Time waits for no man, and fantasy baseball is just one of countless examples. Five short weeks of the season remain, and I don’t know about anyone else, but I am locked into some battles in my leagues. Every bit of digging into the minutia will (hopefully) help me finish the season on a high note.
As usual, I’ll discuss relevant hitters to 15-team leagues, or very competitive 12-teamers. You don’t have to play at the NFBC to find something useful here.
The catcher-eligible players for the Boston Red Sox could fill the entire catcher section for this week. Reese McGuire is getting at-bats, and Kevin Plawecki has been raking in part-time duty. It’s Wong, however, that could also see at-bats in the infield — and perhaps even supplant both of the incumbents for the majority of time behind the plate. Wong raked at Triple-A, slashing .289/.349/.489 with 15 homers and seven steals in just 81 games. He also had just 80 strikeouts over that stretch, while also playing some second base in order to increase his versatility for the big-league club. So far, he has four starts behind the plate and a pair of them at the keystone. I am salivating while thinking of Wong’s ability to play somewhere besides catcher, and his ability to chip in with speed. He was 7-of-10 on the basepaths at Triple-A, which was actually one of his worse performances, success-wise, as a professional. He could easily finish the year as a top-20 backstop, if not better.
Langeliers has a horrifying 29 strikeouts against ONE measly walk over his 16 MLB games. That’s awful, alarming, and does not bode well. That said, he also has a .219 BA, a .250 ISO, a .292 wOBA, and a 95 wRC+ thus far. It’s really not shabby for a catcher, especially for a second catcher. Ask yourselves this question — who else is Oakland going to trot out in their DH slot every day? This is not a fearsome MLB lineup. What you should get here is solid volume from a guy who is probably dirt cheap in most places. There’s enough pop here to play as a C2 option. Langeliers has five barrels on 36 batted ball events thus far, good for a 7.6% barrel rate. He also ranks in the 84th percentile for max exit velocity, and has shown 83rd-percentile sprint speed. He’s athletic enough to make a dent, and so long as he doesn’t truly crater at the plate, it would benefit Oakland to let him obtain valuable big-league experience in a lost season.
Last week’s plays: Shea Langeliers, Kyle Higashioka
Rivera is raking since joining Arizona. He is also routinely batting in the heart of the order. What gives him a bump this week is a road trip to Coors Field. You can use this bat, especially in the second half of the week to come. Rivera has been a better overall hitter versus lefties this year (.306 BA, 14.0% strikeout rate, 151 wRC+). However, eight of his 11 homers have come against right-handers, against whom he is still solid enough for our purposes (.223 BA, 24.6% K-rate, 93 wRC+). Those numbers don’t account for the hot stretch recently, though. Rivera has raked in July and August after an overall cold start to the season. He’s worthy of consideration for the week ahead.
Hiura may not play every day, but the Brewers have eight games on tap for the week ahead, with a whopping five games over the first part of the NFBC week. He could very well draw at least two starts in Coors against Ryan Feltner and Chad Kuhl, and then get at least one more start against a righty in Thursday’s doubleheader — either against Jakob Junis or Sean Hjelle. This matters because Hiura has shown significant reverse splits for the entirety of his big-league career, and 2022 is no different. Overall, he has 43 of his 50 homers in this split, with a .263 BA versus right-handers and a measly .194 BA against lefties. For reference, over the course of his career, he has a 129 wRC+ against RHP, compared to a 58 wRC+ against lefties. 2022 is no different. Check out the slash lines:
Against right-handers, Hiura has a better walk rate, lower strikeout rate, and 11 of his 14 home runs. You know when he’s going to do his damage, and the first half of Week 23 (five games) gives you some insulation from his days off. The weekend half of the NFBC week also has two righties projected, so he could be of use for the full week as well — just be sure to check the probables before you lock him in.
With Jorge Polanco on the shelf until what sounds like mid-September, Gordon has an even easier pathway to at-bats (though he was already playing every day). The Twins also get a full week of seven games, including four in the first half against the reeling New York Yankees. Gordon can play either middle infield spot, as well as multiple outfield spots. He has six homers and six steals over his 109 games, and his Statcast page is littered with red — i.e., his quality of contact has been very good this year. A greater average launch angle has contributed to more barrels, too. His 11.0% barrel rate is nearly double his previous MLB mark of 6.8%. The sprint speed is just the icing on the cake. Don’t forget, this is a former top-five pick and he’s still just 26 years old. There’s room for growth still.
The Orioles draw seven games for Week 23, and Henderson is probably the most widely available Baltimore hitter of intrigue. The bump in volume for this week, compared to the plethora of teams who play just six games, makes Henderson a viable option. The 21-year-old top prospect has begun his big-league career with hits in four straight games, including a pair of multi-hit games. The Orioles (71-61) are just 1.5 games back of the final A.L. Wild Card spot, and the youth movement could be a big part of how they make some noise down the stretch.
Donovan and the Cardinals get seven games this week, and Donovan’s elite .290 BA and .396 OBP should be in the lineup against a host of right-handers (especially in the first half of the NFBC week). He should occupy one of the top two spots in the order alongside the smoldering Lars Nootbar. No, there’s not a lot of power or speed to be had; but the ability to get on base and score runs makes him viable as a middle infield option.
The platoon-happy Rays seem content to let Jose Siri play every day in center field, and the youngster is up to five homers and 11 steals on the season as a result. The overall .217 BA is ghastly, but Siri has been much better of late. Over the last two weeks, he is batting .382 with two homers, two steals, and a whopping 14 runs scored. In all of baseball, only Mookie Betts (16) has scored more runs than Siri over the last 14 days. Siri also fares better against right-handed pitchers, and right now there is just one lefty projected against Tampa Bay for the week ahead, and it’s Rich Hill (not scary). This is a great play for runs and speed to round out the bottom of your five-man outfields.
Did someone mention speed? Thompson is doing a Jon Berti impression, with one homer and 10 steals over just 26 MLB games. His sprint speed is in the 100th percentile, too. That’s right, gamers. Among all big-league players, only Corbin Carroll (30.6 ft/s) and Bobby Witt Jr. (30.4 ft/s) have run faster than Thompson (30.3 ft/s). Thompson is tied with Trea Turner and the aforementioned Jose Siri. So you’re probably catching a theme here…
At the time of this writing on Saturday night, Carroll has started three straight games for Arizona. There’s also a three-game set at Coors Field in the back half of the coming week. Carroll may not play every day for Arizona, but we are talking about ways to round out these five-man outfields, folks. You could do far worse than a prospect of Carroll’s caliber. He swatted 16 homers and stole 20 bags at Double-A this year, in just 58 games. Carroll then beat up on the Triple-A level for 33 games, adding seven more homers and 11 more steals. That’s 23 dingers and 31 steals in just 91 games. The Arizona lineup might be in flux for now, with contributors like Jake McCarthy and Alek Thomas still lurking about. There’s also Daulton Varsho to contend with. All that said, there’s still a DH spot to fill, and Carroll is the sort of talent that can supplant anyone in the everyday lineup. And one little tweak or injury to an outfielder or to a catcher, and then we aren’t worried about playing time in the slightest. There are multiple pathways to Carroll packing some punch for your fantasy baseball teams down the stretch this season.
That’s it for me this morning, as the coffee is all gone and I couldn’t find any more speedy outfielders to note. Who are you starting in the week ahead? Find me on Twitter @HeathCapps and let me know!
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