Mac Williamson & Ian Kennedy: Deep League Wire

It’s deep league wire time and during my treasure hunt, I happen to uncover a pair of (potential) gems.

Mac Williamson | OF SEA | CBS 1% Owned

It’s bad when you get DFA’d by the Giants, who currently rank third lowest in baseball in runs scored. That’s the situation Williamson found himself in about two and a half weeks ago. Then earlier this month, the Mariners decided to take a chance on him and it didn’t take very long for him to find his way into their starting lineup. After Mitch Haniger went down with an injury I won’t repeat for the sake of the males reading this, Williamson has started four straight games in left field. Don’t look now, but it appears that until he hits his way out of the job, the left field job is Williamson’s until Haniger returns, whenever that might be. But is there any chance he could hold it?

In 413 MLB plate appearances, Williamson owns an ugly .280 wOBA. He swings and misses often, leading to a near 30% strikeout rate, hits a shockingly high rate of grounders given his power, doesn’t hit line drives, has posted a below league average BABIP, and doesn’t walk enough to offset the low batting average. Phew, with all these negatives, why the heck is he here?! Glad you asked.

Williamson has one big tool — power. He has posted a 21.4% HR/FB rate during his time in the Majors and has shown strong power numbers in the minors as well. At Triple-A with the Giants this season in 82 at-bats, he had posted an absurd 45% HR/FB rate, resulting in nine homers (a solid 66 home run pace over 600 at-bats). This is the definition of deep league dart throw. He has an opportunity and has the power to go on a little run for a couple of weeks. At age 28, no one is arguing that he’s a long-term solution. But if you need some power and are desperate to fill an OF or Util slot, he’s an excellent speculation.

Ian Kennedy | RP KC | 10% Owned

How is a closer only owned in 10% of leagues. Yes, it’s true, the Royals have used some of their relievers in strange ways and Kennedy has come in during the middle innings of some games, making us scratch our collective heads. But that bullpen is an absolute mess and there’s absolutely no one else at this time who could possible run away with the closing gig. So that leaves Kennedy, who saved his fifth game last night.

You remember Kennedy with mediocre skills and extreme fly ball rate who had been a starter throughout his entire career. Since 2012, he had only posted a sub-4.00 ERA twice. A move to the bullpen, however, has been a panacea. Like the vast majority of starters who move to the bullpen, Kennedy’s fastball velocity has jumped. Kennedy had never even averaged 93 MPH with the pitch, and now he’s up above 94 MPH. The added oomph is likely what has helped fuel a strikeout rate surge to a career high of 30%. His skill set is now totally closer-worthy, with a SIERA below 3.00.

So it’s clear that Kennedy is a new pitcher in relief and we shouldn’t look at his name and immediately expect him to implode. The Royals have no other options to save games and even bad teams typically provide at least 30 opportunities. It’s not often you see a clear closer with solid skills sitting on free agency in 90% of leagues. Even if you don’t need saves, you might as well grab him and ensure your opponent who does can’t gain additional points in the category.

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.

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