I never thought I'd find people out there like me.
For years and years on end, I subjected myself to nothing but standard 10- and 12-team leagues. I thought I knew stress. "Oh, which no. 3 starter should I pick up for this spot start?” I would ask a more innocent, less world-weary version of myself. "Which decent outfielder must I claim as an injury replacement," a more hopeful, younger Ben would ponder in 2010. Those were the days of sound sleep and easy championships.
Fast forward to 2014, and I am now a grizzled deep-league veteran who is wiser to the trials and tribulations we all face on a daily basis. Not all of us are so lucky to have a Dexter Fowler or a Josh Willingham on the waiver wire. We do not all have the luxury of choosing between Tim Hudson and Tyler Skaggs for spot starts.
No, we deep-league masochists need to filter the pool of available players by 2013 OBP to find Logan Schafer and jump eagerly at the chance to add him to our rosters. We take that final, deep sip of scotch before we resign ourselves to a spot start by Eric Stults, because hey, yeah, he pitches in Petco, and you know, maybe he could possibly grab a win, maybe! It's no way to go through life, but it's something many of us can't quit.
And so, fellow insane fantasy owners with too much time on your hands and too deep a knowledge of MLB rosters for your own good, this is a column for you. Some weeks, I will write about overall deep-league strategy. More often, I will take a look at some deep-league assets who are flying under the radar. And sometimes, I might just sit here and use this space to weep via text. I welcome your suggestions, and would love for reader feedback to be a major part of this column.
Let's start things off nice and slow with a look at four players at whom those in standard leagues would scoff, but who those in deep leagues may want to consider rostering in short order. May Xander bless you all.
Abraham Almonte, OF, Mariners
In one of the finest displays of lineup construction we've seen in recent years, the Mariners have elected to bat Almonte leadoff for the foreseeable future. The good news is that Almonte showed a willingness to take a walk in the minors in 2012 and 2013, and that he has enough speed to run a bit when he does reach base. The bad news is that Almonte doesn't project to reach base at a high clip in the majors and he has zero track record to tell us that's a projection we should ignore.
Do I think Almonte will remain the Mariners leadoff hitter for the majority of the year? No, I don't. But Almonte is a good gamble in deep leagues nonetheless incase I'm wrong, as I'll admit that there's enough upside here for a .265 average, 20-plus steals, and decent run totals from a player sitting atop a mid-tier lineup. It's not sexy, but in leagues with 100 or more outfielders, Almonte should probably be owned.
Mike Carp, 1B/OF, Red Sox
Shane Victorino injured his hamstring in the Red Sox' final spring training game of the year, necessitating a trip to the disabled list that will keep him out until at least mid-April. While conventional wisdom dictates that Jackie Bradley Jr. stands to see the most time in Victorino's absence, I'd be willing to bet it's Carp who sees the majority of Victorino's starts against right-handed batters.
There was no more anonymous contributor to the 2013 Red Sox than Carp, who hit .296/.362/.523 with nine homers in 243 PA. You can decry those numbers as a result of a high BABIP or small sample size all you want, but Carp is a career .259/.337/.440 hitter against righties in 689 PA. He may be subbed out for a better defender in many games, but Carp could see 10-plus starts in the middle of the Red Sox lineup this month.
Derek Dietrich, 2B, Marlins
It's April 2 and we're already talking about a Rafael Furcal injury: What are the odds? Oh, like, 100 percent, you say? Very well. As predictable as Furcal's demise and Dietrich's rise is, it still presents the latter with a decent opportunity to solidify himself as a more meaningful part of Miami's future. While Dietrich's first MLB action in 2013 was largely uninspiring, he did manage to hit nine homers in just 233 PA, and that type of power from a MI makes him interesting to deep league owners regardless of the other flaws in his game.
It's fair to question Dietrich's hit tool, but at this point it’s tough to see how he's not a 15-plus, and potentially 20-plus, homer option at second base. A player who’s been impatient historically, Dietrich's 11.3 percent walk rate in Triple-A last year likely holds the key to his future. If he can walk at about a 10 percent rate, he could post decent enough OBPs to go along with his power to be a viable starter. If not, Dietrich is likely headed for a career as a utility infielder with pop. Either way, Furcal will reclaim the starting job when he comes back in a week or so, but oddly enough, I have a good feeling Dietrich will see 300-plus PA in the majors this season.
Maicer Izturis, SS/2B, Blue Jays
With Jose Reyes lasting approximately four minutes into his 2014 season before hitting the disabled list, the Blue Jays have been forced to turn to the likes of Jonathan Diaz to man shortstop on a regular basis. According to manager John Gibbons, Diaz will start at short every day, opposite of Ryan Goins, who will hold down second as the Jays take a defense-first approach.
That sounds all well and good, but the bet here is that after 10-or-so games of the Diaz/Goins combo hitting for a combined line of, like, .100/.100/.100, Gibbons will reconsider. Enter Izturis, who's 33 and not that great, but who's a career .269/.331/.373 hitter and who was productive as recently as 2012. I'd bet Izturis sees at least 15 starts in April, and he could score a handful of runs and steal a few bases during that time. Exciting!
Deep League Streamer Start of the Week: Jacob Turner, SP, Marlins
I'm of the opinion that Turner should be owned in all deep leagues, as I think he's a poster boy for post-prospect fatigue. I get why his lack of strikeouts and spotty track record to this point make him an untenable mixed league option, but he has the stuff, youth and home ballpark to finish as a top-100 fantasy starter this year. This week, Turner starts at home against the Rockies and Franklin Morales on Thursday. That sounds like a matchup that could end with a Marlins “W,” and with Turner lasting six-plus innings without killing your ERA. Welcome to deep league streaming!
Twitter Question of the Week:
@BenCarsley If Xander was a Pokemon, which one would he be?
— Brett Cowett (@BACowett) March 29, 2014
Strong question, Brett. It's difficult to narrow this down to just one Pokemon, as Xander is a creature who possesses aesthetic beauty, understated power and significant mental acuity. I suppose we can liken him to a fully trained, tame, passionate Charizard, as flame wheel is still an excellent move even if it might have to come from third base in a few years.
- Player Namedrop of the Week: Alay Soler, SP, NYM
- Random RP Who Will Earn a Win: Nick Vincent, RP, SD
- Random Backup Who Will Homer: Chris Colabello, 1B/OF, MIN
- Xander Bogaerts Adjective of the Week: Sumptuous