The 2017 season is still far too short of a sample size to conclude anything using numbers, but the human element of player deployment is beginning to come into focus. If a player's role differs drastically from what we thought it would be during draft season, his value could explode. Getting these guys on your roster for free is a great way to gain an advantage over your competition.
With that in mind, I would like to present two players who should be owned in nearly all formats but are currently owned in very few. Houston's Chris Devenski is primed to boost fantasy rosters more than a traditional set-up guy like Dellin Betances ever could. Andrew Toles is leading off most of the time for the Dodgers, a role that would give him significant roto value even if he lacked talent (he doesn't).
I have personally maximized my exposure to both of these players and suggest you do the same. Care to find out exactly why?Editor's note: Get 50% off any MLB Premium Pass. Draft guide, cheat sheets, 200 days of DFS access, and over 20 premium tools. Dominate your leagues all year long! Sign Up Now!
The Fantasy Jury is Out
Chris Devenski (SP/RP, HOU) ADP: 338.7
Devenski received very little publicity last season, but his 2.16 ERA and 25.5 percent K% in 108.1 IP deserved your attention. There was talk of stretching him out as a starter or converting him into a traditional late-inning reliever in the offseason, but his first 2017 appearance suggests that he will occupy a fireman role.
Devenski entered a tied game in the 8th inning, ultimately twirling four full frames and striking out seven in his appearance. He did not walk a batter, allow a hit, or give up a run in that time frame. The Astros also had four chances to earn him a W, which is a lot more than most relievers get. If Devenski continues in this role, he should get plenty of vulture wins to go with outstanding ratios over a workload of around 100 IP. That would easily outproduce Betances, even if the latter's ratios are a little better.
Devenski lacks Betances's name recognition, so you may be wondering if he can keep up the sterling performance. He can. His Ks are the result of two elite offerings, a changeup (21 percent SwStr%, 47.1 percent chase rate in 2016) and a slider (23 percent SwStr%, 40.3 percent chase rate). Both pitches also posted excellent triple slash lines against (.193/.234/.240 and .079/.079/.079 respectively). His heater's 57 percent Zone% is enough to keep the walks away, and it wasn't bad when put in play either (.233/.297/.345). Devenski also features a knuckle-curve that shows some promise, but its .310/.310/.345 line against last season suggests that the 26-year old needs to refine it a little more.
The only downside with Devenski is homers allowed, as he is a fly ball pitcher in a hitter's park that somehow managed a 3.5 percent HR/FB last year. Regression would likely raise his ERA a little, but it would still be a fantasy asset. A guy eligible at both SP (five GS last year) and RP who can help in every single fantasy stat should be owned in far more than 13 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Andrew Toles (OF, LAD) ADP: 367.5
One of my preseason columns endorsed Logan Forsythe largely on the basis of his presumed role as leadoff man for one of the deepest lineups in the NL. He is leading off against lefties, but Andrew Toles came out of nowhere to seize the gig against RHP. The role should produce plenty of PAs and runs scored no matter who occupies it, making it a sin that Toles is owned in only four percent of Yahoo formats.
Yet Toles is interesting regardless of his role. He hit .314/.365/.505 with three bombs and a steal in 155 MLB PAs last year, hinting at average upside if given a regular role. He had a .385 BABIP to produce those numbers, but Toles looks like a plus BABIP guy. His largest minor league sample produced a .402 BABIP in 552 PAs at A ball in 2013, and he also posted plus marks at Double-A (.355 in 190 PAs) and Triple-A (.340 in 59 PAs) last year.
Toles's MLB profile also suggests a plus BABIP. His plus legs should sustain most of his .333 BABIP on ground balls, while his slightly plus 22.2 percent LD% could reasonably become his baseline moving forward. He generally keeps the ball out of the air (29.6 percent FB%) and pops it up even less often (4.2 percent IFFB%). His BABIP is likely to regress to a degree, but not as much as some would expect. Considering that he always has the platoon advantage when he plays, a .290+ average is possible.
His 21.7 percent K% last year was fine on the surface, but his underlying 14.2 percent SwStr% and 38.7 percent chase rate were atrocious. Still, I don't think Toles will strikeout too often. He did not K in his brief samples at Double-A (15.8 percent K%) or Triple-A (13.6 percent K%), while his 88 percent Z-Contact% suggests a reasonable ability to put the bat on the ball. Even if plate discipline growth does not occur this year, his 56.3 percent Swing% should end PAs before he has a chance to strikeout.
Toles hit 10 homers last year across all levels, suggesting that he will not contribute much in the power categories. He makes up for it with SB upside, once stealing 62 bags in a single minor league campaign (2013). He swiped 23 last year, though the nine CS accompanying them were a bit much. Growth and experience could see him grow into a 20-30 steal threat. Toles lost valuable development time after taking 2015 off for "personal issues," making him even more raw than his 24 years of age would indicate.
There is a lot we don't know about Toles. His MLB experience is limited, and his minor league record has a gaping hole with no real explanation. He is leading off for a good team right now, though, and we know too much about his primary obstacle for playing time: Andre Ethier. He's 34 years old, hasn't accumulated 500 PAs since 2013, and doesn't have a recent track record of offensive excellence. The Dodgers, and you, should probably gamble on the unknown instead.