Nine Unheralded Players for the Stretch Run

We’re in the dog days of the season now. Every little edge you can get with a player can be a major difference. You have to manage to your standings, not just the most talented players. It’d be great to find another Tommy Pham or Chris Taylor, but there is plenty of luck involved with something like that. Instead, let’s find some skilled players who could help us in a category or two and maybe it’ll all come together for a two month stretch of their peak which has them playing like one of those out-of-nowhere superstars.

Marcus Semien (OAK, SS)

Semien has been a solid power-speed shortstop the last couple seasons, especially if you can plan around his poor batting average (averaged 21 HR, 10 SB, .247 AVG in 2015-16). He hasn’t had a real shot to improve upon those numbers this year as a bruised wrist popped up in mid-April and left him sidelined for 74 games. He’s been back since early-July and after ramping up over a few games, he has really heated up over his last 20: .306/.366/.459, 3 HR, 2 SB in 93 PA. He’s making great contact during the run with a tiny 6% soft contact rate and keeping the strikeout rate palatable at 21% (compared to 24% for his career). A shortstop with guaranteed playing time and diverse fantasy skills could be a beast for extended stretches. In June and July of last year, he only hit .238 but popped 12 HR with 7 SB.

Cesar Hernandez (PHI, 2B)

Hernandez was an interesting sleeper pick this year after a .293 AVG and 17 SB season last year with the Phillies. He was only 17-for-30, but he’d been 19-for-24 the year before so a 20+ SB season wasn’t out of bounds for 2017. A strained oblique suffered in early June cost him a month-plus and he returned just after the All-Star break. He’s been peaking since his return with a .337/.431/.477 line and six stolen bases in as many attempts. He’s riding a 13-game hitting streak right that includes seven multi-hit efforts. Even with the missed time, Hernandez has already matched his 6 HR from last year and he’s just 5 SB from tying last year’s total, too. The time missed has left him widely available in mixed leagues.

Leonys Martin (SEA, OF)

I just can’t quit this guy. His 15 HR/24 SB season a year ago was undercut a little bit by his .247 AVG, but speed is so rare that you’d take it even with the batting average liability and less power than he’s shown. But there are limits and he found those limits. After a .111/.172/.130 line through 15 games, he was designated for assignment. He wasn’t claimed so he made it to Triple-A Tacoma and got himself right with a dominant run: .312/.352/.506, 11 HR, and 24 SB in 372 PA. He was recalled on July 30th and he’s popped a couple homers with a stolen base in 10 games (.270/.270/.514 line). His defense and left-handedness give him a shot to at least be the strong side of the platoon in rightfield down the stretch for the Mariners.

Jose Pirela (SD, OF)

The 27-year old exploded out of nowhere at Triple-A El Paso this year with a 1.022 OPS, 13 HR, and 8 SB which prompted a call-up back in June and he’s stayed dialed in with an .868 OPS, 7 HR, and 3 SB at the major league level. He has 16 multi-hit games among his 51 played, including two 4-hit gems. His .353 BABIP is no doubt aiding his success, but it’s not so far out of bounds that he can’t maintain something at or near that level for another couple months. He uses the whole field, hits the ball hard, and has been a mainstay in the lineup even as a right-hander because he’s hit righties so well (.887 OPS).

Mikie Mahtook (DET, OF)

The former first round pick (2011 by TB) has emerged as the everyday centerfielder in Detroit. After a strong 115 PA debut in 2015 (.970 OPS, 9 HR), he labored through 196 PA with the Rays last year (.523 OPS, 3 HR) before getting dealt to Detroit for a PTBNL (who ended up being Drew Smith). Sporadic playing time through the first two months of the season yielded sporadic results, though mostly bad (.577 OPS, 2 HR), but he started to get a hold on the CF job in June and the results have followed: .329/.379/.484, 4 HR, and 2 SB in 177 PA. He doesn’t have one outstanding skill so this more of a volume play than anything else, but he’s going to be on the field the rest of the way.

Others to Consider:

  • Ozzie Albies – The 20-year old is just 4-for-24 to start so everyone is already moving, but the speedy could drop 10+ SB the rest of the way if they stick with him.
  • Matt Olson & Matt Chapman – The two Oakland Matts have both shown off their power early on (7 HR for Chapman in 142 PA, 4 for Olson in 65 PA) and while neither is hitting over .230, their power can be big down the stretch.
  • Pablo Sandoval – I meeeaaannnn… he looked downright agile and comfortable in the field during Wednesday’s game and maybe I’m overly influenced by that one game I’ve watched of his, but he’s still just 30 and back where he did his best work. I might take a flier if I was desperate for batting average.

We hoped you liked reading Nine Unheralded Players for the Stretch Run by Paul Sporer!

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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King Donko of Punchstania
King Donko of Punchstania

Thoughts on Orlando Arcia? I’m torn between Arcia and Semien for the stretch run (and long term).

Chris Reitsma
Chris Reitsma

Arcia’s weird. He’s looked good at the plate from what I’ve seen, but his xStats profile is really underwhelming.