You could add Juan Uribe for the clubhouse chemistry, or for the hot bat he’s swinging. The tie breaker should be the schedule.
When we last talked about Uribe, he was the 36-year-old third baseman creating a multi-car pileup in Los Angeles. The Dodgers traded Uribe to Atlanta in late May, essentially to open up time for Justin Turner (and not Alex Guerrero, as I suspected). Uribe had a .596 OPS at the time, so no one thought too much about it.
Uribe’s first 35 games in Atlanta have been fun: .305/.364/.500, six homers. He knocked three out of the park last week and had a couple of hits in Monday’s victory over Milwaukee. He’s the No. 10 third baseman in Yahoo leagues over the last two weeks.
The payoff to the story should be later this week, when Atlanta heads to Coors Field for a four-game junket. Thin air, the cure to all that ails us. The Rockies have a 5.42 ERA at home, the gasoline alley of the majors. No other pitching staff is close.
There’s plenty of time to get in on the story, as Uribe is owned in just four percent of Yahoo leagues. This doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment; let’s just take a stab at some numbers this week and see where it takes us.
• It was interesting to watch Carlos Carrasco struggle with Houston (4 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 5 K), just one start removed from the no-hit bid at Tampa Bay. It also makes you wonder if Carrasco’s workload against the Rays - a season-high 124 pitches - played into the mess from Monday.
You never can sit someone this talented in a seasonal format, but perhaps it’s something to monitor, and fade, the next time you see a similar setup in daily formats. Carrasco was far and away the most common own in the handful of leagues I played in Monday; in one 50-50 room, he was over 70 percent rostered.
• Maybe the Mets can flip Jon Niese for a batter after all. He picked up a win Monday at San Francisco, working eight scoreless (3 H, 2 BB, 4 K). It’s the sixth straight quality turn for Niese, who now has a 3.58 ERA on the year.
Alas, because of the Mets six-man rotation (and the All-Star break), we might not see Niese start another game for a while. You have to assume New York will roll out its big guns after the break, albeit if there’s one backwards team that might use Niese at the expense of its true superstars, it’s this one. I'll leave Niese alone on the waiver wire.
Chris Heston didn’t have his best stuff on the other side Monday, though he still provided a useful line in the end (7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 2, K). His 3.51 ERA remains misleading, sullied by two starts at Coors Field. Take those assignments out of the mix (which is perfectly reasonable, a strategy most employ) and we’re looking at a 2.78 number. He’s recommended on the weekend, hosting the Phillies.
• Coors Field also tried to steer some people off the John Lackey case, but hopefully you were too smart for that. Lackey was pounded for 10 runs (eight earned) in a thin-air assignment back on June 8, but he’s been super since. Add up the five subsequent turns (including Monday’s win art Chicago) and this is what you get: 1.75 ERA, 1.11 WHIP. His ERA at normal sea levels this year is a tidy 2.53.
The next time a good pitcher gets obliterated at Coors, you know what to do. Ignore the noise.
About Last Night: Every Detroit hitter who feels like going bonkers at Seattle, step forward. Not so fast, Ian Kinsler (5-0-0-0). The rest of the club went on 12-run, 19-hit bender, with both Martinezes homering (along with Yoenis Cespedes and Nick Castellanos). Jose Iglesias only had one hit, but he’s nonetheless kept that .323 average, somehow . . . It was our last chance to bat-stream against Sean O’Sullivan (6.08 ERA); the Phillies dropped him after the game. The Phillies at least did some nice things on their end of the 10-7 loss, with the usual trio (Hernandez steal, Franco 3-2-1-0, Howard three-run jack) getting in on the fun. If Cesar Hernandez loses his job to Chase Utley anytime soon (Utley is still rehabbing, of course), we’ll all need therapy . . . I realize Jung Ho Kang hasn’t hit for several weeks now, but part-time play will often mess up a player’s timing and confidence. He’s an interesting gambit now that Josh Harrison is going to miss six weeks. Kang slotted cleanup in Monday’s win over San Diego, going 1-for-4. I re-added him in a few spots, mindful of the dual-position eligibility (short, third) . . . What would the Ian Desmond hat-trick be? He had a strikeout, a steal and an error in the loss to Cincinnati, though it’s just his third bag in 2015. He’s at .212/.254/.334 for the year. His owners need one bourbon, one scotch, one beer, repeat . . . Chris Sale only struck out six Toronto batters, but that also kept his pitch count reasonable - and kept Robin Ventura in the dugout. Sale ultimately needed 108 pitches to finish off the Jays (6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 6 K), trimming his ERA to 2.80. He’s at Wrigley on Saturday . . . Gerardo Parra's ridiculous run continued: another homer, two more hits. He's been linked to a handful of contending clubs, with San Francisco an interesting possibility. Parra is finally up to 44-percent owned in the Y; he was under 20 percent on the weekend. Welcome, newcomers, look for seating in the back. He's the No. 13 player in Yahoo over the last month (.360-20-5-10-5).
We have a few small weather concerns on Monday — Kansas City certainly looks like a problem — but nothing we can't manage around. As always, be sure to double-check lineups before it's too late. Now let's get to the usual bargain hunt...
Joc Pederson, OF, vs. Phi (O'Sullivan), $3300 at FanDuel: Left-handed hitters have slashed .369/.424/.730 against O'Sullivan so far this season (41-for-111, 20 XBH), which is, of course, ridiculous. Seems like a good day to stack a few Dodgers LHBs, doesn't it? I'm rolling out 2-3 in pretty much all lineups.
Wei-Yin Chen, P, at Min (Hughes), $7800: Here's a quality low-cost alternative to Monday's priciest pitchers (Sale, Keuchel, Carrasco), for those looking to squeeze a few luxury bats onto a roster. Chen has limited opponents to two runs or less in each of his last five starts, and in 10 of his last 14. He's had some good fortune on balls-in-play, true (.257 BABIP), but it's not as if we're talking about a guy with a poor history. He's facing a lineup that ranks No. 13 in the A.L. in both homers (66) and team OBP (.302), so there's no great reason to fear today's opponent.
Yasmani Grandal, C, vs. Phi (O'Sullivan), $3200: Please see the Pederson blurb for details. Also note that Grandal has three multi-hit games in his last four starts.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B, at LAD (Surkamp), $3000: Yup, I'm all over this Phillies-Dodgers matchup. Hernandez gets to face an exceedingly sketchy left-handed starter on Monday; Surkamp's career major league WHIP is 1.73, and he wasn't exactly shredding the PCL (4.50 ERA, 1.53 WHIP). Over the past 16 games, Hernandez has been on an insane tear: 28-for-65, 14 R, 10 RBIs, 6 BB, 8 SB. He's also slashing .400/.481/.467 vs. LHPs for the year.
Andre Ethier, OF, vs. Phi (O'Sullivan), $2400: OK, this will be my last Dodgers position player, I swear. Ethier is having a quality season, as most of you know, hitting .270/.353/.473 with 10 HR. If you need additional convincing, I'll refer you to this Matchup Ratings blurb:
Ethier is slugging .556 and hitting .356 (16-for-45) against soft-throwing righties like O'Sullivan in the last two seasons.
Alexei Ramirez, SS, vs. Tor (Buehrle), $2200: If you dig deep in the shortstop pool, you'll find a few familiar names among the minimum-price players, including Alexei. He's having a disastrous season, obviously, so the price tag fits. Still, he's 5-for-11 with a steal and a pair of walks over his last three games, plus he has a decent history against Buehrle, if that's your thing (4-for-9, 0 Ks).
A.J. Burnett, P, vs. SD (Shields), $9100: Burnett is a high-K starter pitching at home, facing a team that ranks dead-last in the N.L. in on-base percentage. He's held opponents to two earned runs or less in 13 of his 16 starts this season, so it's not as if he hasn't been consistent. The only Pads hitters who've handled him well over the years are Justin Upton (8-for-16, 2 HR) and Will Venable (9-for-22, 2 HR).
Melky Cabrera, OF, vs. Tor (Buehrle), $2600: Cabrera began showing signs of life a couple weeks ago, when he delivered that 5-for-5 line against Texas. He's hit safely in seven of his last eight, with three multi-hit games and four XBHs during that stretch. He also owns Buehrle, just so you know: 17-for-30, 4 doubles, two HR, two Ks.
Maikel Franco, 3B, at LAD (Surkamp), $3300: Yes, that's right, half of today's recommended plays are coming from a single game. That's what you get when the schedule is a little light, and O'Sullivan matches up against Surkamp. Franco has remained scorching-hot, with nine multi-hit games in his last 16. He's hit four homers in 34 at-bats against lefties this year, so the matchup is plenty appealing.
Jhonny Peralta, SS, at CHC (Lester), $3100: I suppose an all-star hangover is possible, but Peralta has been so steady, and the guy has a nice history against Lester: 8-for-31, 3 HR, 5 BB. At this price, I'm in.
Welcome to the research season.
Soon some 50 million fantasy maniacs will thumb through volumes of scouting reports, stats and trends to put themselves in a position to CRUSH the competition. Questions, some rhetorical and some not, will be bandied about in an attempt to separate the loved from the loathed. Can C.J. Anderson thrive in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme? Is Tevin Coleman, battling Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith for the Falcons’ starting gig, worth the dice roll in the middle rounds? Was Martavis Bryant’s spectacular rookie stretch a mirage? Is it possible for Geno Smith to not royally suck?
However, of all the characteristics weighed, none is more divisive than date-of-birth.
Every August, fantasy ageists seduced by ceilings purposely bypass the reliable services of elder statesman for the potential of pretty young things, this year an occurrence typically seen at wide receiver. In a game where unrealistic expectations are commonly placed on still developing commodities, these veteran misanthropes salivate at the mere mention of “upside,” an intoxicating and, often errant, reaction. Choosing to spend exorbitantly on a Kelvin Benjamin instead of conserving cash by drafting Steve Smith can, and often does, blow up in one’s face. Just ask those who chopped off a leg for Keenan Allen or Michael Floyd last year.
Though a few doddering geriatrics have slipped in recent years, a fair number continue to crank out useful production season after season, much to the dismay of their critics. What undervalued WR septuagenarians (Andre Johnson at his current 42.8 ADP doesn't count) are primed for profitable 2015s? Here are my top-five:
Steve Smith, Bal (Yahoo ADP 102.5, WR37) – Smith may have made a cameo as a grazing triceratops in "Jurassic World," but the 36-year-old is hardly fossilized. He slowed a bit down the stretch last season (WR45 from Week 10 on), but he still possesses the quickness and toughness to wreck havoc. Not to mention his stiff arm remains one of the league's most vicious. In an aerial aggressive Marc Trestman spread offense he could easily best his top-20 WR line from 2014 (79-1065-6). Recall the Bears under Trestman chucked the pill 60.6 percent of the time last year. Some within the "expert" community are gaga over Breshad Perriman. The rookie's muscular frame and fleet feet are certainly attractive. However, he struggled with drops in mini-camp and overall sports a green route tree. With the Torrey Smith roadshow of underachievement now playing in San Francisco and Owen Daniels also out of the picture, Smith Sr. and Justin Forsett are Joe Flacco's only reliable options. The trash-talking target, who ranked No. 13 in yards per route run in a more conservative scheme last year, is primed for another 125-plus looks.
Fearless Forecast: 73 receptions, 1,011 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
Anquan Boldin, SF (120.8, WR50) – The disrespect Boldin has received in early drafts is criminal. In his first two seasons by the Bay, the Niner hauled in 168 receptions, 2,241 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a result, he finished inside the WR top-24 in consecutive seasons. Still, members of the fantasy community continue to voice their concerns. Colin Kaepernick's ongoing inconsistencies, Torrey Smith's arrival and San Fran's presumed return to the read-option have downgraded the receiver, a misguided viewpoint. He was teammates with Emmitt Smith his rookie season, a tie that shows how long he's been around, but the long-toothed target will again crack the WR3 ranks, at a minimum. He remains a gritty, savvy, greaseman who can brutalize defenses underneath and occasionally on the sidelines. Combine that with the "tremendous strides" Kaepernick has made mechanically this offseason and San Fran's issues on D, and he should again turn a tidy profit. Though the scheme has changed, look for the venerable weapon to rack appreciable numbers working mostly out of the slot, a position he posted a 73.2 catch percentage in last year. It's mind-blowing he and rookie project Dorial Green-Beckham share an almost identical ADP.
Fearless Forecast: 80 receptions, 1,006 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
Marques Colston, NO (116.6, WR44) – The number of targets up for grabs in New Orleans this season: 263. That's what Jimmy Graham, Pierre Thomas and Kenny Stills, now establishing roots in new locales, accounted for last fall. Everyone anticipates Brandin Cooks, C.J. Spiller and Josh Hill to earn the majority of those looks, but Grandpa Colston will entice his fair share. Admittedly, he's slowed a bit, struggled with drops (No. 76 in drop rate in '14) and has been wildly undependable on a week-in, week-out basis in recent years, but he's missed only two games since 2012 and has finished inside the WR top-36 in nine-straight seasons. For his flaws, the dude is a rock. The veteran revealed last month his 2014 decline left a bitter taste. That chip combined with more managed practice reps should greatly assist him in rebooting his career. The Saints have expressed a desire to run the ball more, but the increased opportunities matched with Colston's red-zone usefulness imply he's a screaming good deal in the later rounds. Drew Brees is his quarterback for crying out loud.
Fearless Forecast: 69 receptions, 917 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
Percy Harvin, Buf (112.3, WR42) – To most, Harvin might as well be invisible. Once a highly productive Viking, his persistent temper tantrums, under-performance and myriad injuries have reduced his value to pennies on the dollar. Despite the sharp decline, the newly signed Bill isn't sans confidence. In early April he boasted "The world has yet to see me really explode like I'm about to." A Brett Favre comeback may seem less far-fetched, but the chances of a Harvin rebound are better than you think. For the first time in his career, he's expected to shift around seeing action not only in the slot, but outside. With defenses focused on Sammy Watkins, he could see upwards of 6-8 targets per game. Yes, Rex Ryan and Greg Roman are Ted Cruz-level conservative and if J.P. Losman were still active he would probably run away with the starting QB gig (Tyrod Taylor?! Really?!), but Harvin's gadgetry can still inflict damage. Touchdowns will be a rare occurrence, however, I could see him cracking the 65-catch mark. His days of 11-plus fantasy points per game are long gone, but a top-30 WR finish in PPR is absolutely achievable. Much younger (27) than he seems (4,000), Harvin is a low-risk, medium-reward plus-100 pick.
Fearless Forecast (14 games): 66 receptions, 702 receiving yards, 189 rushing yards, 4 total touchdowns
Steve Johnson, SD (123.5, WR52) – After an uneventful season in San Fran, Johnson traveled down the coastline this offseason in an attempt to reverse his fortunes. As a Buffalo Bill from 2010-2012, he was a highly employable WR2/WR3 in 12-team formats. During that stretch he suited up all 48 games and amassed 79 receptions, 1,041 yards and 7.7 touchdowns per season. Solid. Unfortunately, various nicks and scrapes combined with the Niners' run-heavy scheme derailed his career shortly thereafter. Now expected to slide into the slot, a role vacated by Eddie Royal, Johnson is in a prime position to rediscover his mojo. Though a circuitous route runner, he possesses excellent separation skills and versatility. Already reportedly on the same page as Philip Rivers, he could entice some 110-120 targets in Mike McCoy's high-efficiency offense. Keep in mind, Malcom Floyd turns 34 in September, Keenan Allen is coming off a sophomore slump and Antonio Gates will miss the first four games of the season due to suspension. In the blurry-eyed portion of drafts, there may not be a more attractive option. Don't be surprised if he occasionally ventures into WR2 territory.
Fearless Forecast: 65 receptions, 698 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
OTHER AGED WRs FAR FROM A LIFE OF RASCAL RACES AND SPONGE BATHS
Pierre Garcon, Was (119.2, WR49) – Do you trust RG3? That's the $64,000 question gamers targeting Garcon are struggling with. His 2014 was largely forgettable (WR54 finish), but Jay Gruden is plotting to revive his wideout's production. In mini-camp Garcon moved from "X" to "Z," a position designed to prominently feature the pass-catcher. DeSean Jackson is still the primary downfield threat, but Garcon, who typically operates underneath, will routinely get his hands dirty. Recall he's only two years removed from a 113-catch campaign. Many believe Griffin will improve measurably in Year 2 under Gruden. If that occurs, Garcon has respectable odds of landing in the 80-85 reception range. Don't forget Joe Barry's newly installed hybrid 3-4 defense is a major work in progress. Invest happily.
Eric Decker, NYJ (88.9, WR30) – In expert exercises the Jet has consistently gone in the 100-120 overall range, which is baffling. Oscar the Grouch smells rosier than Geno Smith, but the arrival of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall should help boost Decker. Remember he was the 29th-best WR in the virtual game last year. In what should be an attacking spread offense under Chan Gailey, he has 7-9 TD potential. Bargain.
Roddy White, Atl (71.7, WR28) – Every year the humble wideout downplays his role and nearly every year he manages to grab 80 passes. This offseason, the veteran disclosed Atlanta's desire to run the ball, a believable outcome with Kyle Shanahan calling the shots. Still, White is destined to carve out a prominent role, especially with defenses keying on Julio Jones. His Yahoo ADP feels right, but in several drafts I've participated in he's fallen into the 100s. Absurd. Bank on another 75-80 catches, 900 yards and 5-7 TDs.
Vincent Jackson, TB (64.7, WR27) – Slated for action "all over the place," including in the slot, Jackson has a reasonable shot to log his seventh 1,000-yard campaign in eight years. Jameis Winston is a giant upgrade at QB (As PFF's Mike Clay points out, only 55 percent of his 138 targets last year were delivered accurately) and Dirk Koetter, who did wonders with Matt Ryan early in his career, is one of the more inventive offensive coordinators in the league. He scored only two TDs last year, but with Mike Evans drawing so much attention, that total was an anomaly. A final tally in the area of 70-1000-7 is likely.
Larry Fitzgerald, Ari (92.4, WR31) – Fitz reminds me of former 90s rock band "The Spin Doctors," a former chart-topper who once filled arenas but now only attracts a couple hundred stragglers at a Tupelo casino. Despite a 98.5 percent on-target catch rate, complications stemming from option routes and horrendous QB play greatly hindered his fantasy contributions last year. However, there's hope for the 31-year-old to regain owner faith. Carson Palmer, who he connected 32 times for 483 yards and two TDs with over six games (109-85-1288-5 16-game extrapolation), is back under center and the projected emergence of John Brown should alleviate pressure. His presence inside the WR top-20 is likely over, but he should deliver sound WR3 totals on roughly 110-120 targets.
Eddie Royal, Chi (123.8, WR54) – Reunited with His Smugness, Jay Cutler, Royal is optimistic he'll rekindle the magic the pair once had in Denver. He raced out of the gates last season notching the 20th-best line among wideouts over the first five weeks (0.30 fpts/snap) but floundered after, limping to a No. 49 finish from Week 6 on (0.21). Still, the slot machine has generated some buzz this offseason. Pro Football Talk and NFL Network's Albert Breer have heard the Bears plan to feature him heavily. Alshon Jeffery is the unrivaled No. 1, but rookie Kevin White may experience some growing pains. That happens and Royal will benefit, particularly early on. And let's not forget, unless Vic Fangio somehow cloned Wilber Marshall, Richard Dent, Steve McMichael and The Fridge, the Bears' overly generous defense will lead to increased opportunities. A similar tally as his 2014 effort in San Diego (62-778-7) is very possible.
I mostly stayed away from Zack Greinke in my drafts before the season, worried about him having to receive a “lubricating injection” in his elbow in February. But that’s clearly been to my detriment, as his consecutive scoreless innings streak is now up to 27.2, a span in which he’s posted a 0.65 WHIP. He’s also allowed one run or fewer in 10 of his last 12 starts, yielding more than three in just one of 17 outings this season. Greinke’s LOB% (88.9) is the highest in MLB, so he’s clearly been lucky with runners on base, but no pitcher with a 1.58 ERA won’t have some statistical category that isn’t fortunate compared to league average. And while that will regress, Greinke has otherwise been unlucky with a modest seven wins while pitching so well for a Dodgers team with a 114 wRC+ that ranks second in all of baseball. He sports an 11.0 SwStr% and has been the No. 11 fantasy player over the past two weeks. Greinke has been one of the biggest fantasy steals so far this season.
Quick Hits: Mitch Moreland finished June with a .323-16-9-25 line in 25 games, when he was a top-15 fantasy player. He owns a .954 OPS against right handers this season and is on pace to smash all of his previous career highs across the board...Angel Pagan’s last homer came May 2, 2014. Over his past 687 at bats, he has three home runs...Alex Wood won a game for the first time at home this year Saturday, as he’s posted a 5.18 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in Atlanta...Marlon Byrd ranks top-20 in MLB with 12 homers since May began despite missing 17 days with a broken wrist. He’s currently owned in fewer than 40% of Yahoo leagues...This slide by Anthony Rizzo was legit...The Dodgers hadn’t stolen a base since June 7 (23 games) before Howie Kendrick swiped one Friday, ending a franchise worse streak dating back to 1900. Through 80 games last season, LAD had an MLB-high 81 steals, but they had an MLB-low 15 this year over that same span. The Dodgers’ team SB percentage (43.24) is not only last but way below the next lowest (54.35). Then again, they are the only team in MLB not to lose four straight games this season...Meanwhile, Billy Hamilton has more stolen bases (41) than 15 MLB teams, which is half the league by the way...Saturday’s start marked just the second time in Matt Harvey’s career in which he walked more batters than he struck out...Kris Bryant didn’t hit a home run in the first 20 games of his major league career and just ended another nine-game homerless drought Saturday, but if you prorated his numbers over 600 at bats, you’d get .279-101-28-112-18. He’ll be a top-15 fantasy pick in 2016.
Headlines of the Week: Woman Gives Birth, Fights Off Bees, Starts Wildfire In Northern California...Is This The World’s Fanciest McDonald’s?...Man Finds $70K Worth Of Uncashed City Of Phoenix Checks In Dumpster...Study Estimates Sugary Drinks More Deadly Than Violent Crime In Mexico...Hank Baskett Says Weed Deal Gone Wrong Turned Into Orgy With Transgender Women...Robot Kills Worker At Volkswagen Plant In Germany...Man Forgets Glasses, Mistakenly Buys Winning Lottery Ticket...Man Mocks Alligators, Jumps In Water And Is Killed In Texas...Optical Illusion Makes Beautiful Brunette Magically Appear On A Blank Screen...‘Cute Black Puppies’ Raised By Villager For Two Years Turn Out Endangered Black Bears.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Taijuan Walker has a 1.68 ERA and 0.79 WHIP with a 51:3 K:BB ratio over his last seven starts. He has a 10.1 SwStr% on the year and should be treated as a top-25 fantasy starter moving forward...Justin Bour recently homered in four straight games and has gone deep 10 times over just 132 at bats against righties this season...Over the last month, J.D. Martinez is batting .351 with 14 homers, 18 runs scored and 34 RBI, when he’s been the No. 1 overall fantasy player. His 43.4 Hard% ranks top-three among all hitters this season...Here’s Trevor Bauer imitating three teammates’ batting stances during what turns out to be a pretty impressive at bat...Here’s Josh Phegley saving a wild, wild pitch...Dee Gordon uses his speed and hits the ball on the ground to get on base, but it’s pretty crazy he owns a .342 batting average with the fifth-lowest Hard% (18.1) in MLB...The Angels have three straight games with 15+ hits...Marcell Ozuna joined elite company when he hit 23 homers as a 23-year-old last season, so it’s crazy to see him get sent to the minors, especially on a team not contending. Even with all his struggles he’s hit .317/.373/.467 against LHP this season...Speaking of disappointments, I wouldn’t let Jorge Soler be a free agent in any league in which he’s currently available, given his return from the DL. There’s still a lot of upside there...Moreover, Soler’s teammate Jason Motte is owned in only 15% of Yahoo leagues, and he very well might be the Cubs’ closer. Go add him.
Police Blotter: Squabbling, Hesitation And Luck Had Roles In Manhunt For New York Prison Escapees...Woman, 88, Charged With Assault On Officer...A Woman Calls The Police After She Was Unhappy With Her New Haircut...Man In Wheelchair Allegedly Robs Bank...Man Who Took 300-Mile Cab Ride To Surprise Fiancée Jailed For Not Paying $749 Fare...Woman Charged With Leaving Son, 4, Tied To A Bush...TV News Crews Robbed In S.F.; Cameraman Pistol-Whipped.
Longread of the Week: The Most Exclusive U.S. College You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Quick Hits Part Tres: Brian Dozier leads MLB by a wide margin when it comes to Pull% (63.6, with the next closest being Mark Teixeira at 56.3), which is helpful considering it’s tougher to shift against a right-handed batter compared to lefties. Teixeira, by the way, is on pace to finish with 117 RBI...Meanwhile, no player has pulled the ball less than DJ LeMahieu (21.7%), which is interesting considering his 27.5 LD% ranks top-seven...Clay Buchholz’s K-BB% (17.9) is somehow higher than Felix Hernandez (17.0), Greinke (17.7), Cole Hamels (17.7) and Sonny Gray (16.8)...Here’s Avisail Garcia robbing Chris Davis of a game-tying homer in the ninth inning...Stephen Strasburg to the DL again? It’s almost as if I shouldn’t have taken him in the second round in the majority of my leagues...I must admit, I didn’t expect the Astros to have nine more wins than the Red Sox at this point of the season...Since leaving the friendly confines of Chase Field, Mark Trumbo is batting .146/.176/.195 after joining Seattle. It’s a small sample, but he’s droppable...Matt Moore didn’t have a good first start back returning from TJ surgery, but he’s only owned in 31% of Yahoo leagues, which seems low given his potential, although to be fair his velocity is a concern...It’s even crazier Miguel Sano is owned in just 40% of leagues...Cesar Hernandez has eight steals over the last nine games, and while he’s obviously playing over his head, he’s been the No. 1 fantasy player over the past two weeks and is owned in fewer than 40% of leagues. There’s hardly any guarantee Chase Utley retakes this job. Those in need of steals should grab Hernandez.
J.D. Martinez, OF, vs. TOR (Estrada), $4300: He’s had a pretty good 22-game run, wouldn’t you say? It adds up to a .360/.396/.849 slash line, with 13 homers and 32 RBIs. Martinez’s best output this year has come at home (.983 OPS) and against right-handed pitching (.572 slugging percentage). Take some hacks in The D. Marco Estrada generally keeps the ball in the air, too.
Gerardo Parra, OF, at CIN (Leake), $3000: Life is better with a little Rico Suave in your life. Parra carries a zesty .824 OPS against righties this year, and over the last month he’s a .356/.500/.525 man, with four homers and five steals. How is this cat owned in just 19 percent of Yahoo seasonal leagues? Did you lose your password? Start clicking, clickers.
Lance Lynn, SP, vs. SD (Kennedy), $9000: While he’s the third-largest ticket on the mound for Sunday, a 9K check won’t block you from signing anyone else you want. The Padres are 26th in weighted on-base average overall, and 27th against right-handed pitching.
Justin Smoak, 1B, at DET (Verlander), $2900: I don’t blame anyone who eschews a value play at first base, because there are so many fun picks here. Nonetheless, Smoak has shown up in his last two starts (two homers, five times on base) and he has good history with Justin Verlander, if two homers in 12 at-bats matters to you. Runs are expected in this matchup, with the total set at nine. And Smoak is confirmed to start, slotted fifth in the best lineup in the majors.
Brian Dozier, 2B, at KC (Duffy), $3600: Dozier has been one of my favorite players for a while, but you especially love him against a lefty. His career OPS jumps 171 points in the platoon advantage. How can some pundits continue to rank Robinson Cano over this stud? Oh well, makes the game easier for us to beat.
Michael Bolsinger, SP, vs NYM (Matz), $6500: Although Bolsinger is the second-highest favorite on the Sunday card, he checks in as the No. 24 pitcher on Fan Duel. I like that kind of party. There’s short-inning risk for Bolsinger, of course, and he did leave his last turn early due to a touch of food poisoning, but you want to attack this Mets offense (last in wOBA, 29th in wOBA against righties) whenever possible.
Ryan Howard, 1B, at ATL (Miller), $2400: He apparently likes the tilt of Shelby Miller: 5-for-11, three homers. The Philly offense is easy to laugh at in total, but at least Howard is working behind the two best assets here, Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco.
Erick Aybar, SS, at TEX (Lewis), $2700: You’ll have to confirm the lineup slot, but I can’t imagine the Halos will sit Aybar after watching him go 8-for-12 (five runs, three doubles) in the first two games at Arlington. Coby Lewis will keep the ball in play, we know that to be true.
Kole Calhoun, OF, at TEX (Lewis), $2500: Here’s another Anaheim batter tearing it up in the Arlington series, and he’s 8-for-16 career against Lewis. It’s a giveaway price, too.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, vs. LAA (Wilson), $2600: Maybe he's not the same player he once was, but it's still a friendly park, a platoon advantage, and a come-hither price. Yo, Adrian.
Carlos Martinez, SP, vs. SD (Despaigne), $10000 at FanDuel: His control could still use some improvement, but Martinez has a 25.9 K% combined with a 2.20 GB/FB ratio this season. He also sports a 10.4 SwStr%, so he’s become an elite pitcher, thanks mostly to his newfound ability to get left handers out. The Cardinals are one of the most favored teams Saturday (-185), while the Padres’ .668 OPS against RHP has been the fifth worst in all of baseball this season.
Joey Votto, 1B, vs. Mil (Nelson), $3400: He has nine homers over 127 at bats with a .406 OBP and a .504 SLG at home this year. In fact, he has more walks (31) than strikeouts (30) at GAB. Jimmy Nelson has allowed a .308 BAA with a 1.76 WHIP when facing LHB.
Robinson Cano, 2B, at Oak (Graveman), $2700: He’s 7-for-14 with two doubles and a homer over his past three games, so I’m going to continue to go with someone with such a strong track record at such a cheap price.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, vs. Tex (Santiago), $2600: Speaking of bargains with strong track records, Beltre hasn’t had an OPS lower than .879 over his previous five seasons before this one, and yet he’s not priced as a top-25 third baseman here. He also owns a career 1.335 OPS over 20 at bats versus Hector Santiago.
Ryan Raburn, OF, at Pit (Locke), $2400: It’s back to the well with Raburn, who’s batting .313/.402/.563 versus southpaws this season. He also usually hits cleanup against them, while Jeff Locke has a 1.57 WHIP when facing righties this year.
Alex Gordon, OF, vs. Min (Pelfrey), $2400: It’s not ideal where Gordon has been hitting in Kansas City’s lineup, but he owns a .392 OBP against RHP this season and a 1.212 OPS against Mike Pelfrey during his career.
Carlos Ruiz, C, at ATL (Wood), $2300: Cameron Rupp might very well be taking over the Phillies’ main catching job, but Ruiz is batting .333/.400/.476 against lefties this season, so he’s a bargain here assuming he’s back in Philadelphia’s lineup. Ruiz is also 6-for-9 with a walk and five RBI with no strikeouts against Travis Wood during his career.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, at Ari (Corbin), $3700: He’s been a disappointment this year and typically is much better at home, but Tulowitzki has hit .424/.435/.661 against lefties this season, and he’ll be facing a southpaw Saturday who will be making his first start since 2013. Chase Field is also a great hitter’s park, and shortstop remains a really thin position, so this seems like a no brainer.
Mike Trout, OF, at Tex (Rodriguez), $5100: Just to let you know, Trout is really good at baseball, but he also owns a 1.036 OPS against LHP this season. To be clear, if you used the lineup listed so far with some big names, there would still be $400 available on FanDuel.
Manny Machado, 3B, at CHW (Samardzija), $4100: He’s 5-for-6 with two homers during his career versus Jeff Samardzija, which is both a small sample size yet pretty impressive nevertheless.
I'm back from vacation, thrown immediately into the DFS fire. We have some wetness in the Friday forecast, so buyers beware. Prepare to tweak lineups as needed.
Michael Wacha, P, vs. SD (Cashner), $8600 at FanDuel: OK, sure, Kershaw is the best available starter on Friday, even if he's facing a pretty fair opposing starter (Syndergaard). But Kershaw is also Friday's priciest option, massively more expensive than Wacha, a guy with a 1.10 WHIP. St. Louis hosts the Pads, and San Diego enters the day ranked next-to-last in the N.L. in on-base percentage (.295).
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, vs. Hou (Straily), $2400: Straily is obviously a hittable right-hander and Sandoval is slashing .314/.366/.492 against RHPs this year. Panda's performance versus lefties has been atrocious, as most of you know, but he's a quality option in this spot.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, at Cin (Lorenzen), $3000: Weather is a concern in Cincinnati on Friday night, but Lucroy would be a terrific play, assuming no PPD. He's 8-for-15 over his last three games with a double, one walk and five RBIs. Signs of life, at last.
J.J. Hardy, SS, at CWS (Danks), $2600: John Danks is starting for the White Sox, and ... well, that's all you need to know. Please consider stacking a few O's.
Luis Valbuena, 3B, at Bos (Masterson), $3400: Masterson has not retired a left-handed batter since Tony Womack in 2005. Go ahead, look it up.
David Ortiz, 1B, vs. Hou (Straily), $2900: Papi has homered in three of his past five games, and Straily has allowed 37 bombs over 243.2 major league innings (1.37 HR/9). At this price, Ortiz frees up cash for a few luxury buys.
Ubaldo Jimenez, P, at CWS (Danks), $8400: If Ubaldo can simply hold Chicago to single-digit runs, he'll surely beat Danks. Jimenez didn't allow more than three earned runs in any of his six June starts, going 4-0 with 42 Ks in 35.2 innings during the month. He can handle the Sox here.
Rougned Odor, 2B, vs. LAA (Richards), $2700: The kid is simply scorching hot, with 11 hits (including four XBHs) over his last six games. Richards has owned him to this point in their careers (6 Ks, 1-for-9), but Odor seems to have unlocked some new level of performance. At this price, I'm playing the streak.
Kole Calhoun, OF, at Tex (Gonzalez), $2300: Stubborn though it may seem, I still have faith in Calhoun. He's hitting near the top of the order, ahead of Trout and Pujols, and Friday's matchup isn't so scary. Despite the stellar fantasy ratios, Gonzalez has only K'd 14 batters in his 41.2 major league innings.
Eugenio Suarez, SS, vs. Mil (Fiers), $2600: A quality hitter at a near-minimum price, facing a sketchy starter (1.47 WHIP). Let's not make this game any harder than it needs to be. If the rain stays away, Suarez will score.
For all the time a young player spends working out, practicing and honing his craft, there’s no substitute for experience. It still stands as the best teacher, the concept of learning on the job, making mistakes, adjusting the approach, growing into the gig.
With that in mind, we present to you the case of Kyle Gibson, third-year pitcher with the Twins. Maybe things are starting to clear up for him.
Although Gibson was the 22nd pick in his draft class six years ago, his first trip around the majors was a rocky one. He posted a 6.53 ERA in 10 starts two years back, and modestly improved (4.47 ERA) in a full season last year. He wasn’t on anyone’s mixed-league radar entering 2015.
