Run Nicky Run

Chu provides fantasy analysis on 20 of Saturday's best hitters

Nicky Lopez (KC): 3-5, 2B, RBI, 2 SB.

During a three-hit performance on Saturday that included a double and an RBI, Nicky Lopez stole two bases to bring his 14-day total up to nine! He’s been wildly successful when seeking steals, going 17-for-17 on stolen base attempts this season.

Lopez was a top-10 prospect for the Royals back in 2019, though his fantasy upside has always been considered very limited due to his 30-grade power. Being the backup for Adalberto Mondesi has provided ample opportunity for Lopez to work at the major league level, though, and it seems the Royals have finally put his talents to good work of late.

The Royals don’t have much left to play for other than pride at this point, so they should continue to let the 26-year-old middle infielder wreak havoc on the basepaths for the foreseeable future. Every fantasy manager seeking stolen bases should be looking at their waiver wires right now to see if their league is one of the 85% where he’s still available.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday

Tyler Naquin (CIN): 3-3, 3 2B, 3 R, BB.

It’s been a surprisingly successful season for the 30-year-old former first-round pick, as he ranks as a top-40 outfielder in the FanGraphs Auction Calculator with 16 home runs, 64 RBI, and five steals with a solid .266/.332/.465 batting line. He’s on an 11-game hitting streak right now, and while dates with Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff loom large over the start of next week, his schedule should loosen up a bit. He projects as a top-50 to top-60 outfielder the rest of the way, and I really like him when he’s at home (.834 OPS), when he’s facing right-handed pitching (12.3% walk rate, .828 OPS), or both (.878 OPS).

Anthony Santander (BAL): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

After hitting 31 home runs across 130 games from 2019 to 2020, Santander has just 12 in 81 games so far this season. Injuries have been an issue the last few seasons, but with six home runs and a .279 batting average over the last two weeks and with seven games remaining in the Orioles’ current homestand, Santander may be worth a short-term stream as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

Yordan Alvarez (HOU): 1-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.

Alvarez is well on his way to a 30-home run season and should have little trouble clearing 100 RBI by the end of September. The Astros are about to face a slew of weaker pitching staffs, such as the Royals, Rangers, and Mariners, so don’t be shocked if his 184 wRC+ so far in August holds for the rest of the month. This is a top-30 player and he’ll be a very hot commodity in all formats as he’ll qualify in the outfield.

Lane Thomas (WSH): 2-3, 2B, 3 R, 2 BB.

Thomas did well with the second leadoff appearance of his career, getting on base four times and touching home plate three times. The Nationals have been giving him plenty of run in the outfield for the last week and he’s returned the favor with multiple hits in each of his three starts.

While Thomas has yet to show much power in the major leagues, he had shown improvements there over the last few seasons in the Cardinals system before coming over to the Nationals. His strong defense and hot bat has given him a chance to work his way into the lineup at the expense of Victor Robles and Yadiel Hernandez, and if the Nationals give him a chance to run (which may not happen, as they’re just 2-5 in stolen base attempts over the last 30 days), he could chip in a few key stats in NL-only and 16-team and deeper leagues.

Christian Yelich (MIL): 3-5, 2 HR, 3 R, 6 RBI, SB.

Over his last 10 games, Yelich has 14 hits, five of which have been for extra bases. It’s been a massively disappointing season for the former MVP, but games like this remind us that he still possesses elite talent should still be discussed as a top-50 player heading into 2022.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (TEX): 3-5, 2B, 2 R, RBI.

It’s a bummer that the stolen bases have all but dried up since mid-June, as he’s only swiped one bag since June 15 while being caught four times. Part of the problem is that he just hasn’t been able to get on base or make quality contact, as he’s hitting just .226/.260/.311 in his last 235 plate appearances. While the idea of Kiner-Falefa is good, it’s high time to drop him and swap him out for someone like Daulton Varsho, who is doing a much better job at basically everything Kiner-Falefa was supposed to be doing for your fantasy team.

Daulton Varsho (ARI): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.

The D-Backs are only likely to face one left-hander this week (Ranger Suárez), so expect Varsho to play pretty much all week behind the plate and in the outfield. The top-100 prospect has six home runs, a 15.1% walk rate, and a .639 slugging percentage since the All-Star Break but inexplicably remains available in over 75% of Yahoo leagues and 80% of ESPN leagues. He’s a picture-perfect replacement for injured backstops like Eric HaaseJames McCann, or Wilson Contreras, and also a great streamer in place of lackluster catchers like Sean Murphy, teammate Carson Kelly, or a road-bound Elias Diaz.

Ben Gamel (PIT): 3-4, 2B, R, BB.

After being unable to get anything going in Cleveland to start the year, Gamel has been a revelation for the Pirates, hitting .272/.348/.433 in 76 games and settling in as their leadoff hitter. The upcoming schedule for Pittsburgh is far from ideal, but those in 16-team and deeper leagues in need of some batting average, runs scored, and plate appearances will be hard-pressed to find a more sure thing than Gamel on their waiver wires right now.

