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 Jason Heyward, Kyle Farmer, Ron Marinaccio, and Myles Straw 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.
Jason Heyward – 1%
Potentially lost in the shuffle of the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup having another strong season complete with hitters taking a step forward (Will Smith) and having breakout out seasons (James Outman and Miguel Vargas) is the fact that Jason Heyward is in the midst of a resurgent campaign at the plate.
The Dodgers aren’t utilizing him in a full-time role. Nor are they playing him much against left-handed pitchers, but that’s not as much of an issue for fantasy managers in deeper leagues.
Heyward is batting .192 with a .312 on-base percentage, four home runs, and a stolen base in 96 plate appearances. However, the move to play him almost exclusively against right-handed pitching is paying serious dividends so far, even if the .192 batting average isn’t the most ideal stat.
So far this season, the veteran outfielder has six barrels on 58 batted ball events. He collected just five last year in 105 batted ball events and had just 22 from the 2020 campaign through the end of last year. The result is a drastic increase in barrel rate, which is certainly playing a part in his power production. In addition to the four home runs, Heyward owns a .218 ISO so far. His ISO in a single season has never topped the .210 mark.
The veteran is also walking more, with a 14.6% walk rate entering play on Friday. The additional walks might in part be due to fewer plate appearances against left-handed pitching. Though, Heyward’s overall chase rate and whiff rate have both dropped considerably, going from 31.2% and 27.8% respectively to 21.1% and 24.1% this year.
The additional walks alone make Heyward a quality option in deeper leagues where on-base percentage is part of the scoring. But even in deeper, standard scoring, he makes for a worthwhile addition.
Sporting a .192 batting average and a .317 wOBA that are likely to improve as the season goes on, Heyward is a prime positive regression candidate thanks in part to a .204 BABIP, a 50.0% hard-hit rate, and a .341 xwOBA. If the season ended today, the xwOBA would be the veteran’s best in a full season in any of the last eight years.
He should also add even more value in terms of RBI and run-scoring opportunities in a strong Dodgers lineup. Even in a part-time role, 28 of Heyward’s 96 plate appearances have come with runners in scoring position so far. As of Friday, that was more than J.D. Martinez, two fewer than Chris Taylor, and just 11 less than Mookie Betts.
Kyle Farmer – 6%
Kyle Farmer has only logged 68 plate appearances so far this season, but there’s plenty to like about what he’s doing at the plate so far.
The versatile infielder is batting .283 with a .353 on-base percentage and three home runs. That’s obviously good, but a deeper dive into his underlying metrics finds even more promising signs.
The first, and arguably most important promising sign is a barrel rate that has jumped considerably. Prior to 2023, Farmer had never registered a barrel rate over 6.0% in a full season, but he’s at 8.9% so far for the Twins. Combine that with a .411 xwOBA and a 40.0% hard-hit rate, which would both be career bests in a full season if they hold, and you have the very real promise of sustainable production here. Especially when combined with a chase rate that’s dropped considerably.
We’re still operating with a small sample size here, but there’s plenty to be encouraged by fantasy-wise. What’s more, he also looks to be establishing himself as a regular in the Twins lineup for the time being, something that would boost his fantasy ceiling considerably with all the quality contact.
The versatile infielder has seen action at third base (eight games), second base (seven games), and shortstop (five games) so far. However, with Jose Miranda recently being optioned to the minors, he’s seen all eight of his starts at third base since May 10.
If Farmer can continue to see the lion’s share of the work there, his rostership will skyrocket. Add him now before that happens and reap the rewards later.
Ron Marinaccio – 10%
On Thursday, Ron Marinaccio became the sixth New York Yankees pitcher this season to log a save. Three of those six relievers, Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta, and Michael King, have multiple saves.
In short, there’s a lot of unpredictability in the Yankees bullpen at the moment. And while Marinaccio isn’t quite the threat to take over full-time ninth-inning work, in the same way someone like King is, he is one of the few predictable fantasy options in New York’s group of high-leverage relievers – at least where saves+holds leagues are considered.
The 27-year-old has pitched to a 4.50 ERA and a 3.90 FIP so far in 19 appearances spanning 20 innings, adding 25 strikeouts compared to 10 walks for the American League East club, becoming one of manager Aaron Boone’s most trusted late-inning options in the process.
Entering play Friday, Marinaccio led the Yankees in holds with four and was near the top of the team leaderboard in high-leverage appearances.
With Hamilton on the injured list, Marinaccio should only continue to rack up holds and high-leverage appearances for Boone and the Yankees, regardless of who’s pitching the ninth inning in the Bronx.
Myles Straw – 12%
Prior to this season, Myles Straw had the seventh-most stolen bases from the start of the 2021 season through the end of the 2022 campaign with 51, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that he’s been so effective and efficient on the base paths this year with new rules introduced designed to increase stolen base totals around the league.
Straw is up to 10 stolen bases so far in 2023 in 42 games and 156 plate appearances for the Cleveland Guardians. He’s also added a .231 average to go along with a .325 on-base percentage, 17 runs scored and 10 RBI in said 156 plate appearances.
The outfielder still isn’t hitting the ball particularly hard, with a 20.2% Hard Hit rate so far and just a .297 xwOBAcon. Nor is he batting leadoff like he was at times for Terry Francona’s club last season, seeing a significant number of run-scoring chances batting ahead of some combination of José Ramírez, Steven Kwan, Andrés Giménez, and Josh Naylor.
Still, Straw is a potential weekly matchup winner in head-to-head leagues with his ability to steal bases at a high rate. Arguably now more than before, even with the new rules.
Last season, despite four stolen bases in his first six games, Straw had just 11 stolen bases through his first 72 games. As of the start of play on Friday, he already had accumulated 10 stolen bases in 42 contests.
There’s 40-stolen base potential here for Straw this season, and while he isn’t making much in the way of hard contact, he’s continuing to draw walks at a healthy rate, giving him additional fantasy upside in leagues where on-base percentage is part of the scoring.
Graphic adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesgfx on Twitter)