No matter how much you scour the leader boards, stat sheets, box scores, and the interwebz, there are always a few players than somehow stay under the radar longer than they should. In order to try and identify some of these hidden gems, I have taken an approach that involves searching for players that are just shy of meeting certain qualifying metrics for being listed among the league leaders in different categories. Then I looked at all the players within a certain window below the qualifying level and sorted them by games played to try and differentiate between part-time players getting more at-bats than usual and regular starters that simply haven’t played enough games to qualify. To basically provide a point of reference, I’ve also included a few lesser known players who deserve an “atta-boy” or something. The numbers are surprising for some.
- Jon Jay (Cardinals CF) – At this moment, Josh Thole is 10th in the National League in batting with a .322 average, and Matt Kemp is leading the league at .425. Jay started the day just shy of qualifying, and his 1 for 3 performance actually dropped his average approximately 4 points. He now stands at exactly .400 which would be good for 2nd place. With a full batting line of .400/.441/.545/.986, he will not remain a secret for much longer. (Owned in 37.4% of all ESPN fantasy baseball leagues)
- Kirk Nieuwenhuis (Mets CF) – Perhaps Nieuwenhuis has gotten lost in the feelgood story that is the Mets so far this year, but he deserves some serious credit for bringing it in a big way this season. He is one of 5 Mets players in the top 20 in the NL in batting. For his part, Nieuwenhuis is sporting a .316/.381/.474/.811 line which is good enough to help his popularity soar to that point that he is on 12.3% of all ESPN fantasy baseball leagues right now.
- Bryan LaHair (Cubs OF/1B) – After seeing him play a few games in person, I’m even more impressed than I was just based on his numbers. He does not qualify for the batting average leader board, but he is hitting .382/.470/.727/1.197 in 55 at-bats. Even more importantly for the Cubbies, LaHair only costs them $482,500 in salary this season. The crazy part? LaHair was the 1180th player taken in the 2002 draft. That’s the 39th round, folks. If MLB ran the draft like the NFL does, that pick would have taken place about a month or so after the first pick was selected. (Owned in 59.5% of ESPN fantasy baseball leagues)
- Ted Lilly (Dodgers P) – Lilly has only pitched 20.0 innings in 3 games, so he does not qualify for the ERA leader board, but watch out when/if he does. He is currently sporting a 0.90 ERA which equals the 0.90 that league leader Joe Saunders has posted. His ownership percentage in ESPN leagues has just risen to a season high 94.1% due in at least part to a jump of 3% in the last week.
- Ryan Dempster (Cubs P) – Dempster also has the misfortune of having only 3 starts under his belt this season, and his 20 1/3 innings pitched are not enough to qualify him for the ERA title quite yet. If he can maintain anything close to his current ERA of 1.33, he won’t be flying low for much longer. (Owned in 80.1% of all ESPN fantasy baseball leagues)
All ESPN fantasy baseball league information provided courtesy of ESPN which is wholly owned and operated by ESPN and is a division of ABC/ESPN and its conglomerate of 411 cable channels and 47 geostationary satellites.
By the way, you can follow me on the Twitteh -> gr33nazn (Eco-friendly + Asian)