10 Deep League Targets (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
In order to qualify for this piece, a player’s ADP had to be north of 300 at the time of writing. A potential closer barely made the cut, and he’s joined by a handful of other intriguing arms. On the hitting side of the ledger, there’s some thump and speed available after pick 300.
Matt Barnes (BOS – RP) – 302.3
Craig Kimbrel remains a free agent, and Boston appears committed to rolling with its currently constructed bullpen. The Red Sox lack a proven closer, but they have a few intriguing relievers who are coming off of strong seasons. Barnes is my top pick among them to handle saves duties with Ryan Brasier nipping at his heels. Barnes is coming off of a 2018 campaign in which he tallied a respectable 3.65 ERA that’s high relative to his ERA estimators. According to FanGraphs, his underlying metrics generated a 2.71 FIP, 2.83 xFIP, and 2.78 SIERA. Baseball Prospectus credited him with an even more impressive 2.21 DRA. In short, those numbers suggest Barnes was unlucky and rather dominant. He kept balls on the ground at a robust 53.0 GB%, and he piled up strikeouts (36.2 K%) with a gaudy 14.5 SwStr%. The good outweighed the bad (11.7 BB%). Barnes’ ADP is unlikely to stay beyond 300 much longer.
Ryan Zimmerman (WSH- 1B) – 326.0
The biggest knock on the 34-year-old first baseman is his continued struggles to stay healthy. Zimmerman has bested 500 plate appearances only one time in the last five years. Of course, that one time was an electric 2017 season in which he hit .303/.358/.573 with 36 homers, 90 runs, and 108 RBIs in 576 plate appearances. It was arguably the best offensive season of his career. Last year, however, he played in only 85 games and amassed 323 plate appearances. On the positive side, he hit a solid .264/.337/.486 with 13 homers, and his quality of contact was great. Among players with a minimum of 150 batted-ball events, Zimmerman tied Mookie Betts for fourth in barrels/plate appearance percentage at 9.9%, per Baseball Savant.
Given Zimmerman’s elite batted-ball data, he was a bit unlucky with his actual slash line. Baseball Savant credited him with an expected average of .272 and expected slugging of .508. Those expected rates would have bumped him up to an outstanding .272/.345/.508 slash line. It’s unwise to expect a fully healthy season from Zimmerman, but there’s nothing wrong with drafting him at his bargain price and enjoying him to begin the season while healthy.
Brad Peacock (HOU – RP) – 342.3
Peacock’s enjoying a strong spring that should make him a favorite to claim Houston’s fifth starter gig. I wrote about him earlier this offseason, and his stock is up now that he’s inching closer to opening 2019 in the rotation.
Michael Pineda (MIN – SP) – 357.0
Pineda spent the 2018 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. He pitched in four minor league games, but he didn’t return to the Twins. He has pitched four scoreless innings in two spring training appearances, allowing just two hits with zero walks and three strikeouts.
Pineda’s stats were a mixed bag when last healthy in 2017. In 17 starts spanning 96.1 innings for the Yankees, he totaled a 4.39 ERA (4.66 FIP, 3.61 xFIP, 3.77 SIERA, and 3.36 DRA), 1.29 WHIP, 5.1 BB%, 22.4 K%, 50.9 GB%, and 12.1 SwStr%. Pineda’s very Chris Archer-like in regards to posting an ERA that’s notably worse than his ERA estimators, but leaving Yankee Stadium (1.265 park factor for homers) for Target Field (1.030 for homers) could help him immensely in closing the gap. The cost is right to roll the dice on Pineda.
Franchy Cordero (SD – OF) – 373.0
Cordero has the type of tools that fantasy gamers dream about, but his propensity for striking out (35.7 K% in 2018) and struggles with southpaws (56 wRC+ in 46 plate appearances) are legitimate problems. San Diego’s outfield is crowded, but Cordero has shown enough against right-handed pitchers to warrant consideration on the strong side of a platoon. In 108 plate appearances against righties last year, he slugged five homers with a .253/.343/.474 slash, 12.0 BB%, 34.3 K%, and silly 51.7 % hard-hit rate.
