Felix Bautista's time has come

·8 min read



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Welcome back!

The more columns I write, the more I realize that there's always free value sitting on waiver wires, waiting to be picked up by savvy fantasy managers. I've always known this to an extent, but this season has just further cemented this mindset. If you're quick enough, you should always be able to freely find what your fantasy rosters need.

In this week's column, there are no starting pitching recommendations. That wasn't intentional, it's just how it is this week. Nonetheless, the players I dove into still hold plenty of fantasy value. With all that being said, let's take a look at some players who could help your points league rosters.

Points League Options

(Players rostered in under 50 percent of ESPN leagues)

Randal Grichuk OF, Rockies (49 percent rostered)

It's easy to forget that Randal Grichuk is indeed a former first round pick. In the 2009 MLB Draft, he was taken 24th overall by the Angels. Scouts saw his power as his best tool, and reports stated that his ability to hit for average shouldn't be overlooked. The outfielder is now 30 years of age and over 3,368 career big-league at-bats, he's homered 167 times. He has four 20-plus home run campaigns, and one 30-plus home run campaign. He was drafted for his power, and he's shown the ability to routinely hit home runs at the highest level. However, with a .247 career batting average and a .293 career on-base percentage, it's easy to see why he's never been revered as a true fantasy force.

Be that as it may, through his first 340 at-bats of 2022, he's slashing .259/.302/.418 with 11 home runs. These are acceptable numbers, but it's what he's been doing since the beginning of July that has me recommending him as a pickup in points leagues. Since July 1st, Grichuk has a 50.6 percent hard-hit rate and a 91.4 percent zone contact rate. In other words, he's been hitting the ball hard while also making contact in the zone at a high rate – a good combination. He does have a high ground-ball rate during this time span, which has limited him to just three home runs dating back to July 1st. But if you've been looking for a serviceable outfield option who has the upside to hit 5-10 home runs while maintaining a solid batting average over these final seven weeks, Grichuk could be your guy.

Jorge Mateo SS, Orioles (26 percent rostered)

Admittedly, I've been reluctant to recommend Mateo all season long because of his high strikeout rate and shaky plate discipline skills, but he's finally forced my hand. Since July 10th, he's slashing .315/.351/.671 with five home runs, five doubles, three triples, five stolen bases, and a 18.2 percent strikeout rate. That's just high-end production. There's no other way to put it. So, what's been fueling this recent run of success? Improved plate discipline skills – arguably his biggest weakness.

As of late, he's been whiffing less against all types of pitches, and as a result, he has a 12.6 percent swinging strike rate over the previously mentioned time span. Now, that's still a bit below average, but it's a clear improvement from his swinging strike rate from earlier months. On top of all of this, his plate approach supports his surge in home runs. He has a 45.8 percent fly ball rate and a 19.1° average launch angle over his last 59 batted ball events. When you line up this approach with his solid quality of contact metrics and his seemingly improved plate discipline skills, you start to see why he's been exceeding expectations at the plate. He could succumb to his old ways as the season comes to a close, but at the same time, he might not.

Felix Bautista RP, Orioles (17 percent rostered)

Why does the Orioles' new closer still have such a low rostership percentage? That needs to change immediately. The 27-year-old flamethrower is armed with a 101-mph four-seam fastball and two solid breaking pitches. He commands his fastball exceptionally well, but he also struggles with commanding his slider and splitter at times. Even so, his splitter has a 56.4 percent whiff rate, and his slider has 46.4 percent whiff rate. His command held him back in his early minor leagues days, but he's learned to command his arsenal well enough to succeed against big-league bats.

Through 48 appearances (45 ⅔ innings), he has a 1.77 ERA (2.34 SIERA), a 35.8 percent strikeout rate, and four saves. Right-hander Jorge López was traded to the Twins about a week ago, opening up the door for Bautista to take over the ninth-inning role in Baltimore. He has the stuff to succeed, and it looks like he has the mentality too, as he's blown just one save in five opportunities. The Orioles are a much-improved team, so he should have a fair amount of save opportunities left waiting for him as the 2022 season draws to a close. He's arguably the best relief pitcher on most points league waiver wires at the moment – take advantage.

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Deep Points League Options

(Players rostered in under 10 percent of ESPN leagues)

Tyler Naquin OF, Mets (7 percent rostered)

I know, he doesn't play everyday, but that's why he's purely a deep points league recommendation. And in all honesty, you could justify starting him in your typical points league if it makes sense for your fantasy roster. The 31-year-old veteran is batting .258 with nine home runs and four steals across 213 at-bats. He's been on a semi-regular playing schedule since his arrival in New York, and that'll likely remain the case through the end of the season because of his struggles against left-handed pitching and the Mets' deep roster.

Even so, Naquin could be a very sneaky source of fantasy production during the second half. His overall plate approach supports his modest power upside, and his 71st percentile sprint speed tells us that those four steals shouldn't be looked at as fluky. If you're willing to deal with his sporadic playing time, Naquin makes for a passable outfield option in deep points leagues.

Nick Gordon OF/SS, Twins (4 percent rostered)

With Alex Kirilloff, Miguel Sanó, and several others battling injuries, Nick Gordon has an opportunity in front of him. Believe it or not, the 26-year-old was selected 5th overall by the Twins in the 2014 MLB Draft. Now, that was a long time ago, but it only makes sense for the Twins to finally try and justify using such a high draft pick on Gordon. When he was drafted, his above-average speed and defensive skills were his most acknowledged tools. Fast-forward to 2022 and his game power has – so far – failed to develop like some expected. He did swipe 109 bags as a minor leaguer (644 games), and through his first 161 career major-league games, he has 15 steals on 19 attempts. Moreover, his aforementioned defensive prowess has him playing at four different defensive positions so far in 2022.

Now, when you take into consideration Gordon's average hit tool, understanding why his playing time has been so sporadic at the major-league level becomes easier. All in all, he profiles as a borderline everyday player. But something's changed. His quality of contact metrics are up across the board, and he's been hitting less ground balls. Additionally, his average launch angle is up from 9.4° to 13.6°. If he can manage to remain in the Twins' lineup on a regular basis through the end of the season, Gordon could be a sneaky source of production in deep points leagues.

Paul DeJong SS, Cardinals (2 percent rostered)

It's easy to forget that Paul DeJong hit 30 home runs over 583 at-bats in 2019. At the time, his quality of contact metrics were only acceptable, but he pulled a ton of fly balls, leading to the majority of his home runs being pulled. This is an effective strategy if you want to hit more home runs, but nothing in this life is free. The shortstop also had a middling .233 batting average. Now in his sixth career major-league campaign, the veteran has to prove that he's still worthy of a roster spot in the majors.

His hit tool will likely always be less than ideal, so his .157 batting average through 102 at-bats in 2022 isn't shocking. But looking on the bright side, he's smacked four home runs and stolen three bases. A future where he finishes the season with 10-plus home runs and five-plus stolen bases is realizable. His overall approach looks very similar to his approach from 2019, except his quality of contact metrics are up across the board through 70 batted ball events. He's one of the cheapest sources of power in fantasy land right now.