Paul DeJong wasn't supposed to be in St. Louis this year, but then again, we've heard that one before.
The 23-year-old is in St. Louis, though, and he appears there to stay, given his success. On Saturday, DeJong had his best game as a major leaguer to date, going 4-for-4 with three doubles and a home run in the Cardinals' win over the Mets.
“It’s a zone,” DeJong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “This is you what strive for, to be able to see it like you did today. You talk about sports psychology in that there’s this concept that you’re near the zone all the time and sometimes you drift into it. But staying as close you can to the zone all the time is the goal.”
It's a zone that DeJong has been in for much of his 35 games in the majors. Since being promoted, the infielder is hitting .306/.326/.581 with eight homers, 17 RBI and 16 runs scored.
His story is not unlike the player he replaced, Aledmys Diaz, who came out of nowhere in 2016 to take over as the team's shortstop of the future. Now, it's DeJong who has the look of an everyday player while Diaz's struggles have forced him not only out of the lineup, but to Triple-A Memphis.
“That’s baseball,” said DeJong. “It’s ‘What are you doing for me, lately?’ a lot of times. He’s a great player. But I think I’m a great player, too.”
There's still plenty with which to take issue regarding DeJong's success -- including the fact that he's struck out 38 times in 35 games, and that whatever success he's had has come in just a 35-game sample size -- and defensive limitations may preclude him from being considered the Cardinals' answer at shortstop, even now. But his major league production follows a 2016 season at Double-A Springfield in which DeJong hit 22 homers, and comes on the heels of him hitting 13 home runs in 48 games with Triple-A Memphis before being promoted.
As with Diaz in 2016, fantasy owners might be wise to take a flier on DeJong in hopes he can keep it up for the entire year.
Editor’s Note: Introducing FanDuel Mixup, the newest way to play FanDuel Baseball. Smaller lineups, so you can draft your team on the go, plus fun themes every week! Play now.
Kipnis Sustains Hamstring Strain
If it weren't for bad luck, Jason Kipnis might have no luck at all.
It's a tired cliché but one that fits given Kipnis' 2017 season. The most recent blow was a mild right hamstring strain suffered during Saturday's game that will at least keep the second baseman out of Sunday's game, if not longer.
The season has been doomed from the start, with right rotator cuff inflammation during spring training forcing Kipnis to miss the first few weeks of the season. More recently, neck spasms have cost the 30-year-old a few games here and there.
And when he's not hurt, he's struggling at the plate. A good game on Friday has Kipnis' season line up to .232/.292/.402, with eight homers and five steals.
The Indians are among the teams best-equipped to deal with an absence, with utility knife Jose Ramirez at the ready and decent-hitting options such as Erik Gonzalez, who replaced Kipnis on Saturday, and others available off the bench. The Indians should have a better idea of Kipnis' outlook on Sunday.
Tigers' Wilson Drawing Interest
If the Tigers choose to tear it down -- and they should absolutely choose to tear it down -- there will be no shortage of useful players available to contending teams.
One such player, Justin Wilson, is already drawing trade interest, according to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. Fenech said the Nationals, Astros and Cubs have all had high-level scouts watching the Tigers in recent weeks, with a special interest in the southpaw.
Wilson is a popular target for obvious reasons, posting a strong 2.48 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 48/12 K/BB ratio over 32 2/3 innings this year. He's recently taken over closing duties for the Detroit club, saving nine games in 10 chances.
A reliever's fantasy value often takes a hit when traded at or near the deadline, but a move from the Tigers to the Nationals would actually be a win for Wilson's owners given the chaotic state of the Nats bullpen. The Astros, Cubs and Dodgers, another team rumored to be interested in the 29-year-old, all have established closers and would thus be less attractive destinations for Wilson from a fantasy perspective.
One way or another, it does seem the Nats will upgrade their bullpen before July 31, or at least performance dictates they should. Who ends up in the nation's capital is still anyone's guess.
