The biggest story in baseball this week is Robinson Cano’s 80-game suspension, but I’m not sure there’s much left on the topic that hasn’t already been said over the past 48 hours. I’ll certainly address the second base position in my recommendations below, but let’s focus on something more fun as we get started here: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
There have only been a handful of prospects over the years where I make it a point to search out daily minor league box scores to monitor their progress. We’re talking about a select group which includes the likes of Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Noah Syndergaard, Ronald Acuna, and maybe a few others. Guerrero has joined that list in a hurry. It’s oh-so-much fun.
Guerrero went 4-for-5 with a homer and two doubles Wednesday for Double-A New Hampshire, boosting his season batting line to a ridiculous .415/.459/.696 over 34 games. He’s slugged seven homers while putting up more walks (14) than strikeouts (13). He’s doing this all despite just turning 19 years old in March. He’s the youngest player in the Eastern League.
The big question is how much longer Guerrero will stay in the Eastern League or in the minors, for that matter. There was a false alarm earlier this week when Vlad Jr. posted an old picture of himself at JFK Airport in New York, fueling speculation that he was joining the Blue Jays for their interleague series against the Mets. Dude trolls almost as good as he hits.
There’s the rational side that says Guerrero’s defense at third base needs work and there’s the cold, business side that says the Blue Jays should think about his service time, but if his bat is this good, they need to find a way to fit him into the mix. The Blue Jays are 22-21, still very much in contention for a Wild Card spot, at the very least. And in Josh Donaldson's walk year, to boot. Can Guerrero really be worse than Kendrys Morales?
Guerrero was still available in 63 percent of Yahoo leagues this morning, so it all depends on how much you are willing to wait on his upside. Thanks, Tom Petty, for saying it best.
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(Percentages were from the morning of Thursday 5/17)
Zach Britton RP, Orioles (Yahoo: 49 percent owned)
Britton is probably already stashed away in most competitive formats, but he’s still out there in more leagues than he should be given his potential. The southpaw made it through a live batting practice session this week in Baltimore and is aiming to begin a minor league rehab assignment at some point later this month. This potentially sets up a return to the Orioles’ bullpen in in early-to-mid June. Britton is coming off December surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon and wasn’t quite his usual self last year while dealing with oblique, forearm, and knee injuries, but the path should be clear for him to take his old closer job back. With the Orioles at 13-29, Britton figures to become trade bait in his walk year and could find himself in a different role depending on where he lands, but fantasy owners should bank those saves as long as he’s still around.
Jack Flaherty SP, Cardinals (Yahoo: 33 percent owned)
I honestly thought Flaherty would be over 50-percent ownership by now, but somehow it hasn’t happened yet. This might be the last call for this train. With Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez both sidelined, Flaherty made his return to the majors this week and allowed one run over 5 2/3 innings against the Twins while walking one and striking out three. He now has a 2.87 ERA in three starts at the major league level this year and a 2.27 ERA and 41/7 K/BB ratio in 31 2/3 innings over five starts in Triple-A. He really doesn’t have anything left to prove in the minors. Alex Reyes (Yahoo: 42 percent owned), who I mentioned last week, is also worth stashing in most formats right now, but I think Flaherty will have more value in mixed leagues, at least for this year.
I bunched these guys together with an eye on replacements for Robinson Cano. Fantasy owners have already had a few days to mull this situation over after Cano suffered the fracture in his right hand on Sunday, but now we know he’ll be out of the mix through mid-August. I think Cano can be dropped in most leagues. Pedroia and Harrison are both on minor league rehab assignments right now. Pedroia, who is coming off a pretty serious knee surgery, should be back by the end of the month if all goes well. Meanwhile, Harrison’s return from a broken left hand could be as soon as this weekend. At this point, I like Harrison’s across-the-board ability and multi-position eligibility a bit better, but Pedroia is still in a great situation there in Boston. I never thought I would be talking about Descalso here, but he’s shown some interesting increases in his hard-hit rate and average launch angle so far this season. He’s also multi-position eligible and finds himself in a good spot in Arizona’s order. The track record bets against it, but why not take a chance in deeper leagues? At least in the short-term.
