Hitters to Target in Deep Leagues (Fantasy Baseball)
Quite frankly, I’m disappointed I have to mention the first person as a deep-league add. He’s still rostered in fewer than 10% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues despite occupying just about the best real estate any hitter could want.
Speaking from experience, it’s still likely too late to grab this burgeoning standout in a competitive deep league. That’s not the case for the other players highlighted below. As of Sunday evening, three of them have a consensus ownership rate of just 1%, and the other is still floating under the radar despite a hot streak and past prospect pedigree. Check the waiver wire for them in NL-only leagues and mixed formats of 14 teams or larger.
Raimel Tapia (OF – COL): 9% Owned
Tapia just spent all of Colorado’s 10-game homestand in the leadoff role. He leaves with a 12-game hitting streak, five doubles, and 10 runs scored. What more will it take for everyone to get on board?
On the surface, an outfielder batting .277 with five home runs and one stolen base is nothing special. He’s shown plenty of power, however, in the form of 13 doubles and four triples that give him a .486 slugging percentage. Besides, his current pace could produce 12-15 homers going forward in his advantageous new assignment. As for the speed, he swiped 21 bags in 105 Triple-A games last season, so don’t give up on his potential to poach double-digit bases.
Again, he’s now starting and leading off for the Rockies, who play half of their games at Coors Field. He’s batting .306/.358/.571 at the hitter’s haven, so the 25-year-old at least makes one heck of a streamer. After going on the road this week, he’ll return to Colorado for seven games the following week. By the time that occurs, he should be rostered in closer to 50% than 10% of all leagues.
Orlando Arcia (SS – MIL): 4% Owned
Arcia is a 24-year-old shortstop who compiled 15 home runs and 14 stolen bases in his first full big league season. Yet he struggled mightily last season, hitting .236/.268/.307 in 119 games. That’s apparently all it takes for fantasy investors to wipe a promising player from their memories.
It’s time to look back into Arcia, who batted .290/.377/.409 in May before opening June with a two-homer game. He accompanied last month’s success with 13 walks in 106 plate appearances, an enormous development after drawing 15 free passes all of last season. This added selectiveness has also led to more contact and fewer strikeouts, so he could maintain an average near his current .264 despite a grotesque .227 xBA.
Those expecting him to join the pantheon of star young star shortstops will likely be disappointed. Anyone who declared him a bust after one bad year, on the other hand, must reconsider. Arcia can at least discover his 2017 form as a serviceable middle infielder in deeper leagues. The real fantasy gains will come if he can escape the eighth spot in Milwaukee’s lineup. Otherwise, he won’t stockpile enough runs and RBIs or receive the stolen-base opportunities necessary to truly shine.
Dominic Smith (1B – NYM): 1% Owned
There’s another timeline where the Mets sent Pete Alonso to Triple-A to work on his defense. In this scenario, he may never get a chance to wrestle first base away from Smith. The Mets instead gave the rookie the job on Opening Day, and he responded with 19 home runs and a 145 wRC+ in 60 games.
Smith, meanwhile, has done everything in his power since spring to receive more playing time. After treating his sleep apnea during the offseason, he also earned a big league job with his Grapefruit League performance. In limited reps, Smith — who is actually six months younger than Alonso — has hit even better. He’s wielding a spectacular .365/.467/.571 slash line in 75 plate appearances. His 182 wRC+ is higher than every qualified hitter besides Cody Bellinger and Mike Trout.
Before dismissing his hot start entirely because of an unsustainable .435 BABIP, let’s appreciate his tangible improvements. The 23-year-old lefty, considered New York’s future first baseman before middling early returns and Alonso’s emergence, has repaired last year’s 2.7% walk and 31.5% strikeout rates to 14.7% and 18.7%, respectively. He’s chasing nearly 10% fewer pitches off the plate. Realizing they can’t possibly continue to hide this production on the bench, the Mets have started him — from the second spot — at left field in three of their last five games. Smith has gone 8-for-13 with two homers, so he should receive an extended look despite a shaky defensive transition. Now is the time to purchase this post-hype lottery ticket in mixed leagues of 14 or more teams. With another strong week or two, he might get snatched up everywhere.
Garrett Cooper (OF – MIA): 1% Owned
Harold Ramirez (OF – MIA): 1% Owned
Give a bunch of professionals playing time, and someone is bound to do something. While the Marlins are baseball’s worst offense, two of their no-name outfielders are quietly emerging into decent deep-league contributors.
The only Marlin batting above .300, Ramirez won’t sustain his .379 average or .444 BABIP. With just one home run in a lineup last in scoring on the season, that’s where the 24-year-old derives his value. His .317 xwOBA is also far lower than his .380 wOBA, as of Sunday, so I’m doing a terrible job making the case to add him. Even if he’s clearly playing over his head, an 80.1% contact rate points to some legitimate skills from Ramirez, who hit .320 in Double-A last year and .355 in 120 Triple-A plate appearances prior to his promotion. He could still feasibly hit in the vicinity of his .287 xBA, and he showed some category juice with 11 homers and 16 steals in Toronto’s farm two years ago.
Cooper could conversely be on the cusp of a breakthrough. For now, he’s delivering above-average offense with a .256/.337/.423 slash line and 109 wRC+. That will play in 15-team mixed leagues from a regular starter batting second who tallied 10 hits last week. His recent hot surge may be a sign of things to come. The 28-year-old, who was acquired from the Yankees alongside Caleb Smith during the 2017 offseason, has an even higher contact rate (81.6%) than Ramirez. His is accompanied by more hard hits (47.5%) and a .360 wOBA substantially exceeding his actual .319 clip.
Before a wrist injury derailed his 2018 — and returned to cost him a month this season — Cooper batted .366/.428/.652 with 17 homers and 82 RBIs in 75 games for Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate in 2017. He even collected 14 hits in 13 games for the Bronx Bombers later that year. With more sustainability and upside, he takes priority over Ramirez, who can compile some numbers with a nice batting average as a steady hand.