TDG Roundtable: Who is an under the radar pickup for the stretch run?
Every week on Fridays, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. This week, our great staff give you some great players to add from the waiver wire for the stretch run.
Yadiel Hernandez, OF, Washington Nationals
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
This add is for those in deep leagues with more than three outfielders, but in those leagues I am in, Hernandez is on my team, so I am not just whistling Dixie. The 33-year-old Hernandez made his big-league debut to little fanfare last September, but with the Nationals punting the rest of 2021 they are playing him every day and he has been their five-hole hitter, behind Juan Soto and Josh Bell and in front of Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia.
In 2021, his slash line in 159 plate appearances is .300/.365/.444. That is belied by a .373 BABIP, however let us look back at his 2019 Triple-A season. In 508 plate appearances Hernandez hit 33 home runs, stole seven bags, 177 Runs plus RBI, and a slash line of: .323/.404/.604, all with a .357 BABIP. The left-handed hitting Hernandez has crushed left-handed pitching so far, although small sample size and all that, but in 40 plate appearances (as of this writing) he has a .371 batting average.
Hernandez joined the Nationals from Cuba back in 2017 and spent his age-29 season at Double-A, and began 2018 there as well, before being promoted to Triple-A after 29 games. Then he had that bust-out 2019. He also sported a .280 ISO, and what makes me excited for him the rest of 2021? His ISO has only been .141 thus far, so a power surge and home runs in bunches are very possible.
Rostered in only 4% of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues and 17% of Fantrax leagues, the odds are good Hernandez is available in yours. Maybe he is getting faded because of his age, but I look at it this way — he is available, has shown some major power in the minors, and heck, someone has to knock in Juan Soto the rest of the season, right? He may be the player that carries teams to fantasy glory in September, stranger things have happened.
Jose Barrero, SS, Cincinnati Reds
Analysis by Ken Balderston
Barrero, formerly known as the prospect Jose Garcia, has just recently been promoted to the major leagues for a second time in his career. What this means for redraft leagues is he could be available on waivers, and in dynasty leagues there could still be time to try to trade for him. Barrero’s first taste of the big leagues was not a success in 2020, striking out an absurd 38% of the time in 68 plate appearances without an extra base hit. Jose regrouped in the offseason and started the year in AA for 40 games, then was promoted to AAA for another 40 games prior to his big-league promotion earlier in the week. He hit over .300 at both levels, with a pace of 30 home runs and 30 SB production at both levels combined. He’s slender at 6’2 and 175 pounds, but uses a quick bat and an aggressive swing to generate enough power to clear the fences at Great American Ball Park. His approach was skewed last year with the elevated strikeout rate, but throughout his minor league career he’s managed to keep his strikeouts around 20%, and this season began walking more, falling just short of 10% walk rates at both minor league levels.
The Reds should give Barrero every opportunity to play down the stretch and he can help fantasy teams in several areas with his bat-to-ball skills, power potential and ability to steal bases. Jose’s been rising up prospect lists this season, but still feels undervalued to me given his potential plus all-around fantasy production. Maybe people are still scared off from the flop that was his 2020 debut, but it wouldn’t be the first time the fantasy industry overreacted to a small sample debut. With only six weeks or so left in the season, it’s tough to make up points unless a player gets ultra hot (this season, think Joey Votto, Kyle Schwarber, or more recently George Springer). I like the idea that Barrero as a single player could help out in all five traditional rotisserie categories, and I’m sure he wants to prove 2020 does not reflect him as a player. Barrero is really the type of player I gravitate to, because if your fantasy team is ‘firing on all cylinders’ and being productive in all categories, not only will your team hopefully make up points in the standings, they also won’t lose points in other areas. Both are key parts to making a late push, as others in your league are no doubt doing the same.
Nestor Cortes Jr., SP, New York Yankees
Analysis by: Bob Cyphers
If I gave you three guesses to name the pitcher currently in the starting rotation for the New York Yankees with the lowest ERA, do you think you would come up with the correct answer? It’s not the obvious answer in Gerrit Cole. It’s not the mid-season breakout in Jameson Taillon. Uh-oh last chance….YES! It’s Nasty Nestor Cortes Jr.!!!
Cortes Jr. currently touts a 2.55 ERA, 1.095 WHIP, and more than a strikeout per inning. He induces a large amount of weak contact with an arsenal of five pitches that he deploys at different arm angles, not to mention different rates of delivery. Between his deception and pitch mix he currently ranks in the 95th percentile of barrel percentage at 3.8 percent. The expected stats for batted balls against him follow suit, as he is in the top 15 percent for all xBA, xSLG, and xwOBA. His 2.55 ERA is backed by a 2.72 xERA and 3.25 FIP. If these statistics are not impressive enough, Nasty Nestor currently owns a 169 ERA+. This stat means that in 2021 Cortes Jr. has been 69 percent better than league average.
He may not look overly intimidating on the mound, but Cortes Jr. certainly knows how to pitch and he shows no fear no matter who steps into the batter’s box to face him. It took some time to get him stretched out as a starter, but he has pitched five or more innings in his last four starts. In fact, in his last start he logged six innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts against the White Sox for his first quality start of the year. He has done more than enough to prove that he belongs in the starting rotation for the surging New York Yankees moving forward. Of course there are plenty of question marks surrounding his status with multiple pitchers on the horizon of returning from the IL, but I think we can all agree there are no guarantees with players returning and staying healthy. In spite of the potentially over-crowded rotation, I still feel that Cortes Jr. is a player that can be a solid under the radar pick up in deep leagues for anyone looking for solid ratios and a high-upside win potential.
Jorge Mateo, 2B/3B/OF, Baltimore Orioles
Analysis by: Ben Sanders
Experienced dynasty managers know Jorge Mateo well. I valued him so highly in his prospect days that I turned down a trade offer for him and countered by giving up Ozzie Albies instead. Oops.
I had my reasons, though. Well, one reason: speed. Mateo is ridiculously fast. Statcast currently ranks him as the third-fastest man in baseball, his sprint speed of 30.6 feet/second just barely trailing Trea Turner and Tim Locastro.
A guy that fast can carry a fantasy team in stolen bases without being an especially great baseball player. All he needs is a team bad enough to start him, which is where the Orioles come in. They recently claimed Mateo off waivers from the Padres and made him an everyday player, and in 13 games he’s slashing .340/.353/.500 with three stolen bases.
I wish I could tell you this is his long-awaited breakout, but there are reasons Mateo is 26 and just now getting his first shot at a regular role. He has yet to draw a walk with Baltimore, and has struck out 14 times. His pretty stat line is largely the product of a .472 BABIP. He should be capable of a relatively high BABIP with his speed and propensity for hitting line drives, but .472 isn’t sustainable for anyone.
Still, he’s doing enough to keep his audition with the Orioles going, and has potential for 10-15 steals over the remainder of the season. He’s rostered in just 20% of Fantrax leagues and is eligible at several positions. If you need cheap speed, Mateo is probably your best bet.