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Deep League Thoughts: Odubel Herrera is right in the sweet spot

The Phillies' new center fielder plays all the dang time, he's actually productive and no one is using him. That's rare.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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
Coco Crisp OAK 0 N/A 0
Khris Davis MIL 25 (26) 67 0
Adam Eaton CWS 19 (22) 41 1
Curtis Granderson NYM 26 (26) 98 2
Josh Hamilton TEX 0 N/A 0
J.J. Hardy BAL 0 N/A 0
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.