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 Drew Smyly, Drew Smith, Jeffrey Springs, and Juan Yepez 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.
Drew Smyly 8%
Sometimes matchups are everything. Especially for streaming candidates in the rotation.
For fantasy managers in deeper leagues, a useful streaming option in more standard leagues can sometimes be a worthwhile pickup for an extended period of time due to the lack of options.
Which is where Drew Smyly comes in.
Smyly has been a decidedly useful pitcher so far. Both in real life and in fantasy with a 3.04 ERA and a 4.17 xERA in five starts spanning 23.2 innings. He’s also struck out 17 batters while walking just five.
Most recently he held the Dodgers to three runs, only two of which were earned, in 4.1 frames.
Finishing the fifth inning has been a slight challenge at times. Smyly has reached five innings pitched in two of his starts, but he’s logged 4.2, 4.2, and 4.1 innings respectively in his other three outings.
That would certainly cap the left-hander’s fantasy upside where pitcher wins are concerned, but he may have less trouble hitting that inning mark in matchups against less productive lineups. Both of Smyly’s five-inning starts have come against Pittsburgh, while two of his four-plus inning outings came in matchups with Los Angeles and Atlanta.
Moving forward, in the next few weeks at least, Smyly should benefit from some fantasy-friendly matchups.
Following a three-game series in San Diego starting Monday, a series Smyly isn’t slated to pitch in, the Cubs will play their next 14 games against the Diamondbacks, Pirates, and Reds, with seven of those contests coming against Arizona.
All three of those clubs entered play Sunday ranked in the bottom third of the league in runs scored, wRC+, and strikeout rate.
Smyly hasn’t logged high strikeout numbers this season, but he’s set up to be an extremely helpful rotation option for fantasy managers for the next few weeks.
Drew Smith 14%
Smith has seemingly established himself as one of the primary setup options ahead of closer Edwin Díaz in New York, which has done (and should continue to do) wonders for his fantasy potential in saves+holds leagues.
Of course, the holds on their own are incredibly relevant in leagues where they’re part of the scoring, but it doesn’t hurt that Smith has been so effective too. He’s yet to allow a run in 11.1 innings this season and has scattered just four hits and five walks in those frames while striking out 15 batters. All told, that’s a sparkling 34.9% strikeout rate.
For reference, just nine qualified relievers finished with a strikeout rate that high last season.
And it certainly doesn’t seem out of the question that Smith can maintain that kind of a strikeout rate, or at least a strikeout rate in that vicinity if his slider and changeup both continue to be effective bat-missing offerings.
Jeffrey Springs – 1%
The Rays’ early saves totals aren’t quite as dispersed this season as they were last year. Andrew Kittredge, who also doubles as the team’s best high-leverage reliever, leads the way with four of Tampa Bay’s eight saves. Ryan Thompson and Brooks Raley each have a pair of saves, but this is Kittredge’s gig as the closer.
But that doesn’t mean the list of fantasy viable relievers in Tampa Bay’s bullpen starts and ends with Kittredge.
There are other interesting upside plays, especially in saves+holds leagues, but Jeffrey Springs is the name to watch here. The 29-year-old has struck out 14 batters in 13 innings while giving up just three walks, seven hits, and an earned run during that span. Traditionally a single inning reliever, or rather a reliever who throws less than two innings, Springs completed two innings in a game in just six of his 43 appearances last season.
So far this season, he’s thrown two innings or more in each of his last three appearances, including hurling 2.2 frames in a start against the Mariners on April 28.
If this continues to be the case, Springs could have plenty of value in deeper leagues.
If you’re getting flashbacks to Collin McHugh’s 2021 numbers, you’re certainly not off base.
If Springs continues to pitch with this type of efficiency and, perhaps more importantly, stays in this role, he’ll be able to help managers in any league size in terms of ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. That being said, he’d become even more valuable in deeper leagues that utilize a saves+holds scoring format. He could return to the bullpen at some point, either when Tommy Romero returns to the Majors or when Shane Baz is eventually activated from the injured list.
He might be the heir to McHugh’s multi-inning role this season. If he is, he’s someone you’ll want on your fantasy team.
Juan Yepez 13%
Yepez began the season in Triple-A, collecting nine home runs in 93 plate appearances while hitting .279 with a .323 on-base percentage. It’s a small, four-game sample size, but he hasn’t slowed down after being called up.
The 24-year-old collected seven hits, including three doubles, in his first 16 plate appearances in a Cardinals uniform entering play on Sunday.
FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen graded Yepez’s current and future raw power at 60/60 in an assessment of the top 35 Cardinals prospects in April of 2021. The infielder could be a home run threat in St. Louis if he can parlay his hot start into a regular role with the Cardinals. And oh yeah, he also has 1B and 3B eligibility in Yahoo leagues, which certainly doesn’t hurt.
St. Louis could certainly use the power production. They entered Sunday with the 12th-most runs scored in the league, but 18 teams had hit more home runs and 19 teams had a higher collective ISO.
The Cardinals do have Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt entrenched at the infield corners, but if Yepez works his way into the designated hitter mix, (where he’s started three of his first four games) alongside Corey Dickerson and Albert Pujols, he’ll be useful in deeper fantasy leagues.
Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)