Fantasy managers, they’re are all looking for them.
And while those potential league-winning players are oftentimes the ones who are drafted early in the proceedings each Spring, they can also be comparatively unheralded players who help bring home championships for fantasy managers.
Whether they be a breakout rookie player who initially went unclaimed on the fantasy waiver wire, a setup reliever who’s flourished since stepping into a ninth-inning role, or perhaps a player who’s found the right form at the right time whether on the plate or on the mound, players with league-winning upside are essential to a fantasy managers’ chances this late in the year.
These are a few of those players. If they’re already on your roster, you’re probably liking your odds in your fantasy matchups this week and next. If they’re not on your fantasy roster and happened to be sitting on the waiver wire, now’s the time to make a last-minute addition.
Seiya Suzuki enjoyed a quality rookie season with the Chicago Cubs in 2022, batting .262 with a .336 on-base percentage, 14 home runs, and nine stolen bases in 446 plate appearances. There were certainly encouraging signs in his underlying data as well, with an 11.0% barrel rate and a 21.3% chase rate.
Suzuki was a constant in the top half of the Cubs’ order in 2022 and has retained his role in the middle of Chicago’s lineup this year despite an influx of new additions, namely Dansby Swanson, Cody Bellinger, a resurgent Mike Tauchman, and trade deadline acquisition Jeimer Candelario.
Of course, Suzuki’s still hitting in decidedly fantasy-friendly spots in the lineup is also due in part to some significant steps forward he’s taken at the plate, at least where production is concerned.
So far, the outfielder is batting .279 with a .351 on-base percentage, 19 home runs, and six stolen bases in 539 plate appearances this season while improving his walk rate and cutting his strikeout rate down by a few points.
He’s also continuing to swing at the right pitches at the plate.
Combine those metrics with a .354 xwOBA, a 10.5% barrel rate, a 47.4% hard-hit rate, and .423 xwOBAcon and it’s certainly not surprising that Suzuki is enjoying a breakout year. However, the 29-year-old has been even better as of late, batting .304 with a 143 wRC+ and a .267 ISO in the second half. Fast forward even more to this month and the outfielder is heating up at the plate at the right time for the fantasy playoffs.
So far this month, Suzuki is batting .377 with a .436 on-base percentage, a .768 slugging percentage, a .487 wOBA, six home runs, and a stolen base while also adding a 17.9% barrel rate and a 51.8% hard-hit rate.
Dating back to his early-career days in Baltimore, Tanner Scott has always been a reliever to log gaudy bat-missing metrics. His strikeouts per nine innings rate has never dipped into single digits, topping out at a career-best 12.93 last season. He’s also finished in the 90th percentile or better in strikeout rate in three of his last five qualified seasons. He’s finished in the 91st percentile or better in whiff rate in each of those seasons too.
The potential for fantasy stardom was always there, it’s just Scott struggled with allowing walks and wasn’t always in line for closing chances.
He logged just one save in 154 innings prior to the 2022 season, and while he registered 20 saves last season, Miami went a variety of different routes with the closer’s role to start 2023. AJ Puk looked like the team’s closer for a significant portion of the year before struggling. Dylan Floro chipped in with seven saves before being traded to Minnesota and David Robertson was acquired from the division rival Mets to shore up the ninth-inning role.
However, due to Puk and Robertson’s struggles, Scott took over as the team’s closer and has continued to be extremely effective on the mound. Effectiveness that includes finally reigning in the walks.
It certainly hasn’t hurt, at least in regard to the walks, that Scott is in the zone much more (at least comparatively speaking to past years) when attacking hitters with his slider and four-seamer pairing while still getting batters to chase, while still generating swings and misses at elite rates.
Overall, the reliever owns a 2.44 ERA and a 2.32 FIP in 73.2 innings spanning 70 appearances this year. Entering play Wednesday, he’s logged nine pitcher wins, nine saves, and 24 holds, providing plenty of fantasy value in standard scoring leagues and saves+holds leagues.
