After all this time we've come to find out that it's actually Lonnie Chisenhall's world and we're just living in it. That's what it seems like this week, anyway.
I have mentioned Chisenhall in Waiver Wired twice this season, first on April 24 and again on May 29. While it feels good to see him enjoying success on fantasy rosters, nobody saw this level of production coming. Not even the Indians, who essentially made him into a part-time player at the start of the season in order to move Carlos Santana over to third base.
We all know the gaudy numbers for Chisenhall. He'd be leading the majors in batting average if he had enough at-bats to qualify. Meanwhile, only Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki has a higher OPS. While that's impressive stuff, the important question for fantasy owners is what can we expect from him moving forward? I see real and tangible reasons for optimism.
It's easy to point to Chisenhall's ridiculous .428 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). That won't last. But he also has a 28.7 percent line drive rate, which tells you that he has earned it somewhat. He has cut his strikeout rate by five percent from last season while his contact rate among pitches in the strike zone would be among the top-30 in MLB if he had enough at-bats to qualify. He's hitting .500 (14-for-28) against southpaws this season after going just 11-for-74 (.148) against them from 2012-2013. Pretty encouraging stuff all around.
Perhaps pitchers will adjust to Chisenhall in time, but I really think we could be witnessing a post-hype breakout. Remember, he's only 25 years old. The batting average will inevitably come down, but I'm ready to call him a top-12 third baseman in mixed leagues.
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Colby Rasmus OF, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 26 percent owned)
After missing a month with a strained right hamstring, Rasmus is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment later this week with Triple-A Buffalo and should only need a couple of games before rejoining the Blue Jays. The 27-year-old outfielder was batting .222/.266/.489 with nine home runs and 19 RBI in 37 games prior to the injury. Rasmus strikes out a ton, so matching last year's .276 batting average was a long shot even coming into the year, but he has a good chance for another 20-homer season if healthy. Cheap power on the waiver wire? Sign me up.
Danny Santana 2B/SS/OF, Twins (Yahoo: 33 percent owned)
Santana has been on fire since coming up from the minors last month, hitting .372/.407/.500 with two home runs, five doubles, four stolen bases, and 12 runs scored in 92 plate appearances over his first 25 games. The 23-year-old hasn't displayed much in the way of patience at any level, but he possesses plus-speed and he's hitting atop a Twins' lineup which is better than many expected it would be. It's unclear whether he'll fit as a center fielder or a shortstop in the long-term, but the Twins need to find him at-bats anywhere they can. With his multi-position eligibility, he's a useful option for those who are playing catch up in stolen bases.
Brad Ziegler RP, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 13 percent owned)
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson is standing behind Addison Reed at closer amid his struggles, but Ziegler is worth a stash if he has a change of heart. While the 34-year-old submariner is an unconventional option, remember that he was 13-for-15 in save chances with Arizona last season. Ziegler is never going to blow people away, but he actually has the highest strikeout and swinging strike rates of his career so far this season. Most importantly, he's still inducing a ton of grounders while walking fewer than three batters per nine innings. Ziegler is most valuable to the Diamondbacks in high-leverage situations where they really need a ground ball, so ideally Reed will straighten things out, but this is an obvious stash situation if you need saves.
Andrew Heaney SP, Marlins (Yahoo: 10 percent owned)
It's only a matter of time. Ranked as the No. 30 prospect in the game by Baseball America in February, Heaney dominated Double-A Jacksonville this season with a 2.35 ERA and 52/13 K/BB ratio over 53 2/3 innings prior to his promotion to Triple-A New Orleans last month. The 23-year-old left-hander has a 2.74 ERA with 27 strikeouts and just two walks (!) in 23 innings over his first four starts with the Zephyrs, showing that he's not long for the minors. Drafted No. 9 overall in 2012, Heaney throws in the low-to-mid 90s fastball and possesses a quality slider and changeup. I'd expect him to be on an innings limit this season -- remember, he only threw 95 1/3 innings last year due to a lat strain -- but look for the Marlins to call him up soon. Never look for a rookie pitcher to save your fantasy season, but he should be relevant in mixed leagues right away.
John Jaso C, Athletics (Yahoo: 17 percent owned)
I mentioned Derek Norris in Waiver Wired earlier this season, but his platoon partner Jaso also deserves some love. While the 30-year-old backstop is in a mini-slump right now, he still owns a very solid .273/.362/.455 batting line through 51 games. With six home runs, he has already doubled his total from all of last season. Jaso has never hit more than 10 home runs in a season before, so I wouldn't count on much power from him the rest of the way, but he's a valuable option in OBP leagues and makes for a solid alternative to Wilson Ramos in deeper leagues. The good news about the A's catcher platoon is that Jaso will start against most righties.
