Houston Astros outfielder Yordan Alvarez has not even been in the major leagues for a week, but he looks like a fantastic hitter with staying power -- as if the statistics do not bear this out. As of this writing, Alvarez remains available in more than 50% of ESPN standard leagues, though that number will likely adjust soon. Whatever the case, if there is one player to recommend this week, it is Alvarez. The American League boasts three rookie hitters capable of amazing things and Alvarez belongs in the conversation with Toronto's Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and White Sox slugger Eloy Jimenez.
Welcome to another Thursday, as we go position by position to find the fantasy hitters and pitchers who deserve more attention, along with others who, well, do not. Some ask why things change in this blog entry each week -- as if I needed another week to see Atlanta's Dansby Swanson hit, or Cincinnati's Joey Votto not hit. Well, yes, we change our minds all the time. Don't you do the same thing when it comes to adding and dropping players? With that in mind, here we go!
Feel free to share your thoughts (as if you need prompting!) with me on Twitter.
Below 50% must-add: I still think Tampa Bay's Yandy Diaz can hit close to .300 with more than 25 home runs, which means he is really underrated right now. Other than that, the corner infield options I like to this degree also play middle infield, so they'll go in that section.
Worth adding: I suppose it makes sense to add Pittsburgh's Colin Moran and the Mets' Todd Frazier while they are performing well, in case it sticks. Still, I think we know this ends with a 2-for-20 stretch and you cutting them. That's OK. You can stream your corner infield spot, just like any other spot.
Mixed-league stash: Tampa Bay's Ji-Man Choi fits this narrative, but his numbers are similar to those of Moran. Kansas City's Cheslor Cuthbert is doing things, but injured Hunter Dozier should push him aside soon. Detroit's Brandon Dixon has upside, but we would like to see a little consistency.
Drop 'em: I do not see Joey Votto turning his season around like Matt Carpenter did in 2018. Sorry. It's a costly one here. I also believe parting with Atlanta's Josh Donaldson is unlikely to result in him making you really pay for it statistically. He just looks so average. As always, do not drop players "just for the sake of it." There has to be somebody worth adding who is better.
Don't drop 'em: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals; Hunter Dozier, Royals. Rangers slugger Joey Gallo needs to be rostered in all leagues, but alas, thanks to his IL stint, he is not.
Below 50% must-add: It's a big week for the middle-infield eligible set. It took a while, but I am wholeheartedly recommending Nationals hitter Howie Kendrick. He did not hit like this for the first decade of his career, but he clearly figured something out. Tampa Bay's Brandon Lowe is hitting for both power and average, unlike the struggling Michael Chavis of Boston. I think each should be rostered across the board. Philadelphia's Scott Kingery has some batting-average correction coming, but the power/speed combo is very real and he is playing regularly. This is a good thing, this year.
Worth adding: Cubs infielder David Bote is going to keep playing, and he is more of a hitter than a defender. Twenty home runs are reachable. Milwaukee's Travis Shaw got a lot of grief for his first two months, but we know he has power. Keston Hiura investors in re-draft formats should move on. We have no idea when Hiura returns. We do think San Diego rookie Luis Urias will get the call soon, and he is a lot like Hiura.
Mixed-league stash: Urias and Hiura, for sure, and while I understand moving on from Colorado's Brendan Rodgers because his manager simply will not play him against right-handers, I bet we hear from him statistically this summer. Stash, but do not activate him yet.
Drop 'em: Well, that did not take long with Toronto's Cavan Biggio. Hey, what did you really expect? I would rather stash his colleague Bo Bichette, now healthy, in case he gets the call. He's the superior prospect. After his latest injury, Robinson Cano is like Votto to me now. It just is not happening, even when healthy. Detroit's versatile Niko Goodrum will not hit for average. The Angels' David Fletcher has been hurt, but I'll bet that if you cut him, he'll hit .300 the next month and you might regret it. Still, that's probably the smart move.
Don't drop 'em: Philadelphia's Cesar Hernandez has job (and run-scoring) security, but is mired in a big slump. It should correct. The Cardinals' Paul DeJong is safe as well. Yes, they are struggling. However, they are not bad. I would keep Chavis too.
Below 50% must-add: Houston's Alvarez leads the way. I think Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier, in spite of the batting average, earns a spot based on his stolen bases. He is already into double digits, which matters when fewer than 20 players have reached that plateau. His teammate Avisail Garcia is legit too. The Rays know what they are doing and fantasy managers should watch what they do each offseason.
