The MLB All-Star break is upon us, but there’s still fantasy baseball to plan for at the NFBC, where we can hopefully plan for the long term and maximize some at-bats in the short term. Rosters will lock on Thursday of this week and then again on Friday. Of note for the first part of the week are the Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, New York Yankees, and Oakland Athletics — each team plays a doubleheader on that day, so there’s a chance to double up on at-bats with those teams.
For the second half of the week, Detroit, Cleveland, the White Sox, and the Twins all have doubleheaders. The teams leading the pack with five total games are Detroit, Houston, New York (Yankees), and Oakland. Was that confusing enough? I hope so. Let’s see if we can make it a little less so by digging into players who are on the rise and who can help us this week and beyond.
Bart has renewed life and leash given that Curt Casali is still on the IL, and he has performed pretty well since his return. It’s just 25 at-bats, but he has a .280 batting average and a pair of homers over the last two weeks or so. He’s probably always going to be a guy who strikes out a ton. This was a feature in the minors, as he logged a 29.4% strikeout rate at Triple-A in 2021. However, you just hope he mitigates all the whiffs by making hard contact and giving you quality batted ball events when he does hit the ball. The fact that he’s a catcher makes this profile viable, since it applies to nearly every other backstop in the game. You’re hoping for a .200 batting average with pop, but that’s not dissimilar from a guy like Cal Raleigh, who has been a viable C2 for weeks now. Bart has a 50.0% hard-hit rate and a 10.7% barrel rate. That’s barrels per batted ball event, by the way. Among catchers with at least 50 BBE, Bart ranks 13th in the majors. That’s impressive, but it’s still a small sample. The hard hits are the more promising bit, in my opinion. Half this guy’s batted balls are hit 95 MPH or greater. So he may not always make contact, but when he does there’s a good chance a baseball is going to be bashed. For reference, only Kyle Higashioka (51.5%) has made more hard contact. The difference between these two is playing time, as Bart is the current starter and Higgy is a backup. The Giants play four games this week, which is more than 20 MLB teams.
Jansen is the epitome of power in a small number of at-bats. In that same sort of catchers with at least 50 BBE, he leads all comers with a whopping 18.5% barrel rate. Again, this is barrels per batted ball event. His 44.4% hard-hit rate ranks 12th, but where he is excelling is hitting balls hard in the air. His 97.7 MPH exit velocity on fly balls and line drives is tops among all catchers. That’s better than the Contreras brothers, who are noted hard-hit mavens. Other prominent names inside the top 10 are Gary Sanchez (95.4 MPH) and Salvador Perez (95.1 MPH), just for reference. Add in the Toronto backdrop and this is a recipe for success if you’re in need of a second catcher who can offer power, albeit in limited duty. There may not be a better choice for part-time dingers from a catcher in all of fantasy baseball.
Moncada has been in my fantasy baseball doghouse all season, but he’s back to hitting in the second spot in the order and he’s shown signs of life over the last week. His eight runs scored over that stretch leads all MLB players not named Trea Turner or Brandon Nimmo (tied with nine apiece). And it’s a small sample, but Moncada is batting .321 over the last seven days and has given us a home run as well. If he’s truly over the litany of injuries faced this season (oblique, quad, hamstring), then we may finally get to enjoy his coveted power/speed combo. His quality of contact numbers don’t look encouraging, but since he’s been hobbled all season, I’m willing to keep an open mind for another couple of weeks to see if he’s truly on an upswing. And for Week 16 only, the Sox catch four games. That is better than 20 MLB teams. Get those at-bats, folks.
Naylor is the cleanup hitter in Cleveland, a forgotten fact for yours truly since he wasn’t a player I landed much this draft season. The Guardians get four games at the Chicago White Sox on the second half of this week, including one turn against the mercurial Vince Velasquez. Naylor has two homers to his credit over the last week, and he’s up to 13 on the season with a comfortable .274 batting average. That’s been a feature, too. His last big sample at Triple-A was in 2019, when he posted a meager 11.9% strikeout rate and operated at a 30-homer pace. Naylor has already set a career high in home runs this year due to playing time and good health. Continuing to be a plus in the batting average department is probable given his track record, but he was once touted as a guy with 70 raw power. His .233 ISO this year is by far the best mark of his career, and if you factor in some missed time due to some back issues, he could easily be on 14 or 15 homers right now (again, a 30-homer or so player). Odds are you’re looking at a .275 hitter with 25+ bombs by season’s end. Add in the at-bat boost this week and he’s definitely someone who should be in your CI spot if you have a need for batting average and solid power.
Urias has returned from the IL with a vengeance, with a .400 batting average, three homers, and 12 RBI over the last two weeks. He’s a top-10 middle infielder over that stretch, sitting among widely rostered names like Corey Seager, Bobby Witt Jr., Jorge Polanco, Trea Turner, and Marcus Semien. After those guys, there’s Urias, who can’t run (35th-percentile sprint speed) but who pastes the ball (91st-percentile hard-hit rate). I need not tell you that Baltimore is a good place to hit, right? And by any measure I can see, the power here is legitimate. He doesn’t hit a lot of fly balls, only 31.3% in fact. But that’s an improvement over his two previous MLB stints, and he’s pulling the ball far more this year — 41.6% of the time, up from 26.3% (2020) and 31.2% (2021). His 18.0% HR/FB rate doesn’t scream regression, either. Urias is a career .273 hitter, and his current .255 BA is unlucky according to his .282 xBA. This is also true of his SLG/xSLG (.442/.489) and his wOBA/xwOBA (.320/.347). He’s already been very useful in 2022 with a .255 BA and solid power. But he could easily finish as a .265 hitter with 20 homers given that he’s the best option at multiple infield positions for the upstart Orioles. I think you have to add him now for the long term. You can’t start him on Thursday of Week 16, but the Orioles do catch three games in the second half of the NFBC week.
