Batting average is just part of a bigger puzzle in regard to a hitter’s true value, but it’s a category we play with in standard fantasy leagues, so to pull up the MLB leaders for the second half and see Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela (.402) and Mets outfielder J.D. Davis (.371) at the top for their respective leagues is quite a thing. Neither of them qualified as high-profile additions, with Urshela coming over from the Blue Jays last year and Davis being acquired from the Astros during the offseason, but here they are as crucial pieces as part of winning teams in New York.
Urshela has been around longer than Davis, first making his debut with the Indians in 2015, but his excellent defense just couldn't justify his lack of production with the bat. Coming into 2019, he had a weak .225/.274/.315 batting line through 499 plate appearances in the majors. It has been a truly remarkable turnaround which could result in a batting crown if he can amass enough at-bats to qualify. Barring injury, he should be able to get there.
As for Davis, he delivered a walk-off single in the Mets’ extra-inning win over the Indians on Wednesday, giving him an impressive .310/.372/.516 batting line with 15 homers and 44 RBI in 339 plate appearances. He has thrived with home cooking (1.156 OPS), which is good news for a team which will play 24 out of their final 36 games at Citi Field.
Davis actually put up pretty good numbers as a prospect with the Astros, but he hit .194/.260/.321 over 181 plate appearances in the majors from 2017-2018 and was understandably blocked by other options entering this year. This made him expendable for the club, but even the most optimistic of observers couldn’t have seen this coming. Still, there’s not much here to indicate that he’s some sort of fluke. According to Baseball Savant, his xBA (.322) largely backs up what he’s doing, as he ranks in the 93rd percentile as far as average exit velocity and in the 95th percentile for hard-hit percentage. The playing time is there and he’s even been lofting the ball more often during the second half.
Say what you will about some of Brodie Van Wagenen’s other acquisitions from last offseason, but he struck gold here. And those who scooped him up in mixed leagues a few weeks ago like I suggested have been living the good life too.
Urshela is already rostered in 79 percent of Yahoo leagues, so there's nothing actionable to say about him at this point, but Davis is still out there in 46 percent of Yahoo leagues for some reason. My goodness, why?
Have specific questions about your roster? Ask @djshort on Twitter.
(Rostered in under 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Note: Percentages are from the morning of Thursday, August 22
I didn’t expect leaving Ahmed on the cutting room floor for last week’s column to be a major regret, but here we are. The reigning National League Player of the Week owns a stout .323/.403/.742 batting line with seven homers, 18 RBI, and 14 runs scored through 19 games this month. Always known for his excellent defense, he’s actually been an above average hitter this year (103 OPS+) while putting up 17 homers, 70 RBI, seven steals, and 69 runs scored over 126 games. He’s going to blow his previous career-highs away in all counting stats, so he’s very much relevant in mixed leagues. We’re likely talking about more shallow mixed leagues here, but give Ahmed a try if you lost Fernando Tatis, Jr. or are waiting on Jeff McNeil or Adalberto Mondesi.
With the Brewers’ starting pitching as it stands right now, the odds are against them securing a playoff berth, but at least Houser has stepped up of late. After earning the victory Wednesday against the Cardinals, the 26-year-old has now allowed one earned run or fewer in four out of his last five starts. That works out to a 2.54 ERA with 31 strikeouts and just seven walks in 28 1/3 innings. He’s also done an excellent job keeping the ball on the ground, a key attribute for someone who pitches half of their games in hitter-friendly Miller Park. The Brewers hope to get healthier in the rotation in September, but Houser shouldn’t be going anywhere. He’s earning our trust, with a key matchup coming against the Cardinals at home next Tuesday.
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Mike Yastrzemski OF, Giants (Yahoo: 48 percent rostered)
Make way for Baby Yaz if you haven’t already. There wasn’t much reason to think giving up on the 28-year-old would backfire on the Orioles after they traded him to the Giants this spring, as his numbers simply didn’t stand out in the minors. That changed this year, first putting up 12 homers and a 1.090 OPS over 40 games in Triple-A before thriving with a .282/.330/.560 batting line and 17 homers through his first 74 major league games. This includes a three-homer game last week. According to Sarah Langs of MLB.com, his Hall of Fame grandfather didn’t hit his 17th career homer until his 190th career game. Strange days, indeed. Should we be skeptical? Sure. Baby Yaz never hit more than 15 homers in a season in the minors. Where he plays his home games doesn’t help his chances of keeping this going. But he’s putting the ball in the air a lot and getting rewarded for it. I’m sure as heck not going to root against this story. Fantasy owners only need him to keep it going for a few more weeks.
