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?
Khris Davis, OF (MIL)--It’s not how you start, it is how you finish. For Davis he has now blasted four home runs over his last seven games, bringing his season total up to nine with 21 RBI over 183 at-bats. He was a sexy sleeper pick heading into the 2014 season, but after batting .245 in the month of April found his way to the scarp heap in just a short amount of time. While his .279 average from a season ago is still in reach, he will need to be a bit more patient at the plate and limit his strikeouts in order to build off of what he started (0.16 BB/K). However, his recent performance has led to a 20.3 AB/HR, which would put him on pace to smack 24 home runs if he was able to reach the 500 at-bat mark. He is currently owned in just over 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues after his slow start, but now is the time to get back o board as he continues to gain his confidence at the plate.
Kolten Wong, 2B (STL)--As discussed in this week’s Chef’s Table column, Wong has been in beast mode since being promoted from Triple-A Memphis and his ownership throughout the major providers is now on the rise. Since rejoining the Cardinals, Wong has now slashing .356/.420/.444 with four extra-base hits, six RBI, a half dozen runs scored and five steals in 11 games, making him a top 25 producer in that stretch. He has settled in nicely to hitting between Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday in the Cardinals starting lineup and should remain a fixture there although Mark Ellis is still lurking with Wong batting just .200 against southpaws. If he can find a way to keep up the pace, prospective owners are looking at a player with 50-plus runs and 20-plus stolen base potential which would be a solid asset no matter the league format.
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (CLE)--It is really hard to deny a player that is hitting .358 through 123 at-bats, but for some reason he isn’t getting the love he deserves in terms of ownership throughout the major providers. What has limited his fantasy value this season is the fact that he has just two homers and 10 RBI over that same stretch, but now that his hot start has moved him up in the batting order, his power production should start to increase steadily with both Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher out of the lineup. Let’s not forget, this guy was a former first-round pick back in 2008, so he as the pedigree to be a legit player at the top level, and has shown his ability to hit for power in limited duties in the big leagues in previous seasons ( 28.0 AB/HR pre-2014). Whether or not his bat sticks in the stating lineup once the Indians core offensive players return is anyone’s guess, but while he is getting the opportunity he is worth taking a shot on, especially for those struggling in the batting average category.
Michael Saunders, OF (SEA)--It wouldn’t be a baseball season without having to mention Saunders in a waiver wire article. It seems like year after year this guy goes on a hot streak but never finishes strong enough to be drafted the following season. Anyway, Saunders is once again streaking, having gone 5-for-16 with a home run and five RBI over his last six games, giving him a .321 average with two homers and 17 RBI in the month of May. The Mariners outfield has been a mess this season, between both injuries and underperformances, it is hard to believe that the team won’t continue rolling with him on most night’s although the team has already indicated that he will get every fourth or fifth day off to keep his production at a premium. Whether or not the team follows through with that plan is yet to be seen, but if you are in need a player to help out in the outfield there are a lot worse options out there than Saunders moving forward.
Tommy Medica, 1B, OF (SD)--Although he is just four games into his recent promotion, Medica has given the Padres a reason to get him into the starting lineup while in the big leagues. He has now 9-for-15 with four extra-base hits (2 HR) and five RBI including back-to-back three-hit games over his last five games. With a series against the White Sox on deck this weekend, Medica will likely get the starting nod in left field in place of Carlos Quentin, who will serve as the team’s designated hitter. If Medica can keep up the pace, he makes a strong case to start earning starts at first base as well, considering Yonder Alonso is hitting just .206 with three homers and 15 RBI through 175 at-bats. The Padres offense is struggling, ranking dead last in runs scored, so anyone who is hitting well is going to get at-bats at this point in the season. However, for now he should only be added in NL-only leagues until we see how he makes out this weekend in the Windy City.
