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12-Team Mixed Leagues

Cameron Maybin, OF, Detroit Tigers (Ownership: 58 percent CBS, 51 percent ESPN, 58 percent Yahoo!)

Maybin, who turned 29 in April, finally returned to the Detroit lineup after missing the first month-and-a-half of the season, and he has given the Tigers offense a jolt over his nine game return. Killa’ Cam has already found his way to the top of the order, where he’s hit in each of the last two games, and has once again started off the season hot–as he did in 2015–hitting .545/.583/.636 over nine games. It’s the combination of Maybin’s potential placement atop the Tiger order, and that his legs are healthy upon his return that makes him a target for standard mixed leagues. After stealing 23 bases in 2015 while playing everyday in Atlanta, the demotion of Anthony Gose to Triple-A Toledo on May 15 has opened the door for regular playing time in center field for Maybin in Motor City, and he’s swiped four bases while starting each of the team’s nine games since being activated from the disabled list. We’re obviously talking about a 37 plate appearance sample to start the year, but Maybin has nine runs scored, and whether he hits leadoff or seventh, as he did in the seven games prior, he should have an excellent chance to provide value in the runs category if he continues to see regular playing time. It’s easy to forget just how productive Maybin was over the first half of last season–when he hit .289/.356/.418 with eight home runs and 15 stolen bases–because his production (much like the rest of the Atlanta offense) fell off of a cliff over the second half (.600 OPS with two home runs and eight steals), but Maybin offers the alluring promise of cheap speed, and that makes him worth scooping up if he’s available in leagues of all sizes.

Devon Travis, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays (Ownership: 60 percent CBS, 29 percent ESPN, 40 percent Yahoo!)

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in The Stash List about how surprised I was to see Travis available in so many leagues, as that’s still the case even upon his return to the Blue Jays lineup on Wednesday night, where he went 1-for-4 while hitting out of the eighth spot in the order. Prior to his return to the lineup from a shoulder injury that kept him out of action since the end of last July, John Gibbons mentioned Travis as a prime candidate to lead off for the Jays once he gets comfortable, and such a placement would be icing on the cake for what is already an appealing fantasy profile. Of second basemen who received 200 or more plate appearances last season, Travis’ .194 ISO mark was good for sixth at the position and his OPS of .859 placed him second overall. Gibbons should have no problem penciling him into the Toronto lineup on an everyday basis, as Blue Jay second basemen combined to hit for a .578 OPS (29th overall) prior to Travis’ activation. Travis reached double-digit home run and steal totals every full-season in the minors and I like his chances to reach both–while scoring a boatload of runs–over the rest of this season in Toronto, provided his shoulder allows him to slide effectively on the basepaths. –J.J. Jansons

Nathan Eovaldi, SP, New York Yankees (Available in 72% of ESPN.com leagues)

In nine starts, the 26-year-old right-hander owns a pedestrian 3.95 ERA. However, the underlying statistics, most notably a vastly improved walk rate (2.1 BB/9) and career-high strikeout (8.2 K/9) serve as telltale signs that he’s making significant progress. Despite posting a strong 55 percent groundball rate so far, Eovaldi has been burned by the long ball, the main conspirator feeding directly into his bloated ERA. He’s already served up nearly as many (seven in just 54 2/3 innings) this year as he did all of last season (10 in 154 1/3 frames). That needs to change, but if his most recent outings are any indication, the tides of regression are already beginning to come to shore.

Eovaldi has allowed three runs or less in each of his past four starts (earning a win in each of them) while giving up just two home runs during that stretch. In his last two outings, versus Arizona and Toronto, he gave up just one earned run on three hits combined with 10 strikeouts and three walks over 12 innings. A renewed emphasis on his best swing-and-miss offering, an 89-mph splitter he’s thrown nearly a quarter of the time this season, bodes well for his future. Fantasy owners will be hard pressed to find a better matchup this weekend than Eovaldi in The Trop.

Junior Guerra, SP, Milwaukee Brewers (Available in 79% of ESPN.com leagues)

Guerra’s unexpected rise began when he spun a seven-inning, 11-strikeout gem against the Cubs last Thursday. His ensuing start garnered fewer headlines, but he still managed to take care of business, shutting out Atlanta’s abysmal lineup for five innings. Through five starts, the 31-year-old owns a 3.30 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 30 strikeouts (9.0 K/9) and 12 walks (3.6 BB/9) in 30 innings of work. Despite a lackluster 39 percent ground-ball rate, Guerra has allowed just two home runs thus far, which is even more impressive considering the vast majority of his starts have come in extreme hitters parks (three outings in Miller Park and one at Great American Ball Park).

By Deserved Run Average, Guerra (3.27 DRA) surprisingly ranks just one spot behind Jake Arrieta, 22nd out of 142 starting pitchers with at least 30 innings this year. Armed with a three-pitch mix (fastball, slider, splitter) the underlying key to his early success has been an 86 mph splitter, which he has thrown nearly 30 percent of the time this season. Not only is he getting opposing batters to offer at it more than half of the time, but they’re also coming up empty handed on 44 percent of those hacks. His upcoming matchup against the Cardinals, who rank second in OPS versus right-handed pitching this year, is daunting, but if he handles them (like he did against the Cubs, another team that mashes righties and just about everyone else for that matter) he won’t even be available in shallow formats. Guerra is an unheralded starter fantasy owners should be targeting right now if he’s still available. –George Bissell

15-Team Mixed Leagues

Chris Herrmann, C/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (Ownership: 34 percent CBS, 20 percent ESPN, 30 percent Yahoo!)

Tommy Joseph, C/1B, Philadelphia Phillies (Ownership: 18 percent CBS, 17 percent ESPN, 3 percent Yahoo!)

