Finally: a big week from Stephen Drew (Yahoo! 21%, ESPN 17%, CBS 35%). His batted ball data and plate discipline rates pointed to brighter days. This past week he raked, going 5-for-19 with one home run, five runs scored, and three runs batted in and a five-to-five walk-to-strikeout ratio. Drew is a good enough hitter to start at shortstop in mixed leagues, and his ownership levels will rise from fringe middle infield-worthy to match his starting shortstop talent level.
Since last week's article, Chris Iannetta (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 1%, CBS 15%) has started four of six games and popped a home run. The average leaves something to be desired, as I’ve said it will, but the power plays as a catcher in AL-only leagues or as a second catcher in mixed leagues.
He hasn't lit the world on fire, but the bar is oh so low for middle infielders, and Zack Cozart (Yahoo! 23%, ESPN 28%, CBS 58%) does just enough to stick around. Of course, continuing to hit atop the Reds’ lineup doesn't hurt his cause. His home ballpark provides a homer-friendly environment, and he managed to hit two long-balls in the last week away from home. Cozart won't hit for average, and his sky high pop-out rate (28 percent) in the last 30 days is a bit alarming, but for now, he's a rosterable middle infielder.
Nothing has changed in the last seven days for Ruben Tejada (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 29%, CBS 33%). If you don't need batting average assistance, Tejada doesn't offer much of anything. He scored one run and drove one in last week with zero home runs and zero stolen bases, but he's still hitting for average. He hits line drives and makes contact at a solid rate, so continue to bank on the average and a few runs batting atop the Mets’ order.
The Orioles couldn't have asked for a much better start to Manny Machado's (Yahoo! 36%, ESPN 47%, CBS 67%) career in the bigs. He has recorded a hit in all four games he has started, and more exciting, he has drilled three home runs and added a triple for good measure. Much was made of his mediocre numbers at Double-A, but he was scorching hot when the O's called him up, and Machado is amongst the best prospects in baseball. Developed as a shortstop, Machado is seeing his time at third base, where many thought he would ultimately wind up. The added eligibility will be a nice bonus. Ride his hot hand in all but shallow leagues, but expect him to encounter some struggles before year's end.
His season slash line is ugly at .198/.283/.347, and a deadline deal to the Rangers hasn't resulted in an uptick in his play yet, but Geovany Soto (Yahoo! 25%, ESPN 11%, CBS 24%) is likely in store for as much playing time as he can handle behind the plate in the coming weeks. The Rangers placed Mike Napoli on the disabled list, and while Napoli has played some first base and designated hitter, he has also often donned the tools of ignorance. Soto has some contact issues, but not alarmingly so; his contact rate is roughly 3.5 percent below league average. He has made hard contact with a line drive rate of 23 percent on the season, and even factoring in that he's a below-average runner, his .216 BABIP is too low. Expect his batting average to rise. He has above-average power and is tied to the highest-scoring team in the majors. Don't be dissuaded by his season stats if you're in need of a body in two-catcher mixed leagues or AL-only leagues and he's kicking around the wire.
The return of Evan Longoria to the Rays lineup has yet to result in Jeff Keppinger (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 7%, CBS 14%) seeing a reduction in playing time. He's in the midst of a five game hit streak in which he has gone 9-for-20 with one home run. He has slotted seventh in the lineup in all four games against right-handed pitchers since Longoria returned and was bumped up to fifth in both games against southpaws. His lineup slotting falls in line with what I suggested last week, and with the Rays playing well and winning games, I don't see a drastic change coming anytime soon.
He started in fewer than half of the Cubs games in the last week, and two of his three starts came against southpaws, but I expect Welington Castillo (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 4%) to see an uptick in playing time before season's end. Steve Clevenger brings little-to-nothing to the table with the bat, and it's only a matter of time before Castillo is the beneficiary of that reality. His above-average power for a catcher would be a welcome addition to the Cubs lineup and to NL-only fantasy lineups.
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