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By this time of the fantasy season, those in 5x5 Roto leagues should have a good idea which categories they’re set in and also the ones where they could use some help. We’re here to lend a hand with the latter.
Lorenzo Cain, OF, Brewers
Injuries have limited Cain to just 41 games this season, and on the whole he hasn’t been terribly productive at the plate during his healthy stretches. However, the two-time All-Star has started to look like his old self again since returning from a hamstring strain late last month, batting .342 with eight RBI, six runs scored and three stolen bases in 10 contests. Cain has always been a good bet for average when he’s been healthy, and that should continue to be the case down the stretch as the Brewers try to lock up the National League Central. The 35-year-old is currently unrostered in more than 75 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Jack Mayfield, SS/3B, Angels
Mayfield has been well traveled since the offseason, going from the Astros to the Braves to the Angels to the Mariners and then finally back to the Angels via waivers. Such is the life of a 30-year-old utility player. He has found a home at third base for the Halos of late and it would appear he could stick there for the rest of the season with Anthony Rendon (hip) going down. Mayfield has popped three home runs already this month and has clubbed seven over 82 plate appearances since the Angels re-acquired him a month ago. The infielder hit 26 long ball at Triple-A in 2019 and has hit 12 in just over 200 plate appearances between the majors and minors in 2021.
Aledmys Diaz, 2B/3B/OF, Astros
Speaking of utility players, Diaz has been a jack-of-all-trades during his time with the Astros, seeing starts at all four infield positions as well as both corner outfield spots. Diaz has hit wherever he’s had to play since returning from a fractured hand in late July, batting .306/.320/.571 with three home runs, 11 RBI and seven runs scored in 11 games. The 31-year-old was elevated to the No. 3 spot in the Astros’ lineup Sunday and contributed his second straight multi-hit game while driving in a run. Alex Bregman (quad, hamstring) is due back this week, but Diaz should still see regular at-bats with Yuli Gurriel (neck) going down.
Jorge Mateo, OF, Orioles
Mateo has bounced around to a few different organizations since his days as a top-100 prospect, most recently being claimed off waivers by the Orioles last week. The O’s have started him at second base each of the last two days, and he’s stolen a base in both contests. Mateo’s speed is his standout tool. He’s a true 80-grade burner with a sprint speed that ranks third in all of baseball this season behind Trea Turner and Tim Locastro. It’s certainly fair to wonder whether Mateo will ever get on base enough to be a useful player, as he has some of the worst plate discipline in the game. That said, Baltimore has nothing to lose in running the 26-year-old out there every day down the stretch, and with regular playing time, Mateo is going to steal some bases.
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Hoy Jun Park, OF, Pirates
Park was acquired by the Pirates at the trade deadline in a deal that sent reliever Clay Holmes to the Yankees. While he’s never been considered much of a prospect, the 25-year-old has posted a nifty .292/.439/.505 batting line with 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases between Double- and Triple-A this season. He has also gotten off to a nice start with the Pirates, batting .320/.370/.480 in his first 27 plate appearances. Pittsburgh has even started Park in the leadoff spot in five of their last six games. It looks like he’ll have a shot to remain at the top of the batting order against righties, and with his on-base skills, