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Behind the Numbers: Second-Half Sleepers for Deep Leagues

David Regan

David Regan

David Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, and was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

I like to play in all sorts of league formats. Despite the risk of my wife reading this and knowing how many leagues I'm really in, here is a breakdown for 2013 (all keeper leagues):

10-team NL-only roto

10-team mixed H2H with 30 man rosters and 15 man minor league system - dynasty league

10-team mixed roto - shallow league

8-team mixed roto - even shallower buddy league

16-team mixed RotoWire staff keeper league. Seven-man minor league system

NFBC team

Three Strat-o-Matic leagues (currently playing seasons 1943, 1994, and 2012)

One Scoresheet league - 24 teams, very deep

Yeah, probably too much there. Anyway, the point here is that not all leagues are the same, of course. Where in one league we may see James Loney on the waiver wire, in another, he could easily be a starting and productive first baseman. Last week I touched on a handful of sleepers, focused primarily on relatively shallow leagues, but this week we'll dig a bit deeper, hopefully touching on some players you've been wondering about.

If you have a question about a player not listed here, feel free to bring him up in the comments section and I'll address.

HITTERS

Jake Marisnick (OF-MIA) -
I won't touch on fellow outfielder and call-up Christian Yelich, as Yelich to me is far more of a "name" prospect. Marisnick, like Yelich, was recalled this week from Double-A Jacksonville, assumedly to be a starting outfielder alongside Giancarlo Stanton. He came over, of course, in the Jose Reyes/Josh Johnson/etc. deal from the Blue Jays, and despite a subpar 2012 (.233/.286/336 in 247 Double-A PA), Marisnick was still considered a key piece in that blockbuster. This year he's turned things around considerably, batting .294/.358/.502 with 12 homers and 11 stolen bases for Jacksonville prior to being recalled. The fact that his BB/K sits at a pedestrian .25 in Double-A makes me question how quickly he'll adapt to big-league pitching. Maybe he quickly grows into his talent and surprises, but don't expect much more than a handful of homers and steals to go with a low batting average. Still, in a lot of leagues, that's valuable considering he should be playing pretty much every day.

Danny Espinosa (SS/2B - WAS) -
Espinosa is sitting on the wire in my NL-only league, and while I can't roster him until he gets back to the big leagues, he's still on my radar. Espinosa flirted with a 20/20 season in back-to-back years before this season finally seeing a strikeout rate in the 28-percent range catch up with him. He was swinging at everything (2.4 BB%), and even when he did put the ball in play, a .204 BABIP resulted in a .158 average and a demotion to Triple-A Syracuse. With Anthony Rendon and Ian Desmond firmly entrenched up the middle, Espinosa's most likely path this year will be to keep hitting in Triple-A and return as a utility guy. Espinosa had a recent steak in which he hit .383 over 47 at-bats, but he's now 2-for-24 in his last six games to drop him to .195 for Syracuse. That should pretty much keep him in Triple-A for a while, but if he can figure things out, Espinosa could be of some help down the stretch in a deep league.

Mike Olt (1B/3B - CHC) -
Olt's name isn't exactly a big unknown given his (former) top prospect status and inclusion in the Matt Garza deal, but I wanted to at least mention him. Given his past performances, deeper league owners and keeper leaguers with minor league slots should pick him up as soon as league rules allow. Olt is batting just .213/.317/.422 in Triple-A this year, but he is hitting .290 in his last 10 games with three homers in his fast five, so maybe things are looking up. Olt has suffered from some vision issues this year. Those issues were apparently corrected via eye drops, and since then, his performance has improved markedly. He'll open in Triple-A Iowa, but with only Luis Valbuena in his path at the hot corner, we could see Olt in the big leagues as early as August.

Dee Gordon (SS-LAD) -
The Dodgers appear committed to leaving the red-hot Hanley Ramirez at short, but Gordon has played second base lately for Triple-A Albuquerque, and doing well. After going 1-for-4 with a stolen base Monday, Gordon is batting .291/.385/.385 with 36 steals in 42 tries. Most impressively, he's elevated his BB/K to .82 after a .32 mark for the Dodgers last year and a .46 mark in his last extended Triple-A stint (2011). The Dodgers wanted him to work on his plate discipline and strength, and while the latter still has him at zero Triple-A home runs, nearly 25 percent of his hits have gone for extra bases versus 16 percent for Albuquerque in 2011. Even if Gordon is called up to be a utility guy, the stolen-base potential alone makes him worth a look in a lot of formats.

Caleb Gindl (OF-MIL) -
The Ryan Braun news this week at least makes Gindl worth a paragraph. Gindl started Sunday and Monday after being recalled, going 2-for-5 Sunday with a double and his first career home run. Gindl is batting .233 through 30 at-bats after hitting .294/.360/.489 with a homer every 31.5 PA for Triple-A Nashville. Gindl doesn't have a ton of power, but he's had three double-digit stolen-base seasons in the minors, so in deeper formats, he makes sense as a spare outfielder. If you look at the Milwaukee depth chart in the outfield, Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki are obvious starters, but in left, Logan Schafer, Gindl and perhaps Khris Davis could see at-bats. Schafer is expected to get the majority of starts versus RHP, but he has a .637 OPS (much better in July - .873), so the opportunity could be there for Gindl to steal a few at-bats.

Digging Deep:

Kensuke Tanaka (OF-SF) -
No power, but was hitting .330 with 20 steals in Triple-A. He's platooning with Jeff Francoeur, but Tanaka gets the better end of that platoon.

