Putting together this week’s column reminds me of being at the local supermarket and getting one of those tiny baskets of loose cherry tomatoes, maybe fresh from a local farm. You make sure to pick out one that’s piled high. For a minute, you feel good about yourself and the fun recipes you can concoct. As you push your cart around the store, a marginal amount of your piled-high tomatoes begin falling out of the little basket in your cart and roll across the floor. You end up at the checkout counter feeling cheated, but also too lazy to go back and get a new little basket with the proper allotment of tomatoes. The end result is still pretty good, but not what you had in mind when you picked up that little basket.
I try to set a limit to the number of players I discuss in this column, but sometimes, there are so many that I’d like to discuss that they end up rolling out of my basket and across the floor. I just can’t get to everyone all the time, at least without things getting a little messy.
For instance, Rich Hill left his start Wednesday with left forearm discomfort, an ominous sign to be sure. There’s obviously opportunity in the Dodgers’ rotation, but for whom? Julio Urias is making a spot-start on Thursday, but Ross Stripling could be the guy. Do what you have to do there. I’m generally skeptical about Indians rookie Zach Plesac, but how can you resist using him against the Tigers on Sunday? Finally, it could pay off to pick up Brendan Rodgers again now that Trevor Story is on the injured list with a right thumb sprain. You aren't going to get full write-ups on these players, but tomayto, tomahto. The end result is pretty much the same.
Have specific questions about your roster? Ask @djshort on Twitter.
(Players rostered in under 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Note: Percentages are from the morning of Thursday, June 20.
Jorge Soler OF, Royals (Yahoo: 49 percent rostered)
**Extremely Chandler Bing voice**
“Could Jorge Soler *be* any more post-hype?”
Think about it. Soler came to the majors with a bunch of hype and impressed during his first stint with the Cubs way back in 2014, but it’s been a series of disappointments since. Just when it looked like he was going to get a chance to thrive with the Royals after coming over in the Wade Davis deal, he missed a bunch of time with an oblique injury to begin 2017 and just never found his footing. Speaking of his foot, he got off to a decent enough start last year before a fractured toe effectively ended things. Finally, just finally, he’s delivering on his promise. Thanks to a monster June, Soler is tied for fourth in the AL with 20 homers and ranks fifth with 52 RBI. His penchant for the strikeout is going to cut into his batting average, but you can’t question the raw power. Let’s push him over that 50-percent mark, huh?
Oscar Mercado OF, Indians (Yahoo: 44 percent rostered)
In the much-discussed wave of prospect call-ups last month, Mercado got lost a bit amid the arrivals of Austin Riley, Keston Hiura, Brendan Rodgers, and even Willie Calhoun. Just a few weeks later, he’s emerged as the best option not named Austin Riley. In addition to batting .315/.367/.505 through 29 games, he’s swiped six bases while piling up four homers, 13 RBI, and 25 runs scored. It’s consistent with the sort of numbers we saw in Triple-A this year, albeit with not nearly as much patience. After starting out near the bottom of the Indians’ lineup, Mercado has hit second in 11 straight games. Ride that wave.
Zac Gallen SP, Marlins (Yahoo: 41 percent rostered)
It took an injury to Pablo Lopez, but it’s finally time. Fantasy owners have been clamoring for Gallen’s arrival for weeks and they’ll get their wish Thursday night, as he’ll make his major league debut against the Cardinals. Acquired from St. Louis as part of the Marcell Ozuna trade, the 23-year-old has reeled off a ridiculous 1.77 ERA with 112 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 91 1/3 innings across 14 starts this year in Triple-A. Gallen wasn’t considered a top prospect coming into the year, but he’s added a couple of ticks to his fastball and it’s hard not to be impressed with how he’s succeeded in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. His ceiling is still up for debate, but he’s pretty much a must-added wherever he’s still available.
Bryan Reynolds OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 32 percent rostered)
Call me stubborn if you want, but I’ve been reluctant to include Reynolds in this column until now. Still, it’s abundantly clear that he should be a regular, even in Pittsburgh’s crowded outfield. Acquired from the Giants in the Andrew McCutchen trade. the 2016 second-round pick has produced a .362/.418/.571 batting line with six homers, 26 RBI, and 31 runs scored over 53 games. This includes a go-ahead three-run homer against the Tigers on Wednesday. Yes, Reynolds holds a .446 BABIP. No, that won’t last. But he had a .312/.373/.472 batting line in the minors and to his credit, he’s been hitting the ball very hard. Per FanGraphs, his hard-hit rate is top-20 in the majors. It’s about time I included him here and it’s about time he gets more attention in general.
