12-team mixed leagues (Must be available in at least 50 percent of ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS leagues)
Yonder Alonso (1B)—Athletics
Available: 49% ESPN, 44% Yahoo, 33% CBS
What more do fantasy owners need to see? At this point, we have pretty compelling evidence that Alonso has reinvented himself as a power hitter. In addition to significantly increasing his hard-contact rate to 41.3 percent (up from 32 percent a year ago), the 30-year-old also hits the ball in the air with greater frequency, ratcheting up his fly-ball percentage from a paltry 33 percent mark in 2016 to a robust 52 percent in 32 games this year. To his credit, Eno Sarris of FanGraphs was all over this in March.
We can debate the impact of home runs (from a valuation standpoint) in the current fantasy landscape, but Alonso is doing more than just putting the ball over the fence, slashing .303/.389/.687 (.370 TAv) with 11 homers, 16 runs scored and 27 RBIs in 113 plate appearances. He’s transformed himself into a viable mixed-league first baseman and is somehow still available in a ton of leagues.
Keon Broxton (OF)—Brewers
Available: 69% ESPN, 53% Yahoo, 41% CBS
In "small sample size being used to prop up a guy I liked entering the season" news, Keon Broxton is .419/.486/.774 last 2 weeks.
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) May 10, 2017
Classifying Broxton’s start to the 2017 campaign (hitting .191 while striking out in 40 percent of his 76 April plate appearances) as “rocky” seems charitable. The 27-year-old outfielder is always going to strike out at a prodigious rate, but the fact he has begun hitting for power again, racking up seven extra-base hits (two home runs) in his past seven games, is an extremely encouraging sign. He’s also been moved back to the top of the Brewers order with Ryan Braun headed to the disabled list. With eight steals in the bank already, he’s on-pace to challenge for 40 steals, a feat accomplished by only five hitters last season. If you can overlook his extreme strikeout totals, Broxton is an extremely valuable fantasy commodity. The reason so many of his fantasy owners bailed on him after a tough four-week stretch shall remain a complete mystery.
Available: 58% ESPN, 60% Yahoo, 30% CBS
Cahill's curve getting plenty of pub—deservedly so—but when you command the two-seamer like this… #Padres pic.twitter.com/iv4npPOHYx
— Ryan Bloomfield (@RyanBHQ) May 9, 2017
Last call. Cahill’s unforeseen renaissance campaign has been a fixture in this space during recent weeks. After six starts, the 29-year-old right-hander’s 2.08 DRA ranks 11th out of 114 starters with at least 30 innings of work. His control (4.1 BB/9) has been lackluster, but he’s offset that mark by posting 11.2 K/9 over 35 2/3 innings. On the heels of a pair of shutout efforts against the high-powered Rockies and Rangers lineups, Cahill is rapidly ascending towards auto-start territory, and deserves to be owned in all fantasy formats. He’ll face another tough test on the road in his next start against the White Sox on Saturday.
Available: 80% ESPN, 74% Yahoo, 60% CBS
Another last call. Ramirez didn’t exactly carve up the Astros in his previous start, but he did hold the 10th-highest scoring offense this year to just one run on eight hits over six innings. Through five starts (eight appearances), Ramirez owns a sparkling 1.90 DRA (3.74 ERA) with 33 strikeouts and just 11 walks in 33 2/3 innings. The journeyman reliever label will continue to drag down the prestige of owning him, but all of his prospective fantasy owners should care about are the results, which have been impressive. By cFIP, a predictive pitching metric, Ramirez’s 83 mark is one of the best in baseball so far. There’s still time to invest in shallow mixed leagues.
15-team mixed leagues (Must be available in at least 75 percent of ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS leagues)
Chris Taylor (IF)—Dodgers
Available: 96% ESPN, 90% Yahoo, 96% CBS
I dig Chris Taylor's swing. pic.twitter.com/sycpRaKQVp
— Daniel Rathman (@DanielRathman) May 11, 2017
The 26-year-old infielder, who is slashing an absurd .348/.474/.609 with three home runs, 11 runs scored and 12 RBIs in 57 plate appearances, is due for a substantial increase in playing time in the wake of Andrew Toles’ season-ending knee injury, and a setback in Logan Forsythe’s recovery from a broken toe. A staggeringly high .433 BABIP suggests that he’s out a little bit over his skis at the moment, but considering the recent boost in playing time, and a cushy four-game set in Coors Field on tap, he warrants consideration in deep mixers. At a minimum, the multi-position eligibility makes him a rather useful bench piece for creative fantasy owners.
