Fantasy Baseball Category Analysis: Alek Thomas, Jhoan Duran, Jameson Taillon (2022)
Continuing with our Category Analysis series, I’ve put together a few more names to help give you a boost in at least one major statistical category. Many of these players will help you in more ways than one, with their primary contributions coming in the category under which they are listed.
These players are still available in more than 50% of Yahoo leagues, but many won’t last long, so don’t wait. Hopefully, you all jumped on the Brandon Drury train last week because, like many others featured in this series, he’s probably no longer available.
I went through so many players last week (27!) that it was more challenging than usual to find guys for today’s list (that hadn’t been named before). But don’t fret. These 12 undervalued and lesser-known studs are still very much worthy of your attention.
Alek Thomas (OF – ARI): 27%
Thomas comes from a line of athletes, including his father, who is currently the White Sox director of strength and conditioning. A five-star recruit across multiple sports in high school, the 18th ranked prospect (according to MLB) has all the making of a future fantasy star. The outfielder will likely become an annual 20/20 candidate but has already shown what type of player he can be at the Major League level.
That is if Torey Lovullo plays him. You never know with a manager like Lovullo at the helm, but Thomas has already clubbed two doubles, and a home run with four Major League starts under his belt. He scored four times and knocked in three while batting .385 (5 for 13).
The uber-talented outfielder put together similar stat lines throughout his minor-league career, as he consistently filled up the stat sheet. He rode the pine for some odd reason on Friday after Thursday’s off day, but Thomas is an intriguing must-add in all leagues with speed, athleticism, and power. He has been hitting towards the bottom of the lineup but that shouldn’t last very long.
Brendan Rodgers (2B, SS – COL): 36%
After a dismal start to the season, many gave up on the former top prospect, and I can’t exactly blame them. Rodgers finished April with a batting average below .100 and an OPS below .275. It was a dreadful start for the young middle infielder, but after being given a few days off and the calendar turning over to May, Rodgers did a complete 180.
Over the last two weeks, despite missing a couple of days due to a non-Covid illness, Rodgers has produced a robust a .351 batting average, to go along with two home runs, four doubles, and 12 RBIs. He’s swinging much earlier in the count, which seems to have completely turned his season around. Not only is the more aggressive approach producing hits, but it has also cut his K-rate down by 10%.
I would have included Rodgers on this list last week, but I hadn’t realized he had been dropped in enough leagues to qualify. The good news is that he is still available in most leagues but likely won’t be by next week. Add the Rockies’ second baseman ASAP.
Jesus Aguilar (1B – MIA): 32%
Aguilar has morphed into one of those old reliable veterans who may seem like a boring add but consistently gets the job done. Playing nearly every day, Aguilar is good for about an RBI every two games and one home run per week while not hurting your batting average. The hulking first baseman has been hitting second in the Marlins lineup, where he’s in a prime spot to continue his above-average production. He’s been hot lately driving in nine runs in May while offering a .318 average.
He isn’t a league winner by any means but did record 93 RBIs last season in just 131 games in a weaker lineup. Add the 31-year-old now if you need a boost in RBIs.
Danny Jansen (C – TOR): 13%
Jansen was a force at the dish in the second half of last season and got off to a similar start this year. It’s a small sample size, but if the Blue Jays catcher can even come close to the power he showcased in either instance, Jansen could quickly become the home run leader for backstops across the league.
He hit seven bombs in just 65 at-bats last year (in the second half) and hit two in just three games to start this season. He’s been on the shelf due to an oblique injury but is set to return this weekend. Add the Toronto catcher to get a power boost at the toughest position to fill.
Brian Anderson (3B, OF – MIA): 2%
And for those of you in deeper leagues, check out Brian Anderson. He’s only hit two home runs so far, but also has five doubles that would have been out in numerous other ballparks. Plus, with Joey Wendle going down with a hamstring injury, Anderson should have no problem earning everyday playing time. He just returned from the Covid-list and could be on the verge of a hot streak as the weather warm up. Hello, Mr. Anderson.
Brad Miller (1B, 2B, 3B, OF – TEX): 10%
This one may seem odd, but Brad Miller is stealing. The 32-year-old missed some time earlier in April due to a back issue but has still produced five home runs, four stolen bases, and 17 RBIs. It became pretty clear when Miller was utilized late in the game as a pinch-runner (where he successfully stole second) that he would be a threat on the base paths this year.