Halfway through Gibson’s third year, the stats are moving in the right direction. He’s posted a 3.04 ERA and 1.24 WHIP through 16 starts, including eight clean innings against the Royals Thursday (8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 K). Here’s your scouting video, take a look.
Gibson’s best skill is inducing ground balls - he’s at 54.2 percent this year and around that for his career. But skeptics will quickly point out that it’s difficult to be successful with a strikeout rate under six, and a K/BB ratio barely over two. Pitching to contact works for roto purposes sometimes, but it’s the sort of case you talk yourself into.
But maybe Gibson is starting to figure out how to put batters away. The seven strikeouts at Kansas City were impressive - that’s a team that does all it can to avoid swings and misses. And consider Gibson’s monthly strikeout percentage this year, starting with April: 5.9, 15.2, 21.9, 22.6 (one start, of course). That’s a trend moving in the right direction.
If you write off Gibson’s April brief struggles, you’re left with a remarkably consistent pitcher over his last 13 starts (2.53 ERA, 1.11 WHIP). He’s made strides against left-handed batters (to the point that he’s just about platoon-neutral this year) and the strikeouts are on the rise. Maybe this is growing up at age 27.
Gibson is owned in just 13 percent of Yahoo leagues, though I added to that total over the last day or so. Perhaps you’d like to join me; chase some pedigree, nod to the steady improvement. He’s at home against Baltimore (and Chris Tillman) next week, a game he'll be favored to win.
• All things considered, Jose Fernandez’s return start was a success. He picked up a win over six solid innings (7 H, 3 R, 6 K), didn’t walk anyone, sat in the mid 90s without much trouble. When he wanted extra gas, it was there - his best fastballs were in the 99 mph range. The Red Sox aren’t an easy draw next week, at Fenway no less, but Fernandez is the type of pitcher you obviously throw against anyone.
Justin Bour’s home run sparked the Miami offense, and it’s the third straight day he’s gone into the seats. A .263 average doesn’t sound like much, but Bour gets on base (.340 OBP) and has decent power (nine homers, .496 slugging). He’s needed in this lineup while Giancarlo Stanton is out, and Bour’s free to add in 98 percent of Yahoo leagues. I'll take some hacks with that one.
• For the first 10 weeks of the year, Boston’s right-field production was the worst in baseball, no team even close. But things have started to turn around of late, sparked by the addition of journeyman Alejandro De Aza.
Most of the Red Sox lineup had fun in Thursday’s 12-6 laugher at Toronto, with De Aza contributing a 5-2-3-1 line (double, triple). He’s off to a .338/.372/.662 binge since joining the team 23 games ago, with three homers, 10 runs, 16 RBIs. Over the past month, the Red Sox are the third-highest scoring team in baseball (behind Toronto and Baltimore; also note the Yankees are sixth).
De Aza can’t hit lefties and teams shouldn’t even give him a chance at that assignment going forward. But he’s ripping righties to a .293/.338/.531 tune this year, and the Red Sox face seven righties over the next eight games. We’ll have some fun with this one. De Aza is still unowned in 87 percent of Yahoo leagues.
About Last Night: Call me crazy, but I still think the A’s will get back into playoff contention. That run differential says something, and I don’t fully trust all the front-runners in the AL. Scott Kazmir’s eight dominant bagels carried Oakland to an easy win over Seattle, while Marcus Semien hit his first homer since the Taft Administration. Franklin Gutierrez had the only two Mariners hits . . . Carlos Gonzalez took a collar at Arizona, dropping to .241/.302/.410 . . . It’s cute that the Padres added outfielders and a closer, but it’s hard to trust their infield and their left-handed bats. Craig Kimbrel’s 20 saves don’t mean much when your team is five games under .500. Matt Kemp walked twice, but he still doesn’t look anywhere close to right. He’s slashing .241/.281/.362 . . . Francisco Cervelli is the most underrated catcher in the NL these days. He homered in a getaway win at Detroit, pushing his OPS up to .788 . . .The Mets took another day off, scoring just one run in a loss to Jake Arrieta and the Cubs. New York’s offense is just 11 runs from the MLB basement. All the pitching in the world isn’t going to get this team anywhere . . . The Yankees are taking their time with Jacoby Ellsbury (knee); he won’t be activate this weekend . . . Cole Hamels apparently doesn’t want to be traded to the Astros. Reality bites . . . I don't know what to say about Matt Cain. I have no expectations, and wasn't surprised the Marlins knocked him around. I didn't stash him anywhere or add him anywhere. See an angle? I'm all ears . . . Cesar Hernandez reached base four times in Philly's extra-inning loss . . . Miguel Sano went 1-for-4 in his first game (infield single, two strikeouts), batting sixth. The Twins pinch ran for him late in the game . . . Matt Moore was chased in the fifth after allowing six hits and four runs. I don't like him at Kansas City next week.
"We didn't mean to auto-draft,” says Justin C. Cliburn. “But the internet in Baghdad wasn't the most reliable."
It was August of 2006. Cliburn was a specialist stationed at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, part of a security force (SECFOR) of Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen from the 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery regiment. His squad’s role was to escort civilian training contractors to Iraqi police stations, Cliburn serving as a Humvee gunner.
[Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football is back: Sign up for a league today!]
He also served, reluctantly and incongruously, as a first-year fantasy commissioner.
“That season the guy who was supposed to run our league was stationed down in Diwaniyah [at Camp Echo],” recalls Cliburn. “He had next-to-no internet access, so I took over.”
And still the league began with technical difficulties.
“Yeah, internet cut out right before our draft began,” says Kevin Pyle, a founding member of the OklahomIraqis League. “Every team was auto-picked. Not Yahoo’s fault. That was Iraq.”
“I really lucked out, though,” says Cliburn. “Got LaDainian Tomlinson at No. 3.”
Despite an inauspicious beginning, the league held together. Eight of ten original members are still involved, and the league has grown substantially. The group expanded to two conferences last season, in fact, each with 14 owners.
“Out of the 28 that were in it last year, 26 were on that original mission,” notes Cliburn. “Twenty-seven were in the 158th Field Artillery, and 27 of the 28 have combat experience.”
Today’s version of the league is significantly deeper and more competitive.
“Understand, in 2006, we had very few trades and very few message board posts,” Cliburn says. “I'd be lying if I told you we took it as seriously then as we do now.
“Heading into that first season, all of us had been in a convoy hit by an IED, been shot at, or both. My squad found out the Iraqi general in charge of the police station we trained was skimming thousands of dollars a month — like $40,000 — from the U.S., and there really wasn't much we could do about it without getting ourselves killed. Every so often, some of the officers we trained there were found tortured and killed. … And other officers we trained were running sectarian death squads at night.
“So the fantasy football league was just a healthy distraction for us at first.”
Under the best possible circumstances, in the most low-maintenance league, it’s no simple thing to serve as a fantasy commissioner. Doing so in combat — facing extreme danger and 120-degree heat — seems almost unimaginably difficult.
But if you’re an obsessed player, you usually find a way.
“I remember Justin raced to an internet café at like 2:30 in the morning to add Tony Romo on Thanksgiving [in ‘06], while Romo was having his breakout game,” says Pyle. “Threw five or six touchdowns. Justin adds him before the game ended.
“Knew he’d be gone if I waited,” says Cliburn, gloating over a 10-year-old transaction.
But the league’s first title was actually claimed by Pyle, thanks largely to in-season pickup Maurice Jones-Drew, then a rookie. Pyle also credits his somewhat favorable patrol schedule.
“We all had such different hours over there,” he says. “The group that I went outside the wire with, it was more of a ... well, I don't want to say it was a 9-to-5, but we would go outside around 8 in the morning. Depending on what we were trying to accomplish that day, we could be back by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. So I had maybe a little more access than other guys.”
Reliable connectivity and a non-disastrous auto-draft went a long way in Baghdad in 2006, no question.
Of course Cliburn’s league wasn’t the only group of active fantasy players in Iraq back in ’06 – nor, in all likelihood, was it the most hardcore. But very few commissioners have ever documented the lifetime of a league as thoroughly and faithfully as Cliburn. In so doing, he’s strengthened the connections between those who served together in the 158. Cliburn’s website is a rich and impressive thing, an ongoing project detailing the full history of the regiment and its deployments, as well as the decade-long story of his league. Generally speaking, no one likes to hear anyone else’s fantasy tales. But Cliburn’s only deal with fantasy at the most surface level. Often, they’re stark and difficult and painfully real.
Consider the complexities involved in managing the league when many members, but not all, returned to Iraq in 2008:
“You had guys who clearly had PTSD, including myself, who had never sought any form of treatment — again, including myself at that point," Cliburn says. "So guys were more anxious and irritable. The slightest thing would set off a series of angry texts and emails. Then you had the added stress of the unit being sent to Iraq again so soon.
“On top of that, there was some resentment that some of us weren't on that 2008 Iraq mission. Accordingly, the ones who weren't there — like we felt we should be — felt a lot of guilt. We played out the season giving more leeway to the guys who were deployed, but we'd get really frustrated when they wouldn't set their lineup or answer a trade offer — and then we'd feel guilty about that, too. What if they'd been hit? What if they were out on a mission? Stuff like that.”
“I'm just gonna go out there and say it,” offers Pyle. “I think Justin is one of the greatest commissioners ever. He connects us in-season, out-of-season. We're always communicating with each other. Justin was having to play peacekeeper in the league those first three or four years — I was dealing with issues that I didn't realize at the time, and wasn’t alone.
“This league means a lot because you don't realize that bond that you had until you're separated again. There's just a void there, a gap. This league helps bridge it. The league is so much more than something to do, something to brag about.”
After a pause:
“We kinda had a wake-up call, a year and a half, two years ago. One of our brothers who was over there with us took his own life. About half of us made it to the services and we all mentioned that we have to get together at times other than this. That's part of why we thought it would be so great to get all of us together – not just the league, the full 152 of us that were over there in 2006.”
And so began the planning a 10-year reunion for the SECFOR mission, spearheaded by a fantasy league and its commissioner. The event will happen over Labor Day weekend, culminating, hopefully, with a draft party at Cowboys Stadium.
As fantasy players, most of us have some vague sense that our leagues serve as social hubs, and many of us travel to drafts each year — maybe you keep in touch with your freshman-year dorm floor through a 12-team, half-PPR. The 158 isn’t so different, except that its league came together while the owners were risking their lives in service to their country. If you can afford to help them reunite, great. Here’s a link. Do what you can do. These guys are something better than a simple fantasy story.
Name brands tend to die hard in fantasy leagues, which is why Ian Kinsler still holds a 95-percent Yahoo tag and a lofty ranking on many industry boards. But I know he’s available in one of my eight Yahoo leagues.
And he’s there because I dropped him. And heck, I was just kicking the tires (sorry, we kick a lot of tires here) after someone else dropped him a few weeks back.
Kinsler turned 33 in the middle of June, and second base sure seems like a position where it gets late early. All the attrition, all those pivots. Kinsler’s 2014 Detroit debut had plenty of category juice and was driven by full-season volume, but let’s also acknowledge he’s just a .270/.314/.397 hitter since joining the Tigers. The bat doesn’t look so special anymore. He's walking more this year, but the average and power are depressed. So are fantasy owners.
Kinsler was the fourth second baseman off Yahoo boards in the spring, with an ADP around 54. It looks rather silly now, but he was drafted before Dee Gordon, Brian Dozier and Mookie Betts in most leagues. Some were worried about Jason Kipnis after a down year. Some overreacted to Kolten Wong’s early batting slot (yeah, that was me; such a shame, because Wong was the coverboy for this blog last summer).
Kinsler’s .258-45-2-31-6 line has him ranked 15th in second-base value through the opening three months. You couldn’t move Kinsler for any of the names in the above paragraph, but maybe you can still cash out here.
Kinsler or Joe Panik? Most of the industry plays the name-brand card there, but I’ll go Panik, who’s eight years younger, carries a first-round pedigree, and is doing much more in 2015. Panic in Detroit? Trade your panic for Joe Panik. Some of you can do this. Some of your opponents line up with conventional wisdom, and will be reluctant to adjust player values.
Kinsler or Justin Turner? I guess it comes down to if you feel Turner can withstand a full season, because I fully believe in the bat. Kinsler or Matt Duffy? Yes, this is a real question. Kinsler or Dustin Pedroia, when he comes off the DL? I guess Pedroia is another 30-something second baseman we worry about. Robinson Cano, too.
I can guarantee you I’m not going old at second base next year. The keystone race is to the swift.
If you want to defend Ian Kinsler's declining years, have your say in the comments.
• Now that you’ve found Miguel Sano, what are you going to do with him? Try to make a trade, I guess.
Sano has been a hot prospect since joining the Twins organization in 2010, and he’s having a strong year at Double-A (.274/.374/.544, 15 homers, five steals). Double jumps are fairly common these days, especially when a pedigree is at play, so Sano might be able to hit the ground running in Minnesota. The Twins want to contend and they need another bat.
Sano’s most sellable point in Yahoo is his surprise shortstop eligibility (he hasn’t been there in several years). Have fun with that. It’s a messy position in 2015, so another option is always welcome.
My bottom line with most prospects is simple and consistent: baseball is hard, and I’m going to fade the hype where I can. If I owned Sano in any prospect-happy league, you better believe I’m working the trade market before he ever plays a game. Sure, he could be another Maikel Franco, monster mashing immediately. Or maybe he could be another Joey Gallo, exposed on the first lap and quickly returned to the minors for more seasoning. You decide.
About Last Night: Carlos Carrasco came one out away from a no-hitter in Tampa Bay, underscoring how right-handed pitchers dominate this matchup. Being under the catwalk helps, too. Joey Butler broke up the no-no (and the shutout) and might be back in the lineup now; he’s also starting Thursday . . . If Johnny Cueto is really in all those trade discussions, he sure gave the scouts something to think about (8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K). Unfortunately, if he is traded, it sounds like it will be to an American League team, and that’s a mild hit to his theoretical value. Still a proven ace, of course . . . For all the talk about Ian Desmond’s defense, Marcus Semien (25 errors) might be even worse. If the A’s climb into the playoff hunt - look at that run differential again - can they afford to play Semien all year? . . . The Pirates took batting practice against Alfredo Simon (save the bullpen) and Joba Chamberlain (duck in the bleachers): nine runs, 21 hits, four homers. Lumber Company. The damage could have been worse if the Bucs didn’t run into a couple of silly outs on the bases. A.J. Burnett cruised to his seventh victory, now has a 2.05 ERA. In Searage We Trust . . . Santiago Casilla blew a messy save at Miami and will get a time out for a few days. If you had to make a pickup, Sergio Romo is the logical play . . . Robinson Cano had a breakout day (5-2-4-3), perhaps because he owns James Shields. Meanwhile, Taijuan Walker has been outstanding over his last seven turns (1.68 ERA, three walks, 51 strikeouts), the lightbulb clearly going on. If I were shuffling the arms today, he's into the teens, easily . . . What’s so special about Kole Calhoun, again? Three strikeouts Wednesday, now down to .258/.314/.375. The poor Angels offense, it has two plus hitters . . . Wei-Yin Chen remains the best-kept secret in the American League (2.84 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, eight creamy-smooth IPs against Texas). I like him at Minnesota next week.
Fantasy is a speculative game. Predict the future, and you look like a genius. Don't, and you're painfully human. Gazing into the crystal ball, here's our view on 10 intriguing rookie over/unders for the upcoming season.
In a recent full-point, 12-team industry draft, Joseph Randle was plucked in Round 3 (No. 32 overall). Equally mind-blowing, according to Fantasy Football Calculator his draft stock has spiked a full five rounds since late May (40.4 ADP, RB20), leaving potential investors wondering if there is enough 'meat on the bone.' With that in mind, Randle finishes among fantasy RBs this fall 24.5.
Brad – UNDER. Darren McFadden and Ryan Williams are made from dissoluble materials and Lance Dunbar is a change-of-pace back. Despite his loud mouth and affinity for stealing underwear, Randle is the best option Jerry Jones currently has. His 51-carry sample size from '14 was small, but he gained over 60 percent of his yards after contact. Impressive. Running behind an elite offensive line, he's a strong candidate to log 13-16 touches per game. There's little room for profit, but a finish in the RB19-RB23 range feels right.
Scott – OVER. I hate covering the cost of helium on this type of player, a low-rep standout who has shown no proof of being able to handle a legitimate starter's workload. The Cowboys have several ways to run this potential backfield, and I suspect they'll keep shuffling and reshuffling the pecking order. There are too many high-floor players to focus on in the early rounds.
Andy – OVER. C'mon. He carried the ball just 51 times last season. You can't reasonably assume that his per-touch production would be the same (or close) at a much larger workload. And anyway, this backfield reeks of RBBC. Picking him in the third round is the sort of "LOOK AT ME!" thing that sometimes happens in industry leagues, but it's silly.
Because of the bottomless depth at QB, the fantasy community is divided on whether or not Andrew Luck should be selected in Round 1 of standard leagues (4 points/pass TD). Total touchdowns in 2015 for the splotchy bearded passer 45.5 .
Andy – UNDER. Like everyone else, I love him. But a million things need to go just right for anyone to reach a historically significant total like this.
Dalton – OVER. He totaled 43 last year during just his third season in the league, and he'll be my pick to win MVP in 2015. He's a monster. Having said that, I still wouldn't take him in the first round.
Scott – UNDER. I've been a huge Luck fan for his entire pro career (often writing the -pro side in a Spin Doctors), but a lot of things fell right en route to 40 passing touchdowns last year. Somehow, Luck got to that number without anyone snagging more than eight; that's just about impossible to repeat.
Can he throw another 19 scores to tight ends and linemen? T.Y. Hilton is a wonderful talent, but he's a deep threat, not a touchdown gobbler. Andre Johnson has never been a dynamic touchdown man, for all of his talent. Ahmad Bradshaw's six touchdown catches were an obvious fluke. And if the Colts show any improvement running the ball or on defense, Luck's volume could take a modest hit.
Travis Kelce, who played on only 66 percent of KC snaps last year, receiving yards in what should be an expanded role 774.5.
Andy – UNDER. There's no profit to be found with Kelce ... none. His quarterback situation is disastrous, and the hype here is absurd. Even if he reaches this good-not-great yardage total, he's not the primary option near the goal line.
Brad – OVER. This offseason Kelce prepped his body for what's expected to be a rigorous workload. His increased bulk, open-field shiftiness, vertical speed and blocking ability should have him on the field 75-80 percent of the time. On some 7-8 targets per game, I expect him to sail past the proposed number, especially with Jeremy Maclin wearing red.
Brandon – OVER. What am I missing here? He had 862 receiving yards last season, and his playing time is expected to sharply increase with Anthony Fasano out of the picture. Yes, he'll have competition for targets from newly acquired wideout Jermey Maclin, but Maclin is a field stretcher, whereas Kelce lives in a more advantageous zip code for the limtations of Alex Smith's arm.
Sophomore standouts Davante Adams, John Brown, Charles Johnson and Allen Robinson have attracted headlines in OTAs and minicamp. Which has the biggest breakout potential? BONUS: Include a Fearless Forecast (Rec-YDS-TD).
Brad – ROBINSON. Green Bay's offense is unrivaled, but Adams' path to targets is complicated with Jordy and Cobb higher in the pecking order. Robinson, even with Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas around, should attract a lion's share of targets this year. Considering how soft the Jags defense is and based on the WR's red-zone upside he has WR2 appeal. Fearless Forecast: 71 receptions, 1075 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns.
Brandon – JOHNSON. But no one should care about OTAs. You're better off ignoring those blurbs entirely. Adams might be the best player from this group, but Johnson is close. Also, I'm a big believer in Teddy Bridgewater. (It's an absolute joke that Bortles went ahead of him. So Jags.)
Dalton – ROBINSON. He's going to be a target monster as the team's clear No. 1 wideout. Quarterback play is a question mark, but Robinson impressed as a rookie and was reportedly a standout at OTAs. I'll predict he becomes the first Jacksonville wide receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards in a decade. Fearless Forecast: 80-1100-7.
[National Draft Day - Get your Fantasy league together at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas]
Rookie RB Re-rank. List the following in order from greatest to least fantasy .5 PPR impact in 2015: Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, T.J. Yeldon, Tevin Coleman, Ameer Abdullah, Duke Johnson, David Cobb.
Brandon – 1) Gordon 2) Gurley 3) Abdullah 4) Duke Johnson (love him, but still not sure if he'll have a role that compares to the guys I put in front of him) 5) Yeldon 6) Coleman 7) Cobb
Dalton – 1) Gordon 2) Yeldon 3) Gurley 4) Coleman 5) Abdullah 6) Cobb 7) Johnson - For me it was really close between Coleman and Abdullah, as I have them currently ranked back-to-back on my RB board.
Scott – 1) Gordon 2) Yeldon 3) Gurley 4) Abdullah 5) Johnson 6) Coleman 7) Cobb
Brad – 1) Gordon 2) Gurley 3) Coleman 4) Yeldon 5) Abdullah 6) Cobb 7) Duke. For the record, Coleman/Yeldon/Abdullah are separated by the slimmest of margins.
Dez Bryant, who's drawn a line in the sand about his contract situation, regular season games missed this fall .5.
Dalton – UNDER. Of course there's a chance he gets hurt, but he's been extremely durable, and the bottom line is I wouldn't move him down my rankings whatsoever based on this holdout threat. I'd be shocked if Bryant willingly sits out a single game.
Scott – UNDER. These standoffs so very rarely turn into anything when the real games come, and the game checks are in the balance.
Andy – UNDER. He's played the full 16 in each of the past three seasons. Dez wouldn't gain a thing by sitting in the opener. No leverage there. One of the worst ideas I can recall, in a sport that produces many of 'em.
QB conundrum. What widely drafted QB2 has the best shot to penetrate the QB1 ranks in 12-team leagues: Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford, Jay Cutler or Teddy Bridgewater.
Scott – PALMER, because he'll have to - the line and the backfield aren't set up to do much in the desert. But don't forget a sleeper not even mentioned in this question, Cincinnati's Andy Dalton. Everything fell wrong for him in 2014, and then the Bengals collapsed in the playoffs, their usual thing. It's gotten to the point that Dalton is so overrated, he's actually underrated again.
Andy – I'd love to say TEDDY, because I think he'll ultimately be recognized as the best from this group. But for a year, it's probably PALMER. The team context is too good, from coach to supporting cast.
Brad – PALMER. Bridgewater is a very close second, but I'm enamored with the Red Baron. He was a top-10 QB when on the field last year ('14 extrapolation over 16 games: 4,336 yards, 29 TDs). Most appetizing, Bruce Arians plans to install a no-huddle offense, a scheme that should maximize Palmer's workload. The personnel around him – Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd, Andre Ellington and David Johnson – are constructed for a prolific pass game. And the Cardinals' enhanced offensive line should provide better protection.
Fanatics' concerns over C.J. Anderson continue to escalate despite encouraging words mouthed recently by Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak. BUST or BARGAIN at his current 21.2 Yahoo ADP?
Andy – It's the right price. I don't think he's a steal at 21, nor do I think he's a silly pick. I actually think a late second round pick feels right for a guy with such a high ceiling and such a low floor. Well done, Yahoo community.
Brad – BARGAIN. The Broncos' patchwork offensive line understandably has people on edge, but Anderson is the best fit for Kubiak's zone-blocking system. He makes guys miss (No. 4 in elusive rating in '14), is a proven receiver and pass blocks enthusiastically, a must-have attribute when playing alongside Peyton Manning. He was a top-three performer over the second half of 2014. If the o-line melds quickly this summer, he should pick up where he left off. Substantiated by my Broncos insiders, Ball and Hillman are minimal threats.
Brandon – BARGAIN. I am so over Montee Ball, and I don't deem him to be a worthy threat to Anderson at all. Just watch the game film - it doesn't lie. It's obvious that Anderson is a much, much better back, and I'd certainly take him inside the top 20 in what should be a nice running system in Denver under Gary Kubiak's guidance.
Megatron was, for all intents and purposes, a mega-bust for those who sank a top-pick in him last season. Nagging injuries explain the decline, but he's no longer a spring chicken entering his Age 30 season. Final WR rank this year 5.5.
Brad – OVER. His persistent knee problems should have potential suitors on edge. When healthy, he's a dominant threat in every capacity. His second year in Joe Lombardi's New Orleans-styled offense also lends confidence. However, as stated above, he's isn't a youngin' anymore and Matthew Stafford hasn't exactly lit the world on fire. He'll be good, not spectacular. I'll gladly minimize the risk and invest in Julio Jones and Alshon Jeffery over him.
Brandon – OVER/UNDER. I put both O/U down because I suspect I will waffle back and forth on this one all summer. Currently I have him slotted as my No. 5 WR, but I have Julio Jones at No. 6 and my mind swaps these two around any time the wind changes direction. Both are supremely talented, but carry a health risk tag.
Dalton – UNDER. It's likely his prime is now behind him, but Johnson remains a star and should still be treated as such. He's one season removed from an 84-1492-12 campaign (over just 14 games). He's no longer the No. 1 fantasy WR, but Johnson is still top five.
Membership in the C.J. Spiller fan club has climbed with the mercury. Many, particularly PPR players, anticipate a rebirth on the Bayou. Receptions this year for the new Saint 62.5.
Brandon – OVER, by a mile. The Saints have led the league in RB receptions in each of the past four seasons, and their lowest RB reception total in that span is 132, which is more than twice this number. With only Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson, two players that have had very little involvement in the passing game in the past, vying for targets with Spiller out of the backfield, I wouldn't be surprised if Spiller catches 80-90 passes.
Dalton – OVER. He's actually never even reached 45 receptions in a season during his career, but he's a capable pass catcher for sure, and clearly the Saints brought him in envisioning Spiller filling the old Darren Sproles role in New Orleans.
Scott – OVER, probably easily. This is what the Saints do, they go bananas throwing to their backs. It should be a blast watching Spiller playing for a team that actually groks his talent and goes out of its way to feature it. The Buffalo experience was a communal migraine for everyone.
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Max Scherzer, SP, at Atl (Banuelos), $12500 at FanDuel: As usual, I’ll recommend paying up for a top pitcher, especially with the softer pricing on FanDuel this year. Scherzer certainly qualifies as one, as he’s top-three among all starters in MLB in ERA (1.79), FIP (2.02), WHIP (0.79), K-BB% (27.4) and SwStr% (14.2). He owns a 1.40 ERA and 0.83 WHIP on the road, and he’ll be facing a Braves team Thursday that’s scored the fifth-fewest runs at home and will be missing its best hitter. The Nationals are easily the most favored team (-200) on the day while tied for the lowest over/under (6.5). Scherzer is expensive, however, so let’s dig for some cheap hitting options to fill out a lineup.
Mike Napoli, 1B, at Tor (Boyd), $2700: He’s at a pretty good price for someone who’s homered five times over 67 at bats against left-handed pitchers this season. Napoli will be facing a hurler who served up three bombs over 6.2 innings during his major league debut in his last start.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, vs. Tor (Miley), $3900: He’s batting .368/.397/.667 against southpaws with a 1.069 OPS at home. He’s $1200 cheaper than the most expensive third baseman and is just $300 more than Matt Duffy.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, vs. Min (Gibson), $2700: If you prefer to go cheaper at third base, here’s one who bats atop a lineup and is hitting .341 against RHP. Kyle Gibson has a 24:15 K:BB ratio over 43.1 innings on the road this season, which is why this won’t be the last Royals batter I’ll recommend for Thursday.
Alcides Escobar, SS, vs. Min (Gibson), $2500: He hits leadoff and owns a career .471/.500/.529 line over 17 at bats against Gibson. Shortstop remains mostly a wasteland as well.
Nelson Cruz, OF, at Oak (Kazmir), $3000: He’s back in action and even homered Wednesday. Scott Kazmir is a good pitcher, but Cruz has hit .392/.492/.902 with seven homers over 51 at bats when facing left handers this season, so this price sure seems right.
Ryan Raburn, OF, at TB (Moore), $2400: He sports a .968 OPS against southpaws while often hitting cleanup against them. And while I have high hopes for Matt Moore moving forward, he’ll be making his first start Thursday since April 7 in 2014 while returning from Tommy John surgery.
Alex Gordon, OF, vs. Min (Gibson), $2500: I’m going to recommend him for the second straight day here at this price, as he has a .389 OBP against RHP and a career 1.113 OPS against Gibson (albeit over just 14 at bats).
Dee Gordon, 2B, vs. SF (Cain), $3200: He’s batting .340 with 20 steals over 235 at bats against RHP this season, and Matt Cain is making his first start in nearly a year.
Yan Gomes, at TB (Moore), $2400: He’s been a massive disappointment since returning from a knee injury, but Gomes was typically drafted as a top-five fantasy catcher before the season started coming off a .278-21-74 season as a 28-year-old. He sat out Wednesday so the backstop should be in the lineup Thursday, and he’ll be facing a pitcher making his season debut (a theme here). Gomes hit .331 versus LHP last year.
In the Tuesday Closing Time, we went with a soft sell of Cesar Hernandez. In the current edition, we’ll amp things up a bit.
He keeps running, so we keep writing.
When it comes to fantasy specialists, there’s a low barrier to relevance. Anyone who is collecting saves for a major-league club is worth rostering in most fantasy leagues, even if the other stats are dodgy (the good old Mesa Mandate). It isn’t quite that simple with offensive players, but if someone is capable of running aggressively when they reach base, we’ll overlook some other stuff.
Hernandez, a 25-year-old infielder with the Phillies, was born to run. He swiped two more bags Tuesday (undeterred by an early pickoff), giving him six steals in his last four games. He batted .324 for June, with a .395 on-base percentage, and he’s taken ownership of the No. 2 slot in the batting order. With Chase Utley out indefinitely (ankle), not to mention carrying that unsightly .179 batting average, this Hernandez story could last for a while.
And heck, maybe Hernandez will settle into a role even when Utley returns. Here’s what interim manager Pete Mackanin had to say about Hernandez on Tuesday - head over to the Phillies team site.
"I would like to think that Cesar has proven that he deserves a chance to be the everyday second baseman," Mackanin said. "That remains to be seen. I don't know. I don't want to get ahead of myself. Let's just wait to see when Chase is healthy and how he feels and we'll go from there."
"When you see part-time players and perhaps at times they're not doing as well as you'd like them to do, you can see now the benefit, obviously, of playing on a daily basis," Mackanin said about Hernandez. "Cesar has been fantastic. We always felt he had it in him. It's been a long process. I think he's making a good statement for himself in the future."
Hernandez never showed much pop over his eight minor-league seasons, but he did steal 155 bags over 645 games. A .294 average and .352 OBP, you can work with that. The Phillies don’t have much of an offense (no NL team has scored fewer runs), but they are 12th in the majors in stolen bases. If you can’t rake, you scamper.
Hernandez is one of the common adds over the past 24 hours, but he’s still unowned in 87 percent of Yahoo leagues. You can plug him in at second base, shortstop or third base. We know he’s outstanding in one area, and passable in a second roto column. Take the case. Rabbit, run.
Need help with a drop? We can do that. Martin Prado and Adeiny Hechavarria are simple cuts. Even if I had unlimited DL space, I’m not bothering with Utley. Jose Iglesias has a pretty average, but he bats low in the order and can’t dominate the steals category. Is Francisco Lindor ready? Is Danny Santana salvageable? I’m not immediately bullish on either.
• Back a few years ago, Mike Montgomery was just another ballyhooed Kansas City prospect, perhaps overrated. These days, he’s a Seattle lefty with a bagel habit.
It’s about time the 2015 Mariners got a break.
Montgomery has made six starts in his rookie season and five have been excellent. He’s turned in a pair of shocking shutouts in his recent work, a five-hit blanking of KC last week (with 10 strikeouts), then Tuesday night’s coconut stroll down in San Diego (1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 K). Video killed the radio star. (Should strikeouts against Jedd Gyorko count?)
The strikeout column is the puzzling part of the Montgomery file. He only whiffed 12 men over his first four turns, but he’s rolled up 17 in the last week, with 10 coming against the contact-heavy Royals. His average fastball is a modest 91.1 mph. He’s only getting a swinging strike 8.2 percent of the time, well under the league average of 9.7 and the starter average of 9.0.
Some pundits might write the convenient “sell high” ticket, but where do you find a buyer in a case like this? Your opponents have the Internet, too. They recognize Montgomery’s 3.02 FIP and 4.11 xFIP. Even the worst owners in your league probably understand what regression means.
The Mariners will have a crowded rotation when Hisashi Iwakuma returns. Felix Hernandez is the obvious ace, and Taijuan Walker isn’t going anywhere. J.A. Happ probably has a leg up over Roenis Elias, I suppose. I’m not confident in what Montgomery will do against Oakland this weekend, but he’s done a lovely job of proving me wrong the last month.
Rest-of-season ERA? Put me down for something in the high-3s.
About Last Night: You’re a better man than I if you predicted the 1-0 showdown between Kyle Hendricks and Jon Niese. Dexter Fowler struck out twice in four at-bats, along with a single - an extended slump has him down to .237/.312/.387, and he hasn’t been running . . . Possible thunderstorms made things complicated in DFS, but the Rangers and Orioles played another keg tapper (14 runs), with Mitch Moreland and Chris Davis both going deep twice. Moreland seems to tease us every year with a power run, but he’s never posted a full-season OPS over .800 before. Right now, he’s at .916 . . . Speaking of scuffling NL hitters, why is everyone so in love with Gregory Polanco? He’s down to .233/.299/.335 after a 1-for-5 night. He’s on a pace for 36 steals, six homers and 38 RBIs, along with that messy average . . . Ian Desmond struck out all four trips, dropping his OPS to .618. It’s not much of a trade market, but maybe the Nats should look for a different shortstop. Desmond’s been awful in the field, too . . . Billy Hamilton stayed in the leadoff spot but didn’t try a steal in his 5-1-1-0 evening . . . Although the Giants couldn’t solve Cat Latos, Joe Panik keeps chugging along (.312/.380/.460), looking comfortable in the No. 2 slot . . . Keep an eye on Erasmo Ramirez, who was effective in a tough-luck loss to Cleveland (5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K). A weekend start at Yankee Stadium makes me nervous, but after that he gets Houston at home . . . Ben Zobrist reached base three times in Oakland’s loss to Colorado (the A’s are comically unlucky in those one-run games). Zobrist has an .837 OPS since returning a month ago.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, vs. LAD (Anderson), $5400 at FanDuel: He has an 11-game hitting streak and is on pace to finish with 116 runs scored, 42 homers, 138 RBI and 32 steals with a .354 batting average. He will be a top-three pick next year and is a beast against anyone, but Goldschmidt is especially tough against southpaws, whom he’s hit .387/.465/.694 against. He’s also 7-for-11 with an 1.848 OPS versus Brett Anderson during his career. If you’re going to spend big on a hitter Wednesday, Goldschmidt is the one in which to do so.
John Lackey, SP, vs. CWS (Quintana), $8700: He’s allowed three runs or fewer in 11 of his past 12 starts and owns a 1.91 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 56.2 innings at home this season. The White Sox have also scored the second fewest runs in MLB this year, and that’s with them typically using the DH that they won’t have available Wednesday. There’s some chance of rain during the Cardinals game, so if you prefer to spend your money on Johnny Cueto, I certainly wouldn’t blame you.
