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One trademark of the Billy Beane era in Oakland has been the organization's ability to identify undervalued assets in other team's minor-league systems and turning them into contributors for cheap. Someone wrote an entire book about that, after all, and we may have found the latest chapter. Originally considered a throw-in in their Jeff Samardzija deal last offseason, catcher Josh Phegley is off to a great start, and Fantasy owners need to take notice.
Phegley is a 27-year-old who entered the season with a .553 OPS in parts of two seasons with the White Sox, so why get excited? Well, it's not just because of his impressive .305/.362/.568 triple-slash line so far this season; we've seen flashes in the pan get hot for 100 or so trips to the plate before disappearing. However, there is reason to believe Phegley might be more than a flash in the pan. Because of their defensive responsibilities, catchers can take a bit longer to mature than other position players with the bat, and Phegley might just be a late bloomer.
Phegley was mostly unspectacular throughout his minor-league career, posting a .674 OPS at Double-A and looking like little more than organizational filler. However, something seemed to click in 2013, when he clubbed 15 home runs in just 61 games at Triple-A Charlotte en route to his first major-league call-up. He didn't do much at all in 65 games with the White Sox, but he's done nothing but hit since. Starting in 2013, Phegley has hit 12 home runs in 337 at-bats in the majors, a great pace for a catcher, especially when you account for his 38 homers in 168 Triple-A games in that same span.
Maybe Phegley is just a flash in the pan. However, we're witnessing Stephen Vogt go through a similar breakout for the A's later in his career, so maybe there's something to the A's process. There are reasons to be concerned about Phegley's playing time in Oakland with Vogt around, but the A's have shown they trust Vogt to play first base or the outfield if the need arises. If you play in an AL-only or two-catcher mixed league, he is probably the highest upside player available on waivers at this point.
Rubby De La Rosa, Diamondbacks (83 percent owned)
When you're waiting on a player with breakout potential, you'll tend to grasp any positive sign you can find, and with De La Rosa, we're starting to see more and more of them. After limiting the Rockies to just one run in seven innings of work, De La Rosa has now allowed just two earned runs in his last three starts, a span of 23 innings in which he has 16 walks and six strikeouts. This isn't a huge sample size, but the fact his most recent start came against the Rockies in Coors Field has to get your excited if you’re a De La Rosa believer like I am. The Rockies don't have a ton of left-handed bats to be afraid of, and that still remains the biggest concern for De La Rosa, who has a .908 OPS allowed to lefties. However, with an xFIP of just 3.35, De La Rosa has significant breakout potential if he can just tighten things up. You can't say that about a lot of players owned in barely half of CBSSports.com leagues.
Curtis Granderson, Mets (75 percent owned)
On the surface, Granderson already looks like a much-improved hitter from the last few seasons. He has improved his triple-slash line numbers across the board over the previous two seasons, and is on pace for his highest homer total since 2012. What makes this more impressive is, for the first few weeks, it looked like he might've fallen entirely off the map. Granderson didn't even hit his first extra-base hit of the season until April 21, when he had a..486 OPS. In 55 starts since, Granderson is hitting .268/.348/.464, with a 30-homer pace. He isn't an elite Fantasy option anymore, but Granderson has been productive for long enough that he still deserves more love than he is getting.
Jackie Bradley, Red Sox (3 percent owned)
Though he has since been overshadowed by the likes of Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo, it wasn't long ago that Bradley was the outfield prospect to know in the Red Sox organization. He failed miserably in his time in the majors the last two seasons though, hitting well under the Mendoza Line in 530 plate appearances, and has been since confined to the Fantasy trash heap with so many other failed former top prospects. However, injuries have conspired to give him a second chance, and he took advantage with a two-hit game Thursday against the Orioles, his first back. For what it's worth, Bradley never stopped hitting in the minors, as he posted a .322/.398/.468 line at Triple-A Pawtucket this season, so the talent is still there. Maybe he is just another in the long line of players who live in that fuzzy line between "Too Good for the Minors" and "Can't Hack It In the Majors," but Bradley's talent still gives him post-hype sleeper appeal.