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2015 Fantasy Baseball: Deep League Digging, Week 9

It’s Thursday, and I am Seth Klein, which means you’ve probably stumbled upon another edition of “Deep League Digging”… or is it?? No, just kidding, it is. My cloak and dagger game isn’t what it used to be.

Enough kidding aside, let’s get into what you came here for — and that’s to read about some players that can help you in deeper leagues.

As always, all the players suggested are under 10 percent owned in ESPN fantasy leagues. While all websites have different ownership percentages, we’ll make things simple and stick with just one. So, without further ado, here are Week 9’s most digable players.

(All stats and ownership percentages are through Wednesday’s games)

Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Padres (7.5% owned)

The former Red Sox prospect has had his ups and downs throughout his initial campaign with San Diego. He began the season with a nice power display, hitting three home runs and driving in nine in his first 13 games. But then he slumped, and as we know from history, Middlebrooks’ slumps can be pretty brutal. From April 25 to May 10, the third baseman managed just one hit in 32 plate appearances, dropping his average from .254 to .189. Bud Black stuck with him though, and it has paid off, as the 26-year-old is showing signs of life again, batting .333/.341/.595 with three homers, two doubles and 11 RBI over his last 11 contests.

If you’re in a league that only requires five games at a position to garner eligibility, Middlebrooks makes for an even more tantalizing option. He’s made two starts at 1B, and interestingly enough, has played three games at SS, though only one was a start. Moving him around the diamond so much shows Black’s continued faith in him. After all, he is on pace for 21 HR, which would eclipse his career-best output by four long balls. Add him now while he’s hot, because as we know, that may not last for long.

Gerardo Parra, OF, Brewers (3.7% owned)

Parra is known mostly for his excellent defense — he won Gold Gloves in 2011 and 2013 — but an injury to regular starter Khris Davis has opened up an opportunity for everyday playing time in the Brewers outfield.

Davis was pulled from Saturday’s game after tearing his meniscus during his second at-bat. He underwent surgery on Tuesday and is expected to miss a minimum of 4-6 weeks. While this news is bad for the Brewers — and his fantasy owners — it gives deep leaguers a chance to capitalize on the increase in playing time Parra will receive.

New(ish) manager Craig Counsell has already inserted Parra as his mostly-everyday No. 2 hitter, having slotted him there in three of the four games he’s started since Davis went down. Batting second creates a ton of run-scoring opportunities and should also keep him moving on the base paths. Parra doesn’t have a great deal of power, but he hit a homer yesterday, and has at least some pop, launching 19 big flies between 2013 and 2014. He also stole 15 bases in both 2011 and 2012, so there’s a nice blend of speed and brawn to be had here.

Speaking of brawn, star outfielder Ryan Braun was flown out to Anaheim on Wednesday to get an injection in his surgically-repaired thumb. The team expects him back by Sunday, but should the pain linger, it will only solidify Parra’s place in the Brewers lineup.

Jordy Mercer, SS, Pirates (1.8% owned)

I’ve been talking up Mercer a lot on Twitter this week, and there’s a good reason for it. Always a superb defender, the 28-year-old struggled to hit out of the gate, but he’s turned it on of late, and that’s earning him more playing time.

After hitting just .171 with only three doubles and eight RBI through the Pirates’ first 42 games, Mercer has suddenly gotten his stroke back. In his last nine contests, the shortstop is batting .370 (10-for-27) with two home runs and three RBI. Most importantly, he’s pushed rookie Jung Ho Kang to the bench the past two games. Now, Kang will still get plenty of playing time, and probably more than Mercer when all is said and done, but it’s no longer the great disparity it once was when Kang was tearing the cover off the ball. The Korean League season only has 133 games, and Clint Hurdle will take that into consideration, monitoring Kang’s workload the rest of the way.

If Mercer keeps hitting, which he’s shown he can do in the past (averaged 10 HR, 41 RBI the past two seasons), there will be a spot in the Pirates lineup for him most days of the week. Hurdle has also been pretty consistent with sitting Pedro Alvarez and Gregory Polanco when there is a lefty on the mound, and in those cases, Kang has been moved to third base and Josh Harrison to the outfield, opening up a spot in the lineup for Mercer.

As is the case with Middlebrooks, ride Mercer while he’s hot.

Other players worth adding: David Murphy – Indians (1.9% owned), Ben Paulsen – Rockies (5.8% owned), Brandon Barnes – Rockies (1.2% owned), Randal Grichuk – Cardinals (4.6% owned)

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