In addition to Monday's nine featured Pickups of the Week, Yahoo! Sports fantasy expert Brandon Funston offers a Wednesday update on five hitters on the rise that weren't profiled in Monday's POW. The same criteria applies - players must be available in more than half of Yahoo! leagues. On Friday, we'll offer the same drill for pitchers.
Power/speed emerging, and average is back above the Espinosa ... err, Mendoza Line
Danny Espinosa (2B) Washington Nationals
Strikeouts and a low batting average come with the territory, but many fantasy owners would be willing to overlook that downside given his 25/25 potential (21/17 in '11 rookie season). Those power/speed skills finally re-emerged this past week, as he has two home runs and two steals in his past five games. He kicked it into a higher gear about this time last year - 11 HRs, 6 SBs from mid-May through June - so pay close attention if you have middle infield needs.
- Y! % 30%
- LW rank22
Ellis homeward bound in cat-bird seat of Dodgers lineup
Mark Ellis (2B) Los Angeles Dodgers
The obvious benefits to Ellis' fantasy employment is in the Runs category, where he ranks 11th in the league (26). That's what happens when you get on base at a .385 clip and you have Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp following you in the lineup. Add in that you have the league's No. 2 base stealer in Dee Gordon leading off, and it's a recipe for a whole lot of fastballs - Ellis is seeing the eighth-highest percentage of fastballs in the league (64.7%). And to his credit, he's taking advantage by hitting the ball on the screws - one of five players in MLB with a Line Drive% currently above 30 percent (30.2). Kemp's DL stint could slow his roll a bit, but Ellis should continue to score runs and provide a semi-serviceable amount of everything else the rest of the way.
- Y! %11%
- LW rank38
Eagle-eyed Ellis embracing regular playing time for Dodgers
A.J. Ellis (C) Los Angeles Dodgers
Mark isn't an Ellis Island unto himself in the Dodgers lineup. A.J. is the hottest fantasy backstop for the past seven days, and owns a .389 batting average over his past 17 games. Despite considerable size, Ellis has never brought much power to the table. But he's always shown a keen eye (1:1 K-to-BB ratio), and his 21 walks (12th in the league) have helped him maintain a spot among the league leaders in OPS (.955 mark currently sits at No. 16 overall). And with Kemp out, that Dodgers have moved Ellis up into a more production-friendly No. 5 spot in the order.
- Y! %16%
- LW rank64
Hits have become daily Pagan ritual for the Giants
Angel Pagan (OF) San Francisco Giants
Pagan has a hit in 26 of his past 27 games and he's on pace for his third consecutive 30-steal campaign. He'll always be an injury concern - he's been dealing with a sore hamstring of late - but he's a career .280 hitter with good speed. In other words, for as long as he can avoid the DL, you can enjoy Ichiro-esque production (current Ichiro, not prime Ichiro) at a fraction of the price.
- Y! %41%
- LW rank195
- AVG .476
Dropped in the order, Boesch gearing up for another trademark hot streak
Brennan Boesch (OF) Detroit Tigers
Boesch failed to launch in the seemingly choice No. 2 spot in the Detroit lineup, ahead of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder - Andy Dirks has since seized that piece of real estate. But he seems to have found his groove hitting behind the Tigers' vaunted twosome (and Alex Avila), where he's currently riding an eight-game hitting streak - this only shortly following a nine-game hitting streak from late April through early May. Boesch has proven to be a streaky hitter in his young career, and when you catch the right wave with him, it can carry a fantasy owner for a while. Last year he had a 50-game ride in June/July that produced a line of .328 with 11 HRs, 26 RBIs and 33 Runs. In 2010, he produced a nearly identical 50-game stretch in May/June - .340, 11 HRs, 38 RBIs, 24 Runs. A popular preseason sleeper, Boesch is showing signs of breaking out of his shell once again.
- Y! %43%
- LW rank132