Daniel Hudson RP, Nationals (Yahoo: 27 percent rostered)
After admitting that his workload was taking its toll on him, Nationals closer Sean Doolittle landed on the injured list on Sunday with right knee tendinitis. Chances are it will function as a brief respite in preparation for a potential return on September 1, but feel free to do what you need to do in mixed leagues. Nationals manager Davey Martinez has multiple late-inning options to choose from, including Fernando Rodney and Hunter Strickland, but Hudson is the most appealing pickup for our purposes even coming off a rough showing on Tuesday. The 32-year-old holds a 1.93 ERA in 11 appearances since coming over from the Blue Jays and a 2.83 ERA in 56 appearances overall this season.
Andrew Heaney SP, Angels (Yahoo: 48 percent rostered)
In telling you a little bit about how the sausage gets made here at Waiver Wired, Heaney wasn’t among last week’s recommendations because he was starting on a Thursday. It always makes for tricky timing in terms of promoting this column, especially if said pitcher flops. That didn’t happen with Heaney, as he allowed three runs over seven innings against the White Sox before dominating the Rangers on Tuesday with 14 strikeouts and no walks over eight innings of one-run ball. While it doesn’t reflect in his season ERA (4.31), Heaney is missing more bats than ever before while still showing very good control. His WHIP sits at a respectable 1.16 for the year. Your mileage may vary on a matchup against the Astros this weekend, but he should be on all mixed league rosters the rest of the way.
Tom Murphy C, Mariners (Yahoo: 11 percent rostered)
When Murphy is in the lineup, he hits a home run. Sorry, those are the rules. That’s how it seems, anyway. Murphy has been ridiculous for the Mariners this season, slugging 16 homers while hitting .293 with a .939 OPS over 53 games. Among players with at least 175 plate appearances, his AB/HR ratio is ninth in the majors, just behind Mets rookie slugger Pete Alonso. Murphy leaves a lot to be desired with his approach, so the batting average likely isn’t here to stay, but he puts the ball in the air — usually to the pull side — and hits the ball hard. Some Rockies fans are probably wondering what he could have done with an extended opportunity in Coors Field, but Mariners fans (and fantasy owners) are reaping the benefits right now. Realize Murphy is sharing playing time with Omar Narvaez — who has enjoyed a nice first season in Seattle as well — but he’s still rostered in fewer leagues than he should be at this point.
Luis Arraez 2B/3B/OF, Twins (Yahoo: 14 percent rostered)
I have resisted putting Arraez under mixed league recommendations in previous weeks because he just doesn’t offer much in the way of category upside, but let’s throw season-long logic aside with just a few weeks remaining on the calendar. The dude can flat-out hit. Even after going 0-for-3 on Wednesday against the White Sox, he’s sporting a cool .341/.408/.445 batting line through 61 games with more walks (24) than strikeouts (17). In fact, among players with at least 200 plate appearances, nobody has been tougher to strike out this season. His contact rate is also the highest in the game. Pretty impressive for a 22-year-old rookie. I don’t know about sticking Arraez in your lineup on the regular, but with his multi-position eligibility, he’s a fine plug-and-play in deeper formats where you should feel pretty good about your chances of getting some contribution whenever you do start him.
Nick Anderson RP, Rays (Yahoo: 19 percent rostered)
At this point in the year, would you rather invest in a shaky starting pitcher who might only throw five innings or would it perhaps make sense to add a non-closing reliever who is mowing down hitters left and right? That’s the choice many fantasy owners face right now with Anderson, who has dominated with eight scoreless innings under his belt since coming over from the Marlins at the trade deadline. The rookie right-hander has allowed just three hits while striking out 18 out of the 26 batters he’s faced. He’s also notched two wins in that time, which is a nice little bonus. Anderson probably isn’t going to see save chances for the Rays this year, but he deserves consideration for a pickup depending on your roster situation.
