Welcome to the second half of the season, where major league rosters shuffle as frequently as blackjack dealers. As fantasy managers, we do our best to read and react to each transaction. But what we should really be doing is looking at ways we can anticipate those transactions and leverage them to our advantage.
For example, the Kansas City Royals have one of the worst records in baseball. They are one of the few teams in the league that are very clearly going to be sellers at the trade deadline. One of the prime candidates to be dealt to a contender is closer Scott Barlow. If Barlow is moved away from the Royals roster, the most likely candidate to receive whatever limited ninth-inning save opportunities that the Royals have the rest of the way is Carlos Hernández. Spoiler alert… Hernández is featured in the relief pitching section of this column. We want to be proactive in scooping him to capitalize on the role change before the rest of the market does.
If we can continue to anticipate these transactions, and make our own adds, trades and drops accordingly, we increase our odds at climbing the standings and gaining momentum as the fantasy baseball regular season winds down.
FIVE GAMES: ATL, BOS, MIA, NYY, OAK, TB
SEVEN GAMES: CLE, DET, STL, WAS
Investment Rating System
Mickey Moniak ($$$$): Moniak is in the middle of a career year, finally living up to his first overall draft pick hype. Though his hard contact rate is below average (22.9%), his ideal-plate-appearance percentage ranks 12th in MLB (32.9%), while he’s slugging an impressive .630 clip. In deeper leagues, this ship has DEFINITELY sailed, but Moniak should be rostered in every league. He’s a Top-50 outfielder the rest of the year, and could flirt with the Top 25.
Aaron Hicks ($$): An everyday outfielder for the Orioles in the absence of Cedric Mullins, Hicks has shown that he still has some pop left in his bat. He’s going to continue to get at-bats and should remain at least viable in deeper leagues.
Brent Rooker ($$): Legit power with an average that doesn’t completely derail a team, Rooker could potentially make a trade deadline move to a contender. Putting him in a more dangerous lineup would immediately make him more appealing.
Mike Tauchman ($$): The leadoff man for the Cubs, Tauchman has flashed a mediocre speed-power combination that is hard to find on the waiver wire at this point of the season.
Willi Castro ($$): Castro caught fire from the plate in late June, but has tapered off since then, batting just .222 (6-for-27) since the All-Star break. For those who believe that Castro can catch fire again later in the season, he’s available in a decent percentage of leagues. He’ll add speed numbers, but unless the bat warms up again there’s not much more than that in his game.
Jonny DeLuca ($): Another Dodgers prospect to crack the seal and make his major league debut. DeLuca profiles as a poor-man’s James Outman, so there’s some potential for a flash of speed and power, but it would be surprising if he became a consistent contributor this season.
Jesse Winker/Max Kepler/Jake Cave ($): They’re basically the same person for fantasy purposes at this point — a boring, left-handed power bat that will probably hurt batting average but could provide some decent counting stats as a cheap waiver wire option.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand ($$$$): A no-brainer addition for teams that are in need of power. Encarnacion-Strand has looked like a must-add prospect in his limited sample size so far. He may not be as exciting as his rookie teammate, but Encarnacion-Strand will likely be more consistent the rest of the season. He mashed in the minors, not only showing off his power with 20 home runs, but an elite hit tool with a .331 batting average. I want him on as many of my teams as I can get him. And I’m willing to empty my pockets for him in FAAB.
Edouard Julien ($$$): Now that it appears that Julien has ensured himself a spot on the major league roster for the rest of the season, he is a must-add in most leagues. He’s flashed enough power and bat skills so far this season that fantasy managers should regard him as a Top-15 second baseman the rest of the season.
Alex Kirilloff ($$): It seems that he’s put any lingering injury concerns with his wrist to bed and has settled into the middle of the dangerous Twins lineup. With a career-high .363 BABIP, he’s likely due for some regression. But with four home runs in his last six games, now’s not the time to question Alexander the Great.
Andy Ibáñez ($): A lefty-masher in the middle of the Tigers’ lineup, Ibanez is best utilized in daily leagues where fantasy managers can slot him in against left-handed starters.
Mark Vientos ($): He’s back, but for how long is anyone’s guess. Buck Showalter has shown a tendency to rely more heavily on veterans than rookies. Vientos has shown impressive exit velocity and bat skills, but the playing time is the biggest question mark.
Trey Cabbage ($): A decent left-handed bat in an Angels lineup that is looking for consistency from anyone not named Shohei.
Zack Gelof ($): The less-appealing of the two Oakland prospects called up over the break, and at a less-scarce position. I’m not breaking the bank to pick him up, but I do like his weekend matchup with the Rockies in Colorado.
David Fry ($$): He’s catcher-eligible, but he’s playing a lot of outfield for the Guardians. If he is getting every day playing time, regardless of his position, plug him in at catcher in two-catcher leagues.
