Injuries to virtually every other Giants outfielder has opened the door to extended playing time for Blanco, and he’s been capitalizing on it. Blanco isn’t (ever) going to help in the sexy categories, but he will help in runs scored and stolen bases and he’s been above average in both batting average (.296 this season, .283 in 61 August plate appearances) and on-base percentage (.376 this season, .377 in August) as he plays in his age-31 season. Blanco has hit atop the Giants order since Angel Pagan hit the disabled list on August 11th and may have secured a starting spot in the Giants outfield even when Pagan returns. Blanco has scored fourteen runs in sixteen games this month and has added four steals. Add it all up and you’ve got a 126 wRC+ mark for August, which is equal to his seasonal mark. Blanco is a steady, low-risk option that should provide reliable production down the stretch — provided he keeps getting regular at-bats atop the Giants order.
Dietrich has very quietly upped his season wRC+ mark to a solid 149 number while making the most of the extended playing time that he’s received over the last month in left field. A former second-round pick by the Marlins in 2010 and a second baseman by trade, Dietrich has received his first action in left field at the major league level this season, after playing a total of one game there in the minors. He has appeared in 20 games in left this season in addition to the 22 games he’s played at third base this season — establishing nice positional versatility that especially comes in handy this time of the year. Dietrich’s second half line of .244/.381/.500 over 97 plate appearances includes five home runs and earns him a bump in value in OBP leagues. Dietrich’s seasonal slugging percentage is at .521 in 170 plate appearances, and while he has seen his batting average drop from .295 in the first-half to .244 over the second-half, he’s also had his BABIP drop from a .349 total to a .275 mark since the All-Star break. Dietrich has also increased his walk rate and isolated power marks over the second-half, in putting up overall numbers that are right in line with his career .835 OPS minor league total.
In Nick Shlain’s excellent player profile piece on Gutierrez from yesterday, he references the 2004 Baseball Prospectus annual in which Gutierrez is compared to Juan Gonzalez — which outlines perfectly just how long the current Mariner outfielder has been around. Because Gutierrez has been on the fantasy radar since shortly after signing with the Dodgers as a seventeen year-old in 2000, it’s easy to forget that Gutierrez is still “just” 32 and I was pretty surprised at just how productive he’s been at both the Triple-A level and the majors this season. Gutierrez hit seven home runs at Tacoma (albeit in the Pacific Coast League) in 209 plate appearances, while putting together a .317/.402/.500 line that earned him a trip back to Seattle on June 24th, where he’s continued to hit for power. Gutierrez has clubbed seven home runs in his first 98 plate appearances of major league action since September 2013 on his way to a 159 wRC+ mark. Gutierrez certainly isn’t a long-term play, and his .315 isolated power mark is sure to come tumbling down, but ride him while he’s hot because there aren’t many hitters — let alone options available for free this time of year — that are producing at a better clip than Gutierrez since his reemergence in late June this season.
The sad state of the shortstop position makes Suarez a viable deep league option for those looking to replace the Starlin Castros of the world, as since Zack Cosart was lost for the season on June 10th, the Reds shortstop replacement has been extremely productive with the bat in 57 games, hitting for a .297 average and adding eight home runs. Suarez has also chipped in three stolen bases and his wRC+ mark of 122 puts him fourth among all shortstops with 200 plate appearances on the season, behind only Carlos Correa, Brandon Crawford and Jung-Ho Kang. Suarez is owned in only 17.1 percent of ESPN leagues and that number should be a lot higher based upon the lack of depth at shortstop.
With the Rangers placing Josh Hamilton on the 15-day DL with left knee inflammation this week, the veteran and newly acquired Venable, along with the rookie and recently called-up Strausborger, both have immediate relevance in AL-only leagues. Venable would seem to be the obvious choice to garner the bulk of the playing time in the Rangers’ outfield in Hamilton’s absence, but do not dismiss Strausborger as being a valuable fantasy asset in the short term.
A 16th-round pick back in the 2010 MLB draft has been known more for his defense during his minor-league career, Strausborger has amassed some impressive stolen-base totals on the Rangers farm, racking up 154 steals in six-plus seasons, including 27 swipes in 32 attempts at Triple-A this season. He’s also shown some pop, hitting 10 HR at Round Rock and another one for the Rangers on Sunday. Strausborger started four straight games for after the Hamilton injury and delivered two multi-hit games along with a HR and a SB. Strausborger’s plus defense could continue to get him a couple of starts a week in the short term, which gives him value in deep AL-only leagues.
