Yesterday I had one of those moments of fantasy baseball frustration where I couldn’t figure out how both of my NL-only teams were struggling so much, given the fact that they share almost no common players. I felt like neither team boasted a single hitter who had been truly hot over the last few weeks, so I decided to see which MLB players had been responsible for my league opponents’ recent success. After ranking the entire league by overall 5x5 fantasy value over the last month, I was unsurprised to see several names at the top of the list that were not on either of my teams. Number one overall was Billy Hamilton, who has been absolutely out of control on the basepaths recently, as written about by Timothy Finnegan right here at Fake Teams. Coming in second was a more surprising name: the Milwaukee Brewers’ Hernán Pérez. Pérez’s ownership is between 60 – 69% in Yahoo, ESPN, and CBS Sports leagues, and he certainly wasn’t available in either of my deep NL-only leagues. But discovering that he had been the second-most valuable fantasy player in the National League (pitchers included!) for a month this summer made me want to learn more about him at the very least.
From my perspective, Hernán Pérez was about as under-the-radar as they come. I was thoroughly surprised to discover that he had not only been on the Brewers all of last season, he played in a not-insignificant 112 games. The leagues I play in are so deep that I pretty much need to be aware of anyone who is on an NL major league roster and getting even scattered at bats, so I felt like I’d dropped the ball a bit given the fact that I don’t think I even recognized his name when he started getting regular playing time with the Brewers a couple of months ago. Speaking of last season, here are his 2015 numbers: 263 at bats, .234 average (and just .252 OBP), one home run, five steals. These numbers reveal why I wasn’t familiar with him, even playing in the deepest of fantasy leagues, and why no one on the planet would have expected him to be one of the most valuable fantasy baseball players in existence from mid-July to mid-August of 2016. His stats over the last 28 days: .326 average, 5 home runs, 19 runs scored (three more than Hamilton over that period, for what it’s worth), 18 RBI, and 10 stolen bases. He has been a major contributor in every one of the five fantasy hitting categories. Where did this come from? And should all be paying attention him, not just for the remainder of the season but looking ahead to 2017 and beyond?
Pérez came up with the Tigers organization; he was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2007. He made his big league debut with two at bats in 2012, and had a brief and completely unimpressive stint in the majors in 2013 (.197 BA over 66 at bats, no home runs, one stolen base), followed by an even briefer (eight at bats) stop in 2014. But his last two seasons in the minors did suggest that he was a good hitter who definitely possessed the ability to steal a base. He hit over .300 with 24 steals in AA in 2013, and after a promotion to AAA, hit .287 with 21 steals over a full season in 2014. He also chipped in 6 home runs that year, proving that he had at least a little pop in his bat.
Is it likely he’ll repeat his numbers of the last month again over the next four weeks? Obviously not. But he’s still just 25 years old, is getting a decent amount of playing time for a team that wants to take a look at what it has for the future, and he qualifies at both third base and outfield (over 20 games at each)... if he’s not owned in your league, I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t be worth a flyer. There are just not that many baseball players with the potential to help you in five out of five offensive fantasy categories.
As for his future, he’s a wild card, even in an NL-only league. The Brewers appear to have the left side of their infield locked down for years to come with Orlando Arcia and Jonathan Villar, and the outfield could be crowded next year as well if Ryan Braun stays put, Keon Broxton continues to develop, and Domingo Santana can return from his elbow injury. More worrisome is the guess that major league pitchers are going to do what major league pitchers do to hitters who’ve had success against them: start paying more attention to Pérez, figure out his weaknesses, and exploit them accordingly. If he can’t make adjustments, he may not produce the numbers in an entire season that he was able to last month. But I am definitely going to watch him for the rest of 2016 and see what happens… if it looks like he is able to hang with the big guys while still generally staying under the fantasy radar, I will have my eye on him heading into 2017, even if it doesn’t look like he has a guarantee of near-everyday playing time. He may be a guy to scoop up late in a deep league draft that will pay dividends much higher than one would ever guess based on his ADP – and these are the exact kinds of players that you’ll find scattered throughout the rosters of winning fantasy teams.