Worth adding: I do not think Kansas City's Jorge Soler will hit for average, but that is a 30-home run fellow, for sure. It is not a surprising emergence. San Diego's Franmil Reyes could be a 40-homer fellow. I did not understand why so many people moved on from him. No, he will not homer twice a week -- that is not how power hitters do it. The Angels' Kole Calhoun is good enough to roster for a while. Miami's Garrett Cooper has the look of a potential fifth fantasy outfielder, and may perhaps end up as the Marlins' best hitter. Oakland's Ramon Laureano strikes out too much, but he looked awesome on Wednesday and really could be a 20/20 hitter this year. Pittsburgh's Bryan Reynolds just keeps on hitting for average, and he got a vote of confidence despite the healthy return of Corey Dickerson.
Mixed-league stash: Just because the Astros promoted one star prospect doesn't mean they can't bring up another. Watch what Kyle Tucker does. One of the pair can handle first base, possibly. If you need stolen bases -- and who doesn't -- then you might want to add Philadelphia's Roman Quinn quickly, for he might join the team this weekend. His next injury could be seconds away, but he will play, with Kingery usurping the third base role from bad Maikel Franco.
Drop 'em: I like the Dodgers' Alex Verdugo, but it seems like his power is not quite here yet. With Cincinnati's Jesse Winker, it is the opposite. How can he not hit for average? He adjusted his approach a bit too much. Those who were waiting on Pittsburgh's Dickerson can move on. Billy Hamilton of the Royals simply does not run enough.
Don't drop 'em: Seattle's Mitch Haniger is too good to be dropped because of a three-week IL stint. Yes, the injury had to be awful, but he should play soon. Youngsters Nick Senzel of the Reds and Washington's Victor Robles are on the most-dropped list. I would not do that. Part with Adam Jones first. We knew he would not sustain his April.
Worth adding: People are still a bit slow in adding Houston's Robinson Chirinos and legit Twins backstop Mitch Garver. I doubt Cleveland's Roberto Perez keeps hitting for power, or Miami's Jorge Alfaro ever figures out what is and what is not a strike, but hey, why not?
Mixed-league stash: You do not stash a catcher, unless it is a dynasty format and Adley Rutschman is out there. I would take him over San Francisco's Joey Bart. The Dodgers' Will Smith hit, but he likely will not get to hit regularly until 2020, apparently.
Drop 'em: I go back and forth on cutting Buster Posey, to a degree. Like Donaldson and Votto, I just do not see how they will be awesome again. Posey is playing, and there is no harm in seeing if he hits over the next fortnight.
Don't drop 'em: At this point, the only catchers who must be rostered in all leagues are Gary Sanchez, J.T. Realmuto, Willson Contreras, Yasmani Grandal, Yadier Molina and Wilson Ramos -- in that order. Chirinos and Posey are close.
Below 50% must-add: Here again, the word "must" is a tough one. After all, Mets left-hander Jason Vargas is pitching so well but, must you add him? No. I am intrigued by myriad pitchers, so this week the "worth adding" category is rather large. There is no Lucas Giolito situation this week, where a pitcher is a universal addition, unless we include Colorado right-hander Peter Lambert, who has won his first two starts and has another one scheduled at Coors Field this weekend. It's probably best to add him first and then see what happens.
Worth adding: We keep discussing the Marlins, for good reason. I would go Pablo Lopez first if you want upside, then Trevor Richards if you desire safety. Perhaps Sandy Alcantara starts striking hitters out and becomes the best of the three. Vargas is worth adding at this point. Rangers right-hander Adrian Sampson deserves a look. Washington's Anibal Sanchez has had three good outings in a row, so stop looking at his season-long numbers and remember his awesome 2018 campaign. I trust him a bit more than Arizona's Merrill Kelly (who has been great in June) and definitely more than Seattle's Mike Leake. Finally, I do not know what else Houston left-hander Wade Miley needs to do, but on that team, he can win enough to be a top-40 starter. I bet he gets there, even without a big strikeout total. I still think Pittsburgh's Mitch Keller can be what the Angels' Griffin Canning is -- and that is good enough for mixed leagues, though early returns are rough.
Mixed-league stash: The word "stash," in this context, means you do not expect to activate the player soon, and it is generally applied to young, unproven players. Cardinals right-hander Alex Reyes belongs here. Houston's Framber Valdez could belong in the "adding" category now. Oakland left-hander Jesus Luzardo could be in the majors later this month, and could be awesome. White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease seems about ready, but I doubt his WHIP will help us much initially.
Drop 'em: I like Miami left-hander Caleb Smith, but it is tough to keep a Miami pitcher rostered when he is not active. I get it. Do not drop Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco or the Yankees' Domingo German, however. I have had enough of lefties Martin Perez of Minnesota and Yusei Kikuchi of Seattle. Atlanta right-handers Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman are not pitching as they should. Pittsburgh's Jordan Lyles is hurt. Philadelphia's Jerad Eickhoff probably allowed a home run while I typed this, although that could have been in my dreams/nightmares, too.
