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 Darin Ruf, Reynaldo López, Diego Castillo, and Colin Poche 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.
Darin Ruf – 10%
Darin Ruf was much more effective against left-handed pitching in 2021, and while he was useful against righties, his primary role in San Francisco seems to be to crush left-handers. That was very much the case last season and continues to be the case this season.
Splits like that can be tricky in fantasy, but it’s hard to overlook how good the veteran has been against opposing left-handers. And while utilizing platoons isn’t always as successful for fantasy managers as it is in real-life baseball, the strategy can be useful in terms of piecing together above-average production at a position. That’s especially true in deeper leagues where the waiver wire options aren’t quite as plentiful as they are in smaller or more standard-sized leagues.
If you already have Joc Pederson or Jesse Winker on your roster, Ruf is the perfect addition. He can start in one of your outfield spots when either is facing a left-handed starter in real life. Plus, Ruf gets on base enough against right-handers that you can still start him in those situations if need be in leagues where on-base percentage is part of the scoring. It doesn’t hurt that he has first base eligibility, in addition to outfield eligibility, in Yahoo leagues.
What’s more, 151 of the 35-year-old’s 178 plate appearances this year have come hitting in the top four of a Giants lineup that is currently third in the league in runs scored.
He might not be a fit for all fantasy rosters in deeper leagues, but on teams with outfielders or first basemen who don’t hit lefties well, Darin Ruf could be a crucial waiver wire addition.
Reynaldo López– 2%
A starter for most of his career, the White Sox are utilizing López out of the bullpen this season, sometimes as a multi-inning reliever. The 28-year-old has pitched to a 3.20 ERA, a 2.33 FIP, 14 strikeouts, and just four walks in 19.2 innings this season.
He’s yet to allow a home run in those 19.2 innings, spanning 16 appearances. Most crucially, for fantasy purposes, he’s rattled off four pitcher wins.
Of course, a reliever, even one like López who has thrown more than an inning in six of his 16 appearances this season, continuing to rack up pitcher wins isn’t terribly common. Since 2012, just 11 relief pitchers have won 10 games in a single season.
*Yarbrough often worked as a bulk pitcher after an opener in 2018, throwing 118.2 innings in 32 appearances that year. The next closest reliever on this list innings-wise was Chad Green with 83.2 last season.
And while that type of number might seem unlikely for López, he could continue to register wins here and there, especially as starters leave games earlier and earlier. Nearly half of those relievers who won 10 games did so last season. Chicago’s current fifth starter, Vince Velasquez, has failed to reach the fifth inning mark in half of his eight starts.
Elsewhere, Chicago’s offense has limited the win potential in the rotation. Tony La Russa’s club had the third-lowest scoring lineup as of the beginning of play on Sunday. As a result, Chicago starters had combined for just 12 pitcher wins nearly two months into the season. More than half the league, 17 teams to be exact, had more pitcher wins from their rotation.
The right-hander also leads all White Sox relievers in fWAR. And while that isn’t useful for fantasy scoring purposes, it should point to continued appearances by the right-hander in key situations. As it happens, only Liam Hendriks, Kendall Graveman, and Aaron Bummer have seen more high-leverage appearances in the Chicago bullpen than López this year.
Diego Castillo – 8%
One of the Mariners’ more experienced ninth-inning options, Castillo logged 16 saves in the 2021 season split between the M’s and Rays. He has 30 total saves since the beginning of the 2019 campaign, including two this season.
Those two saves are tied for the team lead.
The low save total on Castillo’s part is in part due to Seattle’s less than expected win total, at least so far – the Mariners entered play Sunday with a 20-27 record. It’s also due to how the Mariners utilize their bullpen without a set closer.
While he doesn’t have a favorite for saves per se, at least based on their high-leverage usage, Castillo has a real shot at finishing the year with double-digit saves once again.
Steckenrider and Sewald have certainly been Seattle’s preferred duo in high-leverage spots, but the former was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday. He’d previously given up 17 hits, nine earned runs, three walks, and two strikeouts in his last 9.1 innings dating back to April 21. That leaves Castillo in a prime position to accumulate more saves if Sewald is needed in high-leverage spots earlier in the game.
The former Ray does have a 7.80 ERA this season in 15 innings pitched. That might be why he’s available in your league. But he’s also sporting a rather high .404 BABIP. Furthermore, his FIP (3.48) is much more in line with, and actually lower, than both his career FIP (3.68) and 2021 FIP (3.74).
Colin Poche – 7%
Tampa Bay’s bullpen last year was much like Seattle’s this year. Plenty of useful and quality late-inning options and a rather widespread, at least relatively speaking, dispersing of saves.
The closer’s gig appears to be Kittredge’s, but with the veteran currently on the injured list, this bullpen is once again without a set closer.
Enter Poche, who as of the beginning of play on Sunday, has logged both of Tampa Bay’s saves while Kittridge has been out.
Utilizing his four-seamer and curveball, Poche has given up just eight hits, three walks, and two home runs in 15 innings this season. Good for a 1.20 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP. Thanks in large part to the dynamic fastball, opponents have managed just a 29.3% hard-hit rate against Poche.
Per Statcast, just five other four-seamers get more vertical movement (versus average) than Poche’s four-seamer at 3.3 inches.
Opponents are hitting just .159 with a .201 xBA, a .244 wOBA, a .283 xwOBA, and a 31.3% hard-hit rate against the offering, which the reliever throws 80.6% of the time. Based on his recent usage, he looks like the top ninth-inning option until Kittredge returns and could be a useful source of ancillary saves once the 32-year-old is back from the injured list.
Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)