Hitters to Target in the Bottom Third: Week 3

This week’s exploration of lightly-owned hitters includes an aging veteran, a versatile defender with upside and a slugger on the rise. As always, each of the players featured here is worth considering in mixed leagues with at least 15 teams.

Note: Ownership percentages are listed in parentheses, with CBS listed first and Fantrax listed second.

Jose Bautista, OF/3B(?), Braves (9/27): The Braves signed Bautista to a minor league deal on Wednesday, and they are sending him to extended spring training to see if he can handle playing third base. If all goes well, Bautista would spend some time in the Florida State Leauge — perhaps within a week — and then presumably take over third base duties from Ryan Flaherty. Though Johan Camargo was activated from the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday, he would likely fill a utility role, so playing time shouldn’t be a concern for Bautista. In his final season with the Blue Jays, Bautista showed he still had some power left in the tank, slamming 23 homers, but both his hard contact and overall contact rates were on the wane. Taking a flier on Bautista is not without its risks, but if your team is short on power and well-positioned for batting average, he could be a good fit.

Johan Camargo, 3B/SS, Braves (8/19): One might view the signing of Bautista as the final blow to Camargo’s fantasy value, but in a sense, he is a safer play than Bautista. It remains to be seen if Bautista can play third base. There is no guarantee he ever reaches Atlanta. In that case, Camargo would have a chance to reclaim the starting role he appeared to have sewn up during spring training. On the other hand, if either Bautista or Flaherty gets regular playing time at third base, Camargo could still find himself frequently in the starting lineup as a super-utility player.

Much as Marwin Gonzalez broke out as a power hitter a year ago, Camargo could surprise fantasy owners with a home run total in the mid-teens, if not in the twenties. According to xStats, Camargo’s batted ball profile was similar to Corey Dickerson’s last season, but with one notable difference. Both hitters were better than the major league average for Value Hits and less likely than average to avoid close-to-automatic outs, but Camargo hit with a much lower launch angle. If he doesn’t join the flyball revolution in his sophomore season, Camargo could still hit .300 with doubles power, but the potential is there for an even bigger impact.

Tyler O’Neill, OF, Cardinals (18/35): As you can see with the listed ownership rates, I’m cheating a bit on this one. When I selected O’Neill for inclusion in this column, he was still under one-third owned in Fantrax leagues. Just goes to show how much urgency there is to add him in deeper leagues. Now that he has been officially recalled by the Cardinals, demand should only increase.

If you like what Christian Villanueva is doing with his first extended stay in the majors in San Diego, you’ll probably enjoying the offensive stylings of O’Neill. Throughout his minor league career, O’Neill has been well above league average for flyball rate (per StatCorner), and while he has not been as pull-heavy as Villanueva, the spray chart below (from 2017) shows he has considerable pull power. In 12 games with Triple-A Memphis, O’Neill has been on a tear, batting .388 with six homers. It’s not clear if O’Neill will get steady playing time or even be up for long, but particularly with Tommy Pham dealing with a groin injury, there is a chance he could make an immediate impact.

Source: MLBfarm.com.

Ben Gamel, OF, Mariners (5/17): If nothing else, I could include Gamel here just for the sake of creating contrast, as he is the anti-O’Neill. Gamel is a line drive hitter who uses the whole field, and that enabled him to bat .275 with 68 runs and 59 RBI in his first full season in the majors. There could be further batting average upside to exploit if Gamel cuts back on strikeouts, and his minor league track record suggests that’s entirely possible. His .340 BABIP from 2017 may not regress much, if at all, due to a batted ball profile that is amenable to a high average. Now that Gamel is back from his DL stint for a strained oblique, he should play regularly and benefit from hitting in a Mariners’ lineup that is nearly back to full strength.

Mark Canha, OF, Athletics (1/5): With Boog Powell (knee) out for several weeks and Dustin Fowler still finding his footing at Triple-A Nashville, Canha is settling in as the A’s center fielder. He has made four straight starts and is 8 for 24 (.333) with two home runs and a double, so he is making a good case for continued playing time. As a Rule 5 pick, Canha had a promising rookie season in 2015, clubbing 16 home runs, 22 doubles and three triples in 485 plate appearances, though batting just .245. His 2016 season was cut short by back issues, and he was a shadow of his former self last season, batting .208 with a 29.9 percent strikeout rate. Though it’s an admittedly limited sample, Canha is making harder contact this year, averaging 95.4 mph on his exit velocity on flies and line drives. He could be a decent power source in deeper leagues, at least until Fowler returns.

Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.

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Looking at O’Neill’s spray chart it looks like he has a massive HR appearing in the very far upper left corner. Can we confirm the distance on that bomb?