Don't drop 'em: There's a big difference between cutting San Diego's awesome rookie Chris Paddack and doing so with Philadelphia's inconsistent Jake Arrieta. I'll speak more on Paddack in a minute. With Arrieta, I get it -- but there is upside there, too. Carrasco is like Haniger. We don't want to think about their injuries, but we know these guys can be really, really good. More patience is needed.
Barely over 50%, mixed-league must-add: Hector Neris, Phillies
Below 50% must-add: Neris finally got over the 50-50 hump, so to speak. He was not there Tuesday when I blogged about him. Atlanta's Luke Jackson and Hansel Robles of the Angels belong on more teams for sure, though Atlanta is complicating matters by bringing back lefty A.J. Minter. Shawn Kelley remains the closer in Texas, for now. Really, are we going to wait until August for Jose Leclerc to get this role back? I'm not.
Mixed-league stash: As always, pick a Red Sox right-hander. Who knows? I don't think any Mariner deserves much attention, but Hunter Strickland would be that Mariner. Add Nick Anderson if you think Miami's Sergio Romo loses the job or gets dealt. It could happen, I guess. I have John Gant stashed in a league, but it looks like Jordan Hicks is back on track for St. Louis, at least for now.
Drop 'em: We say farewell to Rays left-hander Jose Alvarado, for now, and remind ourselves how quickly things change with the volatile relief set. Leclerc belongs here, but this is a recording.
Don't drop 'em: Greg Holland is still a closer and he showed it by saving Wednesday's game, though he is really unlucky to have just two saves in five weeks. He could save 10 over the next three weeks. That is how it works.
Fantasy managers everywhere whined when the Padres sent Paddack to the minors, but here comes a rant. We do not have to blame every organization for a cost-cutting move when not every move is for that purpose. Paddack was sent to Class A to sit for 10 days until the Padres need him back in the majors. They are monitoring his innings. We knew this would happen, and frankly, I like this plan a lot more than Paddack hitting his innings mark (whatever it might be) before September. The Padres might contend for a wild-card spot. This is smarter. Paddack is not in Triple-A, because this is essentially a vacation. He returns to pitch in the majors, tentatively, on June 22. Drop him and curse the Padres if you want, but I will hold on the him. It is a short absence and the Padres are doing the right thing. It is not about money in this case. The Padres promoted Fernando Tatis Jr. to the majors when about 25 other clubs would have waited for the extra year of service time. Paddack has struggled a bit of late. He may well be tired and I am in favor of this transaction. Oh, and stop whining at everything. It is not healthy.
Speaking of NL rookie hurlers, Atlanta's Mike Soroka was not going to finish with a 1.38 ERA, so the fact he permitted five runs to the Pirates and saw his ERA jump to 1.92 is not fun. Hopefully, though, it is aberrant. We don't know. We do know Soroka is not going to approach 200 innings and the Braves have to be considering something similar to how Paddack was treated. Perhaps this is where LHP Dallas Keuchel will fit in? I expect Soroka to get a vacation of his own soon. I have noted this about Paddack all season as well. These guys are terrific and, even if there is strangeness in their handling over the next few months, I will take the awesome innings, even if there are fewer of them.
One more NL rookie hurler tidbit: Pittsburgh's Keller might need an opener, because his first-inning work (albeit in only two starts) has been troublesome. I still think a really good major league pitcher lurks here, but the Pirates could demote him again and few would whine about it.
Oh, you want to discuss another NL rookie pitcher? OK, this is getting crazy but Miami Marlins right-hander Jordan Yamamoto -- a potential pearl from the lopsided Christian Yelich trade -- stymied the Cardinals over seven shutout innings in his debut. The Cardinals' offense has struggled for a while now, but St. Louis fans might not have noticed since their hockey team just won the Stanley Cup for the first time ever. Now, they might notice. We don't know if Yamamoto even gets to start next week, as Caleb Smith and Jose Urena might not be out long. In other words, for now, I think about how most rookie starters without a top pedigree initially thrive only to get "figured out" soon after. (See: Cleveland's Zach Plesac.)
Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi stole his 26th base. Ten MLB teams have yet to steal their 26th base.
Astros Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander fanned 15 Milwaukee batters over seven innings, but also permitted three home runs. Hey, this is the baseball era we live in. He might win 20 games with a 2.50 ERA and get the Cy Young Award -- while also allowing 40 home runs. That has never happened before.
Brewers infielder Mike Moustakas homered in the 14th inning to win the game and he is on pace for 50 blasts. Yes, 50. However, the pace is for "only" 107 RBIs. Look, baseball writers and fans can whine about Moustakas having to settle for a one-year contract but has anyone thought about what the player was asking for in the first place and how that affected the market? For fantasy purposes, Moustakas is the No. 15 hitter on the Player Rater. He's awesome in home runs but merely above-average for runs and RBIs -- and with a second base tag. I doubt he actually hits 50 home runs, but I also doubt his fantasy value is so high that you can get an actual top-20 hitter for him in a trade.
