Each week we’ll look at a handful of different players who fantasy managers in deeper leagues should consider picking up. Many of these players will have the most value in larger 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 Ryan O’Hearn, Trevor May, Graham Ashcraft, and Blake Sabol 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 Friday afternoon.
Ryan O’Hearn – 9%
O’Hearn has been excellent so far for the Baltimore Orioles, enjoying arguably his best stretch as a Major League hitter.
In 143 plate appearances with the American League East club this season, the slugger is batting .308 with a .357 on-base percentage, seven home runs, and a stolen base.
A career .219 hitter with a .293 on-base percentage and an 82 wRC+ in 1071 plate appearances from 2018 through 2022, O’Hearn’s underlying data this season (although in a much smaller sample size) points to some legitimacy in terms of a breakout happening.
It’s still a small sample size to be sure, but O’Hearn has also dropped his chase rate to 27.5% and cut down on hitting so many grounders with a ground ball rate on track to finish below the 40% mark (it’s 38.8% as of Friday) for the first time in a season since the 2018 campaign. O’Hearn’s 27.5% chase rate, for reference, would be his lowest since logging a 22.7% chase rate in 2020.
O’Hearn’s recent run of form has also allowed him to move up in the Orioles lineup. After starting out almost exclusively hitting in the bottom third of the lineup, the first baseman and outfielder has hit cleanup for much of the second half of June. That change has led to him seeing regular plate appearances behind the likes of Adley Rutschman (.378 on-base percentage, .360 xwOBA this season), Gunnar Henderson (.348 on-base percentage, 155 wRC+ since May 23) and Anthony Santander (.335 on-base percentage, .212 ISO this season).
As long as that trend continues, it should only continue to benefit the 29-year-old’s fantasy prospects and ceiling, especially in an Orioles lineup that entered Friday with the ninth-most runs scored in the league.
Trevor May – 9%
And while May hasn’t been quite as effective as Lawrence this season, he looks locked into the ninth-inning role in Oakland.
Seven different A’s pitchers have recorded a save this season, but May is the only one of the seven with more than two. Furthermore, all six of the veteran’s saves have come in the last month.
More specifically, all six of May’s saves have come since June 7. From June 7 through the start of play on Friday, that’s the same number as Will Smith and more than Jhoan Duran, Evan Phillips, David Robertson, and Paul Sewald.
During that stretch, the Oakland closer’s 2.63 ERA in 13.2 innings is decidedly much better than his season-long ERA of 6.95. Still, due to high walk totals, the right-hander owns a 5.98 FIP since June 7.
The walks – May’s 18.5% walk rate for the season is actually higher than his strikeout rate (17.6%) – in part could hurt the reliever’s long-term save chances for the rest of the season. So too could the 25-64 A’s not seeing much in the way of save chances down the stretch. Oakland could, in theory, look to move May and other veterans at the trade deadline, though that’s purely speculative.
All told, Trevor May might end up being more of a short-term addition fantasy-wise, but he’s a decent bet to provide a few saves in the short term.
Graham Ashcraft – 14%
The Reds hurler has had a decidedly up-and-down season so far.
On one hand, he’s tied with Atlanta’s Spencer Strider for the best Stuff+ (126, per FanGraphs) among starters with at least 80 innings this season. However, he’s also the owner of a rather bloated 6.28 ERA and a 5.37 FIP in 16 starts spanning 81.2 frames of work for Cincinnati.
In those 16 starts, Ashcraft has often either been, in short, very good or not so great.
He’s allowed three runs or fewer in 10 of those 16 starts while throwing at least five innings. In fact, in eight of those starts he’s surrendered two runs or fewer.
However, in five of his other six starts, he’s allowed earned run totals of six, 10, seven, seven, and eight respectively.
Given the uneven nature of his season, he might only be a pitcher to utilize in the right matchups, but the upside is certainly there for fantasy managers.
Still, Ashcraft has also been much better of late, giving up just two earned runs in his last 12.2 innings. That one of the outings came at home, a place the right-hander has struggled this year, against a quality San Diego Padres lineup is encouraging moving forward, especially considering Cincinnati opens the second half with 10 straight at home.
Blake Sabol – 6%
Sabol featured in this column in late April, bringing plenty of fantasy value and potential as a catcher with eligibility in the outfield and the ability to contribute both home runs and stolen bases.
The stolen bases bit hasn’t really continued. At least so far. Sabol had registered a pair of steals on the season as of the last column on April 29. As of the beginning of play Friday he still had, well, he had a pair of steals on the season.
But, pretty much everything else remains intact in terms of why Sabol is worth a look in deeper leagues. And perhaps encouragingly, the recent Rule 5 draft pick has continued to produce over a larger sample size complete with more plate appearances.
The 25-year-old is batting .251 with a .313 on-base percentage, 10 home runs, and the aforementioned two stolen bases in 225 plate appearances.
And while he’s striking out 32.4% of the time, the former Pirates prospect is collecting more than enough barrels to maintain quality power production, with a 13.5% barrel rate so far.
Perhaps most crucially, and unsurprising given Sabol’s ability to play the outfield and Mitch Haniger landing on the injured list, Patrick Bailey’s recent emergence hasn’t impacted Sabol’s playing time too much.
As long as Sabol continues to get starts on a regular basis for San Francisco he remains a viable starting fantasy catcher in leagues with 14 or more teams.
Graphic adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesgfx on Twitter)