Will the Rockies leave Garrett Hampson alone?

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Scott Pianowski
·6 min read
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DENVER, CO - AUGUST 11: Garrett Hampson #1 of the Colorado Rockies sprints to third base on a triple in  the eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field on August 11, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Garrett Hampson, Rockie on the run (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

The Mile High air has been a fun thing for fantasy baseball, all things considered. Tons of runs. Bushels of homers. Lots of hits — the hidden secret of Coors Field is the acreage and the buckets of cheap hits that fall in. Grab a bunch of quarters and let’s play some pinball.

And the Rockies have found plenty of superstar bats to play in that arcade. All sorts of names you know by heart — Walker and Helton, Cargo and Tulo, Blackmon, Arenado and Story. We’ve had a blast.

But sometimes the management of the Rockies can be a pain in the neck. As old friend Gene McCaffrey once said, “This club can’t wait to get its best team off the field.” A slew of Colorado managers have loved to steer into small samples, eager to bench good players over the mirage of a 1-for-7 slump.

This brings me to Garrett Hampson, current Rockies utility man. He has the potential to become a fantasy stud, if the team will only leave him alone.

You might remember Hampson from last year, springtime buzz that didn’t go anywhere. By the middle of the summer he was back in the minors. You might suspect Colorado’s handling of Hampson had something to do with his awful first half (.200/.239/.285) — the team never let him get comfortable and play into a groove. Alas, some things are unknowable.

But here’s what we do know — Hampson eventually returned and was on a tear by season’s end. Check what he did in the final month, on a modest 21 starts — .318/.368/.534, with five homers and a perfect 9-for-9 on steals. He was a Top 20 fantasy bat over that period.

When the 2020 season opened, the Rockies had Hampson on the bench. He only started three of the first 11 games, and two of them were against an opposing left-handed starter. It appeared Hampson would merely be a short-side platoon guy and occasional fill-in.

But then the schedule cut Hampson a break — Colorado faced five straight lefties. That pushed him back into the regular mix. Hampson was promoted to the leadoff spot last Friday, and he hasn’t left since.

It helps that he’s been productive, of course. He’s slashing .345/.424/.655 over that period, with a homer and two steals. He’s scored a run in seven straight games. We can’t call it a full Coors special because three of the games were in Seattle. Bottom line, he’s getting it done.

And the last two starts have come against right-handers. So maybe that platoon business is out the window.

Hampson is a versatile fielder, someone who can play almost anywhere. Is that a gift or a curse? Over the last week, he’s started at second base, left field and center field. I suppose that means he could become a locked-in regular through several different paths, but it also means he doesn’t have his own position yet.

So I have to temper this recommendation, reluctantly. It’s so hard to trust an organization that has burned us before. That said, audit the Colorado stat page. Staring at the Sam Hilliard, David Dahl, and Ryan McMahon slash lines is like staring at the sun. Do the Rockies really expect something from 35-year-old Matt Kemp?

You know the drill. Wait for proof is a dead strategy. Plausible upside is present, and I want Hampson on your roster. He’s currently available in about half of Yahoo leagues.

Philly expected to recall infield prospect

The Phillies infield has been a major disappointment, for whatever two weeks of games means to you. Didi Gregorius has been fine, but Rhys Hoskins (.642 OPS), Jean Segura (.713 OPS) and especially Scott Kingery (stats too depressing to list) can’t get out of their own way. To be fair to Kingery, you have to wonder if his Covid recovery has gone slower than expected.

Is it too soon to make changes? In a regular season, you’d likely wait, but this is a microwave season. And it appears the club is calling up touted prospect Alec Bohm, according to Athletic reporter Meghan Montemurro.

Bohm was the third pick in the 2018 draft class, and although he was cautiously ranked by the prospect hounds this spring (28th, 30th, and 40th on the three primary boards), there is some pedigree here. He played in three different leagues last year, combining to slash .305/.378/.518 with 21 home runs in 125 games. He turned 24 earlier this month.

Maybe the Bohm news will push fantasy managers off one of the other slumping infielders. Or perhaps there’s a case to add Bohm in your league, see if something pops. He’s widely available, currently rostered in six percent of Yahoo leagues. Bad puns, sold separately.

Framber Valdez would like a word

I’m surprised the Yahoo world hasn’t gone all-in on Framber Valdez yet. He was a coveted free-agent chased aggressively in some of my other leagues in the last week or so. He struck out nine Athletics in his last start, and he’s sitting on a 2.04 ERA and 1.08 WHIP through 17.2 innings. He carries both starting and relief eligibility in Yahoo.

There are a lot of of ways to cut up pitching performance, but we commonly rely on Occam’s Razor — the simplest explanation is often the best. Valdez is left-handed, and has piled up 19 strikeouts against a mere three walks. That’s good enough for me. He’s already had a strong start against the Angels; the rematch is set for Friday.

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Austin Slater gets his shot

I don’t know how severe Austin Slater’s elbow injury is, but I’ll be watching it closely. The unheralded Slater has been a revelation in San Francisco, slashing .342/.444/.632 with three home runs and five steals. Most of that production came in the last week, doing damage against the Astros and Dodgers. You can’t accuse him of picking on weak competition.

We often talk about stolen bases being more of a “want to” stat than anything else. Slater clearly has the interest in doing it. If he can get hale quickly, the Giants will give him regular time in right field. Slater is rostered in a modest 31 percent of Yahoo leagues.

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