When I recommended Maikel Franco in Waiver Wired two weeks ago, I titled the column "Mashing Maikel," but I didn't see this coming. On the strength of back-to-back five RBI games against the Yankees this week, 22-year-old Maikel Franco is now batting .319/.368/.604 with 10 home runs and 29 RBI over 37 games since his promotion from Triple-A. That includes eight home runs and 1.266 OPS in 21 games in June. Franco is owned in 53 percent of Yahoo leagues as I write this, which actually feels a little light under the circumstances.
Most fantasy owners are familiar with the knocks on Franco by now, as he didn't walk much in the minors and had trouble with off-speed pitches. He only has nine walks in 155 plate appearances since his promotion, so the patience is definitely a work in progress, but his contact rate (79.8 percent, according to FanGraphs) has been right in line with the league average and his strikeout rate (14.2 percent) has actually been nearly six percent lower than the league average. We're still talking about a small sample here, but it's an interesting profile. The exciting power potential is obvious, especially in a good park for right-handed batters, but there's reason for optimism from a batting average perspective as well.
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Randal Grichuk OF, Cardinals (Yahoo: 18 percent owned)
Getting a chance at regular playing time in left field with Matt Holliday sidelined due to a Grade 2 strain of his right quad, Grichuk is batting .278 with 20 extra-base hits (including six home runs) and 18 RBI in just 133 plate appearances. Plate discipline isn't exactly his strong suit, as he has struck out in 28.5 percent of his plate appearances in the majors while walking just four percent of the time. I'm not buying him for the batting average, but there's definitely some pop here and he's capable of swiping a few bags, as well. A fine flier in deeper formats.
Jesse Hahn SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 38 percent owned)
I mentioned Hahn after his shutout against the Tigers a month ago and he has reeled off a 2.90 ERA in five starts since. While the 25-year-old walked a season-high four batters in his last outing on Saturday against the Rangers, he has made encouraging strides with his control this season. Hahn is averaging just 5.63 K/9 on the year, so it would be nice to see him miss more bats, but he keeps the ball on the ground and makes half of his starts in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. I still think he needs to be owned in more leagues.
Byron Buxton OF, Twins (Yahoo: 46 percent owned)
Buxton was the flavor of the week upon his unexpected call-up earlier this month, but he's gotten off to a bit of a slow start in the majors and has already been dropped in a lot of leagues. It's to be expected. We're a fickle sort. However, growing pains are part of the deal with a 21-year-old who only played 60 games in Double-A and skipped Triple-A altogether. Perhaps he's just not ready yet, but the tools and upside are enough for me to be patient in most formats. Here's hoping he gets more chances near the top of the lineup soon.
Jace Peterson 2B/3B, Braves (Yahoo: 27 percent owned)
After beginning the season in the bottom-third of the order, Peterson has found a home as the Braves' leadoff man over the six weeks. Showing good patience, the 25-year-old is batting .279 with a .360 on-base percentage to go along with two home runs, 31 RBI, 28 runs scored, and eight stolen bases over 66 games. It's worth noting that he hit .287 with a .381 on-base percentage in the Padres' minor league system and nearly had more walks than strikeouts, so this is consistent with his profile. There's not a lot of power here and hopefully he gets better picking his spots stealing bases, but he's a useful middle infielder right now.
Adam LaRoche 1B, White Sox (Yahoo: 47 percent owned)
After an aggressive offseason, the White Sox enter play Wednesday with a disappointing 31-39 record. LaRoche, who joined Chicago on a two-year, $25 million contract, has been a big part of that. Through 66 games, the 35-year-old is batting just .228 with eight home runs and a .716 OPS. It's been an up and down year for him, as he was awful in April before picking things up in May and struggling again this month. I see some things to be worried about here, as he's striking out at a career-high clip of 29.2 percent and his fly ball rate is his lowest since his second season in the majors in 2005. Still, LaRoche has the long track record and now plays in one of the best ballparks in the majors for power. Keep him on the bench against southpaws, but why not take a chance on a rebound?