The downright awfulness of several catchers to this point in the year–I’m looking at you Derek Norris and Russell Martin–has left many owners scrambling for replacements, and that brings us to the versatile Herrmann and the powerful Joseph, who’s not a catcher but has eligibility there in CBS leagues.

The 28-year-old Herrmann is already up to sixth among catchers on ESPN’s Player Rater, as he’s posted a .286 AVG with five home runs and two stolen bases in 78 plate appearances to start the year, while appearing in center and right field in addition to his 14 starts behind the plate. Herrmann’s .314 isolated power mark will likely come down as his 22.7 percent HR:FB rate drops closer to his 10 percent career average, but the pop isn’t completely out of nowhere, as he did hit for a .201 ISO in 60 games at Triple-A Rochester in 2014, and he posted above-average numbers at every minor-league level with the bat after being drafted in the sixth round out of the University of Miami in 2009. Herrmann received 370 plate appearances at the big-league level in Minnesota from 2013-2015, and he should surpass his previous career high of 178 plate appearances in Arizona this season, particularly if Chip Hale gives him a look more frequently against right-handers, as Welington Castillo (.656 OPS vs. RHP) and Yasmany Tomas (.656 OPS vs. RHP) have been far less effective against righties this season, while Herrmann has slugged .672 against them on his way to a 1.040 OPS in 69 (nice) plate appearances.

Joseph’s power makes him an attractive option in deeper leagues even if he doesn’t have catcher eligibility, as his path for regular at-bats at first base in Philadelphia basically involves maneuvering ahead of Ryan Howard’s corpse at this point. Joseph, a former second-round pick of the Giants in 2009, slugged .427 in the minors, including a .422 slugging mark with 16 home runs across three seasons and 548 plate appearances at the Double-A level. Joseph is hitting for a .296 AVG with two home runs in his first nine major league games this season, and Pete Mackanin has mentioned that he will see more time against right-handed pitching in lieu of Howard as the season progresses, which could enable him to pop 12-15 home runs over the rest of the season, which would likely make him a top-15 option at catcher, provided he can hit close to his career minor-league batting average of .255. –J.J. Jansons

Nick Tropeano, SP, Los Angeles Angels (Available in 88% of ESPN.com leagues)

Featured in this space earlier in the year, Tropeano continues to excel, allowing three runs or less in eight of his nine starts to open up his 2016 campaign. It’s staggering that he’s still available in so many leagues. While the 25-year-old’s control (4.1 BB/9) remains lackluster, he’s striking out nearly a batter-per-inning and owns a stellar 2.86 ERA despite registering a truly eye-popping 1.47 WHIP. Simply put, he’s dodged more traffic than Frogger this season.

Given the lack of competition for starts in Los Angeles, Tropeano should hold down a rotation spot for the remainder of the year. The fact that he hasn’t been prone to implosions should make him a desired commodity in deeper mixed leagues. Fantasy owners should expect him to continue to rack up the strikeouts, especially in his next outing against the Houston Astros (his former organization) who lead the major leagues with 463 in just 47 games.

Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (Available in 81% of ESPN.com leagues)

The unexpected uptick in strikeouts (9.1 K/9 through 10 starts) is jarring. Especially considering that Hellickson hasn’t implemented any revolutionary changes to his arsenal. He’s merely added much-needed movement to his fastball heavy diet, leaning on his sinker and cutter more often than previous years. It’s Hellickson’s changeup, which has served as the main catalyst fueling the strikeout surge. According to BP’s PITCHf/x Leaderboards, the change-of-pace is generating an ungodly 62 percent whiffs-per-swing rate, which leads the major leagues in that department by a substantial margin this season. I really can’t explain it. The strikeouts give Hellickson mixed-league fantasy appeal, but more importantly, he’s been exceptional lately, allowing three runs or less in five of his last six starts. He’s slated to face the Nationals (for the third time already this year) at home in his next start, making him an attractive streaming option even in shallow formats. –George Bissell

AL-ONLY LEAGUES

Michael Feliz, RP, Houston Astros (Available in 99% of ESPN.com leagues)

The 22-year-old right-hander has allowed just one run over seven appearances since the calendar flipped to May. Over that stretch, spanning 12 2/3 innings, Feliz has given up just three hits while fanning 22 batters and issuing zero free passes. On the surface, his 5.00 ERA, almost entirely the result of a pair of ugly April outings in which he gave up nine earned runs in just 5 1/3 innings, will be enough to turn away most fantasy owners. It shouldn’t. By cFIP, a predictive pitching metric, Feliz (67 cFIP) ranks eighth out of 384 pitchers with at least 10 innings this year. In an AL-only format, he’s the type of middle reliever (like Dellin Betances or Kelvin Herrera) who won’t rack up any saves, but can make a huge (or as Mike Francesa would say “huh-yuge”) impact in the rate department while also pitching in a handful of strikeouts. –George Bissell

NL-ONLY LEAGUES

Michael Bourn, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

It’s certainly difficult to recommend Bourn as a pickup for a league of any size after he looked downright awful for most of last season, seeing his OBP dip to .310–his lowest mark since his first full-season in the majors–in 482 plate appearances, but he has reached base this season in 11 of his 24 plate appearances as a Diamondback, stealing two bases in the process. Bourn could see a good chunk of playing time in center field if Chip Hale chooses to move Chris Owings to shortstop on a more regular basis, particularly against right-handed pitching, as current starter at shortstop Nick Ahmed has been downright dreadful against righties this season (.533 OPS). If Bourn’s in the lineup with any type of regularity and he continues to run, he’s a worthy pickup in NL-only leagues. After all, a .310 OBP last season was still enough for Bourn to steal 17 bases. — J.J. Jansons

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