Electrifying outfielder Ramon Laureano served as the Athletics’ offensive catalyst, launching a go-ahead grand slam -- his ninth round-tripper of the year -- in the eighth inning of their 6-2 victory over the Rays on Wednesday afternoon. He finished the contest 2-for-4 and drove in five of Oakland’s six runs, while also chipping in a pair of stolen bases for good measure. The 24-year-old burst onto the major-league scene as a rocket-armed defensive wizard in center field late last year. While it didn’t take very long to cement his reputation as a Gold Glove caliber outfielder, he’s been a work in progress at the plate, flashing immense fantasy upside. As he displayed in this contest, he profiles as a true five-category, power-and-speed combo threat if it all comes together.
It would be purely hyperbolic to infer that Laureano is on the precipice of blossoming into a true fantasy superstar. His plate skills aren’t elite. He strikes out nearly a quarter of the time and rarely walks. Those deficiencies stand out, and may prevent him from reaching his full potential, but they won’t prevent him from being a relevant fantasy asset because of his power and speed contributions. He’s already racked up nine homers and eight stolen bases across 69 games, giving him a realistic shot at eclipsing the 20-homer and 20-steal plateau. To put that in lofty achievement in context, only 10 hitters -- Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Christian Yelich, Javier Baez, Mookie Betts, Ian Desmond, Starling Marte and Tim Anderson -- accomplished the feat in 2018.
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The fact that Laureano has a chance to join that elite group is made even more impressive by how much he struggled at the plate early this season. To say that he got off to a frosty start would be charitable. He posted an underwhelming .221/.278/.328 triple-slash line with only seven extra-base hits (three homers) and three steals across 133 plate appearances through May 5. He’s gone on an absolute tear ever since, hitting .298 (37-for-124) with 19 runs scored, 15 extra-base hits (six homers), 16 RBI and five steals across 33 games. Fantasy owners should start to take notice of his recent hot streak and pick up Laureano in all formats. He’s still available in nearly 75 percent of CBS, ESPN and Yahoo leagues. The time to act is right now before his fantasy stock skyrockets into the stratosphere.
Paddack Sent Packing
The Padres dropped a bombshell on Wednesday by optioning rookie sensation Chris Paddack to High-A Lake Elsinore. While the timing of the move is rather unexpected, it shouldn't come as a total shock, because the Padres were always expected to monitor his workload closely this season. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2016, Paddack threw only 90 innings between High-A and Double-A last year. The 23-year-old righty is already up to 65 2/3 frames this season and seems unlikely to eclipse the 150-inning plateau this season. He’s tailed off in recent weeks after a surreal nine-start stretch to begin his major-league career, but still owns a sparkling 3.15 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and pristine 72/13 K/BB ratio across 12 big-league starts. While the Padres’ decision may be frustrating for fantasy owners, especially those in playoff contention, opting to exercise caution and protect his long-term health is the right move. By optioning him to the minors, they now have the ability to give him a brief rest period or at least have control his workload. He should be back with the major-league rotation in a few weeks.
Clevinger Comeback Imminent
The Indians injury-depleted rotation will receive a much-needed injection with the stud righty Mike Clevinger slated to return against the Rangers on Monday. The 28-year-old fired 5 1/3 scoreless frames with five strikeouts in his last rehab start at Double-A Akron on Tuesday after struggling in his rehab debut at Triple-A Columbus last Thursday. He’s been sidelined for over two months with an upper back strain, but projects as an upper-echelon fantasy starter the rest of the way. He tallied 22 strikeouts over 12 scoreless innings (two starts) for the Indians before sustaining the injury in early April.
Dodgers’ shortstop Corey Seager is expected to miss several weeks after straining his left hamstring while rounding third base on an Alex Verdugo single in the top of the ninth inning of Tuesday's game against the Angels. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Wednesday, but the team has not provided an update yet. Regardless, he’s expected to miss significant time. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters after the game that it's probably a Grade 2-plus strain, which typically requires at least six weeks of rest and recovery. Utility specialist Chris Taylor will take over as the primary shortstop for Los Angeles.
AL Quick Hits: Blue Jays placed Ken Giles on the 10-day injured list retroactive to June 11 with right elbow inflammation. … Hunter Dozier (chest) is expected to start taking batting practice in the next few days. … Willie Calhoun (quad) is set to begin a minor league rehab assignment Thursday at Triple-A Nashville. … Justin Verlander struck out a career-high 15 batters over seven innings in a no-decision against the Brewers. … Daniel Vogelbach went 4-for-5 with a solo homer, his 17th long ball of the season, and a walk in the Mariners’ win over the Twins … Mallex Smith collected three hits and swiped his 18th base of the year in that contest. … Yonny Chirinos recorded seven strikeouts over six innings of two-run ball in a no-decision against the Athletics. … Matt Olson swatted his 11th long ball of the season in the Athletics’ win over the Rays. … Andrew Benintendi went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI in the Red Sox’ comeback win over the Rangers … Lance Lynn whiffed eight over six innings in a no-decision in that contest. … Rowdy Tellez went 2-for-5 with a grand slam to lift the Blue Jays to a win over the Orioles. … Vladimir Guerrero Jr. posted three hits, an RBI and two runs scored in that one. … Shane Greene nailed down his American League-leading 20th save of the season in the Tigers’ victory over the Royals. … Adalberto Mondesi recorded his major league-leading 26th stolen base in the losing effort. … Alex Bregman walked four times in the Astros’ loss to the Brewers. … Ryan Yarbrough will start for the Rays on Thursday against the Angels. … Collin McHugh (elbow) is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment this weekend. … Kyle Funkhouser is a candidate to start for the Tigers on Saturday against the Indians … Jordan Zimmermann (elbow, glute) will make a rehab start on Thursday for Triple-A Toledo.
NL Quick Hits: Nolan Arenado exited Wednesday's game against the Cubs with a bone contusion in his left arm. Rockies manager Bud Black told reporters that x-rays didn’t reveal any “significant” damage. … Joey Votto was removed from Wednesday's game against the Indians due to mid-back stiffness. … Marlins righty Jordan Yamamoto spun seven scoreless innings to earn a win over the Cardinals in his major league debut on Wednesday. … Garrett Cooper went 3-for-5 and smashed a grand slam in that victory. … Kyle Schwarber went 1-for-4 with a three-run homer and four RBI to power the Cubs to a blowout win over the Rockies. … Javier Baez swatted his 17th long ball in that contest. … Merrill Kelly tossed 7 2/3 shutout frames to pick up a win over the Phillies. … Zach Eflin fanned nine batters over eight innings of two-run ball in a loss to the Diamondbacks. … Mike Moustakas went 2-for-5 with a go-ahead two-run homer to lead the Brewers over the Astros in extra-innings. … Austin Riley went 3-for-5 with a game-tying solo homer and three RBI in the Braves’ win over the Pirates in extra-innings. … Josh Bell swatted his 19th homer in the loss. … Giants activated Buster Posey from the 10-day injured list. … Matt Strahm will come off the injured list on Thursday to start against the Rockies. … Daniel Ponce de Leon will start for the Cardinals against the Mets on Friday. … Jhoulys Chacin (back) will be activated from the injured list on Monday to start against the Padres. … Diamondbacks placed Jon Duplantier on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation He’ll undergo an MRI on Thursday. … David Robertson (elbow) was able to play catch on Tuesday. … Jordan Lyles (hamstring) will throw a bullpen session this weekend. … Steve Cishek has been diagnosed with a bruise on the inside of his right knee.