Dan Winkler RP, Braves (Yahoo: 21 percent owned)
The Braves are arriving as a contender sooner than they expected, which might play into what we’re seeing the back-end of the bullpen right now. After Arodys Vizcaino blew a save Tuesday against the Cubs, Braves manager Brian Snitker indicated that Winkler could be added to the closer mix. It’s hard to say he doesn’t deserve it. After making his way back from multiple elbow surgeries, Winkler has posted a dominant 0.98 ERA and 27/5 K/BB ratio over 18 1/3 innings this season. A.J. Minter appeared to be the logical alternative going into the year and still might be the long-term guy here, but he’s walked 12 batters in 18 innings this year, which isn’t ideal despite the 2.50 ERA. It’s worth noting that Vizcaino bounced back Wednesday to notch a save, so it’s not like he’s lost his job or anything. But Winkler is certainly gaining momentum with a team on the rise.
Another week, another attempt to figure out the Angels’ closer situation. Keynan Middleton was found to have some damage in the UCL in his throwing elbow, so this situation is really wide open. Young Justin Anderson got the first chance on Monday, but I’m not sure that tells us much us about the pecking order moving forward. My gut tells me that Johnson is the best bet for the short-term while Parker could soon take his old job back if he continues to pitch well. Bedrosian has long been considered the “closer of the future” here, but the swinging strikes are noticeably down this season. Anderson certainly as the look of someone who could pile up saves for a long time in this bullpen, so maybe Mike Scioscia will surprise, but I don’t think it’s his time yet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Angels try to pick up a familiar face for the back-end of the bullpen as we approach the trade deadline in July.
Andrew Heaney SP, Angels (Yahoo: 31 percent owned)
Is Heaney finally ready for his long-awaited breakthrough? Okay, so it’s probably too early to say that, but he’s trending in the right direction. The southpaw spun eight innings of one-run ball against the defending World Series champion Astros on Monday while allowing just four hits and one walk. He matched his career-high with 10 strikeouts and has now allowed two earned runs or fewer in four straight starts while posting a 26/6 K/BB ratio. By the way, that cluster of starts includes the Rockies at Coors Field, the Orioles, and Yankees, so we aren’t talking about easy assignments. There are two ways to look at the Angels’ six-man rotation alignment. Yes, it will limit Heaney’s upside in a given week, but hopefully it will also protect his arm. I’ll put it this way, I’m more interested in grabbing him than Freddy Peralta or Jordan Lyles, who are also coming off excellent performances.
Willie Calhoun OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 12 percent owned)
Calhoun is worth mentioning here as the Rangers deal with another DL trip for Adrian Beltre. Joey Gallo isn’t likely to play third base — he made some comments Wednesday saying how much he dislikes playing there — but we could see more of him at first base given that Ronald Guzman hasn’t really impressed so far. This could conceivably open up a spot for Calhoun, who has hit better in Triple-A after getting off to a slow start in April. Granted, we aren’t talking about big power numbers, but he’s making much better contact this month. Yes, his defense is an issue, but the Rangers aren’t going anywhere this year and would do well to test him against major league pitching sooner than later. Picking him up is just a question of your roster flexibility. I could understand waiting on him.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Jarrod Dyson OF, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
Dyson has been a staple in this column for a few years and one reason and one reason only. When he plays, he runs. Pretty simple. He’s swiped at least 26 bases in each of the last three years. Dyson is batting just .182/.258/.330 through 32 games with Arizona this season, but he’s 6-for-7 in stolen base attempts and should see a good amount of playing time in center field with A.J. Pollock (thumb) sidelined. Chris Owings will also be in the mix there. We know what Dyson is at this point. He’s limited in what he provides, but what he does well is pretty useful right now given the current landscape for speed options. He can still get it done in that area even in his age-33 season.
Ryan McMahon 1B, Rockies (Yahoo: 5 percent owned)
More injury fallout here, as Rockies secondary baseman D.J. LeMahieu could be looking at an extended absence with his thumb injury. The full extent of the injury isn’t yet known, but he was set to see a hand specialist on Wednesday. Pat Valaika was the initial call-up, but one would think we’d see McMahon if it ends up being a major injury. McMahon didn’t do much in sporadic at-bats after making the Opening Day roster and needed a little bit of time to shake the rust after being sent to Triple-A, but he’s batting .333 (14-for-42) over his last 10 games and slugged two homers on Tuesday. Also of note, he’s been playing second base in recent days. Prospect Brendan Rodgers (Yahoo: 3 percent owned) is worth watching in Double-A, but the smart money says McMahon would get the call first.
