Interleague baseball continues, the All Star break is near. My fantasy team is holding on to second place after a rough week where my team did not hit a lick, and my pitchers were hit hard. I also lost my best pitcher for the season to Tommy John Surgery and hoping to pick up Roy Oswalt with my number 2 waiver claim. It’s been exciting with the New York Mets still in the thick of things. They are a surprise, giving their hearts and souls each day that they play. R. A. Dickey, 37 years old is leading the young Mets team with his high energy. He is the only knuckleballer in the major leagues now. Do you remember the other great knuckleball pitchers? They are: The Niekro brothers, Hoyt Wilhelm, Charlie Hough, and Tim Wakefield. He is having his best season with an 11-1 record. He pitched two one-hitter’s back to back while striking out a career-high 13 batters last week. Dickey had a streak where he allowed just one earned run over his last six starts.
More injuries again this week,your bench continues to be an important part of the fantasy game.
This week I’ll share with you part of D.J. Short’s article Waiver Wired Gee Whiz from Rotoworld.com
When Roy Oswalt first signed with the Rangers late last month, I wasn’t sold on stashing him away in shallow mixed leagues. My reasoning at the time was that it wasn’t worth wasting a roster spot on him for a couple of weeks when there were plenty of comparable or better starting pitchers who could contribute in fantasy leagues right away. Now that Oswalt is poised to make his Rangers’ debut Friday against the Rockies, I’m still not sure he’s a must-own. And this has nothing to do with his shaky outings in the minors.
Anthony Rizzo 1B, Cubs *******Rumor says his call up date is June 25. WHOOO HOO I own him!
The wait is almost over. The Cubs played Bryan LaHair in right field this week, which is the biggest hint yet that Rizzo’s promotion to the big leagues isn’t far off. Also important: the calendar. Starting today (Thursday, if you’re reading this late), the Cubs have waited just long enough to ensure that Rizzo will become a free agent following the 2018 season as opposed to 2017. Sure, the 22-year-old first baseman stumbled in his first taste of the big leagues last season, but his numbers with Triple-A Iowa this year are simply eye-popping. He should be owned on pure potential alone in mixed leagues that are 12 teams or deeper.
Justin Masterson SP, Indians
After getting off to a miserable start this season, Masterson has turned things around in dramatic fashion. The 27-year-old right-hander entered June with a disappointing 5.14 ERA, but he has allowed just four runs over his last four starts, lowering his ERA down to 3.98 for the year. This includes three straight starts of at least seven innings and one run or less allowed. His improved command is a big reason for the recent rebound, as he has walked just six batters over his last six starts after handing out 34 free passes over his first nine outings. There shouldn’t be any hesitation to pick him up in most formats at this point.
Brandon Belt 1B/OF, Giants ******* Great Potential take a shot
Last week I mentioned Ike Davis in this space, but another young first baseman has shown signs of breaking out recently. Belt homered in three straight games last week and is hitting .333 (15-for-45) in 16 games this month. While the power hasn’t really been there until the past week or so, the 24-year-old first baseman still owns an impressive .796 OPS for the year thanks to his patient approach at the plate. With Aubrey Huff on the disabled list and Brett Pill in the minors, there’s nothing standing in the way of Belt playing every day. At least for now. The “Baby Giraffe” should be owned outside of shallow mixed leagues.
Dillon Gee SP, Mets
Well would you look at that? Gee is growing up before our eyes. After allowing two runs over 7 1/3 innings in a win over the Orioles on Wednesday night, the 26-year-old right-hander has a 4.27 ERA and 83/25 K/BB ratio in 90 2/3 innings over his first 14 starts. While the ERA is only slightly better than what we saw last year, it doesn’t tell the whole story. His strikeout rate is up, his walks are down and his ground ball rate is up. Gee could be quite a find the rest of the way if he keeps up those trends and his home run to fly ball rate normalizes a bit.
