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12-Team Mixed Leagues

Randal Grichuk, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (Ownership: 62 percent CBS, 49 percent ESPN, 46 percent Yahoo!)

Grichuk has been on a tear since being recalled from Triple-A Memphis on July 5th, and injuries to Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta, and Brandon Moss should likely ensure everyday playing time for him in the Cardinals outfield over the next month. Kolten Wong has moved from the outfield back to second base to help cover the loss of Carpenter, and Matt Holliday has made three starts at first base over the last week with Moss out of the lineup, paving the way for regular playing time for Grichuk and Tommy Pham over the last few weeks.

The 24-year-old Grichuk was a popular preseason breakout pick after mashing 17 home runs in 350 plate appearances last season, and since his recall he’s started 10 of the team’s 12 games, making eight starts in center field and two in left. Grichuk has hit for a .333/.364/.690 line in 44 plate appearances with four home runs and eight RBI since his Memphis exile. Grichuk, who hit for a .235 isolated power mark or higher in each month of his rookie campaign in 2015, struggled to find his power stroke in the first-half of 2016, hitting for a .200 isolated-power mark or lower in each of the season’s first three months. He certainly looks to have rediscovered his power while in Memphis, hitting five homers in 15 PCL games during his demotion and clubbing four in 12 games while back with St. Louis. If the power’s back, Grichuk’s worth rostering in leagues of all sizes, and it sure looks like it is.

Tyler Naquin, OF, Cleveland Indians (Ownership: 46 percent ESPN, 30 percent ESPN, 38 percent Yahoo!)

The Indians have paused Michael Brantley’s rehab due to the outfielder feeling discomfort in his surgically repaired shoulder, which likely paves the way for Naquin to remain in the Cleveland lineup on a regular basis over the season’s final two months. The 25-year-old Naquin has excelled in less than 200 plate appearances this season, hitting for a .324/.387/.636 line that plays in any league, adding 12 home runs and three stolen bases in 63 games. Naquin didn’t show anywhere close to this type of power prior to making his major league debut this season, as his .313 isolated power mark is nearly double that of his best output in the minors—a .167 mark reached in 50 games last season at Triple-A Columbus. Naquin’s also striking out at a higher clip (28.6 percent) than he did at any level, and his .417 BABIP isn’t going to hold for much longer, but he also reached double-digit steal totals in every full season in the minors, perhaps indicating that there’s more production in his legs than he’s displayed to this point.

I remain quite skeptical that Naquin’s true talent level is anywhere close to what he’s produced over the last two months, but a second straight month of a .300 or higher batting average and six home runs—which has led to a .336 tAV for the season—means he should be owned in a lot more leagues than he currently is, and Brantley’s continued lack of health opens the door to ride the hot hand for awhile longer.

J.J. Jansons

Anthony DeSclafani, SP, Cincinnati (Available in 42% of ESPN.com leagues)

It’s rather incredible that DeSclafani has posted a 2.50 ERA with a 40-to-9 K:BB ratio over 50 1/3 innings (eight starts) since coming off the disabled list in early June, but remains available in nearly half of ESPN.com leagues. It makes no sense. Not only has the 26-year-old right-hander yet to allow more than three earned runs in a single start, but his 83 cFIP, a predictive pitching metric, ranks 17th-best out of 163 pitchers with at least 50 innings of work this season. DeSclafani, a long-time favorite of mine and many other analysts here at BP, is delivering Adam Wainwright halcyon days (2009-2014) caliber performances every time he takes the mound. Yet, fantasy owners haven’t taken notice. It’s time for that to change. –George Bissell

15-Team Mixed Leagues

Travis Jankowski, OF, San Diego Padres (Ownership: 12 percent CBS, 6 percent ESPN, 4 percent Yahoo!)

Current San Diego outfielders Melvin Upton, Jr. and Jon Jay have been mentioned seemingly in about a million trade rumors already this month, and the likelihood of at least one of them being moved prior to the end of the month seems pretty high. While speculation has centered around Triple-A slugger Hunter Renfroe and even fellow El Paso teammate Manuel Margot as candidates for extended playing time should one (or both) be dealt, I feel Jankowski, the 44th-overall pick in the 2012 draft, will also be a beneficiary of an increase in playing time over the season’s final two months.

Jankowski’s ability to make a fantasy impact resides in his legs, and he’s done good work with them in part-time duty over the last two months, stealing six bases in seven attempts in both June and July, despite receiving less than 50 plate appearances in each month. Jankowski’s value earns a bump in OBP leagues, as his .357 OBP, propelled by a 15 percent walk rate this season, is in line with his career .360 OBP in 326 minor-league games and his ability to get on base helps with the fact that he’s yet to hit for average (.211 in 96 PA in 2015, .244 this season) at the major-league level. Jankowski’s total of 16 steals this season has largely gone unnoticed, but his production is good enough to place him in a tie for 11th overall in the category with Ian Desmond, Mookie Betts, and Jean Segura, and each of those players has received 400 or more plate appearances compared to Jankowski’s 142 this season.

