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10 Under-the-Radar Pickups (Fantasy Baseball)

Jul 29, 2020

Teoscar Hernandez’s torrid start may be legitimate

COVID-19 claiming one week of the Marlins’ season (as it stands right now) is obviously so much bigger than baseball, especially the fantasy component. However, considering this is a fantasy baseball piece, we do need to point out that if the full 60-game season does happen, there will likely be other clubhouse breakouts that the league and fantasy managers alike will have to contend with, along with the possibility that other players may decide to opt-out midseason. The fluidity of these issues obviously makes roster management extremely tricky this year. The following waiver-wire recommendations our featured experts have provided are low-ownership players who could produce nicely throughout the season if things go according to plan. We all just need to keep in mind that the state of the season could change at any moment and some athletes who might seem like hidden waiver-wire gems today could momentarily lose much of their luster tomorrow. We can already say that about a few players our analysts have touted throughout the spring and summer, one being Elieser Hernandez.

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Q1. What one hitter should fantasy owners look into picking up that is owned in less than 25% of leagues?

Teoscar Hernandez (OF – TOR): 11% Owned
“I am a sucker for Hernandez, so I am buying into the hot start. I thought he was primed for a breakout last year after he finished sixth in exit velocity on fly balls and line drives and also finished ninth in barrels per plate appearance. He showed added pop last year, smashing 26 home runs in just 464 plate appearances, and brought his walk rate up a bit. However, he continued to strike out at a high clip, which kept his batting average down. He is probably never going to hit above .260, so you need to have a roster that can withstand a bit of a drain on your team batting average. If you can, Hernandez may be your guy. In addition to his prodigious power, he has tremendous speed as well. Out of 288 players who had at least 100 competitive runs last year, Hernandez had the 24th-highest sprint speed. He charted faster than perennial stolen base threats like Starling Marte, Tommy Pham, and Christian Yelich. Hernandez already has stolen a pair of bases on the young season. That is encouraging to me because he has yet to consistently display the ability to swipe bases at the Major League level. If he can add that to his repertoire, you are looking at one of the few players in baseball who can put up double-digit totals in both home runs and stolen bases in this shortened season.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

“With Bo Bichette dealing with a hamstring injury, Teoscar Hernandez has been leading off. He’s off to a productive start tallying two home runs and two steals early on. Last year after returning from a demotion, Hernandez was highly productive, producing a .360 wOBA and .300 ISO from June 5 forward, so maybe he figured something out. He strikes out a ton, but the power is legit and while he has been an inefficient base stealer for his career, the two early attempts are encouraging.”
– Ryan Amore (Pitcher List)

Brandon Nimmo (OF – NYM): 12% Owned
“My answer is always Sam Hilliard, but since I have harped on him for long enough, I’ll mention Nimmo. Nimmo doesn’t have a ton of power (career-high 17 homers) or speed (career-high nine stolen bases), but he’ll play every day and is an on-base machine. He’s got a .400 OBP so far on the young season, largely in line with his career mark, and is playing every day. Although he’s been relegated to the ninth spot in the batting order thus far, the Mets have faced mostly lefties, and Nimmo is sure to move toward the top of the lineup if he continues to get on base often. With a strong lineup behind him, he should pile up the counting stats and be an ideal fifth outfielder in mixed leagues.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Tyler O’Neill (OF – STL): 5% Owned
“As we came to expect days before the season started, O’Neill is indeed an everyday starter for the St. Louis Cardinals. He has already smashed two homers in four games and there is much more power to come during the remainder of the season. Not only that, but Baseball Savant’s Sprint Speed Leaderboard says O’Neill is only behind Byron Buxton and Trea Turner in terms of max sprint speed, so don’t be surprised if he tallies a handful of steals or more this season to go with double-digit home runs.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Evan White (1B – SEA): 7% Owned
“White smacked his first homer of the season on Monday and given that he’s getting everyday playing time for the Mariners, his power stroke warrants attention in deeper leagues. He has alternated between second and fifth in the order and as we search for at-bats anywhere and everywhere in the sprint season, the young first baseman is worth a flier.”
– Wayne Bretsky (BretskyBall)

