Each week, we’ll look at a handful of different players rostered in less than 15% of fantasy leagues who you should consider picking up. Many of these players will have the most value in deeper leagues where waiver wire options aren’t as plentiful. Still, they could also occasionally be useful additions in other, more standard-sized leagues depending on your options at their position. This week it’s Eric Haase, Ryan Tepera, Nick Martínez, and Génesis Cabrera who are worth your time as potential additions in deep leagues.
All roster percentages mentioned in this column are via Yahoo fantasy leagues as of Sunday afternoon.
Eric Haase – 11%
One of my favorite sleepers at catcher from the preseason, Haase started the season out with a bang, connecting on a game-tying home run off White Sox closer Liam Hendriks in Detroit’s Opening Day win over Chicago.
Haase entered the game as a pinch hitter for fellow backstop Tucker Barnhart earlier in the game. And while Barnhart might be the starter due to his superior pitch framing and defensive presence –he’s started two of Detroit’s first three games – Haase is still going to play enough to warrant a spot in deeper leagues.
Between catching part-time and potentially getting starts in the outfield against left-handed pitching, there should be enough plate appearances here to make Haase a viable option in larger leagues.
He might not get the plate appearances of a full-time starter, but when he does play, you can bet he’ll make loud contact.
There are some contact concerns to be had – the veteran batted just .231 with a .235 xBA last season – but for a player rostered in just 11% of Yahoo of leagues, he’s a more than useful option in deeper leagues.
And Haase wasted no time in 2022 in terms of crushing baseballs. His home run off of Hendriks left his bat with a 104.1 MPH exit velocity.
The batting average and contact issues are obviously not ideal, but for a player who can fill in at multiple spots across the diamond (and your fantasy team) with immense power, Haase is someone you’ll want to target in leagues with 16 or more teams. You can even make the case for him in 14-team leagues given the scarcity of depth at the catcher position.
It’s also worth pointing out that Haase’s approach has been markedly better in a small sample size this season. The catcher drew a pair of walks in his start on Saturday. That might not seem overly significant, but when you consider his strikeout rate last year and the fact that he was facing Dylan Cease, who paced the American League in strikeouts per nine innings in 2021, it’s somewhat notable.
It could end up being an outlier in a small sample size, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
And this is all without mentioning that Haase finished the 2021 season in the 72nd percentile in Statcast’s sprint speed metric. There’s a bit of stolen base upside as well.
Ryan Tepera – 9%
Ryan Tepera was excellent last season. Splitting the campaign between the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox, the veteran finished the campaign with a 2.79 ERA and a 2.73 FIP in 61.1 innings of work. He also struck out 10.86 batters per nine innings, while walking just 2.79 per nine frames.
But that wasn’t the entire picture.
If you have a favorite metric on a pitcher’s Statcast page, there’s a good chance Tepera was elite in that metric last season. Or if not elite, then decidedly very good.
Ok, so you get it, he was extremely effective.
That’s just part of the good news.
Want more good news?
Tepera is pitching for the Angels’ bullpen after signing as a free agent in the offseason. He should be set up nicely for plenty of fantasy success where saves+holds league are concerned.
He won’t unseat Raisel Iglesias but he could pick a save here or there if Iglesias is unavailable. But the big draw here is the holds potential.
Or rather, the workload that Tepera could get – and the holds that could come with it.
Joe Maddon wasn’t afraid to utilize his two best setup relievers last season, Steve Cishek and Mike Mayers, with regularity.
Tepera, Archie Bradley, Aaron Loup, and the returning Mayers should give Maddon plenty of options, but Tepera looks to be one of the top high-leverage options in Anaheim.
Entering the eighth inning of a tie game on Opening Day, Maddon went to Tepera. That the veteran gave up a pair of home runs isn’t as relevant as the fact that he was utilized in the situation and looks like one of the early favorites for high-leverage work. Those types of scenarios don’t always translate to holds, but if a reliever is a go-to option in high-leverage situations for the entirety of a season on a competitive team, it’s likely that they’ll finish with a strong showing in the holds category.
Unsurprisingly, Tepera’s next outing netted him a hold and further underscored his role in the Los Angeles bullpen early in the season.
Brought in to protect a one-run lead in the top of the seventh with a runner at first, Tepera got two outs to finish the inning and then worked a scoreless eighth, retiring Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley for the final two outs.
He already has one hold, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him better his 2021 tally of 21 holds. If you’re in a saves+holds league and Tepera is still available, he’s close to a must-add at this point.
Nick Martínez – 4%
The Padres should, in theory, be good this year.
Of course, it was a similar story last year before their spectacular second-half collapse, but if this team plays up to its potential, there’s 90 win upside here. And if that’s the case, a lofty win total should be the tide that raises all ships where certain fantasy pitching metrics (wins, saves) are concerned.
Martínez showed well in Spring Training, and while you shouldn’t put too much into Cactus League or Grapefruit League stats, the right-hander was clearly effective, allowing just three earned runs, three walks, and eight hits in 12 innings while striking out 14 batters.
If Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections are anything to go by, Martínez should be similarly effective this year.
*ZiPS projections via FanGraphs’ Dan Szymborski.
His fantasy floor is likely that of a streamer you can turn to and add in the right matchups. His ceiling might be that of a useful rotation option, regardless of league size.
Either way, a 4% rostered percentage shouldn’t be used in describing a pitcher like Martínez in the situation he’s in. That’s incredibly low. He’s a useful add in standard-size leagues and a borderline priority add in deeper leagues.
Génesis Cabrera – 10%
We return to the saves+holds leagues portion of the column with Génesis Cabrera, who has been a holds machine as of late.
Among that group, Cabrera has the fourth-most innings pitched (92.1) and the second-most strikeouts (109)
And it seems likely that he’ll remain entrenched in his high-leverage role for the foreseeable future, especially with Jordan Hicks opening the year in the rotation and Luis García opening the season as a member of the San Diego Padres’ bullpen.
St. Louis added Drew VerHagen and Nick Wittgren in the offseason, but neither should unseat Cabrera as a high-leverage option in 2022, especially if the left-hander continues to pitch like he did last season.
The walks certainly aren’t ideal, but if you have enough starting pitchers on your roster in a saves+holds league – where Cabrera has the most value – you should be able to mitigate any harm the right-hander might cause your cumulative, weekly WHIP. Besides, you’ll want him for the holds.
So far in the young season, the 25-year-old has pitched just once. The Cardinals logged 9-0 and 6-2 wins in their first two games and lost 4-9 in the third game of the series, so it hasn’t exactly been a series tailor-made for holds.
Still, the hold opportunities should follow as the Cardinals’ schedule gets less light. And when those hold opportunities do come, it’s easy to see who the favorite to lead St. Louis in holds is.
Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)