Megill Making Good Impression

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By this time of the fantasy season, those in 5x5 Roto leagues should have a good idea which categories they’re set in and also the ones where they could use some help. We’re here to lend a hand with the latter. All of the players listed below are widely available in your standard 12-teamer and are capable of providing a boost.

AVG

Starlin Castro, 2B/3B, Nationals

Castro has been one of the worst-hitting regulars in baseball for the better part of this season. However, something has seemed to click since he returned to the Nats last month after being away to deal with a personal matter. In 17 games since the veteran infielder rejoined the active roster, he’s batted .370/.443/.537 with one home run and 11 RBI. The hot streak has prompted a move up in the lineup, as the last four games have seen Castro move up a spot each day from sixth to fifth to fourth and finally to third on Sunday. Especially because he’s always been a good contact hitter, Castro is capable of providing an average boost while he’s hot. You might recall in his last full season in 2019 when he hit .245 with six homers in the first half before batting .302 with 16 dingers after the All-Star break. Castro has generally been a better second-half performer. Perhaps he’s just getting an early start.

HR

Luis Torrens, C, Mariners

Look, I’m as surprised as you are. When I started this column a few weeks ago, I did not expect to be listing Luis Torrens in this space. The 25-year-old was sent down to the minors in mid-May after posting a .519 OPS with two dingers over his first 29 games. Torrens then went down to Triple-A Tacoma and popped six home runs in 19 games to earn a spot back with the big club, and since then he’s clubbed seven over the boards while posting a 1.133 OPS over 13 tilts with the Mariners. Even when adding in the poor production from his earlier stint with the M’s this season, Torrens boasts a nifty 90.5 mph exit velocity and 14.1 percent barrel rate. His xSLG is .506, which is notably higher than his actual slugging percentage of .455. I’ll be honest when I say I’m not sure how much longer this lasts, but Torrens certainly needs to be rostered in two-catcher formats right now.

RBI

Garrett Cooper, 1B/OF, Marlins

Cooper has battled plenty of injuries in his career and hasn’t always been an everyday player, but he’s generally produced when given regular playing time. Since returning a week and a half ago from one of those aforementioned injuries (it was his back this time), Cooper has put up a scorching .500/.615/.900 batting line with a couple homers and six RBI over eight contests. His home run ceiling will always been capped as long as he continues to be a groundball-heavy hitter, but Cooper boasts a 50.4 percent hard-hit rate in 2021 which ranks in the 91st percentile. He’s batted third in each of his last three starts, which should allow for plenty of RBI opportunities.

SB

Jace Peterson, 1B/2B/OF, Brewers

The Brewers designated Peterson for assignment back in late May, so they certainly weren’t expecting him to suddenly be a key part of their lineup. Peterson has been on quite a heater of late, though, going 14-for-31 (.452) with one home run, 11 RBI, 10 runs scored and two stolen bases across his last 11 games. The 31-year-old has upped his launch angle significantly this season, so perhaps he’ll continue to show more power. That said, if Peterson is going to help out fantasy managers, the best bet is that it will be in the stolen base department. He’s swiped four bags without being caught this season and has a couple double-digit steals seasons under his belt even as he’s mostly been a part-timer. Peterson figures to continue to play regularly while Kolten Wong (calf) is sidelined.

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R

Enrique Hernandez, 2B/OF, Red Sox

Red Sox manager Alex Cora stuck with Hernandez in the leadoff spot for way too long even as the utility player’s production lagged. After finally demoting him to mostly the lower third of the order for a three-week stretch last month, Cora suddenly reversed course and elevated Hernandez back to leadoff last week even though he still wasn’t hitting. Well, now he’s hitting, as Hernandez has put up a 1.286 OPS with four home runs, eight RBI and six runs scored since being moved back to the top of the order. Hernandez remains a poor long-term fit for the leadoff spot, but he’s swinging a hot bat for a Red Sox club that’s won nine of their last 10 games.

W

Kolby Allard, SP, Rangers

Coming into 2021, Allard had failed to live up to expectations as a former first-round pick, having posted a 6.72 ERA over parts of three seasons. He looks like he might have figured something out this season, though, having put up a 3.46 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 49/11 K/BB ratio across 52 innings of work. Allard began the year in a long relief role, but he was thrust into the rotation in late May and has looked the part with a 3.66 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 26/5 K/BB ratio over 32 frames. He’s gone six innings in each of his last three starts and thrown more than 90 pitches three of the last four times out, so the southpaw is fully stretched back out. Allard – who is still just 23 – is lined up to face the Tigers and a struggling A’s club this week.

ERA

Jon Gray, SP, Rockies

Gray went down with a flexor strain in early June which cost him three weeks of action and threated to kill his trade value ahead of the deadline later this month. However, the right-hander has returned with back-to-back impressive outings, having allowed just two runs while striking out 15 over 11 innings against the Brewers and Pirates. This week, Gray is slated to face the punchless Diamondbacks and then the Padres on the road. Gray has actually performed a bit better at Coors Field than on the road during his career, but I still feel more comfortable using him away from home. He’s a fine streamer this week.

WHIP

Merrill Kelly, SP, Diamondbacks

Kelly has posted a nondescript 4.31 ERA across 54 starts since returning to the states following a four-year stint in Korea. The home run ball has been a major reason for the ho-hum ERA, and his gopherball issues have continued this season. The 32-year-old does have excellent control, though, which has helped him put up a nice 1.20 WHIP since the beginning of last season. Kelly is on a three-start winning streak for a Diamondbacks club that’s 3-27 over their last 30 games. Yes, you read that correctly. In those three outings, he holds a 1.80 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. In his final start before the All-Star break, Kelly will take on the Rockies at home.

K

Tylor Megill, SP, Mets

Megill has been charged with five runs over 9 1/3 innings in his first two major league starts, which isn’t great. However, there’s still been a lot to like about what the young right-hander has had to offer. Megill has fanned 12 batters over those 9 1/3 frames, including eight in five innings in Atlanta his last time out. He’s also flashed two impressive secondary offerings to go with his 95 mph fastball: a slider which has produced a 47.4 percent swinging strike rate and a changeup which has produced a 46.7 percent swinging strike rate. Megill was mostly a reliever in college and the lower minors and was already 22 when he began pro ball, which no doubt contributed to him never ranking highly on prospect lists. He struck out 187 over 140 innings in the minors, though, and is missing bats early on in the big leagues. Megill is on tap for two starts this week against the Brewers and Pirates.

SV

Scott Barlow, RP, Royals

Barlow has been the Royals’ best reliever all season, but manager Mike Matheny had seemed resistant to the idea of putting Barlow in the closer role, preferring to use him in the highest-leverage spot whenever that might occur. That strategy is probably the right one to take, but either way the skipper seemed to reverse course this past week. Barlow was used in the ninth in back-to-back days on Friday and Saturday to close out three-run wins even as there seemed to be more high-leverage spots earlier in each contest. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the official closer now, as Matheny could still wind up using others in the role. However, Barlow remains the club’s best reliever and certainly looks like a better bet for saves moving forward. He needs to be rostered in more leagues.