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Objectively, deep-league AL or NL-only fantasy baseball is the best format to play this summer. For one, NL-only leagues are the original formats of fantasy baseball. If readers are not into history, the strategy should also convince them to jump in. With both an expanded and limited player pool, the unique challenges of balancing depth with team need comes to the fore. While this writer might be in the minority and happy to support leagues of all formats, players find their favorite style. Even for readers who do not prefer league-specific drafts, knowing those names that sit just off prospect boards, draft lists, and preview guides is a boon when an injury hits or a player struggles out of the gate.

Why should players investigate deep formats? First, it gives all owners a chance to get to know the next crop of unheralded players that will make their appearance in the Majors in the next few years. Being in on prospects is fun, but knowing that soft-tossing lefty at Double-A who breaks in and plays a vital role down the stretch? That is where the excitement really is. Second, deep leagues reward owners who do their homework, dig into the numbers and take risks, hoping they pay off. Targeting a player, taking them for a dollar in the auction, and sitting on them for three months to see them lead a team to a title is one of the best feelings in fantasy sports.

Lucky for Rotoball readers, some of that homework is done for you. Read along for the All-Star team of under-the-radar stars that can help owners win their AL-only leagues this summer. And do not worry, we'll be back with redraft strategies in mixed, dynasty, and short bench leagues as well. This is just my baby.

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C - Austin Wynns (C, BAL)

Slated to start the year as Baltimore's starting catcher, owners should be targeting Wynns late in two-catcher leagues, or as a back-up with playing time appeal in standard leagues. In 42 games with the Orioles last campaign, Wynns slashed .255/.287/.382 with four homers and 16 runs. Any player on Baltimore will need a strong individual performance to factor in fantasy scoring, as the team context is getting worse with no end in sight.

Wynns fits that profile, as while he will never lead the counting stats charts, he does offer a good batting profile. First, he hits the ball to all fields, with a slight pull bias, but only four points more than his Cent%. Wynns also makes a ton of medium contact, 46.6%, and has a selective swing approach, only swinging at 45.3% of pitches.

While he does not boast a power profile, the excellent contact skills, and the park context, will allow him to run into enough power to play. When he is being drafted as the 48th overall catcher so far and begins the year with a starting gig, Wynns is the top catching deep target for AL-only leagues.

 

1B - Frank Schwindel (1B, KC)

After two years at Triple-A Omaha, Schwindel is a player that fantasy owners are hoping gets the call this year. Kansas City offers that chance, but with players like Nick Pratto ahead of him on the prospect lists, fantasy owners should be thrilled with the dropping draft price and lack of name value.

Last year, Schwindel slashed .286/.336/.506 with 24 homers and 93 RBI in only 134 games, all of them at Triple-A. While he does not walk a bunch, 6.1%, he does not strikeout either, with only a 12.8 K%. Even without the walk numbers, he gets on base well, with 2018 being a slightly down year for him, but only down four points from the .340 mark in 2017.

Only 26, Schwindel still has plenty of time to break in and offers an unusual aggressive swing profile for first base. Owners should jump at the 746 ADP before word gets out, as the comparison is Matt Thaiss without the prospect hype if Schwindel puts it all together.

 

2B - Dylan Moore (1B/2B/3B/SS, SEA)

Moore might not be eligible to start the year at second in fantasy leagues but currently appears there for Triple-A Tacoma in the Seattle organization. Even without playing at second, the positional flexibility makes Moore a target anyway, having the entire infield covered.

After moving over from Milwaukee in a minor league deal this winter, Moore offers upside coming off his best year in professional baseball. In 97 games he slashed .280/.346/.492 with 11 homers and 17 steals. These numbers come off the back of a .373/.429/.639 the level below. The hit tool is there, as is a sub-15 percent K rate, which also helps sell the profile.

Moore is primarily a utility infielder with Seattle it seems, but with those skills, can play himself into more of a role. Also knowing that Seattle does not seem to keep any player they can flip for some value, Moore is excellent insurance for a Dee Gordon sale. Currently, Moore does not appear in the top 1000 players per ADP, and therefore is a last-round pick with the skills to play up in multiple roles.

 

3B - Patrick Wisdom (3B, TEX)

The Adrian Beltre era is over in Texas. Wisdom might be a little underwhelming for Ranger fans as a potential replacement but should make fantasy owners very excited. Currently being drafted as the 64th third baseman and 666th overall, Wisdom looks to be the front runner for the starting gig at the hot corner in Arlington this year.

The best option behind him on the depth chart right now is Andy Ibanez, who is an interesting sleeper at second but does not seem to have the glove to compete with Wisdom for this spot. Wisdom played in 32 games with St. Louis where he slashed .260/.362/.520 with four homers and 11 runs. The minor league track record is also appealing, so the cup of coffee he got should not be ignored.

The power is where owners are hoping to get the most return, with 31 bombs highlighting a 2017 campaign at Memphis, and 11 steals last year at the same spot. Not only does Wisdom seem to have the gig to start the year, but if the power can flash as plus, there might not be a better park for his swing. Draft him as a CI bat, but do not be surprised if he plays up higher.

 

SS - Alex De Goti (SS/2B/3B, HOU)

When looking for a deep league target, owners should consider the positional context, and perhaps, weigh this almost as highly as raw talent. With Houston and the issues that Carlos Correa has had staying on the field in the last few seasons, De Goti fits a need and therefore offers a safe stash. The former 15th round pick flashes great plate with contact skills and balances the lack of power out with OBP and speed.

