Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire
It’s my birthday, so I’m starting this list off with my birthday twin (Brian Dozier is also my birthday twin). They’re both good hitters in their prime, which means I’m also in my prime… right? Let’s pretend. Whereas last week’s list was heavy on utility infielders, this list ended up being super outfielder-heavy. And after all the food I’ll have today, I’ll end up heavy too. On to the list!
Michael Brantley (OF, Cleveland Indians) – Happy 31st co-birthday, Brantley! Don’t look now, but the old Brantley is back. Okay, you can look now. You didn’t even look away, did you? Brantley is hitting a robust 328/.360/.552, with the power being especially surprising as he was starting to look like a familiar prototype of an all-around player that gets hurt and keeps playing but never gets it back. But fingers crossed, this looks real. xStats verifies his line with a near-identical xSlash of .329/.361/.542, which should be all the encouragement you need to grab him now in all leagues before you even finish reading this sentence. You still finished that sentence first, didn’t you? I give up.
Scooter Gennett (2B, Cincinnati Reds) – It’s time to ride the Scooter again! After a slow start, now he’s rolling, tallying 7 hits over his last 3 games to lift his average to .318 with 6 Homers, and he logged a homer in back-to-back-to-back-to-back games. That’s 4 homers, if that phrase made you dizzy. xStats does believe he’s getting lucky, with a more modest .290/.331/.462 xSlash, but that is still excellent production from the keystone position and it’s worth noting that he has significantly outperformed his xStats line every year on record (dating back to 2015), so he may be a guy who just breaks their algorithm. He showed last year that he should be respected as a average hitter with power, and even though he’s unlikely to eclipse last year’s power total, even the chance of that makes him a no-brainer in 12-team leagues as well as 10-team Batting Average leagues.
Kevin Pillar (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) – For those that missed out on the Brantley rejuvenation project, you can find a nifty consolation prize in Pillar. Despite being a middling average hitter for most of his career, he has maintained a hot bat all season, hitting ..308/.348/.519. Whereas Brantley has wowed more with power, Pillar has done so with his wheels, with 8 stolen bases without a single caught stealing. While you’d expect him to regress, xStats is all in, with an xSlash of .323/.363/.516. While it’s unlikely he’ll keep smoking line drives at a crazy 32.3% rate, his combination of average with stolen bases makes him a must-own in all 12-team formats and 10-team formats that use Batting Average.
Alex Gordon (OF, Kansas City Royals) – Poptart Cat is back in, dance some Gangnam Style, because Alex Gordon is fantasy relevant again. Sure, it’s easy to be skeptical of his .284/.340/.411 line, but it’s supported and then some by his xSlash of .299/.354/.464. Because he has yet to hit for much power, many owners are still writing this off as a batting average fluke, which makes it a fine time for savvy owners to scoop him. Last year he did say he was working on a swing change in-season, but maybe he just needed an offseason to work out the kinks. Gordon may no longer have much speed to contribute, but he can be a moderately high average (think like .260-.270 and solid OBP hitter with about 20 homers and a handful of SBs, which is plenty useful in most leagues. Add him in 18-team and 15-team, and stream him for now in avg/OBP in 12-team formats.
Franmil Reyes (OF, San Diego Padres) – The latest member of the Fran Clan in San… Diego. Close enough. Reyes may not be a household name yet, but he was destroying the ball in Triple-A, with an insane .346/.442/.738 Triple slash, with a .392 ISO. While that did come with a 20.1% K rate, that’s an improvement over his 2017 mark and also with a career-best 13.6% Walk rate (likely because pitchers were too terrified to pitch to him. Despite being off most prospect lists, he had offseason wrist surgery and perhaps the rehab made him even stronger, and he has a yoked 6’5 frame While the average likely won’t translate to the majors, the power is for real and provided regular playing time, he’s worth a gamble in 18-team and 15-team formats immediately. 12-team and 10-team owners may want to bid now and stash him to see what happens, and while you may be able to take a wait and see approach, pounce early if he hits. Even in Petco’s spacious confines, Reyes could well provide offensive lightning in a bottle to make you feel like a Franmillionaire.
Daniel Descalso (2B/3B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks) – He may have snuck up on you, as he is a Master of Descalso. Okay, I know Descalso/disguise is a stretch, but his .265/.368/.510 is worth going out on a limb for, especially sine the utilityman hasn’t been considered an impact bat up to this point. But it’s mostly backed by an xSlash of .264/.357/.480 which is far higher than his career marks. He’s also posted a solid 91.9 FB/LD eV and 6.5% Barrel% that’s solid for a hitter with multi-position eligibility. Even with a strong week, he’s still widely available, as his ownership went up from 3.7% owned to still just 10.6% of ESPN leagues. While he’s not going to light the world on fire, his reliable production and high walk rate makes him a valuable addition in 15-team and deeper 12-team OBP formats, and as tasty as des calzone I’m having for dinner. Yeah, I know, that’s cheesy.
