The Braves' promotion of Tommy La Stella grabbed headlines yesterday, but I'm not all that excited about him in most mixed leagues. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, the 25-year-old has shown a knack for making contact and controlling the strike zone in the minors, hitting .322 with a .407 on-base percentage to go along with more walks (136) than strikeouts (102). This includes a 14/25 K/BB ratio over 198 plate appearances in Triple-A this year. That's pretty dang impressive. However, he has amassed just 21 home runs and 24 stolen bases over 288 games, which limits his upside for us fantasy players.
Is La Stella a potential upgrade over the likes of Dan Uggla, Tyler Pastornicky, and Ramiro Pena at second base? Sure. The bar hasn't been set very high there. But I think we could be looking at someone who is more useful in real life than fantasy. Those in deeper formats, you know what to do here, but the rest of us can probably find better. Let's get to this week's recommendations.
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Lonnie Chisenhall 3B, Indians (Yahoo: 34 percent owned)
While his role was in question at the start of the season, Chisenhall has responded by hitting .358 with two home runs and a .936 OPS over his first 41 games. The 25-year-old should receive regular playing time at third base while Carlos Santana recovers from a concussion. The plate discipline still isn't great and it should be said that he's benefitting from a .424 BABIP, so the lofty batting average isn't made to last, but most fantasy owners should be willing to take that if there's more power on the way. And I'm pretty sure there will be. He's a solid CI (corner infielder) option if you are in a bind right now.
Adam Ottavino RP, Rockies (Yahoo: 10 percent owned)
While it wasn't all his fault, LaTroy Hawkins took the loss Wednesday against the Phillies and now owns a 3.79 ERA across his first 21 appearances this season. After averaging 7.0 K/9 with the Mets last season, the 41-year-old has struck out only eight batters in 19 innings this year. That's an average of 3.79 K/9, by the way. There's simply no way he can have sustained success if batters continue to make contact against him like that. While many have assumed that Rex Brothers would be next in line for the closer role, it might be time to look at Ottavino, who quietly has a 3.33 ERA and 182 strikeouts in 181 innings since joining the Rockies in 2012. His control has been better than ever this season and Rockies manager Walt Weiss recently said that he has the stuff to pitch in the closer role "down the road." If you need saves, it might pay off to get ahead on this situation.
Collin McHugh SP, Astros (Yahoo: 19 percent owned)
First Dallas Keuchel headlines Waiver Wired, now this? Wild stuff. I'll admit I was a bit skeptical about McHugh after his first two starts this season. And why not, he entered 2014 with an awful 8.94 ERA over 47 1/3 innings in the majors. However, he's beginning to make me a believer. Coming off seven scoreless innings against the Royals on Tuesday, the 26-year-old right-hander now owns a 2.80 ERA and 50/12 K/BB ratio in 45 innings across seven starts. As Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs pointed out the other day, there are tangible reasons behind this success, as he is throwing harder these days and has ditched his sinker for a four-seamer while changing his position on the rubber. McHugh and Keuchel were basically fantasy nobodies just a couple of months ago, but now there's a strong case to be made for them to be owned in most mixed leagues. By the way, McHugh is also a pretty talented writer. Check out his blog here. I'm rooting for the underdog story to continue.
Drew Hutchison SP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 32 percent owned)
Hutchison had one of his worst starts of the season Monday against the Rays, giving up five runs on seven hits (including three home runs) and four walks over five innings, so naturally I'm including him in Waiver Wired this week. Basically, what I'm saying is that one bad outing (even though he did win it) shouldn't negate all the good stuff he did before that. Even including Monday's clunker, he has a 3.88 ERA and 59/22 K/BB ratio over 65 innings. Home runs might continue to be an issue for him with that fly ball rate, but he's throwing harder now that he did before Tommy John surgery and his swinging strike rate is above the league average for starters. I like his chances of rebounding this weekend against the struggling Royals.
Khris Davis OF, Brewers (Yahoo: 40 percent owned)
It shouldn't be a surprise to see Davis here, as he has homered in three straight games and currently owns a seven-game hitting streak. I'm still not convinced that the 26-year-old belongs as a regular, as he offers little in the way of patience and owns a lousy .633 OPS against right-handers this season compared to a 1.172 OPS against southpaws, but the power is for real. Assuming Davis sticks in the lineup, I could see him reaching 20-25 home runs this season.
Wade Davis RP/SP, Royals (Yahoo: 17 percent owned)
While it was obvious to most that Davis was better off as a reliever than a starter, the Royals gave him a try in their rotation last season after acquiring him from the Rays in the Wil Myers' deal. The 28-year-old right-hander predictably flopped before being moved back to the bullpen late in the season. It's safe to say that's where he will stay. After allowing one run in 10 innings out of the Royals' bullpen last September, Davis has an excellent 1.61 ERA and 40/9 K/BB ratio over 22 1/3 innings so far this season. He has fanned 44.9 percent (!) of the batters he has faced and his 16.12 K/9 (also !) is the highest among pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched. Dellin Betances has similar fantastic strikeout numbers, but he's owned in 10 percent more leagues than Davis right now. Still, both are very useful if you are trying to maximize the value out of your innings.
