Cubs’ Rafael Ortega can give your fantasy baseball team some pop

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We’ve reached the point of the season when every fantasy owner still paying attention to their teams should be living by the same motto: Win at all costs.

That means you’re looking for any player who can offer consistent production to assist in your quest for fantasy glory. Those can come in many forms. Veterans like Lorenzo Cain, C.J. Cron and Brandon Belt are out there, waiting for someone to notice them. Youngsters like Logan Webb, Vladimir Gutierrez, Lewis Brinson, Kyle Farmer and Tanner Houck are hoping for fantasy owners to believe they’re production is for real.

There are also players who have toiled around in the minors for years, with a few rarely memorable moments in the bigs, who are not only playing every day but are producing numbers being overlooked because they don’t have the name recognition.

Before joining the Cubs’ big league roster on May 26, Rafael Ortega had played 143 games for the Rockies (two games in 2012), Angels (66 games in 2016), Marlins (34 games in 2018) and Braves (59 games in 2019). He obviously didn’t make much of an impression, hitting .229 with three homers, 33 RBIs, 41 runs, 17 stolen bases, 70 strikeouts, a .287 on-base percentage and .577 OPS in those 143 games.

Rafael Ortega
Getty Images

Over his first 33 games with the Cubs this season, it looked like the same old story for the 30-year-old. He was 15-for-64 (.234) with two homers, five RBIs, six runs scored, two stolen bases, 17 strikeouts and a .649 OPS.

Since the All-Star break, however, Ortega has looked like a different ballplayer. He has at least one hit in 22 of his first 27 games since the Midsummer Classic (that includes an eight-game hit streak July 29-Aug. 6). During that stretch, he is 34-for-83 with four homers, 12 RBIs, 12 runs, five stolen bases and a 1.100 OPS.

Among players with a minimum of 80 second-half plate appearances, Ortega ranks second in average (.410), ninth in stolen bases, fourth in on-base percentage (.462), ninth in slugging percentage (.639) and fifth in OPS.

As the Cubs dismantled their team, Ortega thrived — not only as an everyday outfielder, but as Chicago’s leadoff hitter. In 20 games hitting in the top spot, Ortega was 27-for-67 (.403) with four homers, 11 RBIs, four stolen bases, 11 runs and a 1.109 OPS.

For the season, Ortega entered Friday hitting .333 with six homers, 17 RBIs, 18 runs, seven stolen bases and a .905 OPS.

You can look at the fact Ortega strikes out in 24.8 percent of his at-bats, walks just 7.5 percent of the time or the fact he is a 30-year-old journeyman outfielder who has never had much success in the majors but hit .292 with 72 homers, 486 RBIs and 259 stolen bases over 13 seasons in the minors.

Though it seems unlikely his current level of production will continue, his numbers are backed up by an above-average barrel rate, a solid .302 xBA, a 41.7 percent hard-hit percentage, 109.5 mph max exit velocity and a 46.3 percent sweet spot rate, which ranks second in the majors among players with a minimum of 100 batted ball events.

The other thing Ortega has in his favor: consistent playing time while hitting leadoff. Even if his average falls, let’s say to his current career average (.257), he still offers incredible value with his ability to steal bases. The fact he has some power, can score runs and hit for a respectable average is a bonus.

Ortega, who remains available in more than 55 percent of ESPN leagues after being the most added outfielder this week, is not a prospect or someone you’ll consider stashing for next season. He is merely a player who is excelling while getting the chance to play every day.

When you’re looking to win at all costs, finding a player like this on the waiver wire should be a welcome sight.

Big Hits

Abraham Toro 2B/3B, Mariners

Has at least one hit in 12 of his first 15 games since being traded from Houston. He is 20-for-55 (.364) with three homers, seven RBIs, one stolen base, 10 runs and a 1.063 OPS in that span.

Joe Musgrove SP, Padres

Allowed just four earned runs over his past four starts while going 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA, 28 strikeouts and a .180 opponents average.

Freddy Peralta SP, Brewers

Has allowed more than two earned runs once since May 11, going 6-2 with a 1.85 ERA, 109 strikeouts and a .134 opponents average over his past 15 starts.

Freddy Peralta
Freddy Peralta
AP

Lewis Brinson OF, Marlins

Entered Friday hitting .432 (16-for-37) with four homers, 15 RBIs, 10 runs scored and a 1.340 OPS over his past 10 games.

Big Whiffs

Dallas Keuchel SP, White Sox

Since his last win on July 9, the lefty is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA, 11 walks, eight homers allowed and a .212 opponent average.

Matt Chapman 3B, Athletics

After hitting .227 with a .705 OPS and 111 strikeouts in the first half, it hasn’t gotten much better for the 28-year-old. In his first 23 games of the second half, he is hitting .167 with 37 strikeouts and a .564 OPS.

Zach Davies SP, Cubs

Allowed 18 earned runs over his past three starts (12 innings) while going 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA, six homers allowed and a healthy .370 opponents average.

Cody Bellinger 1B/OF, Dodgers

In his first 22 games since the break, he is 15-for-81 (.185) with five homers, 11 RBIs, 24 strikeouts, a .250 OBP and .682 OPS.

Check Swings

  • In his first nine games this month, C.J. Cron hit .387 (12-for-31) with four homers, 17 RBIs, nine runs and a 1.293 OPS. Of those 17 RBIs, 13 came in three games from Aug. 6-8 (all four homers came in those games, too), and seven came in the game on Aug. 8.
  • Cal Quantrill, the most added pitcher in ESPN leagues this week, has not allowed more than three earned runs in his past eight starts. He is 3-0 with a 2.09 ERA, 37 strikeouts and a .195 opponents average in that span. He has 21 strikeouts over his past three starts, and 33 over his past six while going 2-0 with a 1.25 ERA and .176 opponents average.
  • After hitting .288 with 16 homers, 52 RBIs and a .896 OPS in the first half, Carlos Correa has cooled down considerably. Since the break, he was hitting .207 with two homers, nine RBIs and a .636 OPS in his first 22 games.

Team Name of the Week

Moustakas Tuesday

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