Ryan Lavarnway (C-BOS) -
At some point, it has to click for him, right?

Travis Snider (OF-PIT) -
Sigh. About ready to give up, but I was saying the same about Alex Gordon a couple years ago. Snider is 2-for-21 versus left-handers this year.

Jeff Bianchi (INF-MIL) -
Bianchi entered Tuesday's action with a .561 OPS, but the Brewers appear to be giving him every chance to re-establish the promise he showed as a prospect a few years ago. Bianchi had an .812 OPS in Triple-A a year ago, so perhaps there's still hope.

PITCHERS

Edinson Volquez (SP-SD) -
If you have yet to be burned by Volquez's spotty career, consider yourself fortunate. He has a 5.73 ERA and 1.60 WHIP this year, but he still generates a fair share of groundballs (1.65 GB/FB rate), and he's driven down his BB/9 from 5.2 to 4.1 year-over-year. Even better, in his last five starts, he's posted a 2.63 mark, walking one batter in four of the five. Volquez has allowed lefties to bat .306 against him, and after a 2.95 ERA at home a year ago, he sits at 5.79 at Petco this season. I think Volquez could be in line for a solid finish, but if you can figure out where those two or three starts of six-to-eight runs allowed will come, you'll get something out of him.

Henderson Alvarez (SP-MIA) -
I generally avoid pitchers with low strikeout rates, and Alvarez has a 4.2 career K/9 despite averaging 92.5 mph with his fastball. Still, he's proving useful in deeper formats, posting a 3.28 ERA in four starts since returning from a shoulder injury. Alvarez is similar to Ivan Nova in that he relies on what scouts call a "heavy sinker" to generate groundball outs. He's yet to allow a home run in 24.2 innings after a 1.39 HR/9 last year, which would seem to indicate he is getting the desired location. He was never a big strikeout guy in the minors, so don't expect that to change, but for now in deeper formats, Alvarez has some value.

Vin Mazzaro (RP-PIT) -
With Jason Grilli on the DL with a right elbow strain, Mark Melancon steps in to close for the contending Pirates. It's a tough blow, and elbow strains can be tricky. Grilli could be out the minimum 15 days, or he could have a setback and be done for the year. Expect additional tests in the coming days to clarify the extent of the injury. With Melancon unavailable Monday, Mazzaro retired one batter after Grilli left with his injury, resulting in Mazzaro's first career save. Like many a successful reliever before him, Mazzaro flamed out as a starter with the A's and Royals, but in the Pirates bullpen, he has a 2.62 ERA and respectable 30:10 K:BB in 44.2 innings. With a fastball that can get up to 95 mph, Mazzaro is in line for the occasional save while Grilli is sidelined.

Trevor Cahill (SP-ARI) -
Based on recent reports, it sounds as if Cahill will be out until mid-August or so with his hip injury. Before getting hurt, Cahill was, of course, a huge disappointment, going 3-10 with a 4.66 ERA. His component numbers were down slightly over last year, and he's had some trouble on the road, posting a 5.44 ERA in 48 innings versus 3.88 at home. The Dbacks are using the very capable Randall Delgado and Tyler Skaggs in place of Cahill and his DL mate, Brandon McCarthy, but at this point, only Patrick Corbin's rotation spot can be called 100 percent secure. Cahill, though, has a lucrative contract and is a former 18-game winner, so he'll have a spot when he gets back. As he's available in most leagues, Cahill could be worth keeping an eye on if you need pitching.

Ross Ohlendorf (RP/SP - WAS) -
My first thought while watching Ohlendorf toss six innings of two-run ball against the Dodgers in relief of Jordan Zimmermann: "When did Ross Ohlendorf start hitting 95 mph on the radar gun?" Ohlendorf was pretty impressive after the Dodgers tore Jordan Zimmerman apart with seven runs in two innings, this after four innings of one-hit ball in his previous stint in relief of Stephen Strasburg. For the year, Ohlendorf has a 2.03 ERA in 26.2 innings, and he'll reportedly get a spot start in Friday's doubleheader against the Mets. While working primarily as a starter from 2011-2012, Ohlendorf posted a 7.93 ERA in 87.1 innings, so the turnaround this season is pretty remarkable. Long term, I still see him as a reliever, but if you need a spot starter this week, he could be worth using. At some point, Ohlendorf could even supplant Dan Haren (though he's pitching better) or occupy the fifth spot that Taylor Jordan is keeping warm for Ross Detwiler (back).

Digging Deep:

Erasmo Ramirez (SP-SEA) -
His first start was a disaster, but Ramirez had an 8.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in Triple-A and was solid last year in 59 innings (3.36 ERA) for the Mariners. He got the call to start Tuesday with mixed results, but there's some upside.

A.J. Ramos (RP-MIA) -
I like him as a potential closer should the Marlins deal Steve Cishek.

Todd Redmond (SP-TOR) -
Redmond allowed three runs in 5.2 innings Tuesday against the Dodgers, but he also had a solid 6:1 K:BB. Redmond has a solid 49:12 in 49 innings between all levels this year.

Ricky Romero (SP-TOR) -
Remember this guy? Romero had a string of four straight quality starts in Triple-A before lasting just one innings and walking five Monday. Did I mention I was digging really deep here?

Gonzalez Germen (RP-NYM) -
He had a 5.52 ERA in Triple-A, but Germen throws hard and he's been impressive in his four appearances for the Mets so far.