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7 Under-the-Radar Pickups (Fantasy Baseball)

Aug 5, 2020

35-year-old Matt Kemp could have a big impact in fantasy this season

The young MLB season has been as chaotic as we could’ve envisioned. Knowing what was possible hasn’t made this season any easier for fantasy managers to plan for or endure, though. Evaluating Marlins or Cardinals players at this point has been tough due to their small sample sizes relative to the rest of the league. A plethora of postponed games have also left us with holes to fill in our fantasy lineups each day. Plus, poor starts from Trea Turner, Pete Alonso, Mike Clevinger, Luis Castillo, and other early-round picks have added to the season’s difficulty even more. Fortunately, the waiver wire is still packed with plenty of overlooked players who can give your squad a nice lift. Here are several widely available players our featured analysts suggest you pick up to help you weather all the adversity.

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

Matt Kemp (OF – COL): 11% Owned
“I’m laughing while writing this, but it’s Kemp. All he has done with the Rockies so far is slash .353/.450/.765 with a combined medium and hard contact rate of 91.7%. It’s an incredibly small sample size, but considering that Kemp can play as a DH so his defense won’t be a liability, all you’re concerned about is his production at the plate. Sam Hilliard is off to a slow start, so there’s no one exactly pushing to move Kemp out of regular playing time. In a short season in the thin air of Colorado, it seems like the perfect result in 2020 for Kemp to be a difference-maker in fantasy baseball.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

“While players like Sam Hilliard and Garrett Hampson generated far more preseason buzz, it is 35-year-old Matt Kemp who has managed to lock down regular playing time in Colorado thanks to his hot start to the season. Kemp spent most of 2019 on the minor league injured list, but he was a highly productive player as recently as 2019, when he hit .290 with 21 home runs and 85 RBIs in just 462 at-bats. As long as he continues to play regularly, it’s not very hard to envision him repeating that type of per-game production this year while playing his home games in the thin air of Coors Field. Don’t fall prey to ageism — he’s well worth a pickup if you need some outfield help.”
– Andrew Seifter (FantasyPros)

Daulton Varsho (C – ARI): 3% Owned
“I am looking to pick up Daulton Varsho of the Arizona Diamondbacks in all of my leagues. He was just called up by the Diamondbacks and seeks to fill in at catcher, the outfield, and DH. Varsho entered the season as the Diamondbacks’ No. 1 prospect, hitting .301/.378/.520 with 18 homers and 21 stolen bases in 108 games last season in Double-A. Substantial catcher contribution is difficult to find and when you add stolen bases to the fantasy mix, you hit the jackpot. The DH slot is up for grabs in Arizona and Varsho has the opportunity to make his mark as a catcher-eligible hitter who can provide power with stolen base potential.”
– Dennis Sosic (Fantasy Six Pack)

Dominic Smith (1B/OF – NYM): 4% Owned
“The unexpected decision by Yoenis Cespedes to opt out of the rest of the 2020 season opens up a full-time spot as the Mets’ DH. Smith should be the one getting the bulk of those at-bats. At 25, he’s still on the upswing in his career, especially after making major strides last season in improving his contact rate and walk rate. He’s struck out a lot this season in limited plate appearances, but regular playing time should help get him back in the groove.”
– Steve Gardner (USA Today)

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

David Peterson (SP – NYM): 5% Owned
“Peterson is owned in just 5% of fantasy leagues, but that number should be much higher. The former first-round pick’s minor-league numbers (3.63 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 8.8 K/9) won’t blow you away, but his highest FIP at any level, including his current stint in the majors, is 3.19. He’s acquitted himself well so far despite pitching against the Red Sox and the Braves and is scheduled to take on the Marlins in his next start. His slider is above average and he mixes his pitches well enough to keep hitters off balance. He won’t be a star, but with pitchers going down like flies, he’s certainly someone who can fill a spot on your roster.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Spencer Howard (SP – PHI): 25% Owned
“It’s difficult to find lightly-owned starting pitchers you can rely on in mixed leagues, so sometimes it requires taking a chance on a prospect before they officially get the call to the big leagues. Howard likely would have already made his Major League debut if the Phillies didn’t have several games postponed due to coronavirus, but regardless, his opportunity is coming soon. The 24-year-old right-hander was phenomenal across 65 2/3 innings in High-A and Double-A last season, posting a 1.78 ERA and an 86-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Fantasy owners will be rushing to the waiver wire to grab him when news of a promotion breaks, so beat the crowd and add him now.”
– Andrew Seifter (FantasyPros)

Yusei Kikuchi (SP – SEA): 7% Owned
“The one starting pitcher that I am looking to add is Seattle Mariners lefty Yusei Kikuchi. The buzz surrounding him this spring was the increase in his velocity. In his first start, he didn’t fare well against the Houston Astros. However, he displayed the potential he exhibited this spring during his second start. Kikuchi allowed three hits and one walk over six scoreless innings while striking out nine A’s hitters. The southpaw induced 20 swinging strikes on 89 pitches in one of his most impressive outings as a Mariner. He is a mid-level fantasy option that is gaining positive momentum. Kikuchi could continue to surprise and is owned in only seven percent of leagues.”
– Dennis Sosic (Fantasy Six Pack)

Pablo Lopez (SP – MIA): 8% Owned
“It’s easy to understand why there are so many Marlins on the waiver wire. If they’re not playing, they’re not worth rostering. But Lopez was excellent in his first outing of 2020, tossing five shutout innings against an Orioles team that had just swept the Rays. He struck out seven and didn’t walk anyone. While he hasn’t been a big strikeout pitcher in the past, Lopez has shown good control. In a good home park for pitchers, he could be a nice rotation-filler for fantasy managers.”
– Steve Gardner (USA Today)

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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