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Jay Bruce
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Waiver Wired

Bruce is Loose in Philadelphia

by D.J. Short
Updated On: June 6, 2019, 1:41 pm ET

As I was spiking a high fever last night, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw that Jason Vargas threw a shutout against the Giants. It turns out that it really happened. To his credit, Vargas has been a bright spot for the Mets this season with a 3.57 ERA over nine starts and one relief appearance. He actually has a 1.85 ERA over his last seven starts. He somehow has the second-lowest ERA in the rotation, behind Jacob deGrom, but ahead of Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz. If you need a perfect way to summarize why the Mets haven’t been very good this season, that would be it.

While Vargas has allowed one run or fewer in three straight starts, this recent surge hasn’t changed his fantasy standing. He doesn’t miss many bats, so this is unlikely to end well. That could happen soon with upcoming projected starts against the Yankees, Cardinals, and Cubs. Be careful about buying in.

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MIXED LEAGUES

(Players rostered in under 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Note: Percentages are from the morning of Thursday, June 6

Jay Bruce 1B/OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 49 percent rostered)

The Phillies were dealt quite the blow this week with Andrew McCutchen’s torn ACL, but at least the recently-acquired Jay Bruce has made an instant impact. The 32-year-old slugger is 6-for-11 with three homers, two doubles, and seven RBI through his first three games with Philadelphia. He became the first player in franchise history to amass three homers and seven RBI through his first two starts with the team. Now, don’t expect the batting average to last. He strikes out a ton these days and is hitting more fly balls than ever before, but selling out for power isn’t such a bad thing, especially for someone who plays half of his games in Citizens Bank Park. With regular at-bats assured, he’s worthy of a pickup in all formats at this point.

Framber Valdez SP/RP, Astros (Yahoo: 12 percent rostered)

While I would have liked to have seen Josh James get a shot in the Astros’ rotation, Valdez will get the call after he threw 65 pitches over four scoreless innings in relief of Corbin Martin on Monday. Perhaps James will get a shot eventually, so he’s worth monitoring, but Valdez is simply more stretched out right now. The 25-year-old southpaw is plenty promising on his own. Known for his nasty curveball, he owns a 2.57 ERA through his first five starts and 17 relief appearances in the majors. The control is admittedly a little worrisome, so there’s some blowup potential here, but he’s in a great spot with the Astros and is worthy of a speculative flier. He lines up for a start against the Orioles this weekend before getting the Blue Jays next week.

Garrett Cooper OF, Marlins (Yahoo: 17 percent rostered)

The Marlins pulled off a nifty trade with the Yankees in November of 2017, not only picking up breakout starter Caleb Smith, but also Cooper. We haven’t heard much from since due to injury. He appeared in just 17 games last season due to a wrist injury which eventually required surgery. And then there was this spring, when he suffered a left calf strain in March and began the year on the injured list. Just when he was able to make it back, he was hit by a pitch and landed on the injured list again with a left hand contusion. After this rotten string of luck, he’s finally getting a chance to show what he can do. The 28-year-old has hit .304 with five homers, one double, and 15 RBI over 21 games since returning last month. He’s seeing regular at-bats between first base and right field and has moved up to the No. 2 spot in the lineup in recent days. Cooper had some buzz after a breakout season in the minors in 2017, so perhaps we’re seeing a late-bloomer. Those in deeper formats can afford to see how this plays out.

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Jeff McNeil 2B/3B/OF, Mets (Yahoo: 41 percent rostered)

After serving a brief stint on the injured list with a hamstring strain, McNeil has picked up from where he left off by going 4-for-10 with a double over his first two games. He’s now batting .337 through 48 games this season and holds a .333 mark through his first 111 major league games. Only Christian Yelich (.341) has a higher batting average since McNeil arrived with the Mets last July 24. We know McNeil has a knack for making contact (only nine players have been more difficult to strike out this season), but he’s also showing more patience while hitting atop the Mets’ lineup. Yes, he’s doesn’t appear likely to provide much in terms of pop or speed, but he’s eligible at three positions and you can bank on the batting average. Sounds good enough to me.

