I usually start off this weekly post with a deep dive into a player I'm highlighting for a given week.
The problem is, this week is different.
We're in the thick of trade season. Chapman, Nunez, and Cashner all switched teams over the past few days, and there's a strong chance more transactions will leave you wondering where to turn in your fantasy leagues.
With that being said, as trades of note happen I'll post in the comments below my thoughts and if any players in particular jump out as having stock increases. July 31st has a tendency to alter who I'm most excited about heading into the weekend and I'm ok with that.
This week, that player is Philly Aaron Altherr. He was a popular sleeper heading into mock-draft season until he broke his wrist in Spring Training and yet, I don't think much has changed. 103 games off and a wrist injury for a hitter makes him a player that many owners forgot about or aren't high on due to a weak lineup.
While I understand both the concerns, Altherr doesn't have a track record of injuries and is a legitimate threat for power and steals down the stretch. In 40 games with the Phillies last season he hit five home runs and stole six bags. Pacing that out to a full season, he looks like a 20/20 outfielder with counting stats that should hang around the low to mid 80s.
With most waiver wire pickups come negatives, and for Altherr, that negative is his low average. He sat around .240 last year in his small sample size with a .301 BABIP. With some maturation and adjustments he can linger around the .250-.260 mark, but his strikeout rate and low walks make him a focus in roto leagues more so than category or points formats.
Speculating prior to yesterday's slate, I nabbed Altherr in a competitive 12 teamer and was rewarded with a home run and three hard hit balls off a weak Brave's pitching staff. He's only 4% owned in ESPN leagues and 5% owned in Yahoo leagues, numbers that I think should be at least in the high teens.
Even if you don't want to hold Altherr after this weekend, he faces Tyrell Jenkins tonight, a mystery starter Sunday, and a less advantageous matchup against Julio Teheran on Saturday. With Peter Bourjos on the DL, there is a strong chance Altherr could start in each of these games and two of the three match ups can't get too much better.
Saves Speculation and Starting Pitching
Potential Closers - Let's start with White Sox Nate Jones (10% owned ESPN, 18% owned Yahoo). David Robertson has given up five homers in his 7.2 July innings, is 3/5 on his last few save chances, and recently lucked himself into two wins. It seems like this year we'll reminisce and remain confused by how Robertson hasn't been as good as his 2014 self. Sitting on a 4.35 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP at the age of 31 with a limited no trade clause, if this hiccup continues Jones should be the arm they turn to for saves.
The Royals would be missing out on a big opportunity if they don't trade Wade Davis this weekend. With a team option for 2017 and struggles for most of this season, the 30 year old isn't the same pitcher he has been over the past two season. His xFIP is above 4, strikeouts are down 8%, walks are up 3%, and teams are still interested. Kelvin Herrera (20% owned ESPN, 38% owned Yahoo) currently sets up Davis in the 8th inning and should garner most of the opportunities if Davis were to go. As crazy as it may have sounded two years ago, Herrera has been better than Davis and shouldn't have a problem closing out games for a team that could linger with Wild Card hopes for the rest of the season.
Over in the National League, Tyler Clippard is doing his best to make manager Chip Hale lose his job. A season that eerily reminds me of the 2015 San Diego Padres, the Diamondbacks may not win a ton of games going forward but Jake Barrett (1% owned ESPN, 1% owned Yahoo) is a good bet to eclipse Clippard for saves.
These are the top names swirling and I'd own Herrera, Barrett, and Jones in that order.
Dylan Bundy - Carried a perfect game through five innings versus the Rockies during the week, striking out eight batters in only his third major league start. It seems like Bundy has been a lingering top prospect forever, so it's nice to finally see him deserving of some major league action. His last two starts have been his best, but I still find myself having some trouble trusting him outside of leagues where pitching is few and far between. His control has been on point recently, but he's still giving up a lot of home runs which make potential dominance the first two times through an order go to waste quicker than you'd like. I like the add for upside, but I'd be wary starting him outside of great match ups. The landscape on pitchers like this changes quickly so keep an eye out. (10% owned ESPN, 14% owned Yahoo).