Jaime Garcia, SP (STL)--Coming off of his third start since returning from the disabled list, Garcia appears to have worked out the kinks and is now ready to start producing for prospective fantasy owners. He sits 1-0 with a 4.12 ERA and 0.81 WHIP, owning a 19:0 K:BB rate which is very impressive through his first 19.2 innings. With the influx of young pitchers in St. Louis, Garcia now slots at the back-end of the starting rotation, which is going to be beneficial to him after missing the majority of both the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The only concern in the early going is the fact that he has allowed four home runs out the gates, but his career 1.30 ground ball-to-fly ball rate suggest that we should not expect that problem to continue into the summer months. Prior to the 2014 season, his career-high K/9 was a 7.27 back in 2010, so his high strikeout rate probably isn’t going to hold up for the duration of the season. Take him for what he is; an inning-eater on a good team that doesn’t walk a lot of guys, which is enough to make him a solid add moving forward.
Jorge De La Rosa, SP (COL)--After a shaky start to the season, De La Rosa has pitched brilliant over the last nine starts, although he has done it quietly. He is now 6-3 with a 3.66 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 11 starts while owning a 48:23 K:BB rate over 59.0 innings. The last time De La Rosa found himself on the losing end of a matchup was April 16, logging six wins in his last seven starts. His home ballpark sure is scary for pitchers, but De La Rosa has managed a 3-0 record with a 2.49 ERA over five home starts, allowing just eight runs (seven earned) on 18 hits (2 HR). He does give up too many walks for my liking, although he has managed to land a strand rate of 74.0 percent, which has limited the damage up to this point. As long as he continues to keep the ball down and manage a solid ground ball-to-fly ball rate (1.36), he will be a helpful piece to almost any fantasy pitching staff.
Jacob deGrom, SP (NYM)--Up to this point deGrom has had mixed reviews. He is 0-2 through three starts, but owns a 1.83 ERA and 1.17 WHIP having pitched into the sixth inning or later in each of those trips to the mound. To date, his biggest problem has been in the walk department, allowing 10 free passes over his first 19.2 innings although he has allowed just 13 hits over that same time frame. He has been fortunate up to this point to support a 100.0 percent strand rate, which is not going to hold up if he stays in the Mets starting rotation, but you have to like how he has kept his composure and worked out of tough situations despite some extra luck rolling his way. The Mets have little options to deploy as far as starters go, so he should be a fixture for a while, that is unless the wheels fall completely off. He has the stuff to be a legitimate fantasy contributor and I think he is worth a shot if you are looking for a spark in the backend of fantasy rotations.
Rubby De La Rosa, SP (BOS)--It has been a few seasons since De La Rosa made his last start in the big leagues (2011), but after a good start to the 2014 season at Triple-A, the Red Sox will promote him to take the mound on Saturday. Through 53.1 innings at Triple-A Pawtucket, De La Rosa has posted a 3.04 ERA, 8.78 K/9 and has yet to allow a home run to his opposition. It is unclear if De La Rosa is going to stay in the Red Sox starting rotation past tomorrow’s game, but with both Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront out with injuries it is safe to assume his stay will go beyond this weekend. Those in both AL-only and deep mixed leagues will want to give this flamethrower a look especially if you are in desperate need of help in the strikeout department.
Chad Qualls, RP (HOU)--To say the Astros close situation has been a mess this season would be an understatement. However, Qualls has now converted each of the last two save opportunities thrown his way, while pitching through six straight perfect relief appearances (5.1 IP). With little competition, Qualls should be able to hold onto the job while pitching at a high level, although his leash maybe short considering the struggles of the bullpen as a whole since Opening Day. Through 16.1 innings, Qualls owns a 2.76 ERA and 1.29 WHIP while fanning 19 batters over that stretch. As long as he continues to limit his walks (3 BB) and home runs (1 HR), he is the man to own from the Astros bullpen moving forward, but is owned in less than 40 percent of leagues throughout the major providers so grab him now while you can.