With the trade deadline a mere four days away, it certainly is an exciting time in the baseball season. Every year there are a few surprise moves that no one sees coming (Ichiro, anyone?), so it can pay off to make a few longshot bets on players who might benefit from one of those surprises. Maybe in one league you want to add Rex Brothers or Matt Belisle for a few days in case Rafael Betancourt gets shipped out of Colorado. Or maybe Peter Bourjos in case he gets flipped to a place where he’ll receive regular at-bats. If you’ve got the roster space, these are the type of low-risk moves that can payoff big and make you look like a genius.
Lorenzo Cain (Yahoo! 27%, ESPN 41%, CBS 54%) had himself a nice week, batting .280 with a homer, nine RBI, and a steal. His ownership rates jumped double-digits across the board, and it’s safe to say he’s likely owned in most competitive leagues at this point. If you were able to scoop him up last week, good for you; you should have a productive third outfielder for the rest of the season.
Casper Wells’ (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 14%, CBS 18%) production has vanished into thin air… or, more appropriately, into the webbing of the catcher’s mitt; the Seattle outfielder whiffed 11 times in 29 at-bats this week. He managed a mere four hits (.138 AVG) and should continue to struggle to get on base given his contact woes (65 percent contact rate). The Ichiro trade all but guaranteed Wells playing time even when Franklin Gutierrez returns, but I still want no part of this guy outside of AL-only leagues.
With Tyler Colvin’s bat cooling off in July, last week’s NL-only VP Andrew Brown (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%) got a few starts in the Rockies’ outfield this past week. The only problem is that his bat was an even colder 0-for-11. Unless you're in a deep NL-only league, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.
Another guy with a hitless week, Andres Torres (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 6%) is doing his part to sabotage the Mets’ season and crush the now fleeting dreams of Mets fans everywhere. Torres should continue to receive at-bats given that possible replacement Kirk Nieuwenhuis hasn’t looked any better lately. Still, until he starts producing again, I think it’s better to leave Torres out of this column.
Alexi Amarista (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 24%, CBS 24%) offered a few uneventful nights at the plate before being forced out of action on Tuesday with a sore thumb. Hopefully he can avoid a DL stint and continue his sneakily productive ways over the final months of the season.
Anthony Gose (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%, CBS 12%) hasn’t exactly hit the ground running, as he is yet to steal a base in the majors. Part of this can be attributed to the strict platoon Gose is in with Rajai Davis, where Gose is the lefty and the Jays happened to face three lefties in their last four games. Playing time has been scarce, but looking at the schedule, the Jays face righties in six of their next seven games. If Gose was dropped in your league recently, this looks like the week where he could provide some value.
My first exposure to Jordany Valdespin (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 6%, CBS 5%) came in the form of a tie-breaking three-run homer off of Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth back in early May. Since then, he’s played sporadically but has produced, posting a .292 average, seven home runs, and four steals in just 98 at-bats. Given how the rest of his Mets teammates have fared recently, I believe Valdespin’s exciting bat will find its way into the lineup more often than not in the coming weeks. And as an added bonus, he’s eligible at middle infield in most leagues, so with that positional flexibility, it should be easy to slide him into your lineup as well. Even in 12-team mixers, I wouldn’t miss out on this “spectacular mess.” Woah there!
Carlos Gomez (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 5%, CBS 6%) is someone fantasy baseballers have essentially been “trained” to ignore the last few years. Spurts of production are followed by seemingly bottomless black holes of empty stat lines. Well, right now we’re in the middle of a spurt, as his .333 average, two home runs, and four steals have made him the seventh-most valuable hitter over the past week. Do I think Gomez has finally figured it out? No, but few hitters are as young, wild, and free as he is on the basepaths, and he even adds a little power to the equation. With such low ownership rates, I’m sure there are a few teams that could benefit from his unpredictability in their lineup.
The Pirates have called up their darling, their Starling Marte (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 4%, CBS 26%), and promised him the chance at everyday at-bats. In 100 games at Triple-A, Marte has performed well, batting .286 with 12 homers, 21 steals, and a 21 percent strikeout rate. If he gets 250 plate appearances over the remainder of the season, PECOTA would project him for a .269 average, five home runs, and nine steals, which I have no qualms with. In NL-only leagues, you’ve got to add him for the at-bats, but in mixed leagues I wouldn’t get caught up in any sort of bidding war over him.
Sam Fuld (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) is back from wrist surgery with a bang, playing the past three games in the Rays’ outfield with five hits. He likely won’t start every day, but he should receive enough at-bats to stay useful in most AL-only leagues, especially if he stays as aggressive as he was on the basepaths last year, when he stole 20 bags in 100 games. Fuld is the definition of cheap speed, and even though cheap is cheap, speed is still speed.