As for Venable, who got the start in LF on Thursday night for Texas, what you see is what you get: a little power, some speed, and a bit of an AVG drain. That is not a knock on Venable at all, as he does offer value in AL-only leagues, especially in his new surroundings. However, Venable is ineffective against LHP, so I expect the Rangers to utilize both Strausborger and Venable depending on the matchups. That means both will have some value in deep mono-league formats.
The news out of Minnesota this week regarding the MRI results on Glen Perkins was promising, as it revealed there was no major structural damage to the All-Star closer’s neck and he will avoid a DL stint. Reports are Perkins will be back to assume his ninth-inning duties early next week, but Jepsen will be Paul Molitor’s closer in the interim. Even if Perkins comes back next week, Jepsen still makes for a strong AL-only play based on the uncertainty of Perkins’ health the rest of the season. Even if Jepsen, who has saved seven games that past two seasons, does not save a game for the Twins, he will still have value based on his ratios and potential for vulture wins. Jepsen earned $7 last season for the Angels in standard AL-only 5×5 formats without recording one win, and has racked up $5 more this year between the Rays and the Twins. Yes, his strikeout rates are down from last year, but he is inducing groundballs at a high rate to compensate. The veteran reliever is certainly worth a roster spot in these formats in hopes that he can grab a win or two down the stretch while maintaining solid ratios.
Other AL-Only FAAB options: Jerry Sands, OF, Cleveland Indians; Sam Fuld, OF, Oakland A’s; J.R. Murphy, C, New York Yankees; Paulo Orlando, OF, Kansas City Royals; Chris Gimenez, C, Texas Rangers; Daniel Nava, OF, Tampa Bay Rays; Greg Bird, 1B, New York Yankees; Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Los Angeles Angels; Kris Medlen, RP, Kansas City Royals; Nate Jones, RP, Chicago White Sox; Chasen Shreve, RP, New York Yankees; Trevor Gott, RP, Los Angeles Angels; Zach Putnam, RP, Chicago White Sox; Josh Fields, RP, Houston Astros; LaTroy Hawkins, RP, Toronto Blue Jays; Mychal Givens, RP, Baltimore Orioles
The toolsy outfielder was called up by the Phillies on Tuesday, and deep NL-only fantasy players took immediate notice based on the fantasy skill set and potential for extended playing time down the stretch. Drafted out of high school as an 18-year-old back in the ninth round of the 2009 MLB Draft, the lanky Altherr has the power/speed combo we all crave. It’s been a long road for the 24-year-old as he has progressed through the Phillies farm system, but the power began to develop in High-A ball two years ago, and his plate discipline showed marked improvement between Double-A and Triple-A this year, leading to his call-up. Altherr was slashing .293/.367/.487 with 14 HR and 16 SB in 489 PA this season when he was promoted to the Phillies, and the outfielder went 2-for-3 with a double, a home run, and 3 RBI in his start on Wednesday. This is the type of late-season call-up that NL-only owners pounce on: Altherr is not only a nice grab-and-stash play in keeper leagues, hetcan also be a pivotal FAAB play if you need to find a source of offense after your league’s trade deadline.
Kendry Flores, SP/RP, Miami Marlins
It’s been a rough season for the Marlins in general, especially with the injuries they have had to deal with in their rotation. Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, Jarred Cosart… and now David Phelps is done for the season with a stress fracture in his right forearm.
It appears Flores is the next young arm to be added to the Marlins rotation for a late-year trial. The 23-year-old right-handed starter who was acquired last offseason from the Giants in the Casey McGehee deal has pitched in relief thus far for the Marlins in his six appearances, but is headed to the rotation. Flores posted a 2.34 ERA and 0.962 WHIP over his 19 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season, and has recorded a 3.76 K:BB ratio over his minor-league career. The former Giants prospect projects more as a reliever long term, but has the array of pitches and velocity to be a viable starter for the time being. I remember writing about former Giants farmhand Chris Heston all the way back in week one of this weekly installment saying the same things, and Heston has held his own. Flores is worth a flier in deep NL-only formats—with the caveat that he might have a short leash.
Other NL-Only FAAB options: Peter Bourjos, OF, St. Louis Cardinals; Logan Schafer, OF, Milwaukee Brewers; Jason Rogers, IF, Milwaukee Brewers; Tommy Pham, OF, St. Louis Cardinals; Javier Lopez, RP, San Francisco Giants; Hector Neris, RP, Philadelphia Phillies; Bud Norris, SP/RP, San Diego Padres; Andrew Chafin, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks —Keith Cromer