Fantasy Baseball: Here's why you should consider adding Jorge Mateo, Jorge Lopez

The AL East is the glamour division in baseball. Look at the Blue Jays and all their legacy stars. The Red Sox will score runs by the truckload (and probably allow them by the truckload, too). The Yankees are always interesting and a little chaotic — anyone for some Aaron Judge drama? And then there’s the Rays and their special sauce, the eggheads who somehow coax 90 or more wins out of every season.

And we’ll talk about none of those teams here. This piece is dedicated to Baltimore, some sympathy for the Orioles. So what if the team is a near-lock for 100 or more losses?

Let’s find a few O’s of wealth, taste, and fantasy value.

The lowest hurdle to fantasy relevance is through saves or steals, and Baltimore has an interesting player for both of those boxes.

Jorge Mateo, a versatile source of steals

Baltimore Orioles shortstop Jorge Mateo (26) is on the fantasy radar
Jorge Mateo, bird on the fantasy waiver wire. (Daniel Kucin Jr.-USA TODAY Sports)

Everyone knows the stolen base is being deemphasized in baseball. Only four players currently have more than one — Luis Robert, Myles Straw, Travis Jankowski (who hardly plays for the Mets) and Jorge Mateo.

Yes, Mateo plays in Baltimore. He’s currently rostered in a mere six percent of Yahoo leagues. He's one of the fastest players in baseball.

Mateo received about a month-long audition as a starter last year and was respectable — .280/.328/.421, with an OPS+ slightly above league average. He has the starting shortstop job now, and also qualifies at second base and outfield for Yahoo managers. He’s been more patient this year — four walks in less than a week — so perhaps he could rise in the batting order. Thus far, he’s been resigned to the bottom third.

When I’m hunting for steals in the current fantasy world, I often look for the non-contending teams, the clubs that are more likely to take the YOLO approach to base running. The Royals are the first location you think about for this theme, but Baltimore also qualifies. Remember when Jonathan Villar hit Baltimore in the final third of 2018? He swiped 21 bags in 54 games (all green lights, kid), then followed with 40 the next year.

Mateo isn’t juicy enough for the thinnest of fantasy leagues, but he’s long gone in the deeper formats. There’s a sweet spot in the middle somewhere. His roster tag should probably chase over 15-20 percent in the next few days.

Jorge Lopez, Baltimore bullpen chairman

When the Orioles traded Cole Sulser around the start of the year, I’ll admit I washed my hands of this bullpen. All those ugly ERAs and WHIPs, it felt like staring at the sun. My eyesight comes before my need for saves.

But perhaps I sold short on Jorge Lopez, who can fill one of the oldest pitching themes we know of: “Failed starter finds new life in the bullpen.”

Lopez’s starting work last year was a failure — 6.35 ERA, 1.68 WHIP over 25 starts. But he also made eight appearances in relief, and albeit it was a small sample, the results did a 180-degree pivot — 8.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 10 K.

Lopez was tabbed for Monday’s save chance against Milwaukee and did the job smoothly (one walk, one strikeout, 15 pitches). His previous assignment this year came in the eighth inning when Baltimore was trailing by a run at Tampa Bay. Most managers are likely to give the next save chance to the guy who successfully landed the plane the previous flight, so consider Lopez at the front of the line here.

Lopez is rostered in just two percent of Yahoo leagues, and again, your interest will be largely league-dependent. Shallow-league managers can ignore the story (and probably didn’t even read this far). In deeper leagues, he might be gone.

At least try to see what’s possible here. It might be another case of a starting-pitcher zero turning into a short-relief hero.