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Thread: Fantasy Baseball News 2018

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  1. #51  
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    Making sense of the San Francisco bullpen

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER



    If you are looking for a big league bullpen with experienced closers, check out the San Francisco Giants. Right-handers Mark Melancon and Sam Dyson and lefty Tony Watson boast 267 career saves between them, while Hunter Strickland, currently on the disabled list due to his own anger, closed competently earlier this season.

    Meanwhile, left-hander Will Smith entered 2018 with one career save, missed all of 2017 after Tommy John surgery and debuted this season on May 2. So who is the Giants closer leading into the All-Star break? If you guessed it is Will Smith, you win a prize and no, I am not going to tell you anyone saw this coming. It is, just, baseball.


    Smith's ascension to the ninth-inning role is a stark reminder to the dismissive that previous experience is not a prerequisite for closing success. Smith has certainly been a decent relief pitcher in the past, and for those in the fantasy world seeking holds, he was one of the better options with the 2014-15 Milwaukee Brewers. He seemed primed to close in 2016, but right-hander Jeremy Jeffress handled the role until Tyler Thornburg took over. A trade made Smith a member of the contending Giants on deadline day and he resumed his effective setup role for right-hander Santiago Casilla thereafter.

    The Giants have three saves in the past two weeks and Smith has them all, although fantasy managers seem to be a bit slow in realizing this. Sure, it is wholly possible that Dyson, Watson or Melancon earns the next save chance, and that is the order of likelihood that I would place on each pitcher doing so, but Smith is the guy for now. Strickland is not going to pitch again this month, and when he returns, who knows how he slots in. He was not exactly Kenley Jansen while he was closing. Smith, however, has been dominant in the past month, earning the right for a more leveraged role.

    Fantasy managers should be more interested and Smith is the most-added reliever over the past week, but he remains available in 85 percent of standard leagues, despite a 1.03 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He has really thrived since June began. Over the past 30 days, Smith is second among all relief pitchers -- to Texas Rangers right-hander Jose LeClerc, of all people -- with 16.68 strikeouts per nine innings. Smith has permitted one run over 14 1/3 innings since June 1, with 25 strikeouts. He has outperformed Milwaukee's Josh Hader in that span quite easily.

    I think Smith is going to keep the closing role for as long as he is effective, which sounds like a weak prediction, but I still expect Dyson to be in play at some point against slugging right-handed batters. Dyson has rebounded from last season, and while he is hardly piling on the strikeouts, he is still doing better in that department than Melancon, who has not earned a late-inning role, despite his vast experience and lofty paycheck. Melancon signed a four-year, $62 million contract heading into 2017, and he has thrown 43 mainly rough innings for the Giants. One would presume if he raises his performance, he will earn a greater role based on the money, but it certainly does not appear imminent.

    Smith is not your normal left-handed relief pitcher, as he has always had the ability to retire right-handed batters, but we often see managers simply dismiss pitchers for less. After all, we can normally count the number of lefty closers from year to year on one hand. Currently we have Smith, Baltimore's Zach Britton, the Yankees' Aroldis Chapman, Pittsburgh's Felipe Vazquez, San Diego's Brad Hand and Washington's Sean Doolittle. Smith has relatively even career splits against hitters, and this season right-handers have four hits in 45 at-bats. That .089 batting average is not likely to continue, but then again, nobody is promising you it will or that Smith will save 15 more games. He could, though.

    So keep doing what you are doing, Will Smith, and the Giants and fantasy managers will love you for it. Oh, and happy birthday, by the way. Smith turned 29 on Tuesday.

    Other reliever thoughts

    -- So, what is going on with Rangers lefty LeClerc? Right-hander Keone Kela is the undisputed closer, and while it is possible this last-place team trades him -- they should, really -- I have not heard such rumors. LeClerc, like Smith, has yet to allow a home run this season, which is likely to change soon. LeClerc got my attention on Sunday when he struck out five Tigers for all his outs. He is a walker, but if Kela is hurt or traded, he has a chance at saves.

    -- Hader, meanwhile, somehow allowed a pair of Miami Marlins home runs in Monday's loss, and his investors have to be wondering if the outing is a harbinger of bad tidings. Hader is not pitching poorly, but to me he is not pitching enough. Perhaps that is by design. The Brewers have a healthy Corey Knebel and Jeffress, after all. Hader could be tired. He has pitched twice in 12 days. I would not send him to free agency yet, but be on the watch.

    -- Lefty strikeout contemporary Andrew Miller could return to the Cleveland Indians right after the All-Star break, and with it could come many strikeouts. After all, Miller led all relievers in strikeouts over 2016-17 and had a 1.45 ERA in that span. He can be great, but knee woes have hampered him. One would presume the Indians will be extra cautious here, as the division title is imminent. Fantasy managers should be as well.

    -- More Astros saves the rest of the season? I think Hector Rondon will get eight saves, and Ken Giles will get seven. That is not a lot of saves, but when Houston wins, they tend to win by more than a few runs. The Astros as a team are tied for 17th in saves with 23 of them over 15 weeks, and they are tied for 22nd in save chances. Sorry if you expected more.

    -- Has anyone noticed that Arizona's Archie Bradley already boasts 23 holds? Last year's big league leader was Minnesota Twins lefty Taylor Rogers with only 30. Myriad pitchers are on pace to top that mark. Bradley had 25 holds last season. Perhaps he closes in 2019.

    -- Eight different Philadelphia Phillies pitchers have saves this season. Eight! Seranthony Dominguez remains the one pitcher you want in fantasy, but right-hander Victor Arano is likely to keep getting chances as well. Dominguez enters games to face the opposition's top hitters and sometimes gets a save. Well, Arano also has three saves in the past week. This should continue, and it makes Arano potentially more valuable, I think, than either of the Houston closers. When the Phillies win, it is generally a close game.
     

  2. #52  
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    Buster Posey is hurting, but still has plenty of value

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER



    I found it interesting that San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy told reporters Monday that the recent hip injury suffered by Buster Posey, the one that will keep him from participating in next week's All-Star Game, was the reason for his decreased power.

    When exactly did Posey hurt the hip? Last month, or in 2016? I am not trying to be facetious, but the fact is that despite Posey, still only 31, blessing the Giants and fantasy managers with a terrific career, he has hit a total of 31 home runs over his past 361 games and 1,500 plate appearances since the start of 2016. New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez hit 33 home runs just last season. Posey's power left a while ago.

    That does not mean Posey can no longer be a terrific fantasy option. After all, I still have him among my top 100 overall, though behind Miami Marlins All-Star J.T. Realmuto because he is having the superior season and it does not appear the least bit fluky. Realmuto is not Max Muncy, you know. He has been an excellent fantasy option for three seasons, hitting for average and stealing more bases than all the other catchers combined, and now he hits for power as well. Realmuto jacked 17 home runs last season, and when he returns later this week from the paternity list -- congrats to him and his wife, as their first child was born Tuesday! -- he returns to his pace of 20. Realmuto is fantasy's top catcher now.

    Posey investors in re-draft formats should not worry, though, and probably should celebrate him missing the All-Star festivities. We do not earn fantasy points for exhibition contests, and catchers need more rest than most. Posey has caught 852 games in his career, so it is hardly a surprise to see some wear and tear affect him. He is also on pace for single-digit home runs and fewer than 50 runs batted in. However, thanks to the nice batting average and runs scored, still excellent for the position, he ranks seventh among backstops on the season Player Rater. He has one fewer walk than strikeout. Nobody is saying to drop Posey, but this hip injury gives us a chance to reflect on his actual value and future. To some, it might be troubling.

    There is little question Posey has more value to the Giants behind the plate, rather than at first base, and the same goes for fantasy managers. Few catchers, frankly, would have value without catcher eligibility. Posey ranks No. 142 among batters on the Rater, behind Niko Goodrum, Josh Reddick and Albert Pujols. As a catcher, he matters.

    The hip injury shows up in Posey's metrics, as he has hit fewer line drives and more ground balls, which is never positive, but his hard-hit percentage is a career best. His plate discipline remains excellent. I have tired of counting on catchers like Mike Zunino, who hit for power but won't even reach their weight in batting average. Posey is safe for batting average, but is he really just Francisco Cervelli with more batting average and runs? Nobody wants to think that.

    For those rostering Posey in dynasty/keeper formats, sure, get modestly concerned. The organization chose sure thing Joey Bart out of Georgia Tech with the No. 2 pick last month, and his timetable for the majors could be 2020. Posey's best stats are behind him, and the future probably lies at first base -- and we stopped recommending Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer many years ago. Perhaps Posey, becoming free of donning the so-called tools of ignorance on a more regular basis, returns to hitting 20 home runs while keeping the high batting average. Playing catcher is ridiculously tough physically, and Posey is hardly a defensive liability. He is simply hurting.

    Posey was hitless in five at-bats on Monday out of the No. 2 lineup spot against what appeared to be a rejuvenated Chicago Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who got 19 outs on strikeouts and grounders. Many Giants struggled in this one. Posey is on the schedule to get an injection for the hip inflammation soon and in addition to next week off might need a DL stint at some point, but even then, I would not recommend fantasy managers run away. He looks like he simply needs a break, as we all do. Realmuto is getting one this week. Yadier Molina, replacing Posey on the All-Star team, recently had a long break. Catchers get hurt. So few of them are reliable for fantasy managers annually that Posey retains value, but he might soon fall out of my top three at his position, and top 100 overall, if all we get statistically is batting average and runs scored. He still matters, but just a bit less than he used to.


    Monday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: 2-for-3, HR, 4 RBI, SB

    Scott Schebler, OF, Cincinnati Reds: 4-for-5, HR, 3 RBI

    Stephen Piscotty, OF, Oakland Athletics: 3-for-4, HR, 2 RBI

    Aaron Nola, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K

    • Kyle Hendricks, SP, Chicago Cubs: 8 1/3 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

    Lowlights:

    Clint Frazier, OF, New York Yankees: 1-for-8, 5 K

    Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets: 1-for-7, 4 K

    Francisco Liriano, SP, Detroit Tigers: 2 1/3 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

    Luis Perdomo, SP, San Diego Padres: 7 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 0 K

    Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets: 4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 8 K

    Monday takeaways:

    J.D. Martinez hit his 28th HR of the season in Monday's win over the Rangers. The @RedSox improve to 24-3 when he homers this season.
    Martinez now has 60 HR and 153 RBI in his last 162 games. pic.twitter.com/qpvqnwxgqk
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 10, 2018

    • I think we have come to the point that J.D. Martinez deserves top-10 consideration in fantasy. I have him at No. 13, but is that enough? This is a Triple Crown threat, and best I can tell, the main concern with him is durability, since he last played in more than 120 games in 2015. Is Giancarlo Stanton really safer for a full season of playing time? I don't think he is, and Martinez is superior in batting average, which is why Martinez leaped past Stanton and many others in my rankings last week. What are we missing? Martinez is the No. 3 hitter on the Player Rater after Mookie Betts and Jose Ramirez. So far, he is Mike Trout sans the stolen bases, but with a lot more RBIs. I think Martinez moves into my top 10 soon.

    Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Chris Archer returned from his DL stint and did not look right, finally succumbing to baserunners in the third inning for three runs, and leaving after one out in the fourth. Archer threw strikes and the velocity looked OK, and his next outing against the Twins this weekend will be an important one for his fantasy value. Should it be? I would argue it should not, since this is a K-per-inning option capable of much more, and perhaps a trade will return him to past glories. He remains outside my top-20 starting pitchers, but should be rostered in all formats. This is actually a wise time to trade for him, for real and fantasy.

    • As expected, the Los Angeles Dodgers sent injured Yasiel Puig to the DL, where he figures to miss the rest of July at least. Andrew Toles earned the promotion and the start in center field, and he contributed two hits, two RBIs and two runs. Toles should play the next few weeks, and with this outfield, perhaps many more. Remember, this was the team's leadoff hitter last April before he tore his knee in the outfield, and he can hit for average and steal a base.

    Injuries of note:

    • Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant homered in his rehab appearance Monday for Double-A Tennessee and could return to the major league club any day now, so be prepared. I sat Bryant in a weekly league because he might not return until Friday, but in a daily format, he goes active right away.

    Closing time:

    Baltimore Orioles lefty Zach Britton retired the Yankees without major incident in the ninth inning Monday for his second save of his brief season, and first since June 23. Yes, the Orioles do not offer many late-inning leads for their pitchers. Britton has shown better command of his often-unhittable sinker and a wise fantasy manager would consider this opportunity to trade Britton for largely any other top-15 closer. For one, the Orioles are awful, perhaps historically so. Save chances will not come often. Two, if they are smart -- and they seldom seem to be -- they will trade Britton and most contenders would use him in a setup role. Unlike some Orioles, I cannot imagine Britton telling reporters, when it comes to future role, "I am a closer. Period." Regardless, Brad Brach was awful again on Monday, and if Britton goes elsewhere, I think Mychal Givens has earned the chance to close. But again, we are talking about perhaps 12 save opportunities the rest of the way.

    W2W4:

    Yankees right-hander
    Masahiro Tanaka
    returns from his long DL stint to face the awful Orioles, and while I normally would be cautious in activating a pitcher in this situation, I'm not with this opponent. Tanaka is having a weird statistical season, with a WHIP so low it generally tells us the ERA will follow, but thanks to a home run rate rivaling last season's, we worry. Tanaka does not allow myriad runners, but the home runs ruin his ERA. OK, so perhaps
    Mark Trumbo
    and
    Adam Jones
    take him deep, but three runs over six innings sounds fair.


    The
    Arizona Diamondbacks
    and
    Colorado Rockies
    meet in Denver with lefties
    Patrick Corbin
    and
    Tyler Anderson
    on the mound. Corbin has permitted two earned runs over his past three outings, so that really gets tested in the thin air. He has made eight starts at Coors Field and his ERA is 7.11. That number is good for late night snacks, not an ERA. Anderson is a breakout performer who has permitted nary a run in his past two outings, and one came at home. He is also piling on the whiffs. Neither fellow comes recommended for today due to venue, but I bet each performs better than expected.

     

  3. #53  
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    Evaluating hitters with low batting averages

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    Five hitters qualified for the batting title remain in the porous hitting club that could not be further away from a batting title. These are the players hitting on the wrong side of .200 for the season. While one might think no fantasy manager would want any part of these players, that is not always the case. In fact, the best way to raise a composite batting average for a fantasy team is often to invest in hitters that have to improve. A sub-.200 batting average for a proven veteran nearly always rises above that level.


    I have been thinking about this lately because Los Angeles Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun, who fell off the relevancy board for fantasy managers last season when his batting average tanked, has raised his batting average 27 points since coming off the disabled list three weeks ago. It is currently at .180. That is not much, but it beats .153. Calhoun homered on Tuesday, his fifth in those 20 games. If you added Calhoun three weeks ago, he has helped you.

    Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop is another one and I admitted a few weeks ago I was no longer interested in his services on my fantasy teams, and moved on. As they say in "Rounders," bad judgment! Schoop was hitting .197 when July began. Ten days and games later he is hitting .432 this month with seven extra-base hits and as colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft reports, seven of his hits have gone to the opposite field, which really is not his game. Schoop, and perhaps Calhoun, have made adjustments to return to relevance.

    It is an arbitrary number, this sub-.200 batting average -- is Adam Duvall any different hitting .204? -- but regardless, here are the five hitters because, like Calhoun and Schoop have shown, anything is possible.

    Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles: Even when he hit .215 last year he managed 26 home runs. This version of Davis seems far from that, and he has actually lowered his K rate a bit. The shifting really hurts Davis's chances of hitting better than, say, .220. If he provided the power of another option on this list, that would be different, but Davis looks like the worst player in baseball, even worse than Albert Pujols, who has been below replacement level since the start of 2017.

    Lewis Brinson, OF, Miami Marlins: A rookie serving a DL stint for hip inflammation, Brinson reminds many of former big leaguer Mike Cameron, who never flirted with a batting title himself, but hit for enough power and stole enough bases that we still coveted him at times. Brinson drew walks in the minors, so give him time. What concerns me is that he has attempted only two stolen bases. This should be a 20/20 option within two years, so try to keep him in dynasty formats.

    Joey Gallo, 1B/3B/OF, Texas Rangers: Gallo's .189 batting average is only 20 points worse than what he finished at least season, and while it is little consolation, it is worth pointing out he draws walks so the batting average does not have the impact of what, say, Schoop's does. Gallo also has 21 home runs. Davis does not. Personally, I have no shares of Gallo anywhere, though he is rostered in more than 85 percent of leagues, understandably so. I understand there is value here, but you know he cannot hit for average. The power and defensive versatility is nice, but Schoop hit .293 last season. Gallo might not hit .193. Do not expect this batting average to rise.

    Logan Morrison, 1B, Minnesota Twins: Hitter of 38 home runs for last season's Rays, Morrison might not reach 20 this season, and he is playing on a one-year contract. He needs to play well. Morrison is another left-handed victim of the shift and yes, it has made me at least think about whether to invest in hitters of his ilk. Jay Bruce, for example, looked a lot better before everyone shifted him like crazy. I do not agree with calls to outlaw shifting, but sure, I will be reconsidering some lefty pull hitters in the future, at least compared to other options. Morrison's K rate is down, his contact rate is up, and he is hitting more fly balls. A .184 BABIP against right-handed pitching is playing a role here, but Morrison seems capable of turning things around. He hit .244 in May with four homers and a high walk rate. For those in deeper formats, he can repeat that.

    Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City Royals: Since there is nothing to see here and the Royals should have known this -- though the .199-hitting Escobar started in center field last night, which is worse -- let us use this space to discuss Adalberto Mondesi, the 22-year-old son of a former player that has intrigued us for a few years. Mondesi homered, knocked in four runs and was successful on one of two stolen base attempts Tuesday. It is quite a full night for him. Mondesi has Schoop-like plate discipline, which is going to be a problem and because he lacks the power and strength of Schoop, I doubt he can hit better than .250 consistently in the majors. He can run though and offers second base and shortstop eligibility. I cannot fathom why the Royals would not play Mondesi regularly, somewhere, and let him develop. I think he can steal 20 bases this season. I also would not be surprised if he hits around .200. Buyer beware.

    By the way, there are some interesting names hitting worse than .220, including Bryce Harper, Michael Conforto and Jason Kipnis. Harper has to be hurt, and talented as he is, I am not trading for him unless the price really drops. I doubt it will. Also, please do not ever tell me about how contract years automatically push players to perform so much better. Harper is not performing better. Conforto is clearly hurt with the shoulder, and I hope he is healthy for 2019. Kipnis is also clearly playing through something, as he cannot touch power right-handers or run as he used to.


    Tuesday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Manny Machado, SS/3B, Baltimore Orioles: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI

    Alex Bregman, SS/3B, Houston Astros: 2-for-5, 2 HR, 2 RBI

    Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals: 4-for-5, HR, 2 RBI

    Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 12 K

    Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago Cubs: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

    Lowlights:

    Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals: 0-for-5, 4 K

    Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: 0-for-4, 4 K

    Yovani Gallardo, SP, Texas Rangers: 5 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 2 K

    Mike Leake, SP, Seattle Mariners: 4 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

    Cody Allen, RP, Cleveland Indians: 2/3 IP, 3 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

    Tuesday takeaways:

    By scoring 9 runs tonight against the Twins, the @Royals posted their largest scoring output since May 30...also against the Twins.
    In fact, the Royals snapped a 30-game streak of scoring 5 runs or fewer.
    That was the longest such streak since the Mets (40 games) in 1979. pic.twitter.com/IvasQgFba3
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 11, 2018

    • I would like to share with you the names of several Royals hitters to invest in, but I just cannot do it. I have an obligation to tell the truth when analyzing performance, you know. I am pleased that Whit Merrifield is performing even better than I expected, and I seemed like one of the few that expected anything close to what he did last year. I thought Merrifield, who kind of came from nowhere to hit .288 and lead the AL in steals last season, would hit fewer home runs. That seemed obvious. Merrifield might hit 10. However, he is hitting .306 and running, and added outfield eligibility. I am a big fan. Other than that, move on. Third baseman Mike Moustakas might hit 30 home runs for another team soon, but he has otherwise been quiet. Catcher Sal Perez has become an automatic out lately. Jorge Soler is on the DL. How did this franchise let all this happen?

