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.
This week features a pair of infield call-ups, both who made strong impressions in their first big league at-bat. It also features a closer-in-waiting, a couple underappreciated sluggers, a shocking power surge from an unheralded infielder, and an old favorite of this writer in particular. Enjoy!
Ty Buttrey, RP, LAA (11% Owned)
Cody Allen is the Angels’ closer at the moment, but the reliever to own in Anaheim is Ty Buttrey. The flame-throwing right-hander now boasts a 13:3 K/BB ratio in 9.1 scoreless innings this season, compared with the 6.14 mark Allen sports.
Buttrey served as LA’s closer down the stretch last season, boasting a 3.31 ERA that FIP (1.63) and SIERA (2.67) thought he actually outpitched. His repertoire includes upper 90s heat and a wicked breaking ball that boasts a 50% O-swing rate and a 29.2% swinging-strike rate so far this season (on 48 pitches — but still).
If (when?) he replaces Allen in the ninth inning, he immediately becomes a top-15 closer ROS. As such, he’s a phenomenal handcuff in deeper leagues, and should be owned in formats that count holds and/or K/9.
Michael Chavis, 3B, BOS (9% Owned)
Michael Chavis was one of two high-profile infield prospects to get called up this week. He helps fill a need for a very injury-depleted Boston squad that has Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez and Dustin Pedroia on the IL. Chavis doubled in his first big league at-bat, although he went 0-for-5 in his first start.
Still, it appears the Red Sox are going to give Chavis a chance to start at second base, a position he just picked up this year. He has incredible raw power, although there is some swing-and-miss to his game that could be a problem at the big league level.
I’d be looking to add him in anything deeper than a 12-teamer. If he ends up getting second base eligibility, he could be a really nice piece in deeper formats. Time will tell how long he stays with the big club, but if he hits well and looks passable at second base, he could be up for good.
Tommy La Stella, 2B/3B, LAA (2% Owned)
I almost wrote up Tommy La Stella last week but ultimately decided against it. I was planning to leave him off again this week, but then the persistent infielder decided to whack two home runs against the Mariners, giving him six on the year. So here he is.
La Stella is on the long side of an infield platoon for the Halos and has made the absolute most of his playing time. In addition to his career-high six round-trippers, La Stella also has 11 runs scored, 12 RBI, and a respectable .246/.348/.579 slash line. He’s walking at an 11.9% clip while striking out a measly 6% of the time.
Obviously, this production isn’t going to last. But if you are in a deeper league, the hot-hitting La Stella is worth riding out while he’s smoking taters.
Teoscar Hernandez, OF, TOR (4% Owned)
Teoscar Hernandez certainly isn’t off to the blazing hot start that he had in 2018, when he lit the fantasy world on fire. A really slow second half coupled with only two home runs so far in 2019 has Hernandez off the fantasy radar in the majority of leagues.
However, the young slugger has made some noticeable changes to his approach this season, including a 4.5% increase in his walk rate (from 7.8 to 12.3) and a 7.7% drop in his strikeout rate (from 31.2% to 23.5%).
His improved plate discipline does seem to have zapped a bit of his power, as his exit velocity and hard-hit rate are both down from last year, but I’d be willing to gamble that some of that returns as he gets more comfortable at the plate. And that kind of raw power mixed with improved plate discipline could make him a mixed-league star. Plus, once Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is in the big leagues, Hernandez’s run and RBI numbers should take a boost as well.
At this point, he’s worth a look in anything deeper than 12-teamers. I’d keep him on the watch list in shallower leagues to see if that power and plate discipline starts to mesh.
Renato Nunez, 3B, BAL (9% Owned)
Renato Nunez was long touted for his raw power in the Oakland farm system, but he never got a chance to put it on display in The Show — until now, where he has free reign on the Orioles. He has done just that, mashing five home runs with 16 RBI and some of the best Statcast data in the entire league.
Nunez’s .293 batting average is a bit inflated by his .345 BABIP, although his xBA of .276 indicates he can supply a solid batting average as well, along with 25/80 potential if he stays healthy and hits in the middle of Baltimore’s lineup.
His 5.7% walk rate and 25% strikeout rate are concerning, but right now, I’d be looking at Nunez even in 12-teamers if I were desperate for some power from the corner infield. He should absolutely be owned in leagues deeper than that as the raw power has been there from the start for this slugger.
Cole Tucker, SS, PIT (13% Owned)
Pirates shortstop Cole Tucker introduced himself to the big leagues with a monstrous two-run home run to straightaway center field in his first big league at-bat. That’s a great sign for the speedy, speedy shortstop — who looks primed to take over as Pittsburgh’s starter while Erik Gonzalez is on the 60-day IL.
Tucker is known as a stolen base monster, having swiped 35 in Double-A in 2018 and five in just 13 Triple-A games this season. The power is new, but if he can take pitches out to deep center, he could play the part of a 15/25 guy — which you don’t need me to tell you is extremely mixed-league relevant.
I’m snatching up Tucker even above Chavis and think he’ll be owned in most 12-teamers by the end of the week. Don’t miss out.
Spencer Turnbull, SP, DET (4% Owned)
As the industry hype-man on Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull, I feel compelled to keep him on this list as long as he is eligible and it is warranted. That means he’s here for this week after throwing six innings with zero earned runs, two hits, two walks and five strikeouts this past week against the Pirates.
He now boasts a 3.43 ERA (3.16 FIP!), 1.29 WHIP and a 24:7 K/BB ratio in 21 innings. He has two quality starts and was an inning short in his first outing. He hasn’t given up more than three earned runs in any of his four outings. His strikeout stuff is fantastic, and his control has helped him limit walks this season.
He’s not perfect and has done all of his damage against poor hitting teams, but he deserves to be owned in nearly all deep formats and is a worthwhile streamer everywhere as long as he continues to face poor teams.
He’ll get Boston next. If he pitches well there, he might be a must-add even in 12-teamers.
(Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire)