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Jesus Luzardo, Oakland A’s
He quickly went from sleeper to afterthought after the young lefty came down with shoulder soreness during spring, but Luzardo is back in action, tossing three scoreless innings during his first rehab start Tuesday in High-A, and it shouldn’t be long before he’s pitching in Triple-A. Luzardo has an intriguing arm and looked ready for the majors before going down with the injury, and Oakland figures to make him a member of its rotation over the second half of the season. One of the five best pitching prospects in baseball, Luzardo will be joining an A’s team that fields a strong defense and plays in a park that favors pitchers. He’s being stashed in barely 20% of Yahoo leagues right now.
Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers
He was dropped in many leagues after getting sent down to the minors a couple weeks back, but he’s worth stashing in deeper formats after hitting two more homers in Triple-A on Thursday. Hiura’s first run in the majors had mixed results, as his 33.3 K% was ugly, but the rookie countered with five homers and an .865 OPS (and strong Statcast numbers) over 64 at-bats. He’s batting .331 with 15 homers and five steals in just 45 games at Triple-A this season, and just as importantly, Travis Shaw has continued to struggle since returning from the IL, posting a .190/.346/.381 line with an even worse 34.6 K%. Hiura was a top-10 pick in the 2017 draft, and he carries legit upside moving forward. He’s available in more than 75% of leagues.
Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox
He’s had a rough year at the plate and hasn’t been as strong defensively this season as usual, but Bradley Jr. is heating up lately, hitting two homers and stealing two bases over the last week. He strikes out too often but can take a walk, and Bradley Jr.’s .269 BABIP seems especially low given his Hard Hit% (41.3) is well above the league average (34.3%). JBJ combined for 30 homers/steals last season in 474 at-bats, and THE BAT projects 13 homers and 50 runs scored over the rest of the season. He’s an excellent base stealer (88.1% career SB success rate), so that should come with 5-10 steals as well. Boston’s offense should improve as a whole from here on out too, and Bradley Jr. is available in 80% of leagues.
A.J. Minter, Atlanta Braves
He entered the season looking like the team’s long-term answer at closer, but then injuries and poor performance led to a trip to the minors a month ago. Minter proceeded to dominate Triple-A, recording a 2.53 ERA with a 15:2 K:BB ratio over 10.2 innings before being recalled by Atlanta on Tuesday. Luke Jackson has pitched well this year, but he’s also allowed a run in four of his past five appearances. Arodys Vizcaino is no longer in the picture and Craig Kimbrel signed with the Cubs, so Minter has a real chance to be a valuable fantasy closer for the surging Braves down the stretch.
His velocity was down earlier this season after dealing with tightness in his throwing shoulder during spring, but it’s been back up since returning. Minter owns a career 14.9 SwStr%, a 2.75 FIP and an 11.38 K/9 mark, so he’s worth grabbing in deeper leagues.
Daniel Hudson, Toronto Blue Jays
With Ken Giles placed on the IL with elbow inflammation, the Blue Jays turned to Hudson during the team’s first save opportunity, and he was successful Wednesday. Hudson has shaky control, but he also has 29 strikeouts over 30.0 innings with a 3.30 ERA on the season. Saves are gold in many fantasy leagues, so he’s going to be a popular add if Giles’ injury proves more serious than originally believed.
Elieser Hernandez, Miami Marlins
He took a loss during his first start of the year Tuesday but pitched well, allowing six baserunners with seven strikeouts over 5.2 innings. It’s disappointing Zac Gallen didn’t get the call with Caleb Smith going on the IL (it sounds like Gallen won’t get that opportunity until after the trade deadline), but Hernandez is a Rule 5 pick who posted a 1.13 ERA with 69 strikeouts over 48.0 innings in Triple-A this season, so he (along with teammate Jordan Yamamoto) is an interesting flier. Marlins Park remains extremely pitcher-friendly.
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