Fantasy Baseball: Difference making free agents

As the fantasy baseball season progresses, it becomes increasingly more difficult to find players available for pick up that can have a positive impact on a fantasy team. Now, with almost all leagues’ trade deadlines past, it’s even more important to be able to find players that can move a team from the brink of making the playoffs to a championship contender. In this article, I’ll discuss two players that are widely available who, down the stretch, could put a fantasy team on its’ way to a championship.

Seth SmithSan Diego Padres OF

In my opinion, Seth Smith is a very underrated fantasy baseball player. In 2014, Smith has a slash line of .291/.386/.505 with 12 home runs and 38 RBIs. Those numbers would be much more impressive if they came with more runs knocked in, and that’s Smith’s weakness – the fact that he plays for the offensively-challenged San Diego Padres.

Since the All-Star break, Smith’s batting has been considerably better. Before the break, Smith posted a respectable .276 batting average, but after the break it has risen to a stellar .319. He also has been more consistent in getting RBIs. In the first half of the season, Smith got an RBI every 9.55 at bats; in the 17 games he’s played in the second half, that number is 6.27.

With Smith playing better, logically he should be on the radar for fantasy owners; however, he’s still owned in just 21.8% of ESPN fantasy baseball leagues.

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I believe that Smith is under-owned. To put this into perspective, ESPN’s Player Rater has Smith ranked as the 52nd overall outfielder, ranking ahead of bigger, less productive names, such as Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran, Josh Hamilton, and Carlos Gonzalez.

Although, before making a rash decision, consider another weakness of Smith’s – hitting against left-handed pitchers. This season, 89% of Smith’s at bats have come against right-handed pitchers. That’s because, when facing a lefty starter, the Padres bench Smith, resulting in less playing time. This isn’t a huge deal in daily leagues, but in leagues that set their lineups weekly, it may be reason enough not to pick him up.

Down the line, Smith is someone who could make a big difference, especially for teams in leagues that use on base percentage. Despite league type, take a look at Smith. His good second half play may propel a team into the deep rounds of the fantasy playoffs.

Michael PinedaNew York Yankees SP

Way back in April, Michael Pineda made some noise around fantasy baseball. Throwing six innings in each of his first three starts, Pineda gave up just two earned runs while striking out 15 and walking three.

Trouble struck in Pineda’s fourth outing of the season; he was ejected for having a foreign substance on his neck and things just spiraled out of control from there. Pineda faced a suspension, and eventually was placed on the 60-day disabled list.

In his first start since being ejected, Pineda was impressive, pitching five innings while giving up one run on just two hits. His next start is slated for Wednesday, August 20 against the Houston Astros.

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Pineda has an extremely high ceiling and at this point of the fantasy baseball season, it’s not easy finding a starting pitcher who’s capable of putting up All-Star quality statistics. Currently, Pineda is owned in 37.6% of ESPN leagues and that number is climbing fast. I’d snatch him up while he’s available.

It’s hard to predict how Pineda will perform over the remainder of the year since he’s only played one season at the MLB level, and that was in 2011. That season, Pineda ended with a 9-10 record posting an ERA of 3.71 and a WHIP of 1.10; he was elected to the All-Star game and finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting.

Keeping those numbers from 2011 in mind, I think it’s safe to predict Pineda to end the season with a 6-3 record, an ERA of 2.55, and a WHIP of 1.05. No matter how the league is set up, any fantasy team could use a pitcher posting those types of stats.

For more opinions and analysis visit our Fantasy Baseball page.