A little extra flavor never hurts. Especially when puttin’ together a fantasy squad.
When I’m in the kitchen I make moves. If something aint selling, I take it off the menu. If a staff member isn’t doing their job, they’re gone. That’s how I run my fantasy teams.
Each week I will hit you with the players moving up the rankings that you NEED to know about. I don’t care if it is the No. 8 hitter on the Cubs or the No. 4 starter for the Astros. If they are producing, you’re gonna know about it.
Now that the sample sizes are starting to grow, we can start to see trends, whether positive or negative. However, in this column we are only talkin’ about the guys on the rise due to recent production or increased playing time. No one his perfect, so I might swing-and-miss from time to time, but that is the beauty of fantasy sports. Let’s get to it shall we?
David Murphy, OF (CLE)--Although Murphy may be overshadowed by the breakout campaign of fellow outfielder Michael Brantley, he is having himself a solid season thus far with his production picking up of late. Over the last two weeks, Murphy has gone 15-for-48 (.313 BA) with three homers and 12 RBI, but is still owned in less than 40 percent throughout the major providers (Yahoo!, ESPN, CBS) and I am not really sure why. It isn’t like his recent production is a fluke, considering he is slashing .284/.353/.466 through his first at-bats, while striking out only 12.8 percent of the time (19 K). Barring a serious injury, 2014 will mark the first time in his career he will surpass the 500 at-bat mark, so fantasy owners can expect career-highs across the board as long as he stays near his career-averages in both AB/HR (31.2) and ground ball-to-fly ball rate (0.81).
Oscar Taveras, OF (STL)--I may be a week or two too early to talk about Taveras, but if he is out there on the waiver wire, now is the time to pick him up. With the Super 2 deadline approaching, the Cardinals seem poised to make the move sooner than later, now sitting on a .322 average with six homers and 35 RBI through 171 at-bats at Triple-A Memphis. Once he’s up, there is no going back and the team will be sure to get him regular at-bats and start him over the struggling platoon of Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay. Like many youngsters, you have to take his first 100 at-bats or so with a grain of salt, considering it takes hitters some time to adjust to big league pitching, but if he pans out like scouts suggest, he will be well worth the wait.
Gordon Beckham, 2B (CWS)--With Jose Abreu on the shelf, the White Sox will need to find production elsewhere in their starting lineup to fill the void, and Beckham has made a nice complimentary piece thus far. In the month of May the White Sox second baseman is hitting .310 with three homes and 10 RBI, this coming after logging only 25 at-bats in the month of April due to an oblique strain. Injuries have long been a problem for this former first-rounder, but one thing is for sure, when he is hot he can be a great asset to any fantasy team. Right now he is being slotted in the two-hole, which should lead to an increase in the runs category, while adding a few stolen bases once he starts taking more walks (5 BB). Those in need of middle infield help will want to give Beckham a strong look as his production heats up with the summer months approaching, like we have seen in past seasons.
Nick Franklin, 2B (SEA)--After adding Robinson Cano this past off-season, the Mariners had nowhere to put Franklin in the middle infield, which resulted an extended stay in the minors. Well, after hitting .376 with seven homers and 26 RBI through 109 at-bats, the Mariners decided it was time to find a way to get his big bat back into the starting lineup. With the struggles of Brad Miller, Franklin has now added playing shortstop to his bag of tricks and has done a respectable job in the little time he has played the position. Whether or not the team decides to keep him there is anyone’s guess, but with Corey Hart out with a hamstring injury, Franklin is going to continue to see regular at-bats, at least in the short term. Once he gains shortstop eligibility it will only add to his already growing fantasy value, which is going to spike if his recent minor league production can translate to the big leagues, but hopefully without the strikeouts (30.6 percent K rate in 2013).
