12-team mixed leagues (Must be available in at least 50 percent of ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS leagues)
Available: 65% ESPN, 68% Yahoo, 36% CBS
Bret Sayre, Mike Gianella and I discussed Happ in much greater detail on the latest episode of the Flags Fly Forever podcast. So, check that out. Basically, Happ needs to be owned in all fantasy leagues moving forward. Through five games and 22 plate appearances, he’s hitting .353/.500/.824 with four extra-base hits (two home runs) and five walks. He’s going to force his way into the lineup with his bat (like Kyle Schwarber did two years ago) and the defensive versatility gives the Cubs plenty of avenues to get him at-bats every day. Go grab him.
Available: 86% ESPN, 79% Yahoo, 57% CBS
Fresh off a breakout 2016 campaign where he emerged as a viable mixed league first baseman, slugging 21 dingers in 347 plate appearances, Joseph cratered in April. In addition to a dismal .179/.222/.254 slash line, he recorded just three extra-base hits, and was in danger of losing at-bats to ancillary roster options like Brock Stassi. Since May 1, Joseph is hitting a blistering .395/.490/.814 with 12 extra-base hits (five home runs) in 51 plate appearances.
The vast majority of fantasy owners that burned a late-round draft pick on Joseph cast him aside weeks ago in favor of early season waiver wire darlings like Eric Thames, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Reynolds and Yonder Alonso. As a result, the 25-year-old is floating around in a ton of mixed-league free agent pools. Fantasy owners searching for a temporary Freddie Freeman replacement could do a lot worse.
Available: 77% ESPN, 66% Yahoo, 43% CBS
— David Lesky (@DBLesky) May 14, 2017
The 29-year-old was featured in this space a week ago, and promptly dominated the strikeout-prone Orioles, whiffing 12 over five innings of two-run ball. While Karns (2.98 DRA) has made strides with his control (2.9 BB/9), he’s still battling an extreme case of gopheritis (1.8 HR/9), and has lasted past the sixth inning just once in seven starts this season. There is major implosion potential against potent lineups, but it’s hard not to trust him on the road against Minnesota tonight.
15-team mixed leagues (Must be available in at least 75 percent of ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS leagues)
Available: 79% ESPN, 65% Yahoo, 65% CBS
It’s a bit jarring that the 27-year-old shortstop remains available in the vast majority of fantasy leagues, despite hitting .279/.314/.469 with seven home runs and one steal through 39 games. This phenomenon is a reflection of the staggering depth at middle infield, rather than an indictment of Beckham, who has reached safely in eight of his past nine games, hitting .351 (13-for-37) during that span.
There are some lingering red flags in the profile. He’s still striking out 32 percent of the time, and has walked in just over 4 percent of his 157 plate appearances this season. The real elephant in the room is a .378 BABIP. Given his speed, and propensity to pull the ball on the ground, he’s the type of hitter that can sustain a high than league-average BABIP, but this is a bit extreme. The batting average may ebb and flow, but there’s no doubt he’s punishing the baseball right now. Per FanGraphs batted-ball data, Beckham’s 48 percent hard-contact rate is tied for the sixth-best mark among qualified hitters this year. There’s still time to invest in shallow mixers.
Justin Smoak—Blue Jays
Available: 80% ESPN, 72% Yahoo, 66% CBS
Just like we all predicted coming into the season, Justin Smoak's breakout is being overshadowed by Yonder Alonso's breakout.
— Bret Sayre (@BretSayreBP) May 18, 2017
The #SmoakMonster is back. I’m conflicted on this one. The 30-year-old is the latest resurgent veteran talent to further bolster the newfound depth at the position. Given the plethora of cold corner options, Smoak, who is hitting .280/.342/.545 with nine home runs, 20 runs scored and 27 RBI in 146 plate appearances, merits consideration only in deep mixers for the moment. He hasn’t reached the 20-home run plateau in four years, so the uptick in power juxtaposed with his plate discipline, certainly makes him an intriguing addition. Slashing his strikeout rate from 33 percent in 2016, to just 19 percent this season, gives me hope that he can sustain this current level of production. He’s not Freddie Freeman, but he can fill that massive void admirably for the next few months.