Cavan Biggio 2B/OF, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 28 percent rostered)
After a bit of a rough start in the majors, Biggio has shown some signs of life recently with a pair of two-homer games. He also hit safely in all three games during the Blue Jays’ recent trip to Houston, which took on some special meaning for his family. On the whole, Biggio has been close to advertised so far. While he’s struck out 27.2 percent of the time, he’s also shown excellent patience and some pop. He’ll even throw in a stolen base or two. The multi-position eligibility helps his case. I’m concerned about the batting average, so Biggio is a better add in OBP or OPS leagues.
Tyler Skaggs SP, Angels (Yahoo: 28 percent rostered)
I mentioned Skaggs as a dart-throw in a two-start pitcher video for this week and so far it’s working out pretty well. The southpaw put up his best start of the season Tuesday against the Blue Jays, allowing just one run - a solo homer — on three hits over 7 1/3 innings while striking out six and walking one. Even with the strong start, Skaggs is sporting a mediocre 4.61 ERA on the year, but the secondary numbers indicate he’s deserved a little better. Feel free to roll with him against this weekend against the Cardinals on the road.
Kevin Newman 2B/SS, Pirates (Yahoo: 12 percent rostered)
We’re not done with the Pirates here. Newman took over the leadoff spot late last month and it doesn’t look like he’s giving it up anytime soon. The 25-year-old has hit safely in nine straight games, going 15-for-41 (.369) during that time. There’s no power on his resume, but fantasy owners can expect a solid approach and some help on the speed front. He’s 4-for-5 in stolen base attempts so far this year and swiped 28 bases over 109 games in Triple-A last year. With his multi-position eligibility, he merits consideration in deeper formats.
Michael Lorenzen RP/SP, Reds (Yahoo: 14 percent rostered)
Is there a closer controversy in Cincinnati? This isn’t really about Raisel Iglesias’ performance. He’s still the best arm in the Reds’ bullpen. But it’s mostly about how they choose to deploy him. It looked like he was getting a five-out save on Tuesday before Lorenzen got the call for the final two outs. Then on Wednesday, Iglesias cleaned up for Amir Garrett to get the final two outs of the eighth — both strikeouts — before Lorenzen received a traditional save chance in the ninth inning. In a scenario which was discussed coming into the year, it’s clear the Reds aren’t afraid to use him in unconventional ways if the situation calls for it. Lorenzen has benefited in recent days and that could continue in the coming days. He’s been solid in his own right this year — 3.05 ERA, 38/10 K/BB ratio in 38 1/3 innings — so it shouldn’t hurt to see how this situation plays out.
Brian Dozier 2B, Nationals (Yahoo: 39 percent rostered)
You know, it’s certainly a convenient narrative that Dozier is a better player as the season moves along, but we’ll go with here. Dozier was hitting just .187 with a .606 OPS through his first 41 games — so we’re talking about a month ago — but he’s turned things around to the tune of a .304/.356/.630 batting line with seven homers, 21 RBI, and 16 runs scored over his last 28 games. This includes homers in each part of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Phillies. He’s cut down on his strikeouts during this time and continues to loft the ball at a very high clip. Hitting higher than sixth would be great, but the second base position is a mess this year, so he’s earned his way back on the map.
Michael Pineda SP, Twins (Yahoo: 13 percent rostered)
Pineda is quietly pitching his way back into consideration in mixed leagues. The 30-year-old had a 5.34 ERA through 11 starts before hitting the injured list with knee tendinitis in late May, but some time away has apparently done the trick. In three starts since his return, he’s posted a 2.70 ERA and 12/3 K/BB ratio in 16 2/3 innings. This includes six innings of one-run ball against the Red Sox on Tuesday night. His slider looked electric at times, inducing five whiffs. With a great offense behind him, there could be something here.
Ian Kennedy RP/SP, Royals (Yahoo: 40 percent rostered)
Let’s say you noticed a pitcher who owns a 38/5 K/BB ratio in 29 innings this year and has picked up five saves this month. You would probably be interested, right? What if I told you that pitcher was Kennedy? The Royals are bad, so this situation has been easy to ignore, but Kennedy has really taken to his new role. His velocity is up with the move to the bullpen and he’s also getting more grounders than ever before. Relevance in fantasy leagues might be fleeting, as the Royals could attempt to pay down a bunch of his remaining contact to trade him to a contender, but there’s an argument to having him on your roster rather than deal with some of the messy closer situations around the game.
Brian McCann C, Braves (Yahoo: 11 percent rostered)
The Braves have been on quite the run of late and McCann has been right in the middle of it and showing some vintage skills along the way. I thought his days of fantasy relevance were likely over, but the 35-year-old has put up seven homers and an .865 OPS over 147 plate appearances. He almost has as many walks (15) as he does strikeouts (16), with his best contact rate since his previous tenure with the Braves in 2012. Tyler Flowers is still very much in this mix and having a good year of his own, but McCann is a fine option in two-catcher formats at least.
