Watch 'em fly, big buddy. Watch 'em fly.
We have a lot of articles out there which tell us who the next big thing is. And we love that, because finding the next big thing in our fantasy league is the ultimate coup. It's not only a boon for our team's chances of winning, but it can become a constant source of confidence/braggery/obnoxitude among owners. Everyone wants to be the guy who found Ian Kinsler in a dynasty league or drafted Lance Lynn this season, but there's also a much less sexy way to do the same thing.
Example: in a 12-team dynasty league I play in, someone dropped Max Scherzer at the end of April after he had gotten lit up one too many times for that owner's liking. At that point, he was down to 49% owned. I didn't hesitate, as the bottom of my staff in that league included Rick Porcello and Jeff Niemann. In the five starts since then, he's 3-0 with a 3.94 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and a 45/6 K-BB rate in 29 2/3 IP. Needless to say, his ownership is now over 90% in ESPN leagues, and up to 70% in Yahoo! leagues (seriously Yahoo! owners, pay attention).
This is where additional difference makers can be found, and there are a number of them out there. We're going to take a look at five players who are unowned in more than 1/3 of leagues that need to have significantly higher ownership -- players who can be plucked off the wire and perform better than current starters you may have, and their respective ownership on the three major sites. After the jump, that is..Mark Reynolds (30% ESPN, 39% Yahoo!, 62% CBS)
I'll give some of these owners a pass since he just came off the DL Monday, but this was a guy who was fairly close to 100% owned at the start the season. Let's go over some facts about Mark Reynolds that anyone who drafted him this year already knew. First of all, Reynolds is an extremely streaky hitter. Just look at last year, when Reynolds had 7 HR at the end of May and then hit 30 between June 1 and the end of the season. You read that right, 30. Secondly, Reynolds strikes out a ton and will be a drain on your batting average. We know this, and it doesn't matter. If he were a .270 hitter, he'd be a 2nd-3rd round pick. He'd essentially be Jose Bautista plus a couple of steals, minus some counting stats. This year he has a 33.3% K rate, which is nearly identical to his 33.2% career K rate. Reynolds needs to be owned in all leagues now that he's back in the lineup, so don't let someone else beat you to him if he's available in yours.
Jemile Weeks (53% ESPN, 48% Yahoo!, 72% CBS)
If I told you that there was a middle infielder out there in your league who has been unlucky and has still managed double digit steals with a .296 OBP, you might think I was talking about Dee Gordon. Turns out, Dee Gordon wishes he had a .296 OBP. The younger Weeks is another player who's seen his fantasy stock drop significantly from the beginning of the season -- then again, completely shitting the bed in two categories (.207 avg and 5 RBI) doesn't help. But a player with Weeks' speed will not maintain a .243 BABIP. It just will not happen. Plus, if he can get his OBP up to the .340 range going forward (which he has a good chance of since his BB% is nearly twice what it was last year), he should be able to provide even more speed than he currently is. And he's already leading all MLB 2B in steals. He needs to be owned in all leagues except 10 team mixed with no MI spot, even if you think you're set in speed.
Edwin Jackson (60% ESPN, 59% Yahoo!, 80% CBS)
Let's play a fun game. Here are all the stats for which Edwin Jackson has the edge on rotation-mate Jordan Zimmermann so far in 2012 (through Sunday's games): IP, WHIP, FIP, xFIP, K%, K/BB rate, Swinging Strike %. Here are all the stats for which Jordan Zimmermann has the edge on Edwin Jackson in 2012: ERA, wins. In fact, even with the one win E-Jax has, he has still been a top-50 starting pitcher. If he had 5 wins instead of 1, he'd be #21 -- just ahead of Felix Hernandez. Don't get me wrong, I like Jordan Zimmermann a lot, but he is owned in 100% of leagues and Jackson has been the better pitcher. E-Jax deserves that same fate.
Addison Reed (54% ESPN, 48% Yahoo!, 60% CBS)
This is another guy who's going to see his ownership jump (hopefully) in the next few weeks, although he's been the guy on the South Side for nearly a week now. His overall numbers don't look all that great, but they are skewed by one outing from May 13th where he gave up 6 runs in 1/3 of an inning. Too bad, you say? Well, what if I told those 6 runs were a result of one extra base hit (a double), an infield single, a HBP, a walk and two misguided intentional walks from the dugout (including one to Jarrod Dyson -- seriously), plus he left the game with two men on and they promptly scored off Eric Stults. Regardless, in appearances which were not that one, Reed has 18 K and 4 BB in 15 innings, with a 1.20 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. He's a top-10 closer going forward. Get him. Now.
Ernesto Frieri (32% ESPN, 40% Yahoo!, 48% CBS)
Through Sunday's games, Frieri has been the 14th best pure RP (I'm excluding SP like Chris Sale and Lance Lynn who have RP eligibility) in all of fantasy. Add to that, the fact that he it looks like he will be getting the majority of save chances for the indefinite future and you've got a stud waiting in the wings. Like I've been saying with Aroldis Chapman, there is serious value in all leagues to a RP who will put up stud ratios and more than 100 K's even if is not the closer. And in case you were wondering, Frieri is on pace for 136 K's. Sure, he will get some save chances vultured by Scott Downs when the match-ups are wrong and this may be Jordan Walden's job again before the end of the season, but right now, Frieri is a must-own regardless of league format.
And since it really wouldn't be all that fair of me to give you a list of guys who need to be owned in all leagues without giving you a corresponding group of guys who are owned in at least 90% of leagues that can be dropped for someone on this list, so here it is:
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Which of these five must-own players would you pick up if all were available?
Mark Reynolds (57 votes)
Jemile Weeks (28 votes)
Edwin Jackson (42 votes)
Addison Reed (107 votes)
Ernesto Frieri (58 votes)
292 total votes