In 40 games and 154 plate appearances last year, he demonstrated a useful power/speed combo with seven homers and five stolen bases. The 24-year-old outfielder’s strikeout woes contributed to a .237 average, though. Cordero’s a bad draft investment in leagues with weekly lineup changes, but he’s an intriguing late gamble in leagues with daily lineup changes that allow a gamer to start him against righties and bench him against southpaws.
Delino DeShields (TEX – OF) – 374.5
Leonys Martin (CLE – OF) – 382.0
The primary reason to draft this duo of outfielders is for their stolen base contributions. To that end, I discussed both in this piece. I’ll add that both play in two of MLB’s most hitter-friendly parks in Globe Life Park in Arlington (1.239 park factor for runs, which is second highest) and Progressive Field (1.095 park factor for runs, fourth highest in MLB) in Cleveland. Additionally, DeShields has leadoff experience and Martin could serve in that capacity for the Tribe while Francisco Lindor nurses a calf injury to open this year. DeShields offers the higher stolen base ceiling, but Martin offers significantly more power to help offset the gap.
Trevor Cahill (LAA – SP) – 432.0
Cahill is grossly underrated. In 21 appearances (20 starts) spanning 110.0 innings for the A’s last year, he recorded a 3.76 ERA (3.54 FIP, 3.80 xFIP, 4.06 SIERA, and 3.48 DRA), 1.19 WHIP, 9.1 BB%, 22.2 K%, 53.4 GB%, and 11.7 SwStr%. His 2017 went off the tracks after the All-Star Break, but in nine prior starts spanning 50.2 innings that year, he twirled a 3.38 ERA (3.51, 3.17 xFIP, and 3.38 SIERA), 1.22 WHIP, 9.0 BB%, 29.7 K%, 59.5 GB%, and 13.6 SwStr%. Even if you include his disastrous conclusion to 2017, he’s totaled a 4.27 ERA (4.29 FIP, 3.95 xFIP, and 4.23 SIERA), 1.38 WHIP, 10.4 BB%, 22.5 K%, 54.4 GB%, and 11.4 SwStr%.
After bouncing back from his 2017 summer slump, I’m inclined to believe Cahill should best his 2017-18 totals, and even a repeat of last year’s work would yield a tidy profit at his tiny cost. As the beginning of 2017 exhibited, though, there’s upside for more. However, keep in mind he’s not a workhorse. Having said that, 120 innings is attainable, and as I wrote about in the Starting Pitcher Primer, there aren’t many workhorses to be had anyway.
Matt Strahm (SD – SP/RP) – 444.0
I gushed about Strahm earlier this offseason, and I’m doubling down now. In two spring training appearances spanning five innings, he has held the opposition scoreless on three hits, one walk, and four strikeouts. He’s doing his part to make San Diego’s rotation, and I’ll boldly call him a top-50 SP in 2019.
Martin Perez (MIN – SP/RP) – 852
When trying to unearth a hidden gem at pitcher, a couple of things will get my attention. One is increased velocity. Another is a new pitch in his repertoire. Perez might check both boxes. According to The Athletic’s Dan Hayes, Perez was sitting at 95-97 mph with a 90-91 mph cutter in a spring appearance. Perez’s average four-seam fastball velocity last year was just 93.2 mph and his sinker was 93.0 mph, according to Brooks Baseball. They also didn’t credit him with throwing a cutter last year.
The lefty showed more velocity out of the pen late last year, so perhaps something clicked. It’s also not unusual for a starter to throw harder in shorter bursts, so even his tantalizing spring velo shouldn’t be treated as definitively sustainable. Still, the extra oomph on his heater and addition of a cutter provide reasons to keep tabs on Perez.
Gamers in AL-only leagues and 14-team mixers or larger would be wise to get ahead of the curve and spend a late pick or a buck or two on him to see if the gains stick. In competitive deeper leagues, take a wait-and-see approach with him on the bench. Stashing him is better than making a hefty FAAB commitment to secure his services if he flashes early in the regular season.