Rougned Odor (77% owned) is too popular to make this list, but I just wanted to give props to myself for including him as my bounce-back candidate for 2018. I readily admit to losing faith in the first half of the year, but Odor has done his best to restore said faith. His .224 BABIP was a killer in 2017, but since he showed no major changes in his batted ball profile last year I was bullish if he experienced better luck in 2018. So far he’s at a .332 average on batted balls, which IS on the high end of the spectrum. But he also boasts an 8.6% walk rate this year, which is nearly double his career 4.8% mark. It’s pretty easy to root for the guy who once slugged Jose Bautista in the face...I’m just glad I’m able to do so AND be able to use Odor in some MLB DFS (I hope you got on that chalky train last night).
As for Week 18, the year is passing quickly! I’m already dreaming of “naked” Alex Smith lineups. More on that later. For now, baseball.
Jonathan Villar, Orioles (44% owned)
If opportunity is king, you have to get Villar now. He’s the new leadoff fixture in Baltimore, and he should get a chance to double his current total of 14 steals before the season ends. Remember, this is a man who once stole 62 bags in a season. And that was only two years ago. It’s interesting to me that Villar’s sprint speed is only 27.6 ft/sec, but even in his “heyday” of 2016 he was only at 28.1 ft/sec, which isn’t all that much higher. I’d expect Villar’s current 6.5% walk rate to improve since he’s got a new job as a leadoff man, and since he’s shown an ability to walk in the past (11.6% in 2016 and career 8.8%). The slight loss of speed hasn’t hurt his instincts, as he’s 14-for-16 in attempts so far. Better snatch up this speed guy right now.
Jake Bauers, Rays (27% owned)
He’s faring just fine at the MLB level, slashing .242/.347/.500 with nine home runs and four stolen bases. He’s been patient (13.1% walk rate) and shown plenty of power (.258 ISO). The strikeout rate (24.4%) doesn’t make us happy, but with that healthy walk rate and plenty of power, it’ll play. What I dig the most are the home runs and steals—Bauers is up to 14 swipes this year counting his Triple-A numbers, which gives him his third straight professional season of 10+ steals. Statcast sprint speed numbers back the performance up, as Bauers checks in at 28.1 ft/sec (average is 27 ft/sec). I’ll take that power and speed with the safety net of a high walk rate on my fake teams.
Joc Pederson, Dodgers (23% owned)
Over the last two weeks, Pederson is the only player who meets criteria (under 50% owned) that ranks inside the Top 25 hitters. He had a career .221 batting average heading into 2018, but he’s slashing .261/.334/.539 so far this year. He’s also up to 17 home runs already (three over his last two games). His 9.2% walk rate is good, but it’s also a low point for his career. The trade-off is he’s showing far more power (.279 ISO) and posting the lowest strikeout rate of his career (15.9%). Career highs in fly ball rate (43.3%) and hard contact (41.6%) help support the idea that Joc is maturing as a hitter. He’s swinging a little more overall and his chase rate is now up around the MLB average (instead of being well below like in years past). In short, it all reads like he’s being more aggressive at the plate, and he has maintained his contact rates while doing so. There’s a lot to like under the hood, folks. He’s best in daily leagues where you can bench him when the Dodgers do, as he only has 45 PA against southpaws so far in 2018. Against a right-handed pitcher, play him with no hesitation.
Mallex Smith, Rays (23% owned)
It’s a Rays-centric affair, apparently. Yours truly had a minor freak-out when Tampa acquired Tommy Pham AND Austin Meadows at the trade deadline, as Smith is my primary source of speed in the Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. And while I’ll never be happy when a player gets injured, Pham’s fractured his foot and Meadows’ Triple-A demotion are encouraging for Smith’s opportunity moving forward. Mallex is slashing .291/.363/.411 with a career mark in steals already (22), which means only seven guys in the MLB have more thefts than he does. Think of him as Ender Inciarte without as much run production. In a speed-starved game, that plays in a 15-team league or in a league with large rosters.
