Another week, another reminder of how quickly things can change in fantasy baseball’s deep league landscape. My desk is often littered with post-its featuring names of players I might write up a little blurb on, most of whom have fantasy ownership in the 0-5% range. What a difference a few days or a week can make, and before I know it several of the guys whose names I’ve scribbled don’t qualify as deep leagues anymore because they’re suddenly owned in 50% or more of CBS leagues. Last week’s RITD lede, Brandon Drury, is already rolling in the medium himself: he was at 4% CBS ownership last week and had already rocketed to 39% by Thursday. So there is often more help than we think sitting out there; The tricky part is being in the right place in the right league to find it and grab it when you need it. I’ve been keeping to players with a 5% CBS ownership rate or lower the last few weeks, but this week we’ll set the threshold at 10%, and see what we can find.
Edwin Rios. Rios is one of those players that makes me appreciate the instant-pickup, try to make a batty call for the day format of Razzball’s RCL leagues. I realized on Monday that I should have bid on him in one of my NL-only leagues that has weekly waivers; he may not be playing every day or have a ton of long-term upside, but he’s getting enough at bats in one of the best lineups in baseball to warrant some deep league attention. Now I’ve watched him hit two homers in two days for the Dodgers, and while he’s still just 3% owned as I write this, his price has no doubt gone up for when I can finally bid on him this weekend. Even if that is his total output for the week, that’s production that I could have used at the end of my deeper league active rosters.
Jose Quintana. I haven’t had the guts to pick up Quintana anywhere myself, but that won’t stop me from at least mentioning him. How can I not after his last start, where he shuts the Dodgers of all teams out for six innings on just two hits? Quintana has now pitched 30 innings over 6 starts for the Pirates, with a 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 25 Ks. I have to think these numbers will get worse over the course of the season and not better, but I can see turning him into certain leagues if you really need starting pitching. His last few years were horrific, but the guy did put up borderline ace numbers over the course of a full season as recently as 2016.
Anthony Bass. Bass hasn’t been of much value unless you’re in a deep league that counts holds, and if you’re in a deep league that counts holds, he’s probably already owned (he already has 7). I’ve been playing him in a non-hold deep league or two, though as he’s been quietly putting up very solid numbers since late last season; this year he’s striking out just over a batter per inning and has a stellar 1.23 ERA/0.68 WHIP. Meanwhile, the rest of the Marlins bullpen is kind of a mess: Anthony Bender has two blown saves and horrible numbers on the year, while presumed closer Dylan Floro finally returned from the IL with a mini 3-run implosion. Floro should get the chance to straighten things out, but I’m keeping my eye on bass in the back of that bullpen in the meantime.
TJ Friedl. I don’t know if Friedl will continue to get playing time for the Reds (or will even stay in the big leagues) after Nick Senzel is back from the Covid IL, but I’ve grabbed him in an NL-only league because I needed a fill-in for this week. The Reds don’t exactly have a super strong OF depth chart right now, and if nothing else Friedl has not only been getting playing time, he’s been leading off with Jonathan India out. He makes good contact and is fast (he had three hits and a walk, scored 3 runs, and stole a base on Wednesday) so I’ll be monitoring him as the season continues.
Victor Reyes/Derek Hill. The Akil Baddoo era in Detroit was fun while it lasted, but it’s over for the time being as Baddoo was unceremoniously demoted to the minor leagues earlier this week. Victor Reyes is close to returning from a quad injury, but for the moment Hill is getting playing time in the Tigers outfield. Hill has been batting 9th and hasn’t done much of anything yet to justify moving up in the order (or even staying on the roster for that matter; Willi Castro played center on Thursday), and he’s also a 26 year old .248 hitter over almost 2000 minor league at bats. The one thing in his minor league profile worth mentioning is the one thing that could theoretically give him a small dollop of deep league fantasy value, namely his speed: he has 161 steals, hitting double digits in the category every year from 2014 to 2019 and twice stealing 35 in a season. Back to Reyes: he’s 27 now, and I don’t think there’s any way to describe both his floor and his ceiling as anything other than low. But he will steal a base here and there, has a smidge of pop, and shouldn’t hurt you too much in average, so if he gets healthy and winds up with regular at bats he may find himself on the deep league radar.
Eli White. Here’s this week’s zero percent owned player according to CBS, which as usual doesn’t make sense to me since he’s owned in at least one of my AL-only leagues. I do think we can agree that he’s a name to consider in only the very deepest fantasy leagues, as he will never be a regular and has a grand total of 23 official at bats over 19 games at this point in the season. I bring him up because he has actually managed to contribute a bit in that handful of ABs, as he’s hitting .304 with a homer and 3 steals. There are guys that have less production than that but have enough at bats to have done significant damage to your batting average, so White is one of those ultra deep league players who reminds us that occasionally, less is more.
Kyle Bradish. This is the second week in a row we’re discussing an Orioles starting pitcher, which may not be an appealing thought but isn’t a surprise given how often we deep-leaguers need to mine bad teams for any value we can find. Bradish was most definitely of value in his latest start, in fact, it was one of the better starts of the young season I’d say: 2 earned runs on 4 hits and no walks to beat the Cardinals, with an attention-getting 11 Ks. Anyone who adds him will need to temper hopes to some extent and expect regression, as we are talking about a pitcher who’s turning 26 this summer and has a career minor league 3.79 ERA/1.34 WHIP. The continued strikeout potential is real, though – he has 268 Ks in 216 minor league innings, and in a small sample size has shown a legit slider and swing and miss stuff against some pretty good major league hitters.
Felix Bautista. We’ll stay in Baltimore to mention Bautista, a 26 year old reliever who is pitching in the majors for the first time this season. Like Bradish, Bautista’s numbers in the minors aren’t anything to write home about; he’s got great stuff but has not always harnessed it properly, and has a 1.30 career WHIP to show for it. He also has 18 minor league saves, however, and now he can add one at the big league level. I’ve watched a couple of his appearances this year and he passes the eye test, and he has a fastball that has already topped 100 MPH this season. With Jorge Lopez on the bereavement list, I wasn’t surprised to see the Orioles turn to him to close things out the other day after Paul Fry coughed up a solo homer – even though Lopez has been surprisingly solid at the end of the bullpen, I can see Bautista getting more high-leverage chances as the season continues as well. (Note: Bautista has already gotten another high-leverage chance since I wrote this, converting a save against the Cardinals Thursday afternoon. That makes yet another player I wish I’d grabbed last weekend in a deep league!)