Andrew Cashner - Traded to the Marlins early Friday morning, he gets a value boost heading over to a weak division with a better chance to win games. He remains one of those confusing pitchers who seems never to catch up to his nice peripherals but maybe a change of scenery will help. Last week I was speculating on his potentially juicy two start week with the Padres and that goes by the wayside now as it looks like he'll travel to the Cubs and Coors. While you couldn't ask for a tougher debut week, I'm more concerned with how many years shaving his beard will take off his looks as the Marlins have a 'no facial hair' policy. After these two starts I like his potential, but tread cautiously for the moment. (10% owned ESPN, 26% owned Yahoo).
James Paxton - Another pitcher with immense talent that proves velocity isn't everything. He's had a roller coaster of a season with a few ups and downs. I was extremely high on him a few weeks ago, but that has faded a bit as the results piled up from mid-June to mid-July. However, with two more starts of great control and great strikeouts, I'm back on the bandwagon. The difference seems to be the use of his curveball which he has thrown 18% or more in each of his last three starts. He's also generated 12 swinging strikes over his last three games, more than his entire season combined before this start. It adds great depth to his repertoire, brining him range of velocity down from a minimum of 88-89 MPH on his changeup to 81-82 on his curveball. The 20 total MPH differential will serve him well. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me right? So I'm giving him another shot. He should be owned everywhere where pitching is needed. (15% owned ESPN, 18% owned Yahoo).
The Other Dickerson
Alex Dickerson - It is funny how the second a player doesn't have immediate success in the majors and lingers until they are 25-26, many people forget. While I can't say I saw this coming at all, Dickerson's season at AAA was probably something to look at with 'PCL' bias dimmed a little bit. He had 10 homers in 60+ games with a great average and most importantly, improved plate discipline. Over his last four games with the big league club, Dickerson has four home runs, two doubles, and a stolen base. There seems to be a 'black box' of sorts surrounding the Padres outfield situation for the month of August after Preller said that Renfroe and Margot would both likely be September call ups. With Upton gone, I think Dickerson can provide some decent value with a pretty disciplined bat for the next month or so. The leash is short with him but he's a good add in 12 teamers and deeper. Check for Naquin and Kepler first though. (15% owned ESPN, 25% owned Yahoo).
Mitch Moreland - Ever since Fielder went down for the season, Moreland has stepped up. With everybody hitting home runs this year power is abundant, but if you're still searching for that first basemen to platoon with the disappointment of Jose Abreu and company, you could do a lot worse. He has five homers in his last eight starts and should earn playing time even over Gallo while he is swinging a hot bat. (6% owned ESPN, 24% owned Yahoo).
Raul Mondesi - Mondesi was in the recent call up cycle - see next paragraph - that took the fantasy baseball universe by storm. He was also hyped up a bit more then I thought he would be looking at his strikeout rate and power upside at AA and AA this season. I think he is purely in there for steals and if you need them he is worth a look. He's a poor man's Trea Turner in my eyes. Lower average, less power, less of an impact bat, but will still provide ample speed if you need it. (4% owned ESPN, 3% owned Yahoo).
David Dahl, Trea Turner, Joey Gallo - They're likely owned in your league, but if they aren't then you know what to do. The upside on all of them ranges from avg/doubles to speed to advanced power. I particularly love this wave of call ups because almost every team can use an upgrade in one of the three. Tough to come up with a scenario where they all shouldn't be owned in even a 10 team league.
Jorge Polanco - With Eduardo Nunez going to the Giants, Polanco was recalled and will likely get some looks around the diamond. While I'm not too high on him in a lineup that just got a bit worse, he should be more than the sub-1% ownership I see in both ESPN and Yahoo. If Mondesi is a poor man's Trea Turner, then Polanco is the dead man's Mondesi - I hope that makes sense to you as much as it does to me. In deep leagues he's probably still sitting around and with 9 HR and 5 SBs at AAA with only a 15% strikeout rate, you can again do much worse. (.4% owned ESPN, 0% owned Yahoo).
Enjoy the deadline, as always, tweet at me if you're in need of a quick opinion, more than happy to provide it! @LanceBrozdow.