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 Robert Suarez, Yimi García, Aaron Hicks, and Miguel 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.
Robert Suarez – 12%
At a point in Spring Training, there was anything but clarity as to who the San Diego Padres closer would be.
With Mark Melancon departing for the Arizona Diamondbacks in free agency, San Diego was left with a plethora of options but no real front-runner.
Dinelson Lamet. Emilio Pagán. Suarez. Pierce Johnson.
There were plenty of choices.
There was also the possibility that San Diego could mix and match until Drew Pomeranz was ready to return.
That obviously didn’t happen. And none of those relievers became the closer as a trade with the Minnesota Twins landed Taylor Rogers in San Diego.
Rogers has been the unquestioned closer in San Diego, logging a save in each of his five outings with the Padres and averaging a strikeout per inning.
The former Twins’ arrival has relegated pitchers like Lamet, Suarez, and Johnson to high-leverage, setup roles. And while Rogers is likely to remain the closer until further notice, Suarez seems like the next man up if injury or ineffectiveness strikes.
The right-hander logged a combined 67 saves in his last two seasons pitching in Japan. Furthermore, his pitch arsenal gives him plenty of upside in the ninth inning. Particularly the combination of his four-seam fastball and changeup.
It should be noted that Suarez’s curveball and cutter have whiff rates of zero so far because he simply hasn’t thrown many of them. The right-hander has thrown just nine curveballs and five cutters.
Suarez holds plenty of appeal in saves+holds leagues at the moment but might be one of the better handcuff options for closers as well.
Yimi García – 12%
Another reliever, another saves+holds league priority pickup.
García joined the Blue Jays as a free agent this winter and has immediately stepped in as Toronto’s high-leverage reliever of choice outside of closer Jordan Romano.
Entering play Sunday, the former Astro led the team in high-leverage appearances. He’s also yet to allow a run in seven innings while scattering three walks and a hit.
What’s more, only Milwaukee’s Devin Williams had more holds than the former Dodger as of the beginning of play on Sunday. The distribution of holds can be fickle at times for some bullpens, but the right relievers on the right contending teams can be incredibly valuable.
Right now, that looks like García, who seems looks like a good of a bet as anyone to keep racking them up for a Blue Jays squad that should push for 100 wins this season.
Aaron Hicks – 7%
It remains to be seen who will lead the Yankees in plate appearances from the leadoff spot by the time the season ends. Anthony Rizzo has started a pair of games there, while Josh Donaldson has logged five starts batting first in Aaron Boone’s lineup.
Aaron Hicks has also started five games leading off, while DJ LeMahieu has hit leadoff in the last three contests.
Even if Boone continues to rotate hitters over the course of the season and Hicks splits time between batting leadoff and hitting sixth or seventh – which is where he’s hit in the games when he hasn’t batted leadoff – he’ll have plenty of fantasy value.
Anyone hitting ahead of Aaron Judge, Rizzo, and Giancarlo Stanton is going to immediately be fantasy relevant where run-scoring opportunities are concerned, but it’s even more notable that it’s a hitter with Hicks’ track record.
The outfielder has logged double-digit home runs and stolen bases in a single season three times already in his career, including in 2018 when he logged 27 home runs and 11 stolen bases.
In addition to the home run and stolen base potential, Hicks has logged a double-digit walk rate in each of his last five seasons. Especially in on-base percentage leagues, he’s been one of baseball’s best at drawing walks while providing power and steals. Since the start of the 2017 season, he’s one of just eight players with a minimum of 1,500 plate appearances who have at least a .200 ISO, 25 total stolen bases, and a walk rate of 13% or higher.
It’s that track record that will make Hicks someone you want on your roster, even if he isn’t hitting leadoff.
Even hitting sixth in New York should provide him plenty of RBI opportunities and fantasy value, as it’ll likely mean hitting behind the aforementioned Judge, Stanton, and Rizzo and one of LeMahieu, Donaldson, or Gallo.
Miguel Cabrera – 5%
Miguel Cabrera rightfully drew all the headlines on Saturday when he logged his 3,000th career hit, but the future Hall of Famer is quietly off to his best start in years.
It’s a small sample size, and one propped up to a degree by a .441 BABIP, but Cabrera is batting .319 with a .377 on-base percentage with three barrels in his first 53 plate appearances this season.
He’s logged four multi-hit games already, including two three-hit games. Last season he didn’t have his second three-hit game until June 14.
Cabrera isn’t much of a power threat, but should be able to play a similar role (in deeper leagues at least) to that of Michael Brantley on fantasy rosters in the sense that he can provide a slight bump in batting average and chip in with some RBI production while helping offset the lower batting average output of a player who can help win multiple categories each week like Robbie Grossman or Adolis García.
And while Cabrera is mostly hitting 5th this year in Detroit behind some combination of Grossman, Austin Meadows, Javier Báez, Jeimer Candelario, and Jonathan Schoop, the veteran has excelled with runners on base, even without the power metrics he used to have.
The 38-year-old entered play Sunday hitting .444 with five RBI and a pair of walks in 12 plate appearances with runners in scoring position this season.
That type of production in those types of situations is nothing new for Cabrera.
The Tigers’ lineup might not be as super-charged as the Dodgers’, but with Báez and Meadows in the fold, they should be a reasonably effective run-scoring unit moving forward. That won’t exactly hurt Cabrera’s RBI opportunities.
Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)