Every Monday from now until the end of the season, we will take a look at players with less than 15% ownership (Yahoo!) that should be on your radar in deep leagues. The majority of fantasy baseball leagues are mixed leagues with 10 to 12 teams, however 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.
This early in the season, it can be a little too easy to react to the first handful of games. Just because Giancarlo Stanton hasn’t done anything or Chris Sale got blown up doesn’t mean it is time to panic. Likewise, reacting too early to hot starts isn’t always a good idea (Tim Beckham is not the next Manny Machado, for example).
Still, there are definitely a few trends to pay attention to early in the 2019 season that could help your fantasy team in the long run. Here are seven players to add in deeper leagues, and to pay attention to in shallower ones:
Matt Harvey, SP, LAA (13% Owned)
I tend to focus on guys who are owned in less than 10% and often less than 5% of leagues. However, Matt Harvey’s 13% ownage rate still seems low to me, so I included him in case he’s still available in leagues deeper than 12. Harvey posted a quality start in his first game with the Angels, giving up two runs in six innings — thanks to a home run from Khris Davis. However, Harvey only struck out one batter, and therein lies the key to Harvey’s fantasy value.
Last season, the Dark Knight showed glimpses of his old self, getting his fastball back up into the mid-90s and making 28 starts with excellent command (2.15 BB/9) and a good-but-not-great 4.18 SIERA. Of course, his 4.94 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 7.61 K/9 didn’t do anyone any favors, which is why fantasy owners weren’t rushing out to get him this season.
Still, that fastball velocity is still up in 2019, and that command hasn’t gone away. He is playing with a considerably better defense than he had in New York or Cincinnati last season, which should allow him to post results closer to that SIERA in the low 4’s. I’m not banking on a return to the glory days from Harvey, but he could easily be a top-100 or even top-75 arm this season.
I do think he ends up rosterable in 12-teamers, and he should be owned in any league deeper than that.
Teoscar Hernandez, OF, TOR (5% Owned)
The writers at Pitcher List collectively beat the Teoscar Hernandez drum this offseason, lauding his incredible Statcast numbers and the potential for full-time playing time in a not-so-terrible Toronto lineup.
While Hernandez has shuffled between left field and designated hitter, it does appear that he is going to get nearly full-time at-bats this season, particularly after the trade of Kendrys Morales. Hernandez has major strikeout issues, but his ability to make hard contact could easily make him a 30-home run threat, which could result in 90 RBI if he continues to hit near the top of Toronto’s lineup.
I wouldn’t wait too long to add this slugger to your roster, even in 12-teamers. If he’s available in any league deeper than that, grab him right away.
Jose Iglesias, SS, CIN (2% Owned)
Jose Iglesias is what he is at this point. He’s a glove-first, light-hitting middle infielder who can occasionally swipe a base and make decent enough contact to not kill your average. Signed as a minor league free agent after many years with Detroit, Iglesias was expected to fill a utility role for the Reds. However, an injury to Scooter Gennett has allowed him to start full time at second base, and while he won’t wow you, he is worth owning in NL-only leagues and 16-plus-team leagues for the time being.
Ian Kennedy, RP, KC (7% Owned)
So Ian Kennedy is a closer now. After Brad Boxberger earned the first save of the season, he was brought in in the seventh inning and promptly gave up three earned runs, leaving Kennedy to clean up the mess and earn the save. Manager Ned Yost indicated after the game that Kennedy and Wily Peralta are the top candidates for the ninth inning going forward, leaving Boxberger for middle relief. While Peralta was the closer last season, he doesn’t have a great track record as a reliever.
Kansas City has had plenty of success converting starters into closers. While Peralta may have been a miss, Kennedy could be their next Wade Davis. OK, that’s maybe a tad ambitious, but if he becomes a Bud Norris type, fantasy owners will take that.
I’d be looking at him in anything 12-plus teams or deeper.
Brad Miller, 1B/2B/SS, CLE (1% Owned)
The Indians suffered some serious bad luck to start the 2019 season, with Jason Kipnis, and Francisco Lindor already on the injured list. They inked infielder Brad Miller to a minor league deal and gave him the starting second base job for the time being. As long as he is starting up the middle for Cleveland, he is worth an add in AL-only formats and very deep leagues. He probably won’t be worth much once everyone is healthy, but it is worth remembering that Miller blasted 30 long balls back in 2016. For now, keep an eye on the versatile infielder.
Rowdy Tellez, 1B, TOR (1% Owned)
Toronto’s decision to trade Kendrys Morales right before the season started was a great sign for Rowdy Tellez owners, as the big first baseman earned himself a spot on the 25-man roster. While the Blue Jays are expected to rotate a handful of different players around the designated hitter spot, including Hernandez, Tellez figures to get a fair amount of starts there. Hitting a pinch-hit three-run home run on Sunday will only help his cause in that regard.
Tellez had a blistering start to his big league career in 2018, hitting .314/.329/.614 with four home runs in just 23 games. He definitely had luck on his side, but his 40% hard-hit rate is proof that the big fella can really strike the ball. I wouldn’t be clamoring to pick him up outside of AL-only formats at this point, but if it looks like he is going to start four to five times a week he is worth a look in 14-plus-team leagues.
Spencer Turnbull, SP, DET (1% Owned)
Spencer Turnbull parlayed an excellent spring training (15:2 K:BB ratio, 1.80 ERA in 15 innings) into a spot in Detroit’s rapidly deteriorating pitching rotation. One look at his four appearances from 2018 shows a 6.06 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP, which will scare off most fantasy owners. However, a second look shows a 2.85 FIP and a stellar 15:4 K:BB ratio.
He had his first start of the 2019 season over the weekend and looked OK, striking out five in five innings but also giving up three runs on four hits and a walk. I don’t expect Turnbull to be a top-75 arm this season, but if he holds on to his rotation spot, he is definitely worth a look as a streamer in 12-teamers, and should already be owned in 16-plus-team leagues or AL-only formats.
(Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire)