Every Monday from now until the end of the season, we will take a look at players with less than 15% 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.
Last week, I went pitching-heavy in this column, with a lot of those arms getting picked up in a bunch of leagues. That leaves me looking for some cheap hitting that should be picked up. Here are five position players, along with one starter and one reliever, you should consider adding in deeper formats where they aren’t already owned.
Clay Buchholz, SP, TOR (10% Owned)
The only starting pitcher in this week’s column, Clay Buchholz got his season started with a bang by posting six innings of one-run ball against the Rays. He gave up just six hits and didn’t walk anybody, although only two strikeouts was disappointing. Still, considering how hard he got rocked in his rehab stints, a quality start to kick off the campaign is a good sign.
Buchholz was outstanding in 16 starts last season with Arizona, going 7-2 with a 2.01 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. While he won’t get those numbers again this season, the veteran has mixed good years and bad years throughout his big league career and could be a source of cheap quality starts as a streamer against poor offenses going forward. I wouldn’t own him outside of AL-only or similarly deep formats, but definitely keep him in mind as a streaming option.
Avisail Garcia, OF, TB (6% Owned)
Avisail Garcia rode a .392 BABIP to a monstrous 2017 season but has otherwise been a below average hitter for his entire MLB career. He’s had a hot start to 2019 however, boasting a .314/.364/.431 slash line with a home run and a steal. Of course, his .417 BABIP seems likely to fall, lest he have another miraculous season like he did a few years ago.
Garcia has extremely limited plate discipline (4% walk rate) and strikeout issues (26%) but has always managed to make really hard contact, a trait that is showing up again this season. He has an absurd 94.8 mph average exit velocity and a 17.6% barrel rate.
Garcia may not ever reach the numbers he posted in 2017, but as long as he is absolutely torching the ball, he’s worth picking up and riding out in 14-plus team leagues and maybe even 12-teamers for those who like to ride out hot streaks.
Leury Garcia, OF, CWS (5% Owned)
A former teammate of the other Garcia, Leury Garcia has been leading off for the White Sox the majority of the season. He is slashing .302/.327/.377 with 10 runs scored and, most importantly, four stolen bases.
Garcia has an everyday job at the moment, but with veteran Jon Jay returning from the IL soon, that could push him into a reserve role, severely limiting his fantasy value. As long as he is starting however, he has value in 14-plus team leagues for his ability to steal bases.
He won’t hit .302 forever (he has a .421 BABIP) and his plate discipline numbers are beyond terrible, but if you are in a deep league and need steals, he’s a guy to look at while he’s playing most every day.
Mitch Garver, C, MIN (10% Owned)
Pitcher List, like most of the fantasy community, are diehard believers in Willians Astudillo, which makes this one a bit hard. However, it’s really hard to ignore the production that Mitch Garver has given the Twins this season from behind the dish.
After going 2-for-4 on Sunday (with two doubles), Garver is now up to .500/.522/1.045 on the year with three home runs, eight runs scored and five RBI. He’s only earned 23 plate appearances, thanks to the ménage à trois of Garver, Astudillo and Jason Castro behind the plate in Minnesota.
Production like that can’t be ignored however, and even though it is wildly unsustainable, it could lead to more playing time for Garver going forward. He’s always had some power and hit a respectable .268 last year, which gives fantasy owners a very nice batting average boost at a position that hit .220 overall in 2018.
I’m picking him up in deeper leagues or two-catcher formats and riding out this hot streak. It may be at the expense of our beloved chubby speedster, but Garver could bring in very solid value if he gets the lion’s share of catching duties going forward.
Hector Neris, RP, PHI (11% Owned)
Hector Neris already has a save and a pair of holds under his belt so far in 2019, along with a nice 11.37 K/9 and a 2.84 ERA. He’s in the mix for saves in Philadelphia, although both Seranthony Dominguez and David Robertson figure to be in front of him in the pecking order.
However, Robertson (5.40 ERA) and Dominguez (6.00 ERA) are both struggling out of the gate, which could allow Neris to slide into an eighth- or ninth-inning role at least temporarily. If you are desperate for saves, Neris isn’t the worst handcuff option available, and he could slide into that role more permanently if he keeps pitching well and the other Philadelphia relievers do not.
Hunter Pence, OF, TEX (1% Owned)
Hunter Pence, now in Texas as a platoon DH with Shin-Soo Choo, is unlikely to ever reach the mixed-league relevance he had for so long as a member of the Astros and Giants. However, he’s quietly put together a strong performance to kick off 2019, with a .280/.333/.400 slash line along with a home run and a stolen base in 27 plate appearances.
He doesn’t play enough to merit consideration in weekly formats, but in very deep formats (AL-only or 16-plus team leagues) that allow daily lineup changes, he could be worth a look as a bench bat worth plugging in on the days that he starts.
Christian Walker, 1B, AZ (14% Owned)
Christian Walker got off to a hot start at the plate with Arizona this season, enough that he was awarded their starting first base duties when Jake Lamb went down with an injury. He struggled at the plate shortly after winning the job but regained some confidence on Sunday by blasting his fourth home run on the year.
His four homers are very nice, as are his eight runs scored and seven RBI, but his .255/.327/.596 line is fairly average and his 28.8% strikeout rate is certainly cause for concern. Strikeouts have been the biggest thing holding Walker back to this point, and at 28 years old and with 15 on the year already, it doesn’t look like it’s an issue that will ever go away.
Still, regular at-bats for a guy currently sporting an average exit velocity of 94.9 mph and a barrel rate of 21.4% — both in the top 5% leaguewide — should give him appeal in 12-plus team leagues and beyond.
He has hovered right around 15% owned, making me hesitant to include him, but he is worth a look in more formats at least while he is starting.
(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire).