Jorge Mateo
Baltimore Orioles' Jorge Mateo reacts as the ball is hit during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Five Under the Radar Players Who Can Help You Win Your Fantasy Baseball League

Another season of fantasy baseball is winding down and though at this point it may feel like you can’t ‘move the needle’ any more and make a run at your league’s title, the recent trade deadline has shuffled some things around for a lot of MLB teams – especially those who aren’t going to the playoffs this year. Beating the bushes for players like these can improve your team just enough to claim the glory. After all, stats still count when the player is playing for a bad team in a blowout game, and finding these buried treasures can be a difference-maker in August and September.

For this article, I have focused on five players who (1) have roles that have changed recently, (2) whose contributions can help you in specific categories and (3) are reasonably available (I used ESPN and Yahoo’s fantasy sites as a barometer of their availability. Even if you’re not using those sites to host your league, chances are their availability numbers will be similar). These guys all are playing on non-contending teams, which may explain why they are currently under-owned. Grab them while you can.

If you need stolen bases
JORGE MATEO, OF (Baltimore) (2% owned in Yahoo, 1% owned in ESPN) – I love a post-Prospect Hype player who has found a new home and some playing time and Mateo fits that description perfectly. A former top prospect of the Yankees, he has since been traded to Oakland, San Diego and now Baltimore, though this might be his first chance to actually play regularly. The knock against him has always been that he strikes out too much (and doesn’t walk enough), but he already has stolen three bases in just nine games with Baltimore and figures to get an extended look for the last 6 weeks of the season as the O’s just play out the stretch as doormats of the high-powered A.L. East.

If you need power
FRANK SCHWINDEL, 1B (Chicago (NL)) (15% owned in Yahoo, 6% owned in ESPN) – With longtime Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo traded to the Yankees at the trade deadline after 10 seasons, the Northsiders had an opening to fill and Schwindel, claimed off waivers from Oakland in mid-July, has run with the opportunity. At age 29, he’s certainly no longer a prospect, and his minor league stats don’t predict a future home run champ, but the Cubs are going nowhere fast and he’ll get a chance to maintain the pace he’s set since arriving in Chicago, hitting 4 home runs in his first 14 games and getting on base over 40% of the time.

If you need batting average/runs
HOY PARK, 2B/OF (Pittsburgh) (1 % owned in both Yahoo and ESPN) Acquired from the Yankees in the trade for Clay Holmes (who?), he looks to carry his very good AAA on-base/power/speed numbers forward in the big leagues and has already been batting leadoff for the also-ran Pirates. Pittsburgh may even give him a chance to play a utility role, possibly giving him valuable multi-position availability soon. After not being given a chance by New York despite their rash of injuries in the majors, he may also be playing with a chip on his shoulder for a Pittsburgh team that will play spoiler the rest of the season (again).

If you need saves
Joe Barlow, RP (Texas) (19% owned in Yahoo, 4% owned in ESPN) After the Rangers traded closer Ian Kennedy to a Phillies squad that desperately needed bullpen help, a void was created at the back end in Texas. Barlow has been very impressive since being called up (18 k’s and an0.61 ERA in 14.2 innings so far), he appears to be getting a chance to save games for the Rangers down the stretch. Texas may not win a ton of games, but when they are in close ones, Barlow is one of the few good late-inning options they have. He may be a nice source of saves (and vulture wins) over the final month and a half as Texas tries to see what they have.

If you need strikeouts
Josiah Gray, SP (Washington) (35% owned in Yahoo, 25% owned in ESPN) The key piece in the deadline deal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to L.A., Gray was the top pitching prospect in the Dodgers’ much-ballyhooed farm system, and with good reason. Just 23 years old, he possesses a tantalizing four pitch mix that includes a fastball that can reach 98 mph. Recently refined mechanics have begun to showcase themselves since he arrived in D.C, where he has thrown 18 strikeouts (and just 4 walks) in 16 innings with the Nationals. Many feel he has a chance to be the next great Washington starting pitcher and you may want to catch the beginning of that run this year and bolster your fantasy team for the stretch run.

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