By Fred Zinkie
Special to Yahoo Sports
Fantasy gamers are sometimes too focused on the present, as their obsession with their upcoming lineup keeps them from looking too far back or forward. But there exists a handful of players who could make major impacts in the stretch run despite having been off the fantasy radar for several weeks.
Wise gamers will look to create bench or IL space for at least one or two of the men on this list.
Corey Kluber, SP, Indians
Sure, Kluber was mostly terrible this year (5.80 ERA) before suffering a fractured right ulna on May 1. But the 33 year old has one of baseball’s best longterm resumes (2.85 ERA, 1.02 WHIP from 2014-18) and was a second-round pick in many 2019 drafts. Kluber (who remains available in roughly 10 percent of Yahoo leagues) should return in August, and his stretch-run ceiling is arguably higher than that of anyone else in this article.
Rich Hill, SP, Dodgers
Hill drives fantasy gamers crazy with his durability issues, but he is among the best in baseball when taking his regular turn. In fact, since returning to the Majors late in 2015, the southpaw has gone 41-20 with a 2.93 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and a 10.6 K/9 rate across 83 starts. All of those stats are a complicated way of saying that Hill is nearly a lock to post low ratios when he makes an expected late-August or early September return from a left forearm strain.
Tyler Glasnow, SP/RP. Rays
Glasnow was well on his way to being one of this season’s breakout starters (1.86 ERA, 0.91 WHIP) when he was sidelined by a right forearm strain after eight outings. The righty has already suffered one rehab setback, but he could return in August by avoiding additional delays. Those with winning records in head-to-head leagues should be especially excited to stash the likes of Hill and Glasnow for their looming September playoff matchups.
Nathan Eovaldi, SP, Red Sox
Red Sox management created quite the fantasy stir when they recently announced that Eovaldi could be their closer upon returning from an elbow injury. After all, a hard-throwing stopper on the defending World Series champs would be a lineup lock in virtually every league. I remain skeptical that Eovaldi has the durability and skills to become Boston’s fireman, but the potential reward greatly outweighs the risk.
Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates
Although his swing-and-miss skills are nothing to write home about (career 8.1 K/9 rate), a healthy Taillon should be a ratios asset (3.35 ERA, 1.17 WHIP across 2018-19). The right-hander is working his way back from a right elbow flexor strain, and his timetable is less certain than many of the other hurlers on this list. That being said, Taillon is still worth a stash spot in head-to-head leagues.
David Robertson, RP, Phillies
This paragraph hurts, as I was all-in on Robertson during draft season. But the Phillies’ likely closer hit the IL after 6.2 innings of work and has been hanging out there ever since. Hector Neris has grabbed hold of the closer’s role, but manager Gabe Kapler is just funky enough to share save chances. Robertson could also return to being the elite setup man who collected eight wins and 91 whiffs with the Yankees last season.
Danny Salazar, SP, Indians
This one is a bit of a long shot, as Salazar hasn’t appeared in a Major League game since 2017. But the right-hander is on the comeback trail and could be in the Tribe’s rotation by the end of this month. Salazar has legit swing-and-miss skills (career 10.5 K/9 rate) and the AL Central is full of appetizing matchups for a starting pitcher.
Hunter Strickland, RP, Mariners
Strickland earned two March saves in Japan and instantly became the first 2019 waiver-wire sensation. But he made just one more appearance after the two-game series overseas and has been sitting on the IL with a lat strain for more than three months. Seattle is still looking for their answer at closer, and they could turn back to Strickland when he returns to the active roster later this month.
Clint Frazier, OF, Yankees
The one guy on the list who isn’t hurt. With a .283 average, an .843 OPS, and 11 homers across 191 at-bats, Frazier certainly performed well enough this season to avoid a June 16 demotion. But such is life when you are part of arguably baseball’s deepest and richest organization. The outfielder is now a coveted trade target for clubs who are looking to send a starting pitcher to New York, and he is also one injury away from being a regular member of an elite lineup.
Brendan Rodgers, 2B/SS, Rockies
Remember way back in May, when Rodgers was a coveted fantasy commodity? Well, his exciting skill set hasn’t gone anywhere, and neither has the Rockies instability at second base. The 22 year old is currently dealing with a shoulder injury, but he could get a long look at the keystone base when he returns later this month.