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Fantasy Baseball: Priority pickups and season's biggest difference maker stays hot

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Fantasy baseball analyst Dalton Del Don takes a look back at Tuesday's MLB slate and offers up his top observations.

Priority pickups to make

Christian Walker homered in both games of Tuesday’s doubleheader and has left the yard in three straight. His production is finally catching up to his elite Statcast data that includes him being in the top 5% of the league in xwOBA. Walker is hitting cleanup for Arizona and is available in nearly 90% of Yahoo leagues despite suddenly being tied for the National League lead in home runs with nine on the season.

Salvador Perez suffered a left thumb sprain and has been placed on the IL. The injury opens more playing time for top catching prospect MJ Melendez, who proceeded to connect on his first career homer Tuesday. Melendez posted a 170 wRC+ in Triple-A last season and needs to be added in all fantasy leagues (just 17% rostered in Yahoo) given the extreme lack of production from the position throughout the league. Steamer is bullish rest of season, projecting a 122 wRC+ for Melendez.

Kansas City Royals catcher MJ Melendez should be on the fantasy baseball pickups radar after Salvador Perez's injury. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Kansas City Royals catcher MJ Melendez should be on the fantasy baseball pickups radar after Salvador Perez's injury. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Patience, worry and intrigue on pitching front

Nathan Eovaldi was annihilated for five homers over just 1.2 innings Tuesday, although at least three of his nine runs allowed were unearned. He’s now allowed a whopping 14 home runs over just 41.2 innings this season, but fantasy managers should remain patient. Eovaldi has a 42:7 K:BB ratio, and his 27.5% FB/HR is way above his career mark of 10.8%, so better days are ahead. His current HR rate is more than three times what it was last year (8.2%).

Aroldis Chapman’s shaky peripherals continue to catch up to him, as he allowed a run during his fourth straight appearance Tuesday. He managed to record a save anyway (and still has a nice 2.63 ERA on the year), but he now sports a 1.46 WHIP thanks to nine walks over 13.2 innings. Chapman seemingly has a secure role as closer in New York, but Michael King has quickly emerged as baseball’s most dominant reliever this season and is breathing down his neck. While Chapman produced just one swing-and-miss during his 18 pitches Tuesday, King didn’t allow a baserunner while fanning six over three perfect innings. King leads all pitchers in CSW this season, so don’t be surprised if he’s closing for the Yankees come October (if not sooner). Good luck hitting this.

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Brady Singer impressed during his MLB return Tuesday, tossing seven shutout innings with a 9:0 K:BB ratio and a 43% CSW. A former first-round pick with intriguing peripherals, Singer will be worth adding the next chance he gets to rejoin KC’s rotation permanently (he was needed for the team’s doubleheader Tuesday and sent back down afterward). The Royals aren’t a great situation, but Singer’s performance was eye-opening, as he dramatically increased his changeup usage (throwing it 17% of the time compared to just 4.1% during his career), and it was highly effective (56% CSW). The development of a third pitch would be huge for Singer, who belongs on your radar.

Fantasy's biggest difference maker

Taylor Ward homered yet again Tuesday and has now reached base safely in all but one game this season. After attempting three steals over his first five games, Ward hasn’t tried to swipe a bag since, but fantasy managers will have to settle for a 1.216 OPS and nine homers over 101 at bats. Ward went undrafted in almost all fantasy leagues, yet he currently leads MLB in batting average (.376), OBP (.484), slugging (.733) and wRC+ (254). Ward will regress soon enough, but it looks like he’s going to be the biggest difference maker in fantasy baseball this year.

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