Have you ever gone dumpster diving? For newbies at the sport, I recommend a good sturdy diving board, and complete avoidance of belly flops. These are your bottom of the barrel crew, starting with the least bad and just digging deeper and deeper until you reach a pit of nothingness that leads you to existentially question your existence. But alas, baseball would be a much more humdrum sport without an undying optimism, and these players offer some sort of glimmer of hope that they can be a diamond in the rough, or, failing that, some sneaky AL or NL-only value. You may scoff at this list of fantasy refuse and find their odds impossible, but remind yourself this is a sport in which a 43-year-old Bartolo Colon hit a home run, and re-engage.
1. Franklin Gutierrez (Seattle Mariners) – So when you dive deep, one downside is that the players available lack playing time security. And Mr. Gutierrez is the man of glass, as although when it comes to playing every day, the spirit is willing, the flesh is spongy and bruised. But take note: When it comes to exit velocity on FB/LD, he leads the entire league with 99.4 mph, right above of Khris Davis and Chris Carter. Impressive! Reaching last year’s numbers may be optimistic, however, as he’s hitting 13% more groundballs (53.7%) and double the infield fb rate.
2. Pedro Alvarez (Baltimore Orioles) – I felt a whole lot savvier writing this before Alvarez clocked two dongs at the time of writing this. Alvarez has had a head-scratcher of a season, as he started the year with great plate discipline and weak contact, and has since turned on the power with his plate discipline regressing. Perhaps a failed adjustment attempt. Alvarez is 9th in the league on Exit Velocity on FB/LDs at 97.9%, but the only problem was he was pounding most everything into the ground. Lately he’s been hitting more in the sky, which is a good fit for Camden’s summer hot hot heat. If he can eke out a semi-regular role, he could still reach 20 bombs by year’s end.
3. Kendrys Morales (Kansas City Royals) – Despite his terrible, horrible, no good start to the season, everything in his batted ball profile resembles that of not just an adequate, but an above-average hitter, even when compared to the 1B and DH pool. His lack of positional eligibility combined with a mess of a supporting cast may have led even an AL-only leaguer to drop him, though deeper mixed leagues would be more likely. His bat has heated up significantly as of late, but his season’s average of .226 with 8 HR has helped mask it. Scoop him in any AL or deeper mixed leagues in which he’s available, and if owned, see if the window of opportunity is still open to buy him.
4. Jefry Marte (Los Angeles Angels) – Now here’s a guy with a considerable opportunity at playing time! And he’s been hitting well! Only problem is, still most nobody knows who the hell he is. Marte had a lackluster debut last year but his minors power numbers were encouraging. Small sample size alert duly noted, but he currently rocks a 50% Hard hit rate. 50%! That is also backed by a 14th best avg exit velocity, just below Chris Carter and Mark Trumbo, and right below Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Napoli for FB/LD eV, with a 411 ft avg HR distance (Carter is at 412). He also has a high LD rate (27.2%) and over 30% FB rate. Only problem is his plate discipline is pretty bad, with a 5.2% BB and 28.3% K rate. But on the plus side, he’s now OF eligible in most leagues. Take a chance on the youngster!
5. Rob Refsnyder (New York Yankees) – Speaking of youngsters, Refsnyder’s lost some of his prospecty sheen as he got shuffled out of the Yankees plans. Fortunately for him, the Yankees were build on a brittle foundation which predictably crumbled like a Doomsday prophecy group on that awkward next day, and his only obstacle to the 1B job is Ike Davis. In other words, there is no obstacle. While his minors stats scream “Blah Mehsnyder” with the Yanks this year he has sported plus exit velocity and is sporting a LD rate of 30%. If you’re in need of AVG and/or OBP, Refsnyder should provide value to make up for his lack of upside in the other counting stats.
6. Rickie Weeks Jr. (Milwaukee Brewers) – Look, I didn’t expect to be writing about a widely-considered washed up infielder either, but behold: Rickie Weeks has the 3rd highest batted ball exit velocity, small sample size be damned! Not only that, his 45.3% Hard Hit rate is the highest of his ENTIRE CAREER! Also a career low GB%, and he’s the only person in baseball history with the first name “Rickie”! He’s still just 33 so if he can stay healthy (big if) you can stymie, bamboozle, and swindle the competition with this under-the-radar move.
7. Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies) – Wait, stop screaming! No, I get it, he’s a disaster, but hear me out! Okay we know the bad by now: Destroying the Phillies franchise, downright ugly 33% K rate, etc. BUT! If you can put your rose-colored glasses on, notice that 1. A .137 BABIP is impossibly low and his avg should at least be above the Mendoza Line the rest of the way 2. His 45% Hard hit rate is his best since 2009 3. He’s hitting fly balls at a career high 46.8%, and pulled fly balls have the best outcomes. If you can spare the batting avg/OBP and need power, at least look back at him and ponder before running away, presumably still screaming.
8. Kike Hernandez (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Ah, the importance of that accent on the e. Fangraphs calls him “KikÃ© Hernandez”, which must be the hip new spelling of “kickass”. His .197 AVG has likely left him on many a waiver wire, but he’s the same guy who hit .307 last year, as the only change has been his walk rate has nearly doubled. Well okay, sorta. He has traded some liners and grounders for flyballs, which has led at least in part to the BABIP drop. But he has adequate exit velo and a 33% hard hit rate so it’s not the worst idea and could increase his power numbers somewhat. As an OF, I wouldn’t rush to get him, but if he qualifies at shortstop in your league, go get him and wait for the BABIP gods to show more mercy.
9. Conor Gillaspie (San Francisco Giants) – Okay, so admittedly, this is like really really really deep. Maybe digging a hole at the bottom of the dumpster deep. But get excited anyhow! Here’s why: Gillaspie has an above average eV on FB/LD (95.4%), just below Todd Frazier and above Chris Davis and Corey Seager, and boy howdy has he hit a lot of flyballs (51.4%)!!! HIs 42.9% Hard Hit rate supports that these are no Can-of-Corns (or would it be Cans-of-Corn?) His BABIP may be low, but he’s keeping his plate discipline so he’s not selling out for this power. With Matt Duffy Down, don’t frown on ol’ Gillaspie here.
10. Nick Markakis (Atlanta Braves) – If you thought to yourself “Who could be a deeper sleeper than Conor Gillaspie?” Well, here you go. If you need power, no Markakis shouldn’t be a target, but he’s less punchless than you may think! He may have a half punch in there! He has the highest hard hit rate since 2012, and he decreased his soft hit rate a bit as well. He also has a FB/GB/LD distribution much closer to his 2014 than 2015, a year in which he hit 14 dongs. So he should improve his avg and power from here on out. And much like a man eating a giant meal at Taco Bell, you know he’ll get the runs.
Ben Pernick is a die-hard fantasy baseball fan living in New York City. In his non-baseball life, Ben is a comedy singer/songwriter and stand-up comic. Ben also sports a 1.000 OBP and a 1.714 SLG% over 7 AB in his recreational softball league and he wants you to know about it.