The case for Kid Yastrzemski

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 23:  Mike Yastrzemski #5 of the San Francisco Giants bats against the Chicago Cubs in the bottom of the 11th inning at Oracle Park on July 23, 2019 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Things are looking up for Mike Yastrzemski and the Giants (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Mike Yastrzemski has never been a real prospect. He was drafted three different times, never earlier than the 14th round. He never showed up on a prominent scouting list. He’s been a minor-league journeyman, posting a .263/.341/.441 line through seven seasons. Prior to this year, Yastrzemski’s career best for home runs was a modest 15. His claim to fame was his famous grandfather, Captain Carl.

Nobody saw Kid Yaz coming in 2019. And I guess that goes for the Giants, too, the National League’s most unlikely wild-card contender.

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Yastrzemski earned a callup two months back, after ripping through the PCL (.316/.414/.676, 12 homers in 40 games). The move didn’t produce much buzz, given that Yastrzemski is already 28. But he’s kept the ball rolling in San Francisco, rolling at .275/.322/.505 with nine homers in 182 at-bats. He’s one of the few plus hitters on a team desperate for any offense it can get. And it’s interesting to see him find his power stroke, this late in his career.

Baseball Savant is often a source of cold water, and it doesn’t fully buy the Yastrzemski story. The Statcast data suggests Yaz should be hitting 28 points lower, and slugging 56 points lower. His walk rate is ordinary. He’s striking out 25 percent of the time.

But the story has a plus side, too. Yastrzemski has been good against all handedness — his OPS is actually better against lefties — and San Francisco opens a series at Colorado on Friday. Coors Field, still the hammer of the gods.

Not all pickups have to be long-term contracts. Sometimes you try a temp-to-perm assignment and see where it goes. Yastrzemski is rostered in just 14 percent of Yahoo leagues. Worth a tire-kick in the thin air this weekend.

Burned by Greg Holland’s OPS

Greg Holland was a thrifty source of saves in the first half, but perhaps the good times are gone for good. Holland has been a mess over his last three outings (just two outs recorded, six runs, four walks), and the Diamondbacks have removed him from the closing role. The team said it would be a temporary demotion, but with Holland now carrying a 4.54 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, it’s difficult to be optimistic.

The Snakes probably wanted to flip Holland at the trade deadline, an ordinary veteran available at the right time. But his recent form will probably squash anything.

There isn’t an obvious option to replace Holland, though Yoan Lopez (2.66 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) is having a solid year. It’s partly born from good fortune, as his FIP is over 4. Yoshihisa Hirano (3.79/1.37) was a closer in Japan, though he’s also 35. I don’t know what went wrong with Archie Bradley this year (4.30/1.66).

Lopez’s surface stats and recent save probably make him the best gamble here. He’s rostered in just eight percent of Yahoo leagues.

An opening for Cavan Biggio

The Toronto legacy lineup is now in full effect, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette all with the big club. Baby Vlad and Bichette obviously have pedigree to the moon and need little promotion, but Biggio is also worth a second look.

The liftoff for Biggio has been modest, no doubt — a puny .216 average. But he’s on base plenty (.347 OBP), and although he’s only slugging .386, he does have eight homers in 52 games. He conked another one Monday. And he’s a perfect 7-for-7 on stolen bases.

With Eric Sogard out of town, Biggio probably has a regular job to call his own. Biggio is a natural fit for OBP leagues, and even in standard, I see plausible upside, given the category juice. (For what it’s worth, I’ve added him on one of my primary rosters.) Biggio currently trades at 21 percent.

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