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Man of Steele

Justin Steele

Justin Steele

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

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(Players rostered in under 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Note: Percentages are from the morning of Thursday, August 18

Justin Steele, SP/RP, Cubs (Yahoo: 28 percent rostered)

There haven’t been a ton of bright spots with the rebuilding Cubs this season, but Steele has been one of them. The left-hander is getting a full-time look in the rotation and has improved steadily, with his ERA by month going from 5.50 to 5.32 to 3.03 to 2.11 and 1.08 so far in August. Over his last eight outings, Steele boasts a 1.67 ERA and 50/16 K/BB ratio over 43 innings. He still walks too many guys, but Steele is fanning over a batter per frame and inducing ground balls at a 51 percent clip. I don’t view Steele as a finished product yet, but a high-spin fastball and an effective slider give him something to work with. His next start comes against a Brewers club that’s been reeling of late.

Trent Grisham, OF, Padres (Yahoo: 43 percent rostered)

Between his disappointing 2021 season and lackluster start to his 2022 campaign, Grisham seemed to be trending toward being a bench player. However, he’s finally begun to kick things into high gear with a .859 OPS since the All-Star break, which includes a robust .975 OPS with five home runs, 11 RBI and one stolen base in 17 games this month. It would be nice if he could find himself batting back toward the top of the Padres’ lineup instead of in the bottom third, but even in a less than perfect setup Grisham can be a guy who provides some power and speed.

Alexis Díaz, RP, Reds (Yahoo: 29 percent rostered)

I’ve been banging the drum for Díaz for a while now and he seems to keep getting better. Since returning from a biceps injury in early July, the rookie reliever has a 0.55 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 27/6 K/BB ratio over 16 1/3 innings. He collected a five-out save Sunday -- with four of the outs coming via strikeout – before getting a win following two scoreless frames in his next outing. Manager David Bell said after the Sunday appearance that Díaz is “pitching as well as anyone in baseball right now,” adding that he’ll use him in the “most important spots” and “a lot of times that will be the ninth.” It’s not a full-throated closer endorsement, but Hunter Strickland no longer looks like a threat and Díaz is clearly the best bet to lead the club is saves the rest of the way.

C.J. Abrams, 2B/SS, Nationals (Yahoo: 15 percent rostered)

I profiled Abrams a couple weeks ago after the Nationals acquired him in the Juan Soto trade, but I think it’s worth examining him again now that he’s back in the major leagues and, seemingly, here to stay. What I said about the 21-year-old back on August 4 still applies. I don’t know if he’s ready for success in the big leagues yet. He’s still very young and the results so far haven’t been pretty. What I do know is Abrams is loaded with tools – especially top-shelf speed – and he’s slated for everyday at-bats down the stretch. That’s enough to roll the dice on him in deeper formats.

Franmil Reyes, OF, Cubs (Yahoo: 43 percent rostered)

It was a surprise, at least to me, to see the Guardians designate Reyes for assignment earlier this month. There’s no doubt he struggled mightily for them this season, posting just a .603 OPS along with a ghastly 37 percent strikeout rate. However, Reyes also just turned 27 and had a career .828 OPS coming into 2022 with a 162-game average of 36 home runs. The Cubs gladly scooped Reyes up and he’s gone out and put up a 1.100 OPS with two homers, three doubles and one triple in his first seven contests for them. The risk with Reyes remains obvious, but if you’re looking to catch some power lightning in a bottle down the stretch, this might be your guy.

José Suarez, SP/RP, Angels (Yahoo: 13 percent rostered)

Suarez has shuttled back-and-forth between the Angels’ bullpen and rotation and also the majors and minors this season. His overall numbers have been so-so, but Suarez might have found something over his last four starts, posting a 1.19 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 21/5 K/BB ratio over 22 2/3 innings of work. The left-hander has been throwing his slider more lately and throwing it harder. It’s the same thing which has helped fuel Reid Detmers’ recent surge, so perhaps it’s something the Angels are emphasizing with their pitching staff. I like taking a shot on Suarez to see if he can keep this up.

Deeper Dandies:

(Players rostered in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)

David Fletcher, 2B/SS, Angels (Yahoo: 7 percent rostered)

It had been shaping up as a lost season for Fletcher after he battled nagging hip issues for the first month of the season before having surgery on both adductor muscles. The infielder required nearly three months of rehab time before returning in late July. Since then, he’s sported a .373/.422/.525 batting line with two home runs and 11 RBI over 17 contests. Fletcher’s resurgence at the plate has resulted in a move up to the leadoff spot for the Angels. You certainly can’t count on any more home runs, but Fletcher is a good bet for average, should score some runs from the top of the batting order and could do some more running now that his legs are healthy.

