Whoever you are, I hope this helps. If it doesn’t or you have some idea about how to make it better, feel free to leave me a comment or hit me up on Twitter at @HeathCapps.
Tyler Flowers (4% owned) and Kurt Suzuki (41% owned), Braves
If you’ve been suffering at catcher, you have a few options. One unconventional strategy would be employing both Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki, provided you have the bench space. I touched on this in Week 4 when Flowers returned from the DL. Atlanta’s backstops finished 10th (Suzuki) and 12th (Flowers) in 2017, and this year Suzuki is ranked 11th so far (he’s been healthier than Flowers). Over the past week, though, Flowers is the sixth-best catcher in the game. He is 5-for-12 (.417 BA) with a home run over that stretch. It’s a small sample, but we’ve seen both of these guys produce in Atlanta and there’s no reason to think the party stops now. If you’re in a really deep format you could do worse than either of these guys.
James McCann, Tigers (26% owned)
One catcher has a higher batting average than Gary Sanchez and a higher ISO than Buster Posey...as well as more at-bats than all but four others. His name is James McCann. Weird, right? This play is more of an indictment of the catcher position than anything, but McCann is slashing .278/.327/.394 with three home runs for an upstart Tigers offense that we all thought would be more terrible than it is. He is ranked 14th among backstops so far, though there are 17 guys owned more than him in the Yahoo game. Of note is the performance of teammate John Hicks, who is covering first base in the absence of Miguel Cabrera. I wouldn’t fear at-bats dwindling for McCann when Miggy returns, though—it seems like Victor Martinez would start to lose out instead.
This position is littered with upstart performances through the quarter pole of the season. Hanley Ramirez is healthy and mashing, Brandon Belt is finally delivering, C.J. Cron is taking advantage of his playing time, and Jose Martinez is living up to the sleeper hype he received this preseason. Of all of those guys, Cron is the lowest-owned at 65% even though he has cranked 11 home runs so far. Only Joey Gallo has more dingers among first basemen, but he comes with a sinkhole of a batting average. Cron is hitting .286 and ranks fifth in runs (27) and sixth in RBIs (27) among first basemen. Perhaps it’s the bad team or the poor locale, but either way Cron isn’t getting enough love.
Mitch Moreland, Red Sox (30% owned)
Mitch Moreland should be watched everywhere, as he’s up to .319 with six home runs in part-time duty for Boston. His 31% owned mark will somersault upward in the event of an injury to Hanley Ramirez. And for what it’s worth, this tweet has aged really well:
Can't wait for Mitch Moreland to out-produce Eric Hosmer this year. #MitchyTwoBags— Heath Capps (@HeathCapps) January 8, 2018
That’s right, folks. These two are tied in home runs, Mitch leads RBIs by one, and Mitch has the far superior batting average. Hosmer leads in runs (duh, he plays full-time) and has two more stolen bases. All I’m saying is, the gap between these two isn’t as large as people think. Go get ‘em, Two-Bags.
Jesus Aguilar, Brewers (9% owned)
Aguilar is the new kid on the block this week, as he has batted third in the Brewers lineup all weekend. The injury to Ryan Braun means Aguilar will get to continue to prove his power stroke is for real, and this year’s .232 ISO is eerily similar to last year’s .240 mark. He’s making loads of hard contact (39.7%) and very little soft contact (9.6%). His line drive rate is a robust 28.8%, so the .326 batting average may not be a total mirage. We obviously like the home digs, too. There’s a lot to like here. He should be way more owned than what he is.
Starlin Castro, Marlins (52% owned)
Over the last two weeks, Starlin Castro ranks third in runs (10) and fourth in RBIs (10) among second basemen. If you exclude Rizzo in Yahoo, Castro is third in RBIs. He’s batting .300 with a pair of home runs over that time, and is slashing .301/.344/.392 on the young season. He’s ranked 14th at the keystone, but some of the guys ahead of him are likely being used as shortstops in your league. The sum of the whole season for this guy is going to play just fine in most formats, and he’s only owned in 52% of leagues. You could do worse.
Jonathan Villar, Brewers (43% owned)
Only Whit Merrifield and the white-hot Scooter Gennett have more hits at the keystone than Villar over the past week. Villar is seeing plenty of at-bats, too, which was our big fear with him early on. He’s currently slashing .295 with a pair of home runs and seven stolen bases. He’s not my favorite guy since the 5.3% walk rate is even worse than last year and the 29.8% strikeout rate is worthy of a legitimate slugger...but Villar has speed to spare and he’s hot right now. Ride the wave, but be prepared to cut bait when the .415 BABIP begins to stabilize and that shiny .295 batting average plummets to .250 or so. If I knew he’d play more, this wouldn’t be such a lukewarm take. As is, Villar gets benched routinely when Milwaukee faces a southpaw, so it’s hard to come on stronger.
Niko Goodrum, Tigers (16% owned)
He’s the top second baseman in the game over the last week. Three home runs in two days will do that for you. He has four dingers and four swipes already, a feat only six others at the keystone have managed this year. Of those others, Cesar Hernandez (71%) has the lowest ownership. Goodrum is keeping excellent company in the categories where it counts. Update*** While typing this on Saturday night, Goodrum swiped his fifth bag of the year.***
Addison Russell, Cubs (43% owned)
I couldn’t recommend Brandon Crawford, so here we are. Russell was touted repeatedly by our own Joe Gentile heading into the season, and he may be finally starting to wake up. Over the past week he’s batting .296 with four runs and a stolen base, or starting-caliber numbers. For the year he’s hitting .273 with a home run and two swipes, all while improving his walk rate to 11.3% (career 8.6%) and trimming his strikeout rate to 19.2% (career 24.4%). He’s actually been unlucky with a 2.6% HR/FB rate, as his career mark is 11.3%. He’s pulling the ball less and hitting more line drives, though—and I’m fine to sacrifice a few home runs if a more complete approach means a career year in batting average is in store.
