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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?
C.J. Cron, 1B (LAA)--After slowing down slightly in the early portion of June, Cron has sting s smashed his way back into fantasy relevancy. Since last Friday, Cron has managed to go yard three times while logging two multi-hit games in that span, as he is now slashing .294/.323/.529 with six home runs and 19 RBI through his first 119 at-bats. Like most young hitters, he has struggled via the strikeout, owning a 20.2 percent strikeout rate, while taking only four walks in the early going, but his presence in the lineup is now going to now be regular and long term as we move into the second half of the schedule now that Raul Ibanez is out of the mix. He is currently owned in less than 20 percent of leagues throughout the major providers, so jump on board now if you are in need of help in the power department.
Steve Pearce, 1B, OF (BAL)--The Orioles outfielder has been one of the better hitters in all of baseball the last two weeks of the season, hitting .360 with three home runs, eight RBI and seven runs scored. Although he is a longtime journeyman, the Orioles have given him every opportunity to earn a long-term stay in the starting lineup although he has been a platoon player for most of his career. Being slotted in the two-hole ahead of the three-headed monster of Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Nelson Cruz can certainly have its advantages, as he should continue to get plenty of pitches to hit as the season progresses. However, he is a career .252 hitter, who typically struggles against right-handed pitchers, which makes it unrealistic to think he will be able to maintain his .331 average the rest of the way. With that said, he is still a solid source for both power and runs scored if his batting average was to take a hit, making him worth owning in all but the shallowest of formats moving forward.
Lucas Duda, 1B, OF (NYM)--Despite hitting a mere .252 through his first 226 at-bats, Duda has started to gain interest throughout the fantasy community after smacking three home runs over his last four games. Following the departure of Ike Davis, the Mets made it clear that Duda would be the team’s starting first baseman for the foreseeable future and has managed to do a respectable enough job to make that plan stand true. With his recent power surge, Duda is now sitting on 12 home runs and 39 RBI on the season while maintaining a very respectable .346 on-base percentage. Through the first half of the season, Duda has actually been rather unlucky, owning a .283 BABIP, which could lead to improvement as the season progresses. As long as he is hitting cleanup, even though it is in the Mets lineup, he warrants fantasy consideration in all leagues, as he sits with less than 20 percent ownership in most formats.
Brad Miller, 2B, SS (SEA)--After hitting just .161 through the first two months of the season, Miller was quickly dumped on the scrap heap in all but the deepest of fantasy leagues. However, he is currently slashing .311/.373/.514 with four home runs, 10 RBI and 14 runs scores in the month of June as he shows signs of turning things around as we head into the second half of the schedule. Although he doesn’t provide much speed for the shortstop position (3 SB), it is his power upside that makes him a fantasy consideration, even playing in pitcher-friendly home ballpark for half of his games. He has managed to go yard 15 times over the last two seasons (532 AB), which is very respectable for a player who struggled as bad as he did in the early going. As long as he can find a way to lower his 27.4 percent strikeout rate, there is definitely some fantasy value to be had in this powerful shortstop.
Mike Zunino, C (SEA)--The catcher position has been one of the more difficult positions to figure out this season, but if you are looking for some pop for your backstop, Zunino is your guy. Although he is slashing a mere .231/..288/.448 through 221 at-bats, he has managed to connect on11 home runs and drive in 27 RBI in the bottom half of the Mariners lineup. However, he has started to really heat up at the end of June, blasting four homers and five RBI while sitting on a .350 average over his last 20 at-bats. Clearly the sample size is far too small to get excited about, but his power stroke is something that is going to be long-lasting as long as he can stay healthy and work on his 79:10 K:BB rate in the early going. For now, Zunino should only warrant consideration in deep league formats, although his home run ability could lead to ownership throughout all formats when it is all said and done.
Jake Odorizzi, SP (TB)--There have been both ups and downs in 2014 for Odorizzi, but he has certainly shown why the Rays wanted him included in the package that sent James Shields to Kansas City prior to the 2013 season. Through 15 starts, he is sitting on a 3-7 record with a 4.29 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, which has kept his fantasy ownership on the downside. However, a 91:30 K:BB rate over 77.2 innings should be enough to entice even his biggest skeptics. Not to mention he has now allowed only three earned runs over his last three starts (20.0 IP) while walking only five batters and recording 20 strikeouts over that stretch. Being a young pitcher in the American League East is a tough task, and to this point he has done enough to earn himself a long term stay in the big leagues and likely for many years to come. There are going to be bumps in the road, clearly, but he should certainly be owned in more than 20 percent of leagues which is not the case heading into his start on Friday.
Matt Shoemaker, SO (LAA)--Whether out of the bullpen or as a member of the starting rotation, Shoemaker has gotten the job done for the Angels this season and is now starting to gain interest in the fantasy world as well. Though 50.0 innings, Shoemaker is sitting on a 3.42 ERA and 1.16 WHIP while maintaining a 51:11 K:BB rate. Considering the struggles of some of the Angels backend starters this season, Shoemaker has done more than enough to prove himself worthy enough to stay in the starting rotation as we get into the second half of the schedule. Those in both AL-only and deep league formats will want to give this 27-year-old a strong look if in need of pitching help as he sits 5-0 as a starter.
Taijuan Walker, SP (SEA)--Although nothing has been made official up to this point, there have been plenty of rumors circulating that the long anticipated arrival of Walker is slated for next week. If in fact this is the case, Walker would take the spot of Erasmo Ramirez, who was sent down to the minors on Wednesday, and make his first start of the season on Monday against the Astros. Walker dealt with a shoulder injury which cost him the first two months of the season, but is regarded as one of the top up-in-coming pitchers in all of baseball, so there is little doubt that the Mariners would even consider this move if he wasn’t at 100 percent health. Once the move is made official he is going to be the top waiver wire add, so if he is available in your league now is the time to place your claim on this stud pitcher.
Joe Smith, RP (LAA)--After the implosion of Ernesto Frieri last week, the Angels made the move once again, turning to Smith to be the team’s closer moving forward. Since regaining the role Smith has made two appearances, resulting in a pair of saves and a strong hold on the final frame work heading into the second half of the schedule. Outside of Frieri, there isn’t anyone that will challenge Smith for saves if he was to scuffle, so his job security should be high as Frieri’s value continues to diminish. Despite his new role, Smith is less than 50 percent owned in leagues throughout the major providers so if you are lacking in the saves department, now is the time to get him before his stock skyrockets.