Dee Gordon, 2B, vs. SF (Heston), $3000: He’s batting .341 against RHP this season and has recorded 2.8 FPPG, which is the same as Jose Altuve, only he’s $1400 cheaper. Chris Heston has allowed a 1.47 WHIP against LHB this season.
Robinson Cano, 2B, at SD (Shields), $2500: If you want to spend even less on a second baseman, look at Cano, who owns a .402/.435/.690 career line over 87 at bats against James Shields.
Stephen Vogt, C, vs. Col (Bettis), $3600: He should be in the lineup after playing first base Tuesday, and the catcher still has an impressive .938 OPS with 12 homers over 179 at bats against right-handed pitchers this season.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, at Bal (Chen), $2800: He’s been a bust so far, but Beltre still hits cleanup in Texas’ lineup and had a .984 OPS against LHP as recently as last season. If you believe in track record, this sure looks like a pretty good bargain.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, at Tor (Buehrle), $2700: He’s been batting third in Boston’s lineup lately and is facing a lefty Wednesday. There are nine more expensive shortstops than Bogaerts for a very thin position.
Josh Reddick, OF, vs. Col (Bettis), $3100: He still owns a .327/.382/.546 line with 10 homers over 205 at bats against RHP on the year, so this price remains a bargain.
Alex Gordon, OF, at Hou (Velasquez), $2500: He’s cheap, owns a .925 OPS on the road as well as a .392 OBP versus RHP this season. Vincent Velasquez has looked impressive, but he has walked nine batters over 13.1 innings when facing left-handers so far.
Yasiel Puig, OF, at Ari (Ray), $3400: Puig may be disliked by his teammates, but he’s hitting .381 against LHP this season and certainly isn’t priced here as a player who was commonly drafted in the top two rounds before the season started.
I’m not going to point you to Chris Sale for Tuesday night. If you can’t build that case on your own, there’s no hope. Let’s see if we can support him with some other plays, and give you alternatives if you need to go contrarian, here and there.
Billy Hamilton, OF, vs. MIN (Hughes), $3000: He’s been on a stealing rampage this month, and he’s set to lead off for the second straight game. Phil Hughes is nothing special when it comes to stopping the running game. There’s some rain in the forecast, but if things look clear around opening pitch, Hamilton is a dynamic play at a modest cost.
Josh Phegley, C, vs. COL (De La Rosa), $3100: Here’s the best-kept secret at the catcher position, someone who’s mashed to a .362/.423/.617 line against lefties. Colorado's De La Soul is a southpaw, so if Phegley is in the Oakland lineup, he’s in my lineup.
Any Dodger You Want (at ARI, De La Rosa): The Boys of Summer have met up with Rubby De La Rosa twice, pounding him for 14 runs and four homers over 10 innings. It’s not really Rubby’s fault - the Dodgers, after all, lead the majors in wOBA and weighed-runs created against right-handed pitching. They crush these guys. Your normal lefty sluggers look good, so long as they’re lineup verified - Pederson, Ethier, Grandal, Gonzalez. And don’t forget that Justin Turner - the ridiculous Justin Turner - is a reverse-platoon guy who actually prefers RHPs.
Rougned Odor, 2B, at BAL (Gonzalez), $2700: It’s a little boring when the plays become forced, but you take what they give you. Odor is the No. 4 fantasy second baseman since his recall, he’s leading off again, and runs should be scored Tuesday at Camden Yards (total is 8.5).
Jose Altuve, 2B, vs. KC (Duffy), $4300: The cost has come down some, and Altuve is back in fine form (.346, two homers, four steals over last seven games). Altuve is a solid play against anyone, but his best form shows against southpaws (career .862 OPS).
Brandon Crawford, SS, at MIA (Latos), $3100: We’ve talked about Crawford’s reverse platoon split in the past, but Mat Latos can’t get anyone out these days - lefties especially. And despite Crawford’s dynamite fantasy season, he’s still priced reasonably. I’ll be shocked if the Giants don’t get to Latos at some point Tuesday.
Dallas Keuchel, SP, vs. KC (Duffy), $10,300: This might have some contrarian roots because Keuchel isn’t a dominant strikeout man (his recent form to the side) and the Royals are known for their contact. Nonetheless, Keuchel works at home, and KC is a modest 13th in wOBA against lefties - that doesn’t make them a matchup to drool over, perhaps, but it’s nothing to be afraid of. And the Royals are unlikely to run at all on Keuchel, who does an outstanding job holding runners and delivering in a tidy fashion. I also expect Houston to do some damage against Danny Duffy.
Ian Kennedy, SP, vs. SEA (Montgomery), $7400: He's righted the ship in June (2.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) and the Mariners are the lowest-scoring team in baseball. Sometimes the plays just write themselves into your lineup. If you want pitching on a budget Tuesday, vote for Kennedy.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, vs. BOS (Rodriguez), $4100: Another big name but the cost isn't prohibitive, and you should know how Donaldson has obliterated lefties this year, especially at home. The wheels have come off E-Rod for the last two starts, and I'm not expecting him to right the ship in the most daunting pitching assignment.
Mitch Moreland, OF, at BAL (Gonzalez), $2600: A hot hand (four homers in five games), a cheap price, a homer park, a platoon edge against an ordinary righty. All the dots connect.
A lot of pundits have picked on the A’s for the Josh Donaldson trade, and you can count me in that group. But any transaction where you acquire Kendall Graveman can’t be so bad.
Graveman’s first go-round in Oakland was rocky - he had an 8.27 ERA at the end of April. But Oakland stuck with the rookie right-hander and rewards have followed: a 4-2 record over eight starts, with a 2.01 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Graveman threw seven bagels at the Rockies on Monday, then watched the bullpen finish off the 7-1 laugher.
Pitching to contact is a major chunk of the Graveman story. He has a modest 37 strikeouts (against 14 walks) over the 53.2 quality innings he’s given us the last two months, something that could be a deal breaker in some leagues that cap your starts or innings. He throws his sinker about half the time and induces a ground ball on 47 percent of his batted balls, obviously a good thing.
Although Graveman’s home record wasn’t very good before Monday, the roomy Oakland park should be a good fit. And Oakland’s often-spotty defense hasn’t held Graveman back yet - he’s only allowed two unearned runs for the year. His OPS-allowed moves a modest 32 points against lefties, so that hasn’t been a problem, either.
To be fair, the ERA estimators call for something over four, and it's hard to trust any pitcher who doesn't even crack six strikeotus per nine innings. But Graveman is throwing the right pitch in the right park in an ordinary division, which means I'll follow the story for a while. You also have to love his giveaway price in most daily formats.
If you feel like kicking some tires, the schedule lines up favorably. Graveman draws the Mariners on the weekend - the lowest-scoring team in the majors - though he also has to deal with Felix Hernandez on the other side. The following week, it’s a date with the Indians, currently 21st in scoring. Good work if you can get it. Graveman’s sinker is ready to go in 86 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• Sometimes I get pushback on the scoring themes of the AL East and NL East, but let’s note that those divisions are what we thought they’d be.
The AL East is far and away the highest scoring division in baseball, and has three of the top five offenses (Jays, runaway leaders, along with the Yanks and Orioles). The NL East has three bottom-five offenses (Marlins, Mets, Phillies), and things could get a lot worse with Miami now that Giancarlo Stanton is hurt. The Braves are 19th in runs (and currently without Freddie Freeman), while the Nats are eighth.
Why run uphill when you don’t have to? The Stream Police know where to go.
• Billy Hamilton is one of baseball’s most frustrating players. His speed is a blast to watch (so is his defense), but that .224/.273/.295 slash makes you wonder if he should be playing in the first place. Ah, but he does that one thing so well, we have to take him seriously for fantasy purposes.
Lately, that thing he does has been going a little haywire. Hamilton started his current stolen-base run with a two-bagger on June 8; since then, he’s swiped an absurd 17 bases in 19 attempts. First base is the hardest find, but after that, the going is easy.
Hamilton collected four bags in Monday’s 11-7 win over Minnesota, en route to three runs. It was also his second leadoff assignment of the month. Perhaps the Reds will leave him there for a while, and that certainly gives Hamilton a bump in the scheme of things, crummy average or no crummy average. He’s also a mere 3K for Fan Duel players on Tuesday.
• Cesar Hernandez has a modest minor-league profile, and he didn’t hit much for the Phillies in limited time the last two years (.624 OPS). But he’ll always have June 2015 to remember, apparently.
Hernandez is working on a .328/.394/.406 month, with six steals and 12 runs over 64 at-bats. He’s picked up eight hits and four steals over the last three games. The Phillies have used him as the No. 2 hitter for a week now.
Eventually Chase Utley will come off the DL and the Phillies surely will play him over Hernandez. But in the meantime, rabbit run. Hernandez qualifies at three different infield positions for the Yahooligans, and he’s an instant download in 92 percent of the Y.
The assignment on the docket is outfielders. What's happened to this point is merely an audition. How should we rank the Yahoo-eligible outfielders, 5x5 value, if the season started right now?
A few rules. Catcher-eligibles who also qualify in the outfield are ignored. I don't rank anyone in the minors - you can decide what they're worth to you. And while I do rank injured players, I'm not going to debate those ranks. It's not my back, my wrist, or my surgery, and I've found over the years that almost everyone is far more optimistic about long-term injury returnees than I am.
The dollar values are unscientific, and merely provided as a tool to compare the players at the same position (I wouldn't suggest you use them to compare players at different positions). Groups of players at the same price are considered even.
If you have respectful and detailed disagreement, I'm all ears, below and on Twitter (@scott_pianowski).
$30 Mike Trout
$29 Bryce Harper
$28 Andrew McCutchen
$24 Justin Upton
$22 George Springer
$22 Jose Bautista
$22 Brett Gardner
$21 Ryan Braun
$21 A.J. Pollock
$20 Starling Marte
$20 Charlie Blackmon
$20 Adam Jones
$19 J.D. Martinez
$19 Carlos Gomez
$18 Yoenis Cespedes
$18 Joc Pederson
$17 Hanley Ramirez
The Wait-For-Proofers sure missed the boat on Martinez. His 2014 emergence, fueled by a change in mechanics, has been validated with 74 terrific games this year. It’s another case in favor of appreciating what a player can do well instead of looking for potential problems.
Martinez didn’t command the strike zone particularly well last year, walking about six percent of the time and striking out 26 percent of the time. This year, the numbers are similar - walks up a smidge, strikeouts also up a little bit. But the way the ball reacts when Martinez does make contact, who cares?
The average MLB hitter makes hard contact around 28-29 percent of the time. Martinez was at 43.3 percent last year, and he’s at 40.8 percent for 2015. Over the past calendar year, only Miguel Cabrera and Giancarlo Stanton have higher hard-hit percentages. And over the same period, only eight batters have more home runs than Martinez’s 34.
The pop is certainly legit. And while it wasn't reasonable to chase last year's .315 average, Martinez should be able to post a solid number there, in addition to three strong numbers in the production categories.
Planet Hanley is one of the most difficult calls for a fantasy owner to make right now. He's dealt with hand, back, knee and shoulder problems over the last two months, and after a tremendous April, not much has gone on the board (from May 1 to current, we're looking at .278/.324/.396, 25 runs, five homers, 16 RBIs, two steals; that makes him the No. 113 5x5 hitter over that period).
The Red Sox are just six games out in the AL East, so perhaps they can get back into the race. But if Boston isn't playing meaningful games in September, will it make sense to push Ramirez to the finish? Hell, will he push himself? I'm always cautious with injury-nagged players, especially when they're tied to a team that might not be in contention. (To a lesser extent, this partially explains my cautious price on Braun - and you know how I usually handle players who are currently on the DL. Let someone else expect the world.)
I’ve received a bunch of unsolicited Gardner trade offers during the year, most of them lowballs. This ignores one rule of thumb: if a player is in the midst of a career year, the one guy surely aware of the story is the fantasy owner, enjoying the ride. You can’t buy low in this pocket, unless the owner in question outsmarts himself and starts to imagine a pumpkin risk that isn’t really there. In the case of a fairly-established player like Gardner, there’s no reason to fear monsters under the bed.
Okay, Gardner’s .364 BABIP is a little higher than expected, though he’s entitled to a better-than-average hit rate given his line-drive profile and plus speed. His career mark is .325 and he posted a .342 hit rate in 2013. The power is in line with what he posted last year, and he’s always been someone capable of stealing 30-40 bases in any season if the interest grabbed him.
I don’t think anyone expects Gardner to continue to product like a Top 12 player, but he should be a Top 20 outfielder barring injury, with a reasonable chance to stick in the Top 8-12 at the position. A versatile player is a beautiful thing, especially when he’s parked atop a loaded lineup like New York’s (the Yanks, somewhat quietly, are second in the majors in runs).
$16 Lorenzo Cain
$16 Yasiel Puig
$16 Billy Hamilton
$16 Nelson Cruz
$16 Mookie Betts
$14 Jay Bruce
$14 Michael Brantley
$14 Jason Heyward
$14 Carlos Gonzalez
$13 Cameron Maybin
$13 Billy Burns
$13 Josh Reddick
$13 Ben Revere
$12 Curtis Granderson
$12 Ben Zobrist
$11 Christian Yelich
$11 Alex Gordon
$11 Kevin Pillar
$11 Matt Kemp
$10 Chris Carter
$10 Denard Span
$10 Kole Calhoun
$10 Brandon Moss
$10 Adam Eaton
$10 Dexter Fowler
$10 Yasmany Tomas
Brantley and Puig are two more players I'm treading carefully on, concerned about how healthy they may or may not be.
Brantley continues to control his at-bats like a boss (look at the dreamy K/BB rate), but there's been no power for a month and a half. You get the idea his back isn't right. I'm already looking forward to the over-correction discount that I suspect we'll have available to us in 2016, but Brantley was a Wallet Player for me entering the year, so I'm looking at a notable loss there.
Puig's had a similar year in LA, posting a strong K/BB ratio and solid average, but it's been without much power (he's also 0-for-2 on the bases). I'm not really concerned about some of the noise surrounding Puig's mercurial personality; he's shown the ability to block out distractions and produce between the lines. I also suspect the Dodgers realize what's at stage with Puig's role on the club, and won't do anything short-sighted or spiteful. But if Puig's hamstring and hand aren't right, how much category juice can we realistically expect?
You think of Granderson getting pull-happy, looking to punish mistakes, but he’s actually gone the other way more often this year, posting his highest opposite-field rate in seven years. He’s also sitting on the highest walk rate of his career. There are countless problems with the Mets offense, but Grandy is someone New York should be able to count on.
Kemp is swinging more often this year (both out of zone and in zone), but it hasn’t been that big a deal - his contact rate has gone up as well, his highest mark in six years. But the connections are rarely going for extra bases - note the .370 slugging percentage. A perfect 7-for-7 on the bases takes out some of the sting, but I have little confidence in Kemp returning to star level or even OF 2/3 level. It’s a good case of the name brand carrying far more value than the actual production.
$9 Gregory Polanco
$9 Chris Colabello
$9 Steven Souza
$9 Josh Harrison
$8 Torii Hunter
$8 Leonys Martin
$8 Brock Holt
$7 Randal Grichuk
$7 Shin-Soo Choo
$7 Andre Ethier
$7 Will Venable
$7 Joey Butler
$6 Avisail Garcia
$6 Melky Cabrera
$6 Gerardo Parra
$6 Rajai Davis
$5 Kevin Kiermaier
$5 David Peralta
$5 Colby Rasmus
$5 Carlos Beltran
$5 Michael Taylor
$5 Chris Young
$5 Marcell Ozuna
$5 Mark Trumbo
$4 Alex Rios
$4 Michael Cuddyer
$4 Austin Jackson
$4 Nick Markakis
$4 Anthony Gose
$4 Preston Tucker
$4 Marlon Byrd
$4 Logan Morrison
$4 Ben Paulsen
$4 Chris Parmelee
$4 Eddie Rosario
$4 Gregor Blanco
I've been having fun with the Butler story, but the K/BB rate has been in the red all along, and the Rays haven't been starting him of late. Pumpkin Risk is currently set to orange . . . Trumbo could be entering the Therapeutic Drop Zone. He’s slashing a scary .151/.184/.205 since joining the Mariners, with three walks against 21 strikeouts. Did Seattle actively chase after this trade, or did it let the Snakes talk the Mariners into it? Trumbo looks like someone who could be out of the league in his early 30s . . . Joey Gallo was given a modest price before his Tuesday demotion. If you're going to strike out 44 percent of the time, a slugging percentage of .448 isn't going to cut it. The Rangers are in the thick of it, they need bats they can rely on right now . . . Steve Pearce, Jimmy Paredes, now Chris Parmelee - the Orioles seem to have some sort of magic pixie dust when it comes to these low-expectation players and journeymen. I realize Parmelee was a first-round pick in his draft class, but that was eight years ago and he was selected out of high school; his ordinary minor-league profile never chased him onto prospect lists as he climbed the ladder. Nonetheless, if the O's give Parmelee a little leash, I'll do the same. Maybe he'll get a chance to take a regular post and run with it. Baltimore could use consistent power at the outfield corners.
$3 Alex Guerrero
$3 Juan Lagares
$3 Travis Snider
$3 Seth Smith
$3 Brandon Barnes
$3 Alejandro de Aza
$3 Chris Coghlan
$2 Angel Pagan
$2 Cody Asche
$2 Kelly Johnson
$2 Brandon Guyer
$2 Odubel Herrera
$2 Mark Canha
$2 Clint Robinson
$2 Ichiro Suzuki
$2 David DeJesus
$1 Dustin Ackley
$1 Ryan Raburn
$1 Michael Bourn
$1 Ezequiel Carrera
$1 David Murphy
$1 Grady Sizemore
$1 John Mayberry
$1 Jeff Francoeur
$0 Melvin Upton
Courtesy Injury Ranks - Not For Debate
$16 Jacoby Ellsbury
$15 Giancarlo Stanton
$13 Hunter Pence
$9 Matt Holliday
$8 Norichika Aoki
$6 Josh Hamilton
$5 Corey Dickerson
$5 Jorge Soler
$3 Wil Myers
$3 Jayson Werth
$3 Delino DeShields
$3 Jacob Marisnick
$2 Byron Buxton
$2 Ender Inciarte
$2 Carl Crawford
$2 Khris Davis
$2 Ryan Zimmerman
$1 Michael Morse
$1 Martin Prado
$1 Desmond Jennings
$1 Coco Crisp
Rougned Odor, 2B, at BAL (Norris), $2600: There have been three distinct portions of Odor’s season: the awful five weeks that forced a demotion (.486 OPS), the ballistic month at Triple-A where he restored his confidence (1.065 OPS), and the snappy 12 games since he returned (.395/.442/.632, two homers, four steals). The Rangers are using Odor at the top of the lineup more often than not these days, and I have to assume he sticks there Monday, off a three-hit game and facing the ordinary Bud Norris. The backdrop of Camden Yards is also a plus. Even if Odor were into the 3K range, I’d strongly consider him. At this bargain cost, it’s an easy punch.
I’d like to see more of the seasonal players jumping in, too. Odor is the No. 6 second baseman in Yahoo over the last two weeks, but he’s still free to add in 71 percent of leagues. Get to work.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, at TOR (Dickey), $2600: The power hasn’t arrived yet, but the X-man is hitting .327 this month and has settled in as Boston’s No. 3 hitter. Rogers Centre is a fun place to take some hacks, and you never know if the R.A. Dickey knuckler is going to be working.
Kendall Graveman, SP, vs. COL (Hale), $5400: It took him a while to get his sea legs, but check the last seven starts: 2.31 ERA, 1.20 WHIP. He’s also the biggest favorite on this watered-down card, at minus-160, and we know the Colorado offense doesn’t always travel well.
Mike Trout, OF, vs. NYY (Sabathia), $5000: There are some cards where a Trout play doesn’t come easy - there are big-name pitchers you want to grab, and it makes the offensive assembly more difficult. But on an ace-free Monday slate, you’re going to have more fun money for your hitters. And what’s more fun than a premier right-handed bat going up against the declining skills of lefty meatballer C.C. Sabathia?
Albert Pujols, 1B, vs. NYY (Sabathia), $4600: Again, we’re not splitting the atom here. But consider the *average* right-handed bat has a .339/.374/.580 slash against Sabathia this year, then consider how silly Pujols has been in June (12 homers, 1.142 OPS). With cheap pitchers, and some cheap middles and outfielders too, you should have no problem paying up at The Big A if you feel like it.
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, vs. CLE (Anderson), $2700: Come for the good price and the leadoff slot, stay for the sneaky offense. Special K is hitting .346 this month with six steals.
Nolan Reimold, OF, vs. TEX (Rodriguez), $2300: At this point, I’m ready to follow Buck Showalter into a burning building. He's a magic man with that lineup card. Reimold is off to a snappy start against lefties this year, and I think most of us expect a Wandy Rodriguez Regression Tour to start shortly. Reimold slots second in the Monday lineup and the price is just about the minimum on Fan Duel.
Jason Kipnis, 2B, at TB (Karns), $4500: Leadoff on the road and in the platoon advantage, that’s a nice place to start. And let’s also consider that Nate Karns can’t stop the running game, as 9-of-10 base stealers have been successful against him. If Kipnis doesn’t hit into a big number Monday, perhaps he’ll run into it.
Jimmy Nelson, SP, at PHI (O’Sullivan), $7200: It’s a boom-or-bust play, albeit you could say that about most of the pitchers on the Monday slate. But when Nelson has it, he has it - he’s posted Fan Duel scores of 14, 16, 16 and 17 this year. At least he’s facing the worst offense in the majors, and he’s up against a mediocre starter on the other side.
Adam Lind, 1B, at PHI (O’Sullivan), $3700: I don’t understand how Sean O’Sullivan gets anyone out, especially lefties (1.127 OPS). Watch him pitch, look how straight his fastball is. Lind is the first Milwaukee lefty we think of, but Scooter Gennett and Gerardo Parra also have a case. Grab a bat.
Justin Turner, 3B, at ARI (Webster), $3700: He’s no longer at the cute giveaway price, but look at how he’s owned right-handed pitching: .369/.426/.702. Keep rolling with what’s working. Turner has also claimed the No. 3 spot in the LA lineup on most nights.
Luis Valbuena, 3B, vs. KC (Blanton), $3600: It's getting pricy, but he also has two-homer potential (the matrix says to use him at home, against RHPs). Joe Blanton does not scare anyone, and Valbuena is slotted cleanup for Monday.
Baltimore Orioles – Zach Britton (D. O'Day)
Boston Red Sox – Koji Uehara (J. Tazawa, A. Ogando)
Chicago White Sox – David Robertson (J. Petricka)
Cleveland Indians – Cody Allen (B. Shaw)
Detroit Tigers – Joakim Soria (J. Chamberlain)
Houston Astros – Luke Gregerson (C. Qualls, P. Neshek)
Kansas City Royals – Greg Holland (W. Davis, K. Herrera)
Los Angeles Angels – Huston Street (J. Smith)
Minnesota Twins – Glen Perkins (A. Thompson, B. Boyer)
New York Yankees – Dellin Betances (J. Wilson); Andrew Miller injured (forearm)
Oakland Athletics – Tyler Clippard (E. Scribner); Sean Doolittle injured (shoulder)
Seattle Mariners – Carson Smith (F. Rodney, M. Lowe, C. Furbush)
Tampa Bay Rays – Brad Boxberger (K. Jepsen. J. McGee)
Texas Rangers – Shawn Tolleson (K. Kela)
Toronto Blue Jays – Roberto Osuna (S. Delabar)
Arizona Diamondbacks – Brad Ziegler (E. Burgos)
Atlanta Braves – Jason Grilli (J. Johnson)
Chicago Cubs – Jason Motte, Hector Rondon (P. Strop); R. Soriano (minors)
Cincinnati Reds – Aroldis Chapman (J. Diaz)
Colorado Rockies – John Axford (T. Kahnle, S. Oberg)
Los Angeles Dodgers – Kenley Jansen (Y. Garcia)
Miami Marlins – A.J. Ramos (M. Dunn, C. Capps)
Milwaukee Brewers – Francisco Rodriguez (J. Jeffress)
New York Mets – Jeurys Familia (C. Torres, B. Parnell)
Philadelphia Phillies – Jonathan Papelbon (K. Giles)
Pittsburgh Pirates – Mark Melancon (T. Watson, A. Caminero)
St. Louis Cardinals – Trevor Rosenthal (K. Siegrist)
San Diego Padres – Craig Kimbrel (J. Benoit)
San Francisco Giants – Santiago Casilla (S. Romo)
Washington Nationals – Drew Storen (C. Janssen)
Nolan Arenado has been the No. 1 overall fantasy player over the past month, and it’s not even close. He’s scored in 12 consecutive games, totaling 17 runs, eight homers and 17 RBI over those dozen contests. Arenado is on pace to finish with 53 homers, 105 runs scored and 147 RBI while batting .293. The crazy thing about his season is that the third baseman is hitting better on the road (1.028 OPS) than at Coors Field (.890) as well as against right handers (.989) opposed to southpaws (.833). The fact Arenado doesn’t walk (4.4 BB%) or strike out (13.8%) much might actually help his counting stats and therefore his fantasy value. It’s too bad he doesn’t steal bases (although he is terrific defensively), but his .266 BABIP sure looks unlucky, especially considering Coors Field has increased batting average by 17 percent over the past three seasons, which is 11% more than the next best park. Arenado is clearly a star and might very well only get better moving forward. He’s still just 24 years old. Only health can prevent Arenado from being a first round fantasy pick next year.
Quick Hits: Brett Gardner is on pace to finish with 19 homers, 124 runs scored, 83 RBI and 32 steals while batting .300. He’s been a top-10 fantasy player this season...Despite a 0.91 GB/FB rate, Ian Kinsler’s homer Thursday was just his second of the year...Roberto Osuna has a strong fastball (95.1 mph average velocity) and sure looks like he’s Toronto’s new closer. Maybe the team trades for Jonathan Papelbon later on, but it’s crazy Osuna is owned in fewer than 25% of Yahoo leagues right now. Go pick him up...Steven Matz had the most RBI (four) Sunday by a pitcher making his debut in the history of MLB. He looked pretty competent while on the mound as well. The Mets are so loaded with young starters it’s ridiculous...According to Fangraphs, Brandon Crawford has been the best offensive shortstop this season by a wide margin...Dallas Keuchel has a 1.39 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over 64.2 innings at home this season, whereas Drew Hutchison owns an 8.92 ERA and 1.93 WHIP on the road...Since winning the Cy Young in 2012, R.A. Dickey has allowed the most home runs in major league baseball (and seven more than the next closest)...This Josh Donaldson catch is probably the best of the year so far...Clayton Kershaw has lost three straight starts for the first time in his career, matching his total for losses all of last season. He’s 5-6 on the year and hasn’t won since June 6 despite posting a 39:6 K:BB ratio over 26.2 innings over that span.
Headlines of the Week: Naked Man Screams ‘I’m On Fire’; Pours Milk On Himself In Superstore...A New Male Contraceptive Is Finally Here And It Could Change Your Life Forever...42-Year-Old Man With 29 Miley Cyrus Tattoos Wants To Get Them Removed After Singer Called Them Ugly...Humans, Neanderthals Interbred In Europe...Chilean Woman Carried Calcified Fetus For 50 Years...Flying 5 Foot Circular Saw Tears Through Chinese Man’s Car On Motorway...New Jersey Couple Sues Over Dream Home That Came With Creepy, Threatening Letters From ‘The Watcher’...A Porcupine Meal Makes For A Very Bad Python Day...Kim Jong-un Executed Airport Architect Because He Hated The Design...Guy Beats ‘Super Mario World’ In 23 Minutes While Blindfolded.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Curtis Granderson has five homers and a steal over his past eight games, raising his OPS 94 points over that span. After an extremely slow start to his Mets career, Granderson has 23 home runs over the past calendar year, the same amount as Ryan Braun and five more than Freddie Freeman...Zack Greinke has allowed one run or fewer in nine of his last 11 starts (and just two in another), yet his win Sunday was his first since this stretch started back on May 5. Greinke hasn’t allowed a run over his past three starts (20.2 innings) and sports a 1.58 ERA on the season. His strikeout numbers aren’t overwhelming, but he’s a Cy Young candidate nevertheless....Here’s Brandon Phillips starting a really nice double play before he later hit a game-winning homer in the 13th inning of Thursday’s game...Danny Santana has a hideous 49:5 K:BB ratio this year, but he’s back up in Minnesota and hit .319 with seven homers and 20 steals over just 101 games last season. He could be looking at regular playing time while Byron Buxton is out, so he’s an option for those desperate for shortstop help...This play by Devon Travis was pretty sick...Tyson Ross is having a bizarre year, as his 3.53 GB/FB ratio, 25.4 K% and 13.2 SwStr% are all career highs, while his 11.6 BB% is a career worst. He’s seemingly been unlucky in BABIP (.346) yet fortunate in HR/FB% (6.7), especially considering how Petco Park has played this season. The control needs to improve, but with a 1.45 WHIP and a 5-7 record, Ross seems like a possible buy-low candidate.
Police Blotter: Groom, 6 Arrested When Drunken Brawl Breaks Out At Wed...Man Tried To Smuggle Oxycodone Hidden Inside McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger To Jailed Wife...Man Goes Berserk On Plane Over Nuts...Man Poisoned Co-worker’s Water With Roundup Weed Killer To ‘Mess With him’...Bank Robber Busted After He Stops For Biscuits...Man Who Allegedly Licked Toad Arrested For Trespassing...Blind, 75-Year-Old Man Found Decapitated; Suspect Made Off With Still Missing Head...Man Points Gun At Clerk Because Bathroom Was Out Of Order.
Longread(s) of the Week: Two Lanes To Accokeek (I highly recommend this) and here’s a bonus shorter one: USWNT Stars Morgan Brian And Meghan Klingenberg Are Living With Jeff Van Gundy.
Quick Hits Part Tres: Stephen Strasburg has clearly looked better during his two starts since returning from the DL, albeit against weak lineups. He’s utilizing his fastball differently while posting a 15:2 K:BB ratio over 12.0 innings. There are encouraging signs Strasburg pitches like most expected him to all along from here on out...Roughned Odor has a homer and two steals over his past three games and has raised his OPS 128 points since getting recalled two weeks ago. Odor doesn’t look like a future star, but fantasy owners dealing with injuries should add him as middle infield help...This play ended Nick Markakis’ streak of an MLB-record 398 consecutive games without an error....I used to be a Marco Estrada fan, but I have to say I’m shocked he’s had this success as someone previously so homer-prone joining the A.L. East...Here’s the new HR derby format...Over the past month, Kevin Pillar has been the No. 12 fantasy player. He’s owned in just 59% of Yahoo leagues...Matt Duffy has been the No. 21 fantasy player over the past month, is eligible at 2B and SS and is even hitting third in the Giants’ lineup at times, yet he’s owned in just 31% of Yahoo leagues. He has a 2.2 WAR this season, whereas Pablo Sandoval’s is -0.6. The latter is making slightly more money...Tough loss for owners of Giancarlo Stanton, who’s Hard% (49.7) was easily the best in MLB (next best is Brandon Belt at 44.1%)...Over the last 10 games, Jason Heyward is batting .410 with four homers, eight runs scored, nine RBI and two steals, when he’s been the No. 5 fantasy player.
Madison Bumgarner, SP, vs. Col (Kendrick), $11,100 at FanDuel: He has just one win in more than a month, although he’s sported a 0.93 WHIP with a 47:6 K:BB ratio over 37.2 innings over that span, which suggests there may have been some bad luck in the win department to say the least. The Giants are by far the most favored team Sunday (-230), and Colorado has the fourth-worst OPS against LHP (.662) among all teams this season.
Jose Abreu, 1B, at Det (Price), $3600: He was drafted as a top-10 fantasy player entering the year and while a disappointment so far, he hasn’t been quite the bust this price suggests. Abreu has hit .328/.407/.598 versus lefties during his MLB career, and he’s not priced as a top-10 first baseman here.
Nelson Cruz, OF, at LAA (Santiago), $3000: He’s been in a slump of late, but that regression was more than expected. Cruz still owns a ridiculous .396/.500/.917 line against southpaws this season, so he seems like a bargain and a must start at this price (for what it’s worth, 14 of his 19 homers have come on the road as well).
Jason Heyward, OF, vs. CHC (Hammel), $3500: Over his last 10 games, Heyward is batting .410 with four homers and two steals, when he’s been the No. 5 ranked fantasy player. He’s also 8-for-14 during his career versus Jason Hammel.
Brandon Crawford, SS, vs. Col (Kendrick), $3000: I’ll keep going back to the well here with Crawford, who’s arguably been the best offensive shortstop this season by a wide margin yet continues not to be priced nearly as such.
David DeJesus, OF, vs. Bos (Masterson), $2200: He’s cheap and hitting cleanup. Meanwhile, Justin Masterson has allowed a .300 BAA and a 1.73 WHIP when facing LHB this year.
Howie Kendrick, 2B, at Mia (Urena), $2700: He has a top-10 OPS (.741) in MLB among second basemen while continuing to hit atop a strong Dodgers lineup.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, at Oak (Chavez), $3000: He remains undervalued as a third baseman who’s hit .354 against right-handed pitchers this season. Moustakas is also batting .359 on the road in 2015.
Josh Reddick, OF, vs. KC (Guthrie), $3000: He has a .328/.385/.540 line with nine homers over 198 at bats against RHP this season and is facing a pitcher who’s allowed a .341 BAA and 1.88 WHIP to go along with a whopping 10 homers over 39.1 innings against LHB, so this is a nice matchup at a good price.
Stephen Vogt, C, vs. KC (Guthrie), $3700: He’s 5-for-8 with two homers during his career versus Jeremy Guthrie and owns a .936 OPS with 12 home runs over 171 at bats against RHP this season.
Clayton Kershaw, SP, at Mia (Koehler), $12300 at FanDuel: This is obviously going chalk, but the prices lately with hitters have made paying up for the No. 1 SP of the day more palatable. The Marlins have scored the seventh-fewest runs in MLB this year (although to be fair they’ve been better against LHP), and the Dodgers are easily the most favored team Saturday (-200). Kershaw is sitting with just a 5-5 record on the year and a disappointing (for him) 3.33 ERA, but I’d still bet on him being the best pitcher from here on out. He’s struck out 41 batters over his last four starts, spanning 27.2 innings.
Victor Martinez, C, vs. CHW (Danks), $3400: He owns a .452/.514/.645 line against southpaws and hits in the middle of Detroit’s lineup as the DH. His struggles against RHP (.495 OPS) thanks to an injury really brings his price down here.
David Ortiz, 1B, at TB (Andriese), $2900: I’ll continue going back to the well with Big Papi against righties until his price changes. Tropicana Field isn’t exactly an ideal place to hit, but Ortiz remains in the cleanup spot and has a .915 OPS with 11 homers over 169 at bats versus RHP this year. Meanwhile, Matt Andriese has allowed a .343 BAA when facing LHB.
