If at first you don’t succeed, try again? Well, I’m once again suggesting taking a shot on a hitter who struggled out of the gate. Also, I was shocked to see the ownership rates tied to a stat-stuffing outfielder in Cleveland. The toolsy rookie is owned in over 50% of leagues on just one of the three heavy-hitter fantasy providers.
Steve Pearce (TOR): CBS – 7%, ESPN – 2.3%, Yahoo! – 5%
I touted Pearce as a viable add in early April, and things didn’t exactly work out. He hit just .205/.256/.373 in his first 90 plate appearances before a calf strain sent him to the disabled list. He’s since turned it on, and he’s worth a look again, though. Pearce was activated in the middle of June and has been on a tear.
In 105 plate appearances since his activation from the disabled list (not including his walk-off grand slam on Thursday), he’s slashed .326/.381/.505 with four homers (again, not including Thursday’s homer). The righty’s batted ball profile during that stretch is solid with a sweet 24.7% LD% and decent 33.8% Hard%. He’s not walking often with just a 5.7% BB%, but he’s avoiding punch outs with a 18.1% K%.
The 34-year-old has settled into nearly an everyday role primarily playing in left field. Pearce has a lengthy track record of knocking around lefties, and this year he’s hitting .236/.317/.491 with a .255 ISO and 111 wRC+. He’s been a tiny bit below average against righties with a 98 wRC+, but a .285/.326/.423 slash isn’t awful in deeper leagues. He’s also got four straight years of above average contributions against righties under his belt prior to this season.
Pearce has hit fifth or sixth in Toronto’s lineup lately. The lineup spot’s not ideal for run scoring, but it’s not a bad spot for RBI. Pearce is only first base and outfield eligible at most sites, but he is also second base eligible at Yahoo! The additional eligibility at Yahoo! makes him even more desirable to roster there.
Bradley Zimmer (CLE): CBS – 52%, ESPN – 16.8%, Yahoo! – 25%
Perhaps my perception of Zimmer’s ownership was skewed by how quickly he was scooped up in the 14-team mixed keeper league (close to a dynasty league) I participate in, but I was shocked to see how low his ownership is around the industry. I fully expected his CBS ownership rate to be closer to 75-80% and his ownership rates at ESPN and Yahoo! to hover around 50%. I was wrong, and he’s grossly under owned.
Despite playing in just 61 games and totaling 213 plate appearances, Zimmer’s 12 stolen bases are tied for the 26th most. He’s also been caught stealing just one time. His speed alone makes him a fantasy asset, but he’s stuffing the stat sheet with a helpful .281/.343/.458 slash, seven homers, 28 runs and 35 RBI. The biggest concern about Zimmer as he moved up the minor-league ladder was his propensity for striking out. He punched out in 29.9% of his plate appearances at the Triple-A level this year before his call up, and he struck out in 30.7% of his plate appearances at the Double-A and Triple-A levels combined in 2016. The toolsy outfielder has actually cut his strikeouts down in the Majors with a 26.3% K%, and his 13.3% SwStr% isn’t a total abomination. Furthermore, he’s done a great job of spitting on pitches out of the zone (26.8% O-Swing% compared to a league average of 29.8%) and attacking pitches in the zone (71.2% Z-Swing% compared to 66.8% league average). The combination of avoiding chasing pitches out of the zone and attacking offerings in the zone lead me to believe he can keep his strikeout rate within a couple ticks of its current mark. I’m not sure he’ll maintain his .281 AVG, but I don’t think it will completely crater, either and would take the over on his ZiPS ROS (.240) and Steamer ROS (.245) averages by 20 points or so.
The motivation for me checking in on Zimmer’s ownership in the first place was a move in the order. He’s hit leadoff in his last seven starts and slotted atop the order in Cleveland’s last 11 games facing a right-handed starter. Previously, he’d slotted in the bottom third of the order for nearly all of his starts. The lineup promotion does wonders for his run scoring potential. More opportunities to get on base also enhance his stolen base upside. Jason Kipnis is rehabbing a hamstring injury and could eventually push to reclaim his spot atop the order, but I wouldn’t consider that a foregone conclusion. Zimmer has hit well leading off, and Kipnis has a paltry .292 OBP this year. Zimmer rounds out his fantasy-friendly profile with some pop. He’s slugged seven homers with a .177 ISO this year. The rookie outfielder is a must-own player in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers, and I wouldn’t scoff at someone owning him in an even shallower format.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.