I touted him last week ahead of his date with Coors and against multiple lefty starters. He missed Monday’s game with the nagging thumb injury, but ultimately he gave me something with a .350 BA and a stolen base for Week 15. He also made two appearances in the leadoff position given Jurickson Profar‘s absence due to a concussion. And while Profar is back and should occupy the top spot in the order moving forward, that doesn’t mean that Kim has lost all value. He batted fifth against the lefty Madison Bumgarner on the day of Profar’s return, and was down to the sixth spot in the order against another lefty yesterday. That’s not overly exciting, but I’m still buying Kim as a quality MI contributor long term. We are only halfway through July, but his .350/.413/.500 slash and 160 wRC+ look more like his quality Mar/Apr split (.271/.364/.563 and 160 wRC+). Sure, May and June were pretty lean, but baseball is a game of streaks, after all. Kim has five walks against just five strikeouts over his 46 July plate appearances, and his overall BA (.243) and OBP (.330) have been tolerable this year. His power hasn’t been what we hoped for, but he still has five homers and five swipes in half a season. He’s on a 10/10 pace and perhaps trending upward. He does plenty of things well, including a double-digit walk rate and a strikeout rate below 18%. You can’t start him on Thursday, but the Padres have three games at the Mets on the weekend. He’s defensible if you need a fill-in.
Ruiz isn’t a secret anymore, not after swatting 13 homers and stealing 60 bases in Triple-A (in just 77 games!) prior to this week’s call-up. Like Kim, we’ll have to watch his playing time when the Padres get Fernando Tatis Jr. and Wil Myers back. But for now, if he’s available in your league, you have to take a chance on the potential for Berti-esque steals production. He encouragingly played every game this week after his call-up, and has already given us a stolen base. Add away and ride the wave for at least a couple of weeks.
Profar is back from a concussion/neck strain and back in the leadoff position for the Padres. He should wind up as a 20/10 player by season’s end if he can stay on the field. He has a whopping 13.0% walk rate and a minuscule 14.1% strikeout rate. His .344 OBP leads all Padres regulars not named Manny Machado, so he’s doing his job as the leadoff man. With Fernando Tatis Jr. still weeks away at best, you can continue to ride Profar as an all-around sort of contributor. I like him better in my five-man outfields than I do as a corner infield bat, where I typically look for more power. His 50 runs scored this year is a top-35 mark, equal to the likes of Pete Alonso and Byron Buxton. He’s essentially been Cedric Mullins without the blazing speed. I know I shouldn’t pick and choose like that, but it’s true. Less speed and a bit of a hit on batting average, but what do you expect from a guy who was mostly a draft-day afterthought? Profar has been useful and should continue to be so.
Joe is leading off for Colorado, which helps explain his plus contribution in the runs category (49 so far, right behind Profar). Which is a little eerie, as these guys have REALLY similar Statcast profiles. Neither gives you high-end exit velocity numbers, but they share an ability to limit strikeouts and to take walks. Both have chipped in with speed, but neither is blazing fast. Neither guy chases out of the zone, either. The obvious difference is that Joe gets the Coors backdrop, but that also comes with the fear of random benchings. The Rockies are crazy, after all. All that said, Joe’s ability to play both corner outfield spots and first base means that he has plenty of ability to find the lineup. The Rockies aren’t at home over the weekend, but they do get a three-game set on the second half of the week against the Brewers in a hitter-friendly venue.
Taveras is one of the guys I have to mention given his recent torrid streak. He is the top hitter in 5×5 leagues over the last week, with a blazing .478 BA, one homer, four steals, and nine RBI. He has inched up the batting order, too. He was down at the bottom, but he has been in the sixth hole in four of the last five games. He has stolen four bags this week alone, and that’s before Sunday games take off in just a bit. The calling card here is speed, as his 29.4 ft/s mark slots into the 96th percentile. However, he gave us 20 homers and 23 steals across Triple-A and the majors in 2021, and he slashed .294/.335/.485 at Triple-A in 49 games so far this year — with seven homers and seven steals. So the bat isn’t completely dull. He has three homers and a whopping eight doubles in just 29 MLB games this year, too. This isn’t some speedy slap hitter, folks.
You’ll have to watch the strikeout rate, but Taveras’ current 25.9% mark feels fair if you assume growth from his 2021 MLB stint (32.4%). That’s a big jump, but Taveras had a quality 21.7% strikeout rate at Triple-A prior to the call-up. I think anything around 25.0% is a big win, and if he can give the Rangers a .250+ batting average, he will do major damage on the basepaths. Texas has a game on Thursday and a four-game week ahead — again, that’s more games than 20 MLB teams will play this week.
That’s it for me this week. Apparently I really like Padres bats? The Friars might be a disappointment to some, but they’re still 52-41, and if Tatis Jr. comes back to do his thing, that entire lineup will see a boost. What say you all? Who are you plugging into your deep-league lineups for the coming weeks? Hit me up on Twitter @HeathCapps. I’d love to connect about fantasy baseball!
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