Hello, friends! Eric is on vacation, so I've been asked to pinch-hit for the Karablog to offer up the usual array of free-agent pickups. The format will be the same but with a bit of a twist. This is the final Thursday before the MLB trade deadline, so a common theme as we navigate through the positions will be acquisitions based upon potential trades. The catch here, of course, is that it's a bit difficult to discern which hitters are very likely to be dealt.
In addition, some stashes for single-league formats will be highlighted, featuring some minor league players with a good chance of getting the call to the Show. Many of these will depend on your league's rules and if your commissioner service can accommodate the move. As an example, in AL- and NL-only Tout Wars, teams are permitted to bid on anyone affiliated with an MLB organization, with the only caveat being that the player must be active in your lineup the following week. However, in AL- and NL-only LABR, only players on major league rosters are eligible for free agent pickup.
A new twist this season is that there is only one trade deadline. Again, this is more pertinent to single-league formats, since there won't be any crossover players to bid on in the transaction periods immediately following July 31. However, in leagues like LABR, there may be some prospects called up, so those not in line to get an impact free agent may want to be patient and not invest on a lesser player.
Finally, I'll echo Eric's weekly sentiment and encourage you to share your thoughts with me on Twitter.
Below 50% must-add: There was some concern that Christian Walker would lose playing time once Jake Lamb and Wilmer Flores returned for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but with Eduardo Escobar able to move from the hot corner to the keystone, Walker has remained a regular. His allure is sneaky steals from the corner and a high on-base mark, most useful in points leagues. Steals are down this season, tightening up the standings in rotisserie leagues, so even a handful of swipes could result in an extra point or two.
Worth adding: Mitch Moreland and Matt Duffy are both back from injury. Even with Michael Chavis unable to play with a sore back, the Boston Red Sox will platoon Moreland at first, with Christian Vazquez getting the run versus southpaws. Still, Moreland has been fantasy-worthy only when a right-hander has been on the hill. Duffy isn't going to help much with power, but the Tampa Bay Rays like his defense, so he'll play regularly. If you need a batting-average boost, his hit tool is better than most available at the position. ... The Oakland Athletics usually deploy Mark Canha on the weak side of a platoon, but this season, he's handling right-handers better than left-handers. While this reverse split is likely a fluke, it has earned him regular playing time. Canha has been an on-base machine, with six homers since June 28. ... Finally, while there are a lot of interchangeable parts available at corner, Miguel Sano has the highest power ceiling and is beginning to display it. The Minnesota Twins are on pace to set a new HR record and Sano is primed to do his part over the final two-plus months.
Mixed-league stash: Kyle Seager's numbers are horrible. Other than one week in early June when he clubbed four homers, Seager has been useless. However, his Statcast metrics portend a strong finish. It may not manifest, but he's been hitting the ball with more authority this season than in any other since Statcast first started tracking exit velocity in 2015. In addition, Seager's average fly-ball distance is at a career high, suggesting more homers are on the way.
Deep-league stash: The Baltimore Orioles are trying to find a position for Ryan Mountcastle, as his glove won't play at the hot corner, where he was playing when he was drafted. His bat, on the other hand, is close to ready, as the 22-year-old right-hander is holding his own at Triple-A Norwalk. His strikeouts are high, but that's less of a detriment than in previous seasons. ... The chances are slim, but there's a possibility the Chicago White Sox deal Jose Abreu, as they have Andrew Vaughn, the No. 3 overall pick, on the fast track. Vaughn won't be called up this season, but the White Sox picked up former Houston Astros prospect AJ Reed. Reed has been seeing time at designated hitter, but if Abreu is moved, he could play regularly at first base.
Drop 'em: Wil Myers seems obvious, but he's still rostered in over 60% of ESPN leagues. The San Diego Padres are showing more trust in Manuel Margot, and Myers' season-long malaise isn't getting him time at any of the infield or outfield corner spots.
Don't drop 'em: I could be in the minority, but I still expect an uptick from Asdrubal Cabrera. Even without it, eligibility at three positions is extremely useful. Unfortunately, there isn't anything in the numbers to support this call as Cabrera's underlying metrics are in line with his disappointing campaign. That said, I believe in his track record, and he still plays half his games in Globe Life Park, a venue that played friendlier to batters than even Coors Field last season.
Below 50% must-add: Andrelton Simmons isn't going to win you any categories, but he can help across the board. The Los Angeles Angels shortstop is back in the groove after missing over a month with a high ankle sprain, chipping in with a little power and speed, as well as runs -- an overlooked category in roto.
