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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.
With one of the most active trade deadlines to date now past, it is time to start to see whether or not the right moves were made to both rebuild and bolster lineups down the stretch. The recent activity throughout the league has opened up opportunities for a handful of players, all of which are going to be featured in today’s column. So sit back and enjoy as we run through some players that have had a window of opportunity open up after yesterday’s deadline or players heading for new horizons with a new ball club.
Emilio Bonifacio, 2B, OF (ATL)--The Cubs received more than they could have ever asked for from Bonifacio, who they claimed off waivers during spring training and have now shipped him off to Atlanta where his role has yet to be identified. However, his production since returning from injury should result in instant playing time with his new team. He is now slashing .279/.318/.373 with 19 extra-base hits (2 HR), 35 runs scored and 14 stolen bases over 276 at-bats, which makes him a solid addition to the top of the Braves lineup. Although his everyday position still have to be figured out, the fact that he can play at either second base, third base, or the outfield gives the Braves plenty of flexibility with their new utility player. The Cubs offense was a perfect fit for Bonifacio and his skillset, but his new home’s offense is also power heavy, which he will balance out nicely with his speed. For now he should be added in deep mixed leagues and if he takes off out the gates, could become a standard league play if his early season success translates to the National League East.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B (BOS)--After moving Stephen Drew to the Yankees prior to the trade deadline, the Red Sox will slide Xander Bogaerts back to shortstop, giving Middlebrooks what will likely be his last chance to prove himself at the big league level. Middlebrooks has been on a rehab assignment of late, after suffering a finger injury back in May, but will be promoted and most likely reinserted into the Red Sox starting lineup as early as Friday. Through 71 at-bats in 2014, the Red Sox third baseman has slashed just .197/.305/.324 with two home runs and nine RBI, but now with yet another opportunity could become a reliable fantasy option down the stretch. Let’s not forget, just two seasons ago he was able to connect on 15 home runs in 267 big league at-bats, and now that he is healthy could once again be a solid source of power if he gets going right out the gates. Those in deep mixed league formats will want to add Middlebrooks if in search of some added power as he could be the difference maker in a newly reformed Red Sox lineup.
Oscar Taveras, OF (STL)--Although his early season production has yet to show the promise placed on him as one of the game’s top prospects, now that Allen Craig is headed to Boston, Taveras will now take over the everyday duties in right field for the Cardinals. In his first game since the trade, Taveras went deep for the second time this season, but only raised his batting average to .210 through his first 100 career at-bats. Despite the early season struggles, there is a lot to like about Taveras and his future, and now with everyday playing time could finally breakout of his recent slump. He is currently owned in less than 25 percent of all leagues throughout the major providers and considering his upside, makes for a great pickup at this point in the season. Whether or not he lives up to his full potential in year one is anyone’s guess, but it is well worth the low price you would have to use to acquire him if sitting on the waiver wire.
Nick Franklin, 2B, SS (TB)--After being sent to Triple-A Durham following yesterday’s blockbuster trade involving David Price, it is hard to believe that this former top hitting prospect is going to remain in the minor leagues for a long period of time. The Mariners were crowded with infield talent, especially after the signing of Robinson Cano, so Franklin received little opportunity in 2014 at the big league level, but manhandled minor league pitching up to this point. Through 279 at-bats for Triple-A Tacoma, Franklin slashed .294/.392/.455 with 26 extra-base hits (9 HR), 47 RBI and nine stolen bases, proving he is more than ready to a shot in the big leagues. With the Rays offense desperately in need of power, it would be wise for their organization to get him up as soon as possible. The only problem is that they would have to move Ben Zobrist to a different position, who they would rather have at the keystone right now. So those in deep leagues will want to stash him now because if his hot-hitting continues they will have no choice but to promote him, especially since they traded away a Cy Young winning pitcher for his services.
Francisco Lindor, SS (CLE)--It was rumored throughout the first half that if the Indians weren’t in the running heading into the trade deadline that they would try and move Asdrubal Cabrera to open the door for their top prospect to make an impact. Well, that happened on Thursday as the Indians traded away Cabrera to the Nationals. Although Lindor has just 35 at-bats above the Double-A level, he has been producing since his most recent promotion, slashing .314/.385/.514 with two home runs in just nine games at Triple-A Columbus, which if added to his Double-A production gives him a .289 average with eight home runs, 52 RBI and 26 stolen bases through 377 at-bats. It may be a little early to start picking him up, considering he is more of a September call up than anything at this point, those in keeper leagues should run to the waiver wire now because once he is up he will likely be here for good.
Drew Smyly, SP, RP (TB)--Prior being dealt to the Rays on Thursday, Smyly was viewed as a future No. 3 starter for the Tigers for years to come, but considering who he was traded for, it is hard to believe the Rays don’t expect more out of their newly acquired southpaw. Up to this point Smyly’s season has been up and down, as he sits on a 3.93 ERA and 1.35 WHIP through 105.1 innings between the Tigers bullpen and starting rotation, but has shown some strikeout upside, sitting on a 7.60 K/9. Although he has been used as both a starter and a reliever in his early career, Smyly will join the Rays starting rotation and slot in behind Jeremy Hellickson as the team’s fifth starter, which could lead to fantasy success if able to work out the kinks the Tigers coaching staff struggled with. Outside of the shallowest of league formats, Smyly should be a strong consideration as we move down the stretch, knowing what the Rays have been able to do with struggling pitcher in the past.
James Paxton, SP (SEA)--The Mariners were in the hunt for David Price and were actually involved in the trade that sent him to Detroit, but did not land the former Cy Young winner meaning Paxton will in fact rejoin the Mariners starting rotation when activated from the disabled list. Paxton, who has been out since early April after suffering a back injury, is expected to be activated from the disabled list in time to start Saturday’s game against the Orioles after a successful final rehab start last weekend. Through two starts in April, Paxton posted a 2.25 ERA and 0.67 WHIP through 12.0 innings while maintaining a 13:2 K:BB rate. Although the sample size is small, if at 100 percent there is always the hope he returns to the level he was at prior to his injury. Whether or not he gets back to that level is anyone’s guess, but he is at least worth a roster spot for his starts at his spacious home ballpark nonetheless.
Anthony Ranaudo, SP (BOS)--With the majority of the Red Sox starting rotation gone via trade, a spot opened up for one of the team’s top pitching prospects to make a jump to the big leagues. Through 119.1 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket, Ranaudo has been very impressive, posting a 2.41 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while fanning 99 batters, although he has struggled in the walk department (49 BB). Whether or not he struggles out the gates, those in both AL-only and deep mixed leagues will want to give him a long look, considering he will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself with little competition in the team’s starting rotation moving forward. At best he is expected to be a No. 3 starter by the time he reaches his full potential, but as long as he is getting his innings he is worth a shot regardless of how he is projected.
Tommy Milone, SP (MIN)--Although Milone was quickly optioned to Triple-A Rochester following being dealt to the Twins for Sam Fuld, the team’s newly acquired southpaw is not expected to be in the minors for long. Prior to his demotion as a member of the Athletics, Milone was 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.21 WHIP through 16 starts, but was not needed once both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel were added to the starting rotation. However, once in the minors things didn’t get better for Milone, owning a 6.43 ERA through his first four starts for Triple-A Sacramento. With a change of scenery, the Twins new southpaw will get a chance to complete in a more pitcher-friendly league, where he will likely earn a promotion, considering how bad the Twins starters have been in 2014. For now he should only be an add in deep AL-only leagues, but one promoted deserves a chance in all but the shallowest of league formats, with Target Field’s dimensions being very pitcher-friendly like his former home.