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.
With 11 or 12 games left on the schedule, I’ll discuss a range players here rather than detailing one target. Let’s go by position.
Two options stand out – Willians Astudillo and Francisco Mejia. The latter is splitting time with Austin Hedges. He’ll provide premium catcher quality over just five or six games. Astudillo is playing regularly, but he’s more of a contact hitter than a power threat. Both have three home runs in small samples.
Ryan O’Hearn is doing his best Matt Olson impression. He could supply a fiery finish to the season, especially with a four game series at Progressive Field to finish things off. Daniel Palka is a great source of home runs (and strikeouts). He’s just seven percent owned.
If you need a little bump in batting average – especially in head-to-head formats where an extra hit or two could make or break your season, Adam Frazier is only five percent owned. He bats leadoff for the Pirates most days. Don’t plan on getting any power or speed out of him. Treat him like a poor man’s DJ LeMahieu. For a better-rounded stat line, try Brandon Lowe. The Rays second baseman does a bit of everything.
Franmil Reyes is scarcely over 20 percent owned despite batting .331/.388/.619 since returning to the majors in early August. During the 129 plate appearance span, he hit 10 home runs with a more tolerable 22.5 percent strikeout rate. They’ve mostly faced good competition too. Deep in the bargain bin lurks Billy McKinney. The Blue Jays occasional leadoff man is due for some soft matchups. His combination of hit tool, modest power, and fly balls could result in a surprisingly useful finish to the season.
Low Ownership Starters
This section will be used to highlight pitchers whose ownership is less than half of what it should be.
Royals righty Brad Keller has grown from fringy Rule 5 pick to viable reliever to legitimate major league starter. Focusing solely on his work since the All Star Break, he’s posted a luck neutral 3.21 ERA with 7.46 K/9, 2.57 BB/9, and a 52 percent ground ball rate. More recently, his swinging strike rate has surged, a sign he’s made another breakthrough. He’ll make two more starts before the end of the season: one versus the Tigers and another opposite the clinched Indians. You can find him on the waiver wire in about three-quarters of leagues. As long as you’re not holding your breath for a victory, he can supply useful volume.
Functionally, the Astros only need one of Framber Valdez or Josh James in their rotation. However, now that they have a little breathing room atop the AL West, they can afford to run a six man rotation. As such, they’ll both probably receive one more start early next week. Valdez has a little Dallas Keuchel in him. He posts high ground ball rates and limits hard contact. An above average curve helps him to scoop up a few strikeouts. As for James, he’s wielding a 97 mph fastball along with a solid curve and changeup to induce a high strikeout rate. He’s a bit similar to Lance McCullers in that he’s vest viewed as a high effort, shorting outing guy. They’re both under 15 percent owned. James may shift back into a multi-inning relief role.
Favorable Upcoming Matchups
Matt Shoemaker at Oakland
Matt Boyd vs Chicago (AL)
Vince Velasquez at Atlanta
Velasquez can post high strikeout totals if that’s the stat you’re chasing. However, he’s slumped through the last couple months. Consider him extremely risky. It’s best to use him only if your ratios are secure. I worry about Shoemaker too. His penchant to work down in the zone with a splitter doesn’t interact well with the Athletics lineup. They’re low ball mashers. Boyd gets a nice upgrade hosting the most strikeout prone offense. They’re without Jose Abreu.
CC Sabathia vs Baltimore
Joe Ross vs New York (NL)
Sabathia is a relatively safe play on Friday – at least as safe as a pitcher can get at Yankee Stadium. He typically avoids the long ball, and he’ll face a soft Orioles lineup. Ross is extremely risky coming off an injury. He looked solid in his return last week, showing off career best velocity. He also failed to record a strikeout in five innings. If he wasn’t facing a middling Mets roster, I wouldn’t have mentioned him.
Adam Wainwright vs San Francisco
Tyler Glasnow at Toronto
Jakob Junis at Detroit
Mike Minor vs Seattle
Other options like Jose Urena, Anthony DeSclafani, Jaime Barria, Marco Gonzalez, Trevor Williams, and Jordan Zimmermann are some degree of playable. It’s a truly wonderful day for loading up on volume – just so long as you’re not too concerned about ratios.
I never expected to be talking about Wainwright as a streamable pitcher. Two things work in his favor. He may have rediscovered his elite curve ball. It helps to make up for a decline in velocity. He’s also opposed by an abysmal Giants offense. Speaking of bad opponents, Junis is on a healthy run in recent months and has a friendly matchup. Glasnow and Minor face stiffer competition, but they’re talented enough to use without reservation. There’s risk, but it’s comparable to other more widely used pitchers like Zack Godley.