    • There has been talk in Philadelphia about replacing Maikel Franco with Moustakas but you know what, Franco, for all that is wrong with him -- and there is plenty -- now boasts the better OPS. Franco is really enjoying himself in the No. 8 lineup spot over 10 games, hitting .394 with a 1.124 OPS. A few of his walks have been intentional with the pitcher on deck but still, Franco is hitting right-handed pitching. Being benched for J.P. Crawford motivated him, one presumes. I still cannot recommend him for standard leagues, because there are holes in this swing and the bad streaks cancel the good ones, and who knows if he is still playing regularly come August, but sure, keep an eye on this.

    Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman stymied the Atlanta Braves over seven strong innings, allowing one run on six hits. Stroman can be compared to the sub-.200 hitters in some ways. His 5.90 ERA is obviously going in the right direction, though I still think he was a bit overrated heading into the season. Stroman's career WHIP is 1.28. That does not help us. His K rate is 7.3. Nor does that. However, like a Schoop or Calhoun, he is not this bad. It remains a good time to acquire him.

    Boston Red Sox bench option Blake Swihart had a few hits and runs batted in to raise his batting average to .200. He did so playing catcher, a spot that could be open for him -- if he hits -- with Christian Vazquez out until September after finger surgery. Swihart, who is outfield eligible, should be a good hitter for average and provide double-digit pop. Those in multi-catcher formats should see if he keeps getting at-bats.

    Injuries of note:

    • Los Angeles Angels right-hander Garrett Richards left his outing prematurely clutching his forearm and while I am not a doctor, I know that is not good. Richards has already made 16 starts, 10 more than in either of his past two seasons, and he has shown signs of being a top-30 starter. Now, we wonder when he will pitch again. He has had elbow woes that were not surgically fixed, quite famously in fact, and this ... well, let us wait for clarity. It would be a shame.

    • Washington Nationals lefty closer Sean Doolittle succumbed to the DL with toe inflammation, and will not perform in the All-Star Game. I believe if it was August Doolittle would still be pitching, but the Nationals can give him the rest of this week off and a longer vacation. In other words, do not panic here. Kelvin Herrera will get the saves this week, but I do think Doolittle returns when eligible.

    Closing time:

    • What a nightmare outing for Cleveland Indians right-hander Cody Allen, who was summoned with a 4-0 lead and was ultimately charged with six earned runs, the final half on a Joey Votto double off a struggling right-hander that was supposed to be a veteran lefty. Allen was wild, though unlucky. He hit a guy, but the first two hits he permitted were not 100 mph line drives by any means. The Adam Duvall double was a shot, though. Then there was an intentional walk and an unintentional one and he was gone. Dan Otero was supposed to be Oliver Perez, but communication broke down. How does that even happen? Who lets Otero face Joey Votto? Regardless, I am not worried about Allen. It was a bad night, that is all. There is nobody else to close for this team. Lefty Andrew Miller might return from the DL this month, but Allen had a 3.25 ERA and 1.06 WHIP entering Tuesday. He is fine, a borderline top-10 fantasy closer. Nobody calls him Kimbrel.

    • Things did not improve for Houston Astros right-hander Ken Giles as he did not retire any of the three Oakland hitters he faced in his non-save chance and then he seemed unhappy, shall we say nicely, with manager A.J. Hinch for removing him. Giles still has not blown a save this year, but I half expect he is on another team before August. Perhaps he gets saves for that one. I do not see 10 saves for him the rest of this season with the Astros, especially now.

    W2W4:

    • The Cubs might have third baseman Kris Bryant back for the matchup with Johnny Cueto in San Francisco, but if you have Bryant, you know to play him. Is Cueto safe after that first outing off the DL when he permitted 10 hits and five runs? Stick with him, but be concerned if this one goes awry. Also, watch the Giants' Alen Hanson. He should be playing regularly and he can be a five-category aid in deep formats.

    We spoke on Monday's Fantasy Focus baseball podcast -- yes, we still have a show twice a week -- about struggling lefties with walk issues perhaps turning into Tampa Bay's Blake Snell and the best I came up with was Sean Newcomb and perhaps Danny Duffy. I totally whiffed on Chicago White Sox youngster Carlos Rodon, who walked six in his most recent outing. A strikeout hurler lurks if Rodon can find control, but it is his fourth year and one can reasonably wonder if it will ever show up. He faces the Cardinals.

    • Current Texas Rangers are hitting .123 with a .381 OPS against Boston Red Sox lefty Chris Sale. How can this not be a 12-K performance over seven shutout frames? Bartolo Colon, meanwhile, should have a far tougher time. Rafael Devers is 2-for-3 against Colon with a pair of home runs. DFS alert!

     

  4. #54  
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    Evaluating the New York Mets' outfield, and where Tim Tebow could fit in

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    Most fantasy managers have to know that Tim Tebow, the polarizing former Heisman Trophy winner and current outfielder in the New York Mets farm system, is not likely to procure much or any fantasy relevance either this season or in the future. There, I wrote it. I am not intending to be at all mean or disrespectful of this nice man -- and he really is quite nice in person -- but if you want my honest opinion, there it is. I often say or write negative things about Maikel Franco and Tyler Chatwood, too, and those are not the least bit personal, either. Those guys have hurt a fantasy team or two of mine, and perhaps yours.

    I cannot predict Tebow will have much statistical impact for fantasy managers, but he is on my mind today because he always seems to be on someone's mind, and he participated in Wednesday night's Eastern League All-Star game in Trenton, New Jersey, that colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft and I gleefully attended. Tebow batted ninth and assumed the designated hitter spot for the East squad. The left-handed hitter sliced a double just fair down the left field line in his first at-bat against legitimate pitching prospect Beau Burrows, struggling to catch up to his fastball but enjoying the result, and then he was quiet over three appearances thereafter, culminating in a ninth-inning strikeout against another hard-thrower. The game ended in a 4-4 tie.


    I could have chosen to lead today's blog entry with thoughts on Kris Bryant, Chris Sale or even Ken Giles, but hey, this is Tim Tebow! Everyone seems to be interested, even if most claim they are not. Give him credit and plenty of it. However, Tebow, is not a legitimate prospect, mainly due to being 30 years old, but the numbers also tell us there is not much to grasp. He is hitting a competent .270 for Double-A Binghamton but with a .423 BABIP, which tells us he has been fortunate to hit that number. He is quite a bit older than all the pitchers he faces. Tebow has five home runs over 76 games and 267 plate appearances. He strikes out 35.6 percent of the time, right around the Joey Gallo mark. Tebow has three walks and 27 whiffs against left-handed pitching. All these numbers are not likely to improve against big-league hurlers.

    Still, because of the situation the New York Mets happen to be in, with a poor 2018 club, many empty seats at Citi Field and the likes of infielder Ty Kelly embarrassingly starting games in left field of late, Tebow is likely to play outfield in the majors this season. We should be OK with that. It is not as if he is taking a roster spot of some great, deserving player. Tebow is an attraction, and this is a business. Pay to see him play if you desire. Tebow is rostered in 0.2 percent of ESPN standard leagues, which is not much, but still somehow a bit generous. But it's a cool story, and I want to see it play out. I just have no interest in adding him to my fantasy roster when it happens, but if Tebow stunningly hits like Max Muncy in September, sure, I will write about it then, too, and admit I was wrong.

    We should, in relation, be discussing the grand disappointment that is the legitimate Mets outfield. For example, it sure seems to me that Yoenis Cespedes, who signed a four-year, $110-million contract before last season, is one of the most overrated players in fantasy. Yes, he has twice surpassed 30 home runs in his career, which spans seven seasons and four big league clubs, but he sure does miss a lot of games. Cespedes can hit, but he cannot help the Mets or us from the bench, and he has not played in two months with a hip injury. He missed half of last season with leg woes. He is 32, and I doubt he suddenly becomes an iron man, even if he moves to first base. We cannot drop him in re-draft formats, as he could play next week and can obviously matter statistically. The Mets are bad, though, and I cannot see Cespedes playing in 75 percent of their games from here on out. For next year, by the way, he figures to be a top-100 option in the rankings, but I will surely avoid him.

    Meanwhile, right fielder Jay Bruce, has been one of the more durable, consistent players for a decade. He has an injured hip, as well, but I feel like he played through the injury and actually wants to return quickly. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. Bruce is hitting .212 with three home runs. I have written about how opponent shifting has hurt him more than it has others. Bruce is a lefty pull hitter, albeit one hitting plenty of fly balls, and nobody expected him to hit .300, but .250 with 30 homers has become his norm. Perhaps he gets right in the second half -- I am optimistic. Next season, I am far more likely to invest in Bruce in Round 15 than Cespedes in Round 10.

    Michael Conforto is clearly still hampered by his left shoulder, which he tore last August and had surgically repaired, and his hard-rate has cratered. He is hitting many more ground balls and cannot catch up to fastballs. Conforto remains a dynasty favorite, but for this year, I would move on in re-draft formats. I cannot see a second-half resurrection. I am hoping his career can get back on track, but am also fearful. Conforto assuredly gets selected ahead of Bruce next season, but I am not sure about the value.

    Jose Bautista is playing regularly because the Mets need three outfielders to do so each day. He draws his walks and ... well, that's all. The power is mostly gone. Then there is Brandon Nimmo. He is awesome. OK, he is not as awesome as he appeared a month ago, but he blasted the walk-off winner on Wednesday and should be the center fielder the rest of the way and into 2019. Conforto is not a center fielder. I think, if Nimmo gets 550 at-bats next season, he would hit around .260 with 16 home runs and 12 steals. Perhaps he could be a poor man's Adam Eaton, when Eaton was with the Chicago White Sox. If the Mets commit to Nimmo in 2019 -- and one never knows with the Mets -- he would likely make my top-40 outfielders.

    The point is, there is an obvious scenario in which Tebow, Nimmo and Bautista log regular outfield at-bats in September. No help, other than Tebow, is on the immediate way. Unfortunately, for fantasy managers, that is simply not going to be much help.

    Wednesday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies: 2-for-5, 2 HR, 6 RBI

    Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals: 3-for-5, 2 HR, 2 RBI

    Ozzie Albies, 2B, Atlanta Braves: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI

    Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

    Marco Gonzales, SP, Seattle Mariners: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K

    Lowlights:

    Tommy Pham, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: 0-for-4, 4 K

    • Joey Gallo, 1B/3B/OF, Texas Rangers: 0-for-4, 4 K

    Lance McCullers Jr., SP, Houston Astros: 4 IP, 4 H, 6 ER, 5 BB, 1 K

    Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles: 4 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 K

    Shelby Miller, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: 1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

    Wednesday takeaways:


    • The Rockies padded their offensive stats with 19 runs in the first four innings against the Diamondbacks, and more than half the outs Arizona "pitchers" earned came from non-pitchers. Kudos to Daniel Descalso and Alex Avila. The big story from this game is not that Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Desmond combined for three home runs and 11 RBI, or the hitters pitching, but Shelby Miller left early with elbow discomfort. I cannot say I thought Miller would be a top-50 starter for the second half, but I was intrigued. There was promise back in 2015. Now, the Diamondbacks really need more pitchers.

    • The Chicago Cubs welcomed back Kris Bryant, and he homered in his first game and walked twice. He is fine and belongs on any list of buy-low options. With Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward getting on base, this really is a nice, deep lineup with everyone contributing. The Cubs are going to have a big August.

    • Chris Sale did as expected and shut down the Rangers over seven innings, but little did I know he would do precisely as expected from Wednesday's blog, which said he would whiff 12 over seven shutout innings. Sale passed Max Scherzer to become fantasy's top pitcher on the Player Rater, but that list will change as three of the top five are on the schedule to pitch Thursday (including Corey Kluber and Luis Severino). If you want to trade any hitter in the game, including Mike Trout, straight up for Sale or Scherzer, I would not laugh.• Rough outing for Lance McCullers, most notably the five walks versus one strikeout, two batters he hit and two wild pitches. He was coming off an outing with 12 whiffs and nary a free pass, so nobody should panic here, but with a 3.77 ERA and 3.69 FIP, this might not be a top-20 fantasy starter yet. This is the third time this season McCullers has permitted six or more runs in a start.

    Injuries of note:

    • The Los Angeles Angels will most likely not have the services of right-hander Garrett Richards until the start of 2020. I do not type that lightly. I hate to see UCL replacement surgery take a pitcher down. It stinks. Richards might not opt for the surgery, but at this point, after years of pushing it away, it seems imminent. The Angels do welcome back lefty Tyler Skaggs from a DL stint to start Thursday, but they need more arms. Skaggs faces the Mariners, but I would leave him on the bench for this one.

    Closing time:

    • It seemed somewhat imminent that Astros right-hander Ken Giles would be anywhere else but in the team's bullpen soon, but instead of a trade -- which could still occur -- he was demoted to Triple-A. Giles is a bit like Colorado's Jon Gray in that the actual numbers for his season are not as bad as they appear. Giles has three walks versus 31 strikeouts, and two home runs allowed. His FIP is 2.32. I would say he will be back, but I think it is on another club, and he might close there. I think it will be tough for him, based on how he has acted (and this demotion is punitive, regardless of what the team says) to get saves this season. Feel free to send Giles to fantasy free agency.

    W2W4

    • Poor Robbie Ray was supposed to pitch in Atlanta on Friday, but because Zack Godley was needed in relief earlier this week, Ray was moved up to Thursday at Denver's Coors Field. Not good. Ray would be on my bench for this one in fantasy. He was already having control issues, and this will not help. If someone wants to acquire him from you, as if he is a safe top-20 option, see what you can get.

    • Check out Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star Ross Stripling on ESPN+ at San Diego because this breakout is real and pitching in San Diego is often kind to opposing hurlers. Stripling is a bit short of qualifying for the ERA title, but his strikeout rate would rank him 14th among all starters, a bit ahead of Tampa Bay's Blake Snell, who also pitches Thursday. Stripling has been that good.
     

  5. #55  
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    Who is the first half fantasy MVP?

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    As we hit the final weekend of the ceremonial first half of the regular season, it seems a wise time to reflect on the best and worst. One member of the current top 10 on the ESPN Player Rater was not among the top 50 selected in ESPN Average Live Drafts. One member. To me, that makes it obvious who the first-half fantasy MVP would be. As for the LVP, well, that one is a bit dicier, and of course, similarly and purely subjective. Here we go!

    First-half MVP: Javier Baez, 2B/SS/3B, Chicago Cubs

    Yep, this 13th-round selection is having an amazing season, on pace for 32 home runs, 119 RBI, 31 stolen bases and 103 runs scored. In addition, despite his aggressive-swinging ways -- he has walked less than once per week -- Baez is hitting .289, quite a bit better than his career mark. It is all coming together for this 25-year-old with the quick wrists and defensive acumen. Cleveland Indians infielder Jose Ramirez leads the Player Rater and is the only other player on a 30/30 pace, but the word "value" appears in MVP and Ramirez was top 25 on draft day, expected to offer fantasy managers fantastic numbers. Baez, No. 10 on the Rater and tops among all NL hitters, went a lot later.

    As for the rest of my subjective top 5 in fantasy MVP voting, certainly Ramirez and Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts should be afforded major credit for their work and mixed in somewhere, but I like to acknowledge mid-round choices and those not selected at all. Despite a rough outing on Thursday, Tampa Bay Rays All-Star lefty Blake Snell is 18th on the Rater and eighth among starting pitchers, nice work for a 23rd-round pick. He was barely drafted, and in many leagues, was not. Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies went a few rounds after Baez and is on pace for 36 homers and 130 runs scored. Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar went undrafted, and could become the top free agent pickup of the season. My top 5 for today is Baez, Albies, Aguilar, Snell and generally ignored Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett, who might win a batting title and hit 30 homers. Wow.

    Baez, incidentally, seems like a reasonable real-life MVP choice at this point as well, presuming the Cubs remain a playoff contender, which they certainly should. Baez has really grown as a hitter, producing a lot more line drives and raising his hard-hit percentage quite a bit. The strides he seemed to make in plate discipline last year have not really reversed; he is walking less, but also striking out less. Essentially, this aggressive hitter has decided to become more aggressive. He is not hitting more fly balls, but is also barely top 20 in home run/fly ball ratio, so that seems relatively sustainable. He could always steal bases, but seldom did. Now he is. Put simply, this all looks legit.

    First-half LVP: Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

    The fourth overall pick in ESPN ADP was Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, and some/many would nominate him, but Harper is on pace for 40 home runs and close to 100 RBI and runs. It is not what anyone expected and certainly disappointing, but he is producing something, and is 25th among outfielders on the Rater. Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa was the No. 12 pick, on average, and has missed time with a back injury, but again, his numbers are helping people. Same with Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, slumping Astros outfielder George Springer and injured Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg.


    Donaldson edges out Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager for fantasy LVP honors and here is why: one of them remains rostered in more than 84 percent of leagues on the hope he returns soon and hits myriad home runs. The other was lost to season-ending elbow surgery in April and fantasy managers were able to move on without potential consequence. Dump Donaldson and he could haunt you, though that seems less likely today than two months ago. Neither third-round draft selection has helped much, but Donaldson struggled to hit through a shoulder injury and then suffered a calf injury. He is hitting .234 with five home runs in 36 games. Joey Rickard has the same five home runs in 36 games. There are 234 players with more home runs. Perhaps Donaldson will be a second-half star, but color me skeptical.

    Among actually healthy players, or at least those playing through something, Harper, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger and Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier and outfielder Byron Buxton deserve notice for this honor. We should also not ignore injured New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and overrated Chicago Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish. Thanks again, fellows. It has been a blast so far!

    Thursday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI

    Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals: 3-for-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI

    Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees: 2-for-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI

    Kyle Gibson, SP, Minnesota Twins: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K

    Jameson Taillon, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K

    Lowlights:

    Daniel Robertson, 2B/SS/3B, Tampa Bay Rays: 0-for-4, 4 K

    Austin Romine, C, New York Yankees: 0-for-4, 4 K

    James Paxton, SP, Seattle Mariners: 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

    Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians: 7 1/3 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 9 K

    Kevin Gausman, SP, Baltimore Orioles: 5 IP, 12 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

    Thursday takeaways:
    Albert Pujols ties Ken Griffey Jr for 6th all-time with his 630th career home run pic.twitter.com/0fH21BpfC5
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 13, 2018

    • Give credit where due. Pujols has had a Hall of Famer career -- should go on the first ballot -- and has surely won myriad championships for fantasy managers, and he is actually aiding people today. Pujols, 38, is still barely replacement level in real life, but he is 17th among first basemen on the Player Rater -- ahead of Jose Abreu, Anthony Rizzo and Eric Hosmer, incidentally -- and on pace, after his big Thursday night, for 28 home runs and 90 RBI. That counts for something and makes him a worthy corner option even for the shallow leagues, I suppose, though the upside really does not exist. As bad as Pujols was last season, his teammates presented him the opportunity to knock in 101 runs. That was the lone category he aided fantasy managers in. He can do this again, so we thank, basically, Mike Trout for his on-base prowess.

    • The big story from the late-night Angels-Mariners game was James Paxton leaving after a few outs and a few home runs with back stiffness. Look for a DL stint for sure and we hope Paxton returns to pitch this month. He is the No. 16 starting pitcher on the Player Rater but with a long, frustrating career of injuries, and the Mariners cannot afford to lose him.

    Philadelphia Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro needed a triple for the cycle, and watching just about every one of his games this season one can spot the potential for 20 home runs and a .250 batting average, and that would make him a top-10 fantasy option. Alfaro is not there yet. He swings at everything, in or out of the strike zone, but I am a bit surprised he has not turned his natural power into more home runs yet. For those in dynasty formats, this is someone to target, if you target catchers at all, which I admit I never do. Alfaro is built like a workhorse catcher and should be hitting 20 homers soon.

