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.
My goal was to write about Spencer Turnbull until I could no longer write about him, which happened this past week. He now boasts a 2.31 ERA in seven starts and has been one of the best starting pitcher options in baseball. If he’s still available in your 12-plus team league, for the love of God, go get him. I don’t suspect I’ll get to write about him again in this column, so I must move on.
I’ll identify my next muse below.
Skye Bolt, OF, OAK (2% Owned)
Bolt got the call in part because Oakland had a few off-days in their schedule, which allowed them to go with a four-man rotation. It is entirely possible he gets sent back down when they need a fifth starter, which obviously makes his redraft value very limited.
However — on the off chance he stays with the big club, he definitely has some deep-league value. Bolt was off to a blistering start at Triple-A, slashing .325/.400/.675 with six home runs and three stolen bases in just 22 games played. He’s always displayed a rare combination of power and speed, going 19/19 in 2018 between High-A and Double-A.
If he can carve out even semi-regular playing time in the Bay, he would be worth owning in AL-only and similarly deep leagues thanks to his loud tools. If he goes back down to Triple-A, he’s still worth keeping an eye on.
Derek Dietrich, 1B/2B/OF, CIN (8% Owned)
By now, Derek Dietrich might have already been picked up in your deep league. If he happens to still be available, you’ll need to snap him up soon as this torrid streak won’t last forever. A series of roster moves has thrust Dietrich into nearly full-time at-bats, and he’s responded with nine home runs, 22 RBI and a .257/.361/.686 slash line.
Dietrich has always had good on-base skills and some power, although his .403 ISO is obviously inflated this season — especially because both his hard-hit rate and exit velocity are below league average.
Still, with consistent at-bats in the tiny Great American Ballpark, I could see Dietrich approaching 20 home runs this season. Tack on a high OBP thanks to good plate discipline and the tendency to get plunked and you have a player who absolutely has value in deeper formats and could approach 12-team relevancy if he stays hot at the dish.
Lucas Giolito, SP, CWS (6% Owned)
Lucas Giolito, who should be the picture in the dictionary next to the phrase TINSTAAPP, hasn’t had the best start this season. He’s sporting a 5.32 ERA, a 1.44 WHIP and a 4.56 BB/9 — although his 11.41 K/9 is damn good, as is his 3.89 FIP.
Giolito has always teased the dominance that made him one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball, but a lack of command and diminished fastball velocity have hampered his career up to this point. Still just 24 years old, there is hope for a rebound — especially with the kind of strikeout numbers that he posts even when he’s struggling.
Case in point: Giolito got 16 whiffs on 98 pitches his last time out against Boston, locating his curveball well and flashing his slider and his changeup, both of which looked good. Of course, he gave up three runs and only lasted five innings, but there still might be something here.
He gets the Indians his next time out, and I’d be streaming him in deeper (14-plus-team) formats. He’s still going to have his rough starts, and until he gets his walks under control, he probably won’t be a must-own even in 12-teamers. But he’s worth keeping an eye on.
Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B, KC (1% Owned)
Royals third base prospect Kelvin Gutierrez is up and enjoying his first taste of the big leagues. So far through nine games, he’s slashing a crisp .333/.351/.500 with a bomb, 10 RBI and a stolen base. He’s been starting at third base while Hunter Dozier and Ryan O’Hearn split duties at first base and designated hitter to make up for the loss of Lucas Duda to the IL.
Before you get too excited, Gutierrez also boasts a 29.7% strikeout rate, a 2.7% walk rate and a .306 xwOBA, so it’s fairly obvious that his .333 batting average won’t last. Still, while he’s hitting well and playing every day, he should be rostered in AL-only and similarly deep formats.
Duda’s return could push Gutierrez back to the minor leagues, although it may not take much for him to keep the job going forward. In that case, he’d be a nice fantasy asset in 14-team leagues as well.
Pablo Lopez, SP, MIA (10% Owned)
As of this writing, Pablo Lopez was only owned in 10% of Yahoo! leagues. There’s a chance by the time you’re reading this that he is owned in much more after he threw six shutout innings on Sunday, walking one and striking out six. That lowered his season ERA to 4.03, with a 1.08 WHIP and a considerably better 2.79 FIP.
Lopez has outstanding command, and he uses his sinker and a pair of solid secondaries to generate weak contact and pick up strikeouts at a healthy 24.4% rate. His changeup is a Money pPitch, with a 55.1% O-Swing rate, 46.7% zone rate and a wicked 27.2% swinging-strike rate. It’s one of the nastiest pitches in all of baseball, and when it’s on, he is as difficult as they come.
I’d be looking at Lopez even in 12-teamers and certainly everything deeper. He’s going quickly right now, and I have a feeling I won’t get to write about him again this season. Don’t miss out.
Ronny Rodriguez, 1B/2B/SS/3B, DET (3% Owned)
Tigers utility infielder Ronny Rodriguez has gotten off to a torrid start at the dish this season, slashing .333/.380/.711(!) with three home runs, eight RBI and one stolen base. He earns nearly everyday at-bats, although injuries along Detroit’s infield have helped him in that regard.
Still, Rodriguez has always boasted a rare combination of power and speed, having gone 17/15 in Triple-A back in 2017 and 14/12 last year with Detroit and Triple-A Toledo.
Plus, even though the sample size is tiny, Rodriguez has shown much better patience at the plate, with an 8.9% walk rate. His power probably won’t last (a 51.6% hard-hit rate is absurd), but he does have the ability to go 15/15 even in a utility role. And if he continues to improve his plate discipline that could make him a very nice piece in deeper (14-plus–team) leagues.
Rowdy Tellez, 1B/DH, TOR (4% Owned)
Now that Turnbull has graduated well beyond the ownage rate that qualifies him for these posts, I think my next player heartthrob will be Blue Jays slugger Rowdy Tellez.
Tellez has become a full-time starter for the Blue Jays, alternating between first base and designated hitter. He hits right in the middle of the lineup, a lineup that was recently bolstered by the call-up of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He also boasts a ton of pop as evidenced by his six home runs and his ridiculous 92.9 mph average exit velocity, among the top marks in the league.
His .258/.318/.485 slash line is nothing to write home about, but it is encouraging that his walk rate has more than doubled this season, even if he is striking out nearly a third of the time.
I see Tellez as a cheap source of 25 home runs and 80 RBI with a meh batting average that would be buoyed in OBP formats now that his plate discipline has improved. He’s not a breakout superstar, but he’s the kind of quiet, consistent slugger who does well on the bench in 14-plus-team leagues — and can even be useful in 12-teamers too.
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire)