While we’re fully entrenched in fantasy baseball draft season, there’s something to keep in mind as we construct the rosters we hope will lead us to championships. It’s not always the early picks that lead to victory, but the late-round fliers we hit on that provide immense value. The following list breaks down a handful of players that would benefit the most from more playing time. Some are players vying for a starting job this spring, while others need a trade or injury to happen. If you’re in a draft and hold league, best ball league, or even a deeper 15-team league, you’ll want to add these bench stashes to your queue. Anything shallower, keep an eye on the situation and be ready to pick them up.
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Deep League Bench Stashes
Josh Rojas – OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Josh Rojas was acquired by the Diamondbacks in the trade that sent Zack Greinke to Houston. Rojas wasn’t the most heralded of prospects as a former 26th round draft pick, but he can flat out play. And he can play everywhere, having logged at least 27 games at every position in the minors excluding catcher and center field. Rojas is primarily an outfielder but can play anywhere a need may arise. And I’m hoping that comes sooner than later.
Rojas made his MLB debut for the Diamondbacks last season as they gave him a 41-game cup of coffee. He hit only .217 with two home runs and four steals, but there’s plenty of reason to like Rojas. While he had a 26.1% strikeout rate in the small sample size, he hadn’t struck out more than 20% of the time at any point in the minors, so I don’t expect that to be a big part of his game. His walk rate, on the other hand, has been above 11% at every stop other than his first professional stint in Single-A. With his excellent on-base skills, he could be a great steals source as he stole 37 total bases last season and displayed a 77th percentile sprint speed.
A look at his batted ball data shows even more to like. Rojas has had a sub-40% ground ball rate throughout the minors, a good sign for someone with a 95.5mph average exit velocity on line drives and fly balls. So it’s no surprise that he hit 25 total home runs last season. This bench stash could step right in should someone get hurt or traded and help your fantasy team right away.
Sam Hilliard – OF, Colorado Rockies
We love to dream about the potential of anyone hitting in Coors Field. Unfortunately, when it comes to young hitters, the Rockies like to keep us dreaming. This is where we’re at with Sam Hilliard, a hitter who slugged 42 home runs last year, 35 in Triple-A and seven in only 27 major league games. He’s not just all power either, Hilliard stole 24 bases last season and has had two 30 steal seasons.
Hilliard’s Statcast data in his limited time show that his power and speed are no fluke. He had a sprint speed in the 93rd percentile and an average exit velocity of 90.8 mph, including a 96 mph average on line drives and fly balls. That would have led the team among all Rockies starters. A full season of Hilliard in that park would be fun.
While he’s an intriguing blend of power and speed, one thing Hilliard shouldn’t be expected to do is hit for a high average. Strikeouts are a big part of Hilliard’s game, with strikeout rates above 25% across the minor leagues. And he doesn’t hit a lot of line drives with sub-20% line drive rates throughout his career. So while we probably aren’t looking at the next Trevor Story, Hilliard is a high-upside stash nonetheless. An injury or trade would likely need to happen before he gets full playing time. Keep him on your watchlist and be ready to add immediately should an opportunity open up.
Nick Solak – INF/OF, Texas Rangers
A former second-round draft pick, Nick Solak was traded from Tampa Bay to Texas last season. Solak made his MLB debut for the Rangers and hit .293 with five home runs and two steals in 135 plate appearances. Like the hitters before him here, Solak can do a bit of everything. He hit 32 total home runs and stole seven bases, but did swipe 21 bags the previous year.
One of the traits I look for when evaluating a hitter and whether I think they can stick at the MLB level lies in their plate discipline. Solak has consistently posted strong strikeout and walk rates. And his 89th percentile sprint speed lends itself to a high BABIP considering he’s had a groundball rate above 50% throughout his minor league career.
Solak’s issue is really the lack of a defensive home. He played games at second base, third base, and designated hitter last season, and was under consideration for center field. At the moment, the Rangers have Todd Frazier at third base, Rougned Odor at second, and Danny Santana in center field. Frazier or Santana could move to first base should Ronald Guzman struggle. There’s a more manageable path to playing time here for Solak than the other two players before him on the list. I’d be looking to stash him at the end of my bench.
Mike Ford – 1B, New York Yankees
It probably goes without saying that just about anyone hitting in the Yankees lineup should be on our radar. Mike Ford likely had a slim chance to make the team coming into Spring Training. Injuries to Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge have opened the door for some of the players on the bubble. Ford did some damage in limited time last season, hitting 12 home runs in 163 plate appearances.
