(Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire)
We’ve got some batters here who could significantly help you out in points league fantasy play even if they aren’t necessarily stealing the spotlight with grand slams every other night. My goal is to bring attention to players who are doing things that sometimes go unappreciated in other fantasy formats. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Shin-Soo Choo (OF/DH, TEX) — Choo’s .245 average might be unimpressive to would-be 5×5 suitors, but his BABIP has been climbing up from the .270s range over the past couple of weeks to the .291 where it currently sits; just know that Choo is trending upwards regardless of format. For points leagues, though, he is currently a top-30 outfielder, which might surprise a lot of people. Choo has 61 total bases meaning he’s attractive for PL despite only having five homers. For context on where he stands relatively, his TB count just trails that of Lorenzo Cain, Gregory Polanco, and Tommy Pham. The concealment of valuable real-world contributions a guy is making, like XBH, by only focusing on pure power and average are why I relish PL parameters for fantasy. Choo is one example of the type of efficient talent that’s flying under the radar with solid metrics that are not eye-popping but have useful composite value. He’s capable of a surge back towards his career BA of .277 without any issues, and it’s just a matter of time before his slash line starts looking more attractive once again. In monitoring his walk rate, I’ve watched him oscillate back and forth around the 9.0% mark to start May. I’d really like for Choo to get to the 11-12 range, if I’m simultaneously being honest and nitpicky. If he can do that, he boosts his own chances at getting more run-scoring opportunities from the 2-hole, especially with the recent return of Adrián Beltré from the 10-day DL to the cleanup spot of Texas’ lineup. Nomar Mazara’s .299 typically slotting in at third doesn’t hurt Choo either. And the veteran is liable to steal a base every once in a while, even at the ripe age of 35, to further improve his fantasy stock. Get in on Choo’s 42.6% hard contact while you can if he’s an available free agent in your league, highly likely given the ownership rate of 60.3% at ESPN and 43% at Yahoo. Choo’s productivity was middling a little in Beltré’s absence and his numbers aren’t always necessarily going to be flashy, but the fact that he seldom will burn you in PL is a thing to be greatly appreciated.
Teoscar Hernández (OF, TOR) — Kevin Pillar is one Blue Jay who’s getting a wealth of fantasy attention these days, and rightfully so with a .318 BA, 17 doubles, and seven steals that warrant immediately rostering if possible. But Toronto has another budding star in its outfield in Hernández. With Randal Grichuk, who was already struggling, hanging out on the DL with a knee sprain, the 25-year-old Dominican has taken advantage of the extra playing time. Hernández has locked himself into an everyday role now, regardless of what the depth chart looked like to begin the season. His decent .848 OPS has taken a slight hit after from the sterling 1.054 it was at the start of May, but that’s kind of the point: these things fluctuate at this juncture. The Jays also got no-hit by James Paxton earlier this week, which doesn’t help a rate state like that early in the year. With just 110 AB through 26 game appearances, some may think it looks on the surface like he’s being under-utilized in a platoon when the truth is that he’s been hard at work since his April 13 call-up from Triple-A Buffalo. We talk about rate statistics needing to be taken with a grain of salt, but his 45.7% hard contact is definitely worth paying attention to, moving forward. He may not be producing exceptional percentages as far as plate discipline, but there’s generally very little to dislike with his body of work thus far. Hernández’s 10 doubles, two triples, and his average of 4.1 FPPO all make him appealing to me in PL.
Asdrúbal Cabrera (2B/3B/SS, NYM) — Cabrera is almost the opposite of Choo, since by virtue of his lofty .326 average he has likely caught everyone’s attention at this point. But, let’s be real, Cabrera being a top-30 hitter in fantasy was not a realization many were expecting to have to entertain at this point in the season. The six homers may not wow you, and 42 other dudes have hit more RBI than his 22, so the fact that he is not yet enjoying elite ownership status of 95% or greater is perhaps understandable given the proportion of people who play categories or roto. However, it can’t be denied that he is currently checking in among the top seven names in fantasy points accrued that pop up, no matter whether you sort by 2B, 3B, or SS. The multi-position eligibility for Cabrera is great, and already having 76 TB so far—buoyed by his 27 singles and 11 doubles—is quite impressive. His BABIP of .368 will obviously chill at some point, but he’s posted a .310 in consecutive years and a .306 before that (career .309) so you can probably count on him not just abjectly falling off the face of the earth after this hot start. Hard contact is, for the moment, at a career-high mark of 40.2% while his soft contact is the lowest it’s been in seven years, so that is actually very exciting. Relatively speaking, Cabrera’s strikeouts—28 in total across 138 AB—aren’t a liability just yet, but as his 7.2% walk rate is also unfortunately low, Cabrera avoiding pesky negative points will continue to be important for his PL value. He’s a sneaky good play because he’s avoiding a high K-rate like those of Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton, and Paul Goldschmidt while also being solidly productive at counting stats. In summary, Cabrera is right up there with some studs and worth your time in PL, given how he’s making the most of his chances and comparatively minimizing incurred penalties.
