I was beaten to the punch on Jesse Hahn by colleague Rylan Edwards earlier this week. I’ll second Edwards’ endorsement of Hahn, and he also highlights Henderson Alvarez as a viable deep league add. Like Hahn, Alvarez is a low punch-out pitcher, and I’ve opted to highlight a high-strikeout reliever who will help pick up the slack for the starting pitcher duo. Joining the reliever is a minor league first baseman whose path is looking clearer every day and a Swiss Army Knife whose ownership is criminally low.
David Hernandez – RP – Philadelphia Phillies (CBS: 14%, ESPN: 6.2%, Yahoo!: 20%)
No, Hernandez doesn’t appear to be the immediate handcuff to closer Jeanmar Gomez. That’s not a bad thing, though, as it means he has a lower ownership rate across all three sites than the next man up, Hector Neris (CBS: 21%, ESPN: 11.7%, Yahoo!: 24%). The righty had an ugly season debut allowing three earned runs without recording an out in his first appearance, but he’s allowed just two earned runs since and has 10 scoreless relief appearances on his 2016 resume. Perhaps more interestingly, he’s been used in a multi-inning capacity in three of his last four appearances. If he’s going to be used as a multi-inning shutdown reliever, his staggering 39.3% strikeout rate will be incredibly helpful to prop up low strikeout rate hurlers like the aforementioned Hahn and Alvarez. The more restrictive the innings limit in your roto league, the more value a guy like Hernandez has. His strikeout rate looks legit with an eye-popping 15.2% SwStr% (22nd among relievers who’ve pitched a minimum of 10 innings). The 30-year-old reliever’s fourseam fastball is generating a juicy 17.61% whiff rate, according to Brooks Baseball, and his slider has a 15.56% whiff rate. The sample size is tiny, but his start to the year is promising. He’s sporting a palatable 8.9% walk rate, but that mark could be on the rise if he doesn’t being throwing more first pitch strikes (48.2% F-Strike%). Hernandez’s previous F-Strike% low as a reliever was 54.9% last year, so I’d expect him to start hitters out with a strike more frequently going forward. His lack of immediate saves potential limits him to deep league value, but he shouldn’t be on the wire in 14-team mixed leagues or larger, and depending on the size of your bench or your team build in 12-team mixers, he can have value in those leagues as well.
A.J. Reed – 1B – Houston Astros (CBS: 49%, ESPN: 7.3%,Yahoo!: 16%)
The sky is falling on Tyler White. Over the last two weeks, he has a -58 wRC+ with a .056/.125/.056 triple-slash line. His cold streak has resulted in a nose dive for his full-season line and he now owns a 102 wRC+ for the year. That’s not going to cut it at first base. Meanwhile at the Triple-A level, Reed owns a 131 wRC+ with a .244/.353/.512 triple-slash line despite a .250 BABIP. He’s reached the seats six times in 102 plate appearances and his walk rate (14.7%) and strikeout rate (20.6%) are in line with his marks at previous minor league stops. There’s not a lot left — if anything left — for him to prove in the minors. Furthermore, the Astros have dug themselves a hole opening 10-18. They’re in the basement of the American League West, and they’re in need of a jolt if they hope to return to the postseason this year. They could play the service time game and wait until June to promote Reed, but we’re only a few weeks from June anyway, so the time is now to hop on Reed if he’s available in your fantasy leagues. Our own Dan Farnsworth gushed about Reed in February, and the upside is immense right out of the chute. As a left-handed batter, Reed will be treated to park factors of 110 for doubles/triples and 121 for homers, per Stat Corner’s rolling three-year averages. Houston’s offense has the type of talent to provide Reed ample run production upside, too.
Derek Dietrich – 3B/OF – Miami Marlins (CBS: 22%, ESPN: 5.7%, Yahoo!: 3%)
Dietrich needs to be owned in more leagues. For starters, he already has nifty positional flexibility as a third base and outfield eligible player. He’s played six games (starting four) at the keystone as well, and he’s nearing picking up eligibility there. Of course, positional flexibility doesn’t mean a whole lot if a player swings a noodle stick. Dietrich packs some punch, though, so that’s not a problem for him. For his career, Dietrich has hit 21 homers with a .246/.338/.452 line in 625 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. That plays at third base, second base or as a fifth outfielder. He’s terrible against lefties and will likely frequently sit against them, so you probably need a little more than he’s provided in his career against righties to justify owning a part-time player in a 12-team mixed league or shallower format. Well, Dietrich is likely capable of more. His career totals against righties are dragged down by a putrid .199/.271/.373 line in his first 177 plate appearances against them back in 2013. Since 2014, Dietrich has hit .250/.346/.445 with 17 homers in 525 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. Last year, he hit .273/.361/.502 with nine homers in 238 plate appearances against righties with a career high 8.8% walk rate and career low 18.9% strikeout rate. He’s kicking things up another notch this year, and he’s in line for the prominent side of a second base platoon with Dee Gordon serving an 80-game suspension. Dietrich has hit leadoff, third and fifth since joining the starting lineup, and that bodes well for his run production potential. There’s zero reason for him to be available in 12-team mixed leagues or deeper formats.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.