Closing Time: Kolten Wong checks in

Scott Pianowski
July 10, 2014
Lynn wins 10th, Cardinals top Pirates 5-2
St. Louis Cardinals' Kolten Wong watches his solo home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Kolten Wong is doing all he can to push his way into the fantasy conversation. Now we hope the Cardinals are paying attention as well.

Wong returned from his shoulder injury last weekend and he's been a smash since. He's on a 5-for-12 binge with three homers (one a walk-off job), two walks and a stolen base in that period. The frustrating thing for fantasy owners is that Wong's doing all this at the bottom of the lineup - he's batted seventh or eighth in every start this week. He was routinely hitting second for most of his time back in May.

Although Wong showed some pop in the minors (a .451 slugging percentage, 27 homers over a couple of seasons), his biggest fantasy appeal comes with batting average and stolen-base potential. He was a .305 hitter in the bush leagues (.367 OBP), and he swiped 20-of-21 bases in his 107 Triple-A games last year. He's 13-for-14 on steal attempts in the majors, over a modest 64 games. He knows what he's doing on the bases already, and he's still just 23.

The Cardinals aren't doing anything special on offense this year - they're a shocking 28th in runs scored. A productive player like Wong can't be ignored. I'm expecting he'll be batting second in short order, and I also expect Wong's 12-percent ownership tag in Yahoo to take a major spike as well. Get in while the price is nothing; let's have some fun with this one.

Obviously a Wong addition requires a drop, and here are some more-popular middle infielders I'd drop for him in a second: Brad Miller, Mookie Betts, Kelly Johnson, Dustin Ackley. Or maybe you can find a better drop elsewhere on your lineup (or put a DL slot into play). Try to find room for this kid. 

• I realize it's a scary time to be a Corey Dickerson owner, but I'm begging you to stay the course. I fully believe he'll be fantasy relevant all year.

The Dickerson case to this point speaks for itself: a snappy .327/.392/.589 line over 202 at-bats, 11 homers, six steals. He's hit at Coors and he's hit on the road. And when Colorado ran into a bunch of injuries in the outfield, the clueless Rockies finally had the need to play Dickerson every day - something they weren't doing previously.

Things are trickier now, with Carlos Gonzalez back from the DL. He's obviously going to play, and Charlie Blackmon has marked his territory in center field. The Rockies will also give occasional at-bats to Drew Stubbs and Brandon Barnes, especially against left-handed pitching. The one thing Dickerson hasn't done this year is hit lefties.

And then there's the situation with Michael Cuddyer. Although the veteran outfielder is 35 and dealing with a shoulder injury, the Rockies still want to re-sign him (so they claim in public) after the year. If Cuddyer makes it back at some point in August - no sure thing - the Colorado lineup card becomes a mess. But you know the lean here: let's not assume miracle comebacks with long-term injuries, especially when it comes to someone in his mid-30s. We'll cross the Cuddyer bridge when we come to it.

Back to Dickerson, even if he is more of a platoon guy the rest of the way (the heavy side of it, of course), I still want him on my rosters. He posted a monster resume in the minors and all he's done in the bigs this year is produce. Coors Field is the ultimate float, of course, but he's also crushing on the road. He'll be in a good batting slot. He can produce in all five categories. Now is not the time to drop him, even in shallow leagues, and if your opponent is worried about Dickerson, make him a trade offer. I've seen the future, and this all works out reasonably well

• I didn't lead with the Masahiro Tanaka news, for two reasons. One, it's almost a day old (we added it to Wednesday's Closing Time, in fact), and two, what can we really say? Hope for the best, prepare for the worst - not that those words are of much help. On the odd chance you somehow missed the item (I hope you find your phone soon), the Yanks are sending Tanaka to Seattle, where a team doctor will take an MRI on Tanaka's ailing elbow

If you find yourself in the market for a new starting pitcher, here are some options (owned in less than 35 percent of leagues) that might help you out: Charlie Morton, Danny Duffy, Chris Young (who saw that coming?), Drew Smyly, Nate Eovaldi, and Jeff Locke (Ray Searage is amazing). If you need to dig a little deeper, how about Wade Miley (strikeotus are there), Joe Kelly (on the way back) or Jacob deGrom (terrific this week)? There are always interesting options on the pitching waiver wire; share your favorite finds in the comments.

• With the Brewers in a funk this month, maybe it's time to get highly-regarded pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson into the rotation. Nelson has been dominant in the minors this year (1.46 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 9.2 K/9) and he didn't look bad in his one spot-start in Milwaukee. There's speculation that the Nelson call might come before Saturday.

Obviously young players are a crap-shoot, especially pitchers - Andrew Heaney didn't click, for one example. But I'd love to have Nelson rostered on any of my mixed-league rosters. He's just five-percent owned in Yahoo leagues.