Available: 84% ESPN, 78% Yahoo, 50% CBS
“The 24-year-old’s dynamic power and speed combination, a skill set that’s become increasingly rare in the current landscape, has solidified the former first-round pick’s status as one of the most enticing fantasy prospects game in recent years. Zimmer’s propensity to strike out at a rather alarming rate (30 percent of his 701 plate appearances over the past two seasons) is the lone bugaboo in his profile. It’s a glaring weakness that amplifies the short (and long-term) playing time risks, but if he can make enough adjustments to survive against major-league pitching, he’s a virtual lock to provide immediate fantasy value in the power and speed departments.”
There’s legitimate risk that Zimmer’s extreme contact issues (four strikeouts in seven plate appearances so far) manifest in a prolonged adjustment period against major-league pitching. He hasn’t looked overmatched yet, hitting .286 (2-for-7) with a home run, a pair of runs scored and RBI. Given the Indians lack of outfield options due to a rash of recent injuries, he’s worth a speculative pickup in deeper mixed leagues on the chance that he cements himself as a permanent solution in centerfield. There’s huge risk here, but the potential reward is substantial.
Luis Perdomo, Padres
Available: 93% ESPN, 96% Yahoo, 68% CBS
Savvy fantasy owners have been all over Perdomo this season, but he’s still out there in far too many leagues. The 24-year-old righty owns a 4.19 ERA through six starts, but also a 3.43 DRA. He’s also struck out 34 batters and issued just 10 free passes in 34 1/3 innings of work. He faces a tough test against the Diamondbacks (despite their injury issues) this weekend. Fortunately, he gets Arizona at Petco, which makes him a prime streamer in deep mixers.
Available: 76% ESPN, 73% Yahoo, 42% CBS
The 27-year-old right-hander has strung together three consecutive solid starts, allowing just four earned runs combined and nine hits over 18 2/3 innings of work. He’s still walking far too many batters (4.3 BB/9), but he’s overcome that issue by increasing his strikeout rate from 7.2 K/9 last year, to 9.2 K/9 this season. An 84 percent strand rate doesn’t hurt either. Godley’s raw stuff isn’t overpowering, but an increased reliance on a 93 mph splitter, which is up nearly a mile and a half per hour from last year. has enabled him to limit hard contact and induce more ground balls.
I’m skeptical that Godley will be able to navigate tougher lineups with subpar command, but strikeouts and an absurd 73 percent ground-ball rate can cover up a lot of mistakes. His next start features a tasty matchup against a floundering Padres squad at Petco this weekend. Stream away!
AL/NL-only leagues (Must be available in at least 95 percent of ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS leagues)
Available: 100% ESPN, 92% Yahoo, 97% CBS
I don’t do speculative closers. I try to avoid it whenever possible (especially for mixed leagues) in this space. However, I’m going to make a rare exception. In AL-only leagues, where the waiver wire is a dystopian wasteland, Pazos is an intriguing southpaw to take a flyer on. According to reports, Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has indicated that the 26-year-old left-hander could get an opportunity to close while Edwin Diaz sorts out his mechanical issues. Frankly, Seattle’s bullpen is a mess. I’m not inclined to trust Dipoto, but I trust Steve Cishek a lot less. Pazos owns a 2.86 DRA and has fanned 25 batters (12.1 K/9) in 18 2/3 innings this season. Frankly, the raw data is the most compelling reason to trust Pazos right now.
Available: 100% ESPN, 100% Yahoo, % CBS
The 30-year-old right-hander’s most recent BP Annual comment came back in 2012. To put that in context, Mike Trout has racked up 38.6 WAR in the five seasons since. In the meantime, Espino has pitched for three different organizations, logging 731 innings between Double A and Triple A, during that span. Despite pitching on the surface of the moon (Triple-A Colorado Springs) Espino owns a sublime 0.71 DRA and boasts a 40:5 K:BB ratio in 39 innings. His reward? A major-league debut against the defending World Series champion Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday night. If he survives (and sticks in the Brewer rotation for an extended stretch), Espino will be worthy of a roster spot in NL-only formats. At the very least, this is a guy you root for.