Randal Grichuk, Blue Jays (9% owned)
It’s time to discuss Grichuk, who is quietly up to 14 home runs on the season. If you play in OBP leagues this pick isn’t for you, by the way. If you don’t and you can tolerate the batting average risk, Grichuk offers plenty of power with his aforementioned 14 dingers and a healthy 19 doubles already. For what it’s worth, he currently has career marks in walk rate (6.3%) and strikeout rate (down to a tolerable 23.4%). He doesn’t offer the speed or on-base skills that Bauers does, but he’s striking out a little less and hitting for about as much power (.238 ISO). His performance in June/July (30 R, 12 HR, 27 RBI) should buy his bat some time in the lineup despite the return of Kevin Pillar from the DL. Over his last seven games, he has hit first, second, or third in Toronto’s lineup. So he’s getting his opportunity. Never forget, yours truly predicted a 30-homer campaign for Grichuk this year. I’m not ready to give up on that prediction just yet. Also, shouts to yours truly and Ghoji for spending a whole 10 minutes on the Grichuk trade in an offseason podcast. We both loved the move then, and it appears that Toronto may be on the right track with this Grichuk/Hernandez pairing.
A.J. Minter, Braves (51% owned)
Look, he was 50% owned when I started writing the blurb, okay? I can’t be expected to change the pick since he’s so popular. So act now or forever rue the day. Brad Brach is the eighth inning man on this team, and Minter has completely stolen Arodys Vizcaino’s perch as the closer for Atlanta. He hasn’t allowed a run since July 10th, and before that it was June 17th when he last allowed one. He’s yet to blow a save chance, and the Braves would be crazy to remove him from the role. “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Carlos Rodon, White Sox (47% owned)
He was a DL stash for many heading into the season, and he’s been hot recently (albeit in some favorable matchups). He has the same walk woes as in years past, with a 9.9% walk rate to opposing hitters. He’s also due for some regression, as his .212 BABIP his destined to rise. In his favor is a career-best 27.0% hard contact rate allowed, which helps explain the low 14.6% line drive rate that hitters have against him (also a career best). I wouldn’t add him expecting more than what he’s shown already, but in the right matchup and as a back-end part of your starting rotation he’s serviceable.
Kyle Gibson, Twins (47% owned)
The Twins decimated their lineup at the trade deadline, but maybe Miguel Sano can reignite this offense? Okay, who am I kidding? You aren’t taking Gibson for his ability to win games, and chasing wins is foolish anyway. You can take him for his shiny ratios, though. Gibson has a 3.47 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, as well as 132 strikeouts over his 135 innings this year. His 9.5% walk rate is the worst mark of his career, but it’s tolerable when joined with his 23.6% K-rate, which is the best mark of his career. I like Gibson more than Rodon, honestly.
Zack Wheeler, Mets (42% owned)
If you shut out my team, you get my attention. Wheeler went seven strong against Atlanta on Saturday night, with no runs allowed, three hits, and nine strikeouts. It was his best performance in recent memory, and marks two straight scoreless outings, as well as 16 strikeouts against two walks over those 13 innings. It looks like the Mets decision to keep Wheeler in their 2019 plans was actually a good one.
Trevor Cahill, Athletics (32% owned)
It’s now Cahill’s turn to pick up the back end of my fake teams. Through 69 innings he has 65 strikeouts, a 3.39 ERA, and a 1.10 WHIP. I love his 55.4% ground ball rate, and (like Gibson) he’s currently setting a career mark with a 23.7% strikeout rate. He’s allowed an 8.0% walk rate, which is average but also a career best. Upping his slider usage this year means he legitimately has a four-pitch mix, and perhaps that is what is helping to support a career high 13.1% swinging strike rate. It helps that his changeup (.183 BAA) is keeping guys off balance. As the last man on your squad, Cahill offers some pretty solid upside.
That’s about it for me today, ladies and gents. I’m off to see the wizard. Find me on Twitter @HeathCapps or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to haggle over my ideas or just plain be friendly. All negativity will be shunned, but mature discourse and disagreement is always welcome (and encouraged). Peace!