The Rays win again with Travis d'Arnaud

Travis d'Arnud homers Monday, his first of three. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Travis d'Arnud homers Monday, his first of three. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

With smart teams, you want to bet on what they bet on, have what they’re having. With dumb teams, you want to fade them whenever possible.

And in the case, of Travis d’Arnaud, we get to have it both ways. Backline the Rays, bet against the Mets, repeat until rich.

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Okay, to be fair, d’Arnaud’s career was going nowhere in New York, and no one blamed the Mets when they cut him outright in early May. And when the Rays moved for d’Arnaud, buying him off the Dodgers (who held him for less than a week), the fantasy world took little notice. D’Arnaud had occasional moments of relevance in his 20s, but he hadn’t done anything of note for a couple of years.

So, of course, d’Arnaud lands in Tampa and the story completely flips.

D’Arnaud was the star of Monday’s fantasy action, homering three times in a stunning 5-4 victory over the Yankees. D’Arnaud connected on solo shots his first two times up, then took Aroldis Chapman over the bridge to swing the game in the ninth. D’Arnaud is up to .282/.342/.542 in his 39 games with the Rays, with 26 runs, nine homers, 26 RBIs.

I made a few d’Arnaud adds last week — and lost on a few, most painfully in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational — based mostly on his usage. Tampa gives him plenty of run at first base, supplementing his catcher work, and he occasionally sees time in the leadoff spot (that’s where he was Monday). D’Arnaud is the No. 6 catcher in 5x5 value since he invaded the American League two months ago, and while his playing time won’t be full-time, he’s a respectable 16th in catcher at-bats during this time. This is a perfect No. 2 backstop in fantasy, and a reasonable No. 1 rental if you’re scuffling at the position.

Maybe the story has some staying power. D’Arnaud is still just 30, and his career OPS+ is 97 — right around league average. He’s been over the OPS+ equator on a handful of occasions, including a 126 mark in 2015 (when he slashed .268/.340/.485). Maybe this new team knows how to unlock d’Arnaud, and perhaps all the non-catching work will protect his health.

Trading has been aggressive in the last 24 hours, to be expected, but d’Arnaud is still free to grab in 86 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Daniel Ponce de Leon turning heads in St. Louis

The Cardinals have their share of star-crossed players in 2019, but Daniel Ponce de Leon seems to be catching all the green lights. Ponde de Leon checked the Diamondbacks over 6.2 innings in his last start (3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K), and he’ll get another turn, Wednesday against the Pirates. Occasionally the Bucs offense kicks up its heels, but Miles Mikolas was able to shut them down Monday.

Ponde de Leon was been a hybrid for the Cardinals, starting four times and making three other relief appearances. The results wash out beautifully — 31.2 IP, 15 H, 7 R, 11 BB, 38 K. Even with a lucky hit rate and unrealistic ratios (1.99 ERA, 0.82 WHIP; his peripherally-suggested ERA is mid-3s), that K/BB clip gets us to a place we can invest. The Fountain of Youth makes sense as a make-good Wednesday streamer.

Brandon Crawford has day of his life

When Brandon Crawford homered last week off Josh Hader, sparking a late-inning victory for the Giants, I figured he already had his 2019 highlight set in stone. Then came Monday’s double-dip at Colorado.

Crawford went video game in the thin air, rocking a 6-3-5-8 line (with two homers) in the first game and adding another homer (and a walk) in the nightcap. Make it a sweep for the Giants, 19-2 and 2-1. And if you had the guts to start Jeff Samardzija (mmm, Shark Sandwich) or the San Francisco bullpen (Will Smith and friends, trade operators standing by), you were also rewarded.

You throw this Crawford result in the fluke file, of course. Even if he’s seeing the ball well right now and legitimately on a bender, you can’t expect it to last much longer. His production has been consistent since the beginning of 2017 — .251/.314/.398, 37 homers. This is the type of player you rent for short doses, not someone you make a long term commitment to. Unfortunately, we get zero fantasy credit for a howitzer arm, plus defense, or hockey-player hair.

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