It's been a lost season in Boston by any measure, but the Red Sox have plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the future. The farm system is stocked with interesting players, with Mookie Betts part of that group.
You remember Betts, the 21-year-old hotshot who received a brief trial in midsummer. The Red Sox initially had a short leash on Betts and sent him back to the minors after two weeks in July, but he's been on point during his recent callup. He might be in the majors for good.
Betts is on a 14-for-38 binge over his last 10 games, with three homers and three steals. He's seeing the ball extremely well - six walks against five strikeouts. And the club has started to give him more responsibility in the lineup: he's batted second, first and second the last three days.
Full disclosure, the lineup promotion coincided with Dustin Pedroia resting an injury. We can't be sure where Betts will slot when Pedroia is ready to go again. Nonetheless, there's plenty to like with the kid, a power and speed source who covers two positions (shortstop, outfield). And if you need convincing of the pedigree, consider what Betts did in the minors this year: .346/.431/.529, 11 homers, 33 steals over 99 games. Those numbers jump off the page.
The Rookie named Mookie awaits your call in 78 percent of Yahoo leagues. Make the point and click.
• Speaking of rookies who needed a brief adjustment period, let's recognize the work Joe Panik is doing with San Francisco. He didn't hit a lick over his first 23 games, but he's been a frozen-rope machine over the last month: .400/.439/.520, 17 runs, 10 RBIs. He's batted in the No. 2 slot for six straight games, having a ball with the rest of the Giants (five wins, 56 runs).
Pedigree comes with the 23-year-old: Panik was the 29th pick in the 2011 draft, and he batted .321 at Triple-A Fresno this year. But we can't expect a lot of category juice right out of the box - Panik had a modest power/speed profile in the minors, and has just one homer (and no steals) with the Giants.
Maybe you add Panik for some batting-average help, or as a middle-infield fill (he qualifies at second and short) on a limited slate. Or maybe you just want to have some fun with the puns. Show us your Panik move.
• Juan Lagares hasn't attracted much fantasy attention this year. He's an elite defensive outfielder, sure, but not much of a bat. But over the last couple of weeks, he's trying to shed that label.
Lagares collected four hits in Monday's win at Miami, his fifth multiple-hit game over his last 11 starts. Okay, hot streaks come and go, but check what Lagares is doing on the bases: five bags over his last five games. He also has a couple of homers over this two-week bender, adding up to a .381/.400/.548 line.
Lagares moved to the leadoff spot five games ago, a critical move in the National League. You can run freely at the top of the order, but it's often discouraged when you're buried in the lineup. This could be a rabbit worth holding onto. Lagares is owned in a mere six percent of Yahoo leagues.
• A shoulder problem kept Michael Wacha out of the loop for two months, but the Cardinals think he can help them in the pennant push. Wacha was limited to 34 pitches in his Double-A start Sunday (his only rehab turn), enabling the team to bring Wacha to the majors Thursday. He'll start in Milwaukee, work on a limited pitch count.
Generally I don't expect much from any long-term injury return, and I'm certainly not going to use Wacha on Thursday given the limited assignment they're giving him. Maybe he'll get lucky with a five or six-inning win (he'd have to be very efficient to do so), but I want to see a start in The Show before I tag the DL tag off. If you have lofty expectations for Wacha right out of the chute, share them in the comments.