If I’m a deeper league owner looking for help in the stolen base category, Jankowski would be one of my top targets over the season’s second-half, as I don’t feel 10-12 steals per month is out of reach for the speedy Padres outfielder, even if he’s not handed an everyday job. —J.J. Jansons

Mike Foltynewicz, SP, Atlanta (Available in 88% of ESPN.com leagues)

The 24-year-old fireballer has made tremendous strides with his control, slashing his walk rate (BB/9) from 3.0 in 2015 to just 2.1 this season and the on-field results (career-best 4.18 DRA through 10 starts) are finally starting to match his considerable talent. As a result of Foltynewicz relying more on his secondary offerings, especially his slider this year, he’s giving up fewer hits while maintaining a robust strikeout rate (8.0 K/9).

He’s still giving up far too many long balls (11 in just 56 innings this season) but if he can find a way to erase that flaw, fantasy owners will be looking at a right-hander that checks all of the boxes for a potential top of the rotation asset. While he faced a daunting challenge in Coors Field against Colorado last night, he was stellar in each of his previous two outings, giving up three runs on eight hits combined while striking out 15 and issuing just two walks against the Rockies and White Sox. Available in the vast majority of deeper formats, it’s time to put Folty on the radar.

Matt Andriese, SP/RP, Tampa Bay (Available in 88% of ESPN.com leagues)

Profiled in this space earlier this spring for his exploits, albeit brief, in the Rays rotation, the 26-year-old has thrived since transitioning to a long relief role out of the bullpen. In 18 2/3 innings of work as a reliever, Andriese has allowed just five runs (2.41 ERA) while posting 16 strikeouts and just two walks. Middle relievers are painfully undervalued assets in deeper fantasy formats and given how well the former UC Riverside product has performed this season, he certainly merits a pickup in 15-team formats and beyond. –George Bissell

AL-ONLY LEAGUES

Dan Vogelbach, DH, Seattle (Available in 99% of ESPN.com leagues)

There was hardly ever a doubt that Voglebach, the physical embodiment of the phrase “designated hitter,” would eventually be traded from the Chicago Cubs to an American League franchise where it would be much easier to get his power bat into the lineup everyday without exposing his deficiencies in the field. The deal every fantasy owner envisioned finally happened when Seattle jumped at the opportunity to acquire him earlier this week. BP’s advanced statistics, including a Pacific Coast League-leading .356 True Average (TAv), affirm Vogelbach’s status as one of the best pure hitters in the minor leagues this season. The 23-year-old hit .318/.425/.548 with 36 extra-base hits (16 home runs) and a 55-to-67 BB:K ratio in 365 plate appearances for Triple-A Iowa.

While Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto wouldn’t nail down a timetable for his exact arrival, he told the Seattle Times on Wednesday that he feels Vogelbach is ready to play in the big leagues right now. “He rakes,” Dipoto said. “He rakes everywhere he’s ever been. He’s an elite strike-zone controller with well above-average power. He has absolutely tormented right-hand pitching, especially this year.” The potential for everyday at-bats as the Mariners designated hitter of the immediate and long-term future is a substantial boost to Vogelbach’s fantasy stock and makes him an intriguing target for AL-only owners to consider off the waiver wire right now. –George Bissell

Aaron Altherr, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

Altherr, who has missed the entirety of the regular season after injuring his wrist diving for a ball in spring training, has been moved up to Double-A Reading after playing eight games between rookie ball and the High-A level as a part of his 30-day rehab window. The Phillies appear likely to move Peter Bourjos near the trade deadline, opening an everyday role for Altherr when he returns from his rehab assignment, which could be as soon as the end of the month. Altherr provided fantasy value down the stretch last season, smacking five home runs and stealing six bases in 161 plate appearances after being summoned from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on August 8th. The Phillies will likely want to give Altherr as much playing time as possible over the season’s final two months to make up for the lost developmental time due to his wrist injury, and his ability to hit for power (19 home runs in 150 games between the top two levels of the minors and the majors in 2015) and utilize his speed (22 steals last season), gives him a chance to equal his impact from last season once again down the stretch this season. —J.J. Jansons

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Eddy5791
7/22
In deep leagues with holds or deep roto leagues, LHP Dario Alvarez is one to watch out for. Looks like he's entrenched himself a late-inning option for the Braves.

In 13 IP owns a 48% K rate, is top three in the league in contact rate (60%), 1.54 SIERA, 2.31 DRA (11th best) has gained 2 mph on his fastball (up to 93) and changed his pitch usage so that his slider is his primary pitch.
seanqueue
7/22
In a similar vein, how about some love for Edwin Diaz in Seattle? Over the last month he has seven holds and 29 Ks in just 12.1 innings. In his last eight appearances, covering 7.1 innings, he has allowed two hits with 19 Ks. Those are video game numbers, yet he is unowned in 90% of CBS leagues. If your league values holds or (like me) you are trying to manage innings against a hard limit, numbers like his are invaluable.
GeorgeBissell
7/22
Good call. We profiled Diaz about a month ago in this space. He is an exciting talent. We also discussed his dominance on the latest episode of the Flags Fly Forever podcast, which you should check out!
sldetckl16
7/22
Any chance he's in the closer's role next year in Seattle?
mbovie
7/23
Doubt it, Cishek has another year left on his contract.