    • I simply cannot believe Jose Ramirez is on his way to more than 40 home runs. I think we knew much of last season's breakout was legit, but this power is hard to believe. Ramirez has hit four home runs in three days and remains one of the few players with more walks than strikeouts. This is awesome!

    • The lone player to provide a home run and a stolen base on Thursday was Astros utility guy Tony Kemp, earning a rare start in left field with rookie Kyle Tucker sitting. Tucker will play regularly and he should produce. Kemp, over 133 plate appearances, has more walks than whiffs and I think if he played regularly he could hit .300 with 12 homers and more than 20 steals. I do not see the opportunity coming with the champs, though, but watch the offseason news. Kemp is intriguing.

    Injuries of note:

    • Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers hopes to return from his DL stint as soon as the second half commences, and according to the numbers, his shoulder injury did not seem to be a serious issue. In fact, Devers was hitting far above his season batting average in the past month and with power. This is a future star, folks, so do not get ideas about sending him to free agency because he is missing this weekend. He is 21 and boasts power and a mature approach. Again, do you realize how young he is? Wait for him. Do not wait for Dustin Pedroia; as suspected, he might be done.

    Closing time:

    • While we do not think Nationals closer Sean Doolittle will miss much time on the DL, it was a bit of a surprise to see Kelvin Herrera pitch the eighth inning with a small lead on Thursday, ceding closing duties for Ryan Madson. Sure, Madson got the save, but we were led to believe that was not the hierarchy. Herrera has sputtered of late, permitting runs in three of four appearances, and with four walks in that span. That is not cool. The point should be moot this time next week when Doolittle returns.

    W2W4:

    • The Yankees and Indians continue their series near Lake Erie with some intriguing arms on the schedule, including Shane Bieber (Friday) and Masahiro Tanaka (Sunday). Bieber continues to be a bit unlucky with the many hits allowed, but he has walked precisely one hitter in each outing. His control is impeccable. Tanaka's first outing off a long DL stint came in Baltimore, and he still could not last five innings. I would leave both Bieber and Tanaka on the bench if possible, due to the quality of opponent, but each is a key fantasy option for the second half.

    Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz is universally rostered and should be, but he might see only a few at-bats this weekend at Coors Field because he will not be summoned to handle outfield duty. That makes sense. Cruz is not a young man by baseball standards and nobody wants him to get hurt. Perhaps he can hit a homer among his pinch-hitting chances. The Mariners would not have had Paxton for this series anyway, but it will be interesting to see if lefty Wade LeBlanc and right-hander Mike Leake can give the team reasonable innings. LeBlanc is among the top 20 in MLB ERA, but does not have the innings to qualify for the ERA title. Fantasy managers have been ignoring him. I wonder if that continues if his ERA is still 3.39 in a few weeks.

    • And finally, my favorite part of All-Star weekend is Sunday's Future's Game, which unfortunately gets played during actual MLB games, which seems kind of silly to me. Regardless, as colleague Tommy Rancel so excellently pointed out, many young, interesting players will perform in this game, including Indians catcher Francisco Mejia, Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette and Oakland lefty Jesus Luzardo. Look for a follow-up column from Rancel as well.
     

  6. #56  
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    Is Corey Dickerson for real?

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    While so many around baseball marvel at the powerful season turnaround by St. Louis Cardinalsinfielder Matt Carpenter, the No. 2 option
    on the 7-day Player Raterdeserves some notice as well.

    Pittsburgh Piratesoutfielder Corey Dickersoncertainly was not hitting on the wrong side of .200 eight weeks ago, and has not blasted a ridiculous 18 home runs since the start of June, but Dickerson did homer four times this weekend, knocking in five runs with his eight hits and even stealing his sixth base of the season. It is not on par with Carpenter, but it is significant, as he remains available in nearly 20 percent of ESPN standard leagues


    Dickerson's Pirates have won nine games in a row and that too is significant because this appeared to be a team looking to sell rather than buy, and who knows what the next week of games will bring. Remember, the MLB non-waiver trade deadline occurs on the final day of July and Dickerson could still be joining his fourth team since 2015, potentially opening an outfield spot for prospect Austin Meadows, who seems to deserve one. The Tampa Bay Rays curiously dumped the 29-year-old lefty slugger in February and he landed in Pittsburgh, though it did not seem like a long-term fit. It still does not, really.

    However, fantasy managers should always be interested in streaking players because on occasion these players can maintain performance. Dickerson is, after all, a proven hitter, showing for much of last season he was capable of producing power and batting average outside of Coors Field. Dickerson has had an odd 2018 season statistically, hitting better than .300 in each of the first two months but with middling power and a strikeout rate divided in half from 2017. Dickerson is all about making contact. Then he did not homer at all in June over 80 plate appearances, and fantasy managers moved on. Now he is hitting .391 in July with six home runs and three stolen bases. It should pique the interest of contending teams in real life, too.

    Then again, Dickerson has hit for average and power before, sans the speed. He is not a particularly attractive points league option because he has drawn fewer than a walk per week, but most formats penalize for strikeouts and Dickerson is barely doing that. One could view his recent power surge as being possible due to the generosity of awful Cincinnati Reds pitching. The immediate schedule features three Cleveland Indians right-handers, two of them with elite strikeout stuff (Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer), but then it is the laughable dysfunction of the New York Mets and looming in early August is a road series at Coors Field.

    Perhaps Dickerson is no longer a Pirate by then, but he still seems like a worthy addition to a fantasy roster in case the power keeps on coming. Dickerson's second half of 2017 was hardly impressive when compared to his first half, but we should not view him in that light, either. He is a streaky player, one apparently still working on his new contact-heavy approach and a month or more of relevant power remains feasible.

    As for Carpenter, now rostered in more than 93 percent of ESPN standard leagues, he homered while you were reading this, probably. OK, but he mashed six home runs in the extended weekend series at Wrigley Field, including a three-homer day with two doubles on Friday afternoon. While it is hard to top Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar or Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Max Muncy for fantasy free agent of the year honors, Carpenter was readily available in mid-May. I took a chance in one league, and things have worked out nicely. Always look at your bench and see if a proven player (Gary Sanchez, Carlos Santana, Brian Dozier) is mistakenly available.

    Sunday recap


    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Ryon Healy, 1B/3B, Seattle Mariners: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 6 RBI

    Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: 3-for-5, 2 HR, 2 RBI

    Khris Davis, OF, Oakland Athletics: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI

    Zack Greinke, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 13 K

    Vince Velasquez, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

    Lowlights:

    J.T. Realmuto, C, Miami Marlins: 0-for-5, 4 K

    Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks: 0-for-4, 3 K

    Matt Harvey, SP, Cincinnati Reds: 3 2/3 IP, 8 H, 8 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

    Lance McCullers Jr., SP, Houston Astros: 4 1/3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 3 K

    Kyle Barraclough, RP, Miami Marlins: 2/3 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

    Weekend takeaways:

    6 different Angels players recorded multiple RBI today, the team's most in a single game since August 23, 2003 against the Tigers, tied for their 2nd-most in franchise history. pic.twitter.com/RpDSZGPiZm
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 23, 2018

    • The Los Angeles Angels boast baseball's best player in Mike Trout and other useful parts on offense, but do not overlook the recent work of outfielder and occasional leadoff option Kole Calhoun. As with Carpenter, Rougned Odor and others one might have originally drafted and given up on, Calhoun has been a different player since coming off the DL. He blasted a three-run homer off Chris Devenski Sunday and earlier drew a few walks. He was hitting .145 when he came off the DL in mid-June. Since then he is hitting .278 with nine home runs. He's not Carpenter, but Calhoun is readily available and proven for deeper formats.

    Stephen Strasburg came off the DL Friday night and got whooped by the Braves for six earned runs over 4 2/3 innings. Strasburg really did not pitch better than his final line, as there was hard contact the entire time, but with him it is rarely about the stats; it is also about the next DL stint. The Nationals remain in contention in the NL East, of course, but getting a healthy and productive Strasburg is key. Fantasy managers should trade for him with relative confidence, but if the Brewers hit him hard this week, well, I will wonder.

    Manny Machado fit right in with his new Los Angeles Dodgers teammates and figures to remain in the No. 2 lineup spot. Chris Taylor figures to lead off but third baseman Justin Turner, hitting third on Sunday, is likely headed to another DL stint, this time with a groin injury. Do not expect Machado to move to third base. Max Muncy can handle it. Turner is having a lost season thanks to injuries and I would not target him in a fantasy league. Taylor leading off ahead of Machado should help him, but what is missing are the stolen bases. He is 4-of-9. That is weird. Adding Machado likely does not help that.

    Injuries of note:

    • Ah, the New York Mets are a treasure. Right-hander Noah Syndergaard hit the DL due to the hand, foot and mouth disease, which is normally a problem for children, and for fantasy purposes this does not appear to be a big deal. Syndergaard might miss only one outing. Whether he makes all his outings for the final nine weeks or not is more problematic. Durability is not his thing. Same for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and depending on whom one listens to, he might not play another game this season ... or he hits third on Monday. If I had any shares of Cespedes, who is apparently dealing with a heel issue, I would move them quickly. I fear this will not end well.

    • The original projection on ESPN Fantasy for Cleveland Indians outfielder Bradley Zimmer this season featured 14 home runs, 34 stolen bases and 71 runs scored. It seemed generous, but Zimmer does possess all the tools to be a terrific player. He ended up hitting two home runs and stealing four bases and underwent shoulder surgery over the weekend. He might not be ready for the start of 2019 games, either. Just remember the name as a sleeper pick next spring.

    Closing time:

    • The Oakland Athletics welcomed Jeurys Familia to their, um, familia, and he should pile on the holds and the occasional win, like Sunday, while setting up closer Blake Treinen. The Mets did not get much in return for this trade, and Robert Gsellman should handle the saves from here on out.

    • The Nationals will not be getting closer Sean Doolittle back from the DL this week or this month, as his toe injury is a lot bigger deal than anyone expected. Kelvin Herrera saved Sunday's win and should continue in the role. Doolittle still ranks fourth among all relievers on the season Player Rater, but knowing his injury history and the proliferation of better assets on the DL, feel free to move on and add the likes of Herrera and Gsellman.

    W2W4:


    • The St. Louis Cardinals will debut right-hander Daniel Poncedeleon at Wrigley Field and while it might just be for one outing, he could stick around if he pitches well. Poncedeleon is more than a fancy name; he struck out 103 International League hitters in 92 innings and has recovered nicely from taking a line drive off his head last season. I always pay attention to Cardinals pitching prospects, though Luke Weaver has disappointed. Poncedeleon warrants a look.

    • This could be the final outing in a Texas Rangers uniform for lefty Cole Hamels, the No. 92 starting pitcher on the Player Rater. OK, so that does not impress. Hamels is capable of much more and escaping his home ballpark (5.83 ERA) should help. His road ERA is considerably better (2.93).

    Chase Utley might not matter for fantasy managers anymore, but I will be cheering him in Philadelphia Monday. What a fantastic player Utley was in his prime, a five-category fantasy option. Of course, it is not all about fantasy, you know.


     

  7. #57  
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    Who will get saves when these closers are traded?

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER


    There will be actual, real-life trades over the next seven days prior to the deadline and relief pitchers will be among them. The trick for fantasy managers is to grab the saves likely to result from these trades, and in some cases the player on the move will not be providing them. For example,
    Brad Hand
    and
    Jeurys Familia
    were perfectly reasonable save options a week ago. Today they are not. Here are notable pitchers not currently in a save role but, if they are lucky, that could change in the next week.


    Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles already moved infielder Manny Machado and it could be any minute that lefty Zach Britton joins him as a former member of the club. I am not the least bit convinced Britton will get saves with his new team or even deserves to. He has pitched capably this month but not like the 2016 version. Givens has been the top setup man for Buck Showalter this month because Brad Brach has pitched terribly. I would add Givens first.

    Juan Minaya, Chicago White Sox: Joakim Soria has pitched rather well and one would presume a contender has noticed. With Nate Jones still on the shelf, that leaves Minaya, the closer the final two months of 2017, as the best option. Minaya's overall numbers do not impress, but he has cut down on the walks and earned holds in three of four appearances, albeit short outings. Jeanmar Gomez has experience as well.

    Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers: Shane Greene had a short DL stint earlier in July but all seems well at this point, and Jimenez made the All-Star team as Detroit's lone representative. Greene figures to handle seventh-inning work upon a trade.


    Drew Steckenrider, Miami Marlins: Closer Kyle Barraclough has not helped his case to go to a contender with a 9.39 ERA in July, but when he controls the walks, he is effective. Brad Ziegler remains in this bullpen but, really, the Marlins should move him for whatever they can get. Steckenrider closed some in the minors and seems ready for higher-leverage work.

    Trevor Hildenberger, Minnesota Twins: Ageless Fernando Rodney boasts every last one of the club's 21 saves this season but Hildenberger leads in holds. Rodney is second to Boston's Craig Kimbrel among actives in saves, a mere two behind. It seems unlikely a contender would deal for Rodney as a closer, but one never knows. The Twins do not need him. For full disclosure, right-hander Ryan Pressly is having a better season than Hildenberger, but most of it comes in the sixth and seventh innings. I doubt he leapfrogs Hildenberger on the depth chart.

    Phil Maton, San Diego Padres: The Padres really ought to move current closer Kirby Yates and the veteran setup man Craig Stammen just like they did Hand, perhaps creating opportunity for Maton or Matt Strahm. The Padres get it and they did well in the Hand trade. Maton closed in the minors. Strahm is no longer a starter. Yates and Stammen are pitching well.

    Ryne Stanek, Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays are presumably smart enough to realize that both right-hander Sergio Romo and lefty Jose Alvarado are wise trade chips, and they can find anyone to close -- and start -- games. Romo went from opening games to closing them, so can Stanek. The Blake Snell injury situation should not cloud any potential reliever swaps.

    Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers: Keone Kela has done nothing wrong but, again, bad teams should trade their closers because by the time the team is good again, the reliever probably is not. LeClerc is having a terrific season, with 13 strikeouts per nine innings and nary a home run allowed, despite pitching in a home ballpark permitting tons of home runs.

    Other reliever thoughts

    I did not include Cincinnati Reds closer Raisel Iglesias with the above group because there is little indication the franchise wants to move their 28-year-old right-hander. Jared Hughes is next in line and sharing some of the ninth-inning duties anyway.

    The top reliever on the 30-day Player Rater is Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Felipe Vazquez. He last permitted a run five weeks ago and over his past 16 appearances has issued a walk in one of those games. Clearly whatever was wrong in early June is no longer an issue.

    Oakland has five of the top 17 relief pitchers (eligibility wise, at least) on the 30-day Rater. That seems rare to me. We know Blake Treinen is awesome and Lou Trivino is there because he keeps winning games, which of course probably does not keep occurring. Yusmeiro Petit has also been winning games. Familia is no longer closing. The fifth option is starter Edwin Jackson, with dual eligibility. Strange. Roster Treinen only. Yes, dump Familia.

    I am worried enough about Washington Nationals lefty Sean Doolittle returning to active pitching anytime soon that I would be strongly considering dumping him for his replacement Kelvin Herrera. Doolittle has a stress reaction on his left big toe. He is having a terrific season, but for the fourth consecutive season seems unlikely to top 52 innings.

    Somewhat similarly, I doubt we see Atlanta Braves right-hander Arodys Vizcaino in the next month. A.J. Minter is getting the saves and that should continue. Dan Winkler was a nice story for a while.

    The Toronto Blue Jays could opt to go with Ryan Tepera over Tyler Clippard to save games for the next few weeks, but the Roberto Osuna return happens Aug. 5. He will be the closer right away. Prepare in advance.

    We keep assuming Cody Allen keeps the Cleveland closer role, but if he has another hiccup or two and with lefty Andrew Miller on the mend, I could see Hand taking the ninth innings. The Indians could have two lefties setting up, but, then again, Allen is struggling.
     

  8. #58  
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    Will a trade help Cole Hamels' value?


    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    The Texas Rangers will soon find a new home for experienced left-hander Cole Hamels and fantasy managers will probably shrug as if to say it just does not matter. Well, perhaps it will not. Hamels, after all, has not exactly been thriving of late, with Monday's seven-run whipping at the hands of the Oakland Athletics the latest gesture to do damage to what was, roughly a month earlier, a reasonable ERA and WHIP. Now Hamels boasts a 4.72 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and is down to 65 percent rostered in ESPN standard leagues, and that high a figure tells us name value matters. Perhaps it should in this case.

    While Hamels has not been particularly good anywhere over the past month, it is rather hard to ignore his home/road splits for the season, and the fact is Hamels might not have to pitch at Globe Life Park in lovely Arlington, Texas, again. He might be back in Philadelphia for his next outing, or to the south in Washington, D.C., or perhaps in Milwaukee, Chicago or Los Angeles. The point is Hamels has a 2.93 road ERA this season, and that is tied for 18th among pitchers with 40 or more road innings. He is not Max Scherzer, of course, but Hamels, 34, might still be able to aid a big league team and a fantasy version, so do not be so dismissive.


    For example, Hamels is next on the schedule for Texas to face the loaded Houston Astros in their ballpark on Saturday night. One might think that sounds simply awful in light of recent performances, and a fantasy manager would prefer Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo as the pitcher. (Rizzo pitched on Monday. Of course he did. Every hitter, at some point, is going to pitch, it seems.) Well, Hamels has faced the Astros at Minute Maid Park twice this season: On April 13, he went six innings and permitted two runs. He fanned seven. On May 11, Hamels allowed one hit and nary a run over six innings. He won. Oh, the Astros torched Hamels last month but in Arlington. Apparently, there is a difference.

    Look, most of us look at pitcher home/road splits mainly for the Colorado Rockies hurlers, and that is fine, but it seems worth pointing out that this season at least, the ballpark ceding the most runs according to park factors is ... the one in Arlington, Texas. Altitude-blessed Coors Field in Denver ranks second. Many a home run is blasted out of Arlington's stadium and Hamels is allowing a strong percentage of them -- 16 of them in 10 starts! Wow! -- and that seems relevant to me for this weekend and wherever he lands by next Tuesday, the non-waiver trade deadline. Just think about that when something happens because overall Hamels has struck out a hitter per inning and been stingy with home runs away from home.

    By the way, there are some other interesting pitchers that fantasy managers might not find so interesting on the leaderboard for road ERA. Toronto Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ, like Hamels likely to be on a contender soon, boasts a home ERA more than double his road one. Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez, who is not likely to be elsewhere soon but would, I believe, be a dominant closer if presented opportunity, struggles at home. Citizens Bank Park has been run-neutral this season, but home runs are populous there. Tyler Skaggs, Ross Stripling and Jeremy Hellickson have also pitched better away from home. Not all these splits make sense or tell us much. For Hamels and Happ, however, in the news because they are likely on the move, they do.

    Monday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI

    Giancarlo Stanton, OF, New York Yankees: 4-for-4, 2 RBI, 2 R

    Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland Athletics: 3-for-5, HR, 4 RBI

    Daniel Poncedeleon, SP, St. Louis Cardinals: 7 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

    Patrick Corbin, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K

    Lowlights:

    Willson Contreras, C, Chicago Cubs: 0-for-4, 3 K

    Devin Mesoraco, C, New York Mets: 0-for-4, 3 K

    • Cole Hamels, SP, Texas Rangers: 5 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

    Luis Severino, SP, New York Yankees: 5 IP, 11 H, 6 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

    Gio Gonzalez, SP, Washington Nationals: 5 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 5 K

    Monday takeaways:

    According to @EliasSports, Daniel Poncedeleon is the fifth pitcher to carry a no-hit bid through seven innings in his MLB debut in the Expansion Era (since 1961). pic.twitter.com/ZSDkMDdqCG
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 24, 2018
    • Well, you have heard a few of those names, right? You at least know who Stripling is! Poncedeleon is not the first rookie right-hander to make quite an impression in his debut, and perhaps you had never heard of him before today, but he did post notable minor league numbers. Poncedeleon, who had his skull fractured by a Victor Caratini line drive in the minors last season, has an interesting windup and it might take hitters a while to time it properly, but his stuff should play in the majors as a mid-rotation option. In that sense, he might be like Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Nick Kingham, an unheralded prospect that starred in his 2018 debut, but has been ordinary since, and does not possess a wicked fastball. Poncedeleon needed 116 pitches to navigate seven innings, with deception being his best weapon, and his closer blew the win in the ninth. He could get another start this weekend against the Cubs and next week at home versus the Rockies, but I also do not think he should be the most added pitcher in ESPN leagues, either.