Tyler Soderstrom ($): Soderstrom has struggled so far from the plate, but his power profile promises that he should eventually hit the ball far if he ever makes contact with it. The Athletics play in Coors Field next weekend, so it might be a decent time to grab him.
Matt Manning ($$): The Tigers’ young gun has been extremely solid since returning from an injury in April, posting 12.1 innings pitched with just one earned run over his past two starts combined. The only start since returning from injury in which he allowed more than two earned runs came in Coors Field, where he let up four runs in five innings (and still got the win). With his next projected start coming at Miami, Manning is an excellent streaming option this week… and could be a reliable fourth or fifth fantasy starter down the stretch.
Yusei Kikuchi ($$): Kikuchi shined on Friday night against Seattle, allowing just five hits and striking out eight batters in 5.1 innings pitched. Kikuchi seems to have recovered from his woes early in the month when he had back-to-back poor starts, and could return to form as the second half continues. His 14.9% swinging strike rate and 5.11 PLV both rank Top 50 in the major leagues.
Nick Pivetta ($$): So both of Nick Pivetta’s starts have been against Oakland since returning to the rotation. Not a bad way to boost your stats. But still, he recorded 33 outs in those two starts, and 21 of them were strikeouts. Regardless of opponent, that’s a really impressive feat. With his next projected start coming at San Francisco, he’ll get a nice pitcher’s environment to throw in against a lineup that doesn’t scare the average pitcher.
Drew Smyly ($): Smyly’s magic has apparently worn off. After starting the season with a handful of impressive starts, he has allowed four earned runs or more in four of his last six starts, including three starts with at least five runs allowed. His below-average (27.6%) CSW is starting to catch up with him as hitters are beginning to square him up on a more regular basis. Proceed with caution. Or better yet, let someone else scoop him up.
Kyle Wright ($): Wright hasn’t pitched in the majors since May 3rd and probably won’t pitch again until September as the Braves treat their young arm with kid gloves. However, putting in a single-digit bid on Wright this week will ensure that you have him for the stretch run at a cheap price (assuming you have the room on your bench). Wright struggled with command in his first few starts, but fantasy managers can hope that his rehab assignment and the time taken to allow him to get back will help him reach the elite level he was at in 2022.
Alec Marsh ($): Marsh is a sneaky name to watch over the final third of the season. Pitching in Kansas City, Marsh could potentially be a great streaming option against weaker matchups. He showed his ceiling with 11 punchouts against the Rays on July 15th, and wasn’t as bad as his line indicates in his last start against the Yankees. With his next two projected starts at Cleveland and then at home against the Mets, Marsh could return big on what should be a small investment this week.
Kyle Gibson ($$): It’s been a roller coaster season for Gibson, who has not been great lately. But he has shown the potential to reach back into his bag of tricks and post outstanding performances. He whiffed 11 batters and threw a solid seven innings against the Twins on July 9th, and has 10 quality starts in his 21 appearances. Pitching for the best team in the American League, the Baltimore Orioles (GOSH IT FEELS GOOD TO TYPE THAT), Gibson is a potentially great pickup for win-needy teams.
Carlos Hernández ($$): Like I said above, Scott Barlow is bound to be moved to a contender, opening up the ninth inning duties for Hernandez. With a 16.1% swinging strike rate and a 5.25 PLV, Hernandez hits the mark of a closer as far as metrics go. He’s got the stuff. Now he just needs the opportunity.
Kevin Ginkel ($$): Ginkel has converted each of the last two save opportunities for the Diamondbacks, closing out the dangerous Atlanta lineup for each of those saves. Ginkel has certainly earned the late-inning role, posting a 2.39 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP across 37.2 innings so far this season. The revolving door at closer for the Diamondbacks has been consistent all season, but Ginkel could have some staying power if he continues his success.
Jason Foley ($): An exceptional ground ball pitcher, Foley arguably deserved to be the Tigers’ representative at the All-Star Game after a stellar first half. He’s recorded four saves, but not in the traditional closer way. He doesn’t get strikeouts but he elicits soft contact instead. With a 2.13 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP, Foley can definitely improve your ratios. And with the Tigers potentially selling at the deadline, closer Alex Lange is a candidate for a trade deadline move clearing the way for Foley in the ninth. Of course, Foley could be traded to a contender as well and likely would not close if that was the case. Pay attention to the situation in Detroit.
Shintaro Fujinami ($): Traded to the Orioles last week, Fujinami has been Fujinami-enal since moving to a relief role. Fujinami struggled to adjust to major league hitters in the early months of the season and lost his spot in the rotation. In eight July relief appearances, Fujinami has allowed just three earned runs while recording 11 strikeouts. He still has an issue with hard contact, but the Japanese flamethrower could be a decent add for ratios and strikeouts if he continues to miss bats at his current rate.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)