Joe Musgrove SP/RP, Pirates (Yahoo: 9 percent owned)
Musgrove was someone I liked a lot coming into the spring after the trade from Houston to Pittsburgh, but he came down with a shoulder issue early on in camp and was forced to begin the year on the disabled list. Fortunately, he’s back on the radar again. Musgrove has put up a 2.13 ERA and 12/0 K/BB ratio in 12 2/3 innings through three rehab starts between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A. He was pretty much perfect in his Triple-A start, tossing 5 2/3 hitless innings to go along with six strikeouts and no walks. The only baserunner reached via error. Musgrove will make one more rehab start on Friday in Triple-A, but he’s lined up to join the Pirates’ rotation next Wednesday against the Reds. The control was already very good and he misses plenty of bats, but I think the move to the National League (and Pittsburgh) will be good for him.
Neil Walker 1B/2B, Yankees (Yahoo: 6 percent owned)
You wouldn’t know it by his current .210/.300/.257 batting line, but Walker has shown signs of finally breaking out. While the 32-year-old is still searching first his first home run, he’s batting .360 (9-for-25) with three doubles, eight walks, four RBI, and nine runs scored over his last nine games. Maybe he needed some time to get into the swing of things after a tumultuous offseason? The Yankees’ infield could get very complicated if/when Greg Bird returns later this month, but it’s very possible that Walker finds himself at third base and Miguel Andujar goes down to Triple-A for some more seasoning. Or even Gleyber Torres plays some third and Walker moves to second. Either way, Walker carries some interesting appeal in this lineup and situation. You aren’t risking much in deeper leagues to find out where this leads. He’s a better hitter than he’s shown.
Rajai Davis OF, Indians (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Davis and Jarrod Dyson in the same column? It really does feel like old times. I was tempted to put Greg Allen here as the Indians try to get by without Bradley Zimmer, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Tyler Naquin, but he just hasn’t shown much against major league pitching so far. Meanwhile, Davis continues to show off his wheels at age 37 and has hit pretty well when given the opportunity this month. He’s batted leadoff in each of his last two starts. Should be a pretty easy call to pick him up in this sort of format, at least while the at-bats are still there.
J.D. Davis 1B/3B, Astros (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
There was some speculation about a possible call-up for Davis when Jake Marisnick was optioned to Triple-A, but the Astros brought up Tony Kemp instead. Still, it’s probably just a matter of time here. Davis, 25, is batting .407/.460/.610 across 31 games with Triple-A Fresno this season. Evan Gattis has finally picked things up at the plate over the past few days, so that should buy him some more time at the DH spot. Still, Davis is worth a stash if you have the proper roster space for a long-term play.
Anthony DeSclafani SP, Reds (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
It’s okay if you forgot DeSclafani was still on the Reds. The dude hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2016. He was limited to three minor league rehab starts last year while rehabbing a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. Just when it looked like DeSclafani was set to begin 2018 healthy, he went down with an oblique strain toward the end of spring training. He only recently began a minor league rehab assignment, throwing three perfect innings with four strikeouts and no walks in his first start Monday with Double-A Pensacola. He’s going to need at least another couple of starts to get properly stretched out, but he’s definitely worth monitoring in deeper fantasy formats. DeSclafani posted a 3.28 ERA over 20 starts back in 2016.
Franmil Reyes OF, Padres (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
The Padres’ outfield situation is complicated. And with Hunter Renfroe on a minor league rehab assignment and Wil Myers eventually on track to return in June, it could get even more complicated soon. But the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Reyes was mashing to the tune of a .346/.442/.738 batting line with 14 homers over 36 games this season in Triple-A. The big slugger recently hit eight home runs in the span of five games. It’s worth noting that he played in a bunch of hitter-friendly stadiums during his time there. And while the Padres have a very deep system, Reyes wasn’t someone who rated highly on that list. Still, I think there’s enough here to grab him as a short-term power play.