My power went out in the middle of writing this, so my apologies for posting this a little later than usual. Luckily, it came back on just in time for me to see Jose Fernandez's return from Tommy John surgery. Thank you, baseball gods. Here's hoping the start to your holiday weekend goes a little more smoothly.
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Brett Anderson SP, Dodgers (Yahoo: 21 percent owned)
What does Anderson need to do to get some more respect around here? After tossing seven innings of one-run ball against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday, the oft-injured southpaw now has a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts dating back to May 1. He has allowed more than three earned runs just once in that time and has gone at least seven innings in five out of his last eight. Sure, the strikeout rate (6.47 K/9) is below the league average, but his control is very good and he has the highest ground ball rate (68.4 percent) among qualified starters. While the injury history likely has many wondering how long it will last, he's surprisingly underowned right now. Time to change that.
Miguel Sano 3B/SS, Twins (Yahoo: 33 percent owned)
While Byron Buxton is sidelined with a thumb sprain, youth is still being served in Minnesota. After demoting Kennys Vargas to Double-A Chattanooga on Thursday, the Twins have called up Sano to serve as their primary designated hitter. Checking in at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, the 22-year-old is known for his plus-power from the right side of the plate. After missing all of 2014 after Tommy John surgery, Sano was batting .274/.374/.544 with 15 home runs over 66 games in Double-A this year. He got off to a bit of a slow start, which was understandable under the circumstances, but he hit .315/.400/.601 with 11 home runs in 48 games from May 1 on. Strikeouts have been an issue with him, but not quite in the category of Joey Gallo or Javier Baez. He also draws a good amount of walks. I'm not expecting a high batting average out of the gate, but this kind of power potential from someone who is shortstop-eligible (thanks for that, Yahoo) makes him a fun flier in most formats.
Carson Smith RP, Mariners (Yahoo: 45 percent owned)
Fernando Rodney notched the last save for the Mariners and I'm sure Lloyd McClendon would like to have him back in the closer role, but Smith is still the best pitcher in this bullpen and needs to be owned in most leagues until there's some clarity. And there's no guaranteed that Rodney will be able to keep the job even if he gets another extended opportunity. Smith owns a stingy 1.45 ERA and 37/6 K/BB ratio over 31 innings this season to go along with a ground ball rate of 60 percent. He can help in many formats even if he isn't getting saves.
Marlon Byrd OF, Reds (Yahoo: 36 percent owned)
Byrd only missed a shade over two weeks with a wrist fracture, but the time off has apparently done him well, as he's hitting .306 (15-for-49) with three home runs and five RBI over 11 games since being activated. Of course, you aren't buying him for his batting average. With his penchant for whiffs, it's unlikely to be there. However, he has plenty of power and plays half of his games in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the game. He has a good chance to hit 10-15 homers the rest of the way if his wrist cooperates.
Eduardo Rodriguez SP, Red Sox (Yahoo: 42 percent owned)
We're not a very patient bunch. Rodriguez soared over the 50-percent ownership threshold after his first two starts in the majors, but he found himself dropped in a bunch of leagues after he was pummeled by the Blue Jays and Orioles last month. After the Red Sox determined that Rodriguez was likely tipping his pitches, he turned in a quality bounceback outing against Toronto on Tuesday, allowing one run on four hits and two walks over six innings while striking out four. It was an encouraging performance against a very tough opponent. I really like the stuff, so it's time to give him another chance. Even with the two disaster outings, the 22-year-old has a 3.92 ERA and 36/13 K/BB ratio over 41 1/3 innings.
Alejandro De Aza OF, Red Sox (Yahoo: 10 percent owned)
De Aza has caught fire since joining the Red Sox last month, batting .319 (22-for-69) with 11 extra-base hits (including three home runs), 12 RBI, one stolen base, and eight runs scored over 22 games while seeing regular playing time between the corner outfield spots. Red Sox manager John Farrell is considering using a platoon in right field when Shane Victorino comes back from the DL, but that's not the worst thing for De Aza, as he should see most of the at-bats against right-handed pitching under such an arrangement. It didn't work out with the Orioles this season, but he's capable of providing some pop and speed on the cheap.
Kendall Graveman SP/RP, Athletics (Yahoo: 15 percent owned)
Acquired as part of the big Josh Donaldson trade over the winter, Graveman struggled to the tune of an 8.27 ERA over four starts in April prior to being demoted to Triple-A. However, he quietly owns a 2.01 ERA and 37/14 K/BB ratio in 53 2/3 innings over eight starts dating back to his return on May 23. Only 10 pitchers (min. 40 IP) have a lower ERA in the same timespan. The 24-year-old doesn't miss many bats, but he throws strikes and keeps the ball on the ground. He also makes half of his starts in one of the most pitcher-friendly stadiums in the game. Try him on for size in upcoming starts against the Mariners and Indians.
