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Fantasy Baseball: Dansby Swanson's breakout year is here

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There are dozens of fantasy stories on any game night. Here are some observations from my Thursday notebook:

Dansby Swanson puts it all together

Early in Dansby Swanson’s career, he was projected to be a superstar. And then he got settled in the show, and it looked like “good player” was more his speed. No shame in that. The Braves have always liked him.

But maybe it’s not too late for a superstar year.

Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (7) is becoming a fantasy star
Dansby Swanson is turning into a fantasy superstar in his age-28 season. (John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Swanson started the year buried in the Atlanta lineup and wasn’t doing much through April. But he was promoted to the front third of the order a month ago, and he’s been on a tear since. Swanson has three homers in his last two games, and check what he’s done over his last 28 games: .368/.433/.605, 26 runs, seven homers, 20 RBIs, five steals.

He’s the No. 2 fantasy batter over that time — only Yordan Alvarez has beaten him in that segment.

Swanson’s Statcast page doesn’t sing like Alvarez’s does, but Swanson is on the good side of most metrics. His hard-hit rate is in the 85th percentile. He’s a quality runner, checking in at 84 percent there. His strikeout rate of 26.5 percent is a little high, but at least good things happen when he makes contact. And Swanson’s earned his decent ratios — his .302 average is only nine points higher than the expected number, and his .500 slugging is actually 70 points lower than what the data suggests.

The Braves might have the deepest lineup in the National League, at least while the Dodgers deal with an injured Mookie Betts. And I expect Swanson to bat second in this loaded group for the balance of the summer.

Enjoy the ride.

Fly, Berti, Fly

This Jon Berti thing is getting a little ridiculous, isn’t it?

But I’m here for it, every glorious moment. Berti had two more hits, another run, and most importantly, another two steals in Thursday’s win over Colorado.

June has been the month when Berti finally took control of a full-time job. The Marlins don’t dare take him out of the lineup: He’s rocked a .309 average and .378 OBP, and he’s 17-for-17 on steals (though the Mets did pick him off once). He’s scored 13 runs, driven in 10.

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Berti has no homers in June, and only two for the year. You’ll have to fill that column elsewhere. But we can definitely accept a rabbit if he’s going to run this aggressively. Even with his specialist profile, Berti is the No. 9 fantasy hitter in 5x5 value over the last month. And he’s especially useful in Yahoo leagues, where he qualifies at second, third and the outfield.

When a surprise player emerges like this, he usually turns into a forced hold. I know some managers imagine the idea of a sell-high, but it can be difficult to make your opponents believe in this type of player. No matter. If you find your team in a sudden steals surplus, trade the other major steals source on your team, the batter who might be more appealing to a trade partner.

I give you permission to keep rolling with this Berti train. That’s what I’m prepared to do.

Johnny Cueto rolling along

Johnny Cueto didn’t get a win over the Orioles, and I guess that’s a little disappointing. Still, it’s hard to blame Johnny Beisbol when his teammates don’t score any runs. And Cueto still gave us seven strikeouts, just one walk. His seasonal ratios have been playable all year: 3.19 ERA, 1.15 WHIP.

I realize his strikeout rate (7.5/9) is underwhelming, though that’s partly mitigated by his excellent walk rate (2.25/9). He’s not the fireballer of the American League, but he’s still on the good side of 90. His peripheral-suggested ERAs are reasonable, too, if short of his front-door number: Savant suggests a 3.55 ERA, while FIP spits out a 3.63 number.

I’m going to keep starting Cueto until he gives me a strong reason not to. It will be fun watching him match wits with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani next week.