National League Quick Hits: Johnny Cueto (ear) will start Sunday against the Marlins. Apparently he's over the ear infection that sidelined him earlier this week. Matt Cain, who had been the scheduled starter for Sunday's first-half finale, will be available out of the pen. It's been a down year for Cueto but he's pitched better of late, producing a strong 2.84 ERA over his last three starts ... Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Ryan Braun (calf) was dealing with a cramp on Saturday. Braun lobbied to stay in the game but Counsell decided to play it safe by giving him the rest of the afternoon off. It doesn't sound like anything serious but with the All-Star break coming up, Braun will probably ride the pine Sunday against the Yankees ... Stephen Strasburg said he feels fine after leaving Saturday's start against the Braves with a hip injury. Strasburg took a comebacker off the bony part of his hip in the third inning and didn't come out for the next frame. He had a rough afternoon, allowing six runs (three earned) and seven hits before exiting. When asked if the injury would affect his availability for Tuesday's All-Star Game in Miami, Strasburg responded with a simple "no" ... Dodgers manager Dave Roberts plans to give Clayton Kershaw an extended rest following the All-Star break. Kershaw will start Sunday's first-half finale versus Kansas City, which prohibits him from pitching in Tuesday's All-Star Game (teammate Alex Wood has already replaced him on the NL All-Star roster). The left-hander has logged 123 1/3 innings this year, his most in the first half since 2013, and could probably use some time to recharge his battery. Nothing is set in stone, but it looks like Kershaw's next start after Sunday will come against the White Sox on July 18. That will give Kershaw nine days between starts ... Mets activated OF Michael Conforto from the 10-day disabled list. Conforto made it through a rehab game on Thursday without any issues, though he was not in Saturday's starting lineup. Prior to landing on the shelf with the hand injury, he was hitting .285/.405/.548 with 14 homers, 41 RBI and two stolen bases ... Hunter Renfroe left Saturday's game against the Phillies with a neck injury. He felt his neck tighten up on a swing in the seventh inning. Renfroe stayed in to run the bases after hitting a leadoff double but was replaced by Matt Szczur in right field to begin the next half-inning. He's likely to miss Sunday's series finale ... Julio Teheran rattled off seven scoreless frames during a 13-0 demolition of the Nationals on Saturday. He spaced out four base hits and two walks while fanning five in the sterling effort ... Shrimp! Cody Bellinger went 2-for-3 with a home run and two runs scored, and his bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning gave the Dodgers a 5-4 win over the Royals on Saturday. The 21-year-old has had plenty of heroic moments in a debut season to remember thus far, batting .264/.346/.626 with the second-most homers in the National League heading into the All-Star break.
American League Quick Hits: Rangers activated SS Elvis Andrus from the paternity leave list. He returned after a two-game absence. He celebrated his return by going 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored in a Rangers win ... Avisail Garcia (finger) was not in the White Sox's lineup Saturday against the Rockies. Garcia was out of the lineup with a sprained middle finger for the second straight game. He's hoping to return Sunday, which would put him on track to play in Tuesday night's All-Star Game ... Alex Cobb made it through 7 2/3 innings without allowing a run to beat the Red Sox 1-0 on Saturday. He gave up just two base hits and one walk while striking out three in the gem outing. He tossed 111 pitches and kept opposing batters off-balance and befuddled all afternoon. Cobb will take a 7-6 record with a 3.75 ERA into the All Star break ... Mike Clevinger held the Tigers scoreless over six innings en route to a 4-0 Indians victory Saturday. It was the third consecutive start in which he's gone six innings with zero or one run allowed, lowering his ERA to 3.00 in the process. The 26-year-old heads into the break on a three-game winning streak, sitting at 5-3 overall ... Rick Porcello allowed just one run in an eight-inning complete game but was hit with a tough luck loss to the Rays on Saturday. He let in a run on a sacrifice fly in the second inning and that was all it took to lose the game when his teammates got shut out. Porcello registered seven punchouts without issuing a base-on-balls in the masterful effort. He falls to 4-11 on the season with a 4.75 ERA ... Clint Frazier crushed a three-run walk-off homer in the ninth inning on Saturday, propelling the Yankees to a 5-3 victory over the Brewers. The rookie outfielder is slashing a cool .300/.318/.850 with two homers and six RBI in his first 22 plate appearances at the major league level.