Wilmer Difo & Brandon Brennan: Deep League Wire

Welcome to this week’s edition of the deep league waiver wire. One recommendation is getting a shot thanks to an injury ahead of him, while the other is a true deep league speculation in a muddled bullpen.

Wilmer Difo | 2B/3B/SS? WAS | CBS 7% Owned

The Trea Turner injury is probably more devastating to fantasy owners than the Nationals, as he’s clearly not a top 10 hitter in baseball. Difo has taken over every day shortstop duties and I’m pretty surprised that his ownership rate is still sub-10%. Though he has never been a full-timer all season, we do have over 900 plate appearances with which to evaluate his fantasy potential for the next month.

His strikeout rates have remained pretty consistent at an above average clip, which you would hope given his pedestrian power. He’s not an absolute zero though in homers, as he has launched 14 over his career, which put him on just barely a double digit pace over a full season. But he also possesses speed, swiping 23 bags over that time span, meaning that a full-season pace could yield something like 10 homers and 15 steals. That’s a valuable fantasy shortstop.

He has hit just .248, thanks to about a league average BABIP, but it was mostly driven by last year’s .269 mark, which xBABIP suggests was quite unlucky. So he seemingly has the skills to post an above average BABIP, thanks to a strong line drive rate, which means he’s not an automatic knock on your batting average. It all adds up to an obvious add in deeper mixed leagues if you need an MI.

Brandon Brennan | RP SEA | 1% Owned

Who? Yeah, I didn’t even know myself until I picked him up in AL Tout Wars on Sunday night. Usually, we fantasy owners look at an unsettled bullpen and “closer-by-committee” type situation as one to avoid. In deep leagues, it’s actually the complete opposite. It’s rare that a team uses the committee all season long, ultimately settling on the guy who keeps nailing down the save…until he doesn’t for a string of chances.

Heading into the season, the Mariners bullpen was unappealing and Hunter Strickland was closer by default. But now he’ll be out a while, giving Anthony Swarzak an opportunity. Swarzak’s relief career has been a roller coaster, so he’s far from a lock to hold the job until Strickland returns. No one else in the Mariners bullpen is good enough to bet on, which leaves Brennan.

Brennan is a 27-year-old former starter from the White Sox organization who has gotten his first taste of MLB action. He has always posted strong SwStk% marks in the minors, but oddly that didn’t really translate to strong strikeout rates. He finally got that strikeout rate above 20% in 2017, as his SwStk% marks really took off. So he finally showed that strikeout potential, but that’s not the best part. He is also a ground ball machine, posting at least a 50% ground ball rate at nearly every stop, with some 60%+ marks sprinkled in.

It’s only been about seven innings, but so far Brennan has featured a mid-90s fastball and a changeup he has thrown 44% of the time. His GB% on the changeup is…100%! It has also generated an absurd 29.6% SwStk%. That literally sounds like the best pitch in baseball.

Brennan is unlikely to find himself in a save situation over the next week, but assuming he continues generating gobs of grounders and lots of whiffs, he’ll quickly find himself in a high-leverage role. Next stop…closer.

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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