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12-team mixed leagues (must be available in at least 50 percent of ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS leagues)

Hitters

Alex AvilaTigers

Available: 74% ESPN, 63% Yahoo, 56% CBS

Year

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

BABIP

2009-16

2,654

.240

.346

.395

13.7%

27.5%

.319

2017

95

.351

.474

.636

18.9%

27.4%

.478

The 30-year-old backstop always has had an affinity for free passes. Like a mosquito to a bug light, he simply can’t resist them. On the surface, Avila’s supreme knowledge of the strike zone and plate discipline are clearly the driving forces behind his unforeseen renaissance at the plate. We also can’t rule out renewed health, and extreme batted-ball luck as potential factors.

“The ball is just finding the holes,” Avila told the Detroit Free Press earlier this week. “I haven’t changed anything, really.”

Obviously, a .478 BABIP is unsustainable—nobody does this for an extended period. However, the underlying batted-ball data suggests Avila has been driving the ball with authority this season. That’s a significant change. It also means that he’s earned the majority of his lofty BABIP this season. Per Statcast Leaderboards at Baseball Savant, Avila’s average exit velocity (94 mph) ranks just behind Miguel Sano and Aaron Judge.

As FanGraphs managing editor Dave Cameron wrote earlier this week,

“He’s not running a .489 BABIP because balls are finding holes; he’s running a .489 BABIP because he’s regularly crushing the ball to spots where there aren’t any defenders…To this point, Avila is running a .640 wOBA on contact, but based on Statcast’s estimated wOBA on his 48 tracked balls, he’d have a .775 wOBA on contact in a park/fielding neutral environment. Like pretty much every other Detroit slugger, his results have been dragged down by Comerica’s dimensions, so if anything, the guy running a .489 BABIP could be considered somewhat unlucky so far.”

It’s almost impossible to isolate any single factor as the main catalyst sparking Avila’s offensive explosion, but there’s nothing inherently fluky about it. This is real. The health risks associated with catching, BABIP regression, and the Tigers logjam at first base/designated hitter pose the biggest risks to Avila’s fantasy value, but given the lackluster state of the catching position, he deserves to be owned in all fantasy leagues moving forward.

Justin BourMarlins

Available: 62% ESPN, 58% Yahoo, 42% CBS

The 28-year-old first baseman’s ongoing metamorphosis versus left-handed pitching is one of the most compelling storylines in fantasy baseball.

Year

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

K%

BB%

wRC+

2014-16

110

0

.223

.273

.291

32.7%

5.5%

2017

38

3

.303

.395

.636

34.2%

13.2%

167

It’s weird. Unearthing a plausible explanation is a greater challenge than any government conspiracy Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigated on The X-Files. Obviously, small-sample caveats apply. Yet, the numbers don’t lie: Bour has flat-out crushed southpaws this season. As a result, he’s getting more opportunities to face them, and has evolved into a key cog in the heart of the Miami lineup. He’s hitting a robust .279/.360/.552 with 12 home runs, 22 runs scored and 30 RBIs in 175 plate appearances. Given the renewed depth at first base after a series of veteran breakouts and an uptick in power league-wide, there’s limited fantasy appeal with Bour. Still, the power is real, and it’s fantastic.

Cameron MaybinAngels

Available: 80% ESPN, 78% Yahoo, 68% CBS

The 30-year-old veteran has struggled to stay on the field, logging more than 400 plate appearances just once in the last four years. That’s a fair criticism. However, he’s been extremely streaky and productive when healthy. Since May 1, he’s gone on an absolute tear, hitting .267/.415/.427 with eight extra-base hits, and more walks (18) than strikeouts (15). Unfortunately, he left his game Thursday with soreness in his right knee. It doesn’t appear to be a serious issue, but it’s worth monitoring.

The omnipresent health concerns limit his long-term fantasy appeal, but he’s a viable short-term solution in re-draft formats. He’s likely done enough to cement his status as the Angels leadoff option, even when Yunel Escobar returns from a hamstring injury. There’s a fair amount of risk here, but Maybin is one of only a dozen hitters with double-digit stolen bases this season. With speed at a premium, fantasy owners searching for an infusion can get it right here.

Adam FrazierPirates

Available: 88% ESPN, 79% Yahoo, 70% CBS

Ignore the power numbers, the 25-year-old already has hit more home runs (five) in 243 major-league at-bats than he did in his entire minor-league career (three, in 1,364 at-bats). I don’t have an explanation for the recent surge. Anything fantasy owners get in that department is the proverbial cherry on top of the sundae. While Frazier does possess excellent speed, he’s never been an efficient base stealer. He was caught stealing an International League-leading 15 times (32 attempts) in Triple A last season. I have serious doubts concerning the potential power-and-speed combination upside, but the Mississippi State product can flat-out hit—that’s never been up for debate. A career .300 hitter over 353 minor-league games, he’s riding the wave of a .395 BABIP to an absurd .361/.446/.515 slash line through 112 plate appearances.

