FANTASY PLAYS: Devers emerging as fantasy star in Boston
There is yet another fantasy rookie impressing this season, this time in Boston. Elsewhere, a pitcher has returned to dominate the league, a closer has hit the DL and a Yankees outfielder is struggling - and it's not Aaron Judge.
Rafael Devers, BOS - To say Devers has been impressive since his arrival might be an understatement. In just 18 games, Devers is hitting .348 with six home runs, 13 Runs and 13 RBIs. The question with Devers was never his ability to hit but his ability to find playing time. Well, it's safe to say that Devers will play as much as he can handle given this production. Devers won't carry a .350-ish average regularly, as his current .400 BABIP is evidence of some luck. However, Devers can hit in the .280-.300 range over a full season and has the power to hit the mid-20s in home runs. Interestingly, Devers only has one stolen base after having none in the minors this year and 18 in 2016. It appears Devers has focused on hitting more than running, and as long as he keeps hitting at this clip, we can live with it. And continuing this hitting success is likely, as Devers also has great plate discipline with a 9.6 swinging strike percentage and a quality 39.2 hard hit ball percentage. If you grabbed Devers in your league, sit back, keep him in the lineup and enjoy the rewards.
Danny Salazar, CLE - Salazar has a 1.39 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 32.1 innings in five starts since his return from a shoulder injury. Read that sentence again. Salazar has been an elite-level pitcher, but here's a tip: Sell Salazar now. First, he's not Clayton Kershaw. Even with his great strikeout ability, Salazar has never been able to limit his walks or home runs allowed. Salazar normally sits in the 16-19 range for SOBB (strikeout percentage minus base on balls percentage), which is quite good but hurt by a walk percentage usually around 10. In addition, three of the five teams he faced rank inside the top 10 for strikeout percentage and all are in the top half of the league. Second, Salazar has struggled with injuries throughout his career. The 2015 season was the only time he topped 170 innings, as Salazar missed time last year and again this season. Someone is going to salivate over those strikeouts and ignore Salazar's more usual output.
Trevor Rosenthal, STL - Rosenthal hit the DL, which is unfortunate given how well he was pitching. Rosenthal had finally turned back into the top-end closer we saw in the 2014-15 seasons. Rosenthal had given up just two earned runs since June and had a second half SOBB of 34.5. Fortunately, Seung-Hwan Oh has rediscovered his shutdown ability as well. Oh has a 0.82 ERA with just one earned run since July 19 and 13 strikeouts in 11 innings. If Oh is available in your league, grab him immediately, but don't drop Rosenthal. Oh struggled earlier this year and is 35 years old. Rosenthal was back to being a dominant closer and can once again be the Cardinals' future at the position.
Brett Gardner, NYY - Owners might be a bit worried as Gardner is just three for his last 27 and had just two runs and zero RBIs before notching two of each against the Mets on Thursday night. More concerning was seeing Gardner sit out a game in the series now that the team is near full strength in the outfield with Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Hicks back. Don't be concerned, and if you can grab Gardner for a worried owner, do so. The Yankees don't have any more road games in the National League, meaning no more concerns about one of the four sitting. Matt Holliday is nearing a return, which again likely worries Gardner owners, but Holliday is hitting just .229 this year, so don't expect Holliday to steal too many starts from Gardner. After all, he still has 19 home runs, 75 runs, 51 RBIs and 15 SBs this season and was scorching hot in May. Gardner can go on a run again at any time, and even if not, he's a valuable piece down the stretch despite recent struggles.
The Mets are selling off pieces like they're going out of business. The offense is ripe for targeting pitchers to start. The White Sox had their fire sale long ago and continue to struggle offensively. The Brewers are fading and striking out at a league-high rate. Meanwhile, the Astros continue to mash, and the Indians have heated up lately, especially Edwin Encarnacion. Avoid both teams.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by Jake Ciely of the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com