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Brendan Rodgers, 2B/SS, Rockies
I feel like I’ve been touting Rodgers often this season, but he’s still rostered in only 22 percent of Yahoo leagues so it would seem not everyone is getting the message. The 25-year-old just finished off a road trip during which he went 12-for-35 with three home runs and seven RBI over eight games. Oddly, that now makes 12 of Rodgers’ 14 home runs this season having come away from Coors Field. I’m still betting on Rodgers taking advantage of his friendly home confines, though, and he’ll have the opportunity to do so with the Rockies’ next nine games coming at Coors. After striking out at a better than 30 percent clip from 2019-20 during his time in the majors, Rodgers has his strikeout rate below 20 percent in 2021.
Andrew Vaughn’s back injury has created more opportunities for Sheets, and the 25-year-old has taken advantage this month with a .925 OPS, three home runs and 10 RBI over 15 contests. Sheets impressed the White Sox during spring training and it has carried over into a breakout 2021 campaign for the former second-round pick, as he now has 20 dingers between Triple-A and the majors and an OPS well over .800 at both stops. He also has shown very good plate discipline for a guy who hits for power. Sheets isn’t going to play much, if at all, against lefties, but the left-handed swinger could run into some more long balls in the final two weeks.
Lewin Diaz, 1B, Marlins
Last week I profiled Jesus Sanchez and Bryan De La Cruz from the Marlins, and this week it’s time to shine the spotlight on another one of their young hitters. Jesus Aguilar (knee) is expected to remain on the shelf for the rest of the season, allowing Miami to get a long look at Diaz to see how he might fit into their 2022 plans. After an ugly 4-for-40 starts to his major league career, Diaz has started to find his groove of late, putting up a .324/.361/.706 batting line with three home runs over his last nine games. He’s swung and missed a bit more in the majors so far, but Diaz has consistently posted low strikeout totals in the minors for a guy who hit 27 bombs in 2019 and 26 in 2021 (between the majors and minors).
Nick Gordon, 2B/SS/OF, Twins
Gordon hasn’t developed with the bat as hoped since the Twins made him the No. 5 overall pick back in the 2014 Draft, but he did show some progress at Triple-A in 2019 and has been decent during his time there in 2021. The 25-year-old has also picked things up at the dish with the Twins this month, sporting an .839 OPS with one home run, seven RBI and three steals over 38 plate appearances. Gordon’s best chance to help out fantasy managers could be in the stolen base department. He doesn’t have wheels like his brother, Dee, but Nick is an above-average runner who is 8-for-9 in stolen base attempts in the majors after putting up some nice stolen base totals in the minors.
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Garrett Hampson, 2B/OF, Rockies
Hampson has yet to settle in as the steady fantasy contributor that many felt he would be. He’s definitely had his moments, though, and that includes during the Rockies’ recent road trip when he posted a 1.157 OPS with two home runs, six RBI, one stolen base and seven runs scored in seven tilts. Hampson has been perched up in the leadoff spot for each of those last four games, setting him up to score a bevy of runs as the Rockies embark on a nine-game homestand.
Jon Lester, SP, Cardinals
Hey, I’m as surprised as you are. Lester looked cooked during his time with the Nationals earlier this season and in his first couple starts with the Cardinals, but in his last five starts he’s sporting a 2.12 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 20/10 K/BB ratio over 29 2/3 frames. The veteran left-hander has changed up his pitch mix, throwing more changeups and sinkers and fewer cutters, a combined that’s obviously been working for him of late. There’s obvious risk here, but Lester has two starts this week for a red-hot Cardinals team, setting him up for the potential for a win or two. Lester’s next W, by the way, would be the 200th of his career.
Wily Peralta, SP, Tigers
I profiled Peralta in this space back in mid-July and I’d be lying if I told you I thought I’d be going to the well again. The 32-year-old has been surprisingly effective for the Tigers, though, particularly of late with just one run allowed over his last three outings. You need to look elsewhere if you’re seeking a bat-misser, but Peralta has found success in cutting down significantly on his four-seamer usage and incorporating a split-change, an offering which has been virtually impossible for the opposition to square up (he’s thrown 295 of them and hitters are batting .060 against the pitch). Peralta has a nice matchup versus the Royals this week.
Paolo Espino, SP, Nationals
The Nationals, in effect, turned the page to 2022 a while ago, but they’ve still had some bright spots and one of them has been Espino, a 34-year-old journeyman who has given the club solid work both as a starter and reliever. What he lacks in velocity Espino does his best to make up for with an excellent curveball and pristine control. The spin rate on Espino’s curve ranks in the 96th percentile, and it has produced a 35 percent whiff rate and .173 average against. Espino has given up just one run over his last two starts and no more than two runs in four of his last five outings.
Shane Baz, SP, Rays
It will be quite a pitching matchup in Tampa Bay on Monday, with Baz making his major league debut and squaring off against likely American League Cy Young front-runner Robbie Ray. The numbers Baz has put up this season between Double- and Triple-A have been eye-popping. In 78 2/3 innings, Baz has posted a 2.06 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 113/13 K/BB ratio. The excellent control has been particularly encouraging to see, as walks had been arguably Baz’s biggest bugaboo prior to 2021. The matchup certainly isn’t an easy one, but I would bet on Baz missing some bats even against the Blue Jays. It’s what he does.
Chris Stratton, RP, Pirates
David Bednar has been one of baseball’s breakout relievers this season, but he’s currently on the shelf with a strained oblique and doesn’t seem very likely to return before the regular season comes to a close. The injury has opened the door to saves for Stratton, a former failed starter who has found a home in the bullpen. Stratton doesn’t throw hard, but he gets elite spin on his two primary pitches: a four-seamer and a curveball. The Pirates have seven games this week, so the 31-year-old could get a shot at some more saves.