In fantasy baseball, everyone is on a never-ending search for the next big bat or the next big arm. It’s a little easier to play the hot hand in shallow leagues – 10 teams or fewer – but when you’re playing in a 12-team league with deep benches or in any 15-teamer, any pick-up that is capable of yielding strong production is critical. That’s why it is always crucial to be looking ahead. If you stumble across the right guy before anyone else, it’s money in the bank. If you stand by and wait, you’re going to watch the rest of the league pass you by.
One of the more difficult things we as fantasy baseball players have had to endure recently is the lack of team access living in a time of COVID. Even with vaccinations in full swing, the restrictions on player/coach access for beat writers and other journalists are still abundant which makes finding the right sources who have all the right angles a daunting task. Fortunately, we have our secret weapon – GM Jim Bowden. His access to managers and GMs is, fortunately, more than just a business relationship as his 16 years at the helm of two different franchises has helped forge friendships that have stood the test of time.
Case in point: Jim’s friendship with Yankees GM Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone gave us the early heads-up on first baseman Chris Gittens. No, the 27-year-old call-up hasn’t done anything but give us a 0-for-7 with one walk and four strikeouts yet, but two games in a Yankees/Red Sox rivalry aren’t going to give you the proper look. Gittens is going to start getting his and when he finds his groove, you can expect a nice boost in power. Bowden made the comparison to Adolis Garcia and you can’t find me one Garcia owner who isn’t over-the-moon regarding his come-from-nowhere production.
Throughout his time in the minor leagues, Gittens has hit for power at every level. His second season in rookie ball produced a .282 ISO (Isolated power) which carried into Single-A and then maintained during his second stint at High-A. It took him a half-season at Double-A to adjust to the pitching and this year in Triple-A, the ISO jumped to .302 over his first 18 games. If we’re reading the patterns correctly, Gittens may struggle early to get his footing, but once it comes, the power is going to be tasty.
Another name presented to us by Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash was outfielder Josh Lowe. Yes, we know you are all waiting for Wander Franco and yes, we told you to stash Vidal Brujan a couple of weeks ago and we are still waiting for him, but Lowe could actually be the next one to arrive. As the story goes, a couple of weeks ago, Jim asked Kevin flat-out, “when are we going to see Franco and Brujan?” Cash responded with, “You’ll see then up at some point, but don’t forget Walls. He looks like he’s ready.” And a few days later, Willy Adames was traded and Taylor Walls was making his shortstop debut in Tampa.
Fast-forward another two weeks, Walls was cooling off from a hot start and Jim hit up Cash again with the same question – “when are we going to see Franco and Brujan?” Cash’s response? “You’ll see them up at some point, but don’t forget Josh Lowe. He looks like he’s ready.” What’s that tell you?
Even just a cursory glance at Lowe’s minor league totals has to get you excited about the possibilities. Yes, Franco and even Brujan are considered better overall products, but if the club is looking to delay their arrival until after the Super-Two deadline or even just wait until late-season, Lowe looks like an outstanding power/speed combo to fill any potential void once someone like Manny Margot or Kevin Kiermaier find their way back onto the 10-day IL. Over 24 games at Triple-A this season, Lowe has eight home runs and four stolen bases. In 2019 (there were no minor leagues in 2020) he smacked 18 homers and swiped 30 bags and the year before that it was six and 18 over 455 plate appearances in his first year at High-A. If you can stash Lowe now, you may not have too long to wait and once he does arrive, he should have the green light to both swing and steal away.
Listen, I have no idea where Cubs 3B Patrick Wisdom came from. I actually had him on my SiriusXM Dynasty League for a couple of years and never saw anything even remotely like this. He’s batting .333 with four home runs and seven RBI over the past week and it doesn’t look like the schedule is getting any more difficult. The Mets? Miami? Cleveland? Maybe the Dodgers and Brewers to close out the month, but he gets the Reds right after that. Ride the wave until it breaks, yes, but also shop him around because no one knows what the second half of the season brings.
Keep tabs on Reds infielder Jonathan India who is in the midst of a five-game hit streak in which he is batting .500 with one double, two home runs and three RBI. He’s got a tough stretch where the Reds face the Brewers six times in the next nine games, but with Colorado in between and then San Diego and Minnesota, he will probably continue to build some momentum. It’s also about the multi-position eligibility. Having that kind of flexibility while also being a quality bat is fantasy gold.
Staying with the Reds, with five saves over the last two weeks, it looks like Lucas Sims has the hold on the closer’s role right now. Tejay Antone works well in high-leverage situations and the world has given up on Amir Garrett, so if you need those saves, check out his availability. If he’s not, then look to Baltimore’s Paul Fry. He’s another under-the-radar bullpen arm to watch.