You guys move fast. When Dodgers catcher Will Smith was called up last week to take the majority of the starts behind the plate, I assumed I would have some time to include him in this week’s column. Well, he’s gone off with three homers, four doubles, and 13 RBI in that time, including a go-ahead grand slam in Thursday’s win over the Padres. Needless to say, he’s been pretty popular. He’s now rostered in 53 percent of Yahoo leagues and it’s pretty hard to argue with that.
Smith broke out with 20 homers in 98 games between Double- and Triple-A last year and was even better in Triple-A this year with 20 homers and a .269/.381/.605 batting line over 61 games. With his power potential in a loaded Dodgers lineup, it’s not crazy to have him comfortably among the top-10 fantasy catchers. As always, that’s a low bar, but he’s earned it.
Even with Smith scratched from this week’s recommendations, we weren’t hurting for quality options. Some of that is because of this week’s trade deadline, but it helps that youth has been served yet again, including another highly-touted name in the Dodgers farm system.
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(Players rostered in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Note: Percentages are from the morning of Friday, August 2
Bo Bichette SS, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 44 percent rostered)
As evidenced by many of the recommendations here, this week wasn’t all about the trade deadline. And in truth, Bichette might have been lost in the shuffle a bit with all of the player movement, but definitely use that to your advantage. The 21-year-old made his way to the majors this week after batting .275/.333/.473 with eight homers and 15 steals over 56 games in Triple-A and he’s found some early success with eight hits (including a homer and two doubles) through 18 at-bats. It’s unfair to assume there won’t be any growing pains here, but he offers across the board ability and he should be in the lineup most days with the Blue Jays looking toward the future.
Ender Inciarte OF, Braves (Yahoo: 30 percent rostered)
Nick Markakis is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a fractured left wrist and rookie Austin Riley is in a brutal slump at the moment, but the Braves are actually in good shape in their outfield. Inciarte was off to a very slow start this season before hitting the injured list with a lumbar strain in mid-May and showed some rust upon his return last month, but he’s 9-for-22 (.409) with two homers, three doubles, two steals, and six runs scored over his last five games. Inciarte has had a knack for turning things around in the second half over the past couple of years, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come. That he offers some speed makes it worth the gamble in most formats.
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Adam Duvall 1B/OF, Braves (Yahoo: 38 percent rostered)
And then there’s Duvall, who has basically been off the grid since being acquired from the Reds at the trade deadline last year. Forced to begin the year in Triple-A, the 30-year-old mashed to the tune of 29 homers and a .931 OPS and has celebrated his return to the majors with five homers through his first six games. Duvall is a .234 hitter in the majors, but he’s reached 30 homers twice in his career and it will be interesting to see what he can do with the rabbit ball in the majors down the stretch. He’s a definite pickup if you need power.
Wil Myers 3B/OF, Padres (Yahoo: 42 percent rostered)
Another veteran back on the map is Myers, who should slide back into regular playing time with Franmil Reyes going to the Indians in the Trevor Bauer deal. Myers scuffled through injury last year and has lost playing time this year while seeing his strikeout rate soar — it currently sits at 35.2 percent — but he’s just two seasons removed from reaching 30 homers and 20 steals. We can’t leave that on the waiver wire, especially with the additional flexibility at third base in mixed leagues.
Zac Gallen SP, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 40 percent rostered)
Well, that was unexpected. One day after holding the powerful Twins to two runs over seven innings, Gallen was swapped to the Diamondbacks for prospect shortstop Jazz Chisholm. It’s not often we see these sorts of prospect challenge trades, so it was refreshing in a sense. The Marlins felt like they had enough talented young arms to try to upgrade on the position player side. The Diamondbacks were happy to oblige, as Gallen enjoyed a breakout year in Triple-A and has backed that up with a 2.72 ERA and 43/18 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings through his first seven starts in the majors. He’s a fly ball pitcher, so maybe his value takes a bit of a hit now that he’ll no longer be making half of his starts in Miami, but he should also see better run support after leaving the Marlins behind. Either way, he should be rostered in most leagues.
Josh VanMeter 2B/3B/OF, Reds (Yahoo: 39 percent rostered)
One of the big winners of this week’s trade deadline, VanMeter should be in line for regular at-bats for Cincinnati now that Yasiel Puig and Scooter Gennett have been traded. It’s been a meteoric rise for VanMeter, who posted some middling numbers during his previous six seasons in the minors before breaking out in a big way in Triple-A this year. It didn’t translate in his first couple of stints in the majors, but he’s hitting a wicked .524 (11-for-21) with three homers and two doubles over his last seven games. He’s hit fifth in all of those games, so he’s in a good spot to knock in some runs. With multi-position eligibility in his favor, let’s see where this story leads.
