Who’s Hot and Who’s Not, and How to React
Hopefully everyone enjoyed their Independence Day festivities. Baseball and barbecue sounds good to me. When it comes to young pitchers, now is one of those times where you shouldn’t panic if they miss a start or two. In today’s game we all know that most teams will have an innings or pitch limit for most of their rookie hurlers. It doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with these limits, they are there. Don’t panic if a pitcher like Shane Bieber (Hot) or Luke Weaver (Not) has a start skipped. With each team receiving four days off for the All-Star Break, the next week-plus will give teams a perfect chance to give their younger starters a breather and possibly allow them to pitch deeper into September. This could be the different between trading a player between now and your Fantasy deadline and holding onto him for a championship run.
- Wade LeBlanc, Seattle Mariners: I’m not sure anyone truly knows how LeBlanc is doing it, but he’s resurrected his career this season. The Mariners seemed to have turned this trick for several of their starters, as Mike Leake and Marco Gonzales are also pitching better than expected. Can any or all of them keep this up? Well, the Mariners certainly feel good about LeBlanc, as they signed him for next season Tuesday, but he seems to be a House of Cards that will fall sooner or later.
- Nathan Eovaldi, Tampa Bay Rays: Eovaldi always had the talent and arm strength. He threw hard before it was in vogue. The problem for Eovaldi (other than coming back from Tommy John surgery), was that although he threw hard, he also threw very straight. Major League hitters will eventually time a fastball no matter how hard they throw if it lacks movement. Has Eovaldi solved that problem? Maybe yes, maybe no, but his average fastball velocity is 97 MPH, so there is nothing wrong with his arm. He could be a cheap source of strikeouts for your Fantasy team.
- Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians: Bieber should have been on your Fantasy radar already, but if not, he’s a must-pickup now. The Indians sent down Adam Plutko to Triple-A all but assuring that Bieber will remain in the rotation even if Carlos Carrasco returns to the rotation Friday. The Indians haven’t hit their stride yet, but they should pull away in the division and wins should be easier to come by for all of their starting pitchers, Bieber included.
- Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers: Coming into the games Wednesday, Kemp had 15 HRs, 55 RBI and was batting .318. Forget about being a hot player, he’s an MVP candidate both in Fantasy and reality. Yeah, who saw that coming? The only question now for Fantasy owners is, do you believe he can keep it up over the second half of the season? You know, I do. I’m not saying I would look to acquire him. I guess I don’t have that much faith, but I’m not looking to deal him either, at least not at less than full price. The Dodgers lineup finally looks dangerous, and he’s a big part of it.
- Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics: Lowrie is never going to get the publicity of the other top shortstops in the American League (Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa), but for where you drafted him, he might be a better bargain than all of them. He’s having the best season of his career at 34 years of age. My only worry with Lowrie is that there is a chance he could be traded by the deadline, and if so, maybe he’s not a starter for a contending team. I know that sounds silly, but he’d be a great super utility player for just about any team. Hey, it’s a thought, but not one that stopped me from claiming him in two leagues that he was available in last week.
- Marwin Gonzalez, Houston Astros: With Correa on the disabled list, Gonzalez will be the primary shortstop for the Astros. Perhaps this position switch will snap him out of his current slump. In his last 14 games, Gonzalez is batting .091 with only one HR and one RBI. Yeah, those numbers speak for themselves. The biggest Fantasy asset for Gonzalez is his positional eligibility. He seems to be eligible at just about any position and that’s extremely valuable now that we have a 10-day DL. It’s reassuring knowing that when one of your players go down to injury, you probably already have someone on your roster that can cover for them.
- Austin Romine, New York Yankees: Believe it or not, some were calling for Romine to start over Gary Sanchez even before Sanchez went on the DL. A sub .200 AVG will do that. Well be careful what you wish for. Since taking over for Sanchez, Romine’s warts have shown as an everyday player. He is in a 1-14 slide and also dealing with a hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined for the past four games. The other problem is his replacement Kyle Higashioka has three hits this week, all HRs. Sanchez should be back immediately after the ASB. Romine is best left on the waiver wire.
- Luke Weaver, St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals have hit gold with a couple of unexpected major contributors to their starting rotation in Jack Flaherty and Mile Mikolas, but that has just offset the disappointment of Weaver. Manager Mike Matheny actually had to confirm that Weaver would make his scheduled start Thursday. That’s how poor he has pitched this season as his 5.16 ERA and 1.45 WHIP will attest to. I have moved on.
- Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals: That was nine earned runs that Roark gave up Tuesday. It seemed he took one for the team as the Nationals left him in for seven innings and it was against the Red Sox, so maybe you can understand it. The problem lies in the fact that over his last eight starts, his ERA is 6.92, so you can’t just chalk Tuesday night to having one bad start. It seems like he’s had a string of bad starts. The team as a whole is not playing well as the loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday pushed them below the .500 mark. Changes could be coming in July and one of those could be Roark’s spot in the rotation.
- Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates: Marte has been planted on the bench for the past two games and this is likely a reaction to his prolonged slump. The month of June was not kind to Marte as he has only batted .180 with two HRs and 11 RBI over his last 30 games. Marte is likely just getting a breather and even with the slump, he was still stealing bases, so unless you’re doing better in that category than I am, he is still in your lineup.
As always feel free to follow me on Twitter and ask any questions you like, @georgekurtz.