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With only two weeks left in the regular season, it is not an exaggeration to say that anything can happen. Power hitters could hit for a high batting average if the ball bounces their way. A pure speedster could win a league by hitting an unlikely pair of homers on the last day of the season. A Chump like Matthew Boyd could nearly throw a no-hitter.

In such a volatile environment, the best fantasy owners can hope to do is maximize the chances of something good happening. Unheralded players with favorable lineup positions, such as Jose Reyes and Jed Lowrie, are therefore the perfect players to look into as you seek to finish strong. Let's take a closer look at what these two can offer fantasy owners.

Ownership rates provided are from Yahoo! leagues.

Editor's Note: Stay on top of our MLB off-season news and fantasy analysis all year round. Read our daily fantasy columns about MLB prospects, dynasty outlooks, player outlooks and much more. It's always fantasy baseball season here. Let's Go!

 

The Fantasy Jury is Out

Jose Reyes (SS/3B, NYM) 52% Owned

Reyes's triple slash line isn't terribly exciting (.244/.316/.415), but the fact that it includes 14 homers and 22 steals will appeal to certain owners. The Mets have hit him either first or second in every game he's started since August 13th, allowing him to supplement his power-speed combo with a useful dose of counting stats. The resulting package contributes in four out of the five standard roto categories, giving him broader appeal than the average category specialist.

The one missing ingredient is batting average, where Reyes's .261 BABIP seems a little low. Reyes has upped his FB% from a career mark of 36% to 42.3%, justifying some of the drop off from his career BABIP of .308. Furthermore, his IFFB% is very high (17%). His career mark is 13.3%, but he hasn't approached that figure since 2014 (14.1%). Late-career Reyes hits too many pop-ups, making it difficult for him to maintain a plus BABIP.

His grounders also aren't as productive as they used to be. Reyes has a BABIP on ground balls of just .231 against a career mark of .261, a difference explained by his lowest average exit velocity on ground balls (80.7 mph) in the Statcast era. The mark is awkward, as they are hit too softly to get past infielders but too hard to produce infield hits. He's also lost several steps since his prime, reducing his upside on the ground. Reyes's flies and liners are performing at roughly his career marks taken together, so the additional fly balls and less productive grounders suggest that Reyes will remain a low-BABIP hitter for the rest of his career.

The additional flies are a net boon for Reyes's fantasy value, as they are the only reason he contributes in the power categories. His average airborne exit velocity of 88.6 mph is well below league average, while his rate of Brls/BBE (2.8%) is low. This is nothing new for Reyes, who averaged 87 mph in the air last season and 85.9 mph in 2015. His Brls/BBE ratio (4.3%) was nearly double its current number last year, but in 2015 it was only 0.2%. That's horrible! The infielder's HR/FB (8.5%) is below average as a result, but he hits enough flies to hit his fair share of homers anyway.

With only five CS on the year, Reyes's running game is the safest reason to roster him in fantasy. He also has positive plate discipline metrics (9.2% BB%, 14% K%) and indicators (7.4% SwStr%, 90.9% Z-Contact%) that suggest his batting average will not completely fall off a cliff. Add in eligibility at shortstop (77 games), third base (34), and second base (17), and you get a guy who could probably help at least one team in every league.

Verdict: Champ

Jed Lowrie (2B, OAK) 17% Owned

Lowrie's profile is similar to Reyes's, except that he sacrifices the latter's speed for a better batting average. He's hit .279/.360/.458 with 14 HR this season, proving adequate in both homers and batting average. Oakland has hit him third in all but one game he's started since August 22nd, allowing him to compile enough counting stats to matter in fantasy. Once again, we are looking at a batter with four category production.

Lowrie's batting average is the result of strong plate discipline and a .315 BABIP. His 11.1% BB% is excellent, dramatically increasing his value in leagues using OBP as a category. Better yet, the underlying 24.1% chase rate suggests that Lowrie can keep it up for the foreseeable future. His 15.6% K% is also supported by a SwStr% of 8.1%, helping him make the most of his elevated BABIP.

Lowrie's .315 BABIP is the result of a LD% of 26.7%. Normally we'd say that such a high figure is completely unsustainable, but anything is possible given the short remaining sample. He also managed an elevated LD% last season (25.5%), lending additional support to the idea that he can keep it up for another two weeks. Lowrie has a fly ball-heavy profile (43.8% FB%), but his IFFB% (7.3%) is much lower than Reyes's. This allows him to project for a better BABIP. Lowrie's other balls in play are performing as expected, so what he's doing now is sustainable as long as he keeps hitting line drives.

Like Reyes, Lowrie makes up for what he lacks in raw power by putting a large number of baseballs into the air. His 91.6 mph average airborne exit velocity and 6.2% rate of Brls/BBE are a hair below average, but both represent substantial improvements over his performance last season (89 mph and 1.1% rate of Brls/BBE). His 7.3% HR/FB could therefore have a little bit of upside over the final two weeks, especially since the league average has swelled to double that figure.

Lowrie is no longer the utility man he once was, so he's only eligible at second base in most formats. Still, it is rare to find a three-hole hitter with power and a reasonable batting average this late in the campaign. Scoop him up if you need a competent middle infielder.

Verdict: Champ

 

 

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