A 91.9mph average exit velocity shows that his power is real. That number would be among the top 20 in baseball and identical to Matt Olson. Ford has always shown good plate discipline as well, with strikeout rates under 20% in every season. While his batted ball profile has been all over the place throughout his career, he’s generally shown high fly-ball tendencies. Ford isn’t exactly the best of runners, so the BABIP should be low, limiting his batting average. But more fly balls in that park are great for home run numbers.
Standing in his way of a full-time role is Luke Voit, who is making his way back from core surgery. With Stanton and Judge starting the season on the injured list, Ford could possibly find his way into the lineup as a DH or rotating at first base. Keep tabs on this situation and stash Ford in deep leagues and draft and holds.
Jon Berti – INF/OF, Miami Marlins
If you picked up Jon Berti last season to help you in steals, congrats, it was awesome. Berti hit .273 with six home runs and 17 steals in 287 plate appearances. Extrapolate that over 600 plate appearances, and it probably looks a lot like new teammate Jonathan Villar. With the addition of Villar, Berti finds himself without a defensive home. Although the hope is for him to play semi-regularly across multiple positions. So, now not only are you looking at a steals source on your bench but one that could have positional eligibility all over the field.
Jorge Mateo – SS, Oakland Athletics
Speaking of steal sources, Jorge Mateo is fighting for a roster spot in Oakland. Mateo is a post-hype prospect we’ve been waiting for to reach his potential. He came over to Oakland in the package that was sent for Sonny Gray. Despite not making his MLB debut yet, he’s out of minor league options. So now is the time for Mateo to make an impact. He’s always had a set of wheels on him, stealing at least 24 bases in every season and posting a ridiculous 82 steals in 2015.
The problem with Mateo has been his plate discipline. A strikeout rate in the mid-20s with a walk rate hovering around five percent isn’t going to cut it most of the time. Perhaps he can be an Adelberto Mondesi type of player with speed that transcends his on-base skills. Well, whether it’s in Oakland or on another team, 2020 is the year we find out. Stash Mateo in 15-team leagues and keep an eye on the situation in anything shallower.
Victor Reyes – OF, Detriot Tigers
In my Steamer vs. ADP piece, I compared outfielder Victor Reyes to Tommy Edman of the St. Louis Cardinals. I mentioned that barring any free-agent additions, Reyes would have a job secured and could put up similar numbers to Edman, who’s going much higher in drafts. Well, the Tigers went and signed a free agent outfielder in Cameron Maybin. So much for that. Nonetheless, I like Reyes as a player, and despite looking like the odd man out, he could still carve out a role on the team.
Reyes hit .304 last season with three home runs and nine steals in 292 plate appearances. The average did come with a .384 BABIP, so I would expect that average to come down to the .270’s, and with a 4.8% walk rate, the OBP is going to suffer. But that’s not what you’re stashing Reyes for. In deep leagues and draft and holds, every potential steals source is worth a speculative add.
The Tigers have a current outfield of JaCoby Jones, Christin Stewart, and Cameron Maybin. Maybin is probably the best guy there. Jones just hit a career-high .235, which tells you what you need to know about Reyes’ competition for playing time. Sometimes you can find a bright spot on a bad team to provide value where no one is looking. Reyes might be that guy on this Tigers team.
Jose Peraza – 2B/SS, Boston Red Sox
I was so wrong on Jose Peraza last season after he put up a stellar 2018 season. Boy did he disappoint, hitting .239 with six home run and seven steals. Now, he finds himself on the Red Sox battling for time at second base. Despite such a poor showing last year, Peraza actually had an expected batting average of .269, well above his actual average. So a bounce-back season could be in play.
Peraza’s batted ball data shows that he shouldn’t be a power contributor with a 0.3% barrel rate and 84.7mph average exit velocity. But in Boston, where the Green Monster is kind to right-handed batters, his batting average could come back in a big way if he’s given the playing time. His .239 average came with a .268 BABIP, well below his career norm of .301. Peraza has never been one to strike out a lot, as his 14.4% strikeout rate was a career-high. And before last season, Peraza had three consecutive seasons of over 20 steals. So you could be looking at a player that won’t hurt your average and could steal some bases.
The main competition for Peraza is Michael Chavis, who had an 18.6% swinging-strike rate and a 33.3% strikeout rate in 2019. If he can’t make more contact, he won’t be hard to eventually beat out for more playing time. There’s also the possibility of Chavis moving over to first base to take over for Mitch Moreland against lefties. Doing so would allow Peraza to platoon at second base. He’s as much a dart throw as any of these bench stashes, but Peraza has done it before. There’s going to come a time this season where you’ll be glad to have him on your roster.
For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2020 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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