Can we put a Major League Baseball team in Mexico City already? The stadium was bumping, the environment was electric, the ball jumped off the bat like crazy… but nothing and I mean NOTHING, topped the artwork throughout the city hyping up the series between the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. Beautiful, articulate statues of Padres and Giants players were strewn about the city to build excitement and they definitely worked at generating a buzz…
The Giants (or guys who are supposed to be the Giants 😂) are spread all over Mexico City pic.twitter.com/0PgWmX6TKS
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) April 29, 2023
My personal favorite, and I think the favorite of Nick Pollack as well, was the Juan Soto statue. Like a wax figure at Madame Tussaud’s Museum, I’m not sure I could tell the artwork from Soto in person.
I still can’t believe this is real
This is a “Juan Soto” statue pic.twitter.com/UwWkHLnaIl
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) May 3, 2023
Okay, yeah. These are nightmare fuel. But THE EFFORT WAS THERE! ¡Viva La Mexico!
On a serious note, remind yourself to make a waiver claim on every player participating in a Mexico City series next time it happens (Houston and Colorado will travel to Mexico City for a two-game series in 2024). “Coors Might,” is absolutely a real thing and fantasy managers should do their best to remember that for next season.
Anyway, on to this coming week – eight teams have a full seven-game slate while Atlanta, the Boston Red Sox, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Toronto Blue Jays each play just five times. Take a look at who fantasy managers should be focusing on with their FAAB bids.
SEVEN GAMES: ARZ, CWS, KC, NYY, OAK, SFG, TB, TEX
FIVE GAMES: ATL, BOS, PHI, TOR
Investment Rating System
Edward Olivares ($$): Olivares is a prime candidate for some positive regression as his batting average so far this season is .267 while his xAVG (.305) greatly exceeds that number. He carried a .357 average (10-for-28) through the final week of April with a home run and two stolen bases in six games that week. Finally receiving regular playing time after traveling Interstate-29 from Kansas City to Omaha and back so many times over the past couple of years, Olivares looks primed to post a solid full season of stats.
Taylor Trammell ($$): With Julio Rodríguez still ailing from a nagging back injury, Trammell has an opportunity to see more consistent time in the Mariners’ lineup. Through his first four games, both of Trammell’s hits have left the yard, including a grand slam in his first game back from injury. Though he has struck out at a high rate, he’s also walked a handful of times and has shown a willingness to run when he is on base with two stolen bases in just four contests. With consistent playing time, Trammell could contribute to counting stats but will likely hurt batting average a little bit. Though it may be difficult to break into the crowded Seattle outfield without another injury.
Jason Heyward ($): Heyward is still in this column, still widely available in all formats, and still receiving the lion’s share of at-bats on the strong side of a platoon in Los Angeles. He posted three multi-hit games in the past week and is making a lot of hard contact (38.6%). You could do much worse in five outfielder leagues.
Jesús Sánchez ($): Another strong-side platoon player, this time for the Marlins, Sanchez has recorded hits in three of his last four entering the weekend, including a three-hit game against Atlanta on Wednesday. Sanchez has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, but his contact has been loud recently. He could also provide some sneaky speed as a cheap waiver add.
Trent Grisham ($): There are limitations to Grisham’s game, certainly. He strikes out a lot. He never runs. He doesn’t really offer a lot of hard contact. But he gets at a high clip, making him ideal for OBP leagues. The Padres’ lineup is getting better and he’s on base a lot when the rest of the team is hitting.
Matt Mervis ($$$$): Well, it’s about time. After watching Eric Hosmer flail around at first base for a month the Chicago Cubs have finally promoted Mervis to the big-league club. Mervis smashed six home runs in 91 at-bats in AAA Iowa, while scoring 27 runs and driving in 27 RBI. He should make an immediate impact for the Cubs. Think Vinny Pasquantino with a slightly lower batting average. For teams in need of a CI, Mervis is worth a 10-15% bid.
Ha-Seong Kim ($$$): Kim has been in the lineup pretty much every day for the Padres, getting reps at second base, shortstop, and third base. His position versatility is valuable enough, but his hitting has started to come around. With three home runs and five stolen bases, he contributes in all counting categories while his average has improved significantly with the warmer weather. With the Padres’ lineup improving since their time in Mexico City, it’s a good time to scoop Kim.
Maikel Garcia ($$$): Called up from AAA Omaha on Tuesday, Maikel Garcia has started his major league career with five hits in his first 12 at-bats, while registering some loud contact. Garcia was the Royals’ No. 3 prospect entering the year and could stick around if his bat continues at this rate. He’s certainly hitting the ball harder than Nicky Lopez and it’s not like the Royals have anything to lose.
Enmanuel Valdez ($$): Thank goodness fantasy managers don’t get scoring penalties based on defense, because Valdez is a liability on the Red Sox infield. Thankfully for the Red Sox, his bat plays. He’s started his career 10-for-32 from the plate, including four extra-base hits and has already stolen a pair of bases in just nine games.
Chris Taylor ($$): Taylor has started for the Dodgers against left-handed pitching this year, and has been serviceable in that role. In the middle of an always-dangerous Dodgers lineup, Taylor will likely receive at least three starts next week with Los Angeles scheduled to face Eric Lauer and Wade Miley of the Brewers and then Blake Snell of the San Diego Padres.
