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 Evan Longoria, Cal Raleigh, Joey Wendle, and Jonathan Villar 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.
Evan Longoria 10%
Back in the Giants’ lineup full-time after missing time earlier in the season due to finger surgery, Longoria is back to doing what he did in 2021, collecting a bunch of barrels and a decent number of home runs, all while getting on base at a quality rate.
The veteran is also sporting a 42.5% hard-hit rate, and while that’s a bit down from last season’s 54.5% showing in the statistical category, it’s a solid showing considering Longoria is routinely hitting in the heart of a productive Giants order.
So far this season, 130 of the third baseman’s 139 plate appearances have come batting either third, fourth, fifth, or sixth for Gabe Kapler’s club.
That certainly doesn’t hurt Longoria’s fantasy upside, especially because the Giants are tied for the seventh-highest on-base percentage in the league (.321) and have been outscored by just 10 clubs entering play on Sunday.
Longoria makes for an ideal bench addition for fantasy managers who’ve seen Max Muncy, Josh Donaldson, Justin Turner, or Jeimer Candelario struggle at times this season.
Cal Raleigh – 7%
Raleigh might strike out more than Alejandro Kirk. He might steal fewer bases than J.T. Realmuto or Willson Contreras. He might not be eligible at another position like Realmuto and Daulton Varsho, but he brings plenty of power production to the table.
The 25-year-old is batting .197 with a .279 on-base percentage and 10 home runs in 172 plate appearances this season. We’ll get to the batting average in a moment, but staying with the over-the-fence power, only six catchers have more home runs than Raleigh this season. Elsewhere, among backstops with at least 150 plate appearances, only Gary Sánchez and Ryan Jeffers have a higher barrel rate than Raleigh’s 15.7% metric.
With that power, it would obviously be more ideal for fantasy managers if the batting average wasn’t below .200 as it is now.
And while it’s an unideal metric, it might just be on the rise as the season continues.
Raleigh is sporting a rather low .213 BABIP, and his quality of contact metrics point to a bump in production potentially coming at some point. The former third-round pick sits in the 82nd percentile or better in max exit velocity, average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, xSLG, and barrel rate
Even his wRC+ (114), while not fantasy-relevant, shows that he’s been more impactful than his batting average would suggest.
Clearly, a sky-high 30.4% strikeout rate doesn’t help from a batting average standpoint and might keep Raleigh’s average from jumping too much, but he’s making too much quality contact with little luck in the way of results to keep hitting below .200 for the entirety of the season.
His expected batting average at the moment sits at .233, and if he can hit for that type of average for the rest of the season, he’ll be a potential top-15 catcher from here on out.
Joey Wendle – 14%
Wendle, similar to Longoria, missed time this year due to an injury. In the Marlins infielder’s case, it was a right hamstring injury.
Still, like Longoria, he’s back in the lineup and producing.
Wendle entered play Sunday batting .293 with a .353 on-base percentage, two home runs, and four stolen bases in just 102 plate appearances. It’s a small sample size, but it’s worth noting that this is nothing new for the infielder, who is on pace to hit above .285 for the third time in the last five seasons.
The versatile veteran is sporting a 10.8% strikeout rate, which certainly doesn’t hurt. More contact always helps. And while a 0.0% pop-up rate is likely to change a bit and might incrementally impact the batting average, Wendle’s .313 BABIP is decidedly reasonable and sustainable.
Eligible at second base, third base, and shortstop in Yahoo leagues, Wendle has appeared in a variety of positions across the diamond for Miami this season. He’s also seen time at a variety of different positions in the batting order, though he’s primarily hit fourth, sixth and seventh.
The Marlins should by no means be confused with an elite lineup. They’re decidedly middle of the pack in terms of home runs, runs scored, on-base percentage, and wRC+, but they have enough quality lineup options that a batter hitting cleanup in their lineup is fantasy relevant, at the very least in deeper leagues.
One thing to keep in mind here is that Wendle is part of a crowded infield in Miami that also includes Jon Berti, Brian Anderson, Miguel Rojas, and, when healthy, Jazz Chisholm Jr. Still, as a versatile option for fantasy benches, he’s worth a look. He might play every single game, but for fantasy managers in deeper leagues where waiver wire options aren’t as plentiful, he could be a difference-making acquisition for the right team with his ability to fill in at multiple positions.
Jonathan Villar – 12%
Another versatile infielder, Villar is also eligible at all infield positions not called first base in Yahoo leagues.
Now with the Angels, after starting the year with the Cubs, there isn’t a ton that jumps out in terms of Villar’s numbers. His barrel rate has dropped to 2.7% from 7.4% in 2021 and his .270 xwOBA is decidedly low. He’s also hitting just .218 with a .271 on-base percentage in 170 plate appearances. It is worth noting that his 41.6% hard-hit rate would be the best it’s been in any of the last previous seven seasons, so that’s certainly a positive.
But the two primary reasons why Villar could provide fantasy value are stolen bases and potential playing time.
In those 170 plate appearances this season, Villar already has six stolen bases. He hasn’t been able to replicate his past gaudy stolen base metrics in the last two seasons, but the infielder logged 14 steals in 2021 after registering 16 during the 2020 campaign.
As long as he’s playing consistently for the Angels, it’s possible he could flirt with 20 total stolen bases by the time the regular season wraps up.
That’s assuming he can soak up the lion’s share of the starts at third base between now and October, but there’s every reason to believe Villar can if he can be reasonably productive. Usual starter Anthony Rendon is out for the season after undergoing wrist surgery, leaving third base duties to a group that has included Matt Duffy, Jack Mayfield, and David MacKinnon. Since June 15 (Rendon played his last game of the season on June 14), the group hasn’t exactly produced at a high rate.
Now, granted, some of those stats like fWAR and wRC+ aren’t scoring stats in fantasy, but given the need for an upgrade at third base, it’s possible Villar could start at the hot corner for the foreseeable future for the Angels. If he does, he’ll likely provide value for fantasy managers with his stolen base potential.
Image adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)