It’s hard to argue with the Rays’ success. They are second, behind the Dodgers, in winning percentage and have a comfortable 4.5 game lead in the AL East.
It is frustrating, however, as a fantasy manager to roster Rays’ players. Let’s look at Mike Brosseau as an example.
Brosseau joined the Rays in July 2019 and spent time at 1B, 2B, 3B, LF, RF, and pitched four innings. In 2020, he has been just as versatile, getting into 25 of the Rays’ 38 games (0.1 IP). He has had 53 plate appearances slashing .327/.379/.692, with four doubles, five home runs, nine runs, and ten RBI, thanks to Wednesday’s 2-for-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI performance.
What is frustrating as a fantasy manager is that we know that Brosseau is not going to get regular at-bats, despite his ability to play almost every position. The Rays have identified Brosseau as a right-handed hitter who is at his best when he hits against left-handed pitchers:
I am not complaining about Brosseau’s production. He has a Fangraphs WAR of 0.8 and a 186 wRC+. The Rays have deployed in him a way that emphasizes his strengths and have put him into a position where he can succeed. He has.
Brosseau got the start yesterday because the Rays were facing lefty Jordan Montgomery. After a Randy Arozarena two-run home run and an Austin Meadows single, Brosseau hit his first home run of the game. His second home run (104.9 mph exit velocity), however, came off of right-handed pitcher, Jonathan Holder. It was a solo-shot line drive to center field on a 91.2 mph fastball, middle-up in the zone. We know that Brosseau can hit righties. He is better, of course, against lefties, but it isn’t as though he is incapable of hitting RHPs.
The reason I bring this up is because of the recent injury to Yandy Diaz. Brosseau is not going to slot into everyday at-bats, the Rays’ roster is much too deep for that. The loss of Diaz is just a little more of an opening for Brosseau. The team did call up Nate Lowe on Monday, but Lowe has made just one start (Wednesday), going 0-for-2 with two walks. The Rays also have Randy Arozarena, Hunter Renfroe, Ji-Man Choi, Yoshi Tsutsugo, and Manuel Margot rotating into the lineup regularly.
As frustrating as it might be to roster Rays’ players in fantasy, we know that when they play, they will be playing in a situation that is maximized for production. In weekly leagues, most Rays’ players are tough to roster because we don’t know when they will get at-bats or how often they will be inserted/removed from the game. Getting a full week’s worth of at-bats is an impossibility for most Tampa Bay players.
In daily leagues, however, the Rays’ lineup can be worth considering. Mike Brosseau may not produce in every game, but when he is in the lineup, we know that it will be in a good spot for fantasy production. He has typically hit in the heart of the order, starting as the cleanup hitter on Wednesday. It isn’t an accident that Brosseau is hitting .327/.379/.692, and this is fantasy production that can be helpful in daily leagues. If you take the time and effort to manage your daily lineups with the same care that the Rays are managing their real-life lineup, Rays players can be excellent options from the free-agent pool.
Here are the other hitting highlights from Wednesday’s games:
Adam Duvall (OF, Atlanta Braves)—3-4, 3 HR, 3 R, 5 RBI. Duvall has appeared in 34 games thanks to the universal DH, opt-outs, and injuries to key outfielders. He was just 4-for-32 (.125) in his last 8 games before last night’s home run explosion. He now has eight bombs in 2020 and is hitting .250/.296/.520. With Ronald Acuña Jr. recently returning from the IL, he may need a few maintenance days, and Duvall needs to produce in order to help convince manager Brian Snitker that he should remain on the lineup card. Three-homer games will help!
Tyler Naquin (OF, Cleveland Indians)—3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 5 RBI. Naquin opened the scoring with a two-run home run in the second and put the game away with a three-run blast in the ninth, accounting for all five of the game’s RBI. He missed the start of the season with a broken toe but has played regularly since he was activated on August 11th, and should continue to play as long as he remains healthy.
Eric Hosmer (1B, San Diego Padres)—2-3, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, BB. Hosmer’s home run was the hardest-hit ball of the game, with an exit velocity of 110.2 mph. After years of pleading, he has finally upped his launch angle to 9.4 degrees (on average) in 2020 and is now seeing a massive increase in xBA, xSLG, and xwOBA; he is in the top 10% in the league in each category. It also helps that his K% has dropped from 24.4% in 2019 to 13.8% this season. Shockingly, Hosmer is just 67% rostered in Yahoo! and considering that he is one of the best hitters in one of the league’s most exciting lineups, you need to be in an extremely shallow league to not add him.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI. On any given night, it seems that there is at least one hitter in Toronto’s lineup who produces. The team has been in a lot of close games this season (most one-run games, 17, and most extra-innings games, 10) and hasn’t had a game where all their hitters click at the same time but they have had rotating success a the plate. Wednesday was Gurriel’s chance to shine, socking a two-run home run that accounted for all the Jays’ scoring and ended up being the game-winning hit. Though he is hitting .269/.326/.471, Gurriel has made strides this season to up his BB% from 5.8% to 8.5% and has dropped his K% from 25.1% to 20.2%.
Mike Yastrzemski (OF, San Francisco Giants)—3-5, HR, R, 2 RBI. With a 1.014 OPS, Yastrzemski is ninth among qualified hitters in that category. He continues his breakout season to the point that multi-hit games with a home run aren’t really all that unusual anymore. He is universally rostered at this point, so he might be at the ho-hum-top-hitters-doing-top-hitter-things level.
Garrett Hampson (2B, Colorado Rockies)—2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. His power and speed were enticing on draft day, and Hampson has been a beneficiary of the National League DH. He hasn’t actually been the DH, but the extra hitter in the lineup has opened up spots at CF, 2B, and SS for Hampson. He should have eligibility at all three positions next season which will make him a handy player to roster. Kevin Pillar‘s arrival at the trade deadline does threaten Hampson’s playing time, but the hope is that Hampson’s versatility will still see him regularly in the lineup, especially if he continues to hit well.