    • As noted earlier, manager Joe Maddon felt it was a good idea Monday to let his first baseman pitch in a game the Cubs were going to lose. This is fine I suppose, but at some point when one of these non-pitchers hurts an arm or takes a line drive off a key body part the practice will likely cease. Perhaps eight-man bullpens simply are not enough. I see the reason why managers are doing this at a pace that has already surpassed all records but again, there is a downside for fantasy managers and it is impossible to predict or prepare for. Rizzo was the No. 20 player selected in ESPN average live drafts. Best I can tell none of the hitters chosen ahead of him have pitched in a big-league game. It is one thing for Ryan Rua to do it, but Anthony Rizzo? Again, one cannot prepare for this. Rizzo is not hurt. And no, you do not want the pitching stats from your hitters, just like you do not want the hitting stats for your pitchers. Things are just getting weird, you know?

    • I cannot say I am particularly concerned about Cleveland Indians right-hander Corey Kluber, who permitted seven runs (three earned) in the rain-shortened loss versus the Pirates, but it does make for 13 runs in his past two outings. Kluber has already permitted 20 home runs, two away from his career worst. A weekend matchup against the Tigers should fix all woes, but if Kluber struggles again, perhaps he is hiding an injury. Hey, they can trade for Cole Hamels!

    Injuries of note:

    Tampa Bay Rays lefty Blake Snell was placed on the DL with shoulder fatigue, which could be a big deal or could be nothing. Snell pitched poorly in his final start before the break, then pitched poorly and too much in the All-Star game. One must presume the Rays -- and those handling the AL All-Star team -- had no clue Snell was hurting. The Rays claim Snell will miss only one outing. Perhaps that is ridiculous, but for now, do not part with Snell. He is a top-10 pitcher for the season. I nearly led today's blog entry with Snell and Rays pitchers but honestly, I did not have much to say. Chris Archer is what he is, and might be on the move. Same with Nathan Eovaldi, who might be finally showing consistency, but I feel like we have said this in the past. I probably overrated Jacob Faria last year.

    • Dodgers manager Dave Roberts convinced newcomer Manny Machado to move to third base, with Justin Turner (as expected) going on the DL yet again, this time for a groin injury. Perhaps this does not matter to anyone, but Machado could get the 20 games at third base this season to qualify for the spot in 2019. You might think you would only ever use him at shortstop and perhaps that is true, but it is always nice to have a choice. Really, I do not think third base is any stronger than shortstop in fantasy anyway. There are currently three more shortstops in the top 50 of hitters on the Player Rater than third basemen. As for Turner in his lost season, he should return in early August, but I am convinced his broken wrist from the spring is still a major problem and he will not hit for power again until 2019. The Dodgers might not play him regularly when he returns from the DL. Chris Taylor goes back to shortstop.

    Closing time:

    • There will be more in Tuesday's Closer Report but Poncedeleon did not beat the Reds because Bud Norris permitted an Eugenio Suarez tying home run and then two singles, a walk and another single to lose the contest. Norris is performing capably this season and could keep the closer role, but I still think Jordan Hicks, regularly hitting triple-digits with his fastball, will be the saver of games in September. I watch Hicks and still cannot understand why he does not get more strikeouts. He gets a ton of ground balls. The whiffs are coming, so are the saves.

    W2W4:

    • The last time we saw Seattle Mariners lefty James Paxton he was giving up home runs and being pulled in the first inning against the Angels with back stiffness. Paxton is supposed to face the Giants on Tuesday and we hope he does, because he has been awesome this season and at times in the past. What he has not been is durable. The window to trade him for a monster haul in fantasy could end tonight if he leaves hurt again.

    Boston Red Sox lefty Drew Pomeranz also comes off the DL for a strong matchup, this time against the Orioles. Pomeranz last pitched in May. His season numbers are scary bad, but he has strikeout upside and run support should not be an issue. Pomeranz is also available in nearly 90 percent of ESPN standard leagues, which seems ridiculous. One could easily make the case for him over Hamels, and I basically recommended Hamels earlier.

    • New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez should remain rostered in all leagues but he did not show well on Monday at the plate, running the bases or defensively. His batting average is .188 -- 90 points worse than last season. Sanchez has to hit at some point, but his failure to run hard to first base in the ninth tells me he is still dealing with a sore groin. Do not be surprised if he is back on the DL any day now.
     

  9. #59  
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    Why Ervin Santana is 'OK' and that's valuable

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INISDER

    I waited as long as I could -- or felt I could -- for
    Minnesota Twins
    right-hander
    Ervin Santana
    in one of my leagues in which I just happen to need starting pitching. After all, it is the final week of July. Some of us have more patience than others do or perhaps in this case simply have more injuries to key fantasy players than most and need the space. I wanted to wait longer for Santana after stealing him in the final round of a draft, because the 35-year-old finished last season -- wait for it -- as fantasy's No. 12 starting pitcher on the Player Rater. Yep,
    Ervin Santana
    thrived and edged out
    Justin Verlander
    ,
    Jacob deGrom
    and myriad others for total value, though the achievement is mainly volume-based. So what?


    Santana, who won 16 games with a 3.28 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and reasonable strikeout total only due to hurling more innings than every other pitcher except for Boston Red Sox lefty Chris Sale, underwent surgery on his right middle finger in February, and we knew he would miss some part of the season. Turns out, he missed 99 games of it, as he is on the schedule -- and schedules do change; see Paxton, James from Tuesday -- to make the Wednesday afternoon start at Toronto. Some of you might not read this blog entry until after Santana debuts. That is OK, because in a way, how Santana performs Wednesday should not reflect on the future value, whether he does well or poorly. All we need to see is health.

    We know what Santana is, and while he certainly is not Verlander or deGrom, he is OK. Sometimes being OK is OK enough for many fantasy managers. When I cut Santana for some fill-in hitter that I simply cannot recall and watched in silent horror as another contending team snatched him up, I thought about the day Santana would finally pitch in another regular-season game and toss seven innings of three-run ball for my most bitter of fantasy foes. Why couldn't I be more patient? he wonders online. Well, I simply wasn't. I will probably be fine. In addition, I do recall when I cut Santana, roughly a month ago, being scared by his struggles on his rehab assignment. The final rehab ERA of 3.72 across three levels of the minors tells only part of the story, as he could not regain typical velocity. Does the story really matter anymore?

    Santana used to be an interesting fantasy hurler with the Los Angeles Angels, though he would suffer from odd year-to-year inconsistency that drove his dynasty managers batty. They would tire of the act, and the next year Santana would thrive again. Who else could win 16 games with other useful stats but post an ERA on the wrong side of 5 twice in that five-year span? Santana moved on to Kansas City and Atlanta and did fine. He was useful, not a top-20 guy, but OK. Useful describes Santana with the Twins, though in 2017 he was clearly more than that.

    I suspect Santana will be useful -- not a top-20 option -- for roughly eight to 12 starts the rest of this season, but since he is available in more than 75 percent of ESPN standard leagues, that presents opportunity. Santana is definitely out there. Do you need a useful starting pitcher? Can you cut someone sans the pending guilt? Add him to your bench and ... be patient. I am looking to see what Santana's fastball velocity is because we presume he is healthy, and this is someone who tends to start every five days, and he derives value from that, along with reasonable run prevention. Sure, we could stream all week and get Santana stats from others, but this is easier, if not a bit mundane. Sometimes mundane is, well, OK.

    Tuesday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    J.D. Martinez, OF, Boston Red Sox: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI

    Yasmani Grandal, C, Los Angeles Dodgers: 3-for-7, 2 HR, 2 RBI

    Jed Lowrie, 2B, Oakland Athletics: 3-for-5, HR, 3 RBI

    Masahiro Tanaka, SP, New York Yankees: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K

    Jose Berrios, SP, Minnesota Twins: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K

    Lowlights:

    Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants: 0-for-5, 4 K

    Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies: 0-for-7, 4 K

    Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves: 4 1/3 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

    Shane Bieber, SP, Cleveland Indians: 1 2/3 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 2 KWade Davis, RP, Colorado Rockies: 1 1/3 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

    Tuesday takeaways:

    The @Cardinals are the 1st team to have rookie starters not allow a hit over the 1st 6 innings in consecutive games since the 1964 Kansas City Athletics, via @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/DoRxPSyZel
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 25, 2018

    • On Monday, the Cardinals enjoyed the big league debut of quirky right-hander Daniel Poncedeleon, who held the Reds hitless over seven innings and then was gone, replaced by a reliever, doomed for a no-decision, and then before anyone in the fantasy world could even add him to their teams, he was unceremoniously demoted back to Triple-A Memphis. On Tuesday, lefty Austin Gomber was summoned to replace him and naturally he too brought a no-hitter into the seventh inning, though after an oddly-timed fire alarm that soon ended. Gomber served up a Eugenio Suarez home run and earned a no-decision. By the way, the Reds hit. Three-quarters of their infield were All-Stars. Why do young Cardinals keep dominating them? Regardless, Gomber should interest fantasy managers even less than Poncedeleon, but it is unlikely that either gets much opportunity to start in the majors in 2018. Fantasy managers can look elsewhere.

    • It is rare that any starting pitcher is permitted to go the distance, but Tanaka did it, needing 105 pitches to flummox the Rays in what was actually a save situation through eight innings. I was curious about whether Aroldis Chapman, who in his most recent outing almost literally could not throw a strike against the Mets (three walks, one HBP) would get the call to save it. Tanaka saved his own win. This hardly means the next outing, on the schedule for Sunday against the terrible Royals, will be just as awesome. Tanaka, however, has pitched well since coming off the DL and the usual message for him remains the same: This is a borderline top-20 fantasy starter, a strikeout guy who has to limit the home runs. He has still not topped 14 wins in a season but could this year with the massive offensive and relief support, and we came back to one overriding theme: The elbow remains untouched surgically, and as with most of us, could pop any day. His more than most.

    • I am now beginning to worry that Indians rookie Shane Bieber, while possessing the stuff and control to be an excellent pitcher, is simply too hittable. He was way too hittable for the Pirates on Tuesday. I might bench him in a league or two so he can prove me wrong.

    • Congrats to Texas Rangers rookie Willie Calhoun for his first big league homer of the season, second in his career. We thought Calhoun would make the Rangers out of March and hit 25 of these in 2018. He will not, of course, unless he goes wild the final nine weeks. Calhoun did not hit for much power at Triple-A, but he also did not strike out much. He will make contact. I think he hits those 25 blasts next season and perhaps double-digits this year, so reinvest in keeper formats.

    • I am not the least bit worried about the baserunning exploits of either injured Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez or speedy Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner. Yes, Turner failed to run out a bunt on Monday. He was benched Tuesday until pinch running in the 10th inning and promptly got picked off. Turner could still lead the majors in steals. He is not a bust. He might bat sixth more often than not, but he is someone to trade for in fantasy. As for Sanchez, give him three weeks to get healthy and then he has a big final six weeks.

    Injuries of note:

    • I am now getting re-worried about Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, for he has missed two of four starts with more shoulder soreness, and another DL stint seems plausible. Bryant is not the same hitter we drafted, that is for sure, and yes, if someone makes you a trade offer in a redraft league for him, treating him like a top-25 option, I do it. This is not like Jonathan Schoop resurrecting his season. Bryant is clearly not healthy.

    James Paxton is also clearly not healthy, as he was supposed to come off the DL and dominate the Giants on Tuesday, but his back stiffened up and now those who activated him in weekly leagues are going to get no stats for the week. Paxton will try again for Monday versus Houston. Good luck. I would try to trade him as well. You cannot trade everyone, but this is a value game and Paxton has a history of getting hurt.

    Closing time:

    • The Yankees and Orioles completed a trade for lefty Zach Britton, with a prospect return that beats what the Mets got for Jeurys Familia, but still, it is not great. No fantasy superstars lurking here. The Yankees will dump Britton into seventh-inning work. He will not earn saves. Orioles manager Buck Showalter again went curiously with struggling right-hander Brad Brach for the save, even though he has been terrible. Perhaps the team is showcasing him. Regardless, Mychal Givens remains a possibility for saves whether Brach sticks around or not.

    • We cannot complain about our closers rarely being relied upon to pitch a second inning and then whine about Colorado's Wade Davis getting tuned up in the 10th inning on Tuesday. It happens. As long as Davis is not hurt, he gets saves. Nobody thought he would post a sub-2.00 ERA at Coors Field anyway.

    W2W4:

    • Much of Wednesday's action takes place, weather permitting, during the day, so get those lineups in. I will be watching, among other things in the Dodgers-Phillies tilt (thank you for everything, Chase), to see how rookie right-hander Walker Buehler performs. He has not started in the majors in 12 days. This could be an ace in a year or two.


    • Arizona's Robbie Ray is not someone to be sent to fantasy free agency, but we have to be concerned this is going to be a lost season. He fanned only two Rockies in his most recent outing. His season ERA is 5.37, his WHIP 1.51. Oh, Ray is missing bats most of the time, and the Cubs might be sans Bryant and Javier Baez Wednesday, but still, he needs to perform better.

    • I cannot get the least bit interested in Chicago White Sox right-hander James Shields, even when he does pitch well. Can he overcome the Fighting Trouts and Ohtanis on Wednesday? Shields has kind of been all or nothing over the past month, and that is scary. That is not what Anibal Sanchez has done for Atlanta. But watch it anyway.

     

  10. #60  
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    What another injury means for Stephen Strasburg's fantasy value

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    It has always been a bit of a buyer-beware situation with Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg in that an actual full season of starts was not among the likely possibilities. Excellent numbers for the starts he makes, however, were. Strasburg is back on the disabled list with what the team calls a pinched nerve in his neck, and the pitcher might be pinching the proverbial last nerve of fantasy managers, too. After all, this latest (and new) malady might reflect more connected issues with Strasburg's recent shoulder woes and is a terrible sign for the final two months of this season. We cannot give reliable information as to when start No. 15 of this season will occur because I doubt even the Nationals know.

    What a shame, because the Nationals still, in the final week of July, have more losses than wins and the main cause of their third-place situation is not Bryce Harper or Daniel Murphy or the rookie manager or an injured closer. It is not all Strasburg, of course, but the Nationals' rotation is saddled with a 4.04 ERA for the season, and sans ace Max Scherzer that figure is 4.56. That is bad. It is nice that right-hander Tanner Roark spun his best game of the season to top sputtering Milwaukee on Wednesday but replacing Strasburg with journeyman lefty Tommy Milone is a major step backward for a team expected to win the NL East going away. Now the Nationals might simply be going away.


    Fantasy managers can do a lot better than Milone and there will be more about free agent pickups in Thursday's weekly column on the topic, but let us focus in on Strasburg: I have actually been defending him over the years because from 2012 to 2017 he averaged 28 starts per season. It is not what Scherzer does, but that is not terrible, either, especially when it comes with elite strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. I blogged about Minnesota Twins right-hander Ervin Santana on Wednesday and how his numbers are propped by volume. Strasburg is not truly the opposite, because we can live with an average of 168 innings per season, but when he pitches, he tends to perform at a high level.

    I am no Stephania Bell, but I know that shoulder problems can actually be worse than elbow ones for severity and for clarity. Brewers lefty Brent Suter tore his UCL over the weekend and there was clarity. He is done for a calendar year. With a pitching shoulder, one never really knows, and yes I am presuming that Strasburg's shoulder, while technically not the impetus for this DL stint, remains a concern. Strasburg will not pitch the rest of the month and perhaps a lot more. If the Nationals know, they are not telling, but fantasy managers can decide how they feel about things.

    It would be silly to declare unilaterally that we have had enough of this. Strasburg was the No. 24 selection in ESPN average live drafts, fifth among starters. He was the first starting pitcher chosen after the top tier, before everyone realized Yankees right-hander Luis Severino, Astros right-handers Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola and Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer offered the same stats sans injury concerns. Whatever. You have to keep Strasburg rostered. You also have to offer skepticism that he makes more than a handful of starts the rest of the season, and reconsider his place among the top-10 starters for 2019.

    After all, this season was the first time Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw started to get docked in the rankings for all his missed outings, which by the way have continued. Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard also deserves similar treatment. These fellows rarely disappoint when they take the mound, but they simply do not take the mound enough, and in each of the three cases, the momentum is trending in the wrong direction. These were half of the top six starters in ADP, and none has made 15 starts and none is likely to become suddenly durable next year. I rarely invest in pitchers like these, opting for sluggers early and often, and adding pitchers later. OK, so perhaps I will not win the strikeouts category, but I also can sift through the free agent pitchers with a different mindset, that I constantly need to replace injured options.
    Wednesday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI

    Khris Davis, OF, Oakland Athletics: 2-for-5, 2 HR, 5 RBI

    Mitch Garver, C, Minnesota Twins: 4-for-6, HR, 5 RBI

    • Tanner Roark, SP, Washington Nationals: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K

    • Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 K

    Lowlights:

    Harrison Bader, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: 0-for-4, 4 K

    Eric Thames, 1B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers: 0-for-4, 4 K


    Danny Duffy, SP, Kansas City Royals: 5 2/3 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

    Walker Buehler, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: 4 2/3 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

    Freddy Peralta, SP, Milwaukee Brewers: 6 IP, 4 H, 7 ER, 4 BB, 7 K

    Wednesday takeaways:


    • The Angels toyed with White Sox right-hander James Shields and reliever Chris Volstad for four home runs and 11 runs overall, so perhaps we should not get too excited, but a few things remain interesting here. For one, Pujols stole his first base of the season, giving him a rare "combo meal" from Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast fame (homer and steal in the same game). Pujols is not suddenly fast or even 100 percent healthy, but he and infielder Luis Valbuena, also not a speedster, exacted a double steal in the fourth inning. Pujols is not likely to steal bases on his own. In fact, a few minutes later the White Sox doubled him off third base on a Jose Briceno line drive to shortstop. Still, Pujols slugged his homer 430 feet. He ranks 20th among first basemen on the Player Rater, ahead of Mitch Moreland, Justin Smoak, Joey Gallo and Eric Hosmer, among others. Even in standard leagues, the case is feasible to add him. As for Ohtani, hitting second in this game, he also struck out three times. He is the No. 47 overall option on the Player Rater, but it is misleading; he got to pitch. He might not get to pitch again this year. I would take his homers this week against poor Chicago pitching as a chance to sell high.


    • The Tampa Bay Rays sold high on a pair of right-handers, sending Nathan Eovaldi and Matt Andriese to the Red Sox and Diamondbacks, respectively. Eovaldi is the one fantasy managers want, as he boasts a top-5 WHIP since his season debut 10 outings ago (0.98) along with nearly a strikeout per inning. The Red Sox score many runs, so if Eovaldi pitches well, he should win games. Eovaldi, slated to debut for his new team this weekend against the Twins, remains available in more than 60 percent of standard leagues. That seems low to me, although health is generally an issue. Let us be positive! As for Andriese, even those in NL-only formats need not pay much attention, as there does not appear to be an open rotation spot.

    • Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler pitch

    ed fairly well in Philadelphia, allowing a legit Rhys Hoskins home run through four innings and little else. Then things fell apart, as he found the struggling bat of Scott Kingery for an odd opposite-field home run, put a few men on base and someone else allowed three of them to score. Buehler should remain in the rotation and of all the rookie pitchers this is the one with ace potential.