Jon Jay OF, Cardinals
The Cardinals gave Jay a few weeks off to nurse a lingering shoulder injury and it appears to have done the trick. The 27-year-old center fielder is 3-for-7 with a home run and a triple over his first two minor league rehab games with Triple-A Memphis and could be back in the Cardinals’ lineup as soon as this weekend against the Royals. He had 36 extra-base hits (10 homers) and eight stolen bases in 455 at-bats last year and was hitting .343 with two homers, eight RBI and four stolen bases through 27 games this season prior to the injury, so he should be plenty useful in deeper mixed leagues upon his return.
Joaquin Benoit RP, Tigers
There’s a short-term opening in the Tigers’ bullpen this week, as closer Jose Valverde suffered a sprained right wrist and is expected to miss a few days. Phil Coke earned a save in his place Tuesday night against the Cardinals, but Benoit should be the target here in mixed leagues. The 34-year-old right-hander has a 2.12 ERA over 161 relief appearances dating back to the start of 2010, including a 1.99 ERA and 44/13 K/BB ratio over 31 2/3 innings this season. He’s a pretty safe pickup if you need to vulture for a couple save chances.
Zack Cozart SS, Reds
Cozart’s rookie campaign has been a mixed bag, but he’s on a pretty nice roll recently. The 26-year-old is hitting .333 (24-for-72) this month, including nine multi-hit games. It would be nice if he drew more walks and he hasn’t run as much as I thought he would, but he’s currently tied for third among fantasy shortstops with 40 runs scored and tied for 10th in home runs with seven. He’s plenty useful in deeper mixed leagues, especially if you’re currently fishing for a replacement for Troy Tulowitzki.
Francisco Liriano RP/SP, Twins
It’s safe to say that Liriano remains one of fantasy baseball’s biggest enigmas. The 28-year-old left-hander allowed just one run over 6 2/3 innings in Wednesday’s win over the Pirates and now holds a 2.67 ERA and 35/12 K/BB ratio over 30 1/3 innings in five starts since rejoining the Twins’ starting rotation at the end of May. That’s one way to boost your trade value. We’ll obviously need to see a lot more before declaring that the old Liriano is back, but most fantasy owners can afford to take a chance on his considerable upside.
Seth Smith OF, Athletics
Smith was batting just .217 entering play on June 6, but he’s hitting .432 (19-for-44) with three homers and 12 RBI over his last 14 games. Only Aaron Hill, Jose Bautista, Joey Votto and Trevor Plouffe have a higher OPS (1.173) this month among players with at least 50 plate appearances. I was worried that his production would suffer after leaving Coors Field behind, but his home/road splits were pretty even last year and he actually has an .893 OPS at O.co Coliseum this season compared to a .780 elsewhere. Smith isn’t going to play much against left-handers, so he’s best utilized in a daily leagues, but he should continue to do enough to warrant ownership in deeper formats.
John Mayberry, Jr. OF/1B, Phillies ******* Great Potential take a shot
Mayberry was largely irrelevant in fantasy leagues over the first two months of the season, but something has finally clicked for him recently. After collecting just two homers and 12 RBI over his first 145 at-bats, the 28-year-old has four homers and 10 RBI in just 24 at-bats over his last six games. Most who drafted Mayberry as a potential sleeper this season dumped him on the waiver wire after his slow start, so he’s still widely available in most formats. With his eligibility between first base and the outfield, he’s a pretty useful player to have around in deeper leagues.
Lorenzo Cain OF, Royals ******* Great Potential take a shot
After a couple stops and starts, Cain is finally on the comeback trail. The 26-year-old outfielder originally went on the disabled list with a groin injury in mid-April, but he suffered a torn hip flexor during a rehab assignment and is just making his way back now. Acquired from the Brewers as part of the Zack Greinke deal back in December of 2010, Cain was considered a sleeper in mixed leagues this spring due to his speed and modest pop. Jarrod Dyson hasn’t exactly thrived in his absence and top prospect Wil Myers is likely bound for a corner outfield spot, so Cain should get an extended look in center field once he’s finally healthy.