Evan Longoria, 3B, vs. Bos (Miley), $2900: He sports an .887 OPS with a 13:13 K:BB ratio versus LHB this season (while also batting .321 at home) and hits in the middle of Tampa Bay’s lineup yet is moderately priced. Wade Miley has served up seven homers with a 1.51 WHIP over 56.1 innings when facing LHB this year.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, at Mia (Koehler), $2300: He’s been terrible this year, but Rollins hit 17 homers and stole 28 bags as recently as last year, and even during his awful start this season, he’s combined for 12 home runs/steals over 214 at bats against right handers. He’s so cheap too.
Danny Santana, SS, at Mil (Garza), $2200: He’s back up and should see time in the outfield with Byron Buxton on the DL. Santana had an .841 OPS with five homers and 12 steals over 282 ABs against RHP last season, so he’s an interesting cheap option if he’s in Minnesota’s lineup Saturday.
D.J. LeMahieu, 2B, at SF (Lincecum), $3000: He’s quietly on pace to score 83 runs and record 20 steals. LeMahieu has hit .328 against RHP this season, and Tim Lincecum has allowed a 1.78 WHIP versus RHB, so there’s a weird reverse-split going on here.
Gregory Polanco, OF, vs. Atl (Teheran), $2200: Even in an extremely disappointing campaign, Polanco has combined for 19 homers/steals over 210 at bats against RHP this season, and he’s as discounted as it gets.
Andre Ethier, OF, at Mia (Koehler), $2300: He’s slumped of late but still owns an .854 OPS with nine homers over 178 at bats against RHP on the year. Tom Koehler has allowed 10 homers over 39.0 innings against left-handed batters.
Joc Pederson, OF, at Mia (Koehler), $3700: The rookie has a .962 OPS with 16 homers over 194 at bats versus RHP, including a .400 OBP. So I’m stacking the Dodgers on Saturday. Koehler has a 21.7 HR/FB% and a 40.0 Hard% against lefties this season.
We, as a fantasy community, have long ago (last year) come to terms with Dallas Keuchel being a soft-tossing, pitch-to-contact type - well, most of us have come to terms (he's the 22nd-most owned starter despite being currently ranked third among SPs in to-date fantasy production). And we've been willing to overlook his strikeout shortcomings because of the ridiculously good ratios. But after Keuchel punched out a dozen Yankees on Thursday, we may have to recalibrate how we perceive Kid Keuchy.
Keuchel entered the season having never fanned a double-digit number of hitters in a game. He's now done it twice in his past six outings, and he owns a 9.48 K/9 rate in that span - his career mark entering the season was right around 6.30. And if you are looking for some kind of change in Keuchel's pitch profile to explain his sudden sharp rise in Ks, it's not readily apparent - he's getting hitters to go after pitches outside the zone a bit more, but he's really mixing his four-pitch arsenal in a similar manner to what he's done in the past.
Said Alex Rodriguez about Thursday's performance against Houston's mix-master, "He made me look as silly as I've looked all year. He handled me well all night. He struck me out with a slider, a fastball and a changeup."
Rodriguez's teammate Mark Teixeira took issue with the liberal strike zone of umpire Joe West, and if you were watching the game, you'd probably have to agree that Keuchel benefitted from that. But that's the kind of benefit that tends to get bestowed upon those pitchers that develop a reputation for supreme command. Greg Maddux can certainly attest to that.
There's obviously not much of a fantasy play to be made here, as Keuchel is owned in 94 percent of Yahoo leagues. This is simply a heads up to Keuchel owners (and wanna-be owners) that changes are afoot. Keuchel's monthly K/9 rate progression this season looks like this: 5.35 (April), 7.66 (May), 9.09 (June). Obviously, we'll need to see him maintain this strikeout rise over a much larger sample size before we can claim a fundamental shift in Keuchel's profile. But if he can even hold steady at a K/9 rate in the mid-7s, it becomes so much easier to look at Keuchel in the light of a true fantasy ace.
• Mets welcome Matz: One of the biggest fantasy developments on Thursday took place off the field as it was learned that the Mets plan to call-up another potential future ace in Stephen Matz to start Sunday - he ranked second (by Baseball America) among Mets prospects to only Noah Syndergaard entering the season. The lefty comes to New York after posting a 2.19 ERA for Triple-A Las Vegas, an environment that is extremely friendly to hitters because of the elevation. Matz owns a mid-to-upper 90s fastball to pair with a plus change-up - he also mixes in a curveball. But in Las Vegas, he really learned to lean on his fastball because the desert air tends to flatten out breaking stuff. Matz joins Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom (who was once-again masterful on Thursday) in a Mets rotation which will most likely soon be the envy of MLB (if it's not already). The news of his promotion has made him the top fantasy add over the past 24 hours, but he's still available in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. His talent warrants at least a test-drive in leagues of all shapes and sizes.
Alright, here's a few more noteworthy on-field evelopments from Thursday's slimmed-down slate of games:
• Unlike Matz, Chicago White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton is not enjoying a sharp rise up the most added list - it's more of a soft curve. Considering how bad he was in April, the roto community's aversion to him is at least explainable. But after his third consecutive multi-hit game on Thursday (which included a HR), Eaton is hitting right at .300 for the month of June with four steals and 11 runs scored. Among the 50-percent owned OF crowd, he's easily my favorite three-category (BA, R, SB) speed play.
• In addition to making, perhaps, the defensive play of the day, Reds veteran 2B Brandon Phillips went 3-for-7 with a couple runs scored and a couple RBIs in the Reds' 5-4 victory over the Pirates. In his past 45 games, Phillips (48 percent owned) is hitting .302 with 4 HR and 9 SB - he only had seven combined steals over the past two seasons. In this span (starting from April 28 to present), Phillips is fantasy's No. 8 middle infielder.
• Oakland ace Sonny Gray has been one of the best starters this season in terms of limiting hard contact and home runs. Texas' Mitch Moreland apparently didn't get the memo, as he drilled a shot off Gray into the left-center bleachers on Thursday, one of his three hits in the Rangers' 6-3 loss to the A's. Moreland had been in a bit of a drought coming into the contest, but he still owns a .887 OPS this month, and his OPS marks in the previous two months were no worse than .839. Hitting in the heart of the Texas lineup, Moreland is on pace to hit .300 with 20 HR and right at 80 RBI, and he can be had in 75 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• Boston rookie southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez was all the rage after opening his MLB career by allowing just one run over his first three starts (20.2 IP). But he's allowed 16 runs in his past three starts, including six against Baltimore on Thursday. He next faces Toronto, a lineup that smacked him around for nine runs a couple weeks ago. I still like Rodriguez enough that I'd be hanging onto him in my 12-team mixers, but there's no way I'd be rolling him out there for his next start.
• Finally, it's good to see Detroit DH Victor Martinez start to come alive. V-Mart missed a month of the season (mid-May to mid-June) because of inflammation in his surgically-repaired left knee, but he's looked good since his return, going 3-for-4 on Thursday to raise his average in seven June games to .349.
Alright, enjoy the weekend, and the return of Devon Travis - I know I will.
Max Scherzer, SP, at PHI (Harang), $12500: Your Friday lineup construction starts with the Max-or-no-Max question. Scherzer has been untouchable over his last two starts (18 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 26 K), and now draws the lowest scoring team in the majors. Although the Nats are on the road, Scherzer is still the biggest favorite on the card, checking in at -205.
I can't blame anyone who decides this is an unstoppable force that needs to be purchased Friday. But there's a realistic secondary option if you want to save some money.
Francisco Liriano, SP, vs. ATL (Perez), $9900: You recoup a $2600 savings if you step down from the Scherzer penthouse to the Liriano level, and he's in a good spot Friday. Liriano is a whopping -203 favorite as we go to press, almost as large as Scherzer; he's working at home; and he's up against an ordinary Atlanta offense that's missing its best player (by far) in Freddie Freeman.
Liriano is generally a good bet with the home cooking, holder of a 3.19 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, for his career, at PNC Park. And the Braves tend to struggle against left-handers, holding the second-worst wOBA in the majors in that split.
Rajai Davis, OF, vs. CHW (Quintana), $2700: We like to roll with Davis when he's up against an opposing lefty, and he's done well with 35 at-bats against Jose Quintana (.343/.378/.571). Most of the Detroit lineup likes the look of The Q (it adds up to a .909 OPS); note that Yoenis Cespedes is 8-for-12 against Quintana, with four home runs. And J.D. Martinez is the hottest outfielder in baseball at the moment.
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, vs. BOS (Porcello), $2800: He's settled into the leadoff spot more often than not, and he enters the game on a 10-for-22 run. Rick Porcello is a good draw for most batters, especially left-handed hitters (.787 OPS).
Logan Morrison, 1B, vs. LAA (Shoemaker), $2400: Safeco Field takes some of the fun away, but Morrison does have an .808 OPS against right-handed pitching this year. He also seems to like the tilt of Matt Shoemaker, going 4-for-7 against him with a home run.
Derek Norris, C, vs. ARI (Ray), $2800: With the price ducked under 3K again, it's a fun time to revisit Norris. He has an .865 OPS against southpaws, and I don't take Robbie Ray's ERA at face value (it probably should be in the middle-3s).
Chris Colabello, OF, vs. TEX (Martinez), $3200: You drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola. C-O-L-A, cola. The Nick Martinez Regression Tour should be a lot of fun (4.31 FIP), and while Colebello's best game shows in the platoon edge, he's nonetheless hitting .331 against righties (and .379 at home). When in doubt, go YYZ.
Jeff Baker, 2B, vs. LA (Anderson), $2300: Although his average isn't pretty this year, he's a well-known platoon specialist. Baker is slugging .524 against the southpaws this year, with three homers in 42 at-bats. A reasonable punt play if you prefer to spend elsewhere.
Yan Gomes, C, at BAL (Chen), $2300: It's a back-class angle, as Gomes hasn't done much for us this year, save for one glorious two-homer game. But he holds a .300/.335/.497 career line against lefties (15 homers in 330 at-bats) and his opponent Friday also has a platoon deficit against right-handed bats.
Brandon Crawford, SS, vs. COL (Bettis), $2700: Shag Crawford is a reverse-platoon guy, the rare lefty who does his premium work against the other lefties. That said, he's still having a productive year against the rest of the right-handed world. If you rank all fantasy shortstops against right-handed pitching this year, Crawford is second in homers, fourth in runs, and third in RBIs. You're still getting plenty of bang for your buck.
Marco Estrada deserved better. So it was in Tampa on Wednesday as Toronto's starter carried a no-no into the 8th inning for the second consecutive start. This time he was untouchable (untouchable, meaning perfect), until, with one out in the 8th, Tampa Bay's Logan Forsythe beat out (tie goes to the runner) an infield chopper that 3B Josh Donaldson did all he could do to make the out - and just before that play, he did all that Superman could do to make an out on David DeJesus - seriously, click the link and watch that Donaldson play if you haven't already. Sometimes, Billy Beane, you should just pay the player - and sometimes you should have thicker skin.
But, back to Estrada, who finished with 8.2 shutout innings before being pulled from the contest and watching a scoreless tie head into extra frames. He's a guy who always sort of hung around the fantasy periphery in Milwaukee, usually posting upper-3 ERAs and pushing a K per IP. But traction was an issue (never more than 150 IP), as was earning Wins (23 wins in 70 starts and 139 total appearances as a Brewer).
Traction has been a bit of an issue in Toronto, as well, as Estrada spent the first month of the season working out of the pen. But looking back at his past six starts, he's turned out a Quality Start in five of them. His change-up, which ranks as one of the best in MLB, was dropping Rays like flies on Wednesday. And you have to like that his HardHit% (24.5) ranks among the 20 lowest starters (min. 60 IP).
Not surprisingly, Estrada is the most added individual today in the Yahoo game. But considering he's thrown 118-plus pitches in each of his past two outings (and is second only to Chris Sale for number of pitches thrown this month), I'd probably hold off on Estrada for the moment as he faces a Boston team that roughed him up for five runs in five innings just three turns ago. There's also the long-term concern of pitching on the slippery slopes of the mounds of the AL East. But if he does something special again in his outing versus the BoSox, you probably have to pull the trigger and see if that change-up is something he can continue to ride with consistency going forward.
• Instead of Estrada, SP-needy owners might first want to look at Wednesday winners Jimmy Nelson and Clay Buchholz, a starter I've been pushing for employment for most of the season in High Fives. Both of these guys have been Pitching by the Numbers darlings, a weekly series by Michael Salfino that takes deep dives into pitcher analytics. Buchholz and Nelson have been particularly adept at limiting hard contact while also inducing a high SwingingStrike%. Weak contact and strikeouts? Yes, please.
• Brett Lawrie, the A's return for sending Donaldson to Toronto, has at least been doing his part to make that deal not look quite so bad (it still looks bad). Lawrie recorded his 10th multi-hit game of the month on Wednesday, upping his June average to .361. His season-to-date production now lands him in top 20 roto middle infield territory. He's well into the post-hype portion of his career, but people forget (an assumption based upon his current ownership rate of 50 percent) that this is still just a 25-year-old who opened his MLB career going 20/20 with a .278 batting average in his first 168 games.
• By my estimation, roughly two-thirds of Yahoo leagues still have a heartbeat. I use Justin Turner, and rookies Billy Burns and Lance McCullers, as my evidence of that - that is (roughly) the percentage of leagues in which they are owned.
Burns went 3-for-6 with two doubles and two runs scored on Wednesday, extending his hitting streak to 14 games (has a hit in 26 of past 27 games).Since his May 2 arrival, he's been a top 20 offense fantasy commodity, and has been more valuable in that span than Mike Trout.
McCullers picked up a no-decision against the Angels on Wednesday, but he did it in Quality Start fashion (6 IP, 1 ER) despite not having his best stuff. Luckily, even his ordinary stuff is filthy. Since his mid-May arrival, he's been a top 12 fantasy starter, striking out more than a batter an inning and holding those opponents to a .189 batting average.
As for Turner, I'll admit, even I have had to fight skepticism in regards to his hot start considering his past as a ho-hum utilityman with the Mets. But he has a different look to him as a Dodger, with an OPS in 171 games in LA of well over .900 to prove it. And since May 1, only Jason Kipnis and Brian Dozier have been better in fantasy among MI-eligibles. Of course, Turner also has CI eligibility. A platinum-plated Swiss Army knife to be had for free in a third of Yahoo leagues.
• I'll refrain from any "Champagne SuperNova" type of hyperbolic puns in describing Ivan Nova's first start of '15. He certainly gets credit for a rock solid line (6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K). But we must note that it was a against the NL's worst offense (Philly). And the one punchout underscores a big issue for fantasy, as he owns a career K rate below 7 - that doesn't cut it for IP-capped leagues.
• Considering the recent Aroldis Chapman trade rumors, it's worth noting that Reds reliver J.J. Hoover closed out the Pirates on Wednesday with a perfect, two-K inning while Chapman is on paternity leave. Hoover is Chapman's heir apparent, and he hasn't allowed an earned run since April 21. That kind of production makes a spec play on Hoover a pretty painless move.
• Colorado's John Axford and Washington's Drew Storen blew save chances on Wednesday, pushing both player's ERA in June over the 6.00 mark. That said. it's not yet close to time to lower the DEFCON levels on these guys, as the two have combined to close out 92 percent of their opportunities this season. But certainly Axford is one that you can never get too comfortable with - he's allowed an average of right around a runner and a half per IP over the past three seasons, and LaTroy Hawkins has pitched well since returning from a biceps injury earlier this month.
• Good to see that Stephen Vogt's sore elbow checked out just fine in his return to the field on Wednesday. He went 3-for-5 with a couple RBI - he's now fifth in MLB in the RBI department with 53, one ahead of Miggy Cabrera.
That's it for now. Enjoy Thursday's De La Rosa vs. De La Rosa showdown in Colorado.
Charlie Blackmon, OF, vs. Ari (De La Rosa), $4600 at FanDuel: During his current seven-game home stand, he’s batting .429 with a homer, four steals and nine RBI. Blackmon owns a .915 OPS against right-handed pitchers this season (with a combined 25 homers/steals) over 195 at bats and is batting leadoff in the best hitter’s park in all of baseball. Meanwhile, Rubby De La Rosa has allowed a .316 BAA and a 1.70 WHIP against lefties, including a whopping 10 homers over 40.0 innings.
David Ortiz, 1B, vs. Bal (Gonzalez), $2900: He continues to be cheap despite having a .930 OPS against right-handers. Ortiz has also homered in two of the past three games and remains Boston’s cleanup hitter.
Kolten Wong, 2B, at Mia (Haren), $2900: He has eight homers over 190 at bats versus RHP and is facing a starter who’s served up nine bombs over just 38.2 innings against lefties. Wong has been the No. 6 ranked fantasy second baseman this season, but his price isn’t reflected as such here.
Manny Machado, 3B, at Bos (Rodriguez), $4400: He’s batting .333/.369/.533 against southpaws, will be playing in one of the best hitter’s parks in all of baseball and has been the No. 6 ranked fantasy player over the past month.
Josh Reddick, OF, at Tex (Lewis), $3000: He’s slumped over the past 10 games, but this is a hitter still with a .335/.396/.559 line against RHP this season, including nine homers with three steals and more walks (19) than strikeouts (17) over 188 at bats.
Chris Coghlan, OF, vs. LAD (Frias), $2800: He has eight home runs and five steals over 190 at bats against RHP and faces a pitcher who’s allowed a .355 BAA and a 1.77 WHIP when facing left-handed batters.
Miguel Montero, C, vs. LAD (Frias), $2400: It’s always tough recommending catchers, who sit out more than any other position, but if Montero is in the lineup Thursday, he looks like a great bargain as someone who’s hit eight homers over just 155 at bats against RHP and is facing a pitcher who’s really struggled against lefties this year (see above).
Brandon Crawford, SS, vs. SD (Shields), $2800: As I said during Wednesday’s Daily Dime, Fangraphs has Crawford graded as the best offensive shortstop in baseball this year by a wide margin, and while that’s park adjusted, this price remains below market. James Shields has allowed a 1.50 WHIP against LHB this season.
A.J. Burnett, SP, vs. Cin (Desclafani), $9200: Wednesday’s suggestion to go with a Pirates SP at home against a shaky Reds offense didn’t go great, but let’s still go back to the well here. The Pirates are tied as the most favored team Thursday (-155), yet Burnett is just the No. 5 most expensive pitcher. While he’s been fortunate when it comes to home runs allowed, Burnett has a 2.05 ERA this season despite a BABIP (.322) that’s nearly 30 points higher than his career mark (.293). He owns a 1.27 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP over 42.2 innings at home. (Note: Be sure to check weather updates especially close with this game).
Jacob deGrom, SP at Mil (Jungmann), $10800: If word is there’s serious concern about the Pirates game getting postponed, then I’d change and pony up for deGrom, even though he’s on the road (Milwaukee’s .667 OPS against RHP is bottom-five in MLB). In order to make up for this price change in switching SPs, I’d remove Machado and replace him with Pablo Sandoval at third base, as the latter remains a bargain ($2700) for someone who’s hit .331/.388/.515 against RHP this season.
Brandon – OVER on HRs, UNDER on steals. I have confidence in Machado's ability to hit at least 25 home runs - the power/talent is certainly there. But Baltimore has just 34 SB attempts as a team, one of the lowest totals in the league. And Machado already has more steals than he combined for in the previous nearly 300 MLB games that he played prior to this season. I have a feeling his SB tally is going to ease up a bit in the second half and he'll finish just shy of this O/U mark.
I think the Machado/Braynt comparison is about as close as it gets. At the moment, I'll give Machado a slight edge because you do have to consider the experience factor and the luck factor (Bryant's .380 BABIP is 5th-highest among those with at least 250 plate appearances).
Scott – OVER on everything. This is Baby A-Rod, right? The confidence, the toe tap, the uniform number, the shift to third when he really should be a shortstop (when I watch Machado play defense, I can hear the angels weeping). Machado over Bryant, too - being around the block once or twice has value.
Dalton – OVER for both homers and steals for Machado, who's been the No. 6 ranked fantasy player over the past month. I'm a believer. Having said that, I'd still prefer Bryant over him ROS, albeit only slightly.
Sticking with AL East third basemen, Alex Rodriguez has an OPS above .900 at the moment. His OPS high over the past four seasons is .847 ('10). Can he top that mark in '15 - O/U final season OPS of .8475?
Brandon – OVER. While I wouldn't be surprised if A-Rod endures a slump or an ache/pain that messes with his production a bit in the second half, you have to respect his hitting profile to this point, which shows a lot of hard hit balls, an ISO and BB rate near his career average, an honest BABIP and a liveable K rate. He can deliver an OPS in the lower half of the .800s the rest of the way and still beat this O/U mark, which is what I think he'll do.
Scott – I've been rooting for everything A-Rod this year, from the opening pitch. But the guy turns 40 in July, and that's enough for me to lean UNDER. I still expect a strong, fantasy-relevant season, however, A to Z. (I keep trying to get Rodriguez from Dalton, with no luck. He probably forgets I'm in the F&F League, as he's kilometers in front of me.)
Dalton – OVER. He's already got a head start, and I'd project at least an .850 OPS moving forward, likely higher. I actually would recommend holding ARod more than I would be trying to sell high.
Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson is on pace for 43 home runs, which would break the Dodgers rookie record set by Mike Piazza (35). Can Pederson stay strong through the summer and deliver a new LA rookie HR record - O/U final HR total of 35.5?
Brandon – OVER. I'll say he finishes right around 36-37 bombs. The impressive thing about Pederson is that he's hit 16 home runs in his past 51 games despite hitting .234 in that span. Yes, his HR/FB rate is high, and is likely to regress, but he's also cut his K rate down in June to 26.3%, which moves him out of gawd-awful territory, especially when it is paired with a BB rate of 17.9% for the month, fourth-best in MLB. This kid has serious power, and his plate profile is heading in the right direction at the moment. I'll take my chances on him.
Dalton – UNDER. He's been so impressive (162 wRC+), and I'm going to cop out and say he finishes with 35 bombs. He still strikes out a lot, and his 29.7 HR/FB% is probably going to come down, maybe significantly.
Scott – UNDER. Contact is an issue, teams make adjustments on emerging hitters.
If you were drafting today, in what order would you select these current top 10 outfielders - Brett Gardner, A.J. Pollock, Starling Marte, Charlie Blackmon, Lorenzo Cain?
Brandon – 1) Pollock (I'm unabashedly smitten) 2) Blackmon 3) Marte 4) Gardner (the injury history scares me a bit) 5) Cain
Scott – This is a list that makes me happy. I had no problem with the bottom guy, but the Top 4 is tricky. 1) Gardner, 2) Pollock, 3) Blackmon, 4) Marte, 5) Cain
Dalton – 1) Marte 2) Pollock 3) Blackmon 4) Gardner 5) Cain
April rookie sensation Devon Travis, who has been out since mid-May with a shoulder injury, is set to return this week. Where do you expect his rest-of-season roto production to rate among these other 2B-onlys - Neil Walker, Howie Kendrick, Joe Panik, Brandon Phillips, Robinson Cano?
Brandon – Of this group, I'd probably slot Travis behind Cano (if only for the heartbeat he's shown of late) and Kendrick (who is very safe in terms of batting average and run production expectations - I am comfortable with his floor). Besides those two, give me Travis.
Scott – I want to be careful not to expect too much from a major-injury returnee, especially a rookie. I'd take Cano over Travis, hoping the recent production is a sign of things to come. Panik has a better floor than Travis, Kendrick does too.
Dalton – Assuming Travis' shoulder is back to 100 percent, and that's admittedly a big if, I'd rate him first among this 2B group.
Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer are both projected to finish with more than 280 strikeouts this season, a total that hasn't been reached since Randy Johnson whiffed 290 in '04. Let's play the O/U game for both pitchers - O/U final strikeout total of 279.5? Also, will Scherzer join Kershaw as the only starters since Roger Clemens in '05 to finish with an ERA below 2.00 - O/U final ERA tally for Scherzer of 1.99?
Brandon – I'll go UNDER on the K number - it pretty much requires that a pitcher not miss a start the rest of the way to have a chance, and that's a hard bet to make. As for the ERA, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Scherzer finishes UNDER 2.00, just barely. He's been loving life in the NL, leading the league with a 17/1 K:BB rate against No. 9 hitters - good riddance, DH. And Mad Max has been a full run better ERA-wise in the second half over the past three seasons, so the trend has been that he only gets stronger as the season progresses.
Scott – Have to go OVER on the ERA, as it's such a microscopic number. Even in the punch-and-judy NL East, that's a very difficult number to keep. I'll also fade the strikeout numbers, in part because the Nats should clinch early and might skip Max a start here and there. I also want to point out that I ranked Scherzer and Kershaw even on the current Starting Pitcher Shuffle Up; let's not overreact to Max's hot start and Kershaw's brief slump. Either one could wear the yellow jersey the rest of the summer.
Dalton – UNDER for their strikeout totals and OVER for Scherzer's final ERA. It's a pitching era, and these are the top two fantasy pitchers no doubt, but those numbers are just so hard to bet on.
Luis Valbuena is not a particularly skilled fielder. Luis Valbuena is not a fast baserunner. Luis Valbuena doesn't have a rocket arm. Luis Valbuena swings and misses an awful lot. There's a lengthy list of things he can't do.
Oh, and Luis Valbuena hits some home runs. A lot of them, in fact.
Valbuena clocked a couple of souvenirs (juicy center-cut fastballs) in Tuesday's romp in the OC, giving him 19 homers for the season. Only four players have hit more. He qualifies at two Yahoo positions (second, third), something we love in the fantasy game.
Does this mean Valbuena has fantasy value? That's open to debate.
I spent 15 March pesos (a buck) on Valbuena in Tout Wars Mixed, a 15-team league, and I've been unsure how to handle him all season. He's been active for 30 games (.211, seven homers) and on the bench for 34 games (.181, 12 homers). I wasn't in on Tuesday's homers, unfortunately.
Tout Wars is an OBP league, so Valbuena's .195 batting average is muted somewhat. Then again, a .269 OBP is a drain on the system, too. He's stolen one base, and has modest production numbers, given all the homers (39 runs, 35 RBIs).
The Astros aren't really sure who Valbuena is as player, either. He's slotted in seven different batting positions this year, everything but first and last. The first-place Astros actually used Valbuena in the No. 2 slot for 22 games, and the No. 3 position for 12 more starts (Valbuena hit .091 in those assignments). We probably won't see that again anytime soon.
Valbuena has been mostly in the seventh and eighth spots for June, and coincidentally or not, it's been his best month (nine homers). His monthly slash line opens a debate on what makes a player valuable - a .215 average is awful, a .316 OBP so-so, but maybe it's all worth it for that .631 slugging percentage.
If you're trying to solve the Valbuena matrix, note that he has an .809 OPS against right-handed pitching and an .852 OPS at home. If you have the patience and time to move him in and out of the lineup, that's the path to follow, apparently. Then again, Valbuena's two homers Tuesday were on the road, and the first came against a lefty. Sometimes there's no logical path to this stuff.
Valbuena is still available in about three-quarters of Yahoo leagues. And he'll probably be in my Tout Wars lineup next week, for better or for worse.
• Apparently the Nats wanted Stephen Strasburg to take one more Triple-A rehab start. Check that, it was a workout against the Freeman-less Braves. Good work if you can get it. Strasburg scattered five baserunners over five scoreless innings, struck out six, threw 64 of 94 pitches for strikes. The ERA now sits at 5.90.
I stand behind my Strasburg stance: the two best days of your season are the day you draft him and the day you trade him. I moved my only Strasburg share for Mookie Betts back in April, and I'd do it again in a second. If you own Strasburg, I'd hope for a big outing against Philadelphia, then take that to market. Those docking fees are a killer.
• It was refreshing to see Chi Chi Gonzalez get knocked around by the A's (5.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 1 K). It's not that I have anything against the kid, you just want the world to make sense. There's still correction work to do: he has a 2.27 ERA against a 4.48 FIP since his recall. The simplest thing is to trust the strikeouts and walks - with 13 free passes and just 11 strikeouts over 35.2 innings, Gonzo has almost no chance of extended success. We're back in balance.
And then you consider the result in Seattle and shake your head again. Left-hander Mike Montgomery had a mere 22 strikeouts in four starts, so how the heck did he strike out 10 Royals over a brilliant four-hit shutout? If there's one thing Kansas City's offense excels at, it's making contact. Here's some video, tell me what you see. Montgomery gets the Padres in Petco next, a favorable draw on paper.
• The other cleat finally dropped in Toronto, as everyone pretty much expected. Brett Cecil is out as closer, and Roberto Osuna is presumably the committee chair going forward. The Jays are in the thick of things, so perhaps they won't be comfortable with the 20-year-old Osuna handling the big job. His numbers are excellent (2.12/0.91, 40 strikeouts), but there is extra heat in the ninth inning. Most can handle it, but not everyone can.
If the Phillies every get realistic with their Jon Papelbon demands, Toronto figures to make a bid. In the meantime, Osuna is available in 80 percent of Yahoo leagues (after heavy volume the past 24 hours).
• The Red Sox might be a sinking ship in 2015, barring some miraculous turnaround, but Brock Holt has earned a right to stick in the lineup. The team is 4-13 in the last 17 games Holt didn't start, and although the 14-18 mark with Holt over the last two months might not sound like much, it is an improvement.
I suspect the Rusney Castillo demotion Tuesday was made at least partly with Holt's production in mind. Holt is comfortable at most positions, with right field being a logical place to slot him. Fenway Park's right-field assignment is rather hellish, to be fair - there's a ton of real estate, complicated geography, and it's also the sun field - but Holt generally doesn't embarrass himself out there, albeit he did kick a Chris Parmelee hit into a triple Tuesday night. I'd be surprised if journeyman Alejandro De Aza turned into the regular right fielder, but that's Boston's call, not mine.
Holt is still unclaimed in about half of Yahoo leagues, despite his .311 average and five positions of eligibility (everything but catcher). He's slotted first or second for 17 straight games, and whatever you want to say about this team as a whole, the lineup still has a reasonable chance to be fruitful. Holt is the No. 8 shortstop in the Yahoo game over the last month. I'm glad he's kicking around a few of my rosters.
Gerrit Cole, SP, vs. Cin (Leake), $11,100 at FanDuel: I’m as big a fan of Chris Sale as anyone, but he’s more expensive, and the Pirates are bigger favorites Wednesday (an MLB-high -190). Of course, Cole isn’t exactly cheap, but as usual, I recommend spending big on SP, and he’s emerged as a true ace this season, combining a 20.7 K-BB% with a 1.98 GB/FB ratio and a 10.0 SwStr%. The Reds also rank in the bottom-five in baseball in runs scored both on the road and against RHP. Cole has a 1.88 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with a 42:6 K:BB ratio over 38.1 innings at home this season.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, at CHC (Hendricks), $3100: He’s been in a prolonged slump, which is why there are 15 first basemen priced higher Wednesday. But Gonzalez still owns a .304/.391/.539 line against right-handers this season, so he sure looks like a bargain hitting cleanup in that Dodgers lineup.
David Ortiz, 1B, vs. Bal (Norris), $3000: There’s a chance of rain in the Dodgers game, so an alternative (and affordable) first baseman is Ortiz, who’s been a total disaster against southpaws but owns a .922 OPS against RHP but isn’t priced as if he’s starting against one.
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, vs. Tor (Estrada), $2800: He’s a leadoff hitter who’s 8-for-17 (.471) with two steals over his past four games and is facing a pitcher who’s typically been very homer-prone during his career.
Roughned Odor, 2B, vs. Oak (Graveman), $2200: He spent some time in the minors after a disappointing start, but he entered the year with plenty of promise and is back up now and even hitting leadoff. Odor has played better since getting recalled, and the switch-hitter was better from the left side last season and will be facing a pitcher Wednesday who’s ceded a 1.58 WHIP versus LHB on the year. Odor is also as cheap as it gets on FanDuel.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, vs. Bal (Norris), $2600: He’s been terrible defensively and hopeless against lefties, but Sandoval has a .914 OPS against RHP and is batting .352 at home this season, so he continues to be a nice bargain in this price range.
Brandon Crawford, SS, vs. SD (Kennedy), $2600: He’s actually hit better against LHP dating back to last year, but Fangraphs ranks him as easily the No. 1 offensive shortstop this season. That doesn’t totally translate to DFS since he’ll be playing Wednesday’s game at AT&T Park, but it still reveals he’s a bargain at this price.
Nick Hundley, C, vs. Ari (Webster), $3300: While not super cheap, Hundley plays a thin position and has hit .330/.352/.534 at Coors Field this season.
Jon Jay, OF, at Mia (Latos), $2600: This is something of a long shot, but Jay owns a career .858 OPS over 30 at bats against Latos, who’s allowed a .333 BAA and a 1.77 WHIP when facing left-handed batters this season.
Charlie Blackmon, OF, vs. Ari (Webster), $4500: He has eight homers and a .913 OPS over 191 at bats against righties on the year, and it always helps to play guys in Coors Field, a park in which he’s stolen 11 bases over 37 games.
The worst part of DFS is the need to play weatherman. The Tuesday forecast is messy for the games in Boston, New York and Washington, which potentially mucks up some strong theoretical plays (Betts, Franco, Gardner, so many guys under this unfortunate cloud). You'll have to decide what that risk means to you. As always, try to make your final decisions as close to the start of your contest as possible.
Robinson Cano, 2B, vs. KC (Guthrie), $2400: He's started to perk up over the last few games (1.015 OPS last five), and Jeremy Guthrie can't get left-handers out consistently (remember what the Yankees did to him a month ago)? Any Seattle lefty you want to consider (Seager, Smith, Morrison, even Miller), I completely see the argument.
Byron Buxton, OF, vs. CHW (Shark Sandwich), $2200: This pick is predicated on the assumption that Buxton will be leading off again, as he was in Monday's romp over the White Sox. A little confidence is a lovely thing. And it's not that difficult to run on Jeff Samardzija.
Albert Pujols, 1B, vs. HOU (McHugh), $4400: One of the boring parts of DFS is where a player goes on a torrid run but remains moderately priced, essentially forcing most of the room to use him. Pujols has 12 homers and a 1.307 OPS this month, and McHugh's had a problem with gophers (1.37/9). You'll always have options at first base if you prefer a big-name fade, but I'm going to leave the cute plays for other positions.
Charlie Blackmon, OF, vs. ARI (Anderson), $4500: It's been a .429/.478/.810 homestand for Mars Blackmon, and now he's in the platoon advantage against an ordinary right-hander. Amidst very little fanfare, Blackmon is the No. 10 outfielder in the Yahoo game.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, vs. NYM (Niese), $3100: He's just the 16th third-baseman on the Fan Duel board, and he's at home and against a mediocre lefty (who Ramirez has decent history with). Ramirez had some fun in the Coors Field series, and for his career he has an .895 OPS in the platoon edge.
George Springer, OF, vs. LAA (Wilson), $4400: It's certainly not a giveaway price, but when you note Springer's mash against southpaws (.299/.408/.552, six homers), you start thinking any ticket is worth writing. C.J. Wilson is having a solid year, but he's not good enough to push me away from a hitter I want to use.
