The streakiness of Mike Zunino tends to be a tough ride in shallow leagues. After a trip back to AAA (.293 with five HRs and 11 HRs over 41 at bats), Mike has been productive over his last ten games (.400 with three HRs and 14 RBI) while still showing high risk in strikeouts (14 in 35 at bats). Only worth a swing in leagues with two catchers if your team is short power.
In one high stakes 15-team league, I made the swap from Jason Castro to Stephen Vogt with the thought of protecting batting average while hopefully stepping into a hit streak. The reverse ended up happening as Jason now has an 11-game hitting streak (12-for-42) with five runs, three HRs, and seven home runs to raise his batting average from .198 to .223. Worth a short-term ride if your team has an injury at catcher.
David Freese is trending upward over his last five games. He has nine hits in 19 at bats with a HR and five RBI while starting 13 of the last 15 games for the Pirates. His swing continues to produce too many groundballs (52.7 percent), so his power upside is limited. Based on the options in many 12-team leagues, David will offer the best opportunity for at bats in the free agent pool. Only an injury fill-in until more balls go over the fence.
Playing every day has been tough for Yulieski Gurriel. He’s started nine of the last 12 games for Houston despite a nine-game hitting streak (13-for-37) with nine runs, two HRs, 12 RBI, and a SB. Yulieski is on pace for 15 HRs and 69 RBI with 496 at bats, so his path points to below league average value over the long haul. He’s playing well, and his resume may point to a higher ceiling going forward.
Seattle fed Fantasy owners bad information last week. They released a report suggesting Jean Segura would be out for a couple of months with a bad ankle injury. A week later he’s on the fast track back to the starting lineup. Segura expects to be back late June and Seattle rewarded him with a five-year $70 million contract. If he somehow was dropped in your league, he should be picked up this week.
Heading into June 5th, Scooter Gennett didn’t have a hit in 16 at bats with seven strikeouts. He went 1-for-3 on the 5th, but somehow he was a 10 percent own in the daily games the next night when he went 5-for-5 with four runs, four HRs, and 10 RBI. Scooter now has nine hits in his last 16 at bats with solid production (5/4/13). Gennett doesn’t have a clear path to playing time while a hot bat does lead to more chances.
Since returning from the DL, Howie Kendrick has 12 hits in 33 at bats with five runs, two HRs, three RBI, and three SBs. The speed is somewhat surprising, and it may not hold up. Playing well enough to start in shallow leagues as long as he’s hitting home runs and stealing bases.
Other than David Freese and Yulieski Gurriel, who both qualify at third base, the free agent options at this position look weak. Wilmer Flores started the last eight games headed into Saturday. Over this span, he hit .310 with a pair of home runs. His at bats have come as a result of Jose Reyes hitting his way to the bench.
Pablo Sandoval struggled over his 23 at bats in June (.087 with a home run). He has no production in his last five games so your team would need to have a huge hole to take this dance.
Each week I don’t give J.T. Riddle a second look. He’s started 24 straight games for the Marlins with surprising success (.319 with ten runs, two HRs, and 17 RBI). Even with Adeiny Hechavarria getting closer to returning, Riddle may continue to start. He’s only a career .275 hitter in the minors with 22 HRs, 166 RBI, and 25 SBs over 1525 at bats, so his ceiling isn’t very high.
Freddy Galvis had his six-game hitting streak (9-for-19) end on June 9th. Over this uptick in production, Freddie had two HRs and four RBI. Bottom of the order type hitter with a nice combination of power and speed if he gets rolling while still offering some batting average risk.
Over the last week, speed has been the flavor of choice in the free agent pool. Delino DeShields has a five-game hitting streak (9-for-16) with four runs, a RBI, and four SBs, which include four straight games with two hits. His playing time had been up and down, and he appeared to be on the outside looking in when Andre Beltre returned from the DL. Mike Napoli took his turn on the DL creating another window for Delino to prove his worth. His recent success pushed his season average to .301 with short production in HRs (1) and RBI (9). Impact base stealer when getting at bats plus the Rangers moved him back to the leadoff position. DeShields is a base stealer in waiting if he’s getting starting at bats. Ride him while he’s running and swinging the bat well.
With Kevin Kiermaier landing on the DL with a fractured hip, Mallex Smith will get his chance to get every day at bats. Mallex hit .311 over 140 at bats at AAA in 2017 with three HRs, eight RBI, and 16 SBs. He made an immediate impact in his three games since being called up (5-for-11 with four runs, a HR, two RBI, and four SBs). Smith is huge speed out if he plays well and runs. Over 1678 at bats in the minors, he stole 245 based on 313 attempts. This projects to about 80 bags a season with 550 at bats. I don’t believe a Fantasy owner will find a better speed option in the free agent pool in 2017 plus he should have a two-month window to get close to full-time at bats.
