This is an interesting pair of recommendations, as an established vet shares the same low ownership as a younger, relatively unknown quantity.
Luis Valbuena | 3B HOU | CBS 3% Owned
After missing a month of action due to a hamstring strain, Valbuena is finally back and in good position to lock down the strong side of a platoon at first base. C.J. Cron is currently on the DL and the Angels don’t seem to have any confidence in his ability to hit enough to hold down a full-time job. Jefry Marte is probably going to stick against lefties and is an interesting player himself, but is unlikely to push Valbuena to the bench. Besides, given Albert Pujols‘ age and injury proneness, playing time shouldn’t be a huge question mark against right-handers.
The 31-year-old has been a solid power source when he has been in the lineup, as he proved last year that his 2015 HR/FB surge was no fluke. Of course, he now calls a much more pitcher friendly park home, which could cut into his home run total. Obviously, Valbuena isn’t going to be a positive contributor in batting average. He sports just a .232 career average and .268 BABIP, but a 10.7% walk rate means his value enjoys a significant boost in OBP leagues.
For a guy with power and a low batting average, you would think he strikes out a lot. He doesn’t. His SwStk% marks have actually been around the league average for the majority of his career, but like the rest of baseball, his strikeout rate has ticked up each season since 2014. So a lucky bounce here and there could result in a palatable batting average and a very respectable corner man in your deep league.
Guillermo Heredia | OF SEA | 3% Owned
Who had Heredia as the Mariners starting left fielder at the beginning of May? After the team surprisingly DFAd Leonys Martin, they had no obvious replacements. So, they are looking to roll with a combination of Heredia, early surprise Taylor Motter, and Ben Gamel. Dan Vogelbach was just demoted back to the minors, so that will keep Danny Valencia at first base, removing one possible competitor for left field at-bats.
Heredia is already 26, but he did manage to rank ninth among Mariners prospects by our lead prospect analyst heading into the season. Eric Longenhagen considered him an above average fielder with “solid bat-to-ball ability and on-base skills”. It sounds like the kind of profile worth more in real baseball than in fantasy, but the real baseball worth will at least lead to more playing time, boosting his counting stats. And in a deep league, that’s really what you’re after.
Heredia signed with the Mariners from Cuba last March and therefore we have limited minor league stats to evaluate his abilities. While he offers little power and hasn’t shown much speed, he has rarely struck out. He posted just a 9.6% strikeout rate at Triple-A, and is currently sitting on the same rate with the Mariners this year. His 3.9% SwStk% is fifth lowest among those with at least 50 plate appearances. That’s pretty impressive for a guy with little stateside experience. He’s a perfect deep leaguer as the classic “guy that won’t hurt you”.
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.