Charlie Morton SP, Pirates (Yahoo: 12 percent owned)
It's about time that Morton gets more respect in fantasy leagues, don't you think? The 30-year-old right-hander owns a 3.21 ERA in 33 starts since making his return from Tommy John surgery almost exactly one year ago. Only 22 pitchers (min. 180 IP) have a lower ERA in the same timespan. Morton's strikeout rate isn't great, but he's not going to hurt you in the category. He also limits walks, induces a ton of grounders, and pitches in a great pitchers' park. Sounds like a good combination to me. I'm starting him with confidence against the Marlins this weekend and will continue to enjoy his under the radar success.
Brock Holt 1B/3B, Red Sox (Yahoo: 19 percent owned)
Holt has been an unlikely success story for the Red Sox this season, hitting .331 with 12 extra-base hits (one home run), 13 RBI, three stolen bases, and 17 runs scored over 31 games. With manager John Farrell trying to spark a disappointing offense, the 26-year-old has started the last 19 games out of the leadoff spot and he continues to make a case for regular at-bats. Holt never played a professional game in left field until Sunday, but he has now done it in four straight games. He has struck out in nearly 20 percent of his plate appearances and has benefitted from a .406 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), so I'm not convinced that the success will last, but he's in a good situation for short-term fantasy relevancy. And at this rate, the outfield-eligibility should come pretty soon, too.
Denard Span OF, Nationals (Yahoo: 21 percent owned)
Span had a slow start to the season, but he has really turned things around over the past few weeks, hitting .324 with 14 extra-base hits (one home run), seven RBI, five stolen bases, and 21 runs scored over his last 24 games. As we have seen in previous years, the dude has a knack for hot streaks. Span is currently on pace to top 100 runs scored for the first time in his career and post his most stolen bases since 2010 as a member of the Twins. Obviously power isn't his thing, but the veteran center fielder is plenty useful in most mixed leagues.
Nick Castellanos 3B/OF, Tigers (Yahoo: 28 percent owned)
There's hot and then there's whatever Castellanos has been over the past two weeks. The 22-year-old is hitting .425 (17-for-40) over his last 11 games, pulling his batting average from .229 to .269 on the year. Granted, 12 of his 17 hits have been singles and he only has one RBI to show for his recent success, but it's a promising sign given his struggles from late-April through most of May. The plate discipline hasn't been great for the rookie third baseman, but his lofty 31.5 percent line drive rate inspires confidence that more success is on the way. Only Atlanta's Freddie Freeman has a higher line drive rate among qualified batters this season. Expect ups and downs, but I think Castellanos is capable of being a useful corner infielder in deeper leagues. The outfield-eligibility provides some nice flexibility for your roster.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Joel Peralta RP, Rays (Yahoo: 7 percent owned)
After Joe Maddon pulled Grant Balfour from the closer role earlier this week in favor of a committee, he went with Balfour for the final 2 1/3 innings last night in a victory over the Cardinals. Yeah, I don't know either. Maddon said after the game that he's still going with his committee approach, but I fully expect that they'll do everything they can to get Balfour straightened out and back as the full-time closer. In the interim, I might like Peralta the best among the other late-inning options. Sure, Jake McGee is shoulders above the pack on merit, but I don't see the cost-conscious Rays giving him a string of save chances and making him expensive down the line in arbitration. Juan Carlos Oviedo has previous closer experience during his time as Leo Nunez with the Marlins, but he hasn't pitched many late-inning situations for the Rays this season. I'd love to see McGee get a chance, but Peralta is my pick until Balfour wins the job back.
Drew Stubbs OF, Rockies (Yahoo: 9 percent owned)
Carlos Gonzalez will miss five weeks following surgery on his left index finger while Michael Cuddyer could miss as much as eight weeks with a fracture in his left shoulder, so Stubbs should see regular playing time in the Rockies' outfield. That's not ideal from a baseball perspective, as Stubbs is far better off as a platoon player against left-handed pitching. The 29-year-old owns a .654 OPS against right-handed pitching during his career compared to an .818 OPS against southpaws. Still, he has pop and speed and should help in counting stats. While the Rockies are about to go out on the road, he'll also play a bunch of games at Coors Field, which should be a welcome sight for any fantasy owner. Look for the batting average to take a dive with regular playing time, but he should help in deeper formats.
Jeremy Hellickson SP, Rays (Yahoo: 3 percent owned)
Coming back from February elbow surgery, Hellickson three scoreless innings Saturday with High-A Charlotte in his first minor league rehab start. The current plan calls for him to make two more starts in the minors before joining the Rays' rotation to pitch in a doubleheader against the Orioles on June 27. The 27-year-old had a 5.17 ERA over 174 innings last season, but he actually posted the best strikeout and walk rates of his brief major league career. He's worth a stash if you have an open DL spot.