If you play in multiple fantasy baseball leagues, it can get a bit confusing (not to mention overwhelming) keeping on top of them and not letting anything slip through the cracks. I get particularly frustrated when I miss out on a player who was sitting on the waiver wire because I wasn't paying close enough attention to which players were available. I try to avoid this by checking the available free agents in each of my leagues on a daily basis. When I just don't have time to look closely at each league and my team's specific needs based on the league parameters, though, I usually find myself organizing players by ownership percentage rather than stats or projections. It certainly can help to quickly identify players who might belong on a team rather than sitting around unclaimed, but it also can be a fairly dangerous trap when it comes to shallower leagues. It always seems like any player who had serious value wouldn't be a secret, and I've actually felt a sense of embarrassment in the past when I pickup up a player who is, say, 30% owned, and stick him in an active lineup to face other teams that (in a very shallow league) are stacked with players who are all between 75 and 100 percent owned by the fantasy baseball community.
But being ahead of the curve, or just looking beyond the group consensus and taking a risk, might end up giving you a nice advantage against your league mates who wouldn't consider less-obvious roster additions in a shallow league. Production is production, so here are a few guys who have been quietly producing so far this season that may just continue to outperform some of their more high-profile counterparts. Specifically, these are the four National League hitters who are currently ranked in the top 75 in overall mixed-league value (using a traditional 5x5 rotisserie format)... but are owned in less than 35% of leagues, according to the consensus ownership of the two biggest fantasy sports websites. (I realize that these consensus ownership numbers look absolutely ridiculous to anyone who is playing in even a slightly competitive, medium depth league, but keep in mind that this is aimed at those playing in the shallowest leagues around. And if you drafted any of these guys in a deeper league, you're probably feeling pretty good about your decision).
Jonathan Villar (53rd in overall 5x5 value; 34% owned). Was leading the NL in stolen bases before I started this article, and literally stole two more while I was working on his write-up on Tuesday, putting him behind only Jose Altuve in the majors. I suspect that the 34% owned number is going up as I type. There was no question that he had no business being in the lineup of even a medium-depth mixed league team almost a month into the season. About two weeks ago, on April 26th, he had two stolen bases, and I wrote that day that I didn't think he was going to be the steals threat that I'd counted on going in to the year. On April 27, the Brewers were rained out. On April 28th, Villar stole three bases against Jake Arrieta, including one when his team was down by four or five runs, and he hasn't stopped running since. I'm not saying that Jonathan Villar spent his rain delay Google-ing himself, found my article, and a fire was lit under him... but if any Villar owners want to give me credit for doing so, you're welcome. Seriously, though, if he keeps hitting at all, he'll keep running... and the only move he'll be making when Orlando Arcia is promoted to play short, is a few yards to his right so that he can play third base.
Brandon Moss (57th in overall 5x5 value; 24% owned). The batting average (currently .233; his three-year average is .237) is just plain ugly, and is not going to get better any time soon. Or ever. But the power is real, and no one's complaining about his dual 1B/OF eligibility. If he has some nice match ups in a given week and you have a corner infielder or outfielder who doesn't, you might be nicely rewarded by putting Moss in your lineup.
Zack Cozart (62nd in overall 5x5 value; 30% owned). Cozart is probably the most likely of anyone on this list to just drop off and provide the least fantasy value for the rest of the season -- he currently has an inflated BABIP of .349 and is sporting a minuscule 2% walk rate. This is a guy I thought so little of that I didn't even list him on my deepest NL-only draft cheat sheet. But I end up watching an inordinate amount of Reds baseball due to my husband being from Ohio and continuing to closely follow his childhood team. Watching Cozart play, I get an old-fashioned, non-analytical feeling that he has "figured something out" (and/or is finally not being dragged down by nagging injuries and is feeling better than ever after major knee surgery last June). All I know is that I regret not taking a flyer on him on any of my NL only teams, and while he may not end up being a viable mixed-league choice this year when all is said and done, he's a guy I'll at least keep my eye on.
Marcell Ozuna (71st in overall 5x5 value; 34% owned). His current K and BB rates are almost identical to last season, but he is producing much greater counting stats, on pace for 30 HR, 81 R, and 86 RBI. (I was surprised to see him this high on the list of overall value this season given that he hasn't stolen a base yet, so if he does start running at all that will be kind of a bonus). His numbers are bad in clutch situations and he seems to collapse rather than thrive under pressure, so his success at the plate this year may be due in part to renewed confidence. Don't forget that going into 2016 it looked like he'd be traded due to the fact that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, to put it simply, was not a big Ozuna fan. But along came Don Mattingly and Barry Bonds, who both fought to keep Ozuna a Marlin -- it's not a stretch to guess that their belief in him and support of him, combined with the real-life hitting advice he is getting from them, could have a significant impact on his overall performance this season. He'll have some batting average regression (currently .294) and can be streaky, but I think he has a good chance to stay productive and end up with some great-looking numbers by the end of 2016.