Daniel Palka (OF, Chicago White Sox) – I pronounce his name like Daniel POW-ka, because his bat packs some cartoonish punch. He’s posting excellent exit velocity with 92.7 avg, 100.1 FB/LD avg, and a Barrel% of 12.5% that’s 7th best in the MLB, which goes great with his 42.9% FB% rate. While he was scouted as a bat-only tweener type due to his high strikeout profile, and his 40% O-Swing indicates that he can’t spit on bad pitches, even though he should be going at spitting. Oh wait, that’s an Alpaca. Still, his all-or-nothing approach can help him rack up homers like a pre-2018 Matt Davidson, which can have deep-league value when properly deployed. While his average will likely regress, his xSlash of ..273/.288/.550 indicates his power bat is no fluke. Add in AL-only & 18-team and stream for power in 15-team formats.
Mark Reynolds (1B, Washington Nationals) – He’s the same old Reyn-olds. He sure made it Reyn in his debut with two towering home runs (one off Zach Godley) and going 3 for 4 overall. At this point we mostly know what to expect from Reynolds, with prodigious power and tons of strikeouts, though it’s far less enticing away from Coors. Still, as long as injuries provide an opening, he’ll be hitting in the midst of a strong lineup, giving him plenty of run production potential. If you can handle the volatility, he makes for a fine add in NL-only, 18-team formats, and streamer-worthy in 15-team formats right away… providing that your league does not penalize hitter strikeouts.
Dustin Fowler (OF, Oakland Athletics) – Despite the last 7 letters of his name, he is not related to n. fowleri, a deadly species of brain-eating amoeba (just to be safe, wear nose plugs when swimming in freshwater lakes). He is also not related to Dexter Fowler, which is apparent when you see pictures of them side by side. That being said, Dustin has similar power/speed upside,. although so far he’s only hitting .091 with a .100 ISO in his first 12 ABs. What is good so far is great plate discipline as evidenced by a microscopic 2.3% Swstr%, but so far he has an awful 82.3 mph avg. eV. Both of these should regress, as he did post a decent .175 ISO in Triple-A and projects for at least double-digit power, but the cavernous confines of o.Co make his speed the asset more likely to appear. He’s worth a gamble in AL-only and 18-team leagues, but I wouldn’t take him as more than a bench stash in 15-team until he can prove himself.
Niko Goodrum (1B/OF, Detroit Tigers) – Lately he’s been on a Niko Goodrun. A week ago, he was hitting ..189 with 1 HR and 4 RBI in 53 ABs, but he’s gone 8 for his last 17 with 3 Homers and 2 doubles in his last four games. Even before tonight’s 2-homer game, his exit velo of 88.9 avg eV, 91.3 mph FB/LD eV, and 6.8 Barrel% is quite solid and similar to the marks of teammate Nick Castellanos. With Detroit’s gaping void of offense, this will be plenty to guarantee more playing time for Goodrum, and he has enticing potential on the basepaths with 4 stolen bases already (1 CS). In leagues in which he qualifies at 2B and SS he’s a fine add in AL-only leagues and 18-team formats, and you could try to play the hot hand with him in 15-team. If you’re too slow, you may be yelling “But why’s the Goodrum gone?”
Christian Villanueva (3B, San Diego Padres) – Most of us knew this would happen at some point, we just didn’t know when. After a searing-hot start in April, Villanueva has been Antarctic-freezing lately, and his lone hit tonight broke a putrid 0-for-36 hitless streak that dropped his average from .317 to .227. Over the past week, he was the top faller in ESPN leagues even after accounting for injured players (to add insult to non-injury), as he dropped from 81.8% to just 51.3% owned. He also banged up his knee crashing into a wall, and while he may be fine, the mirage is over and if he doesn’t turn it around, his chances of playing time may be wrapping up as well. It’s time to drop the Anvil-anueva in 10-team and 12-team formats.
Shin-Soo Choo (OF, Texas Rangers) – I just cut him in a rather deep 12-team mixed of mine, as even in an OBP format, he just doesn’t bring enough to the table these days. Sure, his 95.0 mph FB/LD eV and 6.1% Barrel% is solid, but his yawn-inducing line of .252/.326/.409 is mostly supported by his xStats with a an xSlash of .250/.324/.424. With only 1 SB thus far in his age 35 season, it’s not hard to assume that his days as a significant stolen base threat are over, so in 10-team and 12-team formats, you can feel okay Choo-Choo choosing someone else.
Michael Taylor (OF, Washington Nationals) – You may have noticed that even during his hot streak, I never recommended Michael Taylor, because I just have never trusted the guy. I mean at least from a fantasy perspective, I’m sure in real life he’s perfectly trustworthy. His terribad .186/.253/.310 is no lie, as evidenced by his xTrash xSlash of .196/.262/.302. There’s no amount of stolen base upside that makes that even remotely palatable in any league. His owner ship rate has dropped from 37.2% to 25% but that’s still too high. In 10-team, 12-team and even 15-team formats, I’d drop Taylor swiftly and just shake it off.