Cesar Hernandez & Xavier Scruggs: Deep League Wire

Our journey to the far reaches of the fantasy dumpster take us to two National Leaguers who have recently come into playing time and are being introduced to owners for the first time. As usual, the players listed in this column are better suited for mono leagues, and the ownership percentages are by way of CBS.

Cesar Hernandez / 2B/3B/SS / Philadelphia Phillies / 11%

Take it from this Mets fan: Losing stinks. But one upside of having no hope whatsoever for a successful season is that a team can trot out youngsters to see what they got. In the case of the 25-year-old Hernandez, he’s taken over as the team’s everyday second baseman since Chase Utley was placed on the DL with a right ankle injury last week, and overall this month, he was hitting .317/.388/.400 entering Monday’s action, begging the question of whether he can stick around on a full-time basis for the rest of the summer.

A native Venezuelan, Hernandez was signed as an amateur free agent back in 2006. It took him five years to get past the A-ball level, but his bat eventually came around enough to give him a career .294 average down on the farm. He’s never been a full-time player in the majors, having only tasted brief stints in the big leagues in 2013 and 2014.

But for a guy who has at times struggled to make consistent contact, Hernandez has shown significant improvement in his approach at the plate so far in 2015. The swings-and-misses are way down, as are his attempts at balls out of the strike zone, while both his Z-Swing% and contact rate are trending in the right directions. A .271 average backed by a .319 BABIP is perfectly reasonable, if not low, given a high groundball rate and encouraging 27.7% line drive clip, and while 168 plate appearances is a small sample size, we know that plate discipline stabilizes fairly quickly, so there’s hope that his solid 11.3% BB% and 14.9% K% are more than just mirages.

The real draw, however, is the speed. Hernandez has six stolen bases in the limited time he’s played so far this year, but he swiped 32 bags two years ago in Triple-A and was a consistent threat on the basepaths throughout his minor league tenure. With a .361 OBP and a regular slot hitting second in the Phillies order, expect more steals from Hernandez.

As for Utley, it doesn’t sound as if he’s going to come back immediately when he becomes eligible, and there’s a financial incentive for the Phillies to make sure he doesn’t reach 500 plate appearances. More to the point, perhaps, is the fact he was hitting an unsightly .179 when he went down, and even if he were to return tomorrow, there’s little guarantee he’ll find his way back into the starting lineup in Philly. It seems likely that Hernandez will continue to see playing time for at least the next few weeks, and with his versatility and ability to steal bases, he’s an attractive option off the wire not just in NL-only formats but deeper mixed leagues as well.

Xavier Scruggs / 1B / St. Louis Cardinals / 3%

There was hope that the quad injury to Matt Adams would give Mark Reynolds a chance to help deep league owners in the power department, but roughly one month later, he’s only added two dingers, not nearly enough to offset his typically awful batting average. So it might be noteworthy that Scruggs, 27, has started the past two games at first base for the Redbirds, and for fantasy purposes, he could be the power play that Reynolds was supposed to be in NL-only leagues.

Scruggs has, after all, amassed a minor league career of hitting home runs. He hit 93 of them between 2011 and 2014 down on the farm, and had crushed 11 in the Pacific Coast League this year before being called up for the second time on June 19. In the six games in which he’s appeared since then, he’s hit an even .500, driving in six while only striking out three times.

Those strikeouts are critical to note, because there’s a very good reason Scruggs is 27 and has just 37 major league plate appearances: he strikes out. A lot. He compiled a 27.4% strikeout rate over eight minor league seasons, where he showed a sharp platoon split, hitting significantly better against lefties.

But he’s a hot hand to play right now, and with Reynolds vulnerable to losing playing time, Scruggs is an interesting lottery ticket for owners in need of power off the wire.

Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.

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Bread N Mustard
Bread N Mustard

Eugenio Suarez has also hit very well and shown some speed during limited time for the Reds. I am debating with myself if I should drop Yunel Escobar and pick up Cesar Hernandez or Eugenio Suarez (I need stolen bases).