12-Team Mixed Leagues
Recent injuries to several Chicago outfielders have led to Joe Maddon inserting Baez into his starting lineup much more frequently in June, and he’s rewarded his manager for increasing his starts from six in April to 13 in May to 20 so far in June by hitting for a .286/.333/.536 line that includes five home runs and three steals in 90 plate appearances. Baez already has eligibility at second base, shortstop, and third base in leagues that use a five-game requirement, and with his manager’s unquestioned love for his (teal) glove, he should continue to see regular playing time over the rest of the season somewhere on the diamond, as long as he keeps hitting. Baez has the talent to hit 10-15 home runs over the rest of the season, and the speed to provide similar help in the stolen-base category, and if he keeps hitting like he has over the last month, he won’t be available for much longer.
Turner’s ownership has nearly doubled in some leagues over the last week, and for good reason, as he’s been murdering the baseball this month. Turner started the year slowly after having offseason microfracture surgery on his left knee, hitting just three home runs in his first 50 games of the season.Turner hit for an OPS below .700 (.654 in April, .699 in May) in each of the first two months, after having an OPS above .750 in every month last season, aside from a .520 OPS last August. Now, he’s once again found his power stroke in June, smacking eight home runs in 25 games this month, along with a .909 OPS in his 104 plate appearances. His quality production comes despite not getting much love from the BABIP gods, as his .230 BABIP this month is well below his career .313 mark. Turner’s BABIP on the year sits at .255, well below the .404 mark he posted in his first year (109 games) wearing Dodger blue in 2014, and the .321 mark he posted in 2015 in 126 games. As Vin Scully would say, “what’s interesting to note with Turner,” at least from a fantasy perspective, is that he’s continued his trend of lowering his groundball rate and raising his flyball rate this season, just as he’s done in each year in Los Angeles, and continuing to do so should enable him to eclipse his career-best 16 home-run total from last season.
Despite the slow start, Dave Roberts penciled Turner into the third or fourth spot in the Dodger lineup in 57 of his 68 starts, and his hot month likely means he won’t be moved out of the middle-of-the-order any time soon. –J.J. Jansons
Junior Guerra, SP, Milwaukee (Available in 80% of ESPN.com leagues)
The 31-year-old’s ownership numbers remain staggeringly low consider how effective he’s been this season for the Brewers. He twirled eight shutout innings, allowing just a pair of hits while striking out seven in a victory over the Dodgers this week. Guerra isn’t a burgeoning superstar like Jake Arrieta when he blossomed with the Cubs in 2014, but his success represents a triumph for Milwaukee’s pro scouting department under GM David Stearns. With a 3.25 ERA (3.49 DRA) along with 60 strikeouts over 69 1/3 innings (11 starts) it’s safe to put him in the mixed league caliber starter territory. Featured multiple times in this space, it’s time to finally “retire his jersey” in the BP Free Agent Watch for this season.
15-Team Mixed Leagues
Merrifield’s quality work over his first 36 games as a big leaguer has led to an everyday role in Kansas City, as the team cut ties with Former All-Star Omar Infante (™) last week. The Royals have moved the versatile former South Carolina product all around the field, giving him 25 starts at second base, three at third base, and eight in left field. Ned Yost has penciled Merrifield into the first or second spot in the Royal lineup 32 times since his call-up, and he’s been very productive over his brief time in the majors, hitting for a .314/.335/.438 line in 158 plate appearances, including two home runs and four stolen bases, giving him 20 steals (in 22 attempts) in 72 games this season between Triple-A Omaha and Kansas City. The 27-year-old Merrifield is highly unlikely to run a .387 BABIP over the rest of the season—his BABIP was .304 this season in Omaha and .292 last season there—and almost certainly needs to improve upon his 3.2 percent walk rate to continue to see regular playing over the rest of the season, but deeper-league owners in search of a boost in the average, runs scored, and stolen-base categories should look closer at #2HitWhit, particularly with his delectable multi-positional eligibility that includes the middle infield.
