It’s the end of an odd week of fantasy baseball, and many head-to-head matchups are ongoing through next week. Over at the NFBC, though, we are closing out Week 16’s weekend and looking ahead to Week 17. The following players are fringier types who I feel are on an upward trend and can help you plug some holes if you’re struggling at a given position.
Kelly is batting leadoff against opposing left-handed pitching, so you have to ride that wave right now. He has a career .279/.362/.521 slash line in that split, as well as a .242 ISO, .369 wOBA, and 130 wRC+. He’s still meandering his way to usefulness against right-handers–career .198/.285/.331 slash–but that line comes with a 9.5% walk rate and 21.3% strikeout rate. He also went yard on Saturday against RHP Anibal Sanchez for what it’s worth. So while he still needs to grow against same-handed pitching, he’s currently on a heater and finally healthy enough to start doing so.
Regardless, the bashing of southpaws alone puts him on the C2 radar. Kelly slashed .378/.404/.667 with a gargantuan .289 ISO in July. That won’t carry forward, but even an approximation of it is ridiculously useful in the fantasy baseball game. For reference, Kelly has been the sixth-best catcher in the game over the last 30 days. Suppose you can mitigate the downside by limiting him against right-handed pitching, even better. But I’m locking him into at least one weekly lineup for the coming week.
Mejia has responded well to added competition at catcher in the form of Christian Bethancourt. Over the past two weeks, since that trade occurred, Mejia is 10-for-25 with a home run and is the top-rated catcher in 5×5 leagues. That’s a smaller sample given the All-Star break, but it’s still a fact. The fun sample is a bit larger than that, too. Mejia is 14-for-41 in July, with a .341/.357/.634 slash line and three of his six homers. He has six home runs in his 57 games played so far this year, whereas last season, he hit six total over 84 games. I’m not contending he’s a good defender behind the plate. But that doesn’t matter for fantasy if he’s getting on the field enough to help us out. And right now, he’s good enough to operate as a second catcher. He’s offering something in each split, too. Against lefties, he is hitting for average (.367 BA, 10.0% K-rate, 1 HR), and against righties, he is generating power (32.3% K-rate, .200 BA, 5 of his 6 HR). He’s probably going to finish the year with a batting average of around .250 and 12+ home runs. You can use that, especially since Tampa opens up next week with a four-game trip to Baltimore.
Brown is up to 12 home runs, and seven steals this season, with the primary downside being his .227 batting average. That matches his career .227 mark and his current .270 BABIP is far better than last year’s .230 mark. So what has me enthused? Well, for starters, you know you need to limit him against left-handed pitching. You should mine for times when the Athletics play a string of right-handers, against whom Brown is slashing .236/.289/.447 with 11 of his 12 home runs. For reference, he is slashing .184/.216/.306 against lefties. Anyway, back to being enthused. Brown has an expected batting average of .263, which is in the 74th percentile. Couple that with the 66th percentile sprint speed and a solid MiLB history of giving us power with some chip-in speed, and I’m sold on him as a corner infield bat for the rest of the season. He’s batting cleanup in Oakland, he hits the ball hard, he runs a little, and you know to limit him against southpaws. For the coming week, Brown doesn’t look projected to see a lefty, as Framber Valdez should pitch today, and the Astros and White Sox are chock full of right-handers otherwise.
Duran is a power/speed dynamo, a guy with high exit velocities and 97th percentile sprint speed. During his Double-A and Triple-A stints this year, Duran slugged 13 homers and stole 10 bases…in just 63 games. He’s a 20/20 threat at the big league level if he can make the transition. His best pathway to at-bats is to supplant Josh Smith at third base, as Smith is currently batting .213/.327/.281 in his short MLB stint. However, there’s also a DH slot to occupy in Texas, and with the Rangers falling further back, it makes sense to play young guys like Duran and Leody Taveras. Duran smoked a double over 104 MPH on Saturday night, so there’s one example of those hard hits falling. I’m not quite sure of the playing time breakdown just yet, but the young guy has to be in the driver’s seat if he keeps raking, and the Rangers have a full seven games on tap for Week 17.