Anthony DeSclafani SP, Reds (Yahoo: 22 percent rostered)
Streaming starting pitchers takes on increased importance at this time of year and DeSclafani stands out as a pretty good one with the struggling Pirates on tap for Friday. The 29-year-old has admittedly had a bad August, as the home run ball continues to hurt him in a big way, but he’s still missing bats at a career-high clip while limiting the free-passes. Only two teams have amassed fewer home runs and runs scored than Pittsburgh in the second half, so fantasy owners should be willing to take their chances here.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players rostered in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Jake Fraley OF, Mariners (Yahoo: 4 percent rostered)
Justus Sheffield might command more attention in prospect circles, but Fraley should be the bigger priority add among Mariners’ call-ups this week. Acquired as part of the Mallex Smith/Mike Zunino trade with the Rays last offseason, the 24-year-old put together a great season between Double- and Triple-A this year, batting .298/.365/.545 with 19 homers and 22 steals over 99 games. He’s never really shown power like this before (thanks magic baseball), but speed has been a constant and he’s also capable of drawing walks. With experience between all three outfield spots, he should get mixed in plenty down the stretch as the Mariners look at a possible role for 2020.
Carlos Estevez RP, Rockies (Yahoo: 3 percent rostered)
Just when it looked like Scott Oberg was going to take off in the Rockies’ closer role, he went down due to a blood clot in his right arm. He required season-ending surgery over the weekend, but don’t look for Wade Davis to get his old job back, as Rockies manager Bud Black intends to try multiple pitchers in the role during the stretch run. Still, Estevez appears to be the favorite here. The 26-year-old notched 11 saves as a rookie in 2016 and has been pretty good after an injury-plagued 2018, posting a 3.92 ERA (137 ERA+) with 67 strikeouts and 21 walks in 57 1/3 innings.
Nick Solak 2B, Rangers (Yahoo: 4 percent rostered)
Acquired from the Rays in exchange for reliever Peter Fairbanks last month, Solak has packed a lot into his first couple of days in the big leagues. After homering and being part of a walk-off celebration during Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Angels, he went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, a walk, and three runs scored on Wednesday. The right-handed hitting Solak has done nothing but hit in the minors, including going off for 10 homers and a 1.038 OPS over 30 games with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate, so he’s deserving of an opportunity. The big question is playing time, but there’s some flexibility here due to his experience between second base and the corner outfield spots. Our own Christopher Crawford told you about him in his Top-10 prospects piece on Monday, but fortunately there’s still time to pick him up in deeper fantasy leagues.
Myles Straw SS/OF, Astros (Yahoo: 0 percent rostered)
Abraham Toro is reportedly being called up by the Astros on Thursday, but he’s not available for a pickup yet in Yahoo leagues. When that happens, he’s also worthy of consideration here. As for Straw, he gives the Astros another option at shortstop with Carlos Correa sidelined due to back discomfort. Straw hasn’t hit much in his time with the Astros this season (.644 OPS in 101 plate appearances), but he’s 7-for-8 in stolen base attempts. He was 19-for-21 over 60 games in Triple-A this year while posting a .313/.388/.393 batting line. This is a no-brainer add if you need speed.
Justus Sheffield RP, Mariners (Yahoo: 6 percent rostered)
Yes, A.J. Puk is up in the majors now, but he was probably stashed already and it’s unlikely he provides much fantasy value out of the bullpen down the stretch. Sheffield is scheduled to join the Mariners on Friday for a start against the Blue Jays while Yusei Kikuchi gets skipped to watch his workload. The 23-year-old has had an up-and-down season in the minors, though he thrived with a 2.19 ERA and 85/18 K/BB ratio over 78 innings in Double-A. It’s unclear what the plan is beyond Friday, but Sheffield is at least worth trying here. Those in mixed leagues can wait and see.
Billy Hamilton OF, Braves (Yahoo: 19 percent rostered)
Staying on the speed theme here, Hamilton was claimed off waivers from the Astros earlier this week with a clear postseason role in mind. What he does (or doesn’t do) at the plate is irrelevant at this point, as he’s mostly going to be used as a pinch-runner/stolen base specialist and late-inning defensive replacement. The Braves figure to put him in plenty of spots like that down the stretch, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he picked up 5-10 steals along the way. That could make a difference in some leagues, so don’t overlook him just because he isn’t going to be a regular with his new team.
Ty France 3B, Padres (Yahoo: 1 percent rostered)
We aren’t hurting for options in NL-only leagues this week, but I’m hoping we get to see quite a bit of France in the lineup over the next few weeks. He left behind a .399 batting average over 76 games with Triple-A El Paso to go along with 27 homers. Yes, it’s hard to put anything into context with the use of the MLB baseball in Triple-A, but France had 22 homers in 137 games last year between Double- and Triple-A. We know he brings pop from the right side, as well as experience between second base, third base, and first base. With stud rookie Fernando Tatis, Jr. sidelined, there’s no reason the Padres can’t mix him in semi-regularly over the final month.