Nick Pivetta SP, Phillies (Yahoo: 39 percent rostered)

Oh yes, I’m going there. After I compared him to George Constanza in last week’s column, Pivetta went out and spun a gem last weekend against the Dodgers, throwing six scoreless innings while striking out nine. Given the quality of the competition, it’s hard not to give him a try in most mixed formats once again. While he was a disappointment to begin the year, he’s been throwing more first-pitch strikes since returning while missing bats at the level we expected coming into 2019. Will he turn out to be a fantasy tease once again? Possibly. But the upside remains very high.

Yandy Diaz 1B/3B, Rays (Yahoo: 30 percent rostered)

I’m not just here to recommend players who are doing great right now. Diaz earned a lot of buzz early on with his sudden power exploits, but he’s hitting .181 since the start of May and also recently missed some time with a left hand contusion. Still, I think he’s worth another look. Diaz has struck out in 18.5 percent of his plate appearances during this recent funk, but that’s still well below league average and he’s also still hitting the ball plenty hard. He’s not going to have a .200 BABIP — as he’s had during this recent stretch — for the long haul. According to Baseball Savant, he has an xBA of .281, so he deserves better than what we’ve been seeing. The on-base skills are still there while hitting in a prominent spot in the Rays’ order.

Travis Shaw 1B/2B/3B, Brewers (Yahoo: 36 percent rostered)

I was disappointed to see Keston Hiura demoted to Triple-A this week in tandem with Shaw’s return, but it does make some sense given the Brewers’ roster situation. Besides, Hiura struck out in on-third of his plate appearances in the majors. The power has been nice, but he still has some work to do. This leaves Shaw with a (perhaps brief?) window to get his season back on track. He’s been flat-out awful this year with a .169/.272/.289 batting line, but he amassed 63 homers with an .844 OPS the previous two seasons, so he deserves a chance to turn it around. How long? We’ll see. But if you lost Joey Gallo to the injured list, Shaw is a decent power alternative if guys like Jay Bruce and Renato Nunez (Yahoo: 51 percent rostered) are already off the board.

Hunter Strickland RP, Mariners (Yahoo: 23 percent rostered)

Strickland began the year as the Mariners’ closer and notched two saves before a disaster appearance on March 29 before going down with a lat strain. The closer role has been in flux with the club ever since, but Strickland is inching closer to a return. He threw a bullpen session on Sunday and will throw a live batting practice session before going out on a minor league rehab assignment. If all goes well, a return in mid-June is feasible. He’ll almost certainly slot right back into the closer role, where Jerry Dipoto can showcase him in anticipation of the trade deadline.

Willie Calhoun OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 13 percent rostered)

Calhoun was off to a rip-roaring start after his promotion last month, batting .435 (10-for-23) with two homers, one double, and seven RBI through six games before a left quad strain snuffed out his momentum. The good news is that he resumed baseball activities over the weekend and expects to begin a minor league rehab assignment next week, hopefully leading to a quick return to the Rangers. With Joey Gallo nursing an oblique strain, the opportunities should be there. Stash while you still can.

Alex Reyes SP, Cardinals (Yahoo: 30 percent rostered)

Speaking of stashes, Reyes is another intriguing one, as he’s a serious candidate to join the Cardinals’ rotation in the near future. For now, he’s tentatively slated to make at least one more start in Triple-A after allowing seven runs — including three homers — over 4 2/3 innings in his most recent outing. However, his first two starts back from a fractured pinkie showed the sort of upside that he possesses. And he certainly needs no introduction there. Even with the obvious volatility, a pickup is justified depending on need.

Luis Urias 2B, Padres (Yahoo: 10 percent rostered)

I’m in a stashing mood this week, apparently. Urias also qualifies as he continues to tear up Triple-A. While he hasn’t done much in the majors to date, the 22-year-old is banging on the door for another chance with a .361/.457/.710 batting line to go along with 14 homers over 43 games on the farm. Making contact used to be his thing, but he’s given some of that up for the increase in power, which is a sacrifice fantasy owners are willing to make. With Ian Kinsler sporting a weak .199/.265/.380 batting line, it’s probably just a matter of time before Urias gets a look.