    • As somewhat predicted, Ervin Santana allowed three runs in his long-awaited season debut but did not get to the sixth inning. He went five innings. Santana also was barely cracking 90 mph with his fastball, which is a big problem and a continuation of struggles on his rehab assignment. Santana averaged 89.3 mph, according to Fangraphs, with his fastball on Wednesday. Last season, he averaged 92.9 mph. Not to go against my comments in Wednesday's blog, but I predict problems in the ERA and WHIP departments if Santana does not find the lost velocity, unless he has a different plan to return to reasonable top-40 starter status for fantasy managers.

    Injuries of note:

    San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt hyperextended a knee beating out an infield single but tests show no structural damage. The team thinks he might miss just a few days. Of course, they probably said that last season when Belt ended up missing the final two months with a concussion. This is different, but do not be so sure a DL stint is not pending. Belt has not produced at the plate over the past month and with this news, if guys like Pujols, C.J. Cron and Kendrys Morales available in your league, I would opt for any of them.

    Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jesse Winker is going to be a relevant fantasy option in time for his plate discipline and approach will translate to a strong batting average and at least 20 home runs. For now, however, a DL stint due to shoulder soreness is a likely outcome for a team going nowhere. Winker is going to be among my sleepers for 2019. I am already calling it.

    Closing time:

    Brad Hand saved the Bauer win by recording four outs against the Pirates, but then again, the lead went from 2-0 to 4-0 while he was in there so Cody Allen was not needed for the "save." OK, really, are managers still managing to the utterly ridiculous save rule? Even really good managers like Terry Francona? How silly. Many people think Hand is the closer now and I suppose he might be, but I think it is unequivocally Allen. I think if that game was 2-0 then Allen was getting summoned. Perhaps Allen would have blown the lead. The point is, add Hand if you like because yes, he might be the closer. But I do not think anything changed. If that lead was 2-0 or 3-0, it was Allen's save.

    • The Mets actually won a game and Robert Gsellman did not save it. Anthony Swarzak did. Gsellman pitched in the seventh inning, while Swarzak handled the final two frames. OK, so nothing makes sense there, but I do think presuming Gsellman gets all the saves was obviously wrong. I would still roster him over Swarzak but I do not see another 10 Mets saves for the final nine weeks, so perhaps avoiding this bullpen is the most proper course of action.

    W2W4:

    • The Pirates are lucky enough to host the Mets but will outfielder Starling Marte be among the starters? Marte left Wednesday's contest after a hit by a pitch on the hand and the team has made no statement on availability. We always want our players active, unless they are going to hurt us statistically. Brandon Nimmo was great until his plunking on the hand and now he is worth ignoring. Marte is a top-10 outfielder. We want him playing.

    ed fairly well in Philadelphia, allowing a legit Rhys Hoskins home run through four innings and little else. Then things fell apart, as he found the struggling bat of Scott Kingery for an odd opposite-field home run, put a few men on base and someone else allowed three of them to score. Buehler should remain in the rotation and of all the rookie pitchers this is the one with ace potential.

    • As somewhat predicted, Ervin Santana allowed three runs in his long-awaited season debut but did not get to the sixth inning. He went five innings. Santana also was barely cracking 90 mph with his fastball, which is a big problem and a continuation of struggles on his rehab assignment. Santana averaged 89.3 mph, according to Fangraphs, with his fastball on Wednesday. Last season, he averaged 92.9 mph. Not to go against my comments in Wednesday's blog, but I predict problems in the ERA and WHIP departments if Santana does not find the lost velocity, unless he has a different plan to return to reasonable top-40 starter status for fantasy managers.

    Injuries of note:

    San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt hyperextended a knee beating out an infield single but tests show no structural damage. The team thinks he might miss just a few days. Of course, they probably said that last season when Belt ended up missing the final two months with a concussion. This is different, but do not be so sure a DL stint is not pending. Belt has not produced at the plate over the past month and with this news, if guys like Pujols, C.J. Cron and Kendrys Morales available in your league, I would opt for any of them.

    Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jesse Winker is going to be a relevant fantasy option in time for his plate discipline and approach will translate to a strong batting average and at least 20 home runs. For now, however, a DL stint due to shoulder soreness is a likely outcome for a team going nowhere. Winker is going to be among my sleepers for 2019. I am already calling it.

    Closing time:

    Brad Hand saved the Bauer win by recording four outs against the Pirates, but then again, the lead went from 2-0 to 4-0 while he was in there so Cody Allen was not needed for the "save." OK, really, are managers still managing to the utterly ridiculous save rule? Even really good managers like Terry Francona? How silly. Many people think Hand is the closer now and I suppose he might be, but I think it is unequivocally Allen. I think if that game was 2-0 then Allen was getting summoned. Perhaps Allen would have blown the lead. The point is, add Hand if you like because yes, he might be the closer. But I do not think anything changed. If that lead was 2-0 or 3-0, it was Allen's save.

    • The Mets actually won a game and Robert Gsellman did not save it. Anthony Swarzak did. Gsellman pitched in the seventh inning, while Swarzak handled the final two frames. OK, so nothing makes sense there, but I do think presuming Gsellman gets all the saves was obviously wrong. I would still roster him over Swarzak but I do not see another 10 Mets saves for the final nine weeks, so perhaps avoiding this bullpen is the most proper course of action.

    W2W4:

    • The Pirates are lucky enough to host the Mets but will outfielder Starling Marte be among the starters? Marte left Wednesday's contest after a hit by a pitch on the hand and the team has made no statement on availability. We always want our players active, unless they are going to hurt us statistically. Brandon Nimmo was great until his plunking on the hand and now he is worth ignoring. Marte is a top-10 outfielder. We want him playing.

    • The Cubs will not have the services of
    Kris Bryant
    for at least another week as he is back on the DL, so we will check out the team's lineup for the weekend series at St. Louis. On Thursday, the opponent is Arizona's
    Zack Godley
    , one of the extreme walkers in the game. He is not
    Tyler Chatwood
    , whom he faces Thursday, but get ready to watch pitchers that have no idea where the baseball heads. We hope no baseballs hit anyone's head. At this point neither Godley nor Chatwood should be anywhere near your active lineups. Look for call-up David Bote to be an intriguing contributor in place of Bryant for deeper formats.




     

  11. #61  
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    Top fantasy baseball free agents by position

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    Whether one is winning their fantasy league or struggling to compete, there are always undervalued free-agent options available with the potential to aid teams. That is the purpose of this weekly column, to pinpoint those options. So here we go, and remember players rostered in more than half of ESPN's standard leagues are not eligible for inclusion on this list!

    Catcher:

    Robinson Chirinos, Texas Rangers (12 percent rostered): This hitter of 17 home runs a season ago has blasted a pair in the past week, and that is enough to pique our interest. Chirinos has also been steadily raising his batting average, which was .250 in June. We will take that. With Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez out until perhaps September, Chirinos is a reasonable replacement.

    Jorge Alfaro, Philadelphia Phillies (5.5 percent): The former Rangers prospect acquired in the Cole Hamels trade is a lot like Chirinos, a right-handed slugger with no sense of plate discipline. However, Alfaro can hit baseballs far and perhaps hit .250 the rest of the way as well.

    Others: Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins; Austin Romine, New York Yankees; Elias Diaz, Pittsburgh Pirates; Caleb Joseph, Baltimore Orioles; Omar Narvaez, Chicago White Sox

    Corner infield:

    Jake Bauers, Tampa Bay Rays (29.9 percent): The plate discipline has waned in recent weeks, but Bauers has hardly been overwhelmed in his rookie season and the power and batting average are coming. Bauers has even chipped in with a few stolen bases. This should be a top-20 first baseman the rest of the way. His readily available teammate C.J. Cron also keeps hitting for power as well and comes recommended.

    Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics (39.5 percent): A legit power hitter and excellent defender, Chapman came off the DL earlier this month and has hit for average, sans much power. That will change. Chapman is a 30-homer guy with a full season of playing time. Now he is healthy. Just do not expect more than a .250 batting average.

    Evan Longoria, San Francisco Giants (27.8 percent): Longoria was not having such an awesome season when his hand was fractured by a pitched ball six weeks ago, and I would argue such an injury puts a damper on expectations the final two months. Still, he is Evan Longoria. As average as he has become, there is a useful level of production. Same with the Washington Nationals getting Ryan Zimmerman back. I would prefer others, but there could be value here.

    Others: Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies; C.J. Cron, Tampa Bay Rays; Ryon Healy, Seattle Mariners; Yonder Alonso, Cleveland Indians; Justin Bour, Miami Marlins; Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

    Middle infield:Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners (39 percent): The suspension will end soon, but the Mariners are not promising this long-time producer at-bats at second base. He might move to first base. Still, Cano should hit for average and at least modest power upon his return. Just do not expect all-star numbers.

    Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs (47.9 percent): The second-year player strikes out way too much and has not hit left-handed pitching, but the playing time is there and he can contribute for power and stolen bases. Happ boasts a similar OPS to his rookie year, but with less power. That could change.

    Amed Rosario, New York Mets (5.9 percent): It boggles the mind how this team makes decisions on whom to not only employ, but start on a regular basis. Rosario has been playing lately and has stolen four bases in two weeks. Since so few players steal bases at that rate, that makes him interesting, assuming he gets to play.

    Others: Ian Kinsler, Los Angeles Angels; Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics; Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins; Johan Camargo, Atlanta Braves; Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs

    Outfield:

    Willie Calhoun, Texas Rangers (11.3 percent): The rookie finally got promoted back to the majors after last year's brief stint and he appears to be getting regular chances to play. Calhoun did not provide great power this season at Triple-A, but he made a lot of contact. That is good, because we know the power is there. Take a chance.

    Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels (15.8 percent): Forget the season numbers. The unrelated Calhoun has hit four home runs and, as the occasional leadoff option against right-handers, scored 12 runs in two weeks. The old Calhoun is apparently back.

    Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs (42.9 percent): Laugh if you must, but the team's No. 3 hitter is batting better than .300 for the past month and knocking in runs. The power has not been there, but with injuries and player slumps the Cubs moved Heyward up in the order, and he has been OK.

    Cameron Maybin, Miami Marlins (6 percent): His has been a disappointing season, but Maybin has managed to steal five bases in two weeks and the Marlins do not boast better options. Perhaps Maybin cannot stay healthy, but if you roster Billy Hamilton, Maybin is actually a better short-term option.

    Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins (34.1 percent): A breakout candidate that has yet to take that next step, this recommendation is not based on recent stats. Kepler has a few home runs this week, but the last time he registered more than one hit in a contest was more than two weeks ago. I think that will be changing soon.

    Others: Mallex Smith, Tampa Bay Rays; Alex Verdugo and Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers; Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox; Manuel Margot, San Diego Padres

    Starting pitcher:

    Nathan Eovaldi, Boston Red Sox (36.8 percent): A rough outing a few weeks ago led fantasy managers to move on, but a trade to Boston should excite people again. Eovaldi has made 10 starts and he still boasts a sub-1.00 WHIP. He strikes hitters out. He should get run support. There is much to like here.

    Mike Fiers, Detroit Tigers (17 percent): He has made five consecutive quality starts and even won a pair of them, and we know Fiers can miss bats. The season numbers are fine and the possibility remains that Fiers too ends up traded to a contender.

    Vince Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies (13.9 percent): A strikeout option that has posted a 2.35 ERA since the 10-run barrage handed to him by the Brewers earlier this month, Velasquez is limiting the home runs and the walks. We cannot ask for much more than that.

    Carlos Rodon, Chicago White Sox (22.9 percent): The lefty has won consecutive starts and shined in them, beating the Cardinals and Angels with 15 innings of work, allowing five hits and fanning 15. Rodon might always be a walker, but now he is going deep into games. It is a great sign. His right-handed teammate Lucas Giolito also seems to have turned a corner of late.

    Wade LeBlanc, Seattle Mariners (32.6 percent): The reasons to avoid this soft-tossing lefty are obvious, but it is the final week of July and still LeBlanc has pitched well, save for road outings at Colorado and Boston. LeBlanc struck out 10 White Sox in his most recent outing. That is not his game, but with a 4.16 FIP, he is not awful, either.

    Others: Ervin Santana and Jake Odorizzi, Minnesota Twins; Nick Kingham, Pittsburgh Pirates; Jhoulys Chacin, Milwaukee Brewers; Anibal Sanchez, Atlanta Braves; Dereck Rodriguez, San Francisco Giants; Drew Pomeranz, Boston Red Sox

    Relief pitcher:

    Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays (32 percent): Saver of 75 games from 2016-17, Osuna is eligible to return from suspension on Aug. 5, and the Blue Jays claim he will go right back to closing games.

    Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs (6.9 percent): Brandon Morrow was supposed to come off the disabled list this weekend, but the Cubs say that is not going to happen, which means Strop remains the leader for saves for a first-place club. OK, so the saves might stop next week, or perhaps Morrow, rarely the bastion of health, needs more time for his biceps injury.

    Sergio Romo, Tampa Bay Rays (38 percent): The veteran just keeps on earning saves for a spunky team that rarely wins its games by more than three runs. He could be in a trade as well, but worry about that if it occurs.


    Others: Robert Gsellman, New York Mets; A.J. Minter, Atlanta Braves; Adam Ottavino, Colorado Rockies; Shane Greene and Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers; Wily Peralta, Kansas City Royals
     

  12. #62  
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    Despite no-hit bid, not much has changed this season for Sean Newcomb

    Eric Karabellf
    ESPN INSIDER

    Curiously, one will not find much about being one out from a no-hitter in the standard headlines, but on the field, Atlanta Braves left-hander Sean Newcomb nearly made history on Sunday afternoon. Newcomb, rostered in roughly 80 percent of ESPN standard leagues, simply needed to retire Los Angeles Dodgers utility option Chris Taylor to complete the gem, but alas, two pitches after a third strike was not called on a pitch that seemed to deserve it, Taylor swatted a single into left field. It falls just short of history, but Newcomb certainly became noticed.

    Let us deal with Newcomb the fantasy option here because he can be a bit hard to trust. That does not mean we should ignore him and his relevant statistics, for Newcomb's body of work this season has been impressive -- a mere 25 pitchers rank better on the Player Rater. What holds Newcomb and so many pitchers back is the lack of control. Sunday might seem like a breakthrough, as he issued only one walk, but I remain skeptical. Newcomb had walked four or more in three of his previous four outings. He still boasts a 1.20 WHIP on the season, but it seems like a mirage thanks to the .241 BABIP.



    As unlucky as Jon Gray, Nick Pivetta and so many others have been with their batted balls in play, Newcomb is on the other end. Only Julio Teheran, Sean Manaea (who did throw a no-hitter this season) and Chase Anderson have recorded a lower BABIP among qualified hurlers this season. That does not mean that Newcomb is about to see major correction and that his ERA will jump a run. After all, his next outing is on the schedule to be against the New York Mets. The worry is Newcomb essentially boasts the same profile from last season, when he went 4-9 with a 4.32 ERA and 1.57 WHIP over 19 starts.


    In fact, little has changed. Newcomb has cut into his walk rate a bit, but his strikeout rate has dipped along with it. Home runs were not an issue last season and still are not. Fastball velocity is down a bit, but hwas not a particularly hard thrower to start with. The repertoire has traded curveballs for changeups, which might explain his surprising success against right-handed batters. Other than being fortunate with BABIP, find something that has changed. Sunday's outing also shined a light on the pitcher for his on-field work, and it worries me because his 4.06 FIP and 4.32 xFIP seem to match his skill more than his 3.23 ERA. Last year's FIP was 4.19, while the xFIP was 4.52.


    Regardless, nobody should be dumping a young lefty. He actually reminds me quite a bit of the Oakland Athletics no-hitter-hurler Manaea, another fellow vastly outperforming his peripherals. Manaea's K rate has flattened, and he has been fortunate to keep his ERA in the low-to-mid-3 range for so long. It can continue, but often does not.


    Newcomb also threw 134 pitches on Sunday, and that is a scary red flag for immediate future performance. Ultimately, my view on Newcomb the pitcher has not changed since entering the weekend: Sunday's outing and his season ERA tell us this might be a top-50 starting pitcher, but not necessarily. If the trade offer is right, you know what to do.

    Sunday recap

    Box scores


    Highlights:


    Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles: 2-for-3, 2 HR, 4 RBI


    C.J. Cron, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI


    Nick Markakis, OF, Atlanta Braves: 3-for-4, HR, 3 RBI


    • Sean Newcomb, SP, Atlanta Braves: 8 2/3 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K


    Luis Castillo, SP, Cincinnati Reds: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K


    Lowlights:


    Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers: 0-for-4, 4 K


    Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox: 0-for-4, 3 K


    Joey Lucchesi, SP, San Diego Padres: 4 1/3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K


    Junior Guerra, SP, Milwaukee Brewers: 4 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K


    Jordan Zimmermann, SP. Detroit Tigers: 3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K


    Weekend takeaways:


    Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is the 7th player to debut since 1900, and first since Tony Pérez in 1973, with multiple hits in at least 11 straight games.
    Five of the previous six to do so are Hall-of-Famers, with the exception of Shoeless Joe Jackson.
    h/t @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/zn7Jws5UoU
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 29, 2018

    • While older brother Yuli keeps hitting for average for the Houston Astros and might qualify at second base soon, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. signed his contract with the Toronto Blue Jays before the 2017 season and had not shown much at the plate across several minor league levels. In fact, Gurriel's batting average over 110 minor league games and 452 plate appearances is a pedestrian .260, with a .294 on-base percentage and .395 slugging percentage. He stole seven bases. Fantasy managers had reason to ignore him, but he is hitting .423 this month with four home runs. I am skeptical this is a .300 hitter or someone worthy of attention in standard mixed leagues, but he is the most added player thanks to this streak of hitting. Enjoy it while it lasts, but it might be a few days before it resumes because Gurriel hurt his left knee and ankle late in Sunday's contest.


    Boston Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and New York Yankees lefty J.A. Happ made their respective debuts for their new teams, each remaining in the AL East and each shutting down weaker AL Central offenses. Eovaldi toyed with the Minnesota Twins over seven shutout frames, issuing nary a walk and needing only 82 pitches. Yeah, he continues to look legit. Happ allowed three hits and a run over six innings against the Kansas City Royals. I am running out of reasons to remain skeptical about Eovaldi this season. His WHIP is 0.94. He is healthy. He pitches for a good team. I think I would take Eovaldi over Newcomb.


    • As seen on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo homered for the 15th time and has thrived in the leadoff role, batting .400 over 16 games and 72 plate appearances with four home runs. Now, is Rizzo succeeding because he is a great player who has proven this over several years, or because his manager somehow believes he needed to be the leadoff hitter to unlock the proven skills? Does it matter? Rizzo and Kris Bryant are not doing what we expected, but it is not too late. Rizzo is healthy and seems to have the best chance. Enjoy this.


    Injuries of note:
    • Each of the starting middle infielders for the Astros is now on the DL, as Jose Altuve joined Carlos Correa. Altuve's knee injury does not appear to be a major problem, as it looks like the team is taking advantage of depth and giving its second baseman a break, since October baseball seems likely. Fantasy managers should be more concerned about Correa and his nebulous timetable to play again. Gurriel played second base on Sunday, and that could continue, although he has not hit much of late.


    • Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers is back on the DL roughly a week after coming off it for a different injury. It was the shoulder then, a hamstring now. This could be a bit like the Altuve situation, as the Red Sox have depth and want to give a hurting player a break. Eduardo Nunez can handle the at-bats. Could Blake Swihart? We talk about the catcher-eligible more than we should, but if he gets a chance and hits, that is valuable.


    Closing time:


    • Closers continue to be on the move, and more is to come by Tuesday's trade deadline. The only way Baltimore manager Buck Showalter could be persuaded to stop using undeserving right-hander Brad Brach in the role was for him to be traded. He's on the Braves now, and he could figure into saves there with Arodys Vizcaino on the DL. Brach has to pitch better, though. The Orioles should go with Mychal Givens, but then again, he could be traded, too. Keep an eye on so many teams potentially dealing their closers by Tuesday, with Bud Norris, Shane Greene, Keone Kela and Kirby Yates jumping to mind.