Yangervis Solarte (2B/3B/SS, TOR) — Another great utility infielder getting more love (read: ownership) after his first career grand slam versus the Indians on May 3, Solarte had previously been more than serviceable when the Blue Jays needed him to step up during Josh Donaldson’s stint on the DL. His 8-for-10, 7 RBI offensive outburst during that Thursday’s doubleheader in Cleveland inflated his total fantasy points accrued as well as his rate stats, sure. But the truth is that he’s been efficient even without that day factored into his numbers. I find a lot of assurance in the fact that his FPPO average would still register at a completely acceptable 3.1 even if his herculean numbers from May 3 were omitted (4.0 as it stands with everything accounted for). Just like with Cabrera, I enjoy being able to slot him in at numerous positions. He’s also a switch hitter, and his splits so far show that he’s been quite balanced in how his productivity has been distributed. There are no drastic home/away or handedness scenarios we’ve seen from him so far in which you need to worry about benching him, and that versatility means you can feel free to trust him as a steady lineup occupant.
Jose Peraza (2B/SS, CIN) — Those PL owners dealing with Yoan Moncada’s DL trip might want to turn to Peraza as an option. Since he’s regarded as a guy who doesn’t provide much power but can offer cheap steals and yet only has six SB on the year, that logic has probably been dissuading 5×5 folks from adding him. The .278 average and 22 runs are attractive enough, and nine doubles to his credit boosts his value quite a bit. He has struck out a mere 16 times, so he’s really not making his ownership suffer at all. Add to that the fact that he’s tied with Brett Gardner league-wide for the most sacrifice flies (6), and Peraza is suddenly a pretty decent option in points leagues. Separately ranking 2B-eligible and SS-eligible players with 100 minimum at-bats by average FPPO, Peraza ranks T-10th and T-11th on each list and should therefore basically be regarded as a recommended asset in 12-teamers and a must-own in deep leagues. He is likely best deployed as a MI, a UTIL, or a backup to a more elite guy at either position, but the consistency Peraza will provide even in a depth role will make it easier for you to sleep at night.
Francisco Cervelli (C, PIT) — If you were to try guessing which catcher is averaging the highest FPPO behind Salvador Perez and J.T. Realmuto, you might reasonably guess Yankees slugger Gary Sánchez or Ol’ Faithful, a.k.a. Buster Posey. But you’d be wrong: Cervelli is getting you 3.8 points each time he plays. His BB/K of 0.67 is respectable, and he joins Willson Contreras as being the only guys at the position to have multiple triples on the year. People are taking notice of his efficacy at the dish, as Cervelli’s ownership has bumped up to 79.3% in ESPN leagues and 76% in Yahoo leagues. Those numbers are still too low for my taste, as he’s gotten his managers 22 RBI and a .303 average working for them from the heart of Pittsburgh’s order. What I’m saying is with the position being so thin, his contributions are pretty valuable in any format; five doubles, four HBP, and two sacrifices, however, are part of what puts him up into an even higher echelon for points purposes.
Ryon Healy (1B/3B/DH, SEA) — This one is a real puzzler to me. I think Healy’s ankle injury and the corresponding layoff on the 10-day DL that saw him miss a little more than two weeks of April must have spooked people, because this guy is significantly underowned. Healy’s amassed 40 TB through just 73 AB on the year, and he’s also hit safely in 10 of 13 games since coming back to the Mariners’ active roster on April 26. Walk rate is brutally low thus far for Healy, but a 35.7% hard-hit rate and a BABIP of .260 collectively say to me that we should expect a lot of fireworks off of his bat in the coming weeks and months. Healy has a career BA of .306 against LHP, but his 2018 splits show he’s been having a little more recent success against righties. He’s pulling more than ever—upwards of 50%—and I’m curious to see how his power production progresses throughout the year as a result of this. What I find super interesting is that he’s hitting .308 on the road but an unimpressive .206 at Safeco. So until that disparity equalizes, it may be wise to stream him for away games. Regardless, 40% ownership on Yahoo and 36% ownership on ESPN are criminally low numbers that you should try increasing with an add for UTIL depth if you can.