Worth adding: The quality of available middle infielders speaks to the leaguewide improvement up the middle, and the scary part is that even more help is coming, perhaps soon. Robinson Cano's recent three-homer night put him back on the fantasy radar, and the Statcast data contends that he deserves to be there. His average exit velocity and hard-hit rate are both well above average, though down from last season. ... Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor is in a similar boat, with underlying metrics portending better numbers. For what it's worth, I'm a strong proponent of looking at support stats such as exit velocity and hard-hit rate to identify players due for a rebound, especially those with productive track records.
Mixed-league stash: Here's where it gets interesting, as there's a trio of exciting prospects knocking at the door. Last week's Thursday Karablog discussed Bo Bichette joining two other second-generation Toronto Blue Jays infielders. Bichette's future double-play partner, Cavan Biggio, is mired in a slump, but he still possesses the ability to rack up homers and steals. Rookies often run into a speed bump, but if Biggio can make some adjustments, he could be helpful down the stretch. ... There is some chatter that the Miami Marlins aim to move Starlin Castro, paving the way for Isan Diaz to take over at second base. Even if the Marlins find no takers, they could simply release Castro. Diaz is tearing up the Pacific Coast League, posting an OPS of .982 as a 23-year-old. It remains to be seen if Marlins Park hurts Diaz, but with 24 homers for Triple-A New Orleans, he could provide much-needed pop in South Beach. ... Gavin Lux could be forcing the Los Angeles Dodgers to make a tough decision. The 21-year-old shortstop has played only 19 games at the Triple-A level through Tuesday night, but in that span he's slashed .481/.548/.963 for Oklahoma City. The Dodgers could be showing their hand, as Lux is a natural shortstop but is playing more at second base. If he continues on this track, the Dodgers may have no choice but to promote Lux and find a way to get his bat in the lineup.
Drop 'em: David Fletcher is a nice player, but with only five homers and six steals on the season, there are options available to provide more juice.
Don't drop 'em: This contradicts what Eric suggested, but if you can continue to stash Michael Chavis in deeper formats, he has made some adjustments and, when healthy, is primed to take off again. The Boston Red Sox released Eduardo Nunez, but Chavis still must split playing time with Brock Holt and Mitch Moreland. Dropping him if you need the roster spot is fine. I just think there's at least one more hot streak in Chavis' bat.
Below 50% must-add: Last week's Karablog included a plea for Ramon Laureano. That one worked, so let's double down on Oscar Mercado to eclipse the 50% level. Mercado has been a key cog in the Cleveland Indians' second-half surge, bashing four homers while swiping four bags over the past 15 days. As Mercado continues to get comfortable, his running should pick up. Speaking of running, last week, Margot was deemed worth adding. If you need steals without sacrificing too much pop, he's a must-add with the Padres seemingly having handed him the everyday gig in center.
Worth adding: The Orioles are extending Anthony Santander a long look and he's taking advantage. Remember, Camden Yards is one of the best hitter's parks during the dog days of August. ... Jesse Winker's roller-coaster season continues. He's on the upswing again, so Winker's on-base ability renders the Cincinnati Reds outfielder worth adding in points leagues. ... Marwin Gonzalez is another example of a player whose multiple-position eligibility helps mitigate lesser numbers. The ability to maximize your lineup by bouncing Gonzalez around adds significantly to his utility. ... Keeping with the sub-theme of steals, Niko Goodrum has snared 11 bases in 13 tries, with four coming over the past three weeks. With the Detroit Tigers playing out the string, there's no reason to put the kibosh on Goodrum's exploits on the basepaths.
Mixed-league stash: Call it Boston bias, but Jackie Bradley Jr. has another hot streak in him, and he's also someone who can supply steals. ... Last week, Eric opined that Kyle Tucker could be called up by the Houston Astros; here's a plus-one to that notion. ... In addition, the New York Yankees are said to be in the market for a starting pitcher, with Clint Frazier as logical trade bait. Frazier's earlier stint in the majors showed that his offense is fine. It's his glove that is sketchy.
Drop 'em: Joc Pederson is likely to lose playing time if the Dodgers indeed advance Gavin Lux, so he's a viable drop. ... Domingo Santana has been ice-cold, perhaps due to a sore elbow he's been playing through. The Seattle Mariners outfielder is scheduled for an MRI, but it's not worth waiting on the result. Santana is having a nice year, but you can find his stats elsewhere.
Don't drop 'em: I'm giving Hunter Renfroe one more week, but if he doesn't display some pop, the San Diego slugger is gone.
