When you're looking super-deep, all you want is playing time. If you're stuck looking through guys owned in a single-digit percentage of leagues, you aren't hoping to strike gold; you're just seeking a chance.
And if it's shallow, you want production. Full-time play of a 55 OPS+ isn't doing anything for you in that sort of league, so the guys owned in half of leagues have to earn their keep.
In the middle of the road, then, is where you're looking to balance the two. When you're trolling semi-deep, you want someone who is playing most of the time and giving you enough production to value. These guys aren't going to hit like Nelson Cruz or Adrian Gonzalez, or else they'd be more widely owned, but the ones who play all the time with a 53 OPS+ (that's Asdrubal Cabrera) aren't worth the flyer.
There are 18 offensive players owned in 30-39 percent of Yahoo! leagues, which is about the range we're discussing here. They're listed below, along with some key numbers (all stats today are through Monday, because I'm writing this Tuesday morning because work happens, y'all):
|Player||Team||Games (Team games)||OPS+||Steals|
|Norichika Aoki||SFG||26 (26)||127||8|
|Oswaldo Arcia||MIN||19 (26)||99||0|
|Marlon Byrd||CIN||23 (25)||47||0|
|Asdrubal Cabrera||TB||26 (26)||53||0|
|Khris Davis||MIL||25 (26)||67||0|
|Adam Eaton||CWS||19 (22)||41||1|
|Curtis Granderson||NYM||26 (26)||98||2|
|Odubel Herrera||PHI||27 (27)||101||5|
|Brock Holt||BOS||17 (26)||163||1|
|Caleb Joseph||BAL||18 (23)||147||0|
|Miguel Montero||CHC||20 (24)||139||0|
|Angel Pagan||SFG||26 (26)||134||3|
|Steve Pearce||BAL||18 (23)||57||0|
|Brandon Phillips||CIN||23 (25)||85||3|
|Chris Young||NYY||24 (26)||189||0|
OPS+ isn't a perfect analogue for fantasy production — walks matter there, and don't in fantasy, and don't take into account opportunities for runs and RBI — but it's a handy enough shorthand for my purposes. And I'm including stolen bases because they aren't even remotely factored into OPS+.
If you're like me, a few names stand out there. The first, Norichika Aoki, is a guy I've recommended before. He's still hitting over .300, and while he's not going to offer much in the way of power, he's stealing bases, and he'll score even more runs when Hunter Pence eventually returns. I don't really get why he isn't more highly owned. But he's also not the guy I'm trying to write about here.
The other names that stand out to me, then, are Odubel Herrera, Brock Holt and Chris Young. Holt and Young are hitting off the charts, albeit in relatively limited playing time. With injuries to Shane Victorino and Hanley Ramirez and awful performance by Carlos Beltran, both guys should see at least a marginal uptick in playing time.
Herrera, though, is who I'm interested in today. A Rule 5 pick from the Rangers system, Herrera joined the Phillies in the offseason and has played every game this season, starting the vast majority. He's hitting at a .289/.324/.392 clip, with five steals in six attempts. He started the season 1-for-9 as he got his feet wet, meaning he's hit .307 since a first small taste.
Like Aoki, Herrera isn't going to be involved in a whole lot of run production — he has basically no power, and he's batting at/near the top of a really bad Philadelphia lineup. But he comes in with a totally reasonable floor: Enough speed and bat control that he'll stay with a fairly high average and run enough to give you steals. Herrera is like a Dee Gordon starter kit.
Herrera is owned in 37 percent of Yahoo! leagues, meaning he's right in the sweet spot of "guys who play a lot" and "guys who will offer production." If you're looking for steals especially, the choices that far down are Herrera, Aoki and someone like Dexter Fowler.
Find that sweet spot. Grab ... well, grab Aoki first. But after that, if you're seeking mid-low help, Herrera is underrated for what he does.