Greetings, and I hope the “less than two weeks left” point of the baseball season finds you well. For me, the last few weeks have been a bumpy ride in more than one of my leagues due in large part to a few very ill-timed pitching blowups. It can be beyond maddening at this time of year, to see a reliever come in and give up two or three runs and have it destroy your ratios in a tightly-contested race, while in the same league six or seven shutout innings from a starter might not even move the needle towards gaining you a point in the standings. Pesky math! Beyond the frustration, though, I like to remind myself in September that it’s an important time to try to check in with what teams and players are doing as the season comes to a close, as a sneak preview to the future if nothing else. Let’s carry on and look at some players whose fantasy ownership has recently increased, but is still low enough to keep them in the deep-league category.
Matt Wallner. Wallner’s CBS ownership has doubled in the last week, and if you are a true deep leaguer, you probably guessed correctly that that means it’s gone from 1 to 2%. Wallner was recalled by the Twins to play right field after Max Kepler was hurt, and since then has started in seven of seven games they’ve played. That sounds like regular playing time for a guy who a team would like to get a good look at, and so far Wallner has held his own and then some. In that initial albeit tiny pocket of games, he’s hitting .348 with a homer and 4 RBI. He’s also struck out 7 times and hasn’t taken a walk yet, so makes me a little bit squirmy, but it’s also worth noting that his first MLB hit was a home run off of Shane Bieber. Wallner had 458 ABs this year in the minors (double A/triple A combined) and showed solid power (27 HRs) and a nice dollop of speed (9 SBs). And since I mentioned his lack of a major league walk so far, I should also tell you that he had not only a solid .272 average, he had a delicious .412 OBP. I’ll definitely be watching to see how the rest of his 2022 cup of coffee plays out.
Domingo Acevedo. Just a public service announcement for those that are concerned with such things: Acevedo is back in the A’s bullpen pitching very well for a 6% owned player, and looks to be fairly firmly entrenched as their closer for now. It might surprise you, as it did me, to learn that he recorded 4 saves in the one-week period between September 14 -21, and he hasn’t allowed a run since a little 3-run blow-up back on September 2nd. He has a 3.34 ERA and only 55 Ks in 64.2 innings on the season, but he does have his WHIP down to the always-impressive “under one” category, at 0.97. I’ve been thinking since before spring training started that A.J. Puk would wind up with the closer job by the end of this season and/or project as the A’s closer of the future, but he is clearly still buried beneath Acevedo on their bullpen depth chart both for now and perhaps the future as well.
Edward Olivares. Olivares is up to 8% owned after his latest return to the Royals’ active roster, so likely not available in your deep AL-only type leagues (I know he’s owned in my AL-only league because he’s been on my roster all year). He also may not be available in any league you share with fellow Razzballers, since he has been a favorite here for a while as we’ve been waiting for him to get the shot he deserves playing outfield every day, only to see him randomly demoted multiple times (and then ultimately injured earlier this year when it looked like he was finally getting a chance to play regularly for the big club). I think many of us are still interested to see if the power/speed combo that we’ve been hearing about for years and seen in the minors will finally emerge at the highest level (he’s 26 now, FWIW). He’s hitting .304 in his 40 games this year (.357 OBP), though if you roughly extrapolate his at bats to a full season’s worth, you wind up with just 12 homers and 8 steals. That may not scream “fantasy monster,” but I haven’t given up yet that there is untapped potential here.
Drey Jameson. Now up to 7% owned, the D-Backs starter may not be available in the deepest of leagues, but earns a mention for ever so slightly shallower formats given how impressive his first two major league starts have been. Not only did he pick up two wins, he did it by allowing just 2 runs on 9 hits and 2 walks in 13 innings, while picking up 12 Ks — against the Padres and the Dodgers, no less. These numbers are obviously not sustainable and one would think disappointment will be in the cards for anyone who buys in now, especially given his dicey minor league numbers. Yes, it was the PCL, and I know ERA doesn’t mean much to a lot of people anymore, but a 6.31/1.49 WHIP is difficult to sugarcoat in any situation. IMO he’s particularly hard to predict both for the small remainder of the season and in the future, but if you’re desperate for a starter now or are looking for future deep sleepers, he may be radar-worthy, at least. MLB Trade Rumors did a nice write-up on some more specific pros, cons, and expert takes about Jameson a little over a week ago when he was recalled, if you’re interested enough in hearing more to search that up.
Bryce Elder. Elder’s ownership “rocketed” from 4 to 6% recently, and those that picked him up before his recent appearance against the Nationals (filling in for Spencer Strider to make a spot start for the Braves) were rewarded with 5.2 one-run innings and 6 Ks. It’ll be interesting to see what Elder’s future in Atlanta holds; for now I’m not particularly excited about some of his career minor league numbers, like his 3.3/9 walk rate or his 2.83 K/BB rate. And assuming Strider is ready to rejoin the rotation this weekend, Elder may be a bullpen piece at best as the season winds down. I’m mentioning him, though, because I did grab him in one NL-only league where I just need a handful of decent innings and could really use a few Ks and a win. I’m thinking that just maybe, as the Braves finish their regular season and prepare their pitchers for the post-season, Elder has a chance to serve a role that could make him valuable at the end of a roster both in real-life baseball and in very deep fantasy leagues.
Bryan De La Cruz. The Marlins haven’t provided much entertainment lately in terms of either real-life or fantasy baseball, but most folks may have missed the nice little run De La Cruz has put together while they’ve been (understandably) avoiding paying any attention to the team. In slightly less than two weeks, he’s been playing almost every day and has 3 homers and 12 RBI. He’s also struck out 5 times in his last 3 games, so we may have a little hot streak here rather than the turning of a developmental corner, but I am already thinking I wish I’d picked him up to be my fifth OF in one of my NL-only leagues when he was available a couple weeks ago. As for next year, De La Cruz won’t be at the top of my end-of-draft target list, but he may at least appear somewhere in my very deep league ‘keep an eye on in spring’ list.