Oakland Lefties, at TEX (Gonzalez): Chi Chi Gonzalez has a pretty ERA, but his K/BB rate is almost an even 1/1, and no one can live like that for very long. Stephen Vogt and Josh Reddick have crushed right-handed pitching all year, Ben Zobrist has come around nicely, and Billy Burns seems to get on base against everyone.
David Peralta, OF, at COL (Kendrick), $2500: His overall profile doesn't look like much, but Peralta does have a .456 slugging percentage against righties. That's a reasonable start, but the expectations go up when you see Coors Field on the schedule and Kyle Kendrick on the other side. Make sure you get lineup confirmation, but this is a good place for a bargain grab.
Madison Bumgarner, SP, vs. SD (Despaigne), $10900: Okay, he's the top pitcher on the board, so you need a very strong reason to pay up. I'd say being a -193 favorite at home in a game that has a tiny 6.5 total is reason to feel confident. The Padres offense has also regressed of late, after a strong open to the season; they're just 17th in runs this month.
Mike Fiers, SP, vs. NYM (Niese), $7600: It's a boom-or-bust play, but at least the draw is right - he's at home, against a team that can't hit righties (28th in wOBA), and opposed by New York's weakest starter. Fiers has plenty of strikeout upside but he needs to keep the ball in the park. That said, who on the Mets roster worries you, other than Lucas Duda? Plausible upside is present.
And just for fun, here's one reader-suggested pick. Maybe this will become a recurring theme, maybe not. It's up to you guys.
@scott_pianowski Price owns the Indians since the trade to Detroit, Miggy owns the Tribe too. Just roll with DET.— Grover Cleveland (@ARalsto) June 23, 2015
When in doubt, listen to someone named Grover, I guess. Good luck tonight, gamers.
Despite four top-five running back finishes in his past five seasons, Arian Foster is quite possibly the most dissed fantasy RB in early drafts. A high-odometer reading, past injuries and Houston's uncertainty at quarterback has owners cool on the former rush king. Though some trepidation is warranted, his average second-round price tag (15.5 ADP) in Yahoo exercises isn't. Coach Bill O'Brien's recent words explain why:
"You can rest assured that as long as [Arian] is healthy and he’s out there, we will run the ball. I can tell you that."
Really the only knock against Foster is his vulnerability to pulled hamstrings. He's played just two full seasons since exploding onto the fantasy scene in 2010. But he's a proven, versatile commodity slated to be the heart and soul of a conservative offense (51:49 run:pass split in 2014). He's second only to Peterson in fantasy points per game over the past five seasons, a category he ranked No. 3 in among RBs last year. Equally impressive, his 0.39 points per snap in standard leagues (0.46 for PPR) was second to pacesetter DeMarco Murray.
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Stacked boxes are a strong possibility for Foster no matter if Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer mans the wheel. But behind a rigid offensive line (No. 5 in run-blocking last year) and given what will be a 20-25 per game workload, Foster is a discounted star who's sure to shine. Keep in mind the Texans boast the third-easiest schedule for fantasy RBs entering the season. And it's not like he hasn't thrived previously under similar circumstances. Better yet, his primary handcuff, Alfred Blue, is generally going in the double-digit rounds.
Ask yourself, why spend a high pick on Le'Veon Bell, knowing he's going to miss three games, when you could pair an ultra-reliable Andrew Luck with Foster?
Score the duo and you'll surely dance awkwardly like Tom Brady come year's end.
Do you believe in love? Do you believe in magic? Do you believe in miracles?
Do you believe in Hector Santiago, Orange County lefty with a tidy 2.68 ERA?
The spreadsheets and the projection systems sure don't - they've been calling for Santiago's collapse for several years now. Pumpkin risk, raised to orange. Although Santiago has a 3.36 career ERA, his FIP stands at 4.41 and his xFIP at 4.55. Zips and Steamer both expect Santiago to have an ERA over four over the remainder of 2015.
Two outlier stats jump out when you examine Santiago's page: he's stranding runners at a ridiculous 89-percent rate and he's inducing a fly ball 52.7 percent of the time. Both stats rank first among all qualified starters.
We know the strand rate is going to drop, perhaps by a lot. But the fly-ball bias is actually a good thing - any pitcher with a strong ground-ball *or* fly-ball bias is showing more control over his outcomes than the average hurler. Fly-ball pitchers have been misunderstood for years.
Santiago didn't get a decision despite six strong innings against the Astros on Monday (2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K), and that's the sort of thing we have to accept. You hope for seven innings from him on any turn, and often have to take less. But he's nudged his strikeout rate up to 8.45/9 this year, and taken his walks down to 3.2/9. He's in a decent park for pitchers.
No one is going to take Santiago's current numbers at face value, but I don't see why he won't be around his career 3.36 ERA for the rest of the way. He's no ace, but Santiago can be an underrated support piece on your mixed-league staff. No, he's not this good, but he's better than commonly thought. There will be some regression, but I don't think it will be a jagged fall.
Try to keep an open mind.
• Byron Buxton didn't look ready for prime time over his first eight games, flailing away to a .120 average and nine strikeouts. But manager Paul Molitor had an idea on how to get Buxton going - he promoted the uber-prospect to the leadoff spot for Monday's game against Chicago.
Buxton became an automatic DFS play at the low price, and he came through with a tasty 5-3-3-0 line (two singles, one double). As soon as he figures out how to get on base regularly, he's likely to run wild. I expect Buxton to do something of note against Shark Sandwich on Tuesday night.
• Logan Forsythe was an ordinary hitter for the first four years of his career, though playing part-time might have held him back to some extent. Perhaps he's showing his true colors now that the Rays need him to play every day.
Forsythe was all over the box score in Monday's loss to Toronto, reaching base four times (homer, walk, two singles). He also swiped a couple of bases. He's now up to .293/.371/.455 on the year, with eight homers and seven steals.
Forsythe qualifies at both first base and second base in Yahoo leagues, and he might add the third-base tag later in the year. I don't see why he's owned in just 26 percent of our world. Although the career .247 average is cause for concern, much of that average was assembled at expansive Petco Park. He's collected 26 homers and 26 steals (on just 31 attempts) through 1,232 MLB at-bats, so there's definite category juice here.
You want help with the add/drop, I'm here for you. I'd take him over Martin Prado in a second, but you knew that. Yes, I'd drop Chase Utley for Forsythe. Michael Cuddyer, see ya. Brandon Moss, probably. If you have your own add/drop question, hit me up on Twitter or include it in the comments. Let another Wiggy into your life.
In Other News: The Blue Jays have desperately needed a closing fix all year, and maybe they're ready to try Roberto Osuna. He struck out five men for Monday's handshake, lowing his ERA to 2.12 and his WHIP to 0.91. Osuna is just 20, but why should that matter? He's not intimidated by The Show. Anything that gets Brett Cecil out of our lives, I'm in favor of. Osuna is unowned in 90 percent of Yahoo leagues . . . Of course Maikel Franco hit two homers, ruining the Pineda Day some clowns were calling for. If I were Shuffling corners right now, Franco has to be at least into the high teens . . . Of course Albert Pujols hit two homers, continuing his ballistic run. He's back in the $27-30 range . . . If you want a real Shuffle, not a theoretical one, the starting pitchers were posted Monday . . . Stephen Strasburg returns Tuesday, facing an Atlanta lineup that doesn't have Freddie Freeman. Let's see how Strasburg can mess this up . . . Lance Lynn (forearm) is set for a Thursday return against the Marlins . . . Devon Travis (shoulder) could be back for the weekend . . . Jose Altuve (hamstring) returned Monday, going 1-for-4 with a double and RBI . . . Addison Reed is out of our hair for a while, demoted to Triple-A. Long live Ziggy in the ninth inning.
I'm on a plane. I can't complain.
The idea is 5x5 value for rest of season. What's happened to this point is merely an audition. I provide courtesy injury ranks at bottom, but they're not for debate. Everyone seems to be more optimistic on injury returnees than I am.
The prices are unscientific in nature, and players at the same price are considered even. I'm just looking for a way to show the pockets of value as I see them. I don't look at old prices when I construct these - it's all from scratch. I don't even see the point of looking back there; live in the present, look to the future.
I welcome your respectful disagreement. Obviously you will feel passionate about what you don't agree with, that's why we have a game. But why not give a solid reason, so we are all elevated by your knowledge? I know most of you get it, and see the value in that.
And remember the golden rule - a player doesn't gain value because you like him, nor does he lose value because you don't like him. I didn't rank Dallas Keuchel first, did I?
To the pricing list. If I missed someone, let me know. I'm on Twitter, @scott_pianowski.
$31 Max Scherzer
$31 Clayton Kershaw
$30 Chris Sale
$27 Zack Greinke
$27 Jacob deGrom
$27 Gerrit Cole
$27 Chris Archer
$26 Felix Hernandez
$26 Corey Kluber
$25 Madison Bumgarner
$24 Sonny Gray
$24 Matt Harvey
$24 Jake Arrieta
Jacob deGrom is not a pedigree pitcher. He was a nondescript ninth-round pick, never showed up on any high-end prospect lists. Thus, when he hits Citi Field and puts together a dynamite resume, the public is often slow to accept it. This isn't the guy everyone was waiting for.
If you examine the pitching leaders over the last calendar year, deGrom is seventh in fWAR, third in ERA (an eyelash behind Scherzer and Kershaw), fourth in WHIP. The only reason people aren't shouting his name on rooftops is because he's screened by another big-name pitcher in the same clubhouse. Look, Harvey is wonderful, too, and people can celebrate him all they want. But don't let deGrom's lack of a hashtag (and a pedigree) get in the way of the truth here. New York has two front-line aces right now (perhaps more on the way), and if pressed, I'd take deGrom for the rest of 2015.
Chicago pitching coach Chris Bosio turned Arrieta into a dominating ace. I don't understand why so many are late to this story . . . There's been some bellyaching about Kluber's recent fallback, but when you go seven or eight innings and allow four runs on your *bad* turns, I'm not going to worry. He's still striking out well over a batter per inning, and he's getting over five whiffs for every walk. Nothing to see here, move along.
$23 Johnny Cueto
$23 David Price
$22 Cole Hamels
$21 Jason Hammel
$19 Dallas Keuchel
$18 Jon Lester
$17 Michael Wacha
$17 Michael Pineda
$17 Carlos Martinez
$16 James Shields
$15 Shelby Miller
$15 Francisco Liriano
$15 Danny Salazar
Let's take an Occam's Razor approach to Lester. Last year's 2.46 ERA has to be seen as an outlier - this is someone with a 3.59 career mark. The move to the National League is supposed to help, but his inability to check the running game gives some of that back - NL teams take more advantage of that. Lester is better than his current 3.80 number, but probably not by much. Look for something in the 3.30-3.50 range from here on out, a solid support arm, but not ace-level.
Some don't want to fully accept Wacha because his strikeout numbers are pedestrian, but he's also trimmed the walks and upped the ground balls, points in his favor. And he's always kept the ball in the park for his entire career, to the point that we can start looking at that as part of his profile. Don't xFIP yourself into the wrong answers - home runs aren't one giant lottery. The revolution is coming. We'll have better numbers soon.
$14 Trevor Bauer
$14 A.J. Burnett
$13 Julio Teheran
$13 Carlos Carrasco
$11 Tyson Ross
$11 Taijuan Walker
$11 Scott Kazmir
$11 Masahiro Tanaka
$11 Jesse Chavez
$11 Jeff Samardzija
$10 Wei-Yin Chen
$10 Noah Syndergaard
$10 Jordan Zimmermann
$10 John Lackey
$10 Jesse Hahn
$9 Gio Gonzalez
$9 Garrett Richards
$9 Eduardo Rodriguez
$9 Anibal Sanchez
I probably have more faith in Teheran than most people, as we discussed last week. He's a smart kid, a good athlete. His home ERA is terrific, his road ERA a mess - but he's met a lot of the wrong teams on the road. I'm not giving up yet. The NL East is filled with cushy opponents. Too much goodwill built up over 2013 and 2014.
$8 Lance McCullers
$8 Jose Quintana
$8 Hector Santiago
$8 Carlos Rodon
$7 Phil Hughes
$7 Mike Fiers
$7 Justin Verlander
$7 Jaime Garcia
$7 Clay Buchholz
$7 Chris Heston
$6 Yordano Ventura
$6 Kendall Graveman
$6 Drew Hutchison
$6 Collin McHugh
$6 Chase Anderson
Maybe you can time the market on Buchholz, figure out the matrix. I've tried for a while and failed, miserably. Somehow he posted a 1.74 ERA ad 1.02 WHIP in a partial 2013 season, then collapsed to 5.34/1.39 last year. He's had dominant starts and blowups this year; look at the game scores, from high to low: 83, 82, 79, 71, 63, 60, 59, 48, 47, 46, 40, 31, 30, 5. Life in Fenway Park, and the AL East, prevents me from accepting a solid floor with Buchholz. I'll let him be someone else's problem. In a mixed league, why run uphill when you don't have to? (If you want to side with Buccholz, there are smart people agreeing with you, starting with my pal @michaelsalfino).
Sometimes fly balls get a bad rap. So long as a pitcher has an extreme batted-ball profile in either direction, he's doing a good thing. In other words, yes, you can believe in Santiago as a full-season story. He's also pushed his strikeout rate up, and trimmed his walk rate. No one is betting on the 2.68 ERA or 89-percent strand rate to stick, but I'm fine with something in the mid-3s going forward.
$5 Michael Bolsinger
$5 Doug Fister
$5 Matt Shoemaker
$5 C.J. Wilson
$5 Brett Anderson
$4 Wade Miley
$4 Tommy Milone
$4 Ryan Vogelsong
$4 Rubby De La Rosa
$4 Mike Leake
$4 Matt Wisler
$4 Mark Buehrle
$4 James Paxton
$4 Erasmo Ramirez
$4 Aaron Sanchez
$3 Yovani Gallardo
$3 Williams Perez
$3 Trevor May
$3 Tanner Roark
$3 Roenis Elias
$3 Robbie Ray
$3 Marco Estrada
$3 Kyle Gibson
$3 Kevin Gausman
$3 Jered Weaver
$3 Jason Vargas
$3 Ian Kennedy
$3 Edinson Volquez
$3 Drew Pomeranz
$3 Dan Haren
$3 Charlie Morton
$3 Andrew Cashner
$3 Alex Wood
$3 Joe Ross
$3 Aaron Harang
Fister is a classic case of "so underrated, he's overrated." His fastball is down to 85.9 and his ground-ball rate has sagged, too. There's pumpkin risk here . . . Anyone else sick of waiting for Cashner's strikeout rate to catch up to his raw stuff? No way I'm paying an expecting price for that . . . I still consider Morton rosterable in deeper head-to-head formats, where quality innings (and a shot at a win) matter and you don't care about strikeouts so much. The Washington mess happened, okay, but everyone gets their brains beat in, once in a while. It happens again this month, I'll reevaluate . . . If Joe Ross had a rotation spot right now, he'd be at eight bucks. Common sense tells us someone will eventually get hurt again in Washington.
$2 Wily Peralta
$2 Wandy Rodriguez
$2 Vincent Velasquez
$2 Tyler Lyons
$2 Tsuyoshi Wada
$2 Tim Lincecum
$2 Nathan Karns
$2 Mike Pelfrey
$2 Mike Montgomery
$2 Matthew Andriese
$2 Mat Latos
$2 Kyle Ryan
$2 J.A. Happ
$2 Chris Young
$2 Chi Chi Gonzalez
$2 Anthony DeSclafani
$2 Alfredo Simon
$2 Adam Warren
$1 Vance Worley
$1 Ubaldo Jimenez
$1 Tom Koehler
$1 Tim Hudson
$1 Nick Martinez
$1 Miguel Gonzalez
$1 Kyle Hendricks
$1 Jose Urena
$1 Jorge de la Rosa
$1 Jimmy Nelson
$1 Jeff Locke
$1 David Phelps
$1 Colby Lewis
$1 Cody Anderson
$1 C.C. Sabathia
$1 Brett Oberholtzer
$0.50 Bartolo Colon
$0 Taylor Jungmann
$0 Shaun Marcum
$0 Sean O'Sullivan
$0 Scott Feldman
$0 Scott Copeland
$0 Ricky Nolasco
$0 Rick Porcello
$0 R.A. Dickey
$0 Odrisamer Despaigne
$0 Nathan Eovaldi
$0 Mike Wright
$0 Michael Lorenzen
$0 Matt Garza
$0 Kyle Lohse
$0 Kevin Correia
$0 Jon Niese
$0 Jon Moscot
$0 John Danks
$0 Jeremy Hellickson
$0 Chris Tillman
$0 Chad Bettis
$0 Bud Norris
$0 Alex Colome
$0 Adam Morgan
Courtesy Injury Ranks - Not for debate
$15 Stephen Strasburg
$13 Lance Lynn
$11 Jose Fernandez
$11 Jake Odorizzi
$7 Hisashi Iwakuma
$6 Matt Moore
$5 Matt Cain
$2 James Paxton
Two more courtesy ranks
$7 Steven Matz
$5 Ervin Santana
Players to Buy
Michael Pineda, SP, vs. PHI (Correia), $10100: As great as Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez are, I’m a big fan of going with a modified ace if the matchup and savings line up. They seem to in this case - if you opt for Pineda over Kershaw, you gain $2000 in extra fun money on Fan Duel.
You always want to see the Phillies on the schedule - they’re dead last in runs, and dead last in road scoring. Pineda’s best foot has come at home, with a 2.36 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 45.2 innings.
Brian McCann, C, vs. PHI (Correia), $3500: It’s obvious when you use McCann this year - at home (1.089 OPS) and against right-handed pitching (.890 OPS). And this isn’t just any righty he’s up against, it’s 34-year-old journeyman Kevin Correia. You’re also approved for an Alex Rodriguez play; he’s slashing .330/.435/.575 at home, and has a 1.369 OPS on the current homestand. Clear off the mantle, Comeback Player of the Year. Chase Headley at $2500 also makes sense (.375, six runs over last four games), and I'm always in favor of a Brett Gardner play.
Yan Gomes, C, vs. DET (Ryan), $2300: He hasn’t been doing much lately, which is why the price has collapsed to this point. But now Gomes is in the platoon edge against an ordinary lefty, and keep in mind Gomes’s career slash line against southpaws is a robust .300/.335/.497. And yes, I’d buy low in seasonal, if it’s available to you. Gomes still looks like a very sound C1 to me, someone you set and forget in standard formats.
Albert Pujols, 1B, vs. HOU (Oberholtzer), $4300: It’s not a giveaway price but it’s not through the roof either, and Phat Albert is on a ballistic tear over the past 23 games (.341/.417/.835, 13 homers). It’s telling that the Angels are just 12-11 over this run; other than Pujols and Trout, the offense isn’t particularly scary (Kole Calhoun remains notably overrated). But we don’t need the Angels to win, necessarily, we just want to see Pujols take some at-bats against a league-average southpaw.
Brian Dozier, 2B, vs. CHW (Danks), $3900: He didn’t click as a weekend recco against Jon Lester, but the draw is significantly stronger now. Dozier’s career splits are slightly better at home, and he gets a 174-point OPS boost against left-handers. He also has good career numbers against John Danks, if 17 plate appearances matter to you.
Tom Milone, SP, vs. CHW (Danks), $6700: He’s a solid -137 favorite but you get in at a discount ticket, that sounds nice. The White Sox are a team for lefties to attack - they have the league’s worst weighted on-base average against southpaws. Perhaps that matters less against Milone, who’s been platoon-neutral for his career, but you also get snappy current form from Minnesota’s new rotation man (19 IP, 5 ER, 2 BB, 13 K over last three). Let's hear it for Mayday.
Seth Smith, OF, vs. KC (Blanton), $2300: He was swinging a sweet bat at the end of the Houston series, and now he takes dead aim at a journeyman opponent, at home, in the platoon edge. Smith has never proven he can play everyday - the lefties hold him back - but he holds a career .275/.356/.479 line against the northpaws. Double-check the lineup situation, of course, but if it’s a go, Smith is a nice bargain punch.
Kevin Pillar, OF, at TB (Andriese), $3000: Something has clicked for this guy - he’s slashing .403/.423/.612 in June, with four homers and three steals. Crunch the 5x5 numbers and Pillar is the No. 6 bat for the month. And obviously it’s fun to ride shotgun with the loaded Toronto offense. Pillar is still unowned in 59 percent of Yahoo seasonal leagues.
Nelson Cruz, OF, vs. KC (Blanton), $3300: The price has come down significantly, and while Cruz has a modest one homer this month, at least it came in the completed weekend series with Houston. He’s also seeing the ball well at the moment, drawing five unintentional walks over the last five games. Take your rips against Joe Blanton, we’ll all be watching.
One Reluctant Fade
Justin Turner, 3B, art CHC (Wada), $3200: He’s on a tear and the platoon advantage sounds nice, but be aware that Turner has a reverse split for his career (the OPS drops 127 points against lefties, and it’s been even more exaggerated this year). There’s also rain in forecast, albeit this blog is going to post about 10 hours before first pitch. Turner looks like a delightful play Wednesday against Kyle Hendricks.
Chris Sale recently became the third player ever to record 12 strikeouts in five straight games and has recorded double-digit Ks in six straight starts, which has occurred in just 10 other instances in MLB history. You obviously don’t need me to tell you Sale is good at baseball, but his fantasy owners have been unlucky he’s gotten just six wins while posting a 2.74 ERA and 0.94 WHIP this season. Sale’s 34.3 K% leads MLB, as does his 28.5 K-BB% and 16.0 SwStr%. Over the past month, he’s struck out 13 of 24 LHB he’s faced, which is an MLB-high 54.2%. The league average is 18.9% (h/t Inside Edge). If a draft were held today, I’d easily make him a top-10 overall pick. There’s a strong argument he’s the best pitcher in baseball. Just imagine if he pitched in the National League and not in a home park that’s increased run scoring more than any in MLB over the past three years other than Coors field. Since May 12, Sale has easily been the No. 1 overall fantasy player, and that’s with him not recording a win in four starts in which he combined for a 1.76 ERA.
This Ferrari test drive was nearly a disaster, with the salesman having a great reaction.
This National Anthem performance by Metallica before Game Five of the NBA Finals was pretty sick.
I keep using Robinson Cano in DFS because this is a hitter with a career .847 OPS still hitting in the middle of the lineup at a thin position at age 32, but even after his OPS dropped some last year during his first season in Seattle, his plate discipline remained the same. This year, his K% (16.8) is a career high while his BB% (5.2) is his lowest since his rookie season. Cano has been caught stealing more times (four) than he’s combined for homers and steals (three) and owns a .518 OPS with a 16:1 K:BB ratio against southpaws. His .286 BABIP is a decent amount below his career mark of .322, and that’s come with him currently sporting a 33.6 Hard% that’s actually above his career level, so maybe there’s still some hope. But his defense and baserunning have both graded negatively according to Fangraphs, so this contract currently looks like a disaster for the Mariners.
Headlines of the Week: Kim Jong-un Claims To Have Cured Aids, Ebola And Cancer With Single Miracle Drug...A Man Has Died In Spain After Ordering A Glass Of Wine But Instead Given A Dishwater Detergent By Mistake...Man Says He Wants To Get Surgery So He Can Carry And Birth LeBron’s Baby...Hand Dryer Sprays Man In Urine: Restaurant Offers Year’s Supply Of Socks...Virginia Just Banned ‘Cuss Words’ In Public...German Traffic Light Stays Red For 28 Years...Bitter Ex Cuts Possessions In Half, Posts Them On eBay...Motorized Surfboard Filled With $100,000 Worth Of Meth Washes Up In Tijuana...Tokyo Court Ruling Says Adultery OK If It’s For Business.
Quick Hits: Taijuan Walker owns a 2.03 ERA with a 38:3 K:BB ratio over his last five starts, spanning 35.1 innings. He’s quickly looking like the real deal...Strangely, Nolan Arenado owns a .939 OPS on the road and an .830 OPS in Coors Field (thanks to a homer Sunday)...Nathan Eovaldi allowed nine hits and eight earned runs in less than an inning during a start earlier this week, which is pretty hard to do (although Charlie Morton was actually worse Sunday), let alone from a starter who’s averaged the second highest fastball velocity (95.9 mph) this year. He recovered during his next start Saturday, but Eovaldi hasn’t fanned more than six batters over any of his past 12 outings...Steven Souza went 0-for-0 with five walks in a game last week and also scored on a bunt in a different one, so it was a pretty bizarre week for the rookie...I’m sure most of you have seen Max Scherzer lose a perfect game in the worst way possible before throwing a no-hitter Saturday, when his game score was actually lower than his previous start, as he’s recorded a 26:1 K:BB ratio while allowing one hit over his past two outings, which have also accounted for 66% of his complete games of his career. Scherzer has a ridiculous 0.80 WHIP on the year and should be regarded as a top-10 fantasy player.
Police Blotter: Remote Island Shocked By First Theft In 50 Years...13-Year-Old Daughter Driving Drunk Parents...Guy Tried To Burn House With Bowling Ball Bomb...Couple Allegedly Beat, Stabbed Neighbor Who Called Police About Loud Sex...Smuggler Caught Hiding Cocaine In Fried Fish At MIA...‘Dead People’ Would Be Banned From Driving In N.J. Under Proposed Law...Car Thief Calls Taxi After Struggling To Drive Stick Shift.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Doug Fister’s 2.41 ERA and 1.08 WHIP last season didn’t seem sustainable with his 5.38 K/9 rate, but the pendulum has swung extreme this year, as he was battered during his first start back from the DL and owns a 4.80 ERA while failing to record more than three strikeouts during any of his eight starts (with his season-high being four)...Melky Cabrera entered Sunday with the fourth-lowest wRC+ among all hitters after being a top-60 fantasy player last season. He did go 5-for-5 though...Marlon Byrd had eight homers over 84 ABs with a .934 OPS in May and homered during his first game back from a wrist injury (and went 3-for-4 Sunday). He’s currently owned in just 33% of Yahoo leagues...Alex Rios is one season removed from an 18-homer/42-SB campaign yet is currently owned in fewer than 50% of Yahoo leagues, although to be fair he’s hitting in a tougher environment now...Maikel Franco has been the No. 5 fantasy third baseman since getting called up...This is easily one of the best first pitches of all time...Brad Ziegler is a closer who currently owns a 1.50 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, but his strikeout Friday was his first in nearly a month (since May 22). While that’s crazy, a 4.62 GB/FB ratio sure helps (it’s actually higher than his 4.50 K/9 rate).
What an incredible finish to the U.S. Open...Adrien Broner is a fraud while Kimbo Slice remains an even bigger one, although the latter actually won this weekend in a crazy/terrible/awesome fight...I'm not sure what to make of the season two debut of "True Detective," but I'm all in again.
Song of the Week: Beck – “Dreams”
Longread of the Week: LeBron James And The Dignity Of Labor
Quick Hits Part Tres: Over the last month, Billy Burns has been the No. 8 fantasy player, while Manny Machado has ranked No. 5 (over the last seven games, Mookie Betts is batting .581 with two homers and a steal, and yet Machado has been more valuable than him over that span)...Aroldis Chapman has a 9:1 K:BB ratio over his past three innings, retiring 11 of his last 12 batters via strikeout...Todd Frazier is on pace to finish with 119 runs, 55 homers, 114 RBI and 19 steals...This David Ortiz ejection was one of the weirder ones you’ll ever see...This squirrel leaping into a dugout is pretty ridiculous...Over his last six games, Brock Holt is batting .462 with nine runs scored, five RBI, three walks, a homer and a steal. He’s been playing everyday and even hitting atop Boston’s lineup, and while he may be performing over his head, it’s crazy he’s still owned in fewer than 40% of Yahoo leagues considering he’s eligible both at 2B and SS. Go pick him up.
Joey Votto, 1B. vs. MIA (Phelps), $4000: He’s not the priciest of the first sackers on Father’s Day, but he is at home against an ordinary right-hander. David Phelps has a 4.31 ERA and 1.26 WHIP on the road this season.
Didi Gregorius, SS, vs. DET (Sanchez), $2400: His overall stats don’t look like much, but he’s homered in two straight games and is moved up to the No. 2 position for Sunday. Yankee Stadium can be an awfully small park in the daytime.
Randal Grichuk, OF, at PHI (Morgan), $3200: The price has come up, but Grichuk’s play has forced it. He’s homered three times in two days, and gets a leadoff assignment against a nondescript left-hander. That will work. The St. Louis offense has been just fine without Matt Holliday.
Mookie Betts, OF, at KC (Young), $3200: I wanted to throw things when he was asked to bunt Saturday, but with 15 hits in six games, it’s been the best of Betts lately. If he gets on base Sunday against Young, stealing second won’t be too hard.
Michael Wacha, SP, at PHI (Morgan), $8800: You never know how many strikeouts to expect, but I’d stream anyone against this Philadelphia lineup right now.
Charlie Morton, SP, at WAS (Gonzalez), $7900: I'm not going to sweat the strikeouts if he keeps getting ground-balls by the truckload. And no one knows what to expect from erratic Gio Gonzalez these days.
Lorenzo Cain, OF, vs. BOS (Miley), $2800: He's a lefty-masher at a giveaway price, and Wade Miley is someone we generally want to pick on, no matter his recent success.
Mark Reynolds, 1B, at PHI (Morgan), $3200: He doesn't have the profile of a platoon masher, but he's been productive when asked to play, he's slotted cleanup, and we want exposure against Adam Morgan.
Brock Holt, 3B, at KC (Young), $3300: The Red Sox needs to simply give him a starting job and leave him alone. Holt’s OBP is over .400 for the year, and he’s on a 1.357 OPS tear over his last five starts. A perfect No. 1 or No. 2 hitter, whatever Boston feels like.
Jean Segura, SS, at COL (Rusin), $3100: A very affordable option in the thin air, and the opposing pitcher is someone exploitable. Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Jon Lucroy are other right-handed Brewers to punch up for the late slate.
Evan Gattis, C, at SEA (Happ), $3500: It’s something of a pay-up price, but Gattis draws a beatable lefty and he’s done work against the Mariners this year.
David Peralta, OF, vs. SD (Cashner), $2700: Against a big lie like Andrew Cashner, I’d like to give some run to affordable Arizona lefties. Peralta certainly fits that bill, along with third baseman Jake Lamb (3K).
Charlie Blackmon, OF, vs MIL (Garza), $4100: It sounds like a pricy ticket, but Matt Garza isn’t fooling anyone this year and Blackmon is on a 7-for-17 binge this homestand (homer, two bags). Other Colorado lefties in Sunday’s lineup: Carlos Gonzalez, Ben Paulsen, switcher Rafael Ynoa.
Brian Dozier, 2B, vs. CHC (Lester), $4000: I’m surprised the Twins have just 26 steals, tied for 23rd in the majors - Paul Molitor was the smartest baserunner I ever saw, and I figured this would be an aggressive team in all manners. Nonetheless, Jon Lester on the mound might give the home team a kick start (only Tiger Woods has a worse case of the yips), and Dozier has always been an overlord against southpaws (.869 OPS).
Ben Zobrist, 2B, vs. LAA (Weaver), $3200: The Z is one of the hottest hitters over the last week (1.683 OPS, 11 runs, two homers, eight RBIs) and he has a strong career line against Jered Weaver. The A’s knocked Weaver around for six runs in the last meeting, and they’ve scored 47 runs over their last six games. Bang on the drum all day.
Michael McKenry, C, vs. MIL (Lohse), $2900: Obviously the thin air is a fun place to take your hacks, but you might not have noticed how well McKenry has fared there of late. He’s a .336/.434/.549 slasher at Coors since the beginning of 2014, and a Kyle Lohse draw is certainly a favorable thing. McKenry slots sixth in the Saturday lineup.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, vs. TEX (Martinez), $2400: I can’t blame anyone who wants to play the fun picks at first base, but with the Nick Martinez Regression Tour likely to begin at any time, this could be a fun pick, too. The tidy 2.76 ERA belies a 4.22 FIP and 4.80 xFIP. Come on, U.S. Cellular Field, lstart correcting those numbers.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, vs. MIL (Lohse), $4200: It’s pricy and he let us down Friday, but the overall form is on the upswing and Cargo has a strong career trend against Lohse (1.117 OPS over 20 plate appearances). A day game in the thin air, obviously you want exposure here. And Lohse’s 6.64 ERA also catches your eye. Anyone in Colorado’s lineup for Saturday has to be considered.
Adam Lind, 1B, vs. COL (Bettis), $3600: He’s slowly but surely become a middle-tier play after an extended period in the bargain bin, but Coors field and Chad Bettis push you to the case. For his career, Lind is a .292/.350/.508 swinger in the platoon advantage.
Trevor Plouffe, 3B, vs. CHC (Lester), $2700: He does his best work at home and against lefties, and the Twins are fifth in home scoring (they’re 27th out of a suitcase). Have some fun on the field, then grab a slice or two at Cossetta's at the end of the night. Plouffe and the pie, both tremendous values.
Corey Kluber, SP, vs. TB (Ramirez), $11000: Tampa’s offense is a little sneaky against lefties, but it falls to 22nd in weighted on-base average against righties. Kluber is at home and against one of the weakest Tampa Bay pitchers, which encourages me to cut the hefty check.
Avisail Garcia, OF, vs. TEX (Martinez), $2700: I’m curious to see if he takes off in the No. 2 position, where he’s slotted for Saturday (batting ahead of Jose Abreu is always a good thing). Maybe I’m forcing it with this attack Nick Martinez theme, but the stats simply do not add up with the Texas hurler.
Todd Frazier, 3B, vs. MIA (Koehler), $5200: The Toddfather nickname especially applies at home, where Frazier has 34 homers and a .985 OPS since the beginning of 2014. Whenever you can get Frazier in Cincinnati against an ordinary opposing pitcher, it’s probably worth it to pay the freight.
Carlos Frias, SP, vs. SF (Hudson), $6300: We go to 11 because St. Hubbins wants it that way. If you're in the mood for a discounted pitcher pick, Frias is a -150 favorite and the game has a modest total, 7.5 runs. Frias has much better stats on the road, but the Chavez Ravine backdrop is generally a good place for a pitcher to work.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, at COL (De La Soul), $3200: Just about everything lines up here - Lucroy’s swing is coming around, the park is perfect, he’s enjoying the platoon split, the price isn’t too prohibitive. Jorge De La Rosa does have a reasonable amount of success pitching at home - at least he’s not intimidated by the assignment - but we have to bet on gravity.
I just wish we could feel better about the rest of the Milwaukee lineup, given that Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun are both dinged up. Aramis Ramirez and Jean Segura could be options, both in the platoon edge.
Chris Sale, SP, vs. TEX (Lewis), $11000: Normally I am reluctant to use the No. 1 pitcher when other reasonable options are around, but Sale’s recent form cannot avoided (61 strikeouts over 37/1 innings, 1.45 ERA). The Rangers did surprise against Clayton Kershaw this week, 10 strikeouts to the side, but they’re also 21st in weighted runs created versus left-handers.