Nick Pratto ($): Another Royals’ prospect, Pratto has split time between first base and corner outfield positions in Kansas City. Somehow he has managed a .333 batting average while also sporting a 42.4% strikeout rate and just a 21.2% hard contact rate. He’s batted 9-for-26 since returning from a demotion to AAA Omaha, so maybe he figured something out in his time in the minors?
Bryce Harper ($$$$): If all of the other managers in your league are asleep at the wheel, Harper returned from injury to the Phillies lineup this week. It’s almost impossible to imagine him being available, but at least check for his name. Obviously a no-brainer.
Connor Wong ($$): Wong carries a four-game hitting streak into the weekend, with 10 hits in his last 18 at-bats entering Friday’s contest, including a 4-for-4, two home-run performance against the Blue Jays on Tuesday. He’s slightly above league average with a 28.6% hard contact rate and a .320 xWOBA, more than fantasy managers can say for most second catchers on their rosters.
Mike Zunino ($): A starting catcher typically justifies an add in two-catcher leagues. Zunino typically plays at least five games a week and has displayed power in previous seasons, though it has come at the expense of a lot of swing-and-miss. Zunino is a fringe second catcher in two-catcher leagues, but due to his 41.0% strikeout rate should probably not be rostered in points leagues that penalize whiffs.
Bryce Miller ($$$$): Duh… Okay, I’m not allowed to leave that as the only analysis.
Miller was absurdly good in his debut on Tuesday night, recording 10 strikeouts over six innings while allowing just one earned run on two hits. He set the bar irrationally high for all the other rookie pitchers to debut later in the week, and blew a lot of pundits – and Athletics hitters – away with his outstanding rising fastball. With a 19.3% swinging strike rate and 40.4% CSW, Miller should be a target for all fantasy managers this week. He’s penciled in for a pedigree pitching prospect party on Sunday at Houston with the Mariners facing Hunter Brown. After that, his next start would likely be at Detroit, another juicy matchup for the breakout rookie.
Brandon Pfaadt ($$$): Pfaadt was… Not what we Pfaadt in his debut on Wednesday, but that shouldn’t necessarily change his outlook for the rest of the season. Pay attention to who is dropped this week and if Pfaadt’s fantasy managers pull the panic cord, don’t be afraid to swoop in and scoop him up.
Louie Varland ($$$): Though his ratios aren’t spectacular, through two starts Varland has notched a 29.8% strikeout rate and a 35.9% CSW. Through 10.2 innings pitched, Varland has allowed just three walks, so his command has been good but he needs to work toward limiting his hard contact a bit more before he becomes a must-start option. With what should be a two-start week against the San Diego Padres and the Chicago Cubs, Varland is a strong streaming option this week and will have ample time to earn a permanent rotation spot with Maeda and Mahle on the shelf for at least a couple of weeks.
Josiah Gray ($$$): Jump on the bandwagon. Gray has shown significant improvement from a season ago, showing an improved consistency across his last five starts. In each of his last five starts, Gray has allowed two earned runs or less including quality starts in three of them. The main difference between this season and last for Gray is that he is limiting hard contact, allowing just 18.4% hard contact (compared to 23.7% hard contact in 2022). With increased usage of his slider and the introduction of a cutter, Gray has leaned less on his four-seam fastball, which was tagged for a 33.2% hard contact rate last year. If he continues to diversify his pitch mix and lean less on the fastball, Gray could sustain his marked improvement for the rest of the season. Gray is probably not available in a 15-team league but could be on the wire in a 12-team or shallower.
Jake Irvin ($$): Irvin’s debut was overshadowed by all of the other stud pitching prospects that also debuted on Wednesday, but he performed admirably. Against the Cubs, Irvin allowed just one earned run on two hits over 4.1 innings pitched. He did struggle with his command, hitting Nico Hoerner with his first major league pitch and issuing four walks, but he also rung up three strikeouts and showed composure as he worked his way out of a first-inning jam. Irvin could be a potential streaming option if he sticks in the Nationals’ rotation, especially as a potential two-start pitcher this coming week.
Gavin Stone ($): Stone’s first start was not what fantasy managers were hoping for. He relied heavily on a fastball-changeup mix and struggled to miss bats, generating just a 7.8% swinging strike rate (six whiffs on 77 pitches) and a 21% CSW. Until he shows that he can generate more swings-and-misses, fantasy managers should be wary of Stone as he takes on San Diego next week (assuming he stays in the rotation for another turn).
Kenyan Middleton ($): Middleton earned his first save of the season on Wednesday, shutting down the Twins in the ninth inning by striking out the side. Middleton has recorded 17 strikeouts in 9.1 innings pitched across 11 appearances while allowing just three earned runs on nine hits with four walks. His WHIP is a touch high at 1.39, but the White Sox bullpen is wide open until Liam Hendriks returns (and even then could still be a crapshoot). He’s worth a speculative add for saves.
Jason Adam ($$): With Peter Fairbanks hitting the IL this week, Adam has stepped in for consecutive saves (something we don’t say often with the Rays). With a highly competitive seven-game slate against division rivals Baltimore and New York, Adam could see multiple save opportunities again this week.
Mark Leiter Jr. ($): Leiter Jr. has been outstanding so far this season as part of a Chicago Cubs bullpen that has had questions on the back end. It appears the Cubs have already moved away from a struggling Michael Fulmer and pivoted to Brad Boxberger in the closer role. If Boxberger gets the yips as well, Leiter could be the next man up. In 13.0 innings pitched, Leiter has allowed just two earned runs on seven hits and six walks while ringing up 22 strikeouts (40.7% K-Rate).
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)