Another player to keep an eye in shallow leagues is Cameron Maybin. He surprisingly returned from the DL on Friday where he proceeded to deliver an impact game (three hits in four at bats with four runs and four stolen bases). LA gave him the next night off, but he is expected to play every day while batting leading off with Mike Trout on the DL. Over his last 13 games, Cameron hit .420 with 17 runs, two HRs, five RBI, and eight stolen bases.
I know the White Sox shipped Adam Engel back to the minors, but I thought it was important to see what he offered just in case he gets another opportunity in the majors. Over the last 11 games in the majors, Scott only started in three games where he went 5-for-16 with two runs and four SBs. In 2015 at A ball, Engel hit .251 over 529 at bats with 90 runs, seven HRs, 43 RBI, and 65 steals. His speed is the key to his value, but Scott flashed more power at AAA this season (.221 with eight HRs, 16 RBI, and three SBs over 149 at bats). Batting average risk for sure, but he’s a possible speed out if he every lands starting at bats in the majors.
The Braves called up Sean Newcomb this week to replace the fading Bartolo Colon in the starting rotation. He tossed 6.1 shutout innings with seven Ks in his major league debut. I met his father a couple of years ago when flying back from Arizona when I was doing the LABR drafts in Phoenix when Sean belong to the Angels. His arm looked to have high upside with a big fastball once he figured out how to throw more strikes. After a slow start at AA in 2016 with the Braves, Newcomb finished with a 3.86 ERA and 152 Ks over 140 innings at AA with continued risk in walks (71). The same issue was still relevant this year at AAA (33 walks over 57.2 innings), but his arm looked more explosive (2.97 ERA with 74 strikeouts). His average fastball came in at 93.7 in his first start in the majors, which is below his expected value. Live arm for sure, but major league batters will make him throw strikes. This will lead to some crooked numbers while struggling to go deep in games. Love his upside, so he’s a start to start ride for now with plenty of WHIP risk.
The Red Sox ended up calling up Brian Johnson to be the fifth starter while moving up a notch with Eduardo Rodriguez on the DL. There were doubts this week about his status after Brian left his last start at AAA with a hamstring issue. After tossing nine shutout innings with no walks and eight Ks on May 27th in the majors against Seattle, there were high expectations when returning to the majors. Johnson struggled in a start against the Tigers this week (three runs and nine baserunners over 4.1 innings). He threw the ball well over eight starts at AAA (2.72 ERA with 42 Ks over 46.1 innings), but Brian still needs to clean up his walks (17). His game looked to have high upside over 214 innings at AA and AAA in 2014 and 2015 when he posted a 2.10 ERA with 189 Ks. The key for his upside is walking fewer than three batters per nine innings.
Today will be an interesting day for the short-term value for Jake Junis. His arm looked intriguing headed into this week after dominating in his last three starts at AAA (two runs over 19 innings with 30 Ks). Over seven starts at AAA in 2017, Jake had a 2.34 ERA with 57 Ks and eight walks over 42.1 innings. Unfortunately, his command and pitch selection was brutal in his start against Houston earlier this week. I thought Salvador Perez did a bad job calling his game while Junis couldn’t command his fastball. This led to four runs and eight baserunners allowed over 3.2 innings, which was helped by a scoring change as it appeared he allowed seven runs. Jake only has a career 4.26 ERA in the minors with 512 Ks over 581.1 innings, but his arm did look improved at AA in 2016 (3.25 ERA over 119 innings with 117 Ks). He’ll face the Padres today with his job on the line. Junis has nice breaking ball while his fastball sits in the low 90s.
The Rays called up Jacob Faria to make a spot start this week. He allowed one run over 6.1 innings with five Ks before being shipped back to AAA. Over 11 starts in AAA this season, Jacob went 6-1 with a 3.07 ERA and 84 Ks in 58.2 innings. With Matt Andriese having a setback with his groin issue in his start on Saturday, Faria should be recalled next week. Faria has a career 3.13 ERA in the minors with 626 Ks over 599 innings with plenty of experience at AAA (10-5 over 24 starts with 3.42 ERA and 148 Ks over 126.1 innings).
Tampa will also consider Blake Snell. Over his five starts, Snell went 4-0 with a 2.53 ERA with 44 Ks over 32 innings. He struggled over eight starts in the majors (0-4 with 4.71 ERA over 42 innings) due to poor command (25 walks). Over seven seasons in the minors, Blake went 40-29 with 2.80 ERA with 601 Ks over 517 innings. Snell is an elite arm and his shine when returning to the majors if he throws more strikes.