The other thing to consider with a Sale play is that he’s playing on a night where all teams are on the schedule. Thus, it’s a buyer’s market for the cheaper bats. If this were a thinner card, it might be more difficult to purchase an offense you feel good about.
Chris Parmelee, OF, at TOR (Estrada), $2200: He’s obviously seeing the ball well right now and we know the Orioles are fine to run with a hot hand. The park is friendly, the pitcher unthreatening, the price at minimum.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, vs. DET (Verlander), $3300: He has good history against Justin Verlander, albeit much of that came when both players were on a different plane. But A-Rod’s proven to be a consistent and reliable play against almost anyone this year, the No. 7 third baseman in Yahoo’s game. Rodriguez is one hit away from 3000 and has a flair for the dramatic; I suspect he’ll do it Friday, and through an extra-base hit.
Kyle Schwarber, OF, at MIN (Hughes), $2500: The price inched up $300, but it’s still a giveaway. Phil Hughes has been known to feed the gopher. Let’s have some fun with The Schwa before he’s returned to the minors (if that even happens).
Christian Yelich, OF, at CIN (Leake), $3000: It’s been a slow rebuild of the slash line, but Yelich is on a .297/.381/.541 binge over the last two days, with a couple of homers. He’s the only Marlin who did a thing against Michael Pineda earlier in the week. Mike Leake pitches to contact, and Cincinnati’s ballpark is a scoring float.
Lorenzo Cain, OF, vs. BOS (Rodriguez), $2900: Cain’s best bat shows against lefties, where he enjoys a 228-point OPS spike. Eddie Rodriguez was knocked around in his last turn, and might struggle with the pesky, contact-heavy Royals.
Kolten Wong, 2B, at PHI (Aumont), $2900: It’s a shame Wong isn’t running more often this year, though perhaps he’ll kick things up with Carlos Ruiz on the docket Friday. Otherwise, there’s not much else to dislike with Wong: he’s on pace for 17 homers, 66 RBIs, 91 runs and a .286 average. He’s the No. 6 second baseman in Yahoo’s game, but just the No. 14 option on the Fanduel card.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, vs. MIL (Jungmann), $4000: You know my stance in seasonal - I’d be looking to sell Cargo’s name and his current hot streak (four homers in 23 at-bats). But in the short term, he’s still at home, and eventually Taylor Jungmann’s regression tour will start. He had awful Triple-A numbers, and that’s the sample I’m betting on.
Mark Reynolds, 1B, at PHI (Aumont), $2800: Generally you don’t punt or semi-punt at first base, but I expect the Cardinals to jump all over this ordinary pitcher, and Reynolds has been in good form of late, homering twice in his last five games.
Tyler Lyons, SP, at PHI (Aumont), $6700: If you want to let your hair down and take a gamble in a tournament format or on a two-pitcher site, Lyons at least gives you a reasonable shot at those all-important victory points. At -190, he's the biggest favorite on the full card.
It’s difficult to put rational thoughts on the Philadelphia organization. We know general manger Ruben Amaro Jr. is often unreasonable in trades. So while a veteran liquidation sale at some point this summer makes perfect sense to outsiders, there’s no guarantee it happens with the worst team in baseball.
Nonetheless, closer Jonathan Papelbon is having a terrific year (13-for-13 on saves, 1.01 ERA, 0.98 WHIP), and a handful of contending teams are already scouting him. The Blue Jays and Cubs sure could use ninth-inning definition. The Rangers have the fourth-worst relief ERA in the league.
I’m not going to change Papelbon’s value going forward because he’d almost certainly be a closer for any new club. But with the trade talks circling about, it’s a good time to check on Ken Giles, Philly’s No. 2.
Giles had a rough patch for a few weeks in May, but in general he’s been solid in his second season (1.86 ERA, 10.24 K/9). The biggest concern is his ballooning walk rate - he’s at 4.03/9 there, revisiting a problem he continually had in the minors. Giles was able to get his control in line during his bustout 2014 season, but it’s slipped backward this year.
Nonetheless, this is someone who’s average fastball is in the mid-90s (95.5 mph this year) and someone who gets swings and misses about 15 percent of the time. And spare me the worry of the awful Phillies not getting any save chances - heck, Papelbon has 13. Even bad clubs can support a fantasy closer so long as he’s the only show in town. Jerome Holtzman’s rule still runs the world.
If you’re in the mood for a speculative saves addition, Giles is free to grab in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. And his quality innings are a nifty bonus in the meantime. Keep trimming those ratios.
• It would be nice to take the Bryce Harper injury news at face value, but this is Matt Williams and the Nationals we’re talking about. It could be a tense couple of days.
Harper left Thursday’s game with what was originally called a mild left-hamstring strain. I’m sure most of Harper’s fantasy owners would be thrilled to leave it at that, given how bad the injury looked. Granted, I am not a doctor, and most of you aren’t, either - at least not professionally.
It’s already been a ridiculous year for Washington injuries. Anthony Rendon missed two months with a balky knee. Stephen Strasburg (shoulder), Jayson Werth (wrist) and Ryan Zimmerman (foot) are currently on the DL. The NL East cakewalk many expected - me as much as anyone - might not happen after all. Maybe the scrubby Mets, for all of their flaws, can hang in this thing. (Mmmm, cakewalk.)
Harper was talking optimistically about perhaps playing this weekend, but the player is generally the worst person to get injury disclosure from. If Harper eventually goes on the DL, then it gets interesting - his owners have to decide if they want to wait it out and hope for the best, or try for a meaty liquidation trade where immediate help is procured. I don’t want to speak too much about indefinites and timetables that aren’t even sketched out yet. When the situation has a little more clarity, that’s when we can start discussing specific tactics.
• We need fantasy scouting more than ever these days, and Yahoo Fantasy is here to help. In case you didn’t notice, matchup ratings are back in the game.
In Other News: The Adrian Beltre rehab is moving at a slow pace . . . It’s possible Carlos Gomez (hip) might need a DL stint . . . Kyle Schwarber had a single and homer at Cleveland, continuing to crush as Chicago’s temporary DH. The plan is for him to move to Triple-A when the Cubs return to NL life, but maybe a ballistic week would change some minds . . . Preston Tucker homered in both games of the Houston-Colorado series. He’s batted third or forth for most of the past three weeks . . . Maybe Matt Kemp is feeling better - he clocked his fourth homer in the victory at Oakland. Derek Norris also went deep, and Ian Kennedy finally gave us six quality innings . . . Pablo Sandoval spends more time on Instagram than your teenagers do . . . Kole Calhoun took a collar and is down to .269/.327/.388. Meh. Even with Trout and Pujols, the Angels are 23rd in runs scored . . . Alex Rodriguez picked up a couple of singles, putting him one shy of 3,000. He’s currently the No. 7 third baseman in the Yahoo game . . . Carlos Correa stole three bases in Colorado. I'm shareless. This isn't going to be very fun . . . Victor Martinez is ready to rejoin the Tigers. This lineup desperately needs a left-handed presence; it ranks 26th in lefty OPS. I have no idea what Martinez is ready to do - he looked like Fred G. Sanford the last we saw him - but Detroit figures to run him out there right away.
Is Chris Parmelee just a Quad-A player, or is he another late-blooming hitter that’s emerged under the wing of Buck Showalter? OK, it’s likely the former, but let’s take a look anyway.
Parmelee’s first two games with the Orioles have been a smash. He clocked a couple of homers in Tuesday’s beatdown of Philadelphia, then knocked a third rocket in Wednesday’s victory. He’s 5-for-9 since his recall. Line drives all over the place.
Parmelee was raking in Triple-A, not unusual for a player with MLB experience that’s old, at 27, for the level. Nonetheless, they don’t hand out .312/.381/.444 slash lines at the airport. Parmelee was controlling at-bats, getting on base plenty, knocking the occasional homer (six in 61 games). He also stole three bases.
The prospect hounds had a tepid interest in Parmelee, a zillion years ago – he was a first-round pick in the 2006 draft (out of high school) and showed up on some 2007 rank lists. The Twins gave him playing time now and again over the last four years, to the tune of a .252/.321/.404 slash and 27 homers in 821 at-bats. Those aren’t exciting numbers, but maybe something could click in the age-27 season. It’s a shame Parmelee doesn’t show any platoon bias; that would actually make him more playable as a streamer and occasional DFS option.
I added a few shares of Parmelee this week, here and there. He qualifies at first base and the outfield, always a nifty selling point. The Orioles have been ordinary in right-field production this year, similar in left field. Parmelee will probably get a chance to show what he can do. It's interesting to note he batted fifth in his debut, then moved to third Wednesday. Even when Adam Jones returns, Parmelee might keep a good spot for a while.
Plausible upside is what we're looking for. When I see it, I make moves. It's really as simple as that.
I know it’s easy to dismiss this sort of guy, and I’m not saying you should flush any significant resource to land Parmelee. But if you’re looking for an upside spin at the back of your roster, sure, I’ll sign off. Sometimes Steve Pearce happens. Sometimes Jimmy Paredes happens. Showalter, more than some managers, seems willing to run with a hot hand and adjust the batting order with that in mind.
And if you click on this sort of player, a low-pedigree story out of nowhere, it’s twice as sweet as the production you get from a star. Trust me.
Have a piece of celebration pie. Mmm, pie.
• Oh, those lovely Cubs and their 17 runs and 18 hits. Oh cute, more position players getting mop up work and handing out goodies. I swear the Cubbies never do this sort of thing when I stack them, but my temporary tilt is not your concern.
Kyle Schwarber is up to get some DH work, and he checked in with a tasty 5-3-4-2 line out of the No. 6 slot Wednesday. Just what we need in MLB, a Hooked on Phonics player.
Kudos to anyone who saw this opportunity ahead of time; I, sadly, did not. Schwarber carries catcher eligibility in Yahoo and is a heck of a batting streamer while he’s around. He’s one of Chicago’s never-ending basket of prospects, and he had a video-game .320/.438/.5789 slash at Double-A when he was recalled.
What will the Cubs do when their temporary DH time runs out after Sunday? No one knows. But Schwarber looks like a fun play until then.
• I hate that it’s come to this, but we probably can’t trust Lloyd McClendon to do the logical thing. Fernando Rodney has three straight scoreless outings on the resume, which means the arrow-shooting veteran is likely to get a shot, even if it's just an occasional shot, in the ninth inning fairly soon. Here's Bob Dutton with the Seattle scoop; this could resemble a committee soon.
Carson Smith has the dominant numbers along with three fresh saves - he still heads that committee, if the word even applies. And it sounds like McClendon is fine with that arrangement. But McClendon mentioned Rodney as a possible fill-in when Smith needs a break, and what if Rodney dodges the lightning for a save or two? It can be easy to shift back to the "proven" veteran.
Often the save chase is about following the roles over the skills (contrary to general fantasy logic), but in this case, I want you to keep the more-talented player, let the roles fall where they may. Smith is likely to eventually slam the door on this case, once and for all. He's that good. And his shutdown innings play in just about any format.
In Other News: Yes, you have my permission to cut Wil Myers (wrist surgery, two months). Actually, I'm ordering you to. And yes, you have my permission to pick up the underrated Will Venable . . . If there is a roto god, let Johnny Cueto get out of Cincinnati . . . Starling Marte had a sacrifice bunt against John Danks - you slay me, Clint Hurdle - and later left with a sore ankle . . . Michael Pineda was dynamite against the Marlins, going six hitless innings before a Christian Yelich homer, but I was frustrated to see the Yanks limit Pineda to just 100 pitches. He’s not going to break if you let him go a little further . . . Jose Altuve is dealing with a balky hamstring and probably won’t play Thursday, either . . . A bad shoulder has Martin Prado heading to the DL. Derek Dietrich, good old Double D, has some deeper-league juice . . . Speaking of juice, here's a tasty Radiohead jam from Europa somewhere. Go smash your league up.
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Before I load up the family truckster and head to Illinois for a two-week preseason battery charge, below are fantasy spins on recent whispers from mini-camp, random thoughts and easy-to-read lists, several of them. For those who relish berating accessible writers, please throw your verbal barbs in the comments section.
• The Purple Jesus’ resurrection is well underway. After a season-long suspension and lengthy standoff with Minnesota’s front office, Adrian Peterson is not only back in action, he’s extremely motivated to extend his career beyond 2015. Suffice it to say, he’s angry, a frightening prospect for defenses (65.5 career yards-after-contact percentage). It’s no wonder why many in the "expert" realm are pushing owners to invest a No. 1 overall pick in him, even in PPR formats.
Consider me one of them.
This fall could mark the future Hall of Famer’s finest season yet. Critics contend his advanced age (30) and general wear (2,359 career touches) are clear signs he’ll break down. Those concerns are reasonable, but Peterson is a rhinoceros of a runner when healthy, a once-in-a-generation back. Since entering the league in 2007, no running back has averaged more fantasy points per game.
During his illustrious career, the three-time All-Pro finished a season ranked as the top dog among RBs only once, but that feat may soon be duplicated. The Vikings sail into 2015 with sharpened axes. Teddy Bridgewater, who completed a rock solid 64.4 percent of his attempts his rookie year, is a rising star. His effectiveness should only improve with Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson and Kyle Rudolph to throw to. Additionally, the Vikings offensive line, which was the 13th-best in run-blocking last year according to Pro Football Focus, is formidable. And don’t get fixated on his age. Tiki Barber, Corey Dillon, Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Priest Holmes are just a few geriatric backs who stiff-armed Father Time at the same point in their respective careers.
Most promising, Peterson is expected to be Norv Turner’s engine, functioning as an all-purpose weapon. As the RB recently told the Star Tribune, he will be “more involved in the pass game, being out wide and presenting [himself] for a check-down.” Essentially, he will be an invaluable safety net for a young quarterback. His production could mirror what LaDainian Tomlinson achieved in Norval’s system from 2007-2008 (3,485 total yds, 30 TDs, 112 receptions), meaning he could shatter his previous season high in receptions (43) by some 15-20 catches. His consistency, money motivation and favorable situation are why I moved him ahead of Jamaal Charles. Come year’s end, his net worth could match that of “Jurassic World.”
Purple reign. Purple reign.
• To the cursory drafter, total points mean everything. These are the same people who shamelessly shove hot-dog stuffed crusts in their mouths without thinking about the physiological consequences. They look at a player’s final rank and assume steady production will follow.
Take, for instance, Ben Roethlisberger.
Pittsburgh’s gunslinger finished 2014 the No. 5 overall passer. An under-performing Steelers D combined with the stellar execution of Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell elevated him to new heights. Though highly commendable, his fantasy effectiveness was wildly unpredictable, fueling weekly “Start or not to start?” frustrations for his owners. Though he averaged 19.4 fantasy points per game in standard Yahoo leagues, Big Ben finished with less than 17 points in 10-of-16 contests. His back-to-back 6-TD eruptions against Indy and Baltimore Weeks 8-9 skewed the stats. Oh how averages can be deceiving.
What other fantasy ones (QB1-QB12, RB1-RB12, WR1-WR12) were erratic in 2014? Here are the kings of inconsistency/consistency at each position using Yahoo, non-PPR default scoring:
QBs (Games less than starter-average (QB1-QB12) 16.8 fantasy points): 1t) Matt Ryan (9, 56.3%), 1t) Ryan Tannehill (9, 56.3%), 3t) Ben Roethlisberger (8, 50.0%), 3t) Philip Rivers (8, 50.0%), 5t) Tom Brady (7, 43.8%), 5t) Eli Manning (7, 43.8%)
QB1s (Games with more than starter-average 16.8 fantasy points): 1) Andrew Luck (13, 81.3%), 2) Aaron Rodgers (12, 75.0%), 3) Tony Romo (11 (out of 15 gms), 73.3%), 4t) Peyton Manning (11, 68.7%), 4t) Drew Brees (11, 68.7%)
RB1s (Games less than starter-average (RB1-RB24) 12.2 fantasy points): 1t) LeSean McCoy (10, 62.5%), 1t) Jeremy Hill* (10, 62.5%), 3) Lamar Miller (9, 56.2%), 4) C.J. Anderson* (7, 50%), 5t) Le’Veon Bell (7, 43.2%), 5t) Justin Forsett (7, 43.2%)
***To be fair, Hill and Anderson didn’t start until midseason.
RB1s (Games with more than starter league-average 12.2 fantasy points): 1) DeMarco Murray (14, 87.5%), 2) Marshawn Lynch (11, 68.7%), 3t) Matt Forte (10, 62.5%), 3t) Eddie Lacy (10, 62.5%), 5) Arian Foster (8 (out of 13 gms) 61.5%)
WR1s (Games less than starter league-average (WR1-WR36) 10.3 fantasy points): 1) Calvin Johnson (7 (in 13 gms), 53.8%), 2) Jeremy Maclin (8, 50.0%), 3t) Mike Evans (7 (in 15 gms), 46.7%), 3t) Julio Jones (7 (in 15 gms), 46.7%), 3t) T.Y. Hilton (7 (in 15 gms), 46.7%)
WR1s (Games with more than starter league-average (WR1-WR36) 10.3 fantasy points):1) Demaryius Thomas (13, 81.2%), 2) Antonio Brown (12, 75.0%), 3) Odell Bekcham (9 (in 12 gms), 75.0%), 4) Randall Cobb (11, 68.7%), 5t) Dez Bryant (10, 62.5%), 5t) Jordy Nelson (10, 62.5%), 5t) Emmanuel Sanders (10, 62.5%), 5t) Alshon Jeffery (10, 62.5%)
• Allen Robinson, John Brown and Davante Adams have reached fantasy ninja status. They’re nimble, crafty receivers hiding in the shadows who, if trusted, may soon embed a throwing star in the neck of your league rival.
Robinson’s environment is very appealing. He’s an oversized target, off an occasionally exciting rookie year, who could tuck inside the WR top-15 in targets. Cash burner, Justin Blackmon, is no longer on the team, Marqise Lee is already dealing with an injury and Allen Hurns is best suited for No. 2 work. That leaves Robinson, a tacky-handed 6-foot-3, 210-pound wideout, at the head of the Jags’ WR class. Last year, he quickly developed into Blake Bortles’ main man. Before a broken foot prematurely ended his season in Week 11, he snagged 48-of-49 catchable balls and ranked No. 32 in PPR settings from Weeks 2-10. Reportedly unstoppable in drills, particularly inside the red zone, he has 70-1100-7 upside. For Robinson to realize his potential, the Jags, who often bogged down once they crossed midfield last year, must improve their execution on the opponents’ side of the field. However, adding T.J. Yeldon and Julius Thomas and a full offseason for Bortles should help.
In the desert, Brown could transform into a statistical haboob in 2015. Bruce Arians has outwardly professed his adoration for the kid repeatedly praising the WR's advancements this past offseason. Carson Palmer has also joined the love fest. The Red Baron predicted "huge things" from the Pittsburg State product. Brown was spectacular in spurts his rookie season. His final tally (48-696-5 in 16 games) didn’t light the world on fire, but when Palmer was on the field, he was highly useful. From Weeks 6-10, he was the 29th-best wide receiver in the virtual game. This spring, Brown tacked on 10 pounds of upper-body bulk to improve his execution against the press, an area he posted an already stellar 75-percent success rate in last year. That matched with Palmer’s return, Larry Fitzgerald’s permanent move to the slot and Arians’ design to feature more no-huddle will have the Cardinal chirping loudly. A top-24 effort is conceivable.
Adams is another young receiver with stud potential. Compared to Robinson and Brown his breakout path is a bit more complicated. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are Aaron Rodgers’ fancy. The dynamic duo accounted for 52.4 percent of the Packers’ targets last year. However, if either is felled by a significant injury, Adams would surely activate salivary glands across Fantasyland. Recall as a rookie, the Fresno St. product was sporadically useful, evident in performances against Miami, New Orleans and New England. His rangy size, leaping ability and adjustment skills are outstanding, attributes which could lead to a workload increase, particularly inside the red zone. Rodgers' "humungous upside" and "going to be a star" comments about Adams feel spot on, especially after Mike McCarthy declared the sophomore MVP of Green Bay OTAs.
• Eli Manning may be talking up Rueben Randle, but the WR offers excitement equivalent to a Donald Trump presidency. His quarterback’s “great, dominant receiver” comments have people back on the bandwagon, however, I’m not buying. Admittedly, he was serviceable at times last season setting career bests in receptions (71) and yards (938). What dragged him down was the lack of touchdowns (three).
As impressive and committed as Randle has been, it’s difficult to predict a gigantic leap in production. Odell Beckham is undoubtedly Eli’s weapon of choice. OBJ's stake in the offense combined with Shane Vereen’s arrival and Victor Cruz returning arrows to continued disappointment for the wide receiver. Another 127 targets are very unlikely. Also keep in mind in 2014, Randle cashed six on only 2-of-12 end-zone targets and tallied an abhorrent 23.8 catch percentage on passes beyond 20 yards. And many of those spoiled opportunities came against favorable coverage. Beckham was double-teamed 67.9 percent of the time. A final line around 60-65 receptions, 850-900 yards and 3-5 TDs feels right. Don’t believe the post-hype.
• Roddy White believes the Falcons, under new OC Kyle Shanahan, will pound the pigskin more often this year than last. My already unhealthy obsession with Tevin Coleman didn't need this (Read my scouting report here). In 2014, Atlanta RBs ranked in the league's bottom half in touches per game gripping the rock 27.3 times per contest. If that number surpasses 30 this fall, a weighty chance, and Coleman distances himself from Devonta Freeman, the rookie should crack the RB top-20. His prior execution in a zone-blocking scheme at Indiana, sharp vision, explosiveness and versatility lend encouragement. And you have to love the Falcons' vertical attack and favorable schedule (fourth-easiest for RBs). Keep close tabs on his progress.
• Straight from the horse's mouth, C.J. Anderson will enter Broncos training camp atop the depth chart according to Gary Kubiak. Denver's new head honcho praised the work ethic and overall efforts of Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, but reiterated the incumbent has the look of a three-down back, citing his knack for protection and receiving. The admission should calm nerves for those who believe Anderson is a strong bust candidate. His well-rounded contributions and one-cut ability mesh ideally with Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme. A top-three RB over last season's second half, Anderson, who notched the fourth-best elusive rating among eligible rushers in '14, is primed for a RB1 return in the Broncos' more balanced attack. Peyton Manning is still running the show after all. Take advantage of the skittish in Round 2 (21.2 ADP).
• Another summer, another round of RB hyperbole in Jacksonville. Last year, Toby Gerhart wooed investors with promises of workload riches. Sadly, he finished No. 55 in RB total points tallying an 'exhaustive' 9.0 touches per game. Now the buzz builds for rookie T.J. Yeldon. As Adam Caplan recently noted, several insiders are convinced the 'Bama product will emerge a three-down horse. Whether he will be more Eddie Lacy than Trent Richardson is unknown, but, to be fair, he's a nifty, multidimensional rusher who excels in pass protection. Still, the Jags were the league's worst red-zone team last season crossing the 20 on a chuckle-worthy 8.5 percent of logged plays. Also worrisome, the offensive line, which is clearly a work in progress, was the eighth-worst run-blocking unit per PFF. As a result, Jacksonville's run success rate percentage ranked No. 27. And then there's the Jags' leaky defense. Unless substantial progress is made in that department, Yeldon's supposedly massive touch total will be curtailed. The St. Louis Cardinals are more trustworthy. At his RB2-level ADP (49.2), he's already overvalued.
• Darren McFadden reportedly survived mini-camp without suffering an injury. Start hoarding imperishables. The end is near.
• All-Rodney Dangerfield QB All-Stars (Best bargains with 100-plus ADP): 1) Teddy Bridgewater (128.1 ADP), 2) Carson Palmer (135.2), 3) Jay Cutler (127.8), 4) Sam Bradford (118.8), 5) RG3 (126.6)
• All-Rodney Dangerfield RB All-Stars: 1) Ameer Abdullah (114.8), 2) Ryan Mathews (124.6), 3) David Cobb (125.7) 4) Duke Johnson (125.3), 5) Jay Ajayi (126.5)
• All-Rodney Dangerfield WR All-Stars: 1) Allen Robinson (111.6), 2) Charles Johnson (109.7), 3) Anquan Boldin (120.7), 4) Nelson Agholor (120.6), 5) Kenny Stills (128.6)
• All-Rodney Dangerfield TE All-Stars: 1) Delanie Walker (123.8), 2) Josh Hill (122.4), 3) Coby Fleener (126.1), 4) Larry Donnell (127.2), 5) Kyle Rudolph (133.4)
• Most underrated player regardless of ADP/position: Justin Forsett (39.2). He's a poor man's Forte in Marc Trestman's offense. It's entirely conceivable he totals 1,400-1,600 combined yards with 70-plus receptions and 7-9 TDs this fall.
• All-Trent Richardson Rejects (Players I’m avoiding at current ADPs): 1) LeSean McCoy (13.8), 2) DeMarco Murray (11.3), 3) Rob Gronkowski (8.1), 4) Alfred Morris (27.9), 5t) Carlos Hyde (32.9), 5t) Sammy Watkins (46.8)
• Updated top-10 rookie performers (in order): 1) Melvin Gordon, 2) Amari Cooper, 3) Todd Gurley, 4) Tevin Coleman, 5) Ameer Abdullah 6) Nelson Agholor, 7) Kevin White, 8) David Cobb, 9) Jameis Winston, 10) Duke Johnson
• Top-five Shocker Specials (140-plus ADP): 1) Matt Jones (151.6), 2) Davante Adams (140.3), 3) Steve Johnson (163.3), 4) Austin Seferian-Jenkins (160.9), 5t) Jimmy Garoppolo (largely undrafted) 5t) Josh Huff (largely undrafted)
• Bank Breakers (Guys I'll overpay/reach for besides Forsett): 1) Tevin Coleman, 2) Andrew Luck, 3) Travis Kelce, 4) Andre Ellington, 5) Martavis Bryant 6) Ameer Abdullah, 7) Latavius Murray, 8) Allen Robinson, 9) Brandin Cooks, 10) C.J. Spiller (PPR)
Danny Salazar, SP, vs. CHC (Hammel), $9100 at FanDuel: He’s facing a good team and a strong starter, but Salazar is the fifth-most expensive SP for Thursday despite the Indians currently being the most favored (-175) team of the day. He owns an impressive 24.5 K-BB% and 13.6 SwStr%, both of which rank in the top-eight among all starters in baseball. Salazar also sports a 34:4 K:BB ratio with a 0.90 WHIP over 25.2 innings at home this season.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, vs. Tex (Lewis), $3200: He’s been in a slump, but Gonzalez is still on pace to finish with a .300-91-27-106 line yet is moderately priced among first basemen while facing a RHP on Thursday. He’s also 7-for-10 with two homers during his career against Colby Lewis.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, vs. Hou (McHugh), $3900: He’s homered in back-to-back games and in three of the past five, so his early season struggles appear to be over. CarGo’s cost has risen as a result, but he’s still modestly priced for someone facing a RHP (he has eight homers against them this year despite a really sluggish start) with a career .971 OPS at Coors Field.
Preston Tucker, OF, at Col (Hale), $3500: He’s been batting cleanup and is facing a RHP in Coors Field on Thursday, so use him (and also Jason Castro if he gets the start at catcher).
Seth Smith, OF, vs. SF (Vogelsong), $2300: He’s hitting atop Seattle’s lineup and has an .812 OPS with five homers over 169 at bats versus right handed pitchers on the year. Ryan Vogelsong has yielded a .294 BAA with nine long balls allowed over 26.0 innings against LHB this season.
Brad Miller, SS, vs. SF (Vogelsong), $2400: He has six homers and five steals over 151 at bats against RHP, and as mentioned above, Vogelsong has struggled versus southpaws all year, ceding a 1.73 WHIP against them.
Robinson Cano, 2B, vs. SF (Vogelsong), $2300: I understand how bad Cano has been this season, but he has a favorable matchup and continues to hit atop the lineup, and this price is just so hard to ignore given his career .881 OPS against RHP. He’s still 32 years old.
Buster Posey, C, at Sea (Montgomery), $3600: It’s especially tricky recommending catchers so far in advance of lineups being available, but Posey should be in there with the DH also available. He owns a career .327/.387/.565 line against southpaws as well as a .916 OPS on the road.
Andre Ethier, OF, vs. Tex (Ranaudo), $3000: He has a .908 OPS with nine home runs over 159 at bats against RHP this season and is hitting in a strong Dodgers lineup at an affordable price.
Manny Machado, 3B, vs. Phi (O’Sullivan), $4000: He has four homers over the past seven games, posting a 1:5 K:BB ratio over that span. Sean O’Sullivan is the cheapest pitcher available Thursday (ostensibly meaning he’s not good), and Machado is quietly on pace to finish the season with 32 homers, 105 runs, 82 RBI and 22 steals.
Michael Pineda, SP, vs. Mia (Urena), $9900 at FanDuel: He’s not one of the top-five most expensive starters yet the Yankees are the second-most favored team (-200) Wednesday. Pineda owns a 22.0 K-BB% to go along with a 1.83 GB/FB ratio and an 11.3 SwStr%, which is a strong combination. The Marlins’ OPS (.647) against RHP ranks No. 22 in MLB as well.
Chris Colabello, OF, vs. NYM (Niese), $2900: He owns a .400/.438/.767 line against southpaws as well as a 1.033 OPS at home this season. He’s also been batting fifth lately for a Toronto team that’s lapping the field in runs scored in baseball (65 more than the next best).
Ryan Raburn, OF, vs. CHC (Wada), $2200: He’ll likely lose an AB versus a relief pitcher (or as a defensive replacement) late in the game, but someone batting in the middle of the lineup with a .948 OPS against lefties priced as the cheapest hitter in the game seems like a no brainer to use.
Chris Coghlan, OF, at Cle (Marcum), $2800: He has eight homers over 172 ABs against RHP this season and remains a bargain. Shaun Marcum has allowed a whopping four homers over 16.1 innings this year versus lefties, including a 1.53 WHIP.
Adam Lind, 1B, at KC (Blanton), $2600: He has nine homers over 181 at bats with an .889 OPS against right handers this season. The last time Joe Blanton was in the league before his recent reappearance, he served up 29 homers over 132.2 innings in 2013.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, vs. NYM (Niese), $4700: He has the third-best WAR in MLB among hitters, and while a lot of that has to do with defense, Donaldson is batting .413/.442/.761 against lefties to go along with a 1.120 OPS at home, so he’s worth paying the price. He’s basically a must-start versus LHP.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, vs. Mil (Fiers), $2600: If you want to go cheaper than Donaldson at third base, look at Moustakas, who’s batting atop Kansas City’s lineup and has a .336 BA versus RHP.
Jose Abreu, 1B, vs. Pit (Locke), $3800: He was a top-10 fantasy pick this year, yet he’s not treated nearly as such here while also facing a lefty (although to be fair, he’s actually hit much better against RHP this season, although that wasn’t the case last season and seems like a fluke). U.S. Cellular Field has increased run scoring (by 10 percent) more so than any park other than Coors Field over the past three seasons.
DJ LeMahieu, 2B, vs. Hou (Oberholtzer), $3300: He’s batting .368 in Coors Field this season. Here’s a strong opportunity to stack, with Nick Hundley ($3100) and Wilin Rosario ($3400) other options while facing a lefty.
Jason Castro, C, at Col (Kendrick), $3000: He has six homers over 108 ABs against RHP this season. Continuing the theme to stack this game played in Coors Field, Luis Valbuena ($3300), who’s somehow on pace to finish with 39 homers with a .188 BA, and Preston Tucker ($3300) are two other solid alternatives.
With 16 home runs since the start of May, Albert Pujols is on pace to surpass 40 home runs for the first time since '10. With just shy of 100 games left in the season, can Pujols at least reach 37 home runs, his tally in his final season in St. Louis ('11) - O/U 17.5 rest-of-season home runs?
Brandon – OVER. I'll say he gets to 37 exactly. The odds are probably slightly in favor of him finishing under given his age, recent health history and the fact that he hasn't really come close to this number in the three-plus seasons he's been in Anaheim. But he's reached this mark nine times in his career, and he's locked in pretty solid right now (6 BB and just 3 K in his past 71 at bats). Pujols is reminding us that when all is right with him, he's at least in the discussion of the best hitters in baseball.
Scott – UNDER, a shade under anyway. I wish I could see something that stands in line with the power trend. The plate discipline stats are the same, the hard-hit rate hasn't budged, Pujols is actually pulling the ball less often.
Dalton – OVER. Maybe his recent decline had more to do with health than most of us realized, because he sure looks back to being an elite hitter. I'm buying the resurgence.
Speaking of home runs, Texas rookie slugger Joey Gallo has four home runs in his first 13 games in Texas. Gallo averaged 41 home runs in his past two minor league seasons. Can he push half that total in his MLB debut - O/U 15.5 ROS home runs?
Brandon – OVER. He's going to K about a third of the time he comes to the plate but, as a three outcomes hitter, he's very likiely to walk or go yard the other two-thirds of the time. Adam Dunn made a living for 13-plus seasons hitting in the .230s with 35-45 home runs. I think Gallo is likely to be similar. Tons of Ks, low BA, but plenty of home runs. I think he'll have no problem reaching the mid-20s in that department.
Scott – UNDER for me. The strikeout rate, as expected, is immense, and I expect that whiff percentage to nudge forward as the league gets a book on him.
Dalton – OVER. It may very well come with a .220 batting average, but Gallo's power is legit, so he should be able to beat this mark.
Considered one of baseball's very top prospects, Byron Buxton punched his MLB ticket this week when the Twins finally called him up. Considered an eventual five-tool fantasy star, speed is his biggest calling card at the moment - 20 steals in 59 at Double-A before his promotion. Project Buxton's ROS impact in the Steals category as well as his Runs and Batting Average.
Brandon – .249, 47 Runs, 16 Steals
Dalton – .245, 35 Runs, 15 Steals
Scott –Ah, Buxton, where the buried treasure is waiting for you. Call it .246, 41 runs, 14 steals.
Cleveland called up top prospect SS Francisco Lindor this past week. Rank Lindor's expected ROS roto production among these widely available shorstops (SS-eligible) - Addison Russell, Erick Aybar, Chris Owings, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jung Ho Kang
Brandon – Here's my ranking: 1) Russell 2) Kang 3) Lindor 4) Aybar 5) Owings 6) Hechavarria
Scott – Lindor's Triple-A numbers were rather tame, but it's encouraging to see him bat second in his second game. I'd take him over Owings and Hechy, but not over the other three.
Dalton – I'd gamble on Lindor over all of these shortstops except Kang.
Billy Hamilton is the only MLB regular with more steals (31) than Runs (30). Gives us your season-ending projected total for Hamilton in each of those categories, and will his final batting average climb to at least his career MLB mark - O/U .245 final BA line?
Brandon – UNDER a .245 final BA line - at his current projected pace, he'd have to hit .262 in about 332 at bats the rest of the way to pull his average up and over the .245 mark, and he's had just one month since the beginning of last season in which he's actually hit higher than .260. As for the SB and Runs, I'll go 69 steals and 78 Runs.
Scott – Hamilton might be able to sneak OVER .245, as his BABIP looks unlucky admist the other peripherals here. He'll steal 79 bases and score 82 runs.