    W2W4:

    • It is young versus old on ESPN+ as Cleveland Indians pitcher Shane Bieber faces Minnesota's Ervin Santana, and neither one of them is throwing particularly hard. Bieber has been very hittable in July, and that is a big concern. The rookie has impressive control but seems to be throwing too many strikes. This outing is important for his fantasy value. Santana's season debut went fairly well, I suppose, but he was not hitting 90 mph with his fastball. That is a concern, as well. I would rather take a chance on Bieber at this point.

    • Kind of a big series in Seattle, as the Astros have not played well of late and have to face lefty James Paxton, at least in theory. Paxton was supposed to come off the DL and pitch last week, but his stiff back did not allow it. Prior to his abbreviated outing in which news of the injury was released, Paxton fanned 30 hitters in three appearances. The Mariners and fantasy managers need him. Do you feel lucky?




     

  13. #63  
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    How much does Ian Kinsler's value increase in Boston?

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    The Boston Red Sox picked up veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler in a trade from the Los Angeles Angels
    late Monday night, and this should definitively signal to those still investing in Dustin Pedroia
    that they can move on for this season. It is also interesting for Kinsler. No, he is not likely to get anywhere near the top of the stacked Boston lineup, but Kinsler has rebounded nicely from a rough, injury-plagued start to this season.



    The Boston Red Sox picked up veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler in a trade from the Los Angeles Angels late Monday night, and this should definitively signal to those still investing in Dustin Pedroia that they can move on for this season. It is also interesting for Kinsler. No, he is not likely to get anywhere near the top of the stacked Boston lineup, but Kinsler has rebounded nicely from a rough, injury-plagued start to this season.

    Kinsler smacked eight home runs in June and he has hit .320 in July with a few homers, a few stolen bases and 15 runs scored. OK, so he is no longer a top-10 second baseman, but at 36 years old, few expected such production. Kinsler was the 16th second baseman selected in ESPN average live drafts, overall in the 19th round, and he is currently one of the most added hitters in ESPN standard leagues, but still available in roughly half of them.

    Fantasy managers want their hitters hitting at the top of a lineup, so they bat more often and get more chances for the counting numbers, and they also prefer their players to be considerably younger, but I really like this move for Kinsler. While his career numbers at Fenway Park are rather moribund (.260, 7 HR, 5 SB in 193 PA), remember that he was facing Red Sox pitching. In addition, there are eight weeks left. We do not expect greatness, but, well, relevance. Kinsler has been valuable for the past eight weeks.

    The Red Sox employ a leadoff hitter that just happens to boast excellent power and perhaps the top credentials for AL MVP honors, which makes Kinsler a bit different than the normal bottom-of-the-lineup option. Betts has turned his 25 home runs into a mere 56 runs batted in, which is hardly his fault. The Red Sox, despite the best record in baseball, could use a little lineup depth. With Rafael Devers on the DL the team hit Jackie Bradley Jr. sixth and Eduardo Nunez seventh, and the team's catchers have not hit much. Kinsler might actually end up hitting sixth.

    The Angels will likely give rookie David Fletcher a long look at second base, and he is intriguing for deeper formats. Luis Valbuena and Jefrey Marte could platoon at third base. Yawn.

    Here is a brief take on the other Monday trades and we will, of course, follow all the Tuesday transactions as well and give thoughts.

    --Adam Duvall went to the Atlanta Braves for a few failed prospects from yesteryear, and regular playing time is far from assured. In fact, I think the Braves will essentially platoon Duvall with center fielder Ender Inciarte, who has been awful against left-handed pitching. Ronald Acuna Jr. will move to center field on days Duvall plays. This does not make Duvall an attractive fantasy option. He is available in 70 percent of mixed leagues, and I think he plays fewer games after this trade. As for the Reds, the team admits Duvall was moved to make it clear Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler are the starting corner outfielders heading into next season. We should all like that. Winker is a potential star. As for current Reds outfielders, get used to Mason Williams and Phillip Ervin.

    --Lance Lynn went to the New York Yankees and while the right-hander has performed better of late, he still has not been good. The Yankees could opt to utilize him out of the bullpen and for shorter stints, seeing that he has done better against right-handed pitching and they can match him up. Regardless, this is a bit like the Duvall move. Little of consequence was in the trade and the headliner does not gain fantasy value. Also, the Twins do not have some top pitching prospect begging for opportunity, unless you really like lefty Adalberto Mejia.

    --The big news around the trade deadline generally comes from the transfer of saves from one pitcher to another. The Texas Rangers moved right-hander Keone Kela to the Pittsburgh Pirates, which seems odd, but Felipe Vazquez need not worry. Kela will be his setup man. Kela fantasy managers can move on, perhaps to his former teammate Jose Leclerc, or perhaps to lefties Alex Claudio and Jake Diekman. I think it is Leclerc, who struck out three in Monday's appearance and has the best season numbers.

    --More on the savers of games in Wednesday's Closer Report (moved back a day to account for the deadline), but the controversial trade of suspended Roberto Osuna to the Houston Astros for demoted Ken Giles should, for the sake of statistics, mean that two pitchers that are not currently getting saves will resume getting them. Osuna and Giles have been successful pitchers and each is more than capable of earning saves. Each was a top-10 closer in ESPN ADP, and each is available in more than half of those leagues today. This column is about the numbers and fantasy value and these pitchers will get saves.

    Monday recap


    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Jose Ramirez, 2B/3B, Cleveland Indians: 2-for-4, 2 HR, SB

    Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers: 2-for-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI

    Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies: 2-for-5, HR, 4 RBI

    James Paxton, SP, Seattle Mariners: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

    Aaron Nola, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K

    Lowlights:

    Wil Myers, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres: 0-for-6, 4 K

    Paul DeJong, SS, St. Louis Cardinals: 0-for-5, 3 K

    Kenta Maeda, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: 4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

    Marco Estrada, SP. Toronto Blue Jays: 4 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 0 K

    Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K

    Monday takeaways:

    • Yes, I am surprised. Ramirez hit 11 home runs as a full-time player in 2016, and 29 last season. Did I think he would break 40 home runs this season? No, of course not, but Ramirez is well on his way to doing so. He has developed even better plate discipline, with a lot more walks than strikeouts, his hard-hit percentage has greatly risen and he is hitting many more fly balls. Everything looks awesome here, and if Betts and teammate J.D. Martinez split the MVP vote, Ramirez could win it. I moved Ramirez into my top 10 more than a month ago, and I believe he might be the No. 3 selection in 2019 fantasy drafts, right after Mike Trout and Betts. Yep, I sure did not expect that. By the way, Jim Thome really is one of the nicest people I have ever met.

    • Seattle Mariners lefty James Paxton made a successful return from his latest DL stint by tossing seven dominant shutout innings against the sputtering Astros. Paxton would be a top-10 fantasy starting pitcher if we could rely on him staying healthy. He is three starts away from last year's 24, which was a career high. I think he breaks the mark, but nobody can tell you he makes all his starts the rest of the season. Still, this feels a lot like the AL Clayton Kershaw, in more than one way.

    • Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera made some interesting plays in the 13-inning loss at Boston, including a botched rundown at third base and misjudging a line drive that sailed over his head for an RBI triple. It is possible Aaron Nola and Seranthony Dominguez would have won a 1-0 game sans the defensive miscue. Still, Herrera is a top-20 outfielder on the season Player Rater, and the good comes with bad. He is on pace for 29 home runs, which is more than I ever expected after hitting 29 the past two years combined. If there is any disappointment in Herrera's stats, it is his apprehension about stealing bases. Herrera stole 25 bases in 2016. He is 5-for-7 in attempts this year.

    Injuries of note:

    • I would not say this is officially the last we will see of St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez for the season, but with the Cardinals sputtering along and the team's ace back on the DL the same day he came off it, this time with a shoulder strain, who knows? Martinez seemed durable the past few seasons, averaging 31 starts from 2015-17. He struck out 217 hitters last season. This year has been an effective one, despite the rising walk rate, but I do not assume Martinez struggles in 2019. He might slip outside the top 20 starters on draft day, however. If he does return in August, go get him. He can be great. I would think Daniel Poncedeleon is likely to enter the rotation, and there is intrigue there. I do not see Dakota Hudson getting a chance to start in 2018.

    San Francisco Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto has also had issues staying on the mound this season, and now we might not see him at all in 2019, either, as manager Bruce Bochy stated the dreaded Tommy John surgery could be necessary. Cueto is 32 and his fastball velocity was way down.

    • Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Ross Stripling hit the DL with a toe injury, and fantasy managers should not be the least bit worried. I think the organization simply wanted to give the fellow a break, as he could not make it through five innings in his past two outings at Atlanta and Philadelphia. Stripling looked tired. Good luck with that toe.

    Closing time:

    Will Smith earned the win for the Giants in extra innings and fanned each of the four Padres placed in front of him. He threw 15 pitches, 12 for strikes. Unless there is a trade, Will Smith remains the San Francisco closer and perhaps the most underrated of fantasy options. He is available in 81 percent of mixed leagues despite a 1.35 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and when the team generates save chances, he is their closer.

    W2W4:



    • I really doubt the Washington Nationals are going to trade outfielder Bryce Harper before the deadline, but time will tell. It sure seems like a three-team race in the NL East. They should have the deadline at midnight so we can watch players traded during games and hug their teammates goodbye. Makes for good theater.

    • Colorado Rockies right-hander Jon Gray boasts the upside of a top-10 starting pitcher, but do not get the impression his only problem is starting in home games. Gray has been far worse this season in road games. He is pitching at St. Louis on Tuesday, and honestly, anything goes. Gray should be rostered in more than 60 percent of leagues on the chance he finds consistency with his occasional dominance. In his most recent outing, at Coors Field, he permitted the Astros one hit and one earned run over seven frames.

    Bartolo Colon is a .084 lifetime hitter with one memorable home run. The Rangers again visit Arizona on Tuesday and that means Colon gets to hit! I am in favor of the universal DH, but let us do it after Colon faces Zack Godley a few times, OK? As for relevant fantasy matters, I like Eduardo Escobar hitting in the No. 2 spot for Arizona, right before Paul Goldschmidt, and it sure does not look like Jake Lamb is returning from a shoulder injury anytime soon. Go get Escobar. Also, could Delino DeShields steal bases? Asking for a friend.
     

  14. #64  
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    Which players got a boost at the trade deadline?


    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    Everyone wants to talk about the individual winners and losers from baseball's trade deadline on Tuesday, and my friend and ESPN colleague David Schoenfield covered that here, but for fantasy purposes, it is hard to find much that really changed.

    Closer roles remained the same, as fellows like Kyle Barraclough, Sergio Romo and Kirby Yates did not move. Established starting pitchers and hitters did, but other than changing leagues and ballparks, Chris Archer is what he is and so is Jonathan Schoop. Bryce Harper stayed put, so Victor Robles stays in the minors. No prospects to pique our collective interest suddenly lucked into major playing time, at least not yet.

    Regardless, I always have thoughts, and here are myriad from a fun and wild Tuesday afternoon that never actually had me checking out the free agency lists in my important fantasy leagues.

    - Moving from the AL East to the NL Central and to a pitcher's park should

    aid new Pirates ace Archer, but he is already rostered in every league, and while his ERA should drop a bit and his strikeouts should rise as he faces more pitchers than designated hitters, he still is not what most drafted him to be. His career ERA is 3.69, and I will not predict he lowers it. Archer dropped out of my top-20 fantasy starting pitchers a few months ago. His addition will push out someone who is reasonable for NL-only leagues, likely Trevor Williams or Nick Kingham, and that is not good news.

    - Initial reaction on Tampa Bay's return for Archer was too generous, probably because former players who analyze this stuff had heard of them but did not realize their actual value. Outfielder Austin Meadows hit for power upon promotion to Pittsburgh a few months ago and then, predictably, that ceased. The Pirates could have played him but opted against it. The Rays have sent him to Triple-A Durham, and perhaps he can find the plate discipline he used to have and develop, but he looks like a fourth outfielder. Even if Meadows gets 500 at-bats next season, I cannot project relevant fantasy numbers or, suddenly, durability.

    - As for wild right-hander Tyler Glasnow, people have found many things on the west side of Florida, but control is rarely one of them. Glasnow throws hard and gets his first shot to show this for the Rays on Wednesday, but until he throws consistent strikes, if ever, you should pass. We shall see who the "player to be named" in this deal is and reserve comment until then.

    - The Rays did well to get Tommy Pham from the Cardinals, but he was already a top-15 outfielder to me, so little alters. What is it about the Cardinals so quickly moving on from intriguing outfielders? A few years ago, it was Pham, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk. Each has moved on. My initial thought on the Pham deal was that it was great news for Harrison Bader, a potential five-category fantasy helper, but the Cardinals intend to timeshare him with Tyler O'Neill. Each bats right-handed. I do not get it. Oh well, Bader and O'Neill will likely be with other franchises in a year or so anyway.

    - Jonathan Schoop might add shortstop eligibility in a month, so that is interesting for fantasy managers come September and 2019. One would presume the monster gains he has made at the plate the past month will not cease because he has gone from the awful Orioles to contending Brewers, but it is at least plausible that he loses some at-bats. Schoop is not a shortstop, nor is Mike Moustakas or Travis Shaw, but it seems like one of them needs to play there or someone has to sit. By the way, people are making this out to be a big deal. It is not. The Phillies are like the worst defensive team in the sport and still in first place.


    - Brian Dozier was playing regularly for the Twins and will do so for the Dodgers, though he might end up hitting after the big bats in his new lineup, especially if he does not escape his current slump. He steals playing time from Chase Utley. I love Utley, but it has been years since someone in a fantasy league relied on him. The Twins could give prospect Nick Gordon a chance at second base, but I doubt they will. Logan Forsythe is actually a big winner here! He will play regularly. Awesome.

    - You can keep telling me how great right-hander Kevin Gausman is going to be now that he escaped Baltimore -- like Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta did! -- but I have to see consistency to believe it. Gausman actually reminds me a bit of his new Atlanta teammate Julio Teheran. How can these fellows not be better than their numbers? I feel like everyone will get too excited about Gausman now.

    - Cameron Maybin was not stealing many bases for Miami, so I am not sure why that would alter with Seattle. The Mariners have Guillermo Heredia in center field, and he is reasonable, and think it is odd to believe when Robinson Cano comes off his suspension that Dee Gordon will never play the outfield again. I guess I just do not think Maybin will do much regardless.

    - By the way, the Marlins promoted longtime minor league outfielder Isaac Galloway, and he got his first hit on Tuesday. Google him for a really cool interview from post game. Galloway was showing modest pop and good speed in the minors and could be intriguing in fantasy if permitted to play regularly.

    - As a Phillies fan, I do like the Wilson Ramos addition, but it sure does not look like he is going to play in a big league game for most of August. I rank Ramos as a top-10 catcher and that is with knowing that of the final two months left, he might miss one of them. Such is the state of big league catching.

    - Texas moved one of the potential save options when Jake Diekman took a bullpen cart from one side of Arizona's Chase Field to the other, but I still think it was going to be Jose Leclerc earning saves in the wake of the Keone Kela trade from Monday. More on saves in Wednesday's Closer Report.

    Tuesday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Daniel Murphy, 1B/2B, Washington Nationals: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 6 RBI

    Javier Baez, 2B/SS/3B, Chicago Cubs: 3-for-4, HR, 3 RBI

    Kole Calhoun, OF, Los Angeles Angels: 3-for-4, HR, 3 RBI

    Zack Godley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K

    • Jake Arrieta, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K

    Lowlights:

    Yoan Moncada, 2B, Chicago White Sox: 0-for-4, 3 K

    Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers: 0-for-4, 3 K

    Tyler Skaggs, SP, Los Angeles Angels: 3 1/3 IP, 8 H, 10 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

    Steven Matz, SP, New York Mets: 2/3 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

    Jon Lester, SP, Chicago Cubs: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

    Tuesday takeaways:

    In the @Nationals' record-setting win, Ryan Zimmerman went 2-5 with a homer and 3 RBI. His first-inning RBI single passed Tim Wallach for the most hits in Nationals/Expos history. pic.twitter.com/7s1aMaV3Mq
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 1, 2018

    • The Nationals decided to keep on trying to win the NL East and then hung 25 runs on the beleaguered, embarrassing Mets. Even Zimmerman, hitting .226 with a lowly .699 OPS entering play and having not hit a home run in nearly three months, enjoyed his game and made franchise history along the way. The Nationals remain the most talented team in the division, even in their current injured state, but I would not get excited about Zimmerman; he is not playing regularly, thanks to health issues and might not be any more valuable than Mark Reynolds, who also homered Tuesday, albeit off a terrible infielder who ended up throwing 48 pitches. It was nice to see Daniel Murphy's sweet lefty swing, and I recommend him moving forward, but not Zimmerman. Outfielder Adam Eaton is not playing so regularly either, which is a reason to look elsewhere.

    • Perhaps lost in the madness of the 25-4 game was Mets rookie Jeff McNeil slugging his first home run. Through seven games and 23 PA, he looks like he can help fantasy managers in deep leagues, and he is -- we presume -- going to play regularly. McNeil has excellent plate discipline and modest power. That might be enough.

    • We have to talk about Colorado Rockies right-hander Jon Gray because his upside is of a top-20 starter for sure, regardless of home venue. Gray pitched well in St. Louis on Tuesday and has gone seven or more innings in each outing since his promotion, allowing 10 hits in 21 2/3 innings. He is missing bats and showing consistency, and frankly, that is all we desire, along with a sub-4.00 ERA. Gray should be rostered in many more leagues in case this continues.

    Injuries of note:

    • One could easily argue the biggest stories of Tuesday were the injuries to Boston Red Sox lefty Chris Sale and Houston Astros outfielder George Springer. With Sale, the team calls it mild shoulder inflammation. I think 80 percent of big league pitchers probably have some shoulder inflammation by August, so I do not want to panic here on the fellow I rank as fantasy's No. 3 starter. I think Sale misses only one start. I might not be as aggressive trading for him in ESPN leagues before our deadline, but the Red Sox have a little depth this week so why push Sale? Those relying on Sox lefty Drew Pomeranz saw little control and too many base runners on Tuesday, and he might get only one more start.

    • Springer has left shoulder soreness after an actionable dive in the outfield, and that is a bigger deal. We saw him get hurt. I think a DL stint is coming and the Astros are suddenly vulnerable. Springer is not having quite the season expected, but remains a top-10 outfielder, though I will knock him down a bit now if he misses a few weeks. The Astros should let Kyle Tucker play regularly and raise his small-sample OPS about 300 points. Tucker is going to hit.

    • Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was hit on the hand by an errant pitch Tuesday and, oh no, that is pretty much what ruined his 2017 season. Bogaerts stayed in the game and had post-game X-rays that showed no issues, but if he does not hit in the next two weeks, I would be worried about the weeks after that.

    Closing time:

    Cody Allen investors got great news when Brad Hand relieved Trevor Bauer in the seventh inning and Allen got the last four outs for the save. It does not mean Hand and Allen will enter the game in reversed hierarchy the next time the Indians lead in the eighth inning, but it is a good sign.

    W2W4:

    • Well, who handles shortstop duties for the Brewers tonight against Dodgers lefty Rich Hill? The team could sit Moustakas or Shaw, each a lefty, and opt to go with the forgotten Orlando Arcia, who has not hit at all. I am actually a bit disappointed the Brewers did not find a new home for Arcia and demoted outfielder Domingo Santana. I was ready to add Santana in a league or two. Oh well. The Dodgers could bat Dozier anywhere from first to sixth in his debut. I suspect it will be first, but that .305 OBP does not excite.

    Cole Hamels makes his Cubs debut at Pittsburgh, and while fantasy managers should never overreact, the fact is Hamels has pitched well this season away from the cozy Texas ballpark and can still put up enticing numbers. If you add Hamels before this outing, you will be a step ahead of everyone else!