At a bare minimum, Frazier is going to hit for a high average. If he becomes a permanent fixture atop the Pirates lineup, then it’s easy to envision him settling in as a two-category fantasy standout (runs scored and batting average) with multi-position eligibility. I’m not sold Frazier has the upside to be a #FantasyMonster but he needs to be owned in all mixed leagues going forward.

Pitchers

Brad HandPadres

Available: 95% ESPN, 82% Yahoo, 87% CBS

The 27-year-old southpaw has successfully transitioned from middle relief, leading baseball in appearances and innings pitched by a reliever a season ago, to effectively usurping Brandon Maurer as the Padres closer. Frankly, I don’t understand the Maurer (3.69 DRA over 18 innings this season) truthers. There isn’t a great deal of clarity regarding who gets the next save chance in San Diego, but even if the manager Andy Green elects to turn the ninth inning back over to Maurer soon, Hand is a vastly superior fantasy option from a skills perspective.

I’m not a big proponent of touting relief pitchers in this space, but the intoxicating mix of Hand’s raw talent, role/opportunity, and paltry ownership rates are too good to pass up. Hand’s control (3.5 BB/9) is the lone blemish on an otherwise sublime profile. His strikeout rate (12.1 K/9) currently resides among elite company, and his 2.24 DRA ranks 21st out of 235 pitchers with at least 20 innings of work. Even if he’s moved back into a more flexible setup role (or traded), he is a virtual lock to lend a helping hand (pun intended) to fantasy owners’ ratios this season. After racking up a pair of saves on consecutive nights, it’s safe to assume that he’s got a firm grip on the job.

15-team mixed leagues (must be available in at least 75 percent of ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS leagues)

Hitters

Chris TaylorDodgers

Available: 76% ESPN, 66% Yahoo, 71% CBS

The 26-year-old utility infielder has been a mainstay in this space over the past month. He’s hitting .326/.434/.562 with five home runs in 106 plate appearances and has shifted to center field in the wake of Joc Pederson’s injury. His versatility (and productive bat) give the Dodgers plenty of avenues to give him regular playing time. Taylor could be relegated back to a utility role once superstar third baseman Justin Turner recovers from a hamstring injury, but don’t rule out a split at second base if Logan Forsythe and Chase Utley struggle. There’s something here. The Dodgers need to give him an everyday opportunity.

Robbie GrossmanTwins

Available: 97% ESPN, 98% Yahoo, 94% CBS

With four multi-hit efforts, including a pair of home runs and a stolen base, Grossman has bumped his season slash line to a robust .264/.405/.415 over the last week alone. He’s infinitely more valuable in on-base formats, but the fact that he’s ascended to the second spot in the Twins lineup (ahead of Miguel Sano) should provide a huge boost to his counting stats going forward. After years of futility against left-handed pitching, he appears to have solved those issues as well, giving him an opportunity to establish himself as Minnesota’s primary designated hitter moving forward. There’s a lot to like here, especially in deep mixers that allow for daily transactions.

Pitchers

Brad PeacockAstros

Available: 93% ESPN, 82% Yahoo, 87% CBS

There’s a lesson to be learned from the Jose Berrios situation. It’s better to invest early on a pitcher than to wait until they prove it over several outings. We just witnessed a spectacular start from Peacock earlier in the week. The 29-year-old righty limited the Tigers to just one hit, while striking out eight, over 4 1/3 innings. With Mike Fiers and Joe Musgrove scuffling, it’s easy to forecast Peacock moving to the rotation on a full-time basis. Don’t wait. The time to stash him is now in deeper formats.

AL/NL-only Leagues (Must be available in at least 95 percent of ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS leagues)

Sam Travis, Red Sox

Available: 97% ESPN, 97% Yahoo, 90% CBS

In the wake of Hanley Ramirez transitioning to full-time designater hitter, the Red Sox have elected to turn the short side of the first-base platoon over to the 23-year-old rookie. As my colleague Ben Carsley wrote earlier this week:

“the short-term fantasy impact here is pretty much null. “

Except in AL-only leagues where the waiver wire is more depressing than the average news cycle. There’s a strong likelihood that Travis is shipped back to Pawtucket this summer, but he might hit enough to make that a tough decision for the front office. There isn’t massive power upside, but Travis owns a .414/.485/.724 slash line against Triple-A right-handed pitching this year.

Ketel Marte, D-backs

Available: 100% ESPN, 99% Yahoo, 96% CBS

There doesn’t appear to be an obvious fit for Marte on the Diamondbacks roster right now, but he’s tearing the cover off the ball at Triple-A Reno. Granted, the Pacific Coast League is a friendlier offensive environment than playing on the surface of the moon, but the 23-year-old shortstop is still slashing an impressive .392/.436/.524 with 19 extra-base hits in 189 at-bats. He’s also stolen seven bases and been caught just once this year. With Arizona in contention, he could find his way into a utility role at the major-league level in short order. The time to stash Marte in NL-only formats is right now.