Worth adding: While I agree with Eric's contention that most leagues should be streaming catchers where rules allow, I'd like to add Christian Vazquez to the list of "pick and stick" options, especially since Alex Cora is keeping his bat in the lineup at both first base and designated hitter. Currently, the Boston backstop is available in about one-third of ESPN leagues, so he doesn't formally qualify as an add, but even 67% is too light. He's the real deal, hitting the ball consistently harder than ever before. ... I also feel Danny Jansen is more than a stash.The Blue Jays receiver is worth adding with series against the weak Kansas City Royals and Orioles staffs on the horizon.
Below 50% must-add: By extension, a "must-add" is matchup proof -- and it's hard to find someone of that ilk this late in the season. Most pitchers have already entered the circle of trust or are no more than mere streaming options. Reynaldo Lopez looks to be an exception, as the White Sox right-hander is on a roll -- and it looks to be real. Since the break, Lopez has posted a 1.71 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP with 25 strikeouts to just four walks in 21 frames. In those three starts, Lopez has tweaked his pitch mix, throwing fewer changeups, while using his slider and curveball more. Lopez has added a couple of ticks to his four-seamer, while his spin rate for the slider and curve have risen compared to what they were before the break, increasing effectiveness all around. Whether it's a conscious change conjured up during the respite or he's just going with what's working, Lopez is a different pitcher. Sure, his surface stats will regress, but his skills seem to be at a higher level -- and one worth taking advantage of as the White Sox continue to navigate through a weak AL Central schedule.
Worth adding: Anthony DeSclafani has quietly had a solid couple of months, recording a 3.07 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP in eight starts spanning 44 innings since June 4. The Reds right-hander fanned 50 batters with only nine free passes and just five homers allowed over that stretch. With upcoming starts against the Colorado Rockies and the Angels at home (sandwiched around a road game versus the Atlanta Braves), DeSclafani is playable in deeper leagues. ... Zac Gallen has enjoyed a solid rookie campaign for the Marlins and has worked only two of his six outings at home in the league's best pitching venue. His schedule isn't great, with home affairs against the Twins and Braves sandwiching a road tilt with the Mets. Still, relative to what's available, Gallen is worth adding.
Mixed-league stash: Despite allowing three homers to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night (those things happen), Tyler Beede is showing signs of figuring things out. Beede did fan seven with just one walk in 5 2/3 innings against the Cubs, so it wasn't all bad. The problem is that his next two outings line up to be road affairs in Philadelphia and at Coors Field. Beede is throwing his slider more, with less reliance on the curve and changeup. The result is improved control and command of all his pitches, manifesting in a significant spike of swinging strikes.
Drop 'em: If J.A. Happ played for any team other than the Yankees, he'd be considered a streamer, but he's still rostered in three-quarters of ESPN leagues. The southpaw's strikeouts are low (87 in 103 1/3 innings) and he's allowed a generous 23 longballs. Happ's struggles should continue (if not worsen) as both heat and humidity will continue to burden the Northeast for the next month or so. ... Brandon Woodruff was pitching well, but with an expected return from his oblique injury coming after rosters expand, he's not worth holding.
Don't drop 'em: No one qualifies this week.
Below 50% must-add: It's tough to deem any reliever as a "must-add" since league formats and team needs dictate pitching staff construction. That said, Ian Kennedy (8) and Carlos Martinez (6) lead the pack in saves over the past 15 days.
Worth adding: Despite getting the "Karablog seal of approval" last week, Liam Hendriks, Taylor Rogers and Hansel Robles remain widely available. This week, let's add Emilio Pagan and Brandon Workman to the list in deeper formats.
Mixed-league stash: Stashing speculative closers is only worth it in deeper leagues, and with the impending MLB trade deadline, this is the area with the greatest potential fantasy relevance. Despite Mark Melancon being called on for a one-out save last week, Sam Dyson is the likely closer in the event the San Francisco Giants move Will Smith. ... It's very unlikely the Padres send Kirby Yates to a contender, but if they do, Andres Munoz could be the next Friars closer. Munoz averages 100 mph on his fastball. The 21-year old fireballer has closer written all over him.
Drop 'em: Raisel Iglesias is rostered in 78% of ESPN leagues. With so many equal or better options available, it's time to cut bait. He's still amassing decent strikeouts, but with nine homers allowed in 43 frames, he isn't worth keeping.
Don't drop 'em: Nathan Eovaldi is still knocking off some rust. Don't dump him just yet, as the plan in Beantown is still for last season's playoff hero to be the primary closer down the stretch.