Jason Castro has a seven-game hitting streak (8-for-28) to raise his batting average from .196 to .216 while starting seven of the last 10 games for the Twins. He has a HR and five RBI over his last 17 at bats. Streaky C2 in deep leagues with double digit power and batting average risk. His bat is trending in the right direction if your teams needs a spark at a weak position.
The Rockies expect Tom Murphy to begin a rehab assignment this week, which puts him a couple of weeks away from the majors. Last season he had 24 HRs and 72 RBI over 347 at bats between AAA and the majors.
There was a Joe Mauer sighting over the last few weeks. Joe hit .361 over his last 83 at bats with 14 runs, three HRs, and 13 RBI to raise his average from .240 to .294. He’s only on pace for 13 HRs and 73 RBI so Mauer may get exposed over the long haul in the counting categories. For now, a short-term cover with a chance to help in three categories.
Over the last five games, Danny Valencia has eight hits over 20 at bats with four runs, one HR, and nine RBI. He’s started the last ten games for the Mariners, which is a sign that he has starting value in 12-team leagues. Since May 11th, Danny hit .316 with two HRs and 12 RBI.
Whit Merrifield has an 18-game hitting streak (26-for-67) with 12 runs, four HRs, 11 RBI, and five SBs to raise his average from .197 to .293. His success blocked the return of Raul Mondesi who also had his 18-game hitting streak (29-for-73) broken on June 2nd at AAA. Over those games, Raul had 18 runs, four HRs, 18 RBI, and seven SBs. Merrifield is worthy of owning in all formats with more upside in speed. The Royals will give Mondesi another chance in the next month, which may lead to Whit shifting to another position.
The Phillies activated Howie Kendrick off the DL over the last week. He still has second base eligibility from 2016 (32 games). He is hitting .300 over 20 at bats with a HR, but he struck out seven times. Howie fits into the grinder mode like a Jed Lowrie with minimal upside in power. His best help tends to be batting average. Kendrick is worth a ride or bench role in 15-team leagues or larger.
Before the season, I liked the balance skill set of Devon Travis I thought he had a chance to be a 20/20 type player when healthy. After a slow start to the season (.152 over his first 99 at bats with a HR, four RBI, and two SBs). Devon made a huge step forward over the last three weeks or so (.381 with 12 runs, four HRs, 20 RBI, and two SBs over 84 at bats). I would be very interested in him in shallow leagues especially if the Blue Jays move him back to the leadoff position.
Fantasy owners still don’t know what to make of Marwin Gonzalez. He’s a man without a starting job. His bat is back on the uptick over his last 11 games (17-for-42 with ten runs, three HRs, ten RBI, and a SB) leading to 11 starts in 13 games. Over the previous 13 games, Marwin only started six games. Gonzalez works best as a bench injury cover in deep leagues while playing close attention to his playing time. He’s on an insane pace (35 HRs, 98 RBI, and nine SBs over 388 at bats), which needs a correction or maybe more at bats.
After missing five weeks of the season, Pablo Sandoval returned to the starting lineup on May 31st. He has four hits over 13 at bats since returning with two runs, a HR, and two RBI. This time of the year Fantasy owners can no longer be choosy when looking to fill blanks in their lineup. Sandoval has a lot to prove, but he may very well surprise if he can stay on the field. His pace in HRs and RBI projects to 28/84 over 550 at bats so don’t sleep at the wheel if you have a weakness at corner infield or DH.
The injuries in Los Angeles to Mike Trout and Cameron Maybin have created some opportunities at the top of the batting order. I mentioned Andrelton Simmons last week, and his chance for success may have increased over the last week with the Angels giving him some at bats at the top of the lineup. He’s only hitting .192 over his last seven games, but Simmons did smash two more HRs with a pair of stolen bases. Over his last 19 games, Andrelton hit .347 with 11 runs, three HRs, 10 RBI, and three stolen bases. He may be the best option to replace Jean Segura at shortstop in a Fantasy lineup who looks to be out for a couple of months with an ankle injury.
Seattle will move to shortstop to replace the injured Jean Segura. After a great run over two weeks in the back half of April (16-for-55 with five HRs, 13 RBI, and two SBs), Motter lost his way over the next month or so (.162 with three HRs, nine RBI, and two SBs over 74 at bats) leading to fading at bats. In his first three games in June as a starter at short, Taylor has three hits in 10 at bats with three runs, a home run, four RBI, and a stolen base. A Wiseman (me) once said the best replacement over the short haul in Fantasy sports tends to be the player replacing the injured player in the starting lineup. Therefore, an owner losing Segura may only have to look at Motter to fill his void.
Sometimes a Fantasy owner must sift through the cracks to find the next breakout player at a position. Over his last 55 at bats, Orlando Arcia scored only six runs with no home runs and two RBI. During this span, Orlando hit .345 which tells me his bat may start to produce. His downside is that he doesn’t hit in a favorable part of the batting order and his speed isn’t where it needs to be based on his minor league resume (91 steals over 1,856 at bats). Player to keep an eye as he may surprise in both power and steals going forward.
