Every season, there is at least one player who comes out of nowhere to give fantasy squads an unexpected boost.
They’re rarely top prospects, and their performances, though impressive, come with flaws — meaning, they’re useful for your fantasy squad for extended stretches but fall off after pitchers start to exploit their weaknesses.
In 2017, after toiling in the minors and Korean leagues from 2013-16, 30-year-old Eric Thames returned to the majors to hit .345 with 11 home runs over his first month. Though he walked 13.6 percent of the time (13th-best mark in the majors), he struck out in 29.6 percent of his at-bats (sixth-worst in the bigs).
In 2019, 25-year-old Aristides Aquino hit 14 home runs in his first 29 games while hitting .320. He played 56 games that year and finished 19 homers and a .259 average. His major downfall, too, was striking out too much (26.7 percent of the time, to be exact).
Before the start of this season, Patrick Wisdom had played in 43 big league games, hitting .218 with four homers, 11 RBIs, two stolen bases and a .696 OPS with the Cardinals, Rangers and Cubs. Hardly memorable numbers for someone taken with the 52nd-overall pick in the 2012 draft.
When injuries forced the Cubs to move Kris Bryant off third base and into the outfield, Wisdom was called up on May 25, though he was hitting .160 in eight games for Triple-A Iowa (three homers and a .353 OBP helped).
Over his first nine games in the majors, Wisdom went 10-for-23 (.435) with four home runs, five RBIs, five runs, a stolen base and a 1.458 OPS. His four big flies tied his career high from the 32 games he played with the Cardinals in 2016.
Wisdom, like Thames and Aquino, is going to strike out a lot. In his brief time in the majors, he struck out 36.6 percent of the time (32 percent this year). In the minors, he whiffed in 30 percent of his at-bats.
At the age of 29, Wisdom isn’t a prospect, nor is he a future cornerstone of your team. He is, however, a bat with a lot of pop who could be useful for your short-term plans. In nine seasons in the minors, he hit 134 homers, including 31 with both Triple-A Nashville in 2019 and Triple-A Memphis in 2017. (He also drove in 487 runs, stole 51 bases, scored 441 runs and had a .319 on-base percentage while hitting .244.)
If Wisdom stays hot, he could force the Cubs to keep him on the roster even when the team returns to full strength. He is owned in just 16 percent of ESPN leagues, and though he may not be a long-term play, he certainly is worth a short-term add while he is swinging a hot bat.
A look at some other red-hot bats owned in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues:
On May 8, the Tigers’ Jonathan Schoop was hitting .180 with two homers, eight RBIs, 33 strikeouts and a .462 OPS. He was barely a fantasy afterthought. Over his next 22 games, the 2017 All-Star went 29-for-88 (.330) with five homers, 13 RBIs, eight walks and a .960 OPS. He was the most-added second baseman in ESPN leagues this week, but is still just 25 percent owned.
Boston’s Hunter Renfroe entered Friday with a six-game hit streak — going 12-for-23 (.522) with two homers, four RBIs and a 1.603 OPS in that stretch. Over a 27-game stretch from April 30 through Thursday, he raised his average from .167 to .261 after going 32-for-101 (.317) with six homers, 16 RBIs, 20 runs and a .927 OPS. Though he was the third-most added outfielder this week, he still is available in 65 percent of leagues.
Though the Giants’ Evan Longoria entered Friday day-to-day after being diagnosed with an intercostal strain, the 35-year-old was the most added third baseman in ESPN leagues this week — and for good reason. Over his first 48 games, he hit .274 with nine homers (more than the seven he hit in 53 games last year), 29 RBIs (more than the 28 he had last year), 26 runs and a .869 OPS (his highest mark since 2012). He also has an eight-game hit streak, going 12-for-29 (.414) with four homers, 12 RBIs and a 1.330 OPS in that span.
Pavin Smith 1B/OF, D’backs
The rookie entered Friday with a 14-game hit streak — going 21-for-50 (.420) with two homers, eight RBIs, 11 runs and a 1.142 OPS in that span.
Sean Manaea SP, Athletics
The 29-year-old lefty is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA, 25-7 strikeout-walk rate and .247 opponent average over his past four starts.
Austin Meadows OF, Rays
Entered Friday with a seven-game hit streak — going 11-for-25 (.440) with five homers, 15 RBIs, one stolen base and a 1.200 OPS in that span.
Adbert Alzolay SP, Cubs
He is 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA and a .205 opponent average over his past two starts. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in a start since April 6, and opponents have hit .194 against him over his past nine starts.
Alex Wood SP, Giants
Went 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA and .197 opponent average over his first six starts, but is 0-3 with a 7.47 ERA and .286 opponent average over his past three.
Randy Arozarena OF, Rays
Average dropped from .277 on May 24 to .254 entering play Friday after going 4-for-32 with no homers, two RBIs, 14 strikeouts and a .319 OPS.
Eduardo Rodriguez SP, Red Sox
Allowed 19 earned runs over his past four starts (19 ²/₃ innings) before taking the mound on Saturday, going 0-4 with a 8.69 ERA, three homers allowed and a .357 opponent average in that span.
Jarred Kelenic OF, Mariners
Had no hits over his past 29 at-bats with 14 strikeouts and a .147 OPS. Those numbers will leave a smile on Mets fans’ faces … for now.
- Though the Rockies’ German Marquez has lost two of his past five starts, he has allowed more than one earned run in those outings just once. He is 2-2 with a 1.97 ERA, 35 strikeouts and a .202 opponents average in that span.
- James McCann’s bat has begun to wake up. The Mets catcher raised his average from .198 on May 22 to .234 entering Friday’s action after going 12-for-36 (.333) with four homers, 11 RBIs, six runs and a 1.118 OPS.
- Toronto’s Robbie Ray is having a solid season, going 3-2 with a 3.57 ERA and 10.71 strikeouts per nine. He also has career-best marks in walks per nine (2.33) and swinging strike rate (16.3 percent). That said, he has given up the second-most homers (14), 10 of which came in May. His HR/FB rate is at a career-worst 23.7 percent.
- Casey Mize took the loss for the Tigers after allowing three solo homers on Thursday, but he has still not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his past seven starts. He is 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA, 39-13 strikeout-walk rate and .172 opponent average in that span.
Team Name of the Week
What’s Good For The Goose Is Good For The Xander