The left-handed-hitting Miller doesn’t always start against LHP, but as soon as the starter is pulled, Miller is subbed into the game. In daily leagues, it’s difficult to start him on his off days, but there have been numerous occasions this year where he came off the bench to go to two for three and drive in a couple of runs. He stole his fourth base of the year on Friday. Combined with his power and multi-positional eligibility, you could do worse at the middle or corner infield.
Jhoan Duran (SP, RP – MIN): 41%
Duran is currently sharing closing duties with Emilio Pagan, but it should be Duran who takes over before long. Pagan may have more experience in the ninth, but Duran has been overpowering hitters. Armed with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball, Duran has struck out a mind-boggling 39.3% of batters faced while only walking 4.9%. His fastball is nearly unhittable (.091 BAA), and he complements it with three solid off-speed pitches. He’s already recorded two saves and has looked downright nasty doing it.
Pagan does have four saves of his own but is constantly having to get out of jams and is walking more than a batter per inning. That just isn’t going to cut it in the closer role. Even if they continue to share the job for a while, there should be plenty of saves to go around with Minnesota winning games. Add Duran now if you’re low on saves.
Jake Odorizzi (SP – HOU): 23%
Odorizzi is back in the starting rotation, and this time he plans on staying. Since the Astros moved to a six-man rotation, the veteran righty has thrived. Since leaving the pen, Odorizzi has thrown 17.2 innings in his last three starts and given up just one run. Dusty Baker has been all over the place with his comments (regarding a six-man staff), but it would be shocking to see the former Twin lose his job while pitching so well.
Odorizzi has a date in Boston on Monday, and while that’s been a dangerous place for visiting pitchers in the past, Boston’s lineup hasn’t done much over the last few weeks. They’ve also lost eight of their previous 11 games. He’s then scheduled to take on the hapless Rangers after that. With the way Odorizzi’s been consistently putting up zeros, he is worth the risk in most formats.
Connor Overton (SP, RP – CIN): 3%
Overton is possibly worth taking a flier on in deeper leagues. He won’t blow you away with any aspect of his game, but he continues to keep hitters off balance by constantly changing speeds. He throws six different pitches and exhibits good control of the fastball. He also had great numbers in Triple-A last year.
Overton did give up some deep-outs last week to the Pirates, which isn’t a great sign, but he’s produced three excellent starts in a row, including one in Colorado. Despite his low strikeouts, he is someone worth monitoring over the coming weeks (or adding now if you’re desperate).
Bailey Ober (SP – MIN): 40%
Ober is on track to return sometime this week, but if you want to obtain his services, now is the time to get him. Ober leaned heavily on his pinpoint fastball control last year but in four starts this season, it’s been his breaking stuff doing the heavy lifting.
Making up nearly 38% of the pitches Ober’s thrown, his slider and curveball have kept batters below a .100 average without a home run. His walk rate is still minimal, and with hitters swinging and missing at his breaking stuff, Ober will surely continue limiting base runners. He finished last season with a 1.20 WHIP and should finish with a similar number again this year. The 6-foot-9 Ober also maintains a solid 2.75 ERA to go along with 16 K’s in 19.2 innings. He’ll likely be a solid four-category contributor if all goes well in his rehab start and should be added everywhere now.
Yusei Kikuchi (SP – TOR): 26%
Kikuchi was forgettable in his first time out against the Yankees this year and wasn’t great against the Astros either. But in his latest two outings, both coming against the Bronx Bombers, the Japanese star punched out 14 batters in just 11.1 innings while only allowing three runs and eight base runners.
Kikuchi’s ERA and WHIP are a bit high to start the season, but his schedule was brutal and he is striking out better than a batter per inning. He’s got his former team Seattle up next, then is scheduled to take on the lowly Reds after that. Those clubs strike out at an astronomical clip, so Kikuchi could be in for more quality numbers. Add the southpaw for his starts this week and help crank up your strikeout totals.
Jameson Taillon (SP – NYY): 42%
Taillon has yet to give up more than two runs in a single outing this season, including three games against the vaunted Blue Jays lineup. He’s keeping the ball in the yard (0.88 HR/9) and has vastly improved his walk rate down to a microscopic 2.3%. Taillon has already earned three victories on the young season and is set to take on Baltimore and their newly deepened left-field fence on Tuesday. The 6-foot-5 righty should be added in all leagues and should not have qualified for this list. Add him before it’s too late.
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Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.