Michael Conforto (OF, New York Mets)—4-5, HR, 2 2B, R, 5 RBI. Conforto hit one home run but narrowly missed two more with both his doubles hitting off the top of the wall at Camden Yards. In any other ballpark, Conforto ends the day with a much less robust stat line, with four hits on only two hard-hit balls. Slashing .331/.426/.534, Conforto looks to be shaping up as one of the nicest performers for the Mets’ this season, but it does not come as much of a surprise.
Ryan Mountcastle (OF, Baltimore Orioles)—2-4, R, RBI. In his 11th MLB game, Mountcastle put up his fifth multi-hit game. He has been held hitless in just three of those games and has put up a .341/.400/.537 line with a .401 wOBA. As a touted prospect, Mountcastle is off to a nice start and, despite hitting in the bottom half of the order, he should be able to contribute and may earn a trip higher in the lineup. Certainly, Orioles fans can be pleased to see this young face-of-the-future responding well to major-league pitching.
Brad Miller (2B, 3B, SS, St. Louis Cardinals)—2-3, HR, R, RBI. Miller was in this space yesterday, and he picked up where he left off grabbing another home run and boosting his ratios to .333/.464/.667, for a 197 wRC+ on the season. Again, in case you missed it yesterday, Miller should be added and is widely available, rostered in just 25% of Yahoo! leagues and 27% of CBS leagues.
Anthony Alford (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)—2-4, HR, R, RBI. Alford never really seized his opportunities in Toronto or forced himself into the team’s future plans. Toronto DFA’d the speedy outfielder, instead opting to acquire Jonathan Villar via trade. For Alford, leaving the Blue Jays and being claimed by the Pirates might be the best thing for him. The Pirates have the worst record in baseball and will be able to play him regularly. The hope is that everyday at-bats could help Alford find himself as a hitter and he might be a sneaky steals option for fantasy for the final month.
Neil Walker (1B, Philadelphia Phillies)—3-3, 2 RBI. Walker had a bases-loaded single to drive in two runs. There isn’t much here for fantasy because Walker is confined to a utility/backup role with limited at-bats. He is hitting for a .276 average, but won’t provide much in the way of counting stats with a .290 OBP and a .345 SLG. Still, it’s nice to see light-hitting veterans come up big in a key moment of the game.
Marcell Ozuna (OF, Atlanta Braves)—2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB. Ozuna has been one of baseball’s hottest hitters going 9-for-21 with four home runs in his last four games. If you rostered him hoping for a rebound from 2019, you got it.
Willi Castro (SS, Detroit Tigers)—3-4, 2 RBI. Castro got a late start on the MLB season after not making the big club in July. He made his 2020 debut on August 12th and has since played in 13 games slashing .364/.370/.591. From that slash, it is easy to deduce that Castro doesn’t bring a great eye to the plate (2.3 BB%), and he has a 30.2 K% this season (30.9% in 2019). He is finding holes right now, but the sample size is small, just 47 plate appearances.
Christian Yelich (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—0-1, 3 R, 4 BB, 2 SB. Not a typical line for a first-round pick in fantasy, but Yelich is still contributing to fantasy teams despite his .205 average. The four walks weren’t cheapies with Yelich being challenged and taking some close pitches. He does have nine home runs on the season, but his FB% has dropped from 35.9% 31.6% and he has boosted in his GB% from 43.2% to 49.4%. The hope is that Yelich can translate his control of the strike zone into more hits. Thanks to the four free passes, he nabbed two bases and scored three runs, and raised his OBP to .340.
Michael Brantley (OF, Houston Astros)—1-3, 1 HR, R, 2 RBI. The Rangers’ pitchers held the Astros to just three hits, but one of those hits was Brantley’s two-run home run; it was all the ‘stros needed to pick up the win. Brantley looks to be rounding into form after missing time with a quad injury. As long as he can stay healthy, expect him to put up a .300-plus average, a mid-to-high .300s OBP with as many counting stats as the Astros’ lineup can muster. If you are rostering Brantley, you know what he can/should do, but you also know that injury can sideline him at any time.
Josh Donaldson (3B, Minnesota Twins)—2-5, 2B, 2 RBI, 3 K. Speaking of injuries… You might have forgotten about Josh Donaldson, but he is back from his most recent calf injury. Be sure to check your free agent pool for Donaldson because a frustrated manager may have dropped him and you might as well play him for as long as he can stay on the field. It will take Donaldson time to get his timing (he missed all of August), but it was nice to see him rip a double to right-center field. He struck out in his final three plate appearances, so there may be some bumps as he ramps up.
Mookie Betts (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-4, HR, R, RBI. Betts opened the game with a single off of Zac Gallen, but it was the only hit that the young Diamondback hurler would allow (through seven innings) to the mighty Dodgers. The DBacks were two outs away from a 1-0 win until Betts ripped a game-tying home run to deep center field. It’s incredible to watch Mookie do amazing things on the diamond, putting up a .302/.384/.619 with 12 HR, 6 SB, 29 R, and 27 RBI. It’s going to be hard to not see him as a top-3 fantasy pick next draft season. In the meantime, just enjoy watching him play.
Jurickson Profar (2B/OF, San Diego Padres)—2-3, HR, R, 3 RBI. Profar hit his sixth home run of the season, with a bomb to right field. In his last five games, he is 9-for-15 with two homers. Don’t look now, but Profar looks to have found his timing and might be ready to regularly contribute at the plate in a potent Padres’ lineup. If you need a middle infielder or an outfielder in a deep league, Profar should be added (he is 8% rostered on Yahoo!).
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