Last week I suggested nabbing and stashing one of Cincinnati’s starting pitchers who’s nearing a return, and this week I do the same with a different arm of theirs. A pair of outfielders owned in under 25% of leagues across the industry also stand out as worthy of the attention of gamers.
Brandon Finnegan (CIN): CBS – 36%, ESPN – 5.5%, Yahoo! – 7%
The lefty last started in The Show on April 15 before hitting the disabled list with a strained left lat. He started a rehab assignment at the Double-A level on June 11, and he’s made three starts totaling 12 innings adding an inning in each start after pitching three in his first rehab turn. His last start was with Triple-A Louisville and lasted five innings in which he coughed up four earned runs on four hits (two homers) and two walks, but he struck out five. In his three starts in the minors this year he’s allowed just three walks (6.7% BB%) while striking out 10 of the 44 batters he’s faced (22.7% K%).
The 24-year-old pitcher was excellent in his first start of the year before a pair of clunkers in advance of his DL stint. Last year, he closed the year with a 2.93 ERA (4.45 FIP, 4.29 xFIP and 4.25 SIERA), 1.29 WHIP, 10.6% BB% and 24.6% K% in 13 starts spanning 70.2 innings in the second half. The southpaw’s below average control will lead to the occasional clunker and likely prevent his WHIP from being helpful, but his ability to punch hitters out at a high clip helps offset his penchant for issuing free passes. It appears he won’t need another rehab turn and should be back in Cincinnati’s rotation early next week. He’s a viable stash option for pitcher-needy owners in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers.
Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE): CBS – 18%, ESPN – 10.2%, Yahoo! – 8%
Chisenhall hasn’t received enough plate appearances to be a qualified hitter this year, but among hitters with a minimum of 150 plate appearances, he ranks sixth with a 51.8% FB%. That mark easily represents a new single-season high surpassing his previous high of 42.1% set in both 2011 and 2013. In addition to bumping up his FB%, he’s sporting new career highs in HR/FB% (17.5%) and Hard% (33.6%). Chisenhall’s 10 homers thus far this year are just three short of his high of 13 totaled in 533 plate appearances in 2014. Like many others, Chisenhall’s enjoying a power boost, and he’s really making the most of it by lifting the ball at one of the highest rates in the majors.
Looking past the power, there’s more to like about him. He’s not a total dud on the bases with two stolen bases this year after swiping six in 126 games last year. He’s also been a helper in batting average hitting .299 this year while posting a completely normal BABIP. His OBP sits at a career high .364 thanks in large part to working walks at a career-high clip (9.1%).
The walk rate jump is supported by a more patient approach. Chisenhall’s 32.7% O-Swing% remains above the league average (29.5% this season), but it’s a huge improvement over last year’s 42.0% O-Swing% and his pre-2017 O-Swing% of 39.4%. The 28-year-old continues to post a solid strikeout rate (16.9% K%) by slightly beating the league average in SwStr% (9.8% for Chisenhall compared to 10.4% league average), but perhaps more importantly aggressively attacking pitches in the strike zone (75.0% Z-Swing% compared to a league average of 66.7%).
Also, don’t look now, but he is doing everything in his power to prove he doesn’t need to be platooned. In an admittedly small sample of 30 plate appearances, Chisenhall has smacked a pair of homers with a .348/.444/.652 slash line, 13.3% BB% and 20.0% K%. Even if he reverts to a below average hitter in same-handed matchups, he’s a .276/.327/.446 hitter against righties since 2014 and in the midst of a career year. With Michael Brantley on the disabled list, Chisenhall has received a lineup boost hitting fifth. Even if he drops lower in the order when Brantley returns, Chisenhall should chip in run production stats and nicely round out his fantasy contributions.
Ben Gamel (SEA): CBS – 22%, ESPN – 16.8%, Yahoo! – 13%
I’ll preemptively state I’d prefer Chisenhall to Gamel slightly if both outfielders are available, but as Gamel’s inclusion in this piece indicates, I believe he’s worthy of fantasy love, too. The 25-year-old outfielder is flourishing in his first full season in the majors after a cup of coffee with the Yankees and Mariners last year. Prior to last night’s game, he was hitting .354/.414/.487 with a 9.5% BB%, 24.9% K%, three homers and two stolen bases. The homers are out of character — he hit just 17 in 1,158 plate appearances at the Triple-A level — but he might have a little bit more to offer in the stolen base category with above average speed and seasons of 13 steals, 13 steals and 19 steals in each of the last three years in the upper minors.
Gamel’s .471 BABIP jumps off the page as flukey and surely will drop, but I’m bullish on his odds of besting the .338 BABIP projected by ZiPS and the .335 BABIP projected by Steamer the rest of the year. Gamel’s run a .365 BABIP in the minors since reaching the Triple-A level in April of 2015 and hit .303/.365/.443 with a 8.7% BB% and 18.4% K%. The left-handed hitting outfielder can also continue to be a major asset in batting average and offsetting BABIP regression by whittling his strikeout rate down closer to his Triple-A mark, and with a discerning eye (22.3% O-Swing%) and above average contact skills (8.6% SwStr% and 79.1% Contact% compared to a league average of 77.6%), there’s reason to believe he can do so.
He and Mitch Haniger had been setting the table in the leadoff spot and two-hole, respectively, while Jean Segura was on the disabled list. Segura returned to his perch atop the lineup Wednesday, but it was Gamel, not Haniger, who remained at the top of the order when they faced righty Justin Verlander that night. Haniger has more pop and it makes sense hitting a bit lower to take advantage of his power, but Gamel has sizable runs upside hitting second for the Mariners. The right-handed hitting Haniger shot up to second behind Segura against lefty Daniel Norris last night, but Gamel remained in the lineup dropping to seventh. Gamel’s torching lefties, and he appears in no danger of losing time in same-handed matchups. Revisiting my opening sentence to Gamel’s write-up, in a vacuum I prefer Chisenhall to the M’s outfielder. However, if batting average and runs are of greater need on your roster, Gamel gets the edge. Regardless, both should be owned in all 12-team mixers starting five outfielders and any leagues larger than that.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.