Kennys Vargas (DH)—Twins
Available: 98% ESPN, 98% Yahoo, 92% CBS
As my colleague Craig Goldstein would say, “I’m here for the beefy boys.” Vargas could lose occasional playing time to on-base machine Robbie Grossman at designated hitter, but he’s hitting for power (four home runs in 42 plate appearances) and has enough to matter in deeper mixed leagues going forward. The 26-year-old is likely to max out as a three-category fantasy contributor (power, plus counting stats), but he should get an extended run for a rebuilding Minnesota squad. He won’t run a 36 percent home-run-to-fly-ball rate all year, but Vargas offers an injection of power, and is available in greater than 90 percent of fantasy leagues across the spectrum. I’m in.
Joe Biagini—Blue Jays
Available: 97% ESPN, 93% Yahoo, 93% CBS
You're looking live at Joe Biagini, getting his focus on inside the visitors' dugout at The Trop, before his first big league start. pic.twitter.com/9E1xRNMPI8
— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) May 7, 2017
It’s hard not to root for Biagini. Since BP’s managing editor Bret Sayre has banned me from touting my favorite Dodger southpaws Alex Wood and Julio Urias, I’ve elected to use this space on the former Rule 5 draft pick stepping into the Blue Jays rotation full-time in the absence of veteran Francisco Liriano. I coined the phrase “DRA darling” in last week’s column, and Biagini is another standout in the advanced metric that fits the label perfectly. The 26-year-old’s 2.00 DRA represents the 13th-lowerst mark of any pitcher with at least 20 innings this season. He’s also struck out nearly a batter per inning (8.3 K/9) and issued just three free passes (1.2 BB/9) all season.
After flummoxing the Rays strikeout prone lineup over four scoreless innings last weekend, he’ll square off with the injury maligned Mariners lineup at home today. The plethora of injuries to the Blue Jays rotation (and their lack of depth) will give Biagini a chance to prove he belongs in it full time. His stuff isn’t overpowering, but his curveball is generating an impressive 41 percent whiffs-per-swing this season. In four or five inning stints, he can provide value in deeper formats.
Available: 88% ESPN, 89% Yahoo, 66% CBS
I’m extremely skeptical that the 29-year-old right-hander will sustain his recent run of success in the run prevention department, but the strikeouts are very real. Karns is still serving up too many dingers (aren’t we all these days?), but he’s fanned over a batter per-inning, racking up 36 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings across six starts (seven appearances). Fortunately, Karns draws the strikeout-prone Orioles (8.7 strikeouts per-game this year) in his next start on Saturday. He’s also gone at least six innings in four of his past five starts. If he can keep Baltimore’s sluggers in the park, he’s going to be worth rolling out there. It’s a risky proposition, but it’s a streamer that could pay off. Roll the dice.
AL/NL-only leagues (Must be available in at least 95 percent of ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS leagues)
Available: 99% ESPN, 99% Yahoo, 97% CBS
A viable swingman option in AL-only formats, Asher spun 3 1/3 scoreless frames against the White Sox earlier in the week, and struck out the side against the White Sox yesterday. He could be stuck riding the Triple-A Nortfolk shuttle, but he’s been effective when pressed into duty. A 5.48 DRA doesn’t inspire much confidence, but the AL-only waiver wire is a dystopian wasteland.
Available: 99% ESPN, 98% Yahoo, 94% CBS
Formerly of the Rockies, the 26-year-old’s numbers (1.17 ERA with 17 strikeouts and eight walks in 30 2/3 innings) haven’t exactly been overwhelming at Triple-A Iowa, but the Cubs will gladly take anyone besides Brett Anderson at this point. He’s unlikely to morph into a permanent fixture in Chicago, but the tasty combination of the Cubs offense (4.88 runs per-game this season) and the floundering (and injury ravaged) Cardinals lineup is enough to make Butler a worthy speculative target in deeper formats and NL-only leagues this weekend.
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