Hitters to Target in Deep Leagues (Fantasy Baseball)
Before targeting the following players, see if there’s still time to grab a pair of Padres.
Highlighted here last week, Manuel Margot has since gone 10-for-25 with four doubles, a homer, and a steal. He is now not only playing regularly in center field but batting second in between Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado. Hitting .318 with three long balls and steals apiece in July, he’s a viable add even in standard 12-team mixed leagues. Although technically still eligible for this column’s requirement of below 10%, his Yahoo (14%) and ESPN (5.8%) rostered rates averaged out to 9.9 on Sunday. It should rise into double digits early in the week.
Promoted Saturday, Luis Urias’ Yahoo rate skyrocketed to 22% by Sunday evening. Proactive managers were right to quickly grab the 22-year-old second baseman, who tapped into newfound power by towering 19 homers in Triple-A. He didn’t sacrifice his high-end contact skills, batting .315/.398/.600 with seven steals in 73 games. Although he mustered just two hits in his first MLB audition, Urias deserves another chance to make his mark.
If both players are already off the waiver wire, pivot to these widely available hitters.
Kyle Tucker (OF – HOU): 8% Rostered
Now that Urias is back in the majors, Tucker is the top impact prospect waiting for his turn. For the second straight season, he has solidified a 20/20 campaign in Triple-A with 25 homers and 21 steals in 91 games. The 22-year-old outfielder’s wRC+ has dipped from 155 to 117 due to a climb in strikeouts, but he is still slugging .574 after overcoming a rocky start.
Despite remaining in the minors, recent developments also bring him back into the limelight. The Astros designated Tyler White for assignment right as Tucker began taking reps at first base. This would be more notable if not for the pending return of Carlos Correa, who will push Alex Bregman back to third base and Yuli Gurriel across the diamond to first. With fellow top prospect Yordan Alvarez raking in the DH spot, Tucker stills need another injury to unlock a full-time role in Houston.
Yet by trying him at another position, the Astros are bolstering his chances of landing a big-league role. While he faltered mightily in his first MLB audition, hitting .141 with no homers in 72 plate appearances, the sample size is too small to discount MLB.com’s 10th-ranked prospect. Tucker brandishes immediate five-category potential. In fact, FantasyPros’ own Bobby Sylvester recently compared his immediate impact to that of Andrew Benintendi if given the call. Such power and speed promise make him worth stashing now in deep formats.
Alex Dickerson (OF – SF): 6% Rostered
The first of two repeat inclusions from July 1’s column, Dickerson hasn’t shown the slightest semblance of slowing down. He’s igniting a suddenly surging Giants offense by batting .348/.406/.663 in 101 transformative plate appearances.
There are some caveats. Nobody expects him to keep hitting like Barry Bonds, so that .409 BABIP is going to drop. San Francisco is also using him in a platoon, which makes sense given Dickerson’s career 83 wRC+ against lefties paired with Austin Slater’s success from the other side of the plate. Investors will need to do some matchup homework, especially in an NL West littered with southpaws.
Now back to the good stuff. Dickerson is absolutely crushing righties (195 wRC+) and thus bats third or fourth when starting against one. That has led to 23 RBIs and 20 runs in a mere 36 games. Statcast also likes what it sees. A 51.4% hard-hit rate — right above Christian Yelich for 10th among hitters with at least 60 batted-ball events — paves the way for a .318 expected batting average (xBA) and .400 expected wOBA. Limitations aside, the outfielder is well worth grabbing in larger mixed leagues.
Mark Canha (1B/OF – OAK): 3% Rostered
Khris Davis is enjoying another strong 2019, batting .249/.378/.543 with a 144 wRC+ for the A’s. Wait, those are Canha’s numbers. The 30-year-old has also blasted 16 home runs (five this month) in 241 plate appearances. This has led to a well-deserved regular role in the heart of Oakland’s lineup.
Fantasy managers have been slow to embrace the former part-time player, but it’s time to erase past conceptions of Canha as a platoon piece. This season, as of Sunday, he carries a 157 wRC+ against righties. He’s also 17th in walk rate (14.1%) among batters with at least 200 plate appearances. Only five hitters ahead of him (Mike Trout, Alex Bregman, Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, and Carlos Santana) have a lower strikeout percentage than his 19.1.
Detractors will point to his .222 xBA as an obvious sign of regression, and that’s a fair concern. However, this mark doesn’t seem to reflect his approach gains. The career .241 hitter has chased just 22.8% of pitches off the plate, down from 2018’s career-low 31.1.
Besides, this isn’t a case for buying fully into Canha’s current production as a clearance-bin Matt Olson. He doesn’t need to be accounted for in 10-team mixed leagues with three starting outfielders, but a 3% rostered rate indicates he could possibly still be had in 15-team leagues with five outfield slots.
Luis Arraez (2B – MIN): 3% Rostered
When covered three weeks ago, Arraez was scrounging for any playing time he could get. The 22-year-old neophyte has kept hitting, wielding a .381/.450/.496 slash line with 14 walks and eight strikeouts in 129 plate appearances. Minnesota has taken notice, starting him all but once this month.
Arraez has gotten looks at multiple spots, but he appears to have displaced Jonathan Schoop at second base. He had collected a hit in a dozen straight starts before Saturday, so the AL Central leaders should keep rolling with the hot hand. While he won’t keep up this profound pace, the 155-pound prospect should remain an indelible source of batting average. After all, he has batted .298 or better at every professional stop since 2014.
Don’t expect much else beyond batting average, as Arraez amassed six home runs throughout his minor league career before going deep twice in the bigs. The average alone nevertheless makes him a valuable deep-league asset, especially if he accrues eligibility at multiple spots. He has already unlocked outfield and third base on Yahoo with eight and seven games played, respectively.