Cesar Hernandez 2B/3B/SS, Phillies (Yahoo: 19 percent owned)
I included Hernandez among my NL-only recommendations last week, but it hasn't taken long for him to get some attention in mixed formats. Stealing six bases in the span of four games will do that. As I said in last week's column, speed is the most interesting part of Hernandez's game, as he stole 155 bases over 645 minor league games. The 25-year-old doesn't have much pop, but he has shown the ability to hit for average and get on base. He's multi-position eligible and has hit second in each of his last 10 starts, so the ingredients are there for him to be a useful piece. With the Phillies looking toward the future, Hernandez could continue to take away playing time at second base even when Chase Utley returns from his ankle injury. There's also the matter of Utley's vesting option.
LaTroy Hawkins RP, Rockies (Yahoo: 19 percent owned)
With John Axford on the seven-day medical emergency list, the Rockies plan to use a committee to fill in at closer. It's hard to get excited about this situation in fantasy leagues, but saves are saves and we must chase no matter how uninspiring the situation looks. 42-year-old LaTroy Hawkins is probably the best bet, as he converted the most recent save opportunity and has pitched pretty well of late. Scott Oberg and Tommy Kahnle are the other options here if you really want to speculate.
Mike Montgomery SP, Mariners (Yahoo: 32 percent owned)
Montgomery was once a top pitching prospect with the Royals, but his star faded prior to the Wil Myers trade in December of 2012 and the Rays dealt him to the Mariners this spring for Erasmo Ramirez. So far, that deal has been a win-win. Montgomery owns a 1.62 ERA over his first six starts in the majors, including back-to-back shutouts. The 26-year-old brought a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his most recent start Tuesday against the Padres. He has just 29 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings, which isn't all that exciting, but his changeup is a legitimate out-pitch and his home ballpark works in his favor. It's unclear what will happen when Hisashi Iwakuma is ready to come off the DL -- it's either Montgomery or Roenis Elias for the fifth spot -- so be careful about dropping someone important, but you pretty much have to ride the wave right now.
Sergio Romo RP, Giants (Yahoo: 21 percent owned)
Santiago Casilla gave up a walk-off homer to Justin Bour in Wednesday's loss to the Marlins, after which Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that he plans to back off his closer for a few days due to general arm fatigue. It's not a long-term concern right now, but Romo could get a couple of save chances in the meantime. The 32-year-old has an underwhelming 4.32 ERA over 35 appearances this season, but he has fanned 36 batters over 25 innings while allowing just seven walks and two home runs.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Eugenio Suarez SS, Reds (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Another recent mention on the NL-only side of things, Suarez is hitting .313 (20-for-64) with two homers, three doubles, 10 RBI, and three steals over 18 games since being called up to replace the injured Zack Cozart last month. I understand why many are resisting here. He's riding a .391 BABIP at the moment and he hit just .242/.316/.336 over 277 plate appearances with the Tigers during his first stint in the majors last season. Still, keep in mind that he was just 22 years old last year and he wouldn't have been pushed so aggressively (he only played 12 games in Triple-A) if Jose Iglesias was healthy. The playing time should be there the rest of the way, so he's capable of hitting a few homers and stealing a handful of bases. He should definitely be on the radar as a middle infielder in deeper formats.
Josh Phegley C, Athletics (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
Phegley didn't play much in the early part of the season, but his arrow is pointing up after he hit .277/.333/.702 with 11 extra-base hits (including four home runs) and 11 RBI over 16 games in June. Stephen Vogt has been battling some bumps and bruises throughout the first half, so the Athletics have the option of using him more at first base and designated hitter. This makes Phegley a sneaky and intriguing option in two-catcher formats. Just be sure to watch the lineup card on this one.
Ryan Hanigan C, Red Sox (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
After missing two months with a broken hand, Hanigan is set to be activated from the disabled list Thursday. The Red Sox could go with three catchers in the short-term, but something will likely have to give soon. It's worth noting that Sandy Leon is out of options, so there's a chance that Blake Swihart will get some more seasoning in the minors. It might not be such a bad thing either, as he wouldn't have been up so soon in the first place unless Hanigan got hurt. Either way, Hanigan should be relevant in AL-only leagues if the at-bats are there.
C.J. Cron 1B, Angels (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Cron was called back up to the majors this week as the Angels continue to search for offense. The 25-year-old has a .237/.269/.397 batting line and an 88/12 K/BB ratio over 375 plate appearances in the majors, but he has mashed in Triple-A this year and we saw some nice power potential from him as a rookie in 2014. Pick him up and hope that the at-bats will be there.
Jedd Gyorko 2B, Padres (Yahoo: 13 percent owned)
I can't bring myself to recommend Gyorko in mixed leagues, but he's certainly relevant in NL-only leagues again now that Cory Spangenberg is on the disabled list with a left knee contusion. The 26-year-old owns a .210/.279/.326 batting line dating back to the start of 2014 and will likely share playing time with Yangervis Solarte at second base, so I'm not expecting much, but he's worth adding in leagues where he was dropped.
Javier Lopez RP, Giants (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
As I mentioned under the mixed league recommendations, Giants manager Bruce Bochy plans to back off closer Santiago Casilla over the next few days as he battles through some general arm fatigue. Sergio Romo is likely already gone, but Lopez could be a sneaky option in certain matchups. The 37-year-old has mostly been used in LOOGY duty this year, putting up a 1.59 ERA over 40 appearances while posting 14/7 K/BB ratio in 22 2/3 innings.