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In this week’s “By The Numbers” breakdown the analysis will focus on the second edition of a three-part series showcasing under-the-radar performers. This week the focal point will be outfielders. The reason for each player not getting the attention they deserve varies, but in fantasy baseball, you sometimes have to erase the name on the back of the jersey and just look at the numbers. After all, they are the only things that matter in the standings.
Three outfielders will be highlighted this week as the “under the radar” performers in standard mixed leagues. Each hitter will be someone you should be able to acquire on the waiver wire (or via trade) in most shallow formats. The question is whether or not you should invest in these underdog fantasy assets, or if their best days are already behind them.
So without further ado, let’s take a dive in and find some under-the-radar talent in fantasy baseball.
Under The Radar Outfielders
Under The Radar: Jake Fraley, Seattle Mariners
Available in 85% on Yahoo Leagues
Jake Fraley was a popular sleeper pick heading into the shortened 2020 season due to his power and speed potential. That enthusiasm dried up in the offseason, however, due to the emergence of Kyle Lewis, strong spring by Taylor Trammell, and imminent promotion of Jarred Kelenic. All of those factors, combined with a left hamstring strain in early April, left Fraley on the outside looking in for an opportunity in Seattle.
Things have a way of working themselves out sometimes, as a series of injuries and underperformance by the Seattle outfield created a vacancy that the 26-year-old was able to fill. Over the last 30 games, Fraley has five home runs and three stolen bases, giving him season totals of seven and seven with a .409 on-base percentage.
Part of the reason for Fraley’s success has been an incredible 22.1 percent walk rate, which needless to say, is very good and unsustainable. However, the left-handed outfielder deserves a lot of credit for his plate discipline turnaround. Fraley has decreased his out-of-zone chase rate (O-Contact) from 22.9 percent to an impressive 16.8 percent, which is 14.2 percentage points better than the league average.
Fraley has some issues making contact at times, but with a 9.8 percent swinging-strike rate he is able to turn possible strikeouts into walks. There is not a ton of upside here when you start to truly dig into the batted ball profile, but with a current 500 at-bat pace of 30/30, there is certainly a ton of value in a player that is available in most standard leagues.
Under The Radar: Manuel Margot, Tampa Bay Rays
Available in 79% on Yahoo Leagues
Let’s address the most important factor right away. Manuel Margot is currently injured (left hamstring strain) and will not be back until late July. If you are going to consider adding the speedy outfielder, you will need to build that timeline into your plans.
The good news is that the only things standing in Margot’s way upon his return are Kevin Kiermaier and Brett Phillips. Look for the 26-year-old to reclaim his role immediately unless the Rays start to trust rookie Vidal Brujan.
Margot is batting .252 this season over 270 at-bats with nine home runs and nine stolen bases. This put him on cruise control to surpass his career-high in long balls, 13, a mark that is still likely to be met or exceeded.
Unlike Fraley, Margot is actually underperforming his underlying metrics which could leave a bit of upside in the tank. The Rays outfielder has posted a career-best barrel rate, hard-hit percentage, and expected wOBA so far this season.
Margot makes for a decent option for Ronald Acuna shareholders as a decent power and speed fill-in but should be a valuable asset to any team down the stretch. If you have room on your bench, be sure Manuel Margot is on it upon his return.
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Under The Radar: Steven Duggar, San Francisco Giants
Available in 82% on Yahoo Leagues
Steven Duggar is having a terrific season so far, and while many competitive and high-stakes players have taken notice, not many casual leagues have caught on. The 27-year-old is batting .287/.360/.485 over 167 at-bats with six home runs and six stolen bases for the Giants.
The issue with Duggar is that he, unlike Margot, is overperforming his underlying metrics. There is a 66 point gap separating his average and expected batting average (.221) and a 75 points gap in expected slugging (.410). This is not to say you should dismiss Duggar, but you should enter into the situation knowing that the outfielder’s best production may very well be behind him.
One strong positive from Duggar’s micro breakout has been his 10.2 percent walk rate, which is supported by his 25.2 percent chase rate. Overall he has a league average contact rate but is barreling the ball 9.4 percent of the time while nearly doubling his sweet spot rate. However, Duggar has yet to produce an extra-base hit in July.
The bottom line is that it’s possible that the bottom may fall out sooner or later, so if you are looking to invest in an under-the-radar performer, you may want to look in a different direction. However, Duggar has shown the ability to produce at a high level over a short period of time. Keep an eye out if the Giants outfielder starts up on another hot streak.