Under-the-radar players to consider adding

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Though the season is still very young, it’s always worth taking note of quick starts from somewhat unexpected sources.

For instance, Seattle’s J.P. Crawford, whom Roto Rage dubbed as the most underrated shortstop entering the season, has quickly gone from a draft-day afterthought (303.54 average draft position, according to Fantasy Alarm) to being owned in more than 80 percent of ESPN leagues.

The 27-year-old has never truly lived up to his first-round draft status (he was the Phillies’ top pick in 2013), despite his double-digit homer and stolen base potential. Last year, he hit .273 with nine homers, 54 RBIs and a .715 OPS while finishing in the top 40 in runs.

After his first 19 games, Crawford entered Friday ranked ninth in the league in hits (25) and average (.343). He also had a 9.9 percent strikeout rate (a number that has decreased for him every year from 2018 until now), which was the sixth-lowest in the bigs. Those impressive numbers go along with a 12.3 percent walk rate, three homers, nine RBIs, nine runs, a stolen base and a 1.012 OPS.

There may be regression coming Crawford’s way, but he has found a way to go from under-the-radar to very much on it, and there are plenty of those types of players still widely available.

One of them is Alec Bohm, another former top pick who hasn’t yet lived up to lofty expectations for the Phillies.

Alec Bohm
AP

After a promising COVID-shortened season (.338, four homers, 23 RBIs, 24 runs, .881 OPS) in 2020, Bohm was a disappointment in 2021 (.247, seven homers, 47 RBIs, 46 runs, .647 OPS in 115 games). He struck out 111 times (26.6 percent of his at-bats) and walked just 31 times.

Through his first 18 games, he was 15-for-46 (.326) with two homers, 14 RBIs, nine runs and a .875 OPS. His strikeout rate (14.3 percent) has been almost cut in half while his walk rate is over 10 percent. He also is locked in as the starter at third after Bryson Stott was demoted to Triple-A.

Perhaps the most promising aspect of Bohm’s game right now is how hard he is hitting the ball. His exit velocity (93.3 mph) and hard-hit percentage (54.8 percent) rank in the top 6 percent of the league. Whether that leads to more homers is still to be determined, but his xBA (.358) and xSLG (.661) rank in the top 4 percent of the league and indicates he could get even better.

Despite his hot start, Bohm has remained almost completely under the radar while hitting (primarily seventh) in a potent Phillies lineup. He was the 17th most-added player in ESPN leagues this week, but still remains 75 percent available. Roto Rage believes now is a good time to jump on this bandwagon.

J.P. Crawford
J.P. Crawford
AP

St. Louis’ Miles Mikolas, owned in just 50 percent of ESPN leagues, is 1-0 with a 1.21 ERA (fifth-best in the majors entering Friday), 4.4 percent walk rate, 0.94 WHIP and a .202 opponent average through four starts. His 2.26 FIP and 2.62 xERA indicate there will be regression, but not to the point where he won’t provide solid rotation depth.

Andrew Vaughn of the White Sox entered Friday hitting .300 with four homers, 12 RBIs and a .975 OPS over his first 15 games. With Eloy Jimenez on the injured list, he has a chance for steady playing time, and he is available in 45 percent of ESPN leagues.

In his first six appearances (13 innings), the Yankees’ Michael King picked up one save and two wins while allowing two runs (one earned) and walking just six percent of the batters he has faced. Among pitchers with a minimum of 10 innings pitched, King ranks sixth in strikeouts per nine (13.85), eighth in swinging strike rate (16.8 percent) and opponents are hitting .213 against him. More good news, his FIP matches his ERA and his xFIP (1.19) and xERA (2.69) are not major concerns. He is rostered in just 25 percent of ESPN leagues.

Adam Frazier of the Mariners, owned in 53 percent of ESPN leagues, may be hitting well below his career .280 average (he was at .244 before Friday’s action), but he entered Friday on a four-game hit streak, and he had driven in 10 runs and scored 13 (17th in the majors). Considering he is hitting atop an improved lineup, Roto Rage likes the prospects of his numbers rising.

Big Hits

Ty France 1B/2B, Mariners

Entered Friday on a five-game hit streak, but was 22-for-56 (.393) with five homers, 19 RBIs, 10 runs and a 1.141 OPS in his previous 14 games.

Logan Gilbert SP, Mariners

Allowed one earned run over his first four starts while going 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA and .194 opponent average over his past three starts. He has a 22-4 strikeout-walk rate and a .188 opponent average over his first four starts.

Taylor Ward OF, Angels

Had at least one hit in eight of his past nine games before Friday, hitting .406 with three homers, 10 RBIs, 11 runs and a 1.325 OPS in that span.

Taylor Ward
Taylor Ward
USA TODAY Sports

Joe Ryan SP, Twins

Collected three straight wins while maintaining a 0.47 ERA, 21-2 strikeout-walk rate and .129 opponent average in those starts.

Big Whiffs

German Marquez SP, Rockies

Allowed 15 runs (12 earned) and 25 hits over his past three starts while going 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA. He has allowed three homers, a .373 opponent average and 1.006 OPS in that span.

Franmil Reyes OF, Guardians

Entered Friday in an 0-for-18 funk while striking out 11 times in his previous five games. Hit .100 with 24 strikeouts in his previous 13 games.

Vladimir Gutierrez SP, Reds

Walked 7.94 per nine innings over his first four starts while going 0-4 with a 7.41 ERA and .290 opponent average.

Christian Yelich OF, Brewers

Had five singles in his past 33 at-bats (.152) while not drawing a walk and striking out seven times. He did steal two bases, so that’s something.

Check Swings

  • Minnesota’s Dylan Bundy, still available in 30 percent of ESPN leagues, is 3-0 with a 0.59 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 12 strikeouts over his first three starts. He allowed one earned run over his first 15 ¹/₃ innings and, even more impressive, has walked just one batter against solid competition (Mariners, Red Sox, White Sox).
  • Through four starts, Toronto’s Alek Manoah is 4-0 with a 1.44 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 25-7 strikeout-walk rate and .177 opponent average. Righties are hitting .096 with 16 strikeouts and a .316 OPS against him, while lefties are hitting .278 with a .727 OPS against him. His 3.07 FIP, 3.64 xFIP and 2.16 xERA all indicate there will be regression, but he is still a stud.
  • Least shocking news of the week: Adalberto Mondesi’s season is likely over for Kansas City after he suffered a torn ACL. Keep an eye on Nicky Lopez and Kyle Isbel, a lefty-hitting outfielder with solid power and speed, as they should both benefit from Mondesi’s absence.

Team Name of the Week

Houck of Gucci

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