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.
All roster percentages mentioned in this column are via Yahoo fantasy leagues as of Friday afternoon.
Chris Martin – 13%
In 46.1 innings, the veteran reliever has pitched to a 2.57 FIP, his second straight season (and third in the last four) with a FIP under the 3.00 mark. The reliever also ranks in the 95th percentile or better in chase rate, walk rate, barrel rate, and hard-hit rate. He’s also sitting in the 82nd percentile in ground ball rate, providing a perfect fit in the decidedly often hitter-friendly Fenway Park with his ability to limit quality contact and induce grounders.
He’s been excellent, and while his 1.17 ERA is a bit on the unsustainable side of things, it seems unlikely to rise significantly (or at all potentially) at this rate given how little is left in the season.
Martin gave up two runs during a June 6 outing against Cleveland when he was summoned to protect a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth. Martin allowed three singles, including a run-scoring single from Amed Rosario and a run-scoring double from Will Brennan.
He’s given up exactly one run since in the intervening 28.2 innings, logging three pitcher wins, 11 holds, and a save in the process.
Furthermore, Martin is finding all this success with a markedly decreased strikeout rate and allowing more walks (comparatively speaking) more often after a career year during the 2022 campaign. His overall bat-missing metrics are mostly down across the board, though it is worth nothing that the right-hander is getting more batters to chase outside the zone this season.
The veteran reliever makes for a quality saves+hold league addition down the stretch, though with his effectiveness this season he’s probably more bordering on a must-add at this point. Even in more standard-scoring leagues, the 37-year-old makes for a solid addition to help keep weekly ERA and WHIP numbers down.
Steven Okert – 2%
Sticking with relievers, Okert doesn’t quite have the same kind of excellent stretch of allowing little to no runs on his resume this season in the same way Martin does. But unlike with Martin, there’s plenty of bat-missing upside here.
The 32-year-old is sporting a career-best 30.1% strikeout rate this season, up from 28.5% in 2022 and his past career high of 29.6% in 2018. The metric ranks in the 89th percentile league-wide. His 30.8% whiff rates checks in with an 82nd percentile ranking.
As he did in 2022, Okert is doing all this while relying solely on his slider and four-seamer pairing. The slider, sporting a 60.5% usage rate, has been particularly instrumental in the former Giants’ success.
Okert’s slider has a +8 run value and a .269 xwOBA against it this season. The run value is tied for 10th best among all sliders. If you look purely at relievers throwing sliders, Okert’s slider ranks tied for ninth in run value.
Furthermore, of the 42 pitchers, relievers, and starters alike, who’ve thrown over 500 sliders, Okert’s has the 15th-lowest xwOBA. Pair those parameters down to just relievers again and Okert’s slider ranks sixth.
Overall, the left-hander has pitched to a 3.48 ERA and a 3.36 FIP in 51.2 innings this season, logging 63 strikeouts, 21 walks, three pitcher wins and 11 holds in the process.
With Tanner Scott, who coincidentally is one of the five relieves with a lower xwOBA against their slider minimum 500 sliders thrown, seemingly locked in as the new closer in Miami, Okert isn’t likely to see much if any ancillary saves down the stretch. Still, he’s a solid saves+holds league addition for the season’s closing weeks and the fantasy playoffs given his effectiveness and bat-missing ability.
Nolan Schanuel – 9%
It’s a tiny, 16-game sample size that consists of just 75 plate appearances, but the first baseman has pretty much done just that. He’s hitting .283 with a .427 on-base percentage, just one barrel, no home runs, and no stolen bases.
That it’s such a small sample size means the 2.0% barrel rate, .329 xwOBAcon, and 22% hard-hit rate likely aren’t as concerning as they would be in a much larger sample size. What’s more, the 21-year-old did begin the year facing college pitching and is now at the game’s highest level.
Still, despite all that he has logged a .355 xwOBA to go along with a 17.3% walk rate and just a 13.3% strikeout rate. And perhaps most crucially for fantasy managers, the rookie has been the Angels’ leadoff hitter in each game that he’s started.
More often than not, that’ll likely mean regular plate appearances ahead of Shohei Ohtani down the stretch, which should boost Schanuel’s fantasy upside considerably down the stretch. He’s already a quality addition in leagues where on-base percentage is part of the scoring, but once Ohtani returns to the lineup, it should elevate the first baseman’s fantasy ceiling where runs scored are concerned.
Gabe Speier – 2%
The 28-year-old has logged a 3.64 ERA and a 3.24 FIP in 47 innings for the Mariners this season, adding 53 strikeouts (compared to just seven walks allowed), two pitcher wins, a save and 17 holds.
The holds in particular have been coming with regularity following the Sewlad trade.
Speier has seven holds in his last 15 outings dating back to August 2, including four holds in his last six appearances. In fact, since the start of August, only Trevor Stephan, Mark Leiter Jr., Colin Holderman, Griffin Jax, and teammate Matt Brash have more holds among relievers.
And it’s not just the holds and lack of walks too. Speier, thanks in part to a slider that’s sporting a 44.8% whiff rate, has seen his bat-missing metrics rise considerably across the board.
Speier’s 28.1% whiff rate, which is in the 65th percentile, is on track to be his highest ever in a full season and significantly higher than the 20.1% metric he logged last season. Elsewhere, after posting chase rates between 23% and 28% in his first four seasons in the league, Speier has seen his chase rate jump to 41.2%
Brash still looks like the top option after Andrés Muñoz for save chances, but there should be plenty of chances for more holds and the occasional ancillary save down the stretch for Speier.
Graphic adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesgfx on Twitter)