Hitters to Target in Deep Leagues (Fantasy Baseball)
They grow up so fast.
Just a week removed from his weekend power explosion, Derek Dietrich’s consensus ownership rate has soared to 31%. At one point each mentioned in this column or my general waiver-wire article, too many managers are riding hot starts from Tommy La Stella (17%), Eric Sogard (16%), Brian Goodwin (13%), David Fletcher (12%), and Leury Garcia (12%) to tout here once more.
Of course, that doesn’t mean players in deep leagues should just sit tight. There is always a new batch of percolating performers (and looming prospects) to snatch off free agency. Let’s look at a handful of hitters to grab for an immediate or long-term jolt.
Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS – COL): 9% Owned
Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson both earned preseason breakout buzz with tremendous springs. Six weeks into the season, they have both fallen flat on their faces.
- Ryan McMahon: 107 PA, .232/.318/.358, 3 HR, 70 wRC+
- Garrett Hampson: 99 PA, .194/.224/.269, 1 HR, 14 wRC+
Daniel Murphy also has yet to find his footing since returning from a finger injury, and Ian Desmond remains bad at baseball. Even with their stars heating up, the Rockies’ lineup needs a boost. It might not be long before Rodgers gets the call.
The organization’s premier prospect is scorching the Pacific Coast League to a .333/.406/.587 slash line. Blocked by Trevor Story, the natural shortstop has spent most of his time at second base, where the Rockies have received MLB’s worst production. At 19-21, they need a spark to help ensure their third straight playoff appearance. If he keeps raking while McMahon and Hampson flounder, Rodgers should be up well before the All-Star break. Coors Field could propel him into an instant game-changer, especially if he starts running again. He has yet to steal a base this season but poached a dozen 95 Double-A contests last year. Beat your opponents to the punch and stash the future star now in deeper formats offering enough bench room.
Gio Urshela (3B/SS – NYY): 7% Owned
How bizarre is Urshela’s latest surge? Allow Michael Schur, creator of Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Good Place (and the immaculate Fire Joe Morgan) to do my job:
In parts of 11 minor league seasons, 27 year-old Gio Urshela of the Yankees has a .705 OPS in more than 3200 AB.
In 466 AB in the majors before this year, his OPS was below .600.
In his first 83 AB with the Yankees, he is hitting .349/.409/.518/.927
— Ken Tremendous (@KenTremendous) May 11, 2019
What the fork? Seeing a light-hitting journeyman bat third for the Yankees is more brain-melting than Jeremy Bearimy, so the natural reaction is to write off this fluke occurrence. Perhaps that’s a mistake. A jump in line-drive rate and exit velocity have led to a .341 xBA, so he has at least earned his early success. His new club might have unlocked something, as he batted .307/.340/.475 in 27 games with their Triple-A affiliate last season before a sea of injuries created an opportunity in April.
Miguel Andujar is back, but he was a terrible defensive third baseman before suffering a shoulder injury that impeded his ability to throw across the diamond. With Giancarlo Stanton still sidelined, Urshela’s emergence gives the Bronx Bombers an excuse to make Andujar a regular designated hitter. A lineup that also welcomed back Clint Frazier is expected to activate Aaron Hicks, so Urshela could make some noise if he keeps getting reps.
Jarrod Dyson (OF – ARI): 5% Owned
Dyson has never hit more than five home runs in any of 13 professional seasons. That includes the minors; he went over four seasons and 1,000 plate appearances without going yard before finally catching hold of one in Triple-A.
He has three in 2019.
A .417 slugging percentage is pretty tame in this current hitting landscape, but the 34-year-old speedster holds a career .346 clip without ever topping .400. This start seems to fall under the “Everyone is hitting home runs in 2019” department. After all, he has a 19.7% fly-ball rate and the fifth-lowest average exit velocity among batters with at least 50 plate appearances.
The strong start, however, has earned Dyson a larger role that has eluded the outfielder throughout his career. Already logging 100 plate appearances, he has a chance of reaching 400 for the first time. That’s significant for a player who has garnered one steal per every 10 trips to the batter’s box as a major leaguer. As long as he’s in the lineup, Dyson is going to run. He has swiped seven bases in 31 games, putting him on the path to notching his seventh 25-steal campaign in the last eight years. Don’t read into the unexpected power gains, but take the reliable speed in 15-team mixed leagues. He’s even worth using temporarily in 12-team leagues with five outfield slots.
Raimel Tapia (OF – COL): 5% Owned
Let’s circle back to that “Desmond remains bad at baseball” note. He’s batting .214/.279/.410 this season, and Coors Field has only bolstered him to a .314 wOBA. If the highly compensated 33-year-old maintains his minus-0.1 fWAR, he’ll submit his third straight season of below-replacement-level production.
Colorado appeared to finally wave the white flag when sitting Desmond three times last week. He then, however, started the next four bouts before sitting — notably against a lefty — on Sunday. This has shielded Tapia from a full-time role despite spelling David Dahl versus southpaws. When given the chance, he has thoroughly out-performed Desmond with a .313/.352/.626 slash line in 105 plate appearances. He has also made the most of his home environment by registering a .755 slugging percentage at Coors.
Not pegged to offer much power, Tapia has tallied eight doubles, four triples, and five homers in an expanding role. Although he has successfully stolen just one of three attempts, he pocketed 21 steals in 24 Triple-A opportunities last year. The 25-year-old offers too much five-category capability to remain available in so many leagues. A high-priority add in 15-teamers, he should eventually wind up owned in leagues of all sizes when given a consistent starting spotlight.