Dustin May SP, Dodgers (Yahoo: 47 percent rostered)
The Dodgers surprised many by not making a major addition prior to Wednesday’s deadline, most notably in their bullpen, but they have some help on the way from their own farm system. May, a third-round pick from 2016, is set to make his major league debut Friday night against the Padres. The 21-year-old earned the assignment after posting a 3.38 ERA and 110/29 K/BB ratio in 106 2/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A this year. Nicknamed “Gingergaard” for his big and curly red hair, May also throws very hard while showing a nasty slider. It’s anyone’s guess where things go from here, but he should be stashed on upside alone.
Jimenez has been the assumed stash in the Tigers’ bullpen with Shane Greene now in Atlanta, so go crazy if you want. The ERA isn’t pretty, but he’s allowed just one run (a solo homer) on two hits and one walk with eight strikeouts over his last seven innings of work. He’s also fanned 59 batters in 42 innings on the year. We’ve been hearing about Jimenez as a “closer of the future” for years, so maybe it’s finally time to give it a try? If Jimenez is already gone, Farmer is a fine speculative play. It was noted that Jimenez has pitched well of late, but Farmer hasn’t allowed a run in his last 10 appearances and holds a superior 3.48 ERA on the year. The Tigers are a bad baseball team, but do what you need to do.
Sean Manaea SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 30 percent rostered)
In what could provide a huge boost to the playoff hopeful Athletics, Manaea is getting closer to making his return from last September’s labrum surgery. The 27-year-old southpaw holds a rough 7.71 ERA through five minor league rehab outings, but he’s put up a 25/6 K/BB ratio in 18 2/3 innings during that time. He enjoyed his best outing yet on Tuesday in Triple-A, allowing three runs over six innings while striking out eight. He’s reached 70 pitches in each of his last two starts, so he’s just about stretched out. Look for him to rejoin the A’s after one more rehab outing, which likely places his return next weekend against the White Sox. I don’t think Manaea will be a difference-maker, but he’s certainly capable of being a serviceable back-end starter on a fantasy staff.
Jose Leclerc SP/RP, Rangers (Yahoo: 47 percent rostered)
This week’s moves have provided opportunities in some bullpens around the game, but we’re mostly just left to speculate on where the saves will come from down the stretch. The Rangers fit right into this theme with Chris Martin out of the picture following his trade to the Braves. Shawn Kelley is hurt again, so it could be Leclerc’s turn to get his old job back. Unfortunately, Leclerc imploded in his last appearance against the Athletics which ended with a walk-off walk. This was after he allowed just one hit and no walks with nine strikeouts in 6 2/3 scoreless innings over his previous eight opportunities, so hopefully Rangers manager Chris Woodward doesn’t his most recent outing against him too much.
J.D. Davis 1B/3B/OF, Mets (Yahoo: 4 percent rostered)
Davis has mostly been on the short side of a platoon in left field of late, but he makes for an interesting short-term pickup in mixed leagues now that Dominic Smith is sidelined with a stress reaction in his foot. Acquired from the Astros during the offseason, Davis has produced a .298/.365/.476 batting line with 10 homers through 275 plate appearances. In addition to being eligible at three different positions, Davis ranks 92nd percentile in terms of average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage according to Baseball Savant. It might not be pretty defensively, but he’s shown enough against right-handers to be worth a shot in deeper formats.
Trent Grisham OF, Brewers (Yahoo: 12 percent rostered)
With Jesus Aguilar being traded to the Rays on Wednesday, the Brewers have decided to give Grisham his first test at the major league level. And why not, as he’s done nothing but hit in the minors this year. Selected 15th overall by the Brewers in 2015 when he was known as Trent Clark, Grisham lost some momentum as a prospect between 2017-2018. However, he’s compiled a monster .300/.407/.603 batting line with 26 homers and 12 steals over 441 plate appearances between Double- and Triple-A this season. The 22-year-old has always taken his fair share of walks, but he’s cut down on his strikeouts this year while also making progress in the power department. That’s a promising combination. The big question is how the playing time will shake out, so Grisham might not be ideal for some rosters, but perhaps he could be deep-league worthy if Ryan Braun sees some time at first base.