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MLB Stock Watch: Padres rookie Fernando Tatis Jr. exceeding expectations

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Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

He had back-to-back two-homer games last week and is suddenly batting .318/.366/.642 on the year after three more hits Monday. Gurriel is on pace to hit 27 homers despite a slow start that required a trip to the minors (he’s since also overcome a case of the yips). He’s been moved to third in Toronto’s lineup, which is an awfully good spot behind Vlad Guerrero Jr. and in a park that’s been absurdly home run friendly this season. Gurriel is now up to 25 homers over just 425 career at bats and owns a 163 wRC+ this season that would rank fourth in MLB behind only Cody Bellinger, Mike Trout and Christian Yelich if he qualified. His Statcast numbers are impressive as well, highlighted by an expected slugging and Hard Hit% that both rank in the 87th percentile or better. Playing left field but also 2B and SS eligible, Gurriel is quickly becoming an extremely valuable fantasy commodity.

Dylan Cease, Chicago White Sox

He didn’t pitch well in June and owns a 4.48 ERA in Triple-A this season, but the White Sox have deemed him ready and plan to call him up to join their rotation this week. A top-20 prospect with a strong fastball/curveball combo, Cease sports a career 11.4 K/9 mark in the minors. While he doesn’t join an ideal situation in Chicago, the young right-hander’s arm is intriguing enough to be added in all fantasy formats. He’s still available in 75% of Yahoo leagues.

Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres

He’s racked up three homers and three steals over the last five games and is batting .383/.457/.691 over 81 at bats since returning from a hamstring injury. There was legit concern the 20-year-old wasn’t ready for major league pitching before the season, but the rookie is on pace for 22 homers and 23 steals despite an IL trip. And after a poor SB success rate in the minors (66.9%), Tatis is an encouraging 12-for-15 on stolen base attempts (he’s one of the fastest players in baseball). He’s struck out multiple times in seven of his past eight games and owns a 29.3 K% that’s in the bottom 8% of the league, so there will be growing pains to come. Still, Tatis is playing solid defense at shortstop, and his future looks incredibly exciting (he’s off to an early lead versus Vlad Jr. as this class’ top prospect). Tatis is going to be off fantasy boards soon after drafts start next year.

Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles

He’s really developed during his third year in the league, posting career-highs in batting average (.302), OBP (.357), SLG (.544) and BB% (7.4) while striking out less. Batting second or third in Baltimore’s lineup, Mancini is up to 53 runs scored, and his expected slugging (.519) is in the 88th percentile. Only Yankee Stadium has increased home runs more than Camden Yards for right-handed batters among AL parks over the last three seasons, and it’s been extremely HR-favorable so far this year. Mancini has cut his GB% from 54.6 in 2018 to 42.7 this season, when his 135 wRC+ ranks in the top-25 in MLB. He’s been a terrific buy for fantasy managers who didn’t have to spend an expensive pick on him.

Jason Vargas, New York Mets

While he’s been making news for off-field reasons, Vargas has quietly pitched well, posting a 2.36 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP over his last seven starts. Three of his last four outings have come on the road in tough venues, including Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field and Philadelphia, where he tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts his last time out. Vargas is likely pitching over his head, and his mediocre K rate is especially dangerous given the Mets’ atrocious defense, but he’s throwing well enough to warrant attention in deeper leagues.

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Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

He’s sporting career-worsts in batting average (.216), OBP (.325), Hard Hit% (34.7) and K% (24.5) and hasn’t been a top-400 fantasy asset this year. Carpenter has also been held out of the starting lineup for nearly a week, although that’s been mostly blamed on a stomach issue. Of course, Carpenter sat with a .558 OPS on May 15 last year before then becoming one of the league’s best hitters from there on out, so fantasy managers are rightfully hesitant to release him. He'll rebound, but the 33-year-old has a lowly .223 expected BA and an average exit velocity (87.4 mph) that’s just in the 28th percentile, so Carpenter’s dreadful season hasn’t been a product of poor luck.

Wil Myers, San Diego Padres

The 20 combined homers/steals are nice, but Myers hasn’t recorded either one since June 11, and his start Sunday was his first in a week. The Padres have numerous alternatives in their outfield, especially since Myers is a poor defender out there. He has a .228 expected batting average and a 35.7 K% that’s the worst in major league baseball, so it may take an injury for Myers to go back to being a regular in San Diego’s lineup.

Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies

After manager Bud Black threatened to remove Davis from the Rockies’ closer role, he responded with a clean save over the weekend and gets a reprieve for now. But Davis has walked 16 batters over 25.0 innings this season, and while relievers can occasionally get away with shaky control even for seasons at a time, it’s much more difficult to do so while half your games are in Coors Field. In fact, Davis has allowed just one run on the road this year (despite eight walks over 11.2 innings) but owns a 9.88 ERA and a 2.05 WHIP at home. Davis’ GB% is way up, which is nice, but his SwStr% is his lowest in six seasons (a disappointment for a pitcher whose fastball spin is in the 97th percentile), and his BB% is a career worst. Another misstep any time soon, and Davis will almost certainly be out as Colorado’s closer.

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