After only spending five games at Triple-A in 2017, he managed an extended 27 games last campaign after starting the year at Double-A. This means that he will not be ready to start the year, but if the injury bug hits again, he seems to be the best of the in-house options. Aledmys Diaz might have decent offensive upside, but De Goti rates higher with the glove.

The other piece is that without much power, the right-handed batter fits in the park well with a 43.2% FB rate, so it would not be surprising if he were able to use the Crawford boxes to add a bit of power. De Goti is cheap and has a plausible path to playing time in an elite offense. This is a great stash where owners have bench spots to burn for a few months.

 

OF - Scott Heineman (OF, TEX)

Back to Texas for this pick, Heineman is set to return to Triple-A to start the year. If he continues where he left off, expect to see him with the Rangers soon. In 107 games, he slashed .295/.355/.429 with 11 homers and 16 steals. Heineman has hit on every step up the organizational ladder and has consistently been a .300 hitter with power.

He also rates well above average on the base paths, helping that run-scoring floor that should drive him to a least a bench role with Texas this year. Like others on this list that stand out, Heineman hits the ball well to all fields, and again, provides ample reasons to believe in the production so far.

Many scouts project him as a fourth outfielder, but there has been little evidence in his progression that he lacks the hitting skills to be a .280 hitter with 15 homer power in a starting spot. For a Texas team in the midst of a rebuild, Heineman is a great target.

 

OF - Jordan Luplow (OF, CLE)

After moving to Cleveland early in the winter, and with no other key additions to the Cleveland outfield, Luplow looks to be in line to start the year in the outfield for the team. While he has struggled in a few stints with the Pirates in the past, there is still enough to encourage owners, especially with an ADP of 664 so far.

To be fair to potential owners, Luplow does not do anything great, but fits into the Pirate prospect mode, of doing lots of things well. Take for example the speed and power. In his best years in the minors, Luplow stole 11 bases (2015) and hit 16 homers (2017). If he can get close to that type of production in Cleveland, this is a solid OF4 with playing time.

Add in that he slashed .287/.367/.462 in Triple-A last year, and this is reasonably close to his minor league average, and the profile for a productive fantasy asset is there to be seen. A decent fielder, who can still add a bit more pop, and this is an easy pick for AL-only owners.

 

OF - Zach Granite (OF, MIN)

Granite has been a player around this list for a few years but has not broken through with the Twins yet. 2018 was his worst professional season with the bat, but the skills are still there for a rebound. Even with only a .211 batting average, the K rate was below 11 percent and he stole nine bases in 68 games.

Granite’s best season was 2017 when he slashed .338/.392/.475 in 71 games at Triple-A. The best bet for Granite is to make the team as a fourth outfielder and then push his way into the line-up by finding that form again. For fantasy owners, Granite projects as a speed option off the bench who might play a bit more as a defensive replacement. The ADP at 742 reflects this, and while not sexy, Granite fills a need on all fantasy rosters.  

 

P - Spencer Turnbull (SP, DET)

Turnbull finally made it to Detroit last year for 16 innings, and the results were not great. He lost two games and allowed an ERA of 6.06 in three starts. And yet, for a pitcher who mixes in four pitches, and has shown the ability to keep the ball in the yard there will always be another shot.

Even more, the stuff played up well with 12.88 K/9 at Triple-A in a small sample, and 9.58 K/9 in 98 innings at Double-A. Turnbull’s shot to make a return to Detroit this year will lean heavily on the Casey Mize plans, as if the top prospect is ready then he will get the shot. And yet, with Mize’s injury track record, the Tigers could be careful and use Turnbull as the first injury cover option, therefore providing another path to the line-up.

Finally, if other owners are buying in on Tyson Ross and Matt Moore, then others should grab Turnbull for when those options fall apart. This is the classic “bad team equals starts” pick, but the stuff makes it worth the risk.

 

P - Parker Dunshee (SP, OAK)

For an Oakland pitcher, Dunshee has not gotten the hype that his performances so far have deserved. This is a bit of a reach regarding making the team early in the year, but the talent is there that if he does this will be an absolute steal for lucky owners.

Finishing at Double-A in only his second year in professional baseball, Dunshee posted an ERA of 2.01 and 9.04 K/9 in 80.2 innings. Add this to a 1.56 BB/9 line, and the overall performance has looked excellent so far. He does not give up homers with a 0.56 HR/9 line and posted a WHIP of 0.90 last year. The knock is his velocity, which sits right around 90, but, even though it is the minors, hitters still cannot do much with it.

The main reason to target Dunshee is that Oakland is desperate for starting pitching, and even if that route does not open up, Dunshee has a high floor in the bullpen. A hot start to the 2019 campaign and Dunshee is a name that baseball fans outside Oakland will start to learn as well.

 

P - Erik Swanson (SP, SEA)

Swanson’s name appeared for the first time for most fantasy owners following his move to Seattle in the package for James Paxton. If he had stayed with the Yankees, the plan was to move him to a bullpen role, but with the Mariners, he should be given every opportunity to start.

Sitting 92-94 according to scouts, Swanson relies on his breaking stuff to keep hitters off balance, and so far it has paid off with 9.71 K/9 in 13 starts at Triple-A last year. He also posted a career-best 1.74 BB/9 line, potentially erasing the control issues that had plagued him so far. Without putting too much stock into one season, the rest of the supporting numbers look good.

He held opposing batters to a .224 average and posted a 1.06 WHIP. The issue in 2018 was a 1.24 HR/9 rate, but this was the first year he dealt with that, and Safeco will help with the regression. Swanson projects as a potential top relief arm, and even could see some time as a connector for Yusei Kikuchi. At any rate, with an ADP of 727, this is an upside arm worth the pick.

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