Josh Hamilton OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 45 percent owned)
Adrian Beltre made a surprise return from the disabled list on Tuesday and Hamilton isn't too far behind. Hamilton, who suffered a Grade 2 left hamstring strain a month ago, is set to begin a minor league rehab assignment Wednesday with Double-A Frisco. If all goes well, he'll rejoin the Rangers for a four-game series against the Orioles early next week. The 34-year-old was 6-for-22 with two home runs and two doubles over seven games in his return to Texas before the injury. Obviously it's hard to count on him to stay healthy, but he's in a good situation there and should be picked up if you need some pop. By the way, I think there's a decent chance that Joey Gallo gets sent down when Hamilton returns.
Marcus Semien 2B/3B/SS, Athletics (Yahoo: 49 percent owned)
Semien was on fire at the start of the season, but he's struggling to the tune of a .211/.272/.272 batting line with three RBI over his last 32 games. He's just 1-for-3 in stolen base attempts in that timespan and hasn't homered since May 12. Oh, and he also leads all major league shortstops with 22 errors. I can understand why some fantasy owners have moved on, but the shortstop position has been so brutal this season that I'm willing to buy low in hopes of a rebound. Tuesday was his first multi-hit game since May 30, so perhaps this will get him going again.
Roberto Osuna RP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 19 percent owned)
After allowing eight runs in his last three appearances, Brett Cecil was removed from the closer role on Tuesday. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons didn't name a primary replacement, so we're looking at a committee situation. Steve Delabar is in the mix here, but Osuna is the most interesting name in fantasy leagues. The hard-throwing 20-year-old has posted a 2.12 ERA and 40/10 K/BB ratio over 34 innings this season. He converted his first career save Monday against the Rays with five strikeouts over two innings of work. My guess is that the Blue Jays will eventually acquire a closer, with Francisco Rodriguez or Jonathan Papelbon among the possibilities, but Osuna should be owned in most formats for now.
Carlos Rodon SP/RP, White Sox (Yahoo: 42 percent owned)
Ups and downs. We've seen it with Noah Syndergaard with the Mets and it's also happening with Rodon. After the young southpaw was rocked for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Pirates on June 15, he bounced back last time out by allowing two runs over six innings in a win over the Rangers. Rodon struggled with his control early on, but he has a 27/9 K/BB ratio in 28 innings over his last five starts. I'll take that as progress. He has a tough matchup against the Tigers on Thursday, but there's still enough upside here for him to be owned in most formats.
Patrick Corbin SP, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 10 percent owned)
Rays left-hander Matt Moore is scheduled to make his return from Tommy John surgery next week (you can read my thoughts on him here) while Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova will make his return Wednesday, but here's an option who isn't getting nearly as much attention. Corbin was hit hard in his first minor league rehab start, but his last two outings have been much better and he has reportedly been hitting the mid-90s on the radar gun. The southpaw is set to make two more starts before being activated, which likely sets up his return around the All-Star break. Inconsistency is to be expected with pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery, but Corbin had a 3.41 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 2013. I'd happily stash him in a DL spot just in case.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
J.J. Hoover RP, Reds (Yahoo: 4 percent owned)
I'm not saying the Reds are going to trade Aroldis Chapman, but they aren't a contender right now and having a closer like him is a luxury. With that in mind, it's not a bad idea to secure his potential replacement. After a rough 2014, Hoover owns a 1.44 ERA across 32 appearances this season. The big change is that he's keeping the ball in the ballpark. He has yet to allow a home run in 31 1/3 innings after giving up 13 of them in 62 2/3 innings last year. While he's not missing as many bats these days, keeping the ball on the ground has been a nice change.
