Hitters to Target in Deep Leagues (Fantasy Baseball)

by Andrew Gould | @andrewgould4 | Featured Writer
Apr 16, 2018

Unanticipated waiver-wire stars steer drafters to championships every year. While often impossible to foresee these breakthroughs, few obvious 2018 hero candidates have yet to surface.

It takes time to unearth these gems and truly sniff the true breakouts from the hot starts. Yet with the sample sizes so diluted, a few good games is all it takes for everyone to grab a no-name. Some intriguing young players still maintain a consensus ownership rate below 10 percent, as of Sunday evening. They’re currently deep-league targets, but we might be honoring one or two as a mixed-league mainstay by the summer.

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Franchy Cordero (OF – SD): 9 Percent Owned
Owned in 13 percent of Yahoo leagues, switching to FantasyPros’ ownership data put Franchy Cordero back in play. Studious fantasy readers are probably sick of reading his name by now, as several other analysts have sung his praises since the Padres sent Manuel Margot to the disabled list last Wednesday. He added fire to the flames by going deep twice in four starts.

Promoted prematurely last season, Cordero batted .228 with 44 strikeouts in 99 plate appearances. Then given necessary seasoning in Triple-A, he exploded with a .329/.369/.603 slash line, 17 homers, and 15 steals in 93 games. The 23-year-old now looks ready to make a more substantial power and speed dent, but don’t take extended playing time for granted.

Margot is expected to return when first eligible on April 20. Wil Myers, moved to the outfield with Eric Hosmer manning first base, is also inching toward a rehab assignment. That could make Cordero’s visit to San Diego short, so this endorsement isn’t as strong as others around the industry. Brian Goodwin probably would have received this spot instead had he not missed both weekend games with a sore left wrist, so view Cordero as a short-term filler or NL-only stash rather than someone worth a sizable FAAB bid.

Tyler Austin (1B – NYY): 7 Percent Owned
Tyler Austin has not gone yard since belting two home runs on March 31. That’s the best explanation for why his ownership rate has stagnated in the single digits, a rarity for a young Yankee. Miguel Andujar is 10 percent owned despite his 8 wRC+.

Austin has stayed stuck at two homers for two weeks, but the 26-year-old first baseman nonetheless boasts a .500 slugging percentage for the Bronx Bombers. He tallied six of his nine hits and two of his four walks in four games before getting slapped with a five-game suspension for charging Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly. When he returns from the brief ban, staying hot should elevate him beyond an infield timeshare with Andujar, Neil Walker, Tyler Wade, and Ronald Torreyes.

While Greg Bird has monopolized the spotlight, Austin is no slouch. He notched a .920 OPS in the minors last year and has already gone deep nine times in 175 career MLB plate appearances. Even though his ceiling is far lower, the righty can contribute deep-league viable power if given an extended opportunity that has eluded him for years.

Aledmys Diaz (SS – TOR): 4 Percent Owned
Aledmys Diaz is one of seven hitters who has not drawn a walk in at least 35 plate appearances this season. Yet most deep-league managers can’t be overly picky about a widely available starting shortstop with four home runs.

Replacing the perennially injured Troy Tulowitzki, the 27-year-old went deep in each of Toronto’s last two games. He’s hitting just .237 (9-for-38), but has also notched a 43.8 hard-hit percentage, the rewards of which have been hampered by a .179 BABIP. While it’s too early to reach any concrete conclusions, he’s a career .280 hitter just two years removed from batting .300 with a 134 wRC+ as a rookie.

After undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from both heels at the end of March, Tulowitzki was given an eight-week timetable. That gives Diaz at least another month to capitalize on his second opportunity. He probably won’t take many walks in that time, so approach carefully in OBP leagues. Elsewhere he can offer solid pop, potentially with a better average, as a middle infielder playing in a favorable hitting environment.

Jurickson Profar (2B/OF – TEX): 2 Percent Owned
If you need to go dumpster diving, might as well take a flier on a versatile 25-year-old who once headlined prospect rankings.

Injuries to Delino DeShields, Rougned Odor, and Elvis Andrus have given the Rangers little choice but to extend Jurickson Profar another chance. He’s not just starting, but occupying the No. 2 spot at second base and shortstop, meaning he could soon unlock eligibility at both spots.

Now there’s the pesky matter of proving he belongs. Injuries can’t forever serve as a convenient excuse for a career .228 hitter. Despite his pedigree and the team’s expanding injury report, he’ll play himself back to Triple-A by replicating last year’s 40 wRC+ over 22 games. He has provided mixed results in April, batting .226 (7-for-31) with more walks (nine) than strikeouts (six). Profar has also collected five hits and a steal in his last three starts.

A post-hype breakout still won’t retroactively validate scouts who projected a future superstar. Over 572 Triple-A appearances from 2016 to 2017, he hit .286 with 12 homers and nine steals. Even a success story may thus underwhelm those expecting a major boom, but Profar can at least stick in Texas’ lineup and deeper fantasy formats as a solid average and/or OBP re-enforcer.

Niko Goodrum (2B – DET): 1 Percent Owned
This pick is AL-only deep rather than mixed-league deep, but remember all that stuff about how scarce speed has become? Niko Goodrum had a good run last weekend, stealing a base in three consecutive games. He was filling in for Miguel Cabrera, but has since poached a start at second and shortstop for the Tigers. Dixon Machado and Jose Iglesias aren’t exactly an elite middle-infield tandem.

After hitting .265/.309/.425 in Triple-A last year, the 26-year-old Goodrum certainly isn’t a future fixture who will demand playing time. But neither is any else on Detroit’s roster and at least he could swipe some bags if given a chance. Defensive versatility could also help him stay on the field. He might piece his way to 15 steals with a few long balls, which makes him viable in the deepest formats.

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Andrew Gould is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive and follow him @andrewgould4.

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