Honorable mention: Brandon Crawford, Giants (31% owned)
Look, I don’t like it either. But Crawford has owned the month of May (.343 BA, three home runs, one stolen base, 14 runs, 17 RBIs). Ride the wave.
Matt Chapman, Athletics (50% owned)
If you can endure the cold spells, this is a 30-homer threat for your hot corner or corner infield position. Chapman is up to eight dingers already, tied for ninth among all third basemen. He’s also second in runs scored among all third basemen, too (only Freddie Freeman has more). The 27.2% strikeout rate means he’ll be prone to cold spells, but when all the dust settles this will be a useful line for your fake team if you can cover the batting average elsewhere.
Christian Villanueva, Padres (35% owned)
His 10 home runs are tied for fifth among all third basemen, but like Chapman he has a sinkhole for a batting average (.234 on the year). I didn’t say waivers would always be pretty, did I? If you want to avoid the average sinkhole you can take a chance on Jeimer Candelario (20% owned) actually returning from wrist tendinitis without setbacks. Your choices are pretty slim in this spot for right now.
Assuming the all-around skill set of Shin-Soo Choo (40% owned) and the power upside of Teoscar Hernandez (46% owned) are gone from your league, consider these guys:
Austin Meadows, Pirates (21% owned)
He’s more owned than Cordero overnight, apparently. And for good reason, too, as the speed is legitimate. On Friday (his debut) he wasted no time, going 2-for-4 with a stolen base. Saturday’s 0-for-3 was a letdown, but as long as Starling Marte is dealing with an oblique issue we’ll get to benefit from Meadows’ speed. He had eight swipes in 31 games prior to his promotion, so if you need steals it seems like he’s your guy. Mark already penned an in-depth guide on Meadows, so go read some propaganda.
Franchy Cordero, Padres (20% owned)
His ownership percentage seems too low. I mean, other than the Eric Hosmer surge, what else do Padres fans have to get excited about on offense? Cordero has six home runs and five swipes to go along with his .252 average...as a last outfielder or utility bat you could certainly do worse than this power/speed combo.
Leonys Martin, Tigers (15% owned)
Martin (hamstring) returned from the DL on Friday night, and has managed to go 0-for-7 with a run in two games. Still, the Tigers’ leadoff option is batting a respectable .285 on the year, with five home runs and a stolen base. The 30-year-old is walking as much as he ever has (7.7%) and has the best strikeout rate of his career (19.0%). He’s hitting more fly balls, making more hard contact, and hitting more line drives than in recent years. All of this sounds like a recipe for success for a leadoff man, in my humble opinion.
Nick Pivetta, Phillies (38% owned)
I’ve been on the Pivetta train all year, thankfully. I used him in the TGFBI this week despite his recent struggles and I was rewarded handsomely. I missed out on a two-start week because of a rain out, but Pivetta’s extra day of rest was a boon—he crushed the Orioles over seven innings, earning the win and a whopping 11 strikeouts. For the year he has a 3.72 ERA and 53 strikeouts against only 11 walks...put differently, that’s a 28.2% K-rate and minimal 5.9% walk rate. He’s allowing less hard contact and generating more soft contact this year. His ERA is backed by a 3.10 FIP and 3.27 xFIP. Why is he only 38% owned?
Trevor Cahill, Athletics (19% owned)
Add him now before next week’s two starts, okay? He spent 10 days on the DL with an elbow impingement, but before that he had an epic 2.25 ERA and 31 strikeouts against only six walks. He drew the world-beating Red Sox in his first effort off the DL, so he turned in a sub-par line due to a three-run first inning. This is all just a lovely smokescreen for you to benefit from, however. Next week lines up much nicer, and he already has that first start off of an injury behind him. Don’t miss out.
For the sake of being thorough, Kyle Freeland (38% owned) and Jordan Lyles (31% owned) are other hot commodities at the moment. I’d take Pivetta over either of them, though...and I’d rather zig with Cahill while everyone else is zagging—especially if they’re zagging to a guy who pitches half his games at Coors.
Brad Ziegler, Marlins (30% owned)
When I recommended him last week, Ziegler was at 23% owned and had notched a pair of saves—now’s he’s up to 30% and has continued to lock down games, running his saves total to eight on the young season. His 5.59 ERA and 1.34 WHIP are uninspiring, but he’s managed a 3.86 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over the last month of action, so I think you’d better consider him if you need the saves help. His seven saves over the last month rank second among all closers (four guys are tied for first place with 8). Just grin and bear it, okay?
Dan Winkler, Braves (23% owned)
Winkler is a guy I added in the TGFBI a couple of weeks ago, and to my delight Braves manager Brian Snitker mentioned the possibility of using Winkler to close out games moving forward. Arodys Vizcaino has already ceded two saves to the left-handed A.J. Minter, and it appears that his seat is a little warmer than Vizcaino owners would like. If you’re into the speculating game, consider Winkler’s 0.98 ERA and 0.65 WHIP. Doesn’t get much better than that.