We’re a little more than a month into the season and most fantasy baseball players are just starting to get a handle on their rosters. It can be difficult to ensure that you have enough players for a particular category, but early season victories matter just as much as late season ones. People tend to underrate the value that a single player can have on a match up, especially when two teams are close in strengths.
Billy Hamilton, for instance, can single-handedly win the steals category for your team in a particular week. Though he may not drive in many runs, and it will be a minor miracle if you get his lone home run of the season, locking down the steals category is a big advantage. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some other players who may bring similar single-category-driven wins.
Cesar Hernandez – Phillies – Hernandez has the advantage of batting towards the top of the Phillies lineup. Currently, Hernandez has 26 runs through May 7 with a solid .377 OBP. Toward the end of last season, Hernandez seemed to make an effort to get on base more, raising his walk rate from 5.5% in the first half of 2016 to 15.8% for the second half. As long as he continues to get on base, it’s likely the Phillies will continue to bat him at the top of their lineup. As an added benefit, Hernandez should also help with steals, as he stole 17 last season and currently has 4.
Eugenio Suarez – Reds – Suarez bats more toward the middle of the Reds lineup, but he currently has 20 runs, which ties him for second-most among third basemen. In 2016, Suarez scored 73 runs in 627 plate appearances but with only an 8.1% walk rate. To start this season, Suarez has upped that to a more respectable 11.6% leading to more opportunities to score. As Suarez also bats in middle of a solid Reds lineup, he’s also likely to drive in some runs and, as previously noted, Suarez will hit some home runs in the process.
Chris Owings – Diamondbacks – Owings has had a rough couple of seasons, but is currently flourishing to open the 2017 season. Typically batting second, between A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt, has led to an MLB-leading 21 RBIs (among SS). As Owings also splits his time in RF, he has multi-position eligibility in most leagues, which allows your team to slot him in where he’s needed the most. As long as he continues to bat toward the top of the Diamondbacks lineup, Owings is going to continue to see RBI chances.
Yangervis Solarte – Padres – Following Solarte’s breakout 2016 season, the Padres rewarded him with a two-year deal and the starting second base position. He has responded well to begin the season. While the Padres lineup leaves a lot to be desired, Solarte typically bats cleanup behind Manuel Margot and Wil Myers. Being in that spot has led to 20 RBIs so far, and his past two seasons lead one to believe that he can continue the pace, as long as he keeps getting the chances. In an injury-shortened 2016, Solarte drove in 71 runs in only 443 PAs. There’s not much competition for Solarte’s job and as long as the Padres continue to bat him cleanup, an RBI-starved team could use him.
Brandon Phillips – Braves – In some ways, steals are the easiest stat to stream. I’m sure that Jarrod Dyson is likely sitting on your waiver wire right now, and he has nine steals to open the season after stealing 30 last year. However, you also don’t want Dysons’s .562 OPS taking up a spot in your starting lineup if you can avoid it. Enter Brandon Phillips. Phillips is currently in his age 36 season, but he’s been productive (.783 OPS). Phillips currently has five stolen bases (on six attempts) and typically bats second in front of Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp. While Phillips’s speed is clearly in decline (23 SB in 2015, 14 in 2016), he’s still going to get chances to rack up steals on a team that isn’t likely to go anywhere. As long as he’s selective, I’d expect him to crack double-digit steals easily.
Eduardo Nunez – Giants – While Nunez’s current stat line (.634 OPS) suggests he should be on the wire along with Dyson, he has posted back-to-back seasons of .758 OPS and has been getting regular playing time as the Giants SS. Christian Arroyo has been cutting into Nunez’s playing time as of late, but hasn’t been much better. Nunez broke out in 2016 as he ended up with 40 steals, and has opened 2017 with seven. While I wouldn’t expect another 40 steals this season, if Nunez can pick up some more playing time, I would expect at least 20-30 steals by the end of the year.
Ryan Schimpf – Padres – Schimpf was a big story last season, as he slugged 20 home runs in limited playing time (89 games). Schimpf does one thing well, and that is hit a baseball hard. In 2016 he had an ISO of .315 and this season he’s currently sitting at .278. While Schimpf only has an average of .148, he’s suffering from a BABIP of just .125, so we can expect some positive regression there. Schimpf is currently at eight home runs and should continue to garner playing time on a team that doesn’t have much to play for this season.
Scott Schebler – Reds – Schebler is in the same boat as Schimpf, a whole lot of power with an ugly slash line weighed down by a .246 BABIP. Schebler has a history of power, having slugged double-digit home runs in four constitutive minor league seasons. Schebler is a left-handed batter and his 2016 numbers suggest that he’s likely to be platooned, so keep that in mind if you decide to pick him up. Still, everything points to Schebler continuing to hit home runs as long as the Reds give him playing time.