Dalton – I'll say he finishes with 65 steals, 70 runs and a batting average UNDER .245.
Justin Verlander, who made his '15 debut this past week, finished '14 with an ERA above 3.70 and a K/9 rate below 7.0 for the second time in his career. Can he avoid a third time in '15 for each of those categories - O/U final '15 line of 3.70 ERA and 7.0 K/9?
Brandon – OVER on both. I have little faith in Verlander. You throw April of '14 out of the mix and he finished the final five months of '14 with an ERA right at 5.00. With the amount of mileage he's accrued (and a declining fastball), I don't expect him to make sharp turn in a positive direction.
Scott – All I remember from Verlander's opening start is a bunch of line drives. Power fade in progress. ERA is an OVER, though there's probably too much back class not to slide OVER the strikeout number.
Dalton – It was nice to see Verlander back and even working with some added velocity compared to last year, but I'm betting on him finishing with an ERA OVER 3.70 and a K/9 rate UNDER 7.0. He didn't produce many swings and misses during his first start back, so there's plenty of reason to remain pessimistic.
King Felix Hernandez is coming off the worst outing of his career, and has allowed at least seven earned runs in two of his past three outings. He posted a career low 2.14 ERA in '14. Can he recover from his last stumbles to finish '15 with another sub-3 ERA season - O/U final ERA of 3.00?
Brandon – I'll say he goes slightly OVER. I think Felix is going to be just fine, and and one of the top fantasy starters the rest of the way. But he has some work ahead of him now to get his ERA down under 3.00 and, prior to last season, his ERA was over 3.00 in three consecutive seasons.
Scott – They're not big movements, but everything is moving in the wrong direction here: strikeouts down, walks up, velocity down 1 mph, homers way up. It’s not that I expect a collapse from Hernandez (Houston had to be a fluke), but I can’t ignore everything here. OVER is the only way I can play it.
Dalton – UNDER. It's pretty remarkable he still has an ERA under 3.40 after allowing 16 runs over his last three starts in just 12.0 innings. King Felix is combining a 2.70 GB/FB ratio with an 11.0 SwStr%. He'll be just fine.
I scored one Julio Teheran share into 2015, and I wasn’t delusional with my expectations. If he pitched to his fielding-independent ERAs of the last couple of years, I would have been content. And I certainly thought there was upside for more.
Now, in the middle of June, I’m trying to figure out what the hell happened.
Teheran’s Jagged Ratio Tour hit Boston on Tuesday, with disastrous results. The Red Sox pelted Teheran for 13 hits and six runs over 6.1 innings, pushing his ERA over 5. Some scribes would like to focus on the Brock Holt cycle from this game, but that’s not especially actionable. We already know who Holt is.
Who is Teheran, that’s a trickier question.
Teheran’s velocity is up a tick this year and he’s throwing more sliders than previously, which suggests to me he’s not pitching hurt. His ground-ball rate has moved into the 40 percent range, which might sound good but probably isn’t - you want pitchers to be extreme in either fly-ball or ground-ball rate, and this shift means Teheran is no longer heavy on the ground-ball side. Strikeouts are down, walks are up, swinging strikes are down. He’s getting fewer batter chases this year, throwing less first-pitch strikes.
Perhaps I’m running a fool’s errand, but I’m going to stay the course with Teheran in Tout Wars. Maybe I’ll try to focus on the home starts, where he’s been a 2.77/0.92 man this year. Some of his road blowups can be explained - Fenway Park; a Dodgers lineup that’s lefty-heavy; Toronto; Washington during Bryce Harper month.
Teheran is home this weekend against the Mets, a pretty nice draw (Chris Heston waves hello). A road start at Pittsburgh comes next week. I’m not ready to cut the cord yet.
• If you can live with a pitch-to-contact story, Charlie Morton would like your attention. The Pittsburgh sinkerballer has won all five of his starts, and while his 1.62 ERA can’t be taken at face value, he’s making much of his own luck through a 67-percent ground-ball rate. FIP suggests a rather-playable 3.32 ERA.
No, you won't get many strikeouts here, but in head-to-head formats, that's not much of a deal breaker. Ground Chuck faces Washington and Atlanta in his next two starts. He's unowned in 68 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• Trevor Bauer got the best of Jake Arrieta and the Cubs on Tuesday, throwing seven scoreless innings at Wrigley. It lead to Bauer’s sixth victory, and his ERA moved down to 3.22 for the year.
It could be a good time to see what the trade market will net you.
Strikeouts come with the Bauer package - he’s over one per inning this year. But he’s also leading the AL in walks, and that .263 BABIP looks suspicious. And while I don’t subscribe to the HR/FB lottery cult, Bauer’s 7.2 mark will probably go up, too.
Maybe Bauer’s weekend start against Tampa Bay will be fine, but if you’re in a selling mood, try to get something done before he heads to Baltimore the following week.
• The Cardinals don’t mind using a lefty reliever as a temporary closer, especially when the southpaw in question has a right-handed profile.
Kevin Siegrist has been terrific for the Redbirds, but it’s come from a curious direction. He’s limited right-handed hitters to a .153/.208/.319 slash, but lefties have an .867 OPS against him. Reverse splits are always strange, especially when they come from a lefty pitcher.
He’s recorded two saves in the last two games, working around three baserunners in a couple of one-run victories over Minnesota. Although they haven’t been clean appearances, they at least mark Siegrist’s territory as the No. 2 man in this bullpen. So if Trevor Rosenthal’s bicep soreness turns into anything serious, Siegrist is the man we want.
In some leagues, Siegrist is worth owning on his own merit, handshakes or no handshakes. A 1.52 ERA plays just about anywhere, and he has 40 strikeouts against 11 walks. He’ll pick up a victory here and there, as the Cards use him in high-leverage situations. He’s still ready to go in 75 percent of Yahoo leagues.
In Other News: The Orioles had a block party over the reeling Phillies, piling 19 runs and eight homers in a Eutaw street laugher. The unquestionable highlight was watching Jeff Francoeur pitch the last two innings (1 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 1 K), faring better than the four pitchers who preceded him. And then there was that silly matter of the Phillies taking their bullpen phone off the hook . . . Adam Jones missed the rout, though an MRI on his right shoulder came back negative. He’s also hampered by a sore toe, but he thinks he can come back this week . . . Matt Harvey quelled any and all fears, throwing seven scoreless at the Blue Jays . . . The Orioles are forward-thinking with Wei-Yin Chen, sending him to the minors so he’ll miss a Toronto turn on the weekend . . . The Cardinals are optimistic Lance Lynn (forearm) will return to the rotation this month . . . Ervin Santana (suspension) will make a Triple-A start on the weekend, and can rejoin the Twins in the first week of July . . . The Chris Young matrix cannot be explained.
Prospect callups are the shiny new toys of fantasy baseball. Most owners can’t wait to get their hands on the latest thing, and often it’s in their best interest.
That said, there’s also a lot of worth in the post-hype sleeper game. With that in mind, let’s talk about Rougned Odor, comebacking kid in Texas.
You remember Odor, the 20-year-old infielder who had a credible 114 games in Texas last year (.259/.297/.402, nine homers). Not bad for someone who wasn’t old enough to drink yet. He showed up on a few breakthrough lists entering 2015.
The wheels quickly came off in the sophomore year. Odor pushed to a .144/.252/.233 start, and the Rangers, justly, sent him to the minors in mid-May.
Odor got the message, whatever it may have been. Or perhaps he just needed a shot of confidence. He blasted a .352/.426/.639 line in 30 Triple-A games at Round Rock, clouting five homers and sealing three bases. Twelve walks, just 10 strikeouts. The Rangers had no choice but to give the kid another shot, with the call coming Sunday.
Odor’s first game back was a quiet but unqualified success: three singles on Monday, two RBIs. One of the hits was of the infield variety, something he’ll create regularly with his speed.
If you want prospect pedigree, you got it here - all the hounds were in on Odor before 2014. And it was interesting to see Odor slot No. 6 in Monday’s lineup - he was the eighth and ninth-place man for most of the first six weeks.
Second base isn’t quite the fantasy landmine that shortstop has become, but Odor nonetheless seems underowned to me. You can still grab him in 79 percent of Yahoo leagues. You want a drop, I can help with that: Martin Prado, Steve Pearce, Asdrubal Cabrera (recent heroics to the side) and even Justin Turner (empty average) interest me less than Odor, speaking in vacuum value. Gauging a different drop? Hit me in the comments.
• Speaking of post-hype cases, how about the turnaround Taijuan Walker is showing with the Mariners? Walker couldn’t get out of his own way in the early part of the year, but he’s been lights out in his last four turns (29 IP, 22 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 27 K). The hot-hitting Giants couldn't touch him Monday.
Maybe the monster spring training didn’t lie to us after all. Walker is still unclaimed in over half of Yahoo leagues. Make another pedigree chase if you can.
• The AL East is a nasty place for most pitchers to do their business, but perhaps Wei-Yin Chen has figured it out. He’s on a 19-10 clip with a 3.34 ERA and 1.20 WHIP since the beginning of 2014, and he was in fine form Monday, throwing eight bagels (and nine strikeouts) at the hapless Phillies. Your scouting video is here.
The under-the-hood numbers don’t completely buy the 2.89 ERA this year, of course: Chen’s FIP checks in a run higher. But with a strikeout rate just under eight and a walk rate that’s microscopic, Chen at minimum deserves to be owned in more than half of Yahoo leagues. Play the schedule, use the draws you like. You shouldn’t roll him out in Toronto on the weekend, but I see nothing wrong with using him against the Indians next week.
• It’s been a nifty four-start run for Robbie Ray in Arizona (1.09 ERA, 0.97 WHIP), but let’s throw some cold water on the story. He’s posted a modest 16 strikeouts against seven walks, and he wasn’t anything special at Reno (3.67/1.70), albeit it was the PCL. Mostly, I'm not trusting someone who can't even get to six strikeouts per nine - not unless everything lines up perfectly. And in this case, it doesn't.
I suspect Ray will be given his ugly correction tour when the league gets a look at him. His FIP stands at 3.36, his xFIP at 4.36. Go ahead, I dare you to add him. The Padres are probably a favorable draw later in the week, but I’ll nonetheless fade the case.
In other news: Hey, the Cardinals might be cheaters . . . Mikey Salfino's on a podcast . . . Kevin Siegrist recorded a rogue save in place of a nicked-up Trevor Rosenthal . . . The Astros hope to get Jose Altuve back Tuesday . . . Corey Dickerson is ready to DH . . . Ender Inciarte (hamstring) needs a DL stint, and Delino DeShields has a bad hamstring, too . . . Devon Travis (shoulder) started his rehab assignment Monday . . . The Carlos Gomez nightmare season (hip, hamstring, leg) goes on and on. He's going to miss multiple games this week . . . Yadier Molina finally hit a homer . . . Hot prospect Kyle Schwarber is up with the Cubs, but it might be a limited stay . . . It's so cold in this house.
Michael Wacha, SP, vs. Min (Gibson), $8700 at FanDuel: I fully questioned Wacha’s ability to keep pitching so well with such a shaky K rate earlier this season, but he’s posted a 15:1 K:BB ratio over his last two starts over 13.2 innings, which both came on the road against the Dodgers and also in Coors Field. He’s still due for regression, but Wacha is facing a Twins team whose .670 OPS against RHP ranks No. 25 in MLB, and the Cardinals are the third-most favored team (-185) Tuesday.
Stephen Vogt, C, at SD (Cashner), $3100: He’s slowed down since a really hot start but still owns a .967 OPS with 11 homers over 144 at bats against right handers and is moderately priced here, especially when you consider how thin catcher is.
Cameron Maybin, OF, at BOS (Miley), $3000: He has a .294-24-5-32-11 line over 191 at bats and will be facing a lefty in an extreme hitter’s park.
Chris Davis, 1B, vs. Phi (Williams), $3300: He has 10 homers over 157 at bats against RHP this season with a .948 OPS at home. Opposing pitcher Jerome Williams has a 1.85 WHIP (and a 13:11 K:BB ratio) on the road this year.
Todd Frazier, 3B, at Det (Ryan), $4500: He’s not cheap and has done most of his damage at home, but Frazier is on pace to finish with 46 homers, 113 runs, 100 RBI and 18 steals. He’ll be facing a southpaw Tuesday who currently has a 10:7 K:BB ratio over 23.1 career innings.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, at Mil (Young), $2400: Here’s a cheaper third base option, and Moustakas is somehow still priced this way despite batting .336 when facing right-handed pitchers (he’s also batting .346 on the road, and Miller Park has increased home runs by 39 percent for LHB over the past three seasons, which is the second-highest in all of baseball).
Andre Ethier, OF, at Tex (Gonzalez), $3200: He has a .298/.391/.563 line against righties, and Texas has remained a top-10 park for offense this season.
Robinson Cano, 2B, at SF (Lincecum), $2300: AT&T Park has been the best pitcher’s park in baseball, but it just seems tough not to use a player eligible at second base who was drafted as a top fantasy asset two months ago who’s now basically as cheap as it gets.
Starling Marte, OF, vs. CWS (Quintana), $3800: He’s a remarkable 13-for-21 over the past four games and owns a 1.185 OPS with five homers over just 39 at bats against lefties on the year.
Andrelton Simmons, SS, at Bos (Miley), $2300: He’s quietly on pace to score 99 runs this season as he’s nearly walked as often as he’s struck out (17:18). He’s really cheap Tuesday, is facing a lefty and is playing in a park that’s increased batting average more than any other than Coors Field over the past three seasons.
Rest-of-season value is the goal when we do these Shuffle Ups. What's happened to this point is merely an audition. Today, we run through the catchers.
The dollar values are unscientific, and merely provided as a tool to compare the players at the same position (I wouldn't suggest you use them to compare players at different positions). Groups of players at the same price are considered even.
Remember the golden rule: no one gains or loses extra value because you do (or don't) roster that partricular player.
Disagree? Excellent. That's why we have a game, and that's why it's a heck of a lot of fun. I welcome your respectful disagreement, both here and on Twitter.
Two injury ranks are at the bottom, merely courtesy ranks. Everyone seems to expect more of injury-returnees than I do. They're worth whatever you want them to be. I'm not going to haggle over the injured guys.
Let's head to the plate.
$21 Buster Posey
$17 Russell Martin
$16 Jonathan Lucroy
$15 Evan Gattis
$15 Steven Vogt
$14 Carlos Santana
$14 Salvador Perez
$14 Yan Gomes
$12 Brian McCann
$12 Derek Norris
$12 Yasmani Grandal
$11 Miguel Montero
$11 Matt Wieters
$10 Wilson Ramos
If the season were to end today, Martin would deserve down-ballot MVP consideration. He leads all catchers in the offensive and defensive component of WAR, and he’s 11th overall in the stat. He leads all backstops in runs and stolen bases, he’s second in home runs. And as you likely realized in the last week (if not earlier), Toronto’s lineup is better than everyone else’s. The Jays are currently 66 runs ahead of the second-place Rangers.
It’s a shame Ned Yost insists on running Perez into the ground, but workload and a messy plate-discliline profile haven’t held Perez back too much. Perez has walked less than any regular catcher over the last couple of years (3.2 percent if we start from 2014), but he’s still hitting .267 over that time period, with 27 homers. An OBP under .300 is a pesky thing in real life, but it doesn’t really matter to us in 5x5.
It's cool to see Wieters back doing his thing, in an offense that I still view with an optimistic tint. But what's happened to Wieters's plate discipline in recent years? He used to be known for working counts, but he's walked just six times since the beginning of 2014.
$9 Travis d'Arnaud
$9 Yadier Molina
$9 Wilin Rosario
$8 Nick Hundley
$7 Francisco Cervelli
$4 J.T. Realmuto
$4 Robinson Chirinos
$4 Josh Phegley
$4 Jason Castro
$4 Chris Iannetta
No, I’m not gong higher on D’Arnaud, not yet. His seasonal sample is 58 at-bats. His career slash still reads .242/.304/.402. I don’t want to be a “wait for proof” guy in many cases, but I’d like more here. Of course, I’m still slotting him an an automatic pickup in any reasonable league (and I suspect he’s long gone in yours, as he should be) . . . Like the D’Arnaud sample, we have to take Phegley’s 26 games with a grain of salt. But we also want to consider how Oakland has been amazing at uncovering value plays at catcher over the years. Maybe this is another one. Anything that keeps Billy Butler out of the lineup now and again is fine with me . . . Zunino is another one-trick pony: 34 homers for his 785 MLB at-bats, but it comes with a .194/.257/.368 slash. Even if his pitch framing is as angelic as some suggest, this guy is killing the Mariners.
$3 Blake Swihart
$3 A.J. Pierzynski
$2 Michael McKenry
$2 Brayan Pena
$2 Mike Zunino
$2 James McCann
$2 Geovany Soto
$2 Christian Bethancourt
$2 Hank Conger
$2 Tyler Flowers
$2 Carlos Ruiz
$1 Caleb Joseph
$1 Carlos Perez
$1 Jordan Pacheco
$1 Roberto Perez
$1 Kurt Suzuki
$1 Welington Castillo
$0 Jarrod Saltalamacchia
$0 A.J. Ellis
Courtesy Injury Ranks - Not for debate
$6 Devin Mesoraco
$2 Alex Avila
It's a loaded Monday schedule, which is nice, but we have a few meteorological complications. So please be prepared to tweak lineups as needed. Let's hunt for bargains...
David Ortiz, 1B, vs. Atl (Perez), $2500 at FanDuel: Ortiz, it seems, is finally getting himself right. He's 5-for-14 over his last four games with three homers, seven RBIs and four walks. On Monday, he'll face a young right-hander with a 1.44 WHIP. Left-handed batters are slashing .274/.333/.419 against Perez. All five extra-base hits allowed by Perez over his 33.1 innings have been to LHBs.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, vs. Atl (Perez), $2300: Panda has four multi-hit efforts in his last seven games, and he's delivered extra-base hits in four straight. He's been a total disaster against left-handed pitchers to this point in the season (.262 OPS), but he's had no issues with RHPs, slashing .315/.380/.503. At this price, he's almost a necessary buy for anyone trying to squeeze Tanaka ($9600), Keuchel ($9700) or Liriano ($9400) into a lineup.
Carlos Rodon, P, at Pit (Liriano), $7200: Rodon is striking out a batter per inning, and he's allowed no more than a single earned run in each of his last four starts for Chicago (with only one win to show for it, maddeningly). Walks haven't been much of a worry in recent starts, either (5 BB, 19 Ks in 18.1 IP). This price doesn't reflect Rodon's talent level.
Denard Span, OF, at TB (Ramirez), $3100: Span is 8-for-23 over his last five games with two walks, three steals and four runs scored. He's slashing a ridiculous .343/.384/.530 against RHPs this year, so Erasmo (4.96 ERA) shouldn't pose an impossible problem.
Wilmer Flores, SS, vs. Tor (Buehrle), $2400: Flores is a flawed player, sure (.285 OBP), but he offers significant pop (10 HR) and he's facing a hittable left-handed starter on Monday. Buehrle hasn't K'd more than five batters in any game this season, and he's only reached that total once.
Jace Peterson, 2B, at Bos (Porcello), $3800: You really can't argue with Peterson's recent production. He has five multi-hit games in his last seven, with four doubles, one homer and a steal during that stretch. He's leading off for Atlanta, facing a guy who's allowed 20 earned runs over his last four starts.
Andre Ethier, OF, at Tex (Gallardo), $2900: Gallardo has basically pitched to his career averages this season, though the velocity and K-rate have slipped a bit from his best years. Ethier has generally enjoyed facing him, going 8-for-21 with two doubles, a triple and a homer. He carries a friendly price tag here, and he's hit well over the past week (7-for-19, 2 HR).
Salvador Perez, C, at Mil (Lohse), $2700: Kyle Lohse is on the hill, so you know what to do. Perez is rested, plus he's been a 2-for-4 machine in recent days. (Game log here.) He's also homered four times in his last seven games.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, at Mil (Lohse), $2400: Another cheap way to pick on Lohse, a righty with a 1.41 WHIP. Lohse has already allowed 15 home runs this season in just 74.2 innings; he gave up just 22 long balls last year over 198.1 frames.
Eugenio Suarez, SS, at Det (Sanchez), $2200: If the rain holds off in Detroit, Suarez is a quality option at a minimum price. He's a 23-year-old with on-base skills and respectable pop for his position (minor league stats here), and he'll be an everyday player for Cincy with Cozart sidelined.
Matt Harvey has a 7.20 ERA over his last four starts, when he’s allowed 20 earned runs over 25.0 innings while serving up a whopping eight homers. He has 26 strikeouts over that span, and he claims he’s fully healthy after undergoing a “dead arm” period, so hopefully this is just a bump in the road. Harvey’s 12.5 SwStr% is exactly the same as his career mark, and his velocity is just fine. In fact, his average FB velocity of 95.9 mph leads all starters this year. I don’t like to call home runs allowed luck and not skill related for the most part, but it’s probably worth noting Harvey’s current HR/FB% (15.4) is nearly double his career mark of 8.6. That’s with his Hard% actually being a career low (so this really does appear to be a small sample/unfortunate situation, albeit this is assuming the latest stretch isn’t health related). Put differently, 17.4 percent of the hits Harvey’s allowed this season have gone over the fence, which sure seems unsustainable. On an innings limit returning from Tommy John surgery, Harvey is likely only looking at another 100.0 or so from here on out, but I fully expect those to be at an elite level, despite the recent rough patch.
Quick Hits: Nori Aoki has a .492 OBP with a 3:15 K:BB ratio on the road this season. 3:15!...Since May 28, Albert Pujols is batting .373 with 10 home runs over 15 games, as he’s been the No. 2 fantasy player over that span, behind only Giancarlo Stanton...Felix Hernandez has allowed more runs in June (16) than he did in April and May combined over 58.2 fewer innings...Taijaun Walker has posted a 1.64 ERA with a 21:3 K:BB ratio over his last three starts (22.0 innings). Pick him up if a frustrated owner dropped him in your league after such a shaky start...Joey Votto is back hitting like one of the best in baseball, on pace to finish with 37 homers (that would match a career high) while swiping 13 bags. He’s also doing things like this on defense...Nick Markakis plays everyday, hits in the middle of Atlanta’s lineup and owns a .394 OBP yet is somehow on pace to score just 69 runs with 46 RBI. Of course that might have something to do with him searching for his first homer of the season.
Headlines of the Week: Suicide Bombers Detonate Themselves After Heated Argument Turns Into Fight...This Elderly Man’s Lightning Quick Reaction To ‘Drunken Thugs’ Is Astonishing...Man Dies After Eating Tablet Computer To Avoid Police Detention...Man Sues Famous Chinese Actress For Staring At Him Via TV Screen...Pregnant Mom Tries To Suck Rattlesnake Venom From Young Son’s Foot...Coming Soon: New Car Tech That Won’t Let Your Car Start If You’re Drunk...Woman Who Found Her Exact Doppelganger Just Found Another One...Dave Grohl Breaks Leg During Concert, Continues Playing...Elephant Escapes From Circus, Kills Man in Germany...Meanwhile In Florida: Raccoon Rides Alligator.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Collin McHugh has allowed 31 earned runs over his past 40.2 innings, but he still possesses a 10.4 SwStr%, so I’d be buying low, although he’s also tied for the second most hit by pitches (seven) this year...Cameron Maybin once stole 40 bases with just a .323 OBP while playing half his games in Petco Park, so there was some major fantasy upside. He currently owns a career high .796 OPS with five homers, 32 RBI and 11 steals over 53 games played, so it’s crazy he’s owned in just 57 percent of Yahoo leagues...Bryce Harper’s 220 wRC+ not only leads baseball, but no other hitter is even at 200...Yes, Byron Buxton and Francisco Lindor both need to be added and owned in all fantasy leagues...Rafael Soriano should also be added in deeper formats, as there’s a decent chance he closes for the Cubs over the second half of the season...Here’s Chris Heston completing the first no hitter this season and also the first one in MLB history in which three batters were hit (but he also had an 11:0 K:BB ratio). This feat also marked the fourth no-hitter by San Francisco over the last four years and the first pitcher to end a no hitter by striking out the side since 1965. Heston also accumulated two RBI on the day and became the first rookie to record a no-no since 2007.
Police Blotter: Jail Doctors Made Man Impotent By Failing To Treat 6-Day Erection...Man Chewed Through Squad Car Seat Belt Because He Didn’t Want To Miss Son’s Birthday...Male Student Fined After Dressing Up As His Girlfriend And Taking Exam In Her Place...Elderly Doctor and Wife Charged In $77 Million Pill Scandal...Mom Accused Of Leaving Kid In Hot Car Goes To Court, Leaves Kids In Car...Woman Pepper Sprays Del Taco Manager, Customers Over Burrito Dispute...Man Shot Himself To See What It Felt Like...Customer Decapitates Vegetable Seller Because He Thought He Was Charging Too Much For Pumpkins.
Longread of the Week: A Thousand Pounds Of Dynamite.
Quick Hits Part Tres: It’s been more of the same with Billy Hamilton, whose 51 wRC+ is the fifth-worst in MLB, yet Fangraphs has graded him as the best baserunner and second best defensive player this season. He’s been batting ninth lately but after five(!) steals Sunday night, he’s up to 31 on the year, giving him the lead in MLB by a wide margin...Corey Kluber somehow owns a 3-8 record despite a 111:18 K:BB ratio...Tough break for Corey Dickerson, whose plantar fasciitis sure seems like it’s going to affect him over the rest of the season...The Reds are batting an MLB-worst .207 with RISP this year...Jhonny Peralta has been the most valuable fantasy shortstop this season despite being the game’s worst baserunner...Here’s Billy Burns making two terrific catches late in the same game, which I personally appreciated since I was starting Scott Kazmir in DFS...Gerrit Cole is one of three starters this season who’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in 11 starts, which helps explain him already having 10 wins on the year. The former top pick owns a 1.71 ERA despite a .316 BABIP, which isn’t a common combination. Cole will regress some, but he’s clearly a star and will be drafted as a top-five SP in 2016.
As the summer heats up, Yahoo's resident Noisemaker will offer his hot takes on specific players, trends and strategies much discussed in Fantasyland. Naturally, whatever he forecasts, the opposite is bound to occur. Feel free to offer your two cents in the comments section below.
The Buzz: A source close to NFL insider Adam Caplan believes Oakland rusher Latavius Murray, a widely advertised value pick by many in the fantasy "expert" community, "has a chance at a huge year ... he's smart and physically a freak." Unleashed down the stretch, the athletic marvel ranked No. 16 in Yahoo default leagues from Week 12 on. Overall, he finished second only to Justin Forsett in yards per carry among RBs (80-carry minimum) with 5.17. Considering fantasy fungus, Trent Richardson, and change-of-pace option Roy Helu are his only challengers for touches, the third-year RB could become the centerpiece in what should be a more conservative Raiders offense under Jack Del Rio and Bill Musgrave (67-33 pass-to-run split in '14).
Why sinking coin in an Oakland RB is actually a good thing:
Imposing specimen. At 6-foot-2, 223-pounds, Murray is physically similar to Adrian Peterson, a player Musgrave is very familiar with. He's titanium strong, equipped with reliable receiving hands, rarely fumbles and possesses tremendous wheels (4.38 40-yard dash). But despite his plus size, he isn't the greatest tackle breaker. Last season, Murray gained just 35.6 percent of his yards after contact. Speed and anticipation are the name of his game. His 53.3 breakaway percentage ranked No. 1 among NFL RBs with 70 or more attempts. And, according to NFL.com's Marc Sessler, his 121 speed score outpaced the game's elites. Give him a crease and he'll shoot through it, chewing up chunk yardage in the process. Equally important, he blows up the blitz, which means he won't be supplanted by Helu on all third downs.
Murray isn't without flaws. At times he runs too upright, which explains the underwhelming yards-after-contact production. A lower pad level and meaner streak would provide protection from lower-body injuries and assist him in generating tough yards. Though he has imperfections, the 25-year-old is an intoxicating product who stimulates the senses. Rewatch his highlight reel from last year, including his 90-yard TD sprint against KC, and you'll completely agree.
Ramped up workload. With Darren McFadden now lowering bars in Dallas and Maurice Jones-Drew enjoying retirement, Murray should be the go-to-guy in Oakland. Helu presents formidable competition, but the ex-Redskin is best suited for rotational work on third/pass downs. And do we really need to mention the punchline that is Richardson? The fact he still collects a NFL paycheck over free agent Pierre Thomas is laughable.
All signs point to Murray totaling a significant number of touches, possibly topping 17-18 per game. Game flow and how well the Raiders defense performs will greatly influence his week-to-week total. Still, according to local reports, he's the frontrunner for lead duties entering training camp. Under a regime committed to the run, Murray should be the driving force in a restructured offense.
Offensive line cohesiveness. Bluntly speaking, the Raiders' offensive line was atrocious in run-blocking last fall. It ranked No. 30 in the category according to Pro Football Focus. But all hope isn't lost. Consistency is key in creating a respectable unit. And Oakland has the potential do establish exactly that. Gabe Jackson, Donald Penn and Austin Howard are back after making strides down the stretch last year. Meanwhile, new center Rodney Hudson enters the mix to help stablize the unit. As a member of the Chiefs last year, Hudson was the third-best at his position overall according to PFF. And keep in mind Musgrave's scheme ranked top-three in rushing from 2011-2013. Much of that was due to Peterson's godly abilities, but it shows the ground game will be a point of emphasis in O-town this year.
Amari Cooper. The hype machine has shifted to overdrive. The Raiders' first-round pick in April's draft has been showered in adulation this spring. His routes, soft hands and separation skills have wowed the coaching staff, leading many to believe he'll be an instant star. Expectations are lofty, but Cooper could certainly reach them. He was nearly unstoppable at Alabama and owns the necessary tools to leave an indelible mark. He's an enormous upgrade over Oakland's WR1 from last year, James Jones. His presence along with TEs Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford's efforts and Derek Carr's development should help Murray see more under-manned boxes. Because of the Raiders' passing proclivity last year, he faced defensive sets with five or more DBs 10 percent of the time. With Cooper in tow, that number could climb, a titillating prospect.
Fearless Forecast: Since 2003, only three Silver and Black backs – Michael Bush (2011), Darren McFadden (2010) and LaMont Jordan (2005) – finished inside the RB top-20 in fantasy points per game. Talk about a vicious cycle of suck. However, Murray owns the skills to inject new life in a vegetative run game. There are downsides, but if Oakland can be at least semi-competitive (5.5 over/under on wins per Vegas), he's a probable top-20 rusher with a RB8-RB12 ceiling. At his 66.2 Yahoo ADP (RB20), Murray is medium-risk, high-reward rusher ideal for Zero RB theorists. If he plays all 16 games, a final output around 1,300 combined yards with 7-9 TDs is in the cards.
Mike Bolsinger, SP, at SD (Shields), $6400 at FanDuel: His 2.08 ERA and 1.02 WHIP are unsustainable, but Bolsinger owns a solid 9.1 SwStr% and is pitching for a team that leads MLB with an .805 OPS against RHP. It’s crazy how cheap he’s priced here.
Chris Heston, SP, vs. Ari (De La Rosa), $7400: I’m not a fan recommending a pitcher coming off a no-hitter, but Heston has a 66:18 K:BB ratio over 74.0 innings this season, and the Giants’ offense is underrated. San Francisco is one of the most favored teams Sunday (-140) yet that’s not reflected by Heston’s price tag here.
David Ortiz, 1B, vs. Tor (Estrada), $2500: Going back to the well here, as Big Papi owns an .894 OPS this season versus RHP yet remains priced as a scrub. Only Coors Field has increased BA more than Fenway Park over the last three years.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, at Stl (Lackey), $2400: This is pretty affordable for someone who’s hit .336 against righties this season. Moustakas is also batting .350 on the road and is on pace to finish with 85 runs scored while hitting atop Kansas City’s lineup.
Howie Kendrick, 2B, at SD (Shields), $3300: If you believe in BvP, then look no further Sunday than Kendrick, who’s 16-for-32 during his career versus James Shields. He’s also hitting cleanup in a Dodgers lineup that’s one of the best in baseball.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, at SD (Shields), $2400: Rollins’ slow start to the year has resulted in him slotted lower in the aforementioned Dodgers lineup, but he combined for 45 homers/steals as recent as last year and is facing a pitcher who’s been beaten up by left-handed batters this season.
George Springer, OF, vs. Sea (Elias), $3600: We’ll recommend him for the second straight day, as Springer has raised his OPS nearly 50 points over the past six games. He has a .902 OPS versus lefties this season yet is still priced reasonably here.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, at Mia (Haren) $3400: He has a .391/.462/1.043 career line over 23 at bats against Dan Haren, so let’s go with him even though the game isn’t played in Coors Field.
Yadier Molina, C, vs. KC (Vargas), $2700: He’s still searching for his first homer of the season, but Molina has a 6:8 K:BB ratio versus southpaws on the year, and he owns a career .768 OPS against them.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, at Bos (Rodriguez), $5000: With all the cheap options recommended, let’s go with an expensive one here, as Donaldson has a ridiculous .419/.438/.791 line with four homers over 43 at bats against left handers this season. Since third base is really thin, he sure seems like the right guy to pay up for.
Chris Archer, SP, vs. CHW (Samardzija), $10500 at FanDuel: He has a 38:0 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, when he’s allowed just 14 hits over 23.0 innings. Archer’s 27.2 K-BB% leads all starters in baseball, so he’s the real deal and worth paying up for (we’ll get to some bargain hitters next, and Archer isn’t even one of the two costliest pitchers). He also faces a White Sox team that’s scored the third-fewest runs in MLB despite playing in the AL and benefiting from a home park that’s increased run scoring more than any other than Coors Field over the past three seasons. Saturday’s game will be played in Tropicana Field, which is a pretty big pitcher’s park.
Matt Wieters, C, vs. NYY (Sabathia), $3200: He’s hit well (.917 OPS) since returning from his knee injury and should be in the lineup Saturday after sitting out Friday. Wieters has been batting cleanup, and the switch-hitter has performed better against LHP during his career. CC Sabathia has allowed a .344 BAA and 11 homers over 54.1 innings versus RHB this season.
Chris Coghlan, OF, vs. Cin (Leake), $2700: He has multiple hits in three of his past four starts and has eight homers and four steals over 162 ABs when facing right-handed pitchers. Moreover, Coghlan is 9-for-11 with two homers in his career against Mike Leake.
David Ortiz, 1B, vs. Tor (Dickey), $2500: Despite all his struggles, Ortiz has posted an .894 OPS with seven homers over 134 ABs vs. RHP this season, and he’s playing in a park that’s increased BA more than any other than Coors Field over the past three seasons. Ortiz is dirt cheap and facing a pitcher in which he owns a career .348/.423/.696 line over 28 at bats.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, vs. Tor (Dickey), $2300: Like Ortiz, Sandoval has been a disappointment overall, but he’s batting .299 with six homers over 137 ABs against RHP this season. Sandoval is nearly as cheap as it gets in a thin position and faces a pitcher who’s given up 13 homers over 75.2 innings this year.