Carl Edwards Jr., RP, Nationals (Yahoo: 3 percent rostered)

The back-end of the Nationals’ bullpen was thrown for a loop when we found out around the All-Star break that Tanner Rainey would need Tommy John surgery. The natural assumption is that Kyle Finnegan would be elevated to the closer role since he held the job for a chunk of last season and had been Rainey’s primary setup man. Finnegan has indeed picked up four second-half saves, including the team’s last one on Monday. Manager Dave Martinez has also used Finnegan earlier in games in high-leverage spots, though, and that has led to a couple saves for Edwards Jr. I’d rather have Finnegan of the two, but Edwards Jr. is more widely available.

Bubba Thompson, OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 2 percent rostered)

A first-round pick in the 2017 Draft, Thompson struggled to gain traction in his first few years of pro ball. He broke out in 2021 at Double-A, though, and continued it this season at Triple-A with a .829 OPS, 13 home runs and a whopping 49 stolen bases on 52 attempts over 80 games to earn a promotion to the big leagues. Thompson has yet to get going at the plate for the Rangers but is already 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts in his first 12 games. The Rangers seem prepared to see what they have in the 24-year-old with a regular role the rest of the way, and while he might not be ready with the bat, he should do plenty of running when he gets on.

Weekend Warriors:

Tyler Alexander vs. LAA (Yahoo: 3 percent rostered)

Alexander has operated as a swingman for the Tigers over the last four seasons and that’s been no different in 2022 as he’s made eight starts and 10 relief appearances. Each of his last four appearances have come as a starter, though, and he’s posted a 3.86 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 10/5 K/BB ratio over 21 innings during that stretch. Overall he boasts a 2.48 ERA across has last 13 appearances. You’ll have to fill your strikeouts needs elsewhere, but Alexander has pitched well for a couple months now and this weekend gets to face a brutal Angels lineup.

Aaron Civale vs. CWS (Yahoo: 25 percent rostered)

A 5.63 ERA in 14 starts this season certainly isn’t how Civale drew things up. However, a 3.00 ERA and 27/3 K/BB ratio over 24 innings across his last five starts is more like it. That includes a 10-strikeout showing against the Tigers his last time out, as he held them to just one run over six innings. Civale collected a career-high 18 swinging strikes in that outing, with 11 of those coming on a curveball which he threw a season-high 44 percent of the time. The curve is Civale’s best pitch, so elevating its usage could lead to big things for the righty. This weekend he’ll go against a White Sox lineup which hasn’t fared well versus righties.

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Clarke Schmidt, RP, Yankees (Yahoo: 1 percent rostered)

The Yankees dealt from their pitching depth when they traded Jordan Montgomery to the Cardinals for Harrison Bader. That means others might have to step up for them, and knowing that they sent Schmidt back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in order to get stretched back out. Schmidt struck out 11 over six hitless innings in a start for SWB last week and has been dynamite for them and for the big club in relief this season. The former top prospect could get another look with the Yankees before long.

Jose Siri, OF, Rays (Yahoo: 1 percent rostered)

Siri has offered excellent defense in center field and very little production and a lot of strikeouts at the plate, which is frankly what they should have expected to get from him. The 27-year-old has always shown tantalizing tools and even though he’s rarely gotten on base for the Astros and Rays this season he’s still gone 9-for-10 in stolen base attempts. I wouldn’t want to use him outside of deep leagues, but Siri can swipe some bags while popping the occasional home run.


Trevor Rosenthal, RP, Brewers (Yahoo: 1 percent rostered)

Rosenthal hasn’t pitched in the majors the last two seasons due to a variety of injuries, but he was signed by the Giants last month following a promising showcase and then traded to the Brewers at the deadline. The veteran reliever has joined Triple-A Nashville for a rehab assignment and threw a scoreless inning in his first appearance. At this point it’s difficult to known what to expect out of Rosenthal, but if it’s anything close to what he was in 2020 (1.90 ERA, 38/8 K/BB ratio over 23 2/3 innings), that could be a guy to eventually work his way into the late-inning mix for a Milwaukee team now without Josh Hader.

Rodolfo Castro, 2B/SS, Pirates (Yahoo: 0 percent rostered)

Castro made recent headlines when his cell phone fell out of his pocket on a slide into third base, drawing a one-game suspension. Bizarre incident aside, the 23-year-old is a toolsy infielder who has received regular playing time for the forever-rebuilding Pirates lately. Castro hasn’t translated those tools into a ton of production either at the major or minor league level, but he does have a little power and speed and is multi-position eligible. Hey, we can’t be too picky in single-league formats.