After a thrilling trade deadline last week, the big story in fantasy leagues this week is the Cubs' promotion of top prospect infielder Javier Baez. It's not all that helpful to provide my stamp of approval here, as he's already owned in 55 percent of Yahoo leagues. Unless your fellow fantasy owners are asleep on the job, chances are that he's long gone. Still, I talked about expectations for him in this week's edition of "Buy, Sell, or Hold." You'll also get my take on Brandon McCarthy, who was featured in Waiver Wired last week.
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James Paxton SP, Mariners (Yahoo: 28 percent owned)
Out since April 8 with a lat strain, Paxton made his long-awaited return over the weekend and allowed two runs over 4 1/3 innings across against the Orioles. It was his first start in the majors in nearly three months, so I'm willing to give him a pass for the shaky performance. The Mariners didn't add a starter before the trade deadline, so Paxton has a real chance to show what he can do over the final two months of the regular season. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a nasty curveball, we've already seen flashes of brilliance in a small sample, as he has posted a 2.01 ERA and 39/12 K/BB ratio over his first 40 1/3 innings in the majors. I'll take a chance on his upside, thank you.
Adam Lind 1B, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 25 percent owned)
After missing around a month with a broken right foot, Lind is scheduled to begin a minor league rehab assignment Thursday with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays. If all goes well, he should be activated at some point during a series against the Mariners this weekend. The 31-year-old has been productive when healthy this season, batting .320/.389/.489 with four homers and 27 RBI over 61 games. You'll want to use other options against left-handed pitching, so he's best utilized in formats which allow daily lineup changes, but he should help down the stretch out of a CI (corner infielder) spot.
Vance Worley SP, Pirates (Yahoo: 20 percent owned)
Worley has been a pleasant surprise since joining the Pirates' rotation in June, posting a 2.43 ERA and 32/9 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. He has allowed one earned run or fewer in each of his last three starts, including his first career shutout last week against the Giants. Quite a find considering the Twins essentially gave him up for nothing during spring training. Worley had a 7.21 ERA over 10 starts last season while pitching through injuries, but it looks like he's back to full health now. He doesn't miss many bats, but he's limiting walks with the best of them, induces a bunch of grounders, and makes half of his starts in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the game. It's a pretty good situation for fantasy owners. Start him with confidence Friday against the Padres.
A.J. Pollock OF, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 18 percent owned)
Sidelined since May 31 with a fractured right hand, Pollock was hit on his hand again in his first minor league rehab game with the AZL Diamondbacks last Thursday. While it was quite a scare, the good news is that the pitch hit him in a different spot and he has played a pair of rehab games since. He should be back with the Diamondbacks in the next week or two barring setbacks. The 26-year-old was having a great season prior to the injury, batting .316/.366/.554 with 26 extra-base hits (including six home runs), eight stolen bases, and 28 run scored across 52 games, so he's well worth stashing in all formats for the stretch run.
Charlie Morton SP, Pirates (Yahoo: 22 percent owned)
Another Pirates starter? Sure, why not? Morton hit a bit of a rough patch around the All-Star break, but he rebounded last time out by holding the Marlins to one run over seven innings. It wasn't good enough to get him back in the win column -- he hasn't won a game since July 2 -- but I'd focus more on the skills than things beyond his control. Morton isn't missing as many bats recently, but he still boasts the highest strikeout percentage of his career and he's among the game's best at getting ground balls. They don't call him "Ground Chuck" for nothing, folks. Similar to what I wrote with his teammate Vance Worley above, pitching at PNC Park is just icing on the cake. He's a fine option at the back-end of mixed league rotations.
Everth Cabrera SS, Padres (Yahoo: 49 percent owned)
Signs of life from Cabrera? Maybe. After missing a month with a left hamstring strain, the 27-year-old is hitting .333 (11-for-33) with four RBI, four runs scored, and three stolen bases over eight games. He has also reclaimed his spot as the Padres' leadoff hitter. It's fair to ask if we'll ever see anything close to his 2013 production again, especially given his eventual PED suspension, but you could do worse for a late-season flier if you need speed. His willingness to run since his return is a good sign for his health.
Drew Smyly SP, Rays (Yahoo: 24 percent owned)
Many were underwhelmed by the Rays' return for David Price, but I think that's underselling what Smyly has been until this point and what he still could be. The 25-year-old left-hander has posted a promising 3.56 ERA and 270/83 K/BB ratio over his first 286 innings in the majors. He has admittedly been better as a reliever, but he throws strikes regardless of role and possesses the arsenal to be a useful starter moving forward, including an improved curveball and a cutter. He's already been relevant in mixed leagues this season despite a 6-10 record and I think he gets a slight boost in value with the move from Comerica Park to Tropicana Field. Perhaps his upside is that of a mid-rotation starter, but that still has value, both for the Rays and fantasy owners.