Andre Ethier OF, Dodgers (Yahoo: 10 percent owned)
Ethier recently had a diminished role with the Dodgers, but he's playing every day again now that Don Mattingly is unhappy with Matt Kemp's defense in center field and Carl Crawford is on the disabled list. The 32-year-old has had a quiet start to the season, but he continues to produce against right-handed pitching. It doesn't sound like Joc Pederson's arrival to the big leagues is imminent, so Ethier could remain a lineup staple for a while. I'd sit him against left-handers in daily leagues, but he should be owned in more leagues at this point.
Bronson Arroyo SP, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 19 percent owned)
No, I'm not recommending keeping Arroyo on your team for the entire season or anything, but he has a date against the Reds this weekend. By the way, no team has scored fewer runs this month than his former team. While Arroyo got off to a bit of a rough start this season, he has pitched at least six innings in each of his last six outings and his ground ball rate continues to trend up. Feeling pretty good about this matchup.
Gordon Beckham 2B, White Sox (Yahoo: 12 percent owned)
Beckham was a recommendation of mine before he came off the DL last month and he has been a nice surprise so far, batting .297/.338/.445 with four home runs, seven doubles, 11 RBI, one stolen base, and 19 runs scored in 32 games. He's currently riding a nine-game hitting streak and has mostly hit No. 2 in Chicago's batting order. It should be said that most of his production has come against left-handed pitching so far, but he makes for a fine pickup if you need MI (middle infielder) help.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Oswaldo Arcia OF, Twins (Yahoo: 5 percent owned)
I recommended Arcia a couple of weeks ago when it looked like he was ready to come off the disabled list, but the Twins wanted to give him regular at-bats in Triple-A. Let's give this another try now that he's back in the majors. Arcia's wrist issue appears to be behind him, as he homered in five out of his last 11 games in the minors. He has hit in three straight games since his call-up, including a home run on Tuesday. Arcia is just 22 years old and owns a 125/24 K/BB ratio over his first 409 plate appearances in the majors, so his plate discipline is a work in progress, but the power can play right now. Give him a try in deeper mixed leagues.
Jonathan Singleton 1B, Astros (Yahoo: 7 percent owned)
With the Super 2 deadline right around the corner, most fantasy owners have stashed Gregory Polanco and Oscar Taveras by now, but Singleton is another name to keep in mind. The 22-year-old has cooled down a bit in May after a red-hot April, but he's still hitting .265 with 13 home runs and a .929 OPS through 51 games in Triple-A this season. Strikeouts will do some damage to his batting average, but he packs power and patience from the left side of the plate. Look for him to join the Astros within the next few weeks and get a long leash at first base.
Chris Denorfia OF, Padres (Yahoo: 4 percent owned)
While he hasn't packed his usual punch against them this season, Denorfia has a reputation for putting a hurting on left-handed pitchers. He has an .821 OPS against them for his career. That's why I have him on my radar this weekend as the Padres are slated to face John Danks and Jose Quintana when they take on the White Sox. The 33-year-old outfielder has been a sneaky speed option in the early part of the season, as he's already a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts.
Robbie Grossman OF, Astros (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Grossman was optioned to the minors in mid-April when George Springer was called up, but he's back with the big club now that L.J. Hoes has been demoted to the minors. I was a fan of Grossman coming into the season, as he offers on-base ability to go along with some pop and speed. It wouldn't be surprising if he finds his way into mixed league relevancy before long.
Nick Hundley C, Orioles (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
On the lookout for catcher depth due to Matt Wieters' elbow injury, the Orioles acquired Hundley from the Padres over the weekend in exchange for left-handed reliever Troy Patton. The 30-year-old backstop was seeing diminished playing time in San Diego this season due to the presence of Yasmani Grandal, but he has some pop in his bat and should enjoy leaving PETCO Park for the hitter-friendly Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Wieters is no sure thing to return this season and might be limited to DH duty even if he does, so Hundley is a smart pickup if he's still out there.
Brandon Cumpton SP, Pirates (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Handed a rotation spot after the release of Wandy Rodriguez, Cumpton allowed two runs (one earned) over six innings Monday in a win over the Mets. Yes, beating the Mets doesn't mean much these days, but the 25-year-old posted solid numbers in the minors and owns a 2.55 ERA and 32/7 K/BB ratio over his first 49 1/3 innings in the majors. He's not going to blow batters away, but he has a good slider and has a reputation as a ground ball pitcher. I think he has a good chance to stick.
Darin Ruf 1B/OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Could we soon see a first base platoon in Philadelphia? Ruf made the start at first base on Tuesday against Jorge De La Rosa and took him deep, after which Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said he will continue to start against lefties if he produces. Howard owns a lousy .616 OPS against southpaws since 2011, so while he's making a ton of money, it should be a consideration if the Phillies want to put the best team on the field. Ruf has the power to take advantage if he's given the opportunity.