The somewhat not small disclaimer here is that Scott has, in fact, struggled in his last two outings, surrendering five hits and three runs in his last two frames. However, as can sometimes be the case with closers who blow saves and the extra innings rules, Scott came away with a pitcher win on Tuesday night.
Furthermore, given his track record and success this season – outside of allowing two runs in Washington on September 1, the earned runs surrendered by Scott in his last two outings are the only other runs allowed by the reliever in 23 innings since the start of August – it seems more likely this was just a blip on the radar and not a harbinger of more earned runs to be allowed in the coming days and weeks.
And oh yeah, Scott has seven saves and five pitcher wins, not to mention 25 strikeouts and a 1.17 ERA, in his last 23 innings since August began. Start him with confidence over the season’s final weeks. He might just help you capture a fantasy title.
The Toronto Blue Jays lineup hasn’t always had the best of success this year in scoring runs. Entering play Wednesday, 15 other teams had outscored the American League East franchise despite Toronto boasting the league’s joint-sixth highest wRC+ at 107.
Still, Davis Schneider’s emergence has been a welcome spark for the Blue Jays lineup.
The 24-year-old is batting .288 with a .417 on-base percentage, eight home runs, and a stolen base in 127 Major League plate appearances this season as of the beginning of play on Wednesday, carrying over the rather high walk rates he’s been known to log in the minors.
The infielder logged an 18.4% walk rate in 392 Triple-A plate appearances this year and finished with an 11.6% walk rate in 190 plate appearances at Double-A last year, so his 15.7% walk rate in the Majors so far is very much equal parts part for the course, not entirely surprising at all and reasonably sustainable.
Schnieder’s production at the plate so far looks fairly sustainable as well.
He’s logging a 17.9% barrel rate and a .372 xwOBA so far. And while his 38.8% hard-hit rate could, in theory, be better (so too could a 29.1% strikeout rate), Schneider is doing more than enough damage when he is making contact, as evidenced by a .465 xwOBAcon.
Overall, since he made his debut on August 4, the former 28th-round pick is sporting the league’s fifth-highest wRC+ (at 187) and sixth-highest barrel rate (at 17.9%) among batters with at least 120 plate appearances. The only other players to rank in the top 10 in both are Bryce Harper, Ronald Acuña Jr., Kyle Scharber, and Marcell Ozuna.
In fact, so impactful has Schneider been that he leads all Toronto position players in fWAR (1.9) in the second half. No one else is over the 1.3 mark. And while that number and metric in general bears little impact for fantasy production, the infielder has a chance to be similarly impactful for fantasy managers in the season’s final weeks if he keeps making this kind of contact.
Let’s get this out of the way first, Kyle Hendricks probably isn’t going to tip the scales where strikeouts are concerned in weekly head-to-head matchups.
He’s never been a starter to strikeout out batters at a high rate. The veteran’s career-best strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate was 8.35 back in 2015, and it’s topped the 7.65 mark just twice since then.
This year, he’s actually striking out a career-low 6.11 batters per nine frames and has struck out more than six batters in a start just twice this year.
But, for those fantasy managers looking to turn the tide where ERA and WHIP metrics are concerned, he’s an ideal starting rotation option.
The veteran’s 1.56 walks per nine frames and 4.2% walk rate are both his lowest in a full season, which is considerable for a hurler who has logged 91st percentile (5.4% in 2018) and 96th percentile (4.4% in 2019) walk rate metrics in past seasons and led the league in walks per nine frames in the shortened 2020 campaign with a 0.89 number.
Like his teammate Suzuki, Hendricks is also in form at an ideal time for the fantasy playoffs. The veteran has allowed more than three runs in a start just once in his last nine outings, throwing five innings each time. The one time he allowed more than three earned runs came on September 5 against the San Francisco Giants when he allowed all of four earned runs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s also walked just 10 batters in that stretch, a stretch that includes 45.1 innings of work.
Photo courtesy of Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesgfx on Twitter)