Early returns on the major trade I made in mixed Tout Wars are, well, mixed. Edwin Encarnacion has blasted eight home runs already in June. Miguel Sano is struggling and striking out a ton. I figured that would happen, which is why I wanted to move him. I received Starling Marte for them (and a few others) and he has three home runs this week and a stolen base -- and I really need the steals. I would say it's way too early to evaluate a trade and usually I don't even look, but we all feel some regret when we trade a player and then he homers every night. I have to stop that and consider that Encarnacion, even at 36 and with a terrible club, might keep doing this and challenges for 50 home runs for the first time. That is just crazy. Oh, I have lost like 15 points in the past week and gone from first to fourth place and it has nothing to do with this trade.
Cincinnati's Votto homered for the second time in a week but then, without any warning, he was out of the game with back stiffness. Awesome! (Obviously I mean "awesome" in the way of lamenting the terrible timing of an injury for a player I am rooting for. Why do things always seem to happen to my guys?) I don't know what happens next, but Votto says all is well and he will not miss time. Perhaps that's true and, as a fantasy investor, I want the power to stick around. Still, I don't think we know anything more than a player who needs his back to be healthy left a game early for issues and also missed a few contests back in April with the same ailment. I think we might know why the power is sapped.
Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Ken Giles hit the injured list (also sans warning) with elbow concerns but the organization is portraying this as a short vacation and nothing major. We always believe teams, right? Right?!? Again, we don't know. Giles is a borderline top-10 fantasy closer and if (as with Paddack) he is missing only one week for those in weekly formats, then I'd just bench him. Don't drop him. Rumor had it Joe Biagini would handle the saves in the interim but he blew up in the eighth inning in Baltimore, so Daniel Hudson handled things. Do not bother with Blue Jays relievers in the interim.
The Indians plan to start right-hander Mike Clevinger on Monday and, as a fantasy investor, I won't wait to see how he looks. I'll simply activate one of only 18 pitchers to have recorded a 200-strikeout season in 2018 right away.
Investors in Pittsburgh's Felipe Vazquez might have panicked when the closer handled the eighth inning at Atlanta and right-hander Kyle Crick permitted the Austin Riley home run to blow the save in an eventual loss, but there is no indication Vazquez is no longer closing. The left-hander was called on to face the top of the lineup, after a rain delay, in a tie game. He is No. 11 among closers on the Player Rater thanks to a recent stretch of allowing runs and a mere three saves over the past month. Crick is likely next in line, but not someone to target unless we hear rumors of the last-place Pirates trying to move their closer.
Closing situations to watch this weekend: Start with the Twins, dealing with poor performance (Blake Parker) and minor injury (Taylor Rogers). Then again, Trevor May started the eighth inning on Wednesday. Atlanta could give LHP Minter a shot after Jackson allowed a home run on Wednesday, in theory. Does Boston manager Alex Cora go back to Matt Barnes or leave him for the eighth inning, where he has allowed only a .156 batting average against?
The Rays are always interesting and start a four-game set, at home, with the pitching-poor Angels. I want to see how Joey Wendle is worked back into the lineup. Fantasy managers might not care, but Wendle was one of only 16 qualifiers to bat .300 last season. That alone makes him worth a look. Who sits? Also, who closes? The Rays are on a 100-win pace with nobody on pace to eclipse 15 saves.
It's a huge series for NL East supremacy in Atlanta with the Phillies, struggling to find starting pitchers, relievers and runs on offense, being watched closely. Is it fair? Well, the Phillies have a .718 OPS this month while the Braves are at .903. See if manager Gabe Kapler moves Scott Kingery to the leadoff spot (perhaps it is Bryce Harper?) and check on who starts in place of homer-happy Jerad Eickhoff on Sunday. On Friday, it is Nick Pivetta, potential fantasy savior. The Braves are rolling, and Dallas Keuchel might pitch only one more time in the minors.
Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN features the No. 2 fantasy starting pitcher (according to the Rater) in Dodgers Hyun-Jin Ryu, facing the Cubs and fellow left-hander Jose Quintana. Ryu leads the majors with a 1.36 ERA and has permitted only seven home runs and five walks over 13 starts. It's ridiculous. Enjoy it, but be aware, if you're thinking of trading for him, he has averaged just 13 starts over the past three seasons. Durability is not a strength. He is already at his average!
Wednesday, June 12: Upton's return, Bauer, Lambert, Chavis
Tuesday, June 11: Closer report: Underrated Neris, Kingery, Kendrick
Monday, June 10: Sad numbers: Votto RBI, Desmond SB, Jose Ramirez
Thursday, June 6: All shows