Chris Coghlan 3B/OF, Cubs (Yahoo: 27 percent owned)
Coghlan has largely fallen out of fantasy relevancy since his National League Rookie of the Year campaign in 2009, but he's been one of the game's hottest hitters over the past six weeks. The 29-year-old is batting .385/.455/.615 with 18 extra-base hits (including four homers), 17 RBI, 24 runs scored, and four stolen bases over his last 34 games. This includes multi-hit games in each of his last six starts. It's easy to be skeptical about the small sample size, especially with a BABIP well north of .400 during this recent stretch, but he's hitting a lot of line drives while cutting down on strikeouts and drawing walks. If anything, he has played himself into an opportunity with the Cubs down the stretch. With his multi-position eligibility and ability to produce in all categories, it's time to put him back on your radar.
Kevin Gausman SP, Orioles (Yahoo: 17 percent owned)
Something will have to give in the Orioles' rotation soon with Ubaldo Jimenez nearing his return from the disabled list, but I'm not giving up on Gausman yet. While the strikeouts haven't really been there, the 23-year-old right-hander has allowed three runs or fewer in three straight starts since his clunker against the Athletics on July 20. He has also gone six innings or more in all of them. Nice signs of growth. I'm a big fan of his stuff and he deserves to stick in the Orioles' rotation on merit. It might not work out that way, as the Orioles gave Jimenez a $50 million contract during the offseason and probably won't banish him to the bullpen, but I'd keep Gausman rostered right now just in case they go in a different direction with their rotation. The potential upside is just too high.
J.P. Arencibia C/1B, Rangers (Yahoo: 10 percent owned)
Arencibia has provided some punch since taking over as the Rangers' regular first baseman, batting .250 with six home runs, 20 RBI and a .911 OPS across 18 games. He has a 22/4 K/BB ratio in 72 plate appearances during that time, so we're not witnessing someone who has turned a new leaf from a plate discipline standpoint, but sacrificing some batting average could be worth it if you need power. The recent addition of Mike Carp could complicate things somewhat, but Arencibia is a palatable option in two-catcher mixed leagues right now.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Avisail Garcia OF, White Sox (Yahoo: 9 percent owned)
Garcia was originally thought to be lost for the season after he underwent surgery in April to repair a torn labrum and an avulsion fracture in his left shoulder, but the White Sox cleared him for a minor league rehab assignment last week and he's hitting .526 (10-for-19) with a home run and a double over his first five games with Triple-A Charlotte. Safe to say he's feeling pretty good. It was assumed that the White Sox would utilize the entire 20-day rehab window before bringing him back from the disabled list, but perhaps they'll push up the timeline if he keeps hitting like this. Don't forget that Garcia was a popular sleeper in mixed leagues this spring, so this is a perfect time to stash him in a DL spot if he's still out there in deeper formats.
Oswaldo Arcia OF, Twins (Yahoo: 3 percent owned)
Arcia was a preseason favorite of mine, but he has regressed after a promising rookie campaign by batting just .225 with eight homers and a .706 OPS over 61 games. He now owns a 30 percent strikeout rate in the majors and has done next to nothing against left-handed pitching. Of course, he's only 23 years old, so it's far too soon to write him off. He has also made a little bit of noise recently with three home runs and four doubles over his last 12 games. And when he makes contact, the baseball often goes very far. The batting average might not be there, but if there's anybody who could surprise with a late-season power surge, it's Arcia.
Ezequiel Carrera OF, Tigers (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
The Tigers parted ways with Austin Jackson in the three-team David Price deal, so we're suddenly looking at a combination of Rajai Davis and Carrera in center field. I'm guessing Davis will still get plenty of starts against right-handers even though he's right-handed, but don't overlook Carrera here. While the 27-year-old owns a mediocre .254/.309/.342 batting line over 414 plate appearances in the majors, he possesses serious speed, as evidenced by 43 steals in just 97 games this season in Triple-A. He could provide some sneaky value the rest of the way.
Mike Carp 1B/OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
After proving valuable in a part-time role with the Red Sox last season, Carp struggled in sporadic playing time this season prior to being designated for assignment over the weekend. However, he's now in an excellent situation with the Rangers, who play in a favorable hitting environment and should offer plenty of at-bats the rest of the way. Carp has pop and offers multi-position eligibility, so he should be scooped up in all AL-only leagues at this point.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis OF, Mets (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
The Mets designated 40-year-old Bobby Abreu for assignment this week, clearing the way for Nieuwenhuis to take his place on the active roster. The 27-year-old has been tearing things up with Triple-A Las Vegas of late, so he's deserving of the opportunity. Strikeouts have been an issue for him so far in the majors, but I could see the Mets cutting ties with free agent bust Chris Young soon, which would open up playing time in left field. And in league-only formats, regular at-bats are worth their weight in gold at this time of year. It's just a matter of him getting the opportunity.
Kristopher Negron 2B/SS/OF, Reds (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Pushed into playing time due to the injuries to Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto, Negron is hitting .282 (11-for-39) with three homers and eight RBI over 15 games since coming up from Triple-A Louisville last month. He has made six starts at second base and two at the hot corner. The 28-year-old is a .246/.323/.360 career hitter in the minors and had just three homers over 75 games this season in Triple-A, so I don't expect the success to last, but he offers multi-position eligibility and is capable of stealing a few bags. Not a bad option if you are dealing with injuries right now.