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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?

The Hackers

Kolten Wong, 2B (STL)--It may have taken until July for him to pout it all together, but since returning from the disabled list on July 6, Wong as come back better than ever. Since his return, Wong has gone 6-for-14 with three home runs, five RBI, five runs scored and two stolen bases as he has now earned a permanent spot in the Cardinals starting lineup. Despite his recent performance, he is still sitting on a .244 average with four home runs and 21 RBI through 172 at-bats, which has forced team’s to cut ties with him after a slow start. There are clearly some things that he still needs to work on. For instance he has just 12 walks on the season while owning a .305 on-base percentage, which going to limit his stolen base upside as we move forward, but owns a .529 OBP in July. Although his rocky season may have prospective owners going back and forth on whether he is worth a shot, it is best to keep in mind what he is doing now. Forget the past. Even if he ends up being a batting average drain, his recent power surge and stolen base upside are worth a shot in deep leagues regardless.

Arismendy Alcantara, 2B (CHC)-- This is the second week in a row Alcantara has graced us with his presence in the Waiver Flavor column. Last week at this time there was speculation that the Cubs would promote arguably their hottest prospect and use him in the outfield, but a spot in the infield opened up after Darwin Barney was placed on the paternity list which landed him on the active roster sooner than later. Originally his promotion was supposed to be short-lived, lasting two days at most, but his performance on Thursday afternoon forced the Cubs to keep him around at least until the start of the second half. Alcantara went 4-for-5 with two extra-base hits, three RBI and two runs scored in Thursday’s win over the Reds in what was just his second game in the big leagues. Although his MLB sample size is far too small to work off of, there is no denying his .307/.353/.537 slash-line with 10 home runs, 41 RBI and 21 stolen bases at the Triple-A level. There is really no telling if he is going to stick around for the long haul, but what he is doing at the plate is truly special and warrants consideration in NL-only leagues at the very least.  

Conor Gillaspie, 1B, 3B (CWS)--There are a lot of questions that go unanswered throughout the grueling baseball season, with the latest question being, “Where did Gillaspie’s power come from?” After going over 200 at-bats without going yard, Gillapsie has found his power stroke and has now left the building four times in his last eight games. Although he had been a solid batting average contributor throughout the season, his lack of power was what kept him from gaining long-lasting fantasy value. Will this recent power surge continue? Who knows. But he is slashing .323/.371/.480 with 35 RBI outside of the home run category, so even if he doesn’t reach double-digits, his other areas warrant deep league consideration.  

Stephen Vogt, C, OF (OAK)--The Oakland A’s own the best record in baseball as the All-Star break nears, and a lot of their first half success can be attributed to the power bats of their offense. Outside of usual suspects, Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson, there are the likes of Vogt who have given their fair share of contributions. Through 98 at-bats, Vogt is slashing .367/.394/.531 with three homers and 16 RBI as the team continues to find ways to get him into the starting lineup. In 31 games played, he has suited up behind the dish, snagged fly balls in the outfield, either in right or left field and has served at the team’s first baseman. The fact he has played all over the diamond is a great sign that as long as he continues his hot hitting he will be in the starting lineup, which is great news for prospective fantasy owners. Especially those looking for catcher depth, Vogt should be a target as we head into the midway point while hitting .419 in the month of July.

The Hurlers

Danny Salazar, SP (CLE)--After entering the season as arguably the top sleeper among young starting pitchers, Salazar failed to live up to the hype, leading to an eventual demotion after posting a 5.53 ERA through eight starts. His struggles continued threw his first few starts in the minors, but since returning from a minor injury, he has started to show signs of the pitcher everyone expected him to be. Over his last six starts Salazar has allowed only 14 runs through 35.1 innings while maintaining a solid 44:15 K:BB rate (6 BB in last start). Currently there is a spot open in the Indians starting rotation with Justin Masterson out with a knee injury, with the two candidates being Salazar and Zach McAllister to fill him void until he returns. He is the much more talented pitcher of the two, but the question is if he can put it all together and get it done at the big league level. Although there is no guarantee he will get the call, his upside alone is worth a look for those in deep mixed leagues nonetheless.

Jimmy Nelson, SP (MIL)--With the Brewers struggling to finish the first half on a high note, the team decided to remove the underachieving Marco Estrada from the starting rotation and replace him with the team’s No. 1 pitching prospect in Nelson. The Brewers youngster has two career starts, one in 2013 and one earlier this season, and was able to do a respectable job in his efforts, tossing a 5.2 inning shutout with six strikeouts in his latest audition on May 25. Nelson has the pedigree to be a solid fantasy source if success at the minor league level is able to translate over the course of the second half of the season. Through 16 starts, Nelson owns a 10-2 record with a 1.42 ERA and 0.91 WHIP while owning a 114:32 K:BB rate over 111.0 innings. He will get his first shot at proving his worth with a start on Saturday against the Cardinals, which won’t be an easy task, but one that should lay the ground work for what he is going to bring. Until he gets a few starts under his belt he should remain an NL-only and deep league add, but he has the upside to be owned universally if his great command can carry over from the minors.  

Charlie Morton, SP (PIT)--Every year it seems as if Morton’s name gets thrown around at some point in the season. Well, it is happening again. Over his last three starts, Morton has allowed only three earned runs while pitching through the sixth inning or later in each contest. Not to mention he has struck out at least five batters in each of his last seven starts and has allowed only six home runs in 113.1 innings. He is now sitting 5-9 with a 3.10 ERA and 1.18 WHIP through his first 18 starts, but considering the other options available in most leagues you can do much worse than Morton. While I don’t think that his recent run is going to last the rest of the season, he has pitched good enough to warrant ownership in leagues of 12 teams or more while on a hot streak.

Joe Kelly, SP (STL)--Prior to going down with a hamstring injury after just three starts, Kelly was on his way to having himself a solid season, owing a 1-1 record with a 0.59 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 15.1 innings. He is going to be activated on Friday to start against the Brewers later that night after almost three months out of action, which is not the easiest of matchups to start off against. However, he has thrown the ball well while on his rehab assignment, with his latest outing going very well, giving up just one run on three hits and one walk while striking out three batters over 4.1 innings. Although he only made three rehab appearances, the Cardinals feel he has shown to prove he is ready to go. Considering how long it has been since his last big league start, prospective owners will want to take a wait and see approach in the early going, but at the very worst he is going to aid both the ERA and WHIP categories at the very least once back in the swing of things.

Ken Giles, RP (PHI)--The Phillies have all but shouted from the roof tops that they are going to be sellers at the trade deadline. With plenty of bullpens influx throughout the league, a big name that is going to be in trade discussions is Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. If the Phillies were to move Papelbon later in the month, it is likely that Giles, the Phillies top reliever prospect, would be in line to take over the ninth inning duties. His triple-digit fastball has impressed the baseball world since his promotion last month and has now recorded 17 strikeouts through his first 12.2 innings, while allowing only one run (1 HR) in that span. Although a lot of cards have to call in a row for this to work out in his favor, those looking for help in the saves category will want to make him a consideration once team’s return from the All-Star break. Let’s face it. Its better to be ahead of the curve than behind it.

Until next time, study hard and eat plenty!



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