Over the last 30 days (which coincides closely with his arrival in the majors), Merrifield has been the 16th-most-productive second baseman, 34th-most-productive outfielder and the 79th-best hitter overall, according to ESPN’s Player Rater. –J.J. Jansons
Daniel Mengden, SP, Oakland (Available in 80% of ESPN.com leagues)
It was fair to be skeptical of Mengden when the unheralded 2014 fourth-round draft pick out of Texas A&M was summoned by the Athletics earlier this month. The 23-year-old right-hander has posted sparkling numbers (1.19 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings over 11 starts between Double-A and Triple-A) in the minor leagues but wasn’t a coveted fantasy prospect. Heck, he didn’t even make Oakland’s Top 10 prospect list here at BP this offseason. Through four major-league starts, Mengden owns a 2.81 ERA (1.17 WHIP) with 26 strikeouts over 25 2/3 innings. His record stands at just 1-3, but he’s gotten virtually no run support so far and hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any start. It’s time to stop overlooking him. With a matchup against the Pirates on tap this weekend and a date with his former organization, Houston, next week, now is the perfect time to invest.
Daniel Norris, SP, Detroit (Available in 94% of ESPN.com leagues)
There’s an argument to be made, given his prodigious strikeout upside (10.6 K/9 over 11 big-league innings so far), that Norris warrants consideration even in shallow mixed leagues. However, given the volatility of his major-league performance, gravitating equally between prolonged stretches of dominant and disastrous outings and the uncertainty surrounding his spot in the Tigers rotation and there’s too much risk for the moment. After opening up the 2016 campaign on the disabled list, Norris posted a 4.66 ERA with 70 strikeouts and 25 walks over 63 2/3 innings (13 starts) at Triple-A prior to his call-up last week. Over a small sample, his command has vastly improved and he’s been racking up the strikeouts in bunches. If the 23-year-old continues to pitch like he did against Miami, giving up two runs on eight hits while issuing just one walk and striking out eight over five innings, earlier this week he should cement his spot in the Detroit rotation for years to come. –George Bissell
Nathan Karns, SP/RP, Seattle (Available in 84% of ESPN.com leagues)
With a 4.56 ERA creeping higher by the outing and newly acquired starter Wade LeBlanc joining the mix, Karns lost his spot in the Mariners rotation this week. It’s interesting because the underlying numbers tell a completely different story. Aside from a bloated walk rate (4.2 BB/9), the 28-year-old currently owns the highest strikeout rate (9.8 K/9), and best DRA (3.48) and cFIP (90) of his entire career. The transition to the bullpen will destroy his ownership numbers, but in AL-only formats, he could become a valuable piece considering his lofty strikeout numbers. In his first relief appearance of the season earlier this week, Karns struck out six batters in two innings while allowing just two base runners. –George Bissell
Raisel Iglesias’ return made most of the headlines last week as far as news regarding the beleaguered Reds bullpen goes, but somewhat quietly another closing option returned to Cincinnati: former college closer Michael Lorenzen.The former Cal State Fullerton fireman made all four of his rehab appearances this season in relief, earning a save and striking out seven in four innings of work, allowing just two hits, all of which came at Triple-A Louisville. If the team chooses to work in Iglesias cautiously as he returns from his shoulder woes, Lorenzen is certainly capable of taking the closer’s job and running with it.
Ottavino has made it up to the Triple-A level in his rehab, as he works his way back from last May’s Tommy John surgery. With Jake McGee struggling in the closer’s role in Colorado, the Rockies could turn to their former closer to hold down ninth-inning duties shortly upon his return, moving Carlos Estevez back to a seventh-or-eighth inning role.
NL-only and deeper-league owners on the hunt for saves should look at these two options, as both should find themselves pitching in high leverage situations in short order, almost by default in Lorenzen’s case. –J.J. Jansons