    • I am as surprised as you are about Atlanta right-hander Anibal Sanchez, but fantasy managers have noticed his excellent numbers, which he should bolster even more against the Marlins. Sanchez remains available in roughly half of ESPN's standard leagues. It is August. He has done enough this season to convince me he is worth a fantasy roster spot.
     

  15. #65  
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    Fantasy impact of prospects moved at the trade deadline

    Tommy Rancel
    ESPN INSIDER

    The 2018 non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone. Despite the lack of a
    Bryce Harper
    megatrade, there was plenty of action leading up to and on the day of the deadline. We all know the veterans who will suit up for new teams, but what about the less-established players who will be donning new threads?


    Some of the prospects involved have already reached the majors and should be in play immediately for their new clubs. Others are a little bit further behind, but factor into the plans over the next 12 months. Most importantly, they are all talented and likely will cost you less than their actual team paid to acquire their services.

    I'll start with a familiar name: Austin Meadows. The ninth-overall selection in the 2013 draft was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays along with another top-10 prospect list alumni, Tyler Glasnow, and a player to be named later -- one who promises to be significant and not just a throw-in -- in exchange for Chris Archer. Meadows is a very talented player who took a little bit longer to reach the majors due to various nagging injuries over the past few seasons. He finally reached the bigs earlier this season, but with a crowded outfield in Pittsburgh, he found regular playing time hard to come by. The 23-year-old is hitting.292/.327/.468 in 165 plate appearances with most of the success coming early on when he received more action as an injury replacement.

    Moving to Tampa Bay should allow him to play most days, if not every day, once he is called up. He was optioned to Triple-A Durham for now, but that should change once the dust settles from all the deadline dealing. The Rays are light on right-handed hitting outfielders, and Meadows has held his own against major league southpaws, which means he may hit his way out of a platoon. More power would be nice, but that has been said about him for a while now. Perhaps with a fresh start and consistent reps, he will tap into that reserve, because his athletic frame is built for it. As currently packaged, he is a plus-hitter with plus-speed and will be an above-average defender in a corner outfield spot.

    Of all the prospect-types traded over the past week, Meadows is perhaps the one you want for 2018. He will be up sooner rather than later with the opportunity to grab the lion's share of playing time in a corner and probably hit in the top half of an increasingly competitive lineup. He is owned in just 12 percent of leagues, so there will be plenty of chances to scoop him up for free or close to it.


    Another name to keep an eye on is Meadows' future teammate Jalen Beeks. Beeks had a disastrous debut for the Rays, allowing eight runs on 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings. That said, it was his first game coming in after an "opener," which can take some getting used to. Beeks has an average fastball and a solid cutter. Sure, he'll have some mixed results without premier stuff, but he is left-handed with pitchability. For potential results, look no further than Ryan Yarbrough, who picked up his 10th win despite starting just five games in this hybrid role.

    The traded prospect with the most potential impact remains Francisco Mejia. Now a part of the San Diego Padres' organization, the former Cleveland Indians backstop has an All-Star caliber bat at any position, with catching eligibility. Mejia is hitting .333 for the Padres' Triple-A affiliate since being moved, and .282 on the year. Remember, this comes after hitting under .200 in June 1. A switch-hitting catcher who can hit .300 and pop 15 home runs is someone to play really close attention to, especially in the coming weeks.

    Looking beyond this season, there is a player you should know for 2019. In a rare prospect-for-prospect switch, the St. Louis Cardinals sent Oscar Mercado to the Indians in exchange for Conner Capel and Jhon Torres. Capel is an interesting player, but he is in A-ball, while Mercado is enjoying a fine campaign at the Triple-A level. A converted shortstop, Mercado is playing above-average center field with plus-speed and some pop. He could be in the talk for an outfield spot in Cleveland for Opening Day 2019 with the potential to collect 40 extra-base hits and 20-plus steals as a regular.



     

  16. #66  
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    Top fantasy baseball free agents by position

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    hether one is winning their fantasy league or struggling to compete, there are always undervalued free-agent options available with the potential to aid teams. That is the purpose of this weekly column, to pinpoint those options. So here we go, and remember players rostered in more than half of ESPN's standard leagues are not eligible for inclusion on this list.

    Catcher:

    Robinson Chirinos, Texas Rangers (19.3 percent rostered): A repeat recommendation from last week, Chirinos keeps raising his batting average and even stole his second base of the season this week. He has easily been a top-10 catcher for the past 30 days, yet is somehow still readily available.

    Francisco Arcia, Los Angeles Angels (12.9 percent): A career minor-leaguer debuting at 28, Arcia knocked in 10 runs in his first two starts, and that certainly tends to get noticed. Arcia hit three home runs in 43 games at Triple-A, so there is a good chance we have already seen his best.

    Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins (6.2 percent): Garver produced nice power numbers in the minors and fantasy managers were wondering when he would get a chance to play. Now, he is playing.

    Others: Jonathan Lucroy, Oakland Athletics; Blake Swihart, Boston Red Sox; Omar Narvaez, Chicago White Sox; Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds; Michael Perez, Tampa Bay Rays; Tom Murphy, Colorado Rockies

    Corner infield:

    Jake Bauers, Tampa Bay Rays (33.7 percent): Here's another repeat recommendation, but hey, the rookie is worth it. For all those concerned about power potential, Bauers has hit nine home runs in barely 200 plate appearances. His current batting average will rise. I understand why Matt Chapman, Maikel Franco and other corner infielders have vaulted past 50 percent rostered, but Bauers should be more popular, too. It is also a bit odd that teammate C.J. Cron, with a legit 22 home runs and still playing regularly, is as available as he is.

    Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins (32 percent): A legit power hitter many suspected could hit 40 home runs, Sano has obviously struggled this season, and has not looked much better at the plate since coming back from the minors. Be patient, however, because power hitters like Sano are generally not sitting as free agents in standard mixed leagues.

    David Freese, Pittsburgh Pirates (3.5 percent): A veteran who has been playing more of late because of the Josh Bell injury, Freese took advantage of Mets pitching to hit a few home runs and knock in eight in one series. That is unlikely to continue, but Freese can hit left-handed pitching and the Pirates will utilize him while he is hot.

    Trey Mancini and Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles (24.4 and 7.5 percent): Neither slugger is having the season expected of them, but both are among the top-20 corner infielders on the 15-day Player Rater, and both are capable of producing big power numbers. Mancini is obviously safer for batting average, but Davis has had double-digit homer months in the past.

    Others: Albert Pujols, Angels; Kendrys Morales, Toronto Blue Jays; Joe Mauer, Twins; Lucas Duda, Kansas City Royals; Wilmer Flores, New York Mets

    Middle infield:

    Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs (47.3 percent): There is little debate that Zobrist was disappointing last season. However, in 2018, he has certainly hit for average and gotten on base. He is also scoring runs. It's time to stop avoiding this older option.

    Nick Ahmed, Arizona Diamondbacks (11.3 percent): A top defender, but an awful hitter until this season, Ahmed already has 14 home runs, and really did nice work in July when he hit .302. It seems strange to recommend this glove-first player, but the numbers are there.

    Tim Beckham, Baltimore Orioles (4.8 percent): He's still not the most patient hitter, but he is leading off and has hit nicely since the Manny Machado trade, which returned him to shortstop. Perhaps that is all that he needed.

    Jeff McNeil, New York Mets (1.8 percent): A 26-year-old rookie who offers modest pop and plate discipline, at least McNeil should play regularly for the final two months and can perhaps get his numbers that way.

    Others: Yairo Munoz, St. Louis Cardinals; David Fletcher, Angels; Neil Walker, New York Yankees; David Bote, Cubs; Aledmys Diaz, Blue Jays

    Outfield:

    Harrison Bader, St. Louis Cardinals (2.9 percent): Bader and rookie Tyler O'Neill are expected to share center field duties with Tommy Pham having been traded to the Rays, but Bader is the better fantasy option. He can hit for average and he can steal bases, and he offers modest power. O'Neill has better power, but swings and misses a lot.

    Manuel Margot, San Diego Padres (20.8 percent): Margot investors have had to wait months for this speedster to get going, but he has hit .290 since the start of June and stole four bases in five attempts in July. There is a future top-50 outfielder lurking here.

    Mallex Smith, Tampa Bay Rays (17.5 percent): The Rays added several outfielders at the trade deadline, but Smith keeps playing and keeps running. He is among the league leaders in stolen bases and, while he offers little else to a fantasy roster, the steals are enough. His teammate Kevin Kiermaier offers more power potential, of course, and as the leadoff hitter scores more runs. He is available as well.

    Cameron Maybin, Seattle Mariners (4.5 percent): The trade deadline deal to Seattle from Miami gives him more opportunity to play regularly, and we know Maybin is capable of stealing bases when healthy and, you know, able to get on base. The longer Dee Gordon keeps struggling, the more likely it is that Maybin could move to leadoff for this contending team.

    Nick Williams, Philadelphia Phillies (10.8 percent): He does not appear a threat to hit 30 home runs, but the Phillies did not upgrade the outfield through trade. Williams has been a more patient hitter of late, and he hit .311 in July with five home runs.

    Others: Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers; Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox; Randal Grichuk, Blue Jays; Steven Souza Jr., Diamondbacks; Daniel Palka, White Sox

    Starting pitcher:

    Mike Fiers, Detroit Tigers (24.6 percent): For years we waited for this right-hander to be consistent. He always offered strikeout potential. Fiers is not missing nearly as many bats as he used to, but has been surprisingly effective for a bad team. The upcoming schedule looks good for both him, as well as lefty teammate Matthew Boyd.

    Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals (30.4 percent): A bust for much of the season, Roark has won his past two outings and struck out 18 hitters in the process. The Nationals can still win their division, which is hardly the greatest offensively, and Roark will make regular starts.

    Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds (41.4 percent): His fastball velocity is still not what it was last season, but the right-hander had nine strikeouts without a run allowed in his most recent outing, and seems to be turning a corner.

    Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins (43.6 percent): Gibson is not winning many games, a by-product of the team he competes for, but he has kept his strikeout rate up all season. That's quite impressive for him, and his ERA and WHIP have remained usable. There is little reason to fear him now.

    Zack Wheeler, New York Mets (38.3 percent): He was last a fantasy find in 2014, but the current Wheeler is going deeper into games and striking hitters out, and has even won his past three outings. On the Mets, that's hard to do.

    Others: Carlos Rodon, White Sox; Vince Velasquez, Phillies; Trevor Richards, Miami Marlins; Adalberto Mejia, Twins; Lance Lynn, Yankees; Joe Musgrove, Pirates

    Relief pitcher:

    Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays (35 percent): Exiled from Houston and likely to close games for Toronto right away, Giles has the skills to be a top-10 closer.

    Will Smith, San Francisco Giants (24.8 percent): He is the lone Giants reliever getting save chances, and he is also putting up big numbers in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. There is no reason to avoid Smith anymore.

    Wily Peralta, Kansas City Royals (13.6 percent): Somewhat similarly, the Royals are making it clear who gets the saves, and while Peralta is not a great pitcher, he has been getting as many save chances as the league leaders in the past month.

    Others: Shane Greene, Tigers; Adam Ottavino, Rockies; A.J. Minter, Atlanta Braves; Pedro Strop, Cubs; Jose Leclerc, Rangers
     

  17. #67  
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    Is Touki Toussaint here to stay with the Braves?

    Tommy Rancel
    ESPN INSIDER

    In June of 2015, the Arizona Diamondbacks made a curious trade. Arizona acquired utility infielder Phil Gosselin in exchange for injured starter Bronson Arroyo and its 2014 first-round pick, Touki Toussaint. Although Arroyo and Gosselin were the two with major league experience, they were non-factors in this transaction. The principles here were Toussaint and money.

    Arroyo, 38 at the time, was recovering from Tommy John surgery and owed just a little under $10 million on his contract. Dave Stewart, the Diamondbacks' general manager during the trade, publicly lauded Gosselin's grit and his team's starting pitching depth, but to everyone on the outside looking in, this was a salary dump. In exchange for taking Arroyo's contract, the Braves essentially bought a top pitching prospect in Toussaint.


    A native of Pembroke Pines, Florida, Toussaint was the 16th overall pick in the 2014 draft. A tall, slender right-hander, he struggled in his first few months with the Braves. During the remainder of the 2015 season and into 2017, he tossed 181 innings for Atlanta's minor league affiliate in Rome. He walked a whopping 104 batters. And despite potential front-of-the-rotation stuff, he averaged less than a strikeout per inning.

    Toussaint would break free from Rome in 2017, beginning the season in the Florida State League before a promotion to the Southern League at the end of the season. His control improved slightly, but the biggest change was strikeouts. With a slightly cleaner and more athletic motion, and increased effectiveness on his off-speed pitch, he struck out 167 batters in 145 innings. He had 166 strikeouts combined in the previous two years for the Braves.

    Toussaint returned to Mississippi to begin 2018. He was extremely effective in 16 starts, collecting a sub-3 ERA and striking out 29 percent of batters faced. He was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett, where he was even better in five starts. In 31 innings for the Stripers, he allowed just seven earned runs while striking out 32.

    The Braves promoted Toussaint ahead of their doubleheader on Monday against the Miami Marlins. Facing what equated to an International League-caliber lineup, Toussaint went six strong innings to earn his first major league victory. He allowed a single run on two hits. He struck out four and walked two.

    Toussaint is unlikely to turn into a control artist any time soon, although he did just turn 22 about six weeks ago. In lieu of pinpoint accuracy, he does have the arsenal to get outs otherwise. Against the Marlins, his fastball ranged from 92 to 96, fading a little at the end. His mid-70s curveball had big bite and was thrown for strikes as well as chases.

    In the second inning, he struck out Yadiel Rivera on three pitches: all curveballs. The first two were called strikes in the zone. The third was buried just below for a swing and a miss. Showing the velocity gap between his fastball and curveball, take a look at the sequence he threw to the next batter, Pablo Lopez, that also resulted in a strikeout: 95, 76, 78, 95, 77, 96. That is a 20 mph gap, with the hardest pitch in the arrangement being a called third strike.

    The fastball and breaking ball have been Toussaint's bread and butter in the minors, with the off-speed coming in a distant third. That said, on Monday it was a plate appearance ender. During the first time through the order, he used the split-fingered pitch sparingly. However, when Rafael Ortega came up for the second time, it was his go-to out pitch. He recorded seven of his final 12 outs with the mid-80s pitch. One came on a strikeout, while the other six never left the infield. Five outs were generated on the ground and the sixth was a pop up to Freddie Freeman.

    Despite the dazzling debut, Toussaint is far from a finished product. The control is still borderline, and although he dominated the Marlins' lineup, he got away with a few mistakes that could have been a problem against a more formidable opponent. But make no mistake, he is a major-league-caliber arm equipped with what looks to be two above-average pitches and the makings of a third.

    Atlanta is flush with pitching. In addition to arms like Sean Newcomb and Mike Foltynewicz among others at the highest level, the farm boasts names like Toussaint, Kyle Wright, Kolby Allard, Ian Anderson, Mike Soroka and Luiz Gohara. Toussaint beat a handful of them to the show, but the competition for roster space will be fierce over the next 12 to 18 months.

    Obviously, not all will live up to their potential, but if even half of them do, the Braves will be in a highly envious position and can name their price in trades. Whether Toussaint continues with Atlanta or is once again moved, just know that the better he gets, the higher the price tag will be. It will certainly take more than Phil Gosselin, who actually played behind him this year in a return to the Braves organization, to get him this time.
     

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    Does Ronald Acuna Jr. or Juan Soto have a brighter fantasy future?

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    Perhaps people should not be so quick to award the NL Rookie of the Year award to Washington Nationals teenager Juan Soto. Nothing against Soto, hitting a cool .301 with power, but Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. made history Monday by leading off both games of a doubleheader with a home run, the first National Leaguer to ever do so and fourth hitter overall, and he has blasted one over the fence in four consecutive games and six of seven. Acuna is hitting .282 with 17 home runs for a first-place team, and he is earning raves at just the right time.

    Fantasy managers love each of these players and should, although each remains available in nearly 10 percent of ESPN standard leagues. Do not read much into that; so many fantasy managers have moved on to football. Still, Acuna and Soto are baseball dynasty gold, young outfielders sure to produce major statistics for years to come. While Soto has displayed remarkable plate discipline for such a young player -- 53 walks versus 57 strikeouts in 74 games -- he looks like a four-category fantasy helper. Soto is not much of a base stealer, with two steals in three attempts. Acuna, however, is.


    That is the main difference I see in evaluating future fantasy value here. Look at the current outfielders that grace the top of our rankings and there are few options there that do not contribute across the board.
    Boston Red Sox
    MVP candidate
    J.D. Martinez
    is an exception, but nobody has more home runs and runs batted in than he does, and he is also hitting .333.
    New York Yankees
    slugger
    Giancarlo Stanton
    is another exception. He has hit 89 home runs since the start of the 2017 season. I think Soto is a legitimate .300 hitter and should continue to develop power as he reaches his 20s -- OK, that is just ridiculous -- but is he a 40-homer option? His current numbers tell us that is eminently possible.



    Acuna, a mere 10 months older than Soto by the way, stole his eighth base of the season in 10 chances on Monday and that valuable skill of his makes him a potential top-5 outfielder for fantasy purposes. It is a bit premature to make such a stance, but what about top-10? It might depend on what lineup spot Acuna settles into. He has been leading off lately and thriving, with a .360 batting average, 1.211 OPS and six of his stolen bases over 99 plate appearances in that role. His 10 home runs there have accounted for 20 RBI.
    Mookie Betts
    investors do not seem to be complaining that his 27 home runs have resulted in only 63 runs batted in. Betts does everything well. Acuna projects similarly, although he is a more aggressive hitter.

    Regardless of how the NL East ends up, and Soto cannot aid his club with relief innings, this should be a fascinating finish for Acuna and Soto, two of the youngest players in baseball and among the hottest commodities for dynasty purposes. I think both these players deserve strong consideration for top-10 status among outfielders in 2019 drafts, perhaps pushing past proven veterans like Starling Marte, Christian Yelich, Khris Davis and Justin Upton. For now I think Acuna has the better shot because he will contribute in each of the five standard hitting categories, but each should be a top-50 option overall, at the least. The future is so bright.

    Monday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    • Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Atlanta Braves: 5-for-8, 2 HR, 5 RBI, SB

    • Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Detroit Tigers: 5-for-5, HR, 5 RBI

    Jose Ramirez, 2B/3B, Cleveland Indians: 3-for-5, HR, 3 RBI

    Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K

    Mike Foltynewicz, SP, Atlanta Braves: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

    Lowlights:

    Greg Bird, 1B, New York Yankees: 1-for-4, 3 K

    Chris Taylor, 2B/SS/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: 1-for-4, 3 K

    Luis Severino, SP, New York Yankees: 4 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K

    Marco Gonzales, SP, Seattle Mariners: 5 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

    Scott Alexander, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers: 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

    Monday takeaways:


    • Severino is obviously struggling, and if the Yankees enjoyed Dodgers-like rotation depth, he would probably be on the disabled list with some made-up injury just to give him a week or so off. The Yankees do not have that luxury, especially since lefty CC Sabathia was placed on the DL Monday with knee inflammation, and nobody is questioning whether it is true. Fantasy managers are in a tough jam with Severino because it is foolish to cut a top-10 starting pitcher, but leaving him active is harming chances of winning a title this season. We do not know if Severino is legitimately hurt, tired or simply in one of those stretches, albeit worse than typical, in which a pitcher just cannot pitch effectively. The schedule shows pending starts with the Blue Jays, Orioles and White Sox the rest of the month, which sounds great except Severino just got tuned up by the Mets, White Sox, Royals and Rays. Keep the faith but do it with Severino on your bench. Even the great ones trip up on occasion.