Mitch Moreland, 1B (TEX)--The Rangers received some unfortunate news this offseason in regards to Prince Fielder, who is now going to miss the rest of the season due to a neck injury. This opens the door for Moreland to take back the helm at first base, which will lead to more regular at-bats the rest of the way. Through 109 at-bats, Moreland has logged two homers and 15 RBI while sporting a .275 average with the majority of his at-bats coming as the team’s designated hitter. Keep in mind; he blasted 23 home runs as the team’s regular first baseman a season ago having logged at least 15 the last three seasons. So far his lack of home runs can’t be blamed on his career-low 0.77 ground ball-to-fly ball rate, rather on his lack of patience at the plate (0.29 BB/K). Whether he turns things around and starts hitting for power is anyone’s guess, but he is worth a shot now that he will move up a bit in the Rangers lineup.
Phil Hughes, SP (MIN)--There hasn’t been many pitchers better than Hughes over the last month of the season going 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA and 0.90 WHIP while fanning 27 batters in 33.1 innings. The move from the Bronx to the Twin Cities has certainly benefited him thus far, having allowed just four home runs to his opposition, which has been his Achilles’ heal over the course of his mediocre career. While it is unlikely this 27-year-old will be able to maintain this current rate, the fact that he is confident when on the mound has clearly shown that maybe the pressure of pitching for the Yankees got the best of him. Whatever the case, he has turned into the Twins ace after just nine starts, should be owned in all league formats considering he holds a 27:0 K:BB over his last five starting while allowing just one homer over that stretch. Get him now while his ownership remains low.
Mike Leake, SP (CIN)--The Reds may be struggling a bit, but it sure isn’t because of the efforts of this former shoplifter in the early going. He now sits 2-3 with a 2.91 ERA and 1.02 WHIP through nine starts, having allowed two runs or less in each of his last four starts. While he won’t help much in the strikeout category (5.26 K/9), the fact that he has continues to limit his walks (12 BB) and pitch deep into games (no less than 6.0 IP in all starts) makes him an asset to the WHIP category, which is an area that can give fantasy owners fits over the course of the season. To add to his recently inflated fantasy value, he owns a career 2.87 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in the month of June, so there is a good chance his recent production continues as the summer months approach. Just watch out if he hits a rough patch.
David Phelps, SP (NYY)--The Yankees pitching staff has taken its fair share of hits this season, but Phelps has done a respectable job filling in for the team’s injured starters. Over his last two starts (12.0 IP), Phelps has allowed just two runs on 11 hits and four walks while fanning 13 batters. While those numbers won’t blow anyone away, he now holds a 8.74 K/9 and a career-low 0.77 ground ball-to-fly ball rate between both the bullpen and as a starter, while keeping opposing hitters at a .244 batting average. His recent production has warranted him at least a few more starts while the team tries to figure out their long term plans to fill the voids, so he holds short term value in both AL-only and deep mixed leagues while a member of the starting rotation. Although the Yankees offense is struggling of late, just being a member of the Yankees staff is going to earn him a few wins along the way.
Jenrry Mejia, SP, RP (NYM)--After failing to stick as a starting pitcher in 2014, the Mets may have found a more permanent role for Mejia as the team’s closer. After Thursday’s scoreless frame, Mejia has now converted both of his save chances since joining the bullpen, having done so in dominating fashion. Since being moved to the bullpen, Mejia has yet to allow an earned run through 5.1 innings, giving up just five hits and no walks while fanning six batters over that stretch. Considering the other options, there is no reason for the Mets to try anyone else while he is rolling high, so make him your first option off the waiver wire if searching for help in the saves category.
Ronald Belisario, RP (CWS)--With Matt Lindstrom on the disabled list, the White Sox have little options to take over for him in the ninth inning. So far, it has been Belisario who has gotten the call to be the team’s closer, but has allowed runs in each of his last two appearances, after 17.1 innings of scoreless relief leading up to Lindstrom’s departure. Despite his recent struggles, Belisario has escaped with the save in both contests, which makes one assume it is going to be his job to lose for now. Those who missed out of Jenrry Mejia when looking for closer alternatives will want to give Belisario a strong look and hope he can right the ship before the team decides to give another reliever a crack at the ninth inning.