Is it hard to believe that we only have a little over a month of the season left or is it hard to believe that we still have a little over a month of the season left? I think I feel both ways at the same time. In any case, it’s time to uncover some hidden gems. Or at least that’s the goal.
Alexi Ogando | RP BOS | CBS 1% Owned
It’s time to speculate! In deep or mono leagues, it is very likely that the saves category is pretty bunched up. Most teams only have one closers, while several have two, which means just a couple of saves could very well be the difference between several standings points. After Koji Uehara went down with an injury that knocked him out for the season, the back-end of the Red Sox bullpen has been a mess. Initially, Jean Machi was head-scratchingly named the replacement closer. This is the same guy the Red Sox had just picked up from the Giants and had posted a 5.14 ERA this season with an almost equally poor 4.55 xFIP. Obviously, this screams closer.
After predictably allowing four runs (three earned) in his first two Red Sox appearances, it appeared that there was a change of heart and Junichi Tazawa was suddenly the closer. Tazawa, of course, always posted closer-worthy skills, but the team always seemed hesitant to use him to close out games. So naturally after recording his first two saves of the season, he imploded on Sunday, allowing six hits and a walk, all leading to four runs in an inning, taking the loss and blown save. That led to Machi getting the opportunity on Monday, where he managed to “save” the game, but gave up two runs in the process.
Phew, I’m already on my third paragraph and have yet to even mention the free agent recommendation’s name! Clearly, the roles here are not set in stone. And although it’s obvious that no official change has been made just yet, it seems worth speculating on who else might close if it’s not Tazawa or Machi. That man is probably Ogando. This is the same guy who used to be a Texas Ranger and shuttled back and forth between the bullpen and starting rotation. Aside from last year’s injury-riddled season, Ogando has performed well regardless of role.
This year, his skills are rather mediocre, but he has posted a strong 11.9% SwStk%. He has shown better strikeout potential in the past, especially while pitching in relief. I don’t think Ogando would perform anything like a top closer, but he’s decent enough to get the job done if given the opportunity. Machi has no business saving games and Tazawa could be one more bad outing away from being demoted back into a setup role. Ogando will cost you nothing, so for the small chance he sees some saves the rest of the way, he’s worth strong consideration.
Henry Urrutia 2% | OF BAL | 2% Owned
At one point in time, it seemed as if the Orioles were just collecting outfielders and manager Buck Showalter would spin the wheel to determine who starts on any given night. But suddenly, the team changed direction, and rather than collecting outfielders, they started DFA’ing everyone. And that opened up an opportunity for Urrutia, who the team decided to bring up and make their primary left fielder against right-handers (he should platoon with Steve Pearce).
Urrutia is one of the lesser hyped recent Cuban defectors and enjoyed a cup of coffee with the O’s back in 2013, before remaining in the minors all of last season. Heading into the season, he was ranked just 23rd among Orioles prospects, who might just be a fourth outfielder. His power has waned since a strong showing in Double-A in 2013, as his ISO was just .123 in Triple-A this year. But both his walk and strikeout rates improved, which at least signals some progress. And given his less than exciting power, better contact was really necessary.
He has shown excellent BABIP ability in the minors, posting marks of at least .330 every step of the way. And so far over his tiny Major League sample, his batted ball distribution illustrates exactly why he has been able to post inflated BABIP marks. He has hit line drives about 28% of the time, has yet to pop the ball up, and actually goes opposite field more often than he pulls the ball. A heavy ground ball tilt won’t help his power though, so he will probably be more of an asset in batting average than home runs.
There’s risk that a hot Pearce could steal some at-bats away from right-handers if Urrutia doesn’t hit, but I’d think the Orioles will give him some time to see what they have. And since he’s on the strong side of a platoon, he needs to be owned.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.