The Leadoff Batter has long wanted to step into the world of Fantasy Baseball, as we are Fantasy Baseball enthusiasts.
I enjoy sifting through players with a comb, looking for some hidden sparklers that are right there for everyone to nab, but for some reason they just sit there. Now, the thing about fantasy baseball is that it’s a lot like poker: minimizing your risk to maximize your reward. I don’t expect to name obvious players who are going to bat .300 and hit 40 home runs. Those guys are taken.
What I do want to accomplish with a new segment I’m calling “The Wily Waiver” is to find some guys who have real potential for impact. It can be assumed that if they are free agents, the risk is next to nothing, as you’re not risking anything more than a roster spot. Maybe you have an injury and are looking to fill in that gap, or it’s obvious you drafted someone who’s a complete disaster and you ditch him — giving yourself a sort of flex spot on your squad.
Well, with minimum risk, here’s some guys whom you might be able to leverage for a decent return.
Justin Bour, 1b, Miami Marlins
Oh dear no. I named a Marlin. It’s pretty safe policy to avoid this lineup like the plague. But hold on just a moment. This is a waiver pick-up right? Remember, it costs you nothing. A quick look at Bour’s stats so far in 2018 isn’t very inspiring: .226 BA and a .765 OPS with 4 homers.
But let’s look a little closer.
Most importantly all four of those home runs have come since April 10. And since then, he’s batting .318. While that batting average is not sustainable, his career average is a very respectable .270. His career OPS is .829, and he has 67 homers in just 1,191 at bats. For a 162-game pace, that puts us at a line of .270/.343/.486 with 29 homers and 96 RBI. He also strikes out just over 1-in-5 plate appearances, so he won’t kill you there.
He’s certainly not a top tier, but if you’re in need of some power without killing your batting average or on-base, think about rostering Bour.
Jurickson Profar, Utility, Texas Rangers
With the injury to Rougned Odor, former #1 prospect Profar is getting a chance to play a utility role in the Rangers lineup.
Profar’s inclusion in this list isn’t for the the super-conservative player. If you have an extra spot in your lineup, and have some other desperate need like saves or power, by all means, search elsewhere. But Profar is a sneaky add that could pay dividends for multiple reasons.
First of all, Jurickson Profar was a fantastic prospect. His character was compared to Derek Jeter’s a lot when coming up: confidence, a winning smile, and an overall pleasant persona. He also didn’t seem to show any difference whether he was batting with the game on the line or just tying his shoe: he had poise. Then injuries derailed his career and he’s spent several years trying to find his way back.
He’s why he might be a sneaky add. First, he’s still just 25 and is a former top prospect. Guys don’t become a top prospect for a reason. Right now, he’s practically free.
Second, his eligibility is about to be very appetizing. Right now in most formats Profar probably only has LF eligibility. However, so far in 2018, he’s started 4 games at 2b, 3 at SS, and 2 at 3b. If he continues to find playing time, he just might be a multi-eligibility flex option that helps you cover injuries as the season wears some of your guys out.
Yeah, but what about stats? Well, I don’t have much to argue for Profar here. The one I’ll push the most is OBP. Even with Sunday night’s 0-4 at the dish, he still owns a .363 OBP in 44 PA. He’s walked more than he’s struck out (9-7). This is usually a good sign that sometimes forecasts a player will break out.
So really, Profar is a complete lottery ticket. But, if there’s ever a time to take one, it’s on a former top prospect who’s only 25 and is showing signs that he’s seeing the ball well. If it doesn’t work out, or if he loses out on playing time when Odor returns, then drop him at very little loss to you.
Mallex Smith, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
In 2015, Mallex Smith batted .306 across AA and AAA, stealing 57 bases in just 126 games. He was a career .294 hitter in the minors and sported a .376 OBP, tantalizing for a guy capable of stealing as many bags as Smith does.
So far in 2018, he’s only stolen two bags for the Rays, and that could be why he’s only 18% owned in Yahoo. But he’s batting .350 in the young season and tripled for the second time on Sunday night. He’s not going to give you any power; in fact, you shouldn’t count on more than about five homers in a full season, but if you’re in an OBP league, Mallex Smith can boost you in on-base, average, and steals.
On Saturday, the most important development yet happened, as Smith was penciled in as the leadoff batter for the first time this season. He tallied two hits and could now begin to see more time hitting first, which obviously gives his value a boost. He was back in the 6-hole on Sunday, but it’s certainly worth watching to see if Mallex produces his way to the top of Tampa’s lineup for good.
He’s only 24, so in dynasty leagues, it might be time to nab him before people start to realize he’s hitting at the big league level. He’s only struck out five times this season in 40 AB’s. If he continues to put the ball in play with his speed, he’ll continue to beat out hits and make things happen.
Again his ceiling is limited because of his lack of power, not to mention his lineup isn’t optimal. In case you’re wondering about Tampa’s steal tendencies, the Rays were tied for 11th in baseball last year with .75 attempts per game, so they do run.