Lorenzo Cain, OF, at Stl (Lyons), $2500: He’s hitting .338 against southpaws, including a .411 OBP. Cain is on pace to finish with 103 runs scored and 25 stolen bases, so the price is right here.
Carlos Beltran, OF, at Bal (Norris), $2400: He owns a career .387/.424/.677 line over 31 at bats against Bud Norris and will be inexpensive while batting in the middle of a great hitter’s park.
Andre Ethier, OF, at SD (Kennedy), $2900: Petco Park has played like a hitter’s paradise this season for some reason, and Ethier owns a career .359/.419/.667 line over 39 at bats versus Ian Kennedy.
Marcus Semien, SS, at LAA (Wilson), $2200: He’s been in a slump but this is a player as cheap as it gets with the seventh highest OPS among all shortstops in baseball.
George Springer, OF, vs. Sea (Montgomery), $3600: This is a cheap price considering Springer has a .902 OPS vs. LHP and is on pace to finish with 21 homers and 34 steals despite a 26.7 K%.
We have a big a batch of aces in play on Friday — Kershaw, Bumgarner, Felix, et al — so it's unlikely many of you will be choosing pitchers from the discount rack. Thus, we focus on hitting bargains today. Let's get to it...
Dee Gordon, 2B, vs. Col (Kendrick), $3200 at FanDuel: OK, so Gordon is not exactly on fire at the plate — he's 1-for-13 in his last three — but he's still slashing .356/.381/.421 with 20 steals. On Friday, he'll face a right-hander with a 5.08 xFIP and tragically low strikeout rate (4.44 K/9). This is a multi-hit setup for Gordon. He should feast against Kendrick, and you can't argue with the price.
Trevor Plouffe, 3B, at Tex (Rodriguez), $2700: Plouffe has gone 3-for-8 over his last two games with a triple and a homer, so his slump appears to be over. Wandy Rodriguez has been miraculously effective for Texas (3.25 ERA), but Plouffe has a nice history against LHPs. For his career, he's hitting .276/.350/.473 against southpaws and only .234/.294/.397 vs. righties.
Denard Span, OF, at Mil (Fiers), $3000: Span has delivered back-to-back three-hit performances, and Milwaukee starter Mike Fiers has been nothin' special (1.55 WHIP). Over the past week, Span has battled back spasms, but those issues appear to be gone. He's setting the table for Rendon and Harper, so his run-scoring potential is significant.
Michael Cuddyer, OF, vs. Atl (Wood), $2500: Cuddyer has swung the bat well of late (.316 average in June), and he has a very good (if extremely limited) history against Wood: 3-for-5,
Marcus Semien, SS, at LAA (Santiago), $2300: Despite a quiet week or two at the plate, Semien remains on pace for a 16-homer, 18-steal season. Santiago has delivered a quality season to this point, but Semien is a .278 career hitter against LHPs (.293 this season), so the matchup certainly works. At a near-minimum price, he's a strong Friday play.
Freddie Freeman, 1B, at NYM (Colon), $3600: Bartolo Colon's enduring relevance is one of baseball's great mysteries. No disrespect intended to Bartolo. He is, however, exactly the sort of pitcher that Freeman should hammer. You probably won't be surprised to learn that Freddie is 7-for-16 in his career against Colon, with three doubles. Freeman is coming off a 3-for-5 day against the Pads, with every hit going for extra-bases.
Christian Yelich, OF, vs. Col (Kendrick), $2500: Yelich has been hitting third, between Prado and Stanton, and he's facing a not-so-good right-hander on Friday (details above). On Thursday, Yelich went 2-for-4 with a walk, a triple and two runs-scored. He could easily give us a similar line today, facing Kendrick.
Francisco Cervelli, C, vs. Phi (Correia), $2800: The oldest rule in fantasy baseball is this: Start any hitter who's facing Kevin Correia. On Friday, Cervelli is such a hitter. Don't be afraid to use a multi-Buc formation. (If I knew that Pedro Alvarez was going to play, he'd be listed here for sure. Nice price, incredible matchup.)
Neil Walker, 2B, vs. Phi (Correia), $2700: Does this even require an explanation? He's cheap, he has pop, and he's facing Kevin Correia. Let's just make certain the rain holds off.
Evan Longoria, 3B, vs. CWS (Danks), $3100: Danks has been mostly awful this season, and he coughed up five earned runs over 4.2 innings in his last outing. This year, right-handed hitters are slashing a ridiculous .323/.373/.586 against him, with nine home runs. Start your Rays, is what I'm saying.
Spin the closing wheel on the North Side of Chicago, see what you get.
Hector Rondon. Pedro Strop. Jason Motte. Heck, it might be Rafael Soriano someday.
The Cubs enjoyed a tidy 6-3 victory over Cincinnati on Thursday, and the bullpen did its job perfectly (six scoreless innings), bailing out an ineffective Tsuyoshi Wada. Strop only needed seven pitches for the eighth, while Rondon worked around a single in a fairly painless ninth.
It’s the seventh consecutive scoreless appearance for Rondon, but that doesn’t mean he’s a closer with security. Motte was the handshake man Sunday, and Strop did the job the previous day.
Part of this roulette speaks to the creativity of manager Joe Maddon. He’s not going to manage with a streamlined set of roles in his back pocket. He’s willing to take chances and make mistakes - heck, you should manage your fantasy team in the same fashion - and he knows the front office supports him 100 percent.
Rondon sits with a 3-0 record, 11 saves and a 2.85 ERA. That all sounds closer-worthy to most of us. He’s only striking out 7.8 men per nine, but he’s shown the best control of the three late-game relievers. His FIP rests in a solid area, 3.22.
Strop has a similar FIP and a better strikeout rate, though his control hasn’t been quite as good. A strong ground-ball rate and a lucky hit rate (54.8 percent) is helping him along. Motte’s profile is the most suspect, as he’s only striking out 5.9 men per nine, and xFIP suggests an ERA over five.
I’m surprised the Cubs showed any interest in Soriano, one of those “proven closer” types, but it’s their cash, not mine. He’s only on a minor-league deal, and visa issues have slowed his arrival in America. He probably won’t join the major-league club until after the All-Star break, if at all.
Soriano, 35, spent the last two years with the Nationals (3.15 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 75 saves in 88 chances). His fastball peaked at 94.6 mph during his salad days in the 2000s - he was a 91.5 man with Washington the last two years.
On a different club, I’d bet on Rondon taking the job and running with it. On the Cubs, we can only say he’s currently the head of the committee.
• I thought Tanner Roark could mark a spot in the Washington rotation with this latest opportunity, but he’s been something of a letdown. Although he worked into the seventh inning at Milwaukee on Thursday, he wound up allowing nine hits and five runs. Here’s how his four starts stack up: 23.1 IP, 22 H, 12 ER, 4 BB, 14 K. He’s allowed seven home runs in these starts, and Doug Fister isn’t far away - though the Nats could always demote Joe Ross from the rotation instead.
As for the Washington offense, Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the 15-day DL. He’s dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Zimmerman was in the midst of a horrible season anyway (.209/.265/.346), so you have my permission to make a therapeutic cut, even in leagues with DL options.
• Hey, we're almost to #PelfreyDay. Minnesota’s surprising stopper, Mike Palfrey, faces one of his biggest tests yet, a Saturday start in Texas. The Arlington stream hasn’t been quite the same since the 2013 remodeling, but it’s still a yard that makes me a little nervous, especially when you look at some of those lefty bats in the Texas dugout.
Pelfrey’s tiny strikeout rate makes him a non-starter for any league with a cap, but his consistency opens a case in head-to-head formats. He’s made 11 starts this year and eight of them have been useful for fantasy purposes. He’s only allowed more than two earned runs twice, and no one’s nicked him for more than four.
We know that 82.6 percent strand rate is screaming for correction, but Pelfrey is forcing some of his own luck through a 55.2 percent ground-ball clip. Even if you view his 3.84 FIP as the true guiding number (not his 2.28 ERA, which everyone sees as an outlier), that equates to some head-to-head value when you also consider the innings upside. Who’s with me? I’ll let Pelfrey throw some innings for a couple of H2H clubs on the weekend.
• If you’re not in a format that favors Pelfrey, here are some other under-owned commodities to consider for Saturday work: Clay Buchholz vs. Toronto (49 percent, strikeout upside); Kyle Hendricks vs. Cincinnati (18 percent, misses more bats than you think); Ryan Vogelsong vs. Arizona (17 percent, generally does his best work at home). We’ll also see Justin Verlander (close to universally owned) against Cleveland, but I’d like to see at least one start before I give him a roto opportunity.
• Jean Segura has been an interesting player since he returned to action two weeks ago, batting well over .300 but attempting just one stolen base. He’s been jumping up and down the order, batting leadoff about half the time and slotting low in the order about half the time. He was in the No. 7 slot Thursday, while the Brewers gave Jon Lucroy a chance at leadoff.
If Segura isn’t going to run much, there isn’t much left on the fantasy profile. He’s a career .272 batter, not bad but certainly not a needle mover. He hit five homers in 146 games last year. Even in a messy year for shortstops, I don’t consider him one of the Top 12 options. You need to do better for your mixed roster.
Players to Buy
Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik, SS/2B, at NYM (Niese), $2900/$3300: While the majority of left-handed hitters don’t like facing left-handed pitching, San Francisco’s middle infield has two notable exceptions to that rule. Panik is a career .367/.401/.469 hitter in these instances, and he’s also swinging a hot bat of late. Crawford’s 2015 OPS against southpaws: 1.180.
And I’ve left out the best part: they’re facing Jon Niese, one of the most hittable pitchers on the Thursday card. Have some fun with the right-handed Giants while you’re at it. San Francisco is the NL’s highest-scoring club over the last 30 days.
Adam Lind, 1B, vs. WAS (Roark), $2700 on Fan Duel: Tanner Roark is the most homer-prone hurler on the evening card (he also pitches to contact), and Lind makes his living in the platoon advantage (.861 OPS). Miller Park is also part of the fun, as it’s been the friendliest stadium for runs and home runs this season.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, at BAL (Tillman), $2200: While Panda’s overall numbers don’t look like much, it’s his right-handed hitting (3-for-43) that’s wrecked things most of all. As a lefty swinger in the platoon advantage, he’s hitting .292 with five homers. Chris Tillman hasn’t been sharp the entire year and Panda is at the minimum salary, so let’s take a stab. (Tillman does show reverse splits, but when in doubt, let’s remember the batters generally control more of the outcomes.)
Sandoval also might be a good buy-low in seasonal leagues; he’s junked the switch hitting and is already 4-for-13 in lefty-versus-lefty draws. If nothing else, his mind might be clearing up, his confidence restored.
Matt Wieters, C, vs. BOS (Miley), $3300: Here’s another switch-hitter who needs to be debunked, side to side - Wieters gets an OPS spike of 116 points when facing a left-handed opponent. Smile, you’re at Wade Miley’s. The Baltimore backstop has been sharp since his return from Tommy John surgery, and he’s coming in rested after an off-day Wednesday.
You don’t have to stop at Wieters, as the expected Baltimore lineup has a slew of right-handed bats who are priced reasonably. Adam Jones at $3300, come on down. Manny Machado at $3200, yes please. Steve Pearce and Delmon Young are intriguing punts for $2600 and $2200, respectively. Have a day.
Jeff Baker, 2B, vs. COL (Rusin), $2600: It hasn’t shown up this year, but Baker’s calling card is the ability to mash left-handed pitching (.299/.353/.513). The Marlins realize this and usually give Baker a good slot in the lineup when a southpaw comes calling. There’s nothing special about Chris Rusin’s career line (4.45 ERA, 1.43 WHIP).
Danny Espinosa, 2B, at MIL (Garza), $2500: He comes into the matchup feeling good about himself, fresh off a homer and three hits at New York. Now Espy takes dead aim at a struggling righty (Matt Garza) in a park that’s getting tattoed all year (Miller Park). Fun place to be.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, at BAL (Tillman), $2600: Plenty has gone wrong with the Boston lineup this year, but Bogaerts’s emergence has been an underreported story. He’s on a .354/.386/.476 binge over his last 25 games, but you can still land him under 3K on Fan Duel. The opposing pitcher and the friendly park, that’s the cherry on the sundae. Get me to Eutaw Street, and pour me a Natty Boh while you're at it.
Garrett Richards, SP, at TB (Colome), $8600: It’s one of the ugliest pitching cards on the season, so no one we recommend is going to look all that snazzy. And Richards has been erratic all year, you know that. So let’s focus on the upside here: the Rays are a favorable draw for a right-handed pitcher (Tampa is just 23rd in wOBA versus righties), the park is pitcher-friendly and weather-proof, and Colome is an ordinary draw on the other side.
The Regretful Fade
Chicago at Cincinnati: I had a slew of bats coming your way in this one, but the weather scares me off the case. Sorry, Hot Toddy. Until we meet again, Dexy. See you on the weekend, Ratso Rizzo.
Tampa Bay outfielder Desmond Jennings underwent a knee scope Wednesday and is expected to miss two additional months. That’s why you fade these long-term injury guys, amigos - or at least treat them with the highest amount of skepticism. Even in leagues with DL spots, you probably should drop Jennings completely. His biggest fantasy skill is his ability to run, and we can’t be sure that will immediately return whenever he’s ready to play again.
Back to Butler, he’s been settled in Tampa Bay’s No. 2 or No. 3 slot for the last three weeks. He’s posted a snappy .324/.354/.519 slash over 108 at-bats, with four homers and three steals. If you grade all the fantasy outfielders over the last two weeks (he qualifies in the outfield despite his normal DH post), Butler comes in No. 12.
There are some funky things you have to accept with Butler ownership. He’s a 29-year-old journeyman, for one thing, and he’s a hacking show at the plate (two walks, 32 strikeouts). It’s completely fair to wonder if he’ll keep producing once teams get a look at him, assemble a book on him, start feeding him a different selection of pitches.
That said, category juice rules the world with mixed-league pickups (no, I'm not taking the AL-only copout), and Butler provides that. And exciting things happen when he does make contact - note that zippy 26.3 line-drive rate. He’s also buddies with manager Kevin Cash - they played in the minors together - and you love to see the ownership of a key batting-order position.
This isn’t our first discussion of the Butler story, but his ownership remains rather tame in the Yahoo world: he’s at 12 percent as we go to post. Here are a few bats I’d drop for Butler, no further context needed (they’re all more heavily owned than Butler is): Marlon Byrd, Angel Pagan, Luis Valbuena, Brock Holt, Anthony Gose. Get to work, start pointing and clicking.
• Is something wrong with Matt Harvey, or is his mini-slump merely something everyone goes through at one time or another? There are no obvious answers here, only questions.
Harvey Day turned into Harvey Danger on Wednesday, as the Giants pushed seven runs and nine hits on the Mets ace. Three Giants took him deep. It’s the second time in four starts Harvey has come unglued - he also allowed a seven spot in his May 23 turn at Pittsburgh.
Skipper Terry Collins mentioned a possible “dead arm” for Harvey around the Pittsburgh appearance, for whatever that means. Let’s be clear about something - dead arm is a vague and misleading term. Harvey’s velocity has been fine all season, and he’s also striking out guys regularly. Even over a four-game stretch that shows a 7.20 ERA, he still has better than a punchout per inning. The problem has been the gopher ball, eight allowed over four starts. That’s a shocking trend for someone who’s allowed just 24 taters for his entire career.
Let's get a few words from the pitcher himself. Here's what the New York ace told the assembled media after Wednesday's start:
"This is Major League Baseball," Harvey said. "You can't hit your spots, you can't mix things in well, you're not going to do your job very well. I just have to be better. There's no excuses to be made. My job is to go out and put up zeroes. I'm not doing that very well. Right now I'm just not executing anything."
I’m inclined to trust the velocity and strikeouts in a case like this. Perhaps it’s merely a matter of Harvey not having precise command, not locating his put-away pitches. If he is dealing with some sort of injury, I’m blown away at the fact that his velocity is nonetheless stable. I don’t see any reason to move him off your Top 10 lists going forward. If you have a more ominous view, by all means share it in the comments.
The schedule doesn’t let up - the high-scoring Blue Jays come to New York for Harvey’s next turn. After that, he heads to Atlanta.
• If you’re looking for scoring in bunches, the normal parks have been answering the call in 2015. Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, Great American Ball Park, they all rank highly in both runs and home runs through the opening 10 weeks or so. You know all about Coors Field.
But rather quietly, Miller Park is wearing the yellow jersey, the easiest yard for homers and runs scored to this point. It’s a trend that will be tested when the Nationals throw four solid pitchers in an upcoming series, but perhaps the Washington bats will have a field day on the Milwaukee arms. Garza, Fields, Nelson, Jungmann, I can’t imagine anyone is afraid of those guys these days.
Streaming is usually a term we apply to pitchers, but it’s also usable for offensive rentals. Yunel Escobar (31 percent) and Danny Espinosa (seven percent) are both widely available in most Yahoo leagues, and you can try Wilson Ramos in some shallower formats. The tag on Espinosa (.263-30-8-18) is particularly surprising to me, as he qualifies at both second and shortstop, tricky positions for fantasy owners to fill. He also might be seeing time in the outfield going forward.
• Catcher is the only Shuffle Up position we haven’t run yet this year - it’s on the deck for later in the week. Perhaps I’m trying to stay away from the backstops because I don’t want to write anything bad about Yadier Molina, one of my all-time favorite players. But at some point, we have to face the music.
Molina is off to a .279 start for the Cardinals, and he’s been terrific behind the plate, as usual. But you have to wonder if Molina’s power is gone for good, if it’s been lost in the attrition of a busy catching career. Molina doesn’t have a homer in 2015, and his slugging percentage is a puny .330.
There’s nothing wrong with Molina’s line-drive or fly-ball rates, and his plate-discipline stats are normal. He’s actually pulling the ball more than he has in about a decade. Forget the stolen bases, he’s bagged that part of his game.
In two-catcher formats, you’re going to hold Molina, simply for the good average and everyday role. But in the one-catcher world, you’ll want to do a lot better, take a stab at some upside. Here are some catchers who are rostered under Molina’s 85-percent tag: Derek Norris, Matt Wieters, Yan Gomes, Ramos, Yasmani Grandal. All of them probably deserve the nod over Molina. We need to play for today.
After a sluggish first two months of the season, Troy Tulowitzki has caught fire in June, with a .464 average, three home runs and 12 RBI in the first seven games of the month? Tulo has some potential pitfalls ahead (health history, and the very real possibility that he could be traded away from the most lucrative offensive home park in the league), so with that in mind ... O/U 137.5 games played, .299 batting average, 24.5 home runs, 89.5 RBI?
Brandon – I'll take the OVER on home runs - he had 21 HRs at the All-Star break last season, so we know that he can heat up in a hurry. His 162-game HR average over the previous six seasons is 34, which is to say that he can hit a 15-day DL stint and I think he'd still be able to reach 25 HRs. Also, his road HR tally over the past several years has been solid, so I don't think a trade is a dealbreaker for this O/U HR total.
Scott – UNDER on the entire lot. Too much of an injury history. And even if Tulo somehow stays healthy, that probably means he's on a different roster in August.
Andy – I'll take the UNDER, across the board. Wonderful player, wonderful park (for now). But there's a deep history of injuries here. I'd basically never take the over on any counting stat with Tulo. If he tops any of these marks, it's likely to be batting average.
Like Tulo, Toronto's Jose Bautista opened the '15 season at a slower than usual pace. But thanks to a 12-game hitting streak, and four home runs in the first week of June, Joey Bats is now pushing a 30-HR, 100-RBI pace, a feat he's accomplished three times in the past five seasons. Can Bautista go 30-100 for a fourth time - O/U 29.5 home runs, 99.5 RBI??
Brandon – OVER. Hitting No. 3 for one of the top offenses in the league, reaching 100 RBI shouldn't be a problem for Bautista if he can stay healthy. As for the HRs, he may not even have to stay that healthy to reach 30. He hit 35 last season, and he averaged 27.5 home runs the two seasons prior to that despite playing an average of just 105 games those seasons.
Scott – Here we're going OVER. The Jays are the runaway leaders in runs scored, no one close. The park is a float. The lineup is so deep. If I were Mike Babcock, I'd want the Blue Jays job.
Andy – OVER, absolutely. I expect the Jays to remain in the fight all year. The park is friendly, the lineup is terrific, and Bautista's power ceiling is well-documented. If he remains healthy, he hits these numbers.
Ian Desmond is the only player to go 20/20 in each of the past three seasons, but he's sitting on a pace of just 14 home runs and three steals in '15. The summer months have been good to Desmond since '10, as he's hit .288 from June through the end of the season in that span. Can Desmond pick up the pace once again - O/U final tally of 17.5 home runs and 11.5 steals?
Dalton – UNDER. Desmond has just one steal on the year while attempting three, and the rest of his peripherals are a bit worrisome. I expect Desmond to be better moving forward but not to be close to the type of player he was last year.
Andy – I'll take the OVER on power, UNDER on speed. One steal in three attempts doesn't make me bullish on his rest-of-season pilfering.
Scott – I'll give Desmond the benefit of the doubt on the homers, but so much of the speed game is wanting to run. He's attempted three steals. You can't consider that part of his profile now.
Phillies rookie corner Maikel Franco has brought some immediate pop to the Phillies lineup with six home runs in his first 24 games - With just over 100 games left in '15, can Franco breach the 20-HR plateau in his rookie campaign - O/U rest-of-season HRs 15.5?
Scott – I have to shade UNDER, given the modest power profile the kid showed in the minors. But it's nice to see something positive happen in Philadelphia this year.
Andy – OVER. He might hit 15 homers from now through the end of June, at the rate he's going. (OK, no, he will not. But he's been plenty impressive.) This isn't really such a big ask for Franco, a guy who clearly possesses legit 25-homer power.
Dalton – UNDER. I like Franco and own him in a couple of my more important leagues but asking for this seems a bit much. He'll be worth using as a CI in deeper leagues though.
Arizona's A.J. Pollock has been one of the biggest breakout stars of early '15, ranking as the 11th-most valuable player in fantasy to this point. Can the five-tool talent keep up a similar pace the rest of the way - O/U final fantasy ranking 39.5?
Brandon – UNDER. I was bullish on Pollock in the preseason, ranking him right around No. 80 overall, which was much higher than the industry consensus. Love the hitting environment, like the pop/speed combo skills and, really, what he's doing right now is basically the same production he's been delivering since late '13. Expect some regression the rest of the way, but not that much.
Andy – UNDER. He does his home hitting in a friendly park, and there's really no doubting his power/speed potential at this stage. I can't say I'm as enthusiastic as Dalton, but top-40 is probably in the bag.
Dalton – UNDER. I'm all in when it comes to Pollock. I really think he's the real deal and worth a top-three round pick in a draft held today.
Scott - How dare you not invite me to the Pollock Party. UNDER, amigos. He's been comically underrated by too many people for two months. Chip Hale's lineup card will get a little funky now and then, but Pollock will be in there most of the time. The breakout really happened last year, but it was obscured by injury.
On pace for 45 steals and 94 Runs, Bucs young outfielder Gregory Polanco is becoming one of fantasy's top speed weapons. Over/Under final SB total of 37.5 and Run total 87.5?
Brandon – I'll say OVER on both, barely. I think he'll have an easier time swiping 38 bags, as there should be no question about his thieving ability - he averaged just a hair shy of 50 steals per 162 games in his minor league career. And batting in front of guys like Andrew McCutchen (who has really taken flight since an awful April), Starling Marte and Neil Walker, I like Polanco's chances of scoring another 55 runs in his next 100 games - he scored at a clip of 91 runs per 162 games as a rookie last season (50 in 89 games), so this has been right at the pace he started in on when he arrived in Pittsburgh.
Andy – OVER on steals, UNDER on runs. We're not really talking about an on-base machine here (19 BB, .318 OBP), but I believe in his base-stealing talents, for sure.
Dalton – UNDER for both. Polanco should come close, but I'm just going to bet against his .107 ISO and 92 wRC+, although he's admittedly a very good base runner. His current .320 BABIP is nearly 30 points above his career mark of .292.
AL rookie arms Eduardo Rodriguez (Boston) and Lance McCullers (Houston) have been sensational in their short time in the majors, both ranking as top 40 fantasy values over the past two weeks. Fellow AL rookie Carlos Rodon (Chicago) and almost-rookie Taijuan Walker (Seattle) have also turned it on as of late. With Houston giving another talented pitching prospect (Vince Velasquez) his MLB debut this week, let's rank these five gifted hurlers, all available in at least 35 percent of Yahoo leagues, based on expected ROS value?
Brandon – 1) Rodon 2) McCullers 3) Rodriguez 4) Walker 5) Velasquez
Dalton – 1) McCullers 2) Rodon 3) Walker 4) Velasquez 5) Rodriguez
Scott – 1) Rodriguez, 2) Rodon, 3) McCullers, 4) Walker, 5) Velasquez
With Quality Starts in five consecutive outings, Jesse Hahn is one of fantasy's top pitching pickups at the moment. He owns a career 3.28 ERA, but is at 3.51 for this season. Can he pitch to his career mark the rest of the way - O/U 3.28 ROS ERA? Also, choose your favorite Oakland Jesse - Hahn or Chavez?
Brandon – OVER. This should be a close one, but he's logged just 140 MLB innings, so I'll bet on inexperience biting him enough that he doesn't quite hit below this ERA mark. As for the Jesse debate, give me Chavez. His ERA has lived in the 3s in Oakland, and his K/9 has resided in the 8s - I feel like I have a better handle on what I will get from Chavez, and I'm satisfied with those returns.
Dalton – OVER. I would confidently bet on the first part here (ERA) since this could go over for even the best pitchers in baseball. But I will take Hahn over Chavez ROS.
Scott – UNDER. Jesse is a friend. Jesse is a good friend of mine, especially when he's throwing that curve. Mixed leaguers should generally be courting upside, which makes Hahn over Chavez a slam dunk. Dare to be great.
Masahiro Tanaka has been fantastic in his return from the DL, logging two Quality Start victories? With just under four months left in the season, can Tanaka hold up over that span and deliver ace-level returns - O/U rest-of-season IP and K 119.5?
Scott – I know Tanaka will be great when on the field but I don't trust the durabilty. Look for an ERA under three, but go UNDER on all the counting stats.
Andy – UNDER. We all know the injury risk here. Use Tanaka in daily games, leave him alone in seasonal.
Dalton – UNDER. I'm impressed by his performance while pitching through his injury, but I still have little confidence it won't eventually end his season.
Which demoted closer would you be most willing to gamble on for ROS saves - Fernando Rodney or Addison Reed?
Brandon – RODNEY. But, this is really a toss up for me. I'm guessing fans of both clubs hope that neither of these guys are coming in to put the lid on a lead anytime soon.
Scott – A weak vote to Reed, because the Snakes don't really consider Brad Ziegler an ideal closer. Seattle has a perfect replacement ready to go in Carson Smith. That said, I fully expect Smith and Ziegler to be the handshake men from here on out.
Dalton – Rodney. His track record is longer, and Reed's ERA was bad even last year (4.25).
Oh, sure, you could start Matt Harvey on Wednesday. But where's the sport in that? Let's scroll deep. You'll want to keep an eye on weather in Chicago and Cleveland, though nothing yet seems too frightening.
Carlos Correa, SS, at CWS (Quintana), $2700 at FanDuel: So far, so good. Correa hit his first major league homer on Tuesday (a no-doubter) in a 2-for-4 performance against the White Sox. He swiped his first bag in the bigs, too. Correa has actually driven in every run the Astros have scored since his promotion. The kid is not overmatched, is what we're saying. Quintana is no pushover, but Correa was 12-for-36 against left-handed pitchers at Fresno with two doubles, three homers and four walks.
Chris Davis, 1B, vs. Bos (Porcello), $3100: Porcello has been hammered in two of his last three starts, and left-handed batters have generally enjoyed seeing him on the hill over the years (career .297/.347/.452). Davis specifically has three homers, one double and seven RBIs against Porcello in 24 career plate appearances. He's well priced, if you're attempting to accommodate Harvey's $11K salary.
Maikel Franco, 3B, at Cin (Moscot), $3100: Franco is simply scorching hot at the plate these days, slashing .469/.485/1.000 so far in June. He's hit safely in each of his last eight games, with six multi-hit performances and four homers during that stretch. At this price, he seems like a crazy steal.
Brett Anderson, P, vs. Ari (Hellickson), $6800: A dirt-cheap price on a starting pitcher who's been both effective and remarkably consistent. Anderson has allowed three runs or less in 10 of his 11 starts this season, en route to a 3.29 ERA. The last time he saw the D-backs, he tossed 6.0 scoreless frames, striking out four and issuing no walks.
Yan Gomes, C, vs. Sea (Walker), $2200: Assuming he plays, Gomes might be the best value on the board. He's available at a minimum price, coming off a two-homer game. Gomes has gone 7-for-16 with three extra-base hits over his last four. If he's in the lineup, I'm rolling with him against Taijuan Walker (1.47 WHIP).
Adam Lind, 1B, vs. Pit (Morton), $2700: Morton has been effective in his three starts this season, but he certainly isn't overpowering (6 Ks, 4 BB, 19.0 IP). Whenever Lind sees a hittable right-hander, I'm interested. The price is incredibly friendly. Lind is 9-for-26 this month with one double, one homer, eight RBIs and only two Ks.
Christian Yelich, OF, at Tor (Copeland), $2400: No, the year has not gone particularly well for Yelich, but he finally began to string a few hits together in late May. He homered on Tuesday in Toronto, and he's facing a sketchy right-hander on Wednesday. Copeland, 27, has been a low-K, high-BB starter throughout his six-year minor league career. No need to avoid him.
Trevor Bauer, P, vs. Sea (Walker), $8600: Bauer faces one of the A.L.'s least productive lineups on Wednesday, opposed by an often ineffective starter. Seattle's most dangerous hitter, Nelson Cruz, checked out of Tuesday's game with back spasms, so he's clearly not 100 percent. Bauer hasn't allowed more than two runs in any of his last five starts, and he's reached double-digit Ks three times this season, including a 10-strikeout performance at Seattle.
Mitch Moreland, OF, at Oak (Hahn), $2800: Moreland is slashing .305/.367/.525 for the season and .370/.452/.630 in June. He's homered twice in his last four games, and Texas faces a non-terrifying right-hander on Wednesday. Such a friendly price on an underrated power bat.
Stephen Vogt, C, vs. Tex (Gallardo), $3200: You had me at "Gallardo." Vogt is 2-for-4 against Yovani with a double and a homer, for what it's worth. His production has tailed off in June, but he's still reaching base at a .388 clip for the season.
As the summer heats up, Yahoo's resident Noisemaker will offer his hot takes on specific players, trends and strategies much discussed in Fantasyland. Naturally, whatever he forecasts, the opposite is bound to occur. Feel free to offer your two cents in the comments section below.
The Buzz: Last year, Martavis Bryant not only kicked down the door, he felled the entire wall surrounding it. Inactive over the first six games of the regular season, he made his presence instantly known catching two passes for 40 yards and a touchdown Week 7 against Houston. The breakthrough performance sparked a spectacular four-game streak, a stretch in which he averaged 77.5 yards per game and totaled six touchdowns. Suffice it to say, owners who scored him off waivers jubilantly twerked. Defenses, however, made adjustments to halt Pittsburgh's runaway train, as his No. 62 rank from Week 11 on proved. Still, entering his second season, the other Bryant, off a 26-549-8 campaign (in 10 games), is a fantasy commodity who has investors giddy. But skeptics concerned about the WR's inflated price tag remain aplenty.
Why taking up a second job delivering pizzas to afford Bryant will be completely worth it:
Skill Set. Bluntly speaking, the dude is a freak. "Lobster Boy" wishes he were more abnormal. At 6-foot-4, Bryant possess a long, rangy frame which gives him a stark advantage over a significant percentage of the league's corners. His wingspan and catch radius are menacing. That combined with his 4.42 40-yard speed, plus tracking ability and above average ball-adjustment skills make him the definition of "big play." Slamming protein shakes this offseason, he's reportedly packed on 10 pounds. Already breaking press coverage at an extraordinary rate (70.6% success rate last year), his "swoled" frame should help him win contested throws in high-traffic areas. David Boston revisited he is not. Recall last year, 37 percent of his targets were on passes between 0-9 yards. The added bulk will give him, and Ben Roethlisberger, the confidence to expand his game beyond being a deep-only threat.
Elevated role. To put it mildly, Markus Wheaton's stats are akin to a shirtless Jim Harbaugh – hard to look at. After an injury-plagued 2013, the former Beaver made some statistical jumps in his second season. His catch rate rose by 20 percent and he registered 0.17 points per snap, up from a wretched 0.09 his rookie year. Still, despite playing in all 16 games last year, his final numbers, in terms of fantasy excitement, were comparable to a meatloaf dinner with the in-laws. Though he saw 760 snaps (47.5 per game), he finished No. 71 in fantasy points per game at his position, one spot behind eternal underachiever Dwayne Bowe. Weeeee!!! Bryant, whose 0.45 points per snap was the highest among eligible PPR WRs (0.36 in STD), was light years more efficient. The pair are slated to battle it our for WR2 duties opposite Antonio Brown this summer, but unless Wheaton morphs into Lynn Swann 2.0, odds are long he outlasts Martavis. Assuming he secures the gig, Bryant could attract upwards of 7-8 targets per game (4.8 in '14).
Steelers offense. Todd Haley may be a hothead, but when he isn't making new besties on the sideline, he's one of the league's most aggressive play-callers. Last year, the Steelers called "pass" 612 times, the sixth-highest amount in the league. When you have arguably the best receiver (Brown) and most versatile RB (Le'Veon Bell) on roster, it's hard not to play with your toys. Roethlisberger has also developed into one of the better riflemen around. Last year, he ranked No. 7 in deep-ball accuracy percentage (minimum 60 attempts). Throw in the defensive attention Brown typically draws, Bell's three-game suspension and Pittsburgh's young, inexperienced D, and the atmosphere is ripe for Bryant to explode in Year 2.
Added polish. Probably the most important development this offseason is Bryant's work ethic. Not only did he frequent the gym, he also hit the classroom to immerse himself fully in Haley's complicated playbook. As the Post Gazette recently reported, his limited understanding of the system and poor conditioning, repercussions stemming from missed practice time due to a sprained shoulder he suffered last September, held him back. His physical and mental advancements over the past few months should help him blaze a fire-lined path from start to finish.
Fearless Forecast: Most fantasy owners are like "Shark Tank's" Mr. Wonderful, money-grabbers obsessed with maximizing margins. Looking at Bryant's exorbitant ADP (49.5 in Yahoo, WR20), they don't see any profitability. That, however, isn't the case. It's unrealistic to anticipate a duplication of last year's points per snap, but if the sophomore unseats Wheaton, a strong probability, he will emerge a top-12 wideout. Bryant's former Clemson and current Pittsburgh teammate Tajh Boyd projected a 1,000 yard effort from the receiver this year. The QB also predicted a Pro Bowl appearance within two years. That may seem optimistic, but for the reasons mentioned above, Boyd is an accurate soothsayer. An explosive output in the area of 70-1050-12 is on the horizon. Slap down those dollar bills.