Scott Oberg RP, Rockies (Yahoo: 23 percent rostered)
Oberg was a drop in most leagues when Wade Davis returned from his oblique injury, but it might be time to give him another look. Since his activation, Davis has allowed eight runs on 11 hits and three walks over 5 1/3 innings. He blew a pair of saves over the weekend against the Padres — including one in brutal fashion on Sunday — before looking shaky in finishing off Wednesday’s win over the Diamondbacks. Davis was succeeding despite 10 walks in 14 2/3 innings prior to the oblique injury, so there have been lingering warning signs. With the Rockies in the thick of things, one wonders how patient they’ll be if Davis continues to struggle. As for Oberg, he’s put up a nifty 1.59 ERA in 30 appearances this season.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players rostered in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Carson Kelly C, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 4 percent rostered)
Luke Weaver was enjoying a breakthrough season before going down with a mild sprain of the UCL in his elbow, but the Diamondbacks have more to show for the Paul Goldschmidt trade with the Cardinals. Kelly has thrived when called upon this season, popping eight homers with an .835 OPS through 51 games. The 24-year-old had a .154/.227/.188 batting line in 131 plate appearances with the Cardinals between 2016-2018, but they were only sporadic at-bats and he continued to post interesting numbers in the minors. The power has been nice, but Kelly has also shown a good amount of patience this year and an ability to make contact. With Alex Avila sidelined due to a left calf strain, Kelly is a recommended pickup in two-catcher formats.
Logan Allen SP, Padres (Yahoo: 5 percent rostered)
It was hard to know what to make of Allen given his 5.15 ERA in Triple-A this year, but he looked great in his major league debut Tuesday, tossing seven scoreless frames against a tough Brewers lineup. With his buddy John Cena in attendance, the southpaw struck out five and walked two while inducing 10 swinging strikes in his 90 pitches. In truth, it’s important to look past the ERA in Triple-A. After all, he still fanned 63 batters in 57 2/3 innings. As we saw on Tuesday, Allen featured a mid-90s fastball and netted most of his swinging strikes (five) on his changeup. The Padres have a bunch of options for their rotation moving forward, but Allen is at least worth a short-term look with a possible matchup against the Orioles next week.
Zack Collins C, White Sox (Yahoo: 2 percent rostered)
Collins has received some attention as a call-up this week, but he’s a bit of a tricky case. You have to like the power and patience, but strikeouts are a real concern. He fanned in 32 percent of his plate appearances in Triple-A this year, so it will be interesting to see how much he struggles to make contact in the majors. James McCann has been really good this year, so it’s not like he’s going to be a regular with Welington Castillo out. That’s why he wound up here and why I’d take guys like Carson Kelly and even Brian McCann over him.
Jake Cave OF, Twins (Yahoo: 0 percent rostered)
The Twins waited as long as they could on Byron Buxton’s right wrist contusion, but they decided to place him on the injured list this week and bring up Cave in a corresponding move. Cave made the start in center field on Wednesday and should see some more chances in the coming days. If all goes well, it’s possible that Buxton could return as soon as next Tuesday. So this might be a small window, but the 26-year-old Cave slugged 13 homers in 91 games with the Twins last year and was hitting well in Triple-A this season.
Jesse Chavez SP/RP, Rangers (Yahoo: 3 percent rostered)
After throwing five innings of one-run ball in relief of Joe Palumbo on Wednesday against the Indians, Chavez is slated to move into the Rangers’ starting rotation. He’s worth an immediate add in deeper formats, maybe even on a matchup basis in some mixed leagues. He gets a good one next Tuesday against the Tigers. Chavez, who has plenty of starting experience, has posted a 3.18 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings this year.
Adbert Alzolay SP, Cubs (Yahoo: 21 percent rostered)
Alzolay has been stashed away in a bunch of leagues already, so he doesn’t need much of an introduction. We’re going to get our first look at him Thursday as he’s slated to make his major league debut backing up Tyler Chatwood against the Mets. His role beyond that is unclear, which is why he falls short of a full endorsement over a pickup in mixed leagues. Still, he’s a name to watch. Alzolay, one of the Cubs’ top prospects, has put up a 3.09 ERA with a stingy 46/6 K/BB ratio in 32 innings across his six starts in Triple-A this year.
Brad Miller 1B/2B/SS, Phillies (Yahoo: 0 percent rostered)
It’s been a couple of years since Miller has done anything of fantasy relevance, so it’s understandable if you missed his recent move to the Phillies. Still, with as bad as Maikel Franco has been, it’s worth wondering if Miller can carve out even a semi-regular role. He’s hit as many as 30 homers before and there could be something here with the Phillies’ home ballpark and the super-charged baseball. Just something to keep in mind. Cesar Puello was hitting well with the Angels and could be worth a look after being acquired from the Marlins this week.