Wendle looks to be grabbing leadoff duties against RHP for Miami while Jazz Chisholm Jr. is shelved for at least six weeks with a stress fracture in his back. He ceded the leadoff spot to Miguel Rojas on Saturday, but that was against a left-handed starter. This is a natural sort of flip, as Rojas is weaker against RHP, and Wendle is weaker against LHP. So you can safely expect these two to trade places if there’s an opposing lefty on the mound. However, with Chisholm Jr. and Jon Berti both sidelined, the at-bats should be plentiful for Wendle moving forward. Berti’s best return date is this coming Thursday, but that’s an aggressive timeline, and it still leaves room for you to enjoy Wendle in your MI slots for the four-game stop in Cincinnati that happens in the first half of Week 17. It reads like the lefty Lodolo for the first game, but then a string of three right-handed starters on tap. You’ll want a piece of that pie this week, given that Wendle is slashing .285/.333/.429 against RHP for his career–with 27 of his 29 career home runs. He still manages a 9.5% walk rate, 21.5% strikeout rate, and a non-zero .316 OBP against lefties, too. So that split isn’t a total loss. He’s on track to easily crest double-digit steals this year, and a little more power should come now that he’s healthy and back in the lineup regularly.
Morel and Hoerner are similar in that they qualify at middle infield, and each offers an intriguing blend of some power and some speed. Morel has been fluctuating between leadoff and the ninth spot in the Chicago batting order, but there’s no denying his punch, given that he’s up to nine homers and nine steals in just 57 games. As for Hoerner, I’ve touted him in this space before. He’s a .300 hitter who will finish the year with 10 homers and 15 steals. He is easily justifiable as a middle infield play.
Kwan has begun the second half on a heater. He is 7-for-15 with five runs scored, 3 RBI, and one stolen base in three games since the All-Star break. He’s entrenched as the leadoff man for Cleveland, and his slash line is now a robust .290/.368/.371 if you can live with the fact that he will not give you power. Still, in formats that require five outfielders, a .290 hitter who will help you in runs scored and chips in with speed is beneficial. Cleveland has a four-game road trip to Boston to begin Week 17 and a full seven games on tap when you factor in the weekend at Tampa Bay. Kwan had a forgettable month of May, so I think we all got down on him in a hurry. However, his other splits by month are all positive. In Mar/Apr, he set the world on fire (.354 BA, 174 wRC+), then in May, he stumbled (.173 BA, 55 wRC+). However, since then, he has batted .341 with a 132 wRC+ in June and is currently batting .301 with a 106 wRC+ in July. He has a BABIP over .338 in every monthly split this season, except May (.176 BABIP). He also posted the lowest K-rate of his season during May, at just 7.1%. I’m just saying…maybe May was so bad that we all got too sour on Kwan too quickly. He’s still a helpful hitter in 15-team formats.
Hear me out. Robles’ .236 batting average isn’t wholly atrocious…right? If someone had told you Robles would bat .240 in a given season, wouldn’t you draft him late for his speed? The old adage “you can’t steal first base” certainly applies, as his .301 OBP isn’t lighting the world on fire. However, all we have to do is look for lefties and sub-par righties to play him against, and those are the half weeks where we can slide Robles into our lineups and squeeze some blood out of the proverbial turnip, as it were. I like Robles on the second half of Week 17, given that he’ll see a returning-to-form Steven Matz (a lefty) and then probably Miles Mikolas and Andre Pallante. Mikolas has been really solid this season, but Pallante has been up and down. As for Robles, he is batting .347/.395/.467 against southpaws this year, so it’s clear where his value lies. Alas, he only sees one lefty on the first half of the week, so we can’t go too crazy in Week 17. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to monitoring the 25-year-old’s matchups and being forced to use him in certain spots this season. I think Week 17 is one such time I will do so.
That’s it for me this morning. Part of me hates ending on the Robles note, but no one needs me to tell them to slide Hunter Renfroe back into their lineups, do they? As always, I’d love it if anyone found me on Twitter @HeathCapps and wanted to chat fantasy baseball. I’d love to answer any questions, have a conversation, and in general, just link up and enjoy talking about the best game in the world with any of you.
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