    San Diego Padres slugger Wil Myers, eligible for this season at first base and outfield but ticketed as outfield-only for 2019 in fantasy, played third base on Monday and this could continue. We would certainly welcome the added eligibility for fantasy! It takes 10 games in-season to trigger added eligibility and 20 games for next year. The Padres do possess considerable middle infield and outfield depth, and Eric Hosmer is signed to play first base for eternity, so it makes sense for the team to try an athletic player at a new spot. Myers played the position flawlessly in his debut and nearly set the club record for assists. Whether this continues -- his play or the opportunity -- is problematic. Myers has missed significant playing time with injury, but his current OPS is his best since his rookie season, and he is hitting for power and stealing bases. This is a potential top-10 outfielder and, hey, perhaps a top-10 third baseman as well.

    Injuries of note:

    • Surprising news from the St. Louis Cardinals as right-hander Carlos Martinez, on the disabled list multiple times this season for various woes, is being shifted to a bullpen role for the rest of the season. He was a top-20 starter back in March, with upside for more, and this alteration in his role is a big deal for fantasy unless there are saves in his future, and there is little indication of that. In fact, if Bud Norris were to lose the closer role, and Monday's performance continued to push that possibility, hard-throwing Jordan Hicks or even fellow rookie Dakota Hudson would appear to be next in line. Martinez could be a middle reliever. Ugh. For now, keep Martinez rostered in 10-team leagues in case the Cardinals change their minds, but if they do not, then yes, move on. The organization claims Martinez will be used as a starter in 2019, but if they are so worried about the pitcher's health then they could change that without warning. If you can still trade Martinez in a dynasty league, now would be a good time to do so.

    Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre keeps having problems with his hamstrings and another DL stint seems plausible after Monday's re-injury. Beltre, 39, is hitting .278 this season but sans his normal power and plate discipline, and that is a problem for fantasy managers that might have had enough. Beltre is rostered in roughly half of ESPN's standard leagues and by the way, the Rangers are not postseason bound so there would be no rush to bring Beltre back to active duty. His price will surely be depressed in 2019 drafts, making him a prime late-round sleeper, and after years of arguing for him as a top-100 option, it has come time to stop.

    Closing time:

    • It is hard to fathom what has happened to the Dodgers and Nationals of late in terms of injuries and blown leads. The Dodgers turned to lefty Scott Alexander to protect the Clayton Kershaw lead and things went awry. I really believe right-hander Kenta Maeda, who should be ready to pitch after his most recent starting assignment, could get the next save chance. It could also be Ross Stripling. The latest on Kenley Jansen and his heart ailment are that he could need offseason surgery, and one wonders if the Dodgers simply accelerate the procedure and his next mound appearance comes in 2019.

    • The Nationals keep finding entertaining ways to lose games, and their Monday mess seemed like a season low point, as they blew the lead in the eighth inning, tied the game in the ninth and still lost on a Paul DeJong home run. Koda Glover has to be the leader for the next save because even manager Dave Martinez seems unusually flummoxed about his next move. Perhaps there will be another reliever or two, even a closer, traded in the coming days like Fernando Rodney was last week. The Nationals' next save chance might go to someone not currently on the roster.

    W2W4:

    • Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano is finally eligible to play Tuesday after serving all of his 80-game suspension and while he is among the most added players in ESPN leagues, he remains available in more than a quarter of them. Do not kid yourself on Cano -- he can still hit and matter in all fantasy formats. The Mariners seemed loath to play him at second base with Dee Gordon entrenched there, but Gordon has not hit, was dropped to last in the lineup and he did not play Monday because of a shoulder injury. Look for Cano to handle second base on Tuesday, and he will hit.

    • The streaking first-place Braves get to feast on more Marlins pitching and will ask right-hander Anibal Sanchez to deal with what is left of the lineup. Sanchez left his most recent outing after a comebacker struck his calf, but the club says he is ready to pitch again and his 2.83 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and excellent strikeout rate make him absolutely worth using against Miami.
     

  19. #69  
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    Karablog: Trevor Bauer injury fallout

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    ometimes it sure feels like fantasy managers just cannot continue to enjoy nice things. Cleveland Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer is having an amazing breakout season. He is No. 12 on the overall, full-season Player Rater and fifth among the starting pitchers -- this after entering the 2018 season with a 4.36 career ERA and 1.35 WHIP.

    Bauer always seemed to possess breakout upside due to his willingness to think and explore information deeper than most to improve, his unique methods for preparation and, of course, his ability to strike hitters out. I had long speculated that Bauer was capable of a great season and now ... well, I enjoyed those 25 starts, because who knows when No. 26 will come.


    Most of us probably thought little of Bauer getting struck by a Jose Abreu liner off his right leg on Saturday night, especially when the Indians did not seem particularly concerned in the days afterward. They are concerned now. Bauer suffered a small stress fracture in the fibula and likely will sit for at least a few weeks.

    Ordinary right-hander Adam Plutko, sputtering in strikeout rate and permitting too many home runs, takes Bauer's rotation place, and truth be told, the Indians could still win the AL Central sans Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger as well. That is what concerns me a tad about their starters for fantasy.

    The Indians are cruising toward October, and while Bauer's injury should not keep him out for the final seven weeks of the regular season, the organization has little incentive to push him. They want him healthy for Game 2 or 3 of the AL Division Series against Houston, Oakland or, I suppose, Seattle. The Red Sox are going to play the wild-card winner, if you haven't guessed. Bauer has time. The Indians can rest or adjust the innings for the other right-handers at their whim as well.

    I would continue to roster Bauer in all formats because he is great and there is little reason for concern when he does pitch again, but even the healthy Indians starters are likely to see some reduction in participation down the stretch. Why wouldn't the Indians be extra careful?

    Bauer's ascension to fantasy ace certainly took a few years after the large December 2012 three-team trade also involving the Diamondbacks and Reds (Didi Gregorius and Shin-Soo Choo were in that one too), and fantasy managers will naturally be curious about the next pitcher to emerge as super relevant. That seems like a blog entry for another day, but Bauer always showed the skills, mindset and durability for a potential rise to stardom and this past offseason adjusted his mechanics, notably his slider. Consistency has not been an issue, which is a big reason he has been able to shave two runs off his ERA. Bauer has not permitted more than four earned runs in any outing.

    Regardless, wait it out for Bauer because he has been that special. If you are looking for replacement options, and really, one should always be on the lookout even if all their starters are thriving, then look at Washington's Tanner Roark, Detroit's Matthew Boyd, Cincinnati's Anthony DeSclafani, Philadelphia's Nick Pivetta, Colorado's German Marquez, Oakland's Trevor Cahill and the Angels' Jaime Barria.

    All are among the top 50 starters available in more than half of ESPN's standard leagues who have pitched well of late. Look at future matchups, and better yet, simply stream from week to week. Roark is on the schedule to face the Phillies twice the rest of the month. Cahill has Houston twice. Go with Roark there.

    Tuesday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Atlanta Braves: 3-for-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI

    Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI

    Adalberto Mondesi, 2B, Kansas City Royals: 4-for-4, 3 SB

    Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Milwaukee Brewers: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 K

    Rick Porcello, SP, Boston Red Sox: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K

    Lowlights:

    Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: 0-for-4, 4 K

    Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies: 0-for-4, 3 K

    Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago Cubs: 5 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

    Gio Gonzalez, SP, Washington Nationals: 4 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 K

    Anibal Sanchez, SP, Atlanta Braves: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

    Tuesday takeaways:

    Felix Hernandez made 398 career starts before entering tonight's game as a reliever.
    Only Mike Mussina started more games before his first relief appearance. Mussina's first (and only) regular season relief appearance came after he made 498 starts.
    h/t @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/1hcDND6IQN
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 15, 2018

    • Hernandez was needed in relief Tuesday because lefty James Paxton, such a durable fellow, left after Oakland's Jed Lowrie, the third batter of the game, lined a pitch off Paxton's forearm. Paxton will miss next week's outing against the Astros and perhaps more after that. With Paxton, one never really knows for sure. He has made 24 starts this season, tying his career best set a year ago, and he is among the top 20 starters on the Player Rater. He is worth waiting for, even though he is frustrating. Hernandez, meanwhile, pitched capably in relief and remains rostered in nearly 20 percent of leagues, despite a 5.62 ERA. Do not roster King Felix anymore!

    • Paxton's quick exit overshadowed the long-awaited return of Robinson Cano, who batted second and singled in four at-bats, doing so as the first baseman. Dee Gordon returned to the lineup to handle second base and batted last. Cano can still hit. He might not hit for a ton of power, since it's inconsistent with him, but he should hit. I wonder if he'll be in Wednesday's lineup against lefty Brett Anderson, since Ryon Healy really hits lefties and one would think he would be in the lineup somewhere. The Mariners have a designated hitter already. They have a second baseman, though he can play outfield. They have a third baseman. Cano could be platooned.

    • On the other spectrum from an older middle infielder is Adalberto Mondesi of the Royals, who became the rare player to steal three bases in a game while recording four hits. Mondesi can clearly run, and he can do so even while hitting last in the lineup. The .279 batting average was .256 when the day began, and there is not the least bit of indication Mondesi will exhibit even the smallest bit of plate discipline. He has three walks versus 37 strikeouts. Mondesi is 22, so perhaps he can learn, but this is who he is. I think Mondesi can steal 40-plus bases next season if he wants, but it might come with a .280 OBP and no power. This is Dee Gordon, but hey, we all need stolen bases.

    • I have been resisting the notion to recommend San Diego Padres shortstop Freddy Galvis because, well, he's not a good hitter, but he has swatted home runs in three consecutive games and five of nine. He has 10 home runs for the season. I do not think it will last, but perhaps the motivation of crushing his former Phillies organization over the weekend has resulted in an alteration of launch angle or whatever. Crazy things happen in this game. Galvis has as many home runs in nine games as Buster Posey has in 2018.

    Injuries of note:

    • Not that anyone could recommend Nationals right-hander Ryan Madson anyway, but he is on the DL with a back injury, joining teammates Sean Doolittle and Kelvin Herrera. Koda Glover has retired five hitters in the big leagues this season and will get the next save chance. Wow.

    Closing time:

    • The Dodgers turned to right-hander Kenta Maeda in a 1-1 game in the ninth inning, and he promptly turned it into a 2-1 loss. Ross Stripling is dealing with a back injury, so look for Maeda and perhaps lefty Scott Alexander, last men standing in a way, to keep getting late-inning chances.

    • The Twins gave right-hander Trevor Hildenberger another save chance, and he converted it without incident, so those who added Addison Reed after the Fernando Rodney trade cannot be pleased. Reed last pitched six days ago. He is certainly rested. Perhaps the Twins are trying to trade him. Hildenberger appears to be the closer.

    W2W4:

    • The Phillies look to split the two-game series with the Red Sox, just like they did a few weeks ago, and could have catcher Wilson Ramos in the lineup. Ramos came over from the Rays, but he has been on the DL with a hamstring injury. He would provide an offensive upgrade for a sputtering team in desperate need of it. The Phillies also altered the normal lineup Tuesday against Rick Porcello, moving Rhys Hoskins to cleanup and Nick Williams to second. They scored one run, on a Hoskins blast.


    • Keep an eye on young Angels infielder Taylor Ward, as he had three hits and a walk in his debut on Tuesday and figures to handle regular third base duties as long as he hits. Ward hit .352 at Triple-A with eight home runs and 10 steals in 60 games. The Angels should also feature right-hander Felix Pena for the night game in San Diego on ESPN+, and Pena has permitted three earned runs or fewer in every outing except one this season. That one outing was bad, of course, but in the bigger picture Pena has done OK.
     

  20. #70  
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    Karablog: How to handle late-season injuries

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER


    New York Yankees
    shortstop
    Didi Gregorius
    seems ticketed for the disabled list after his awkward first-base collision with
    Toronto Blue Jays
    designated hitter
    Kendrys Morales
    on Sunday, and fantasy managers in weekly leagues should plan for other options. Gregorius injured his heel and needed a hospital visit for further testing, which seems unusual and quite the harbinger as well. The Yankees can simply move
    Gleyber Torres
    to his position, but fantasy managers might not be so lucky.


    Gregorius is an interesting study, and if the organization expects his absence to last more than a few weeks, fantasy managers should move on. After all, for roto leagues, there are six weeks left, and in head-to-head formats, considerably less with the playoffs looming. Gregorius is a top-10 shortstop on the full-season Player Rater, but even that is a bit deceiving, as 10 of his 22 home runs came in the first month as well as 30 of the 74 runs batted in. He really has not been a top-10 shortstop since May began.

    Fantasy managers often make the mistake of studying full-season numbers rather than recent trends. Gregorius has done just fine the past three months, hitting an aggregate .292 with 11 home runs and 39 RBIs, which is certainly usable in most fantasy leagues, but relatively easy to replace depending on need. Amed Rosario, Willy Adames and Adalberto Mondesi steal bases; Nick Ahmed, Marcus Semien and apparently Freddy Galvis offer pop; Joey Wendle, David Bote and Niko Goodrum a combination of each.

    Torres moving from second base to shortstop -- his original position in the minor leagues -- is not only a natural move for the Yankees but likely the future one as well, and Gregorius, assuming this is not a significant injury that affects 2019, could be moving on to another club this winter. This is good news for Torres dynasty league managers, who would earn middle infield eligibility at both spots, but Gregorius leaving the middle of a power-packed lineup is not a positive.

    Still, judging Gregorius even if he remains a Yankee is up for debate, because he was unable to continue the momentum from his aberrant April, when he drew more walks than strikeouts and featured an unsustainable fly ball rate. That was all, really. Gregorius hit .327 that month, hardly outrageous. This was about the fly balls. The rate of Gregorius's home runs to fly balls was 24.4 percent in April, 12th in baseball. (Matt Davidson had a ridiculous 52.9 HR/FB rate!) Since then, the rate is in single digits, matching his career rate.

    None of this means Gregorius is not a valuable fantasy asset, as he was an 11th-round choice in ESPN average live drafts and 10th among shortstops this season, but his value would drop some with another club. Still, even in this power era, not many shortstops are good for 25 blasts per season. Gregorius, if he plays in September, should get there, and good luck finding any shortstop with three consecutive seasons of 20 or more home runs. Carlos Correa did it, but that streak likely ends this season.

    Sunday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Khris Davis, OF, Oakland Athletics: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI

    Justin Turner, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers: 4-for-5, HR, 5 RBI

    Starlin Castro, 2B, Miami Marlins: 5-for-6, 3 R

    Jose Urena, SP, Miami Marlins: 9 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

    Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Milwaukee Brewers: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

    Lowlights:

    Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals: 0-for-5, 5 K

    Willson Contreras, C, Chicago Cubs: 0-for-4, 3 K

    Gio Gonzalez, SP, Washington Nationals: 4 2/3 IP, 10 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 5 K

    Reynaldo Lopez, SP, Chicago White Sox: 2 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

    Sean Manaea, SP, Oakland Athletics: 4 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 0 BB, 5 K

    Thursday takeaways:
    With his win over the #Athletics, Justin Verlander earned his 200th career win.
    The @astros starter joins Bartolo Colon & C.C. Sabathia as the only active pitchers with 200 wins and 2,500 strikeouts.
    His 200 wins are the most of any pitcher since he debuted in 2005. pic.twitter.com/hX558Y89I9
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 19, 2018

    • Verlander remains the No. 3 starter on the full-season Player Rater behind Max Scherzer and infirmed Chris Sale despite the fact he has produced quality starts in only three of his past seven outings. He is not exactly struggling like Yankees right-hander Luis Severino, but still, Verlander allowed three home runs on Sunday to the powerful Athletics and a startling 14 blasts in those seven starts. The upcoming schedule for the future Hall of Famer features two outings against the Angels and then one with the Twins, but even if he were facing Boston or the Yankees, I could not make much of a case to sit Verlander. He is not struggling like Severino, who by the way beat the Blue Jays on Saturday but lasted a mere five innings along the way.

    • As for Sale, he is back on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, and I will write the same thing I did when this news first disseminated two weeks ago: Many pitchers are dealing with similar maladies, but they are not on teams plowing their way to 110 wins. If Severino deals with this, and perhaps he is, the Yankees would not be in the same position to rest him. Sale pitched a few days ago and fanned 12 Orioles over five shutout, dominant frames. I expect Sale returns the first week of September and the team utilizes him carefully down the stretch, but he can still aid fantasy managers. Mike Trout, for example, concerns me a lot more. The Angels might shut him down any minute.

    • The White Sox made big news Sunday by announcing top pitching prospect Michael Kopech, who routinely sails past 100 mph with his fastball, is being called up to start against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday. Kopech is a potential fantasy ace, but those expecting monster numbers this season should be wary. Kopech throws extremely hard and recently his control has been terrific, but there is a big difference between Triple-A hitters and Miguel Sano and his teammates, plus it is a different baseball and not all young hurlers quickly adapt. Add Kopech to fantasy teams but keep expectations in check.

    • Some surprising names among the top 10 on the seven-day Player Rater, including Milwaukee right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, Mets shortstop Amed Rosario and third baseman Todd Frazier, plus Texas Rangers closer Jose Leclerc. Ronald Acuna Jr. leads the list by a lot and continues to look like at least a top-10 outfielder for next season, and perhaps a top-20 player overall.

    Health report:

    • In addition to Boston's Sale, who went fourth among starting pitchers in ESPN ADP, there are three other top-20 options with the DL asterisk next to their name but different levels of news surrounding them. The Nationals expect to get right-hander Stephen Strasburg back from the DL for Wednesday against the Phillies. The Phillies do not hit much, but who knows if Strasburg will be handled carefully on a pitch count. He is not an automatic active for me. The Cubs really want right-hander Yu Darvish back, but he had a setback with his arm over the weekend, and it seems to me he is not particularly close to starting in a big league game. I have already moved on in a standard league. St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez is mending from shoulder woes but apparently headed to the bullpen, which means those in fantasy leagues can actually drop him, as sad as that sounds.

    Ervin Santana is not a top-20 starting pitcher, even though he finished as one in 2017. The current version is back on the DL with the same finger problem, which was not permitting him to throw as hard as in the past. Forget about Santana for 2018 and watch him surprise in 2019.

    Closing time:

    • It appears time to move on from Brewers right-hander Corey Knebel, as even in low-leverage outings of late he has not been able to avoid problems. Knebel pitched twice in the past week, far from save chances, and lefty Josh Hader is likely in the role with right-hander Jeremy Jeffress next in line. Yep, Knebel was a top-five closer on draft day. Do not draft closers in the top-100 overall on draft day! Why does nobody listen to this?

    • We talked about the Nationals' bullpen on Monday's Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast (yep, still going twice a week!). Tristan H. Cockcroft and I generally agreed that Kelvin Herrera should come off the DL this week and handle closing duties over Koda Glover, but lefty Sean Doolittle remains in play and could lead the team in saves the rest of the season. There is also major injury risk with Doolittle, as he alters his mechanics, and it seems silly for a sub-.500 team to risk anything with a player returning in 2019.

    W2W4:



    • Minnesota replaces Santana in the rotation with lefty prospect Steven Gonsalves, as he faces the White Sox at home. Gonsalves pitched well at Triple-A, but control remains an issue, as he walked 55 hitters in 100 innings. That will not translate well in the majors. Just ask Monday's pitching opponent Lucas Giolito, who has issued 72 walks in 131 2/3 innings this season, an astronomical rate topped by only Cubs right-hander Tyler Chatwood. I would activate neither Gonsalves nor Giolito Monday.

    • Fresh off salvaging a game against division rival Oakland on Sunday, the Astros face the Mariners, and it is possible they will have the services of second baseman Jose Altuve, apparently healthy from his knee injury. Perhaps Altuve comes off the DL Tuesday or Wednesday. Regardless, the time is nigh. Yuli Gurriel, incidentally, has played 10 games at second base in his absence, triggering new and valuable eligibility for 2018. He needs 10 more games to be eligible there in 2019.

    • The Cardinals have decided to move Luke Weaver to the bullpen and left-hander Austin Gomber, coming off consecutive scoreless outings against the Nationals and Royals, pitches in L.A. against the Dodgers. Gomber is a walker and unlikely to continue his success, and I would not activate him for the week, since the second scheduled outing is at Coors Field. Watch the Cardinals rotation, even sans Weaver and Martinez, because it is interesting.

     

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