Adolis García (TEX): 3-5, 2 2B, R.

While the power-hitting outfielder has smashed four home runs and four doubles over the last 15 days, he’s also sporting an unwieldy 36.4% strikeout rate to a sub-par 5.5% walk rate. Hitting third generally puts a player in a position to drive in runners, but the Texas offense has been unbelievably poor of late so he’s only driven in seven batters despite those previously-mentioned four home runs and four doubles. García’s raw power and eight steals on the season has kept him rostered in over 80% of leagues out there, but he’s only stolen two bases since June 1, and his 11 home runs in that time aren’t nearly enough to make up for the .222 batting average and .272 OBP. In 10- and 12-teamers, I’d be looking for an upgrade and/or streaming his outfield spot rather than keep him in my lineup.

Andy Ibáñez (TEX): 3-4, 2 2B, R, 2 RBI, BB.

The rookie utility man stretched his hitting streak to six games and has looked a lot more like the .352/.410/.648 hitter we saw in triple-A. Ibáñez doesn’t come with a standout power tool like some of his hard-hitting rookie classmates, but his hit tool is better than the other options available for the Rangers right now so AL-only managers should probably kick the tires here if they can.

Kevin Newman (PIT): 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI.

The All-Star Break must have treated Newman quite well, as coming into it he had a truly awful .525 OPS and 43 wRC+ (which means he was 57% worse than an average hitter). He’s found a lot more solid contact since then, hitting .281/.300/.427 over his last 101 plate appearances. He’s virtually unusable outside of NL-only leagues due to hitting at the bottom of one of baseball’s worst offenses, but if he were to go back towards the top of the lineup for some reason he could be a mild batting average boost for desperate deep-league managers.

Jose Altuve (HOU): 4-5, 2 2B, 3 R, RBI.

Altuve hasn’t hit a home run yet in August, which is quite surprising considering he smacked 10 of them in June and eight more in July. While he’s still getting on base just fine, he’s slugging just .360 on the month. I wouldn’t dream of benching Altuve due to the power outage as he’s still putting up counting numbers and batting average, but it will be interesting to see if he can get to 30 home runs for just the second time in his career.

Whit Merrifield (KC): 3-5, 2 R, SB.

This was his 15th stolen base since July 1, which is the second-most in baseball behind that stretch and a solid five bags more than the two guys tied for third (one of whom is teammate Nicky Lopez). His power has all but evaporated during this time, as he has zero home runs and a .040 ISO, but the huge number of steals makes up for a lot of it and the .256 batting average isn’t really hurting anyone enough to consider doing anything crazy.

Manuel Margot (TB): 2-4, 2 2B, R, 2 RBI.

It’s great that Margot has a .283 batting average and has displayed excellent plate discipline since his return from the IL on July 27, but between the zero home runs, two stolen bases, and the Rays benching him once or twice a week, he probably belongs on the wire in 10- and 12-team leagues.

Taylor Jones (HOU): 3-5, 2B, 3B, HR, 3 R, 4 RBI.

The hulking 27-year-old rookie ran into a little playing time this month and certainly made the most of it, slugging .733 over 31 plate appearances in August. The 6’7, 230 pound Jones has a few holes in his swing and limited upside, but when he gets the start against a southpaw, he’s worth a look in DFS contests.

Starling Marte (OAK): 2-5, 2 2B, R, RBI, SB.

Remember how I said Whit Merrifield had 15 stolen bases since July 1 and it was the second-highest mark in baseball? Well, he was second only to Marte, who has an incredible 25 stolen bases in that time. Oakland picked up Marte to lead off and run, so enjoy the ride as he carries managers to the top of their stolen base standings.

Amed Rosario (CLE): 3-4, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB.

Rosario now has an eight-game hitting streak and a three-game multi-hit streak brewing, making it hard to understand why the outfield and shortstop eligible table-setter is available in roughly half of leagues. There’s a good blend of power and speed here and he has pretty decent matchups on deck with the upcoming series against the Rangers and Royals. I’d happily take Rosario in a 10- or 12-team league over players like Eugenio SuarezPaul DeJongJoey WendleDidi Gregorious, Mike YastrzemskiJoc Pederson, or a whole host of other middling and struggling options.

Jose Ramirez (CLE): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB, SB.

He’s really, really good.

Brandon Nimmo (NYM): 3-5, 2B, HR, R, RBI, SB.

Nimmo is on the wire in over 75% of Yahoo leagues and about 60% of ESPN leagues, and he’s gotten on base in 16 of his last 18 games. Nimmo doesn’t have a whole lot of power or speed, but his 15.2% career walk rate makes him extremely valuable in OBP formats. He’s been quite hot of late, with 14 combined runs and RBI in his last 13 games with two home runs and a stolen base, and if the Mets offense can pick up its overall production, he should start scoring a lot more runs out of the leadoff spot.

 

Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

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