Hitters to Target in Deep Leagues (Fantasy Baseball)
As is often the case, the recommended hitters to snag in deep leagues truly runs the gamut. There’s one former top prospect raking after getting written off, and his veteran teammate is only three years removed from a 40-homer, 15-steal season. The typical observer might not have even heard of the other young infielder mentioned before this season. Injuries have kept an outfielder away from baseball for years, but another highlighted outfielder is back only because his teammate is on the shelf. All of them are rostered in under 10% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues, as of Sunday, per FantasyPros’ consensus rate.
Todd Frazier (3B – NYM): 5% Rostered
Early in his return from a strained oblique, playing Frazier over J.D. Davis appeared to be another classic case of Mets mismanagement. In hindsight, perhaps the viable big league starter just needed to shake off the cobwebs.
The 33-year-old third baseman has rediscovered his power swing, submitting eight of his nine home runs in June. That’s not the most impressive part of the month. A .213 hitter in each of the last two seasons, Frazier batted .277/.384/.589 by drawing more walks (14) than strikeouts (11). His 9.8% strikeout rate is a far cry from his 26.7% to end May. Digging deeper, he’s achieved these contact gains by chasing fewer pitches off the plate (O-Swing), which has resulted in fewer swinging strikes (SwStr).
|Month||Contact %||O-Swing %||SwStr %|
Frazier’s overall Statcast numbers still aren’t flattering. He resides in the bottom 35% of xwOBA, hard-hit rate, and exit velocity, as of Sunday. Then again, that includes 18 games through May 15 in which he batted .148 with 19 strikeouts and no walks. Even if he has since overperformed, a .344 xwOBA still exemplifies a useful contributor in deeper leagues. Improved play has secured his spot behind All-Stars Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso in the Mets’ lineup. Even if he regresses to the mean, managers are still looking at a slugger who mashed 27 home runs in his last fully healthy season.
Dominic Smith (1B/OF – NYM): 4% Rostered
Smith hasn’t slowed down since getting featured in this space four weeks ago. If anything, the post-hype prospect has gathered more momentum. He appeared to forcefully shut down any questions over playing time last week by going 9-for-25 with a double and four home runs. He’s now batting .328/.418/.590 with a 168 wRC+ this season. Alonso has a 160 wRC+.
Last month, I wrote that Smith “might get snatched up everywhere” if he kept streaking. Apparently not. He’s still rostered in just 6% of Yahoo leagues and 2% of ESPN contests, as of Sunday. This is a 24-year-old — younger than Alonso — with prospect pedigree and a 1.009 OPS, so a prolonged hot hand will compel the Mets to keep starting him in left field or use him as trade bait. How much more do managers need to see before giving Smith a shot?
Alex Dickerson (OF – SF): 2% Rostered
This name may feel familiar, but even avid baseball fans likely forgot Dickerson prior to his recent re-emergence. Back in 2016, he showed some spunk by batting .257/.333/.455 with 10 homers and five steals in 84 games. Since then, he has fallen under an avalanche of injuries. Tommy John surgery, hip and back issues, and a cyst on his heel all kept him out of action for two years.
He successfully returned to the diamond to slash .372/.469/.606 in 26 games for San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate. Rather than hosting his feel-good comeback, the Padres shipped him to the Giants for minor league pitcher Franklin Van Gurp. While the Padres had no room in their crowded outfield, the Giants don’t have another outfielder with a positive WAR. They couldn’t toss Dickerson into the lineup quickly enough, and he’s not going to lose his spot anytime soon.
In 55 plate appearances with his new squad, the 29-year-old is hitting .294/.345/.529 with four doubles, a triple, and two home runs. Perched in the cleanup spot three times last week, he has driven in 14 runs in 22 games. Dickerson doesn’t possess game-changing upside in any category — especially not in this lineup and ballpark — but has performed well when healthy. He’ll get every opportunity to stay hot, so give him a close look in 14-team mixed leagues or larger.
Luis Arraez (2B – MIN): 1% Rostered
The Twins need to find a way to keep Arraez’s bat in the lineup. In just 66 plate appearances dispersed through 20 games, the 22-year-old rookie is hitting .418 (23-for-55) with 10 walks and four strikeouts. While of course bolstered by a .431 BABIP, these bat-to-ball skills aren’t new. Prior to his promotion, he hit .348 with two strikeouts in 73 Triple-A plate appearances.
As for what else he’ll bring to the table … probably not much. The 5’10”, 155-pound infielder has seven home runs in his six-year professional career. He hasn’t stolen more than five bases in a season since graduating from Rookie ball. Playing time will also be tight, especially after the Twins activated Byron Buxton and utilityman Marwin Gonzalez. Yet even after both regulars returned to the lineup Sunday, Arraez started and led off in left field.
Arraez is what obsessed followers hoped Willians Astudillo could become, except he’s smaller and can draw a walk. He could be a rare .300 hitter.
Tyler O’Neill (OF – STL): 1% Rostered
The Cardinals promoted O’Neill to replace Marcell Ozuna, who went on the IL with a finger injury. With Dexter Fowler also in a funk, the recalled 24-year-old basher has started each of the last three games in left field. Although still rough around the edges, O’Neill could make a huge dent if he ever harnesses his top-shelf power.
O’Neill slugged .500 as a rookie last season, but he also struck out 57 times in 142 plate appearances. That’s the deal investors must accept. Little has changed this year; he has already tallied 24 punchouts in 48 major league plate appearances after posting a 29.9% strikeout rate in Triple-A. While he has yet to showcase his trademark pop for the Redbirds in 2019, he popped 11 homers and swiped three bags in the minors.
Given 70-grade raw power and 55-grade speed on FanGraphs, the former Seattle farmhand has immense upside if he can avoid striking out twice every game. He plastered 17 barrels in just 75 batted balls last season, so the .251 hitter can overcome flaws to hit for a workable average. Playing time remains the biggest concern alongside the whiffs, but he’s a worthy deep-league lottery ticket.