Jason Motte RP, Cubs (Yahoo: 6 percent owned)
Trying to guess what's going on in Joe Maddon's head is probably fruitless, but let's give it a shot. Motte got his second save of the season Monday night against the Dodgers, with Hector Rondon pitching the eighth inning and Pedro Strop in the seventh. Maddon used the same order on Tuesday, except this time Motte pitched in the 10th inning of a tie ballgame. If anything, it's clear that Motte has earned his trust. After a bit of a rough start this season, the 33-year-old has allowed just one run over his last 15 appearances while posting a 9/2 K/BB ratio in 12 2/3 innings. This situation could get more complicated when Rafael Soriano and Neil Ramirez join the mix, but Motte is worth picking up until there's some clarity here.
Editor's Note: If you've played in daily fantasy baseball tournaments, you've probably tried (or at least heard of) "stacking" a team in your lineup. While stacking is a common strategy, this approach also comes with pitfalls. Check out this article from Rotogrinders' Dave "CheeseIsGood" Potts, the 2014 FanDuel DFBC Champion, for expert tips on "MLB DFS: The Psychology of Stacking."
Cody Anderson SP, Indians (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Anderson was mighty impressive in his major league debut Sunday against the Rays, scattering six hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings while walking one and striking out four. After trying multiple options, have the Indians finally found a fifth starter? Maybe. Anderson had a disappointing 5.44 ERA over 25 starts in Double-A last season, but he posted a 1.89 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 13 starts between Double- and Triple-A prior to his recent promotion. According to August Fagerstrom of MLB.com, Anderson credits his progress to keeping the ball down in the zone and developing his changeup to use as a weapon against left-handed batters. Those in mixed leagues can wait and see, but he's intriguing enough to use in AL-only leagues for now.
Andrew Romine 2B/3B/SS, Tigers (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Romine recently started three straight games at third base in place of Nick Castellanos, who is batting just .218 with four home runs and a .597 OPS through 68 games this season. It's safe to wonder if Castellanos will be demoted to Triple-A if he doesn't show signs of progress soon. It could be the best thing for the 23-year-old. Romine is a .243/.295/.292 hitter in the majors, so it's not like he'd be much better, but he could provide some cheap speed if the playing time is there.
John Jaso C, Rays (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
After making his return to the Rays in the Ben Zobrist deal over the winter, Jaso was expected to function as the primary designated hitter this season, but he suffered a bruised left wrist on Opening Day and has been on the shelf ever since. However, there's finally some good news to report, as he could begin a minor league rehab assignment by the end of the week. Chances are the Rays will want him to play a bunch of games to shake the rust, but a return around the All-Star break appears realistic. With his catcher-eligibility, he's worth stashing in a DL spot in leagues where he was dropped.
Eury Perez OF, Braves (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Called up by the Braves last week, Perez has made five straight starts in left field while going 5-for-17 (.294) with a double and an RBI. The main reason to pay attention to him? Speed. The 25-year-old has swiped 296 bases over 759 games in the minors. He was also a .305 hitter in the minors, so perhaps that speed will help him here too. There's opportunity here, so you might as well take advantage of it.
Jeremy Jeffress RP, Brewers (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
The Brewers figure to be one of just a handful of sellers in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline and Francisco Rodriguez is an obvious candidate to potentially be moved. That's why Jeffress should be stashed away in case of future save chances. The 27-year-old has quietly been very good this season, posting a 3.27 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 12 walks over 33 innings. Always a hard-thrower, Jeffress keeps the ball on the ground and has made some nice strides with his control from where it once was.
Cesar Hernandez 2B/3B/SS, Phillies (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Now that the struggling Chase Utley is headed to the disabled list with a nagging ankle injury, Hernandez should get the majority of the playing time at second base. The 25-year-old has showed solid patience this season while batting .248/.347/.341 across 151 plate appearances. I'm not expecting a lot, but he's multi-position eligible and stole 155 bases over 645 minor league games. That should be enough to get your attention in league-only formats.