The hardest thing for a Fantasy owner to understand in baseball is the difference between stats and talent. For the most part, names don’t win Fantasy championships; stats do. This requires a Fantasy owner to walk a fine line between playing a cold talented player and dropping him for a hot player with future fade and less overall upside. The goal for me on drafted day is to find the most talent with the best opportunities for success. I think the same should work when looking to replace an injured player who will miss an extended period.
If I lost Mike Trout in a shallow league for two months, I would have to find a player that could hit one HR and steal one base per week going forward. Even if that player came up short, Trout did play well to start the year giving Fantasy owner at least a jump out of the box.
The player I would target in shallow leagues, if available, to replace Trout would be Max Kepler. He may be a free agent in some 10-team leagues, or he may be acquired via a trade. Max has started 16 of the last 17 games for the Twins. He has 22 hits in his last 70 at bats (.314) with 13 runs, four HRs, 12 RBI, and a SB. Kepler currently has a six-game hitting streak (9-for-25) with six runs, two HRs, and four RBI. His skill set points to a 20/20 type player with an edge in batting average. His swing is on the rise, and I expect a nice run out of him over the next month or so.
After drifting his way between the minors and the majors over the last three seasons, Eric Young may have a nice window to get at bats for the Angels. His skill set is perfect for a team looking to make up steals. In his only season with starting at bats in the majors (2013), Eric hit .249 with two HRs, 32 RBI, and 46 SBs over 539 at bats. His swing looked very good at AAA in 2017 (.354 with 42 runs, five HRs, 26 RBI, and 15 SBs over 178 at bats) leading to his call-up to the majors after a couple of injuries in LA. Over 21 at bats with the Angels, Young hit .381 with five runs, one HR, two RBI, and two SBs while being in the lineup in all six games. Eric should be a solid cover for Cameron Maybin with high value in speed.
The Twins shipped Kennys Vargas back to AAA creating a better opportunity for Robbie Grossman. He’s started the last six games for Minnesota, which led to six hits in 23 at bats with two HRs and four RBI. Over his last 14 games, Robbie hit .333 with four HRs, nine RBI, and a SB. His upside is limited, but he may work as a short-term injury cover.
For those of you holding out hope for David Dahl, I don’t expect him to back anytime soon. His rib issue isn’t going away, and he’ll offer almost no value to Fantasy owners in 2017. Gerardo Parra should be rewarded with a few more at bats, but the hot hitting of Mark Reynolds does block his opportunity as least for now with Ian Desmond back on the roster. Parra has played extremely well over his last 11 games (.571 with seven runs, two HRs, and 13 RBI over 28 at bats). He makes sense as a bench player in deep leagues if he can work his way into full time at bats.
The Phillies called up Ben Lively this week to replace Vince Velasquez in the starting rotation. He pitched well in his major league debut (one run and four hits over seven innings), but he didn’t strikeout a batter. Over nine starts at AAA in 2017, Ben went 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA and 45 Ks in 56.1 innings. He has a career 45-24 record in the minors with a 2.99 ERA and 522 Ks in 562.2 innings. Lively doesn’t have an elite fastball while offering three secondary pitches with upside. He needs to be throwing strikes to have success in the majors.
Philadelphia will dip into the minors for the second time next week. They may call up Thomas Eshelman who has been impressive over ten starts between AA and AAA (6-0 with a 2.13 ERA and 47 Ks over 67.2 innings. Eshelman is a soft-tosser who relies on his command to have success. Over the three seasons in the minors, Thomas has a 15-8 record with a 3.53 ERA and 174 Ks in 198.2 innings.
The Joe Ross experiment should be over in Washington after getting crushed in his last five starts (22 runs and 43 base runners over 23.2 innings). A.J. Cole has a 3.00 ERA over his last three starts at AAA with 15 Ks in 18 innings, but he’s walked nine batters leading to a poor WHIP (1.56). Washington sensed that they needed more help in the bullpen or needed to limit his innings to add more value in the majors later in the season, so they switched Erick Fedde to the bullpen in mid-May at AA after posting a 3.16 ERA with 35 Ks over 42.2 innings over seven starts.
Most of us expected Brian Johnson to get the call up to Boston to replace Eduardo Rodriguez in the starting rotation, but Johnson left his last start on June 3rd at AAA with a hamstring issue after striking out five batters (yes five batters) over one shutout inning. In his last start in the majors, Brian tossed a complete game shutout with no walks and eight Ks. I’ll like to see an update at some point today as Johnson could be a nice add to a Fantasy team if given a starting opportunity in the majors. Boston may turn to Hector Velazquez who got crushed in his major league debut (six runs over five innings with three home runs allowed). Over seven starts at AAA, Hector has a 1.50 ERA over 42 innings with 30 Ks. Velazquez path to the majors comes via the Mexican League where he went 18-4 in 2016 with a 2.37 ERA and 242 Ks over 246.2 innings.