Welcome to The Fringes, a column designed to help you identify valuable players on the outskirts – or fringes - of the fantasy baseball scene. We’ll cover low ownership starters, pitchers with favorable upcoming matchups, prospects on the verge, bench guys with the talent to be more, emergent multi-inning relievers and/or closers, and other opportunists.
As always, I welcome feedback. You can reach me on Twitter @BaseballATeam.
In five games since the All Star Break, David Fletcher is tied for the fifth most Wins Above Replacement (WAR). He’s accomplished this in just 21 plate appearances during which he’s managed twice as many walks as strikeouts along with a .500 BABIP. We can safely call this a small sample fluke. However, he’s also flashing the kind of high contact skills that are frequently associated with stardom.
To be clear, I seriously doubt stardom is in Fletcher’s future. Entering the season, he was an uncelebrated pseudo-prospect. His appearance on Angels prospect lists was an indictment of their system rather than a testament to his ability. Fletcher altered the script this year at Triple-A. He showed serious doubles power for the first time in his career and even managed six home runs in 275 plate appearances.
Fletcher’s plate approach combines two dominant traits – aggression and a low swinging strike rate. He profiles as somebody who may hit for a relatively punchless high average. In very deep formats, these are the sorts of players who can go on a hot streak, especially before the league adapts to their playing style. He’s a utility fielder which improves his value. As long as he continues to deliver hits, the Angels will find a place for him in the lineup. Lately, he’s batting leadoff against left-handed pitchers.
Low Ownership Starters
This section will be used to highlight pitchers whose ownership is less than half of what it should be. As such, it will not appear every week since there isn’t always a pitcher who fits the bill.
We discussed Trevor Cahill last week, and he’s still under-owned at 20 percent. There’s certainly risk here, but it’s hard to find aces who post Cahill’s stat line, let alone free pitchers.
It’s been about a month since I sang the praises of Carlos Rodon. Three of his last five starts have lasted over seven innings. A 2.88 ERA slightly overstates his achievements. Based on his strikeout, walk, and hit rates, he’s experienced some luck. He should have a 4.00 ERA over the span. He’s actually quite inconsistent start to start. Just in terms of results, I’m reminded of a left-handed Vince Velasquez with fewer strikeouts. Presently, Rodon is owned in just 28 percent of leagues. Given his talent, pedigree, and solid performances, he should be rostered in the majority of formats – even if only as a streamer.
Pirates righty Nick Kingham records about a strikeout per inning while issuing very few walks. He’s prone to allowing hard contact, but that isn’t as big a deal if he’s pitching at home. PNC Park is tough on home runs – it’s the second friendliest venue for pitchers. Kingham probably won’t help your ERA, but a modest three category performer is nothing to sneeze at. He’s 22 percent owned.
Favorable Upcoming Matchups
Kyle Gibson at Boston
Trevor Cahill at Texas
Nick Kingham vs New York (NL)
Upwards of six pitchers appear to be streamable tomorrow. Not mentioned above are Tyler Mahle hosting the Phillies and Wade Miley visiting Dereck Rodriguez at pitcher friendly AT&T Park. We already discussed Cahill and Kingham. These are both soft opponents.
Although Gibson obviously has a tough matchup, he’s already pitched well against the Red Sox and other elite offenses. And he’s had bad days against terrible lineups. When he’s on, he gets the job done. From the outside, there’s no way to predict his bad outings. Gibson offers a strikeout per inning with solid ratios.
CC Sabathia vs Kansas City
Wade LeBlanc at Los Angeles
The Sabathia play is pretty simple – wily veteran hosts bad opponent. This should be an easy victory for Sabathia. He may also supply healthy ratios. I’m always a tad wary to recommend LeBlanc against a good opponent. The soft-tossing lefty relies upon inducing soft contact. We see guys like him shift in and out of fantasy relevance all the time.
Trevor Williams vs New York (NL)
Ideally, I wouldn’t be recommending Williams opposite Jacob deGrom. The Mets do find ways to lose deGrom’s starts. Although Williams only projects for about a one-in-three chance at earning the win, he’s relatively likely to post tolerable ratios. Since there aren’t many other streaming options on Saturday, desperate owners in head-to-head leagues may have to bite the bullet.