Hitters to Target in Deep Leagues (Fantasy Baseball)
The second half is when the real fun begins for devoted deep-league managers.
When Hunter Dozier and Christian Walker went bananas in April, everybody quickly noticed. That’s often not the case late in the season, as call-ups and hot streaks get lost in a sea of information. Football and sunshine are clamoring for the competition’s attention, and some gamers might have slipped into complacency during the All-Star break.
Let’s dive back into the deep end with four hitters available in more than 90 percent of ESPN and Yahoo leagues, as gauged by FantasyPros’ consensus rates from Sunday. While one has been around far longer than the other, two of them are 24-year-olds who arrived with plenty of shine. The other two … not so much. Even active gamers who don’t studiously track the minors probably had never heard of them until a few days ago.
Manuel Margot (OF – SD): 8% Rostered
Here’s a not-so-fun fact noted by Rotoworld’s Drew Silva: Wil Myers last started a game on July 4. Can anyone blame the Padres? Although a great fantasy source of power and speed, he’s also hitting .215/.314/.398 with a gargantuan 36.1% strikeout rate. Instead of playing him out of position at center field, the Friars have turned to Margot.
Hitting a humdrum .239/.312/.365, Margot isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire either. He at least offers better defense up the middle, which is especially crucial with big bashers Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe not covering significant ground at the corners. While he won’t replicate Myers’ power, he has swiped a dozen bags in 2019 despite spending chunks of the first half riding the pine.
He’s also quietly performing well at the plate. Since the start of June, Margot has notched a .376 OBP with more walks (15) than strikeouts (14). He has already drawn six free passes in three games after the All-Star break, a highly encouraging development for a speedster who owns a career .302 OBP. The strikeout normalization, meanwhile, offers a sigh of relief after tallying an uncharacteristically high 30.2% punchout rate in May.
Despite these positive trends, Margot is unlikely to ever match the hype sparked from a strong end to 2017. Dominating lefties (157 wRC+) while floundering against righties (60 wRC+) leaves him vulnerable to an unfavorable platoon, and he continues to drastically underwhelm in the contact department. He’s still fast, though, so the steals could come in bunches if Margot keeps starting and walking regularly.
Robel Garcia (2B – CHC): 8% Rostered
Nobody in a 30-team, 50-round preseason draft would have thought to draft Garcia. Nobody would have had any clue who he was.
Upon clubbing two doubles, triple, and two homers in seven games for the Cubs, fantasy players flocking to his player page undoubtedly noticed the wide gap in his resume. Signed by Cleveland out of the Dominican Republic at age 17, Garcia hit .207 across two Class-A levels in 2013. Released by the Indians, he played in Italy before making his way back to the U.S.
He clearly returned a new hitter. Garcia, who never offered more than six home runs in a season from 2010-2013, belted six homers in Double-A and 15 more in Triple-A. He batted .285/.365/.594 across both Chicago affiliates, earning one of this season’s most improbable MLB debuts.
Perhaps this feel-good story has already reached its climax. It’s not exactly a hot take to say something will have to give between his .333 batting average, .500 BABIP, and 42.9% strikeout rate. Yet with Ben Zobrist away for the team and Addison Russell reeling, the Cubs have plenty of motivation to keep testing Garcia’s magical run. Eric Thames, Miles Mikolas, and Merrill Kelly have all returned from international tours as profoundly improved players, so a productive second half is at least within the feasible range of outcomes.
Nate Lowe (1B – TB): 8% Rostered
Mike Brosseau (3B – TB): 5% Rostered
Tampa Bay’s lineup is going to get awfully crowded when Brandon Lowe returns from a shin injury. While not activated after the minimum 10 days as originally hoped, the All-Star may not be far away. That could squeeze Mike Brosseau and/or Nate Lowe out of the lineup.
Highlighted last week, I won’t go overboard selling the healthy Lowe. Yet the rookie clearly has no interest in going back to Triple-A, as he has already crushed five home runs in eight games — three during Saturday’s doubleheader — since his latest promotion. The 24-year-old is now batting .299/.360/.567 in 75 plate appearances, and it’s a good sign that he stayed with the Rays when Ji-Man Choi returned from a 10-day IL stay Saturday. The two lefties both started over the weekend, swapping seats between first base and designated hitter. Managers burned by Lowe’s previous short-lived promotion may be more reluctant to pounce this time around, giving forgiving gamers a longer window to scoop him up even in deep mixed leagues. He’ll keep starting as long as he keeps hitting.
Brosseau, who is not a player I just made up to fill this column, is in higher danger of losing his spot. As a 25-year-old rookie who went undrafted in 2016, he doesn’t come with the same prospect pedigree as either Lowe. He has, however, raked all year. The 5’10” infielder worked his way to Tampa by hitting .317/.408/.590 with a career-high 15 home runs in Triple-A. He has since batted .395 (15-for-38) with four doubles and four home runs in 12 major league bouts.
At full strength, Brosseau could find himself in the short end of a platoon. For now, his versatility and hot hand should at least keep the righty in the lineup as a super-utility piece. Brosseau also stole 11 bases in 2018, so he’s worth a short-term flier in AL-only leagues and mixed formats of 15 teams or larger.