Austin Hays (OF – BAL): 12% Owned
“Good hitters on bad teams are notoriously overlooked and Hays is one of those players. He will provide runs and some pop at the top of the Orioles’ order and is owned in just 12% of leagues. Moreover, they should have a couple doubleheaders on tap with the Orioles not being able to play the Marlins over the last couple days. More games leads to more counting stats for you. He also has solid bat control and should provide a decent batting average.”
– Carmen Maiorano (FantasyPros)

Q2. What one starting pitcher should fantasy owners look into picking up that is owned in less than 25% of leagues?

Chris Bassitt (SP – OAK): 19% Owned
“It’s not all that pretty when you get down to this ownership percentage, but Bassitt can help fantasy managers in deeper leagues. He quietly had a very solid year in 2019 with a 3.81 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP, and almost a strikeout per inning. Bassitt doesn’t do anything special, but he’s got a decent sinker and four-seam fastball and generally limits free passes. With the regional schedule, he’ll pitch primarily in larger ballparks and should rack up a handful of wins pitching for a good A’s team. It’s not sexy, but with all the pitching injuries right now, Bassitt can be a guy who you start to earn some easy innings.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Chris Bassitt has a secure spot in the A’s rotation, but is somehow rostered in just 19% of leagues. He has a filthy curveball and pitches in one of the best venues for a pitcher in the league. Bassitt is likely lowly rostered because he is still getting stretched out and only pitched four innings in his first start. However, I expect him to get to at least five innings in his next start against the Mariners, which is a great matchup.”
– Carmen Maiorano (FantasyPros)

Matt Shoemaker (SP – TOR): 19% Owned
“The answer for me here is another Toronto Blue Jay, Matt Shoemaker. He has not been able to complete a full season in quite some time, totaling just 12 starts over the last two years. However, he has exhibited solid command and control during that small sample size. Shoemaker has kept his walk rate in the single digits, and more importantly, has kept the ball in the yard. In this age of team home run records falling left and right, he has managed to buck the trend when he has been on the mound. Including his first start of 2020, Shoemaker has now allowed just six home runs over his last 65.2 innings pitched. He utilizes a five-pitch mix to keep opposing hitters off-balance. In his start against Tampa Bay, Shoemaker increased the usage of his curveball by quite a bit. I am very interested to see if this was gameplan specific, or if he will continue to incorporate this pitch into his repertoire more often as the season progresses. Either way, Shoemaker has the tools to be a solid starting pitcher in fantasy leagues and should be rostered in most formats.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

Tyler Chatwood (SP/RP – CHC): 23% Owned
“I have to admit Chatwood is someone I really didn’t give much thought of heading into the season. However, anyone who strikes out Christian Yelich three times in a game has my attention. The key here is a wicked cutter that last year featured a phenomenal 46.6% whiff rate. He upped his usage of it dramatically in his first start and the results were impressive.”
– Ryan Amore (Pitcher List)

Spencer Turnbull (SP – DET): 9% Owned
“Coming off a solid first start of the season, Turnbull warrants attention as a low-owned arm. He struck out eight over five innings in his season debut against a solid Reds offense. Turnbull lost a league-leading 17 games last year, but showed some promise as a volume arm, striking out nearly a batter per inning over 148.1 innings pitched in 2019. He makes for a solid start as he takes on Cincinnati once again this week, this time at home.”
– Wayne Bretsky (BretskyBall)

Alex Cobb (SP – BAL): 5% Owned
“Cobb was once a great starter in this league, and while injuries have derailed his career, we’ve seen cases where pitchers like this can climb back into fantasy relevance. All we’ve heard about Baltimore’s de facto ace this spring and summer is that he has looked great again and we saw evidence of that in his first start in which Cobb struck out six and held the Red Sox to just one run in 5.1 innings. This is the type of pitcher I prefer to pick up early in the year in case the breakout becomes legitimate.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Thank you to the experts for giving us their under-the-radar pickups. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and subscribe to our podcast below for advice all year round.

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