Can you believe we are just over a week from the trade deadline? Hopefully we get a flurry of action that opens up some roles for newcomers who are widely available on waiver wires. As for this week, I found pitching to be a bit barren, but the hitting has a handful of gems who are worth keeping on your team beyond Tuesday.
Caleb Smith (L), rostered in 56% of ESPN leagues, Miami Marlins at Chicago White Sox: It's a light pitching slate in terms of the widely available arms, so I have to start off with some rule-breaking. I'm exceeding the 50% roster rate we aim for with both of my first two arms, as they just aren't that far over and I can't comfortably recommend the likes of Aaron Sanchez or Dylan Covey just because they are more available. Smith's roster rate dipped when he was on the injured list. He's back now and should be tracking at 75% or better. He has a 3.71 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in three starts with 19 strikeouts in 17 innings.
Wade Miley (L), 56%, Houston Astros vs. Oakland Athletics: Miley has built on the success of last year's half-season with improved base skills and a great supporting cast, especially on offense, fostering a 3.25 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 8 wins in 113 2/3 innings. His strikeout rate has jumped from 15% last year to 20% this year and that cutter we all learned about last season has carried him. He's leaning on it nearly half the time (49%) and only three cutters have been better by FanGraphs Pitch Values: Yu Darvish 17.7, Martin Perez 12.3, Zach Eflin 8.6 and Miley 6.2.
Felix Pena (R), 5%, Los Angeles Angels at Los Angeles Dodgers: Excellent foundation skills -- namely his 25% strikeout rate and 8% walk rate -- have been undercut by a home run problem (1.7 HR/9) that his ERA near 5.00. Two impossibly bad outings have also been a major reason for his ugly ERA. He allowed 15 runs in 6 1/3 innings of work and if you look at his work outside of those, he has a 3.61 ERA in 79 2/3 innings. The best deployment of Pena is in head-to-head leagues with weekly start limits because he will follow an opener and not cost you one of your starts.
Catcher -- Travis d'Arnaud (R), 7%, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox (LHP Chris Sale): Heat check! Obviously squaring off against Sale is no easy task, but TdA has been out of his mind of late, particularly against lefties, whom he's hit for a .253/.310/.533 line with six homers in 84 plate appearances. Since June 1, he has 10 homers in just 115 PA.
First Base -- Christian Walker (R), 24%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Dylan Bundy): Walker is heating up again with a .262/.396/.643 line and 5 HR in July. He has done his best work against righties with 16 of his 19 homers and a 139-point platoon advantage thanks to his .870 OPS. Bundy has been a home run machine, with righties hitting 14 off him in 208 plate appearances. He will also be fresh off the injured list for this start.
Second Base -- Keston Hiura (R), 41%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tanner Roark): Hiura has been electric since his recall, hitting .372/.430/.679 with 4 HR and 5 SB in 86 PA. He's in the midst of an 11-game hit streak and even finds himself in the top half of the order from time to time. I'm surprised Hiura is on only 41% of rosters right now. He's someone to scoop and consider keeping for a longer term.
Third Base -- Jeimer Candelario (S), 5%, Detroit Tigers vs. Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Aaron Nola): Candelario is also out of his mind since being recalled. He's hitting .301/.370/.589 with 5 HR in 81 PA dating back to June 26. He was awful prior to the demotion with a .546 OPS, so his bottom line will need a lot more good work in order to really move, but he has mid-20s HR power and with a 22% K rate, he can hit .270 or better.
Shortstop -- Scott Kingery (R), 44%, Philadelphia Phillies at Detroit Tigers (LHP Matthew Boyd): He has become a mainstay for us on Tuesdays and while he has cooled a bit lately, there are some encouraging signs. In the midst of his hot streak, he had an .897 OPS over 155 PA, but a 31% K and 6% BB rate bred some concern. He has come back to earth with just a .670 OPS in July, but he softened the blow by more than doubling his walk rate to 13%. He also still has 3 HR in that span. If he can cut back the strikeouts a bit to the mid-20s while holding some of these walk gains, he can curb some of his volatility.
Corner Infield -- Garrett Cooper (R), 21%, Miami Marlins at Chicago White Sox (RHP Dylan Covey): Still just 21%? I don't understand it. Even being on a bad Marlins team hasn't stopped Cooper from being a major producer. Since June 1, he's hitting .342/.413/.564 with 8 HR, 26 RBI and 29 R in 167 PA. The full season RBI/R paces for this run are both well over 100 as he has been productive enough to overcome his poor surroundings. He's also batting second or third every game now.
Middle Infield -- Danny Santana (S), 36%, Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners (LHP Tommy Milone): Did you know that Santana is essentially on a 30 HR/30 SB full-season pace? He has 13 HR and 12 SB in 232 PA this year, which would yield 30 HR and 28 SB over a full season. He has started only 56 of the 72 games he has played, which only makes his performance that much more impressive. The switch-hitting utility man has hit both lefties and righties, so if the Mariners opt to use a right-handed opener and not start Milone, Santana is still in good shape.
Outfield -- Oscar Mercado (R), 24%, Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Aaron Sanchez): Mercado has hit just .231/.298/.423 in July, but the All-Star break seems to have hit at the best time because he has returned with a 1.068 in 38 PA. His July totals are held down by four bad games to open the month. He's on a 22 HR/28 SB pace since getting called up and should be on much more than 24% of rosters given the dearth of SBs available.
Outfield -- Tyler O'Neill (R), 14%, St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Chris Archer): O'Neill could be our next Scott Kingery where his talent is too tantalizing to ignore, but his strikeout (38%) and walk (4%) rates portend trouble. He's hitting .323/.353/.554 with 4 HR and 1 SB in 68 PA since being recalled. Archer is pitching better of late, but has allowed righties to hit .265/.343/.486 with 11 HR in 216 PA.
Outfield -- Manuel Margot (R), 8%, San Diego Padres at New York Mets (LHP Jason Vargas): Margot has quietly accumulated 13 SBs, tied for the 10th most in baseball despite not holding a full-time role as he has started only 55 of the 90 games he has played. He has started hitting in July, posting a .318/.444/.682 line with 3 HR in 54 PA. He has crushed lefties this year with a 1.072 OPS, albeit in just 59 PA.
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LH" and "RH" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate hitter rating; these are the author's ratings.