has started and hit fourth for the past few weeks, although that could change when Stephen Piscotty returns. Regardless, I like what I’m seeing from the slugger, and I’d want him in nearly every format that counts OBP—and even deeper leagues that don’t.
Yoan Lopez, RP, AZ (4% Owned)
The Diamondbacks finally decided to take Greg Holland out of the ninth inning role, saying they are going to go with a committee approach. Lopez isn’t a sure thing to take over the role, although he did replace Holland on Thursday, tossing a scoreless frame and earning the save.
Lopez will be competing with Yoshihisa Hirano and Archie Bradley, and while his 2.66 ERA and 1.03 WHIP are nice, he doesn’t have the stuff that traditional closers typically have. While his fastball has nice velocity, his 6.20 K/9 and 4.42 SIERA don’t bode exceptionally well.
Hirano and Bradley both have big-time control issues however, and even though Lopez doesn’t overpower, he may well end up being Arizona’s best option in the ninth inning.
In deeper leagues and NL-only formats, Lopez is a nice speculative add for those in need of saves—or for those who play in SV+HD leagues.
Yairo Munoz, 2B/3B/SS/OF, STL (2% Owned)
Cardinals uber-utility player Yairo Munoz has found himself in the starting lineup in seven of the team’s past eight contests, a span where he scored four runs, hit one dinger, and drove in three—but more importantly swiped three bases.
Munoz has played all over the diamond this season, which has helped him earn plenty of playing time recently despite a solid Cardinals lineup. He’s hitting .280/.301/.394 on the year, with a pair of home runs and seven steals in 61 games.
Munoz is a nice add in NL-only formats and similarly deep leagues. The super-banged up Cardinals will be healthy soon however, and Munoz will struggle to find playing time when Matt Carpenter, Marcell Ozuna, Jedd Gyorko and Dexter Fowler are back from the IL.
Until then, teams in deep leagues in need of steals should find a way to stick him onto their roster.
Austin Nola, 1B, SEA (1% Owned)
Nola was a longtime Marlins farmhand before the Mariners signed him to a minor league contract just before the start of the season. After a productive stint in Triple-A Tacoma, Nola found his way to the big leagues and has hit his way into what appears to be an everyday role for the Mariners.
Through 71 plate appearances, Nola is slashing a tidy .313/.371/.547 with 11 runs scored, four home runs, and nine RBI. His plate discipline leaves quite a bit to be desired, as he’s sporting a 5.6% walk rate and a 26.8% strikeout rate, but as long as he is starting every day for the Mariners, he is worth a look in deeper (16 or more teams) leagues.
His future playing time will be heavily dictated by the Mariners’ moves at the deadline. He’s currently starting primarily at either first or second base, although injuries to Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy have made that possible. Should they end up trading either of them, or Domingo Santana, Kyle Seager or Tim Beckham, Nola could be the beneficiary. He’s played 21 games at first base, four at second base, three at third base, one in left field, and even two behind the plate, the position he played while in Miami’s farm system.
He’s only eligible at first base currently, but he’s worth keeping an eye on as a bench piece in deeper leagues, particularly if he gains multipositional flexibility, which could be coming soon.
Vince Velasquez, SP, PHI (8% Owned)
It’s been an up-and-down season for Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez. He briefly spent some time pitching out of Philadelphia’s bullpen, which sapped his fantasy value. His return to the rotation was rather rocky as well, but his past five starts have yielded some mixed but mostly positive results.
Across his past five starts, a span of 24.2 innings, Velasquez has an excellent 30:5 K/BB ratio, a 4.01 ERA, and an excellent 1.09 WHIP. He’s managed to give up seven home runs however, and a 5.21 FIP and 87.4% left-on-base rate indicate that he may be getting lucky more than anything.
However, Velasquez has always had strong strikeout stuff, and while the home runs are certainly a problem, his current rate is likely unsustainable.
I’m not ready to pick Velasquez up as a regular rotation piece outside of deeper leagues, but he’s definitely worth a look as a streamer against weaker hitting offenses—which could include his upcoming start against the Giants.
(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)