Luis Valbuena 2B/3B, Cubs
The Cubs placed Ian Stewart on the disabled list last week due a left wrist injury, so Valbuena is getting the chance at regular playing time at third base. The 26-year-old has shown some nice pop in the minors over the past two seasons and has two homers and seven RBI in seven games since his call-up from Triple-A Iowa. Remember, he slugged 10 homers in 398 plate appearances as a 23-year-old with the Indians back in 2009, so it’s not like he hasn’t done it at the major league level before. With his multi-position eligibility, he makes for a pretty decent injury fill-in.
Marco Estrada SP/RP, Brewers
Estrada has been sidelined for nearly a month due to a right quad strain, but he should rejoin the Brewers’ rotation in short order. The 28-year-old right-hander threw three shutout innings last Saturday in his first rehab start and is expected to get stretched out to 75 pitches on Thursday. If all goes well, he should return from the disabled list Tuesday against the Reds. Estrada is winless in six starts with the Brewers this season, but throws strikes and has averaged 8.66 K/9 in the majors. If healthy, he could be a nice sleeper moving forward.
Chris Nelson 2B/3B, Rockies
The Rockies expect to be without Troy Tulowitzki for the next eight weeks following surgery to remove scar tissue from a nerve in his groin. While it’s a crushing blow for the Rockies and some fantasy owners, the injury should provide Nelson with the opportunity to play pretty regularly at second base while Marco Scutaro fills in at shortstop. The 2004 first-round pick has an underwhelming .251/.302/.389 batting line in the big leagues and doesn’t run as much as he did when he was considered a top prospect, but his pop is enough to make him interesting at the second base position.
Brandon Lyon RP, Astros
This has nothing to do with Brett Myers’ disastrous outing on Monday. One clunker shouldn’t change things and the Astros appear committed to using him in the closer role in order to make him attractive in a trade. But who is the alternative if the Astros end up finding a taker? Wilton Lopez makes the most sense, but he’s on the disabled list with a sprained elbow. With his status up in the air at the moment, Lyon might be the one to stash. The 32-year-old right-hander has pitched really well in his first season back from shoulder surgery, posting a 2.60 ERA and 28/7 K/BB ratio over 27 2/3 innings. Of course, if he continues to pitch well, he may also draw interest from contending teams.
Chris Archer SP, Rays
After Jeremy Hellickson was placed on the disabled list this week due to shoulder fatigue, the Rays called up Archer to make his major league debut Wednesday against the Nationals. He was shaky at first, but ended up giving up three runs (two earned) over six innings while striking out seven and walking just one. The 23-year-old has struggled a bit since coming over in the Matt Garza deal, mostly due to his shaky command and control, but he has averaged 9.0 K/9 over parts of seven seasons in the minors. He should be owned as long as he has a rotation spot.
Carlos Villanueva SP/RP, Blue Jays
Villanueva has bailed out the injury-plagued Blue Jays recently, tossing four scoreless innings last Friday and 2 1/3 shutout frames on Tuesday. This is pure speculation on my part, but he’s adequately stretched out if the Jays want to turn to him as an option out of the rotation. The 28-year-old right-hander had mixed results as a starter last year and was eventually moved back to the bullpen following a stint on the disabled list with a right forearm strain, but the Jays might not have any other choice right now.
Casper Wells OF, Mariners
Wells really doesn’t want to go back to the minors. The 27-year-old outfielder is hitting .524 (11-for-21) with one homer, one double and six RBI in seven games since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma. Things could get a little crowded when Mike Carp returns from a shoulder injury, but Wells should continue to get semi-regular playing time for now while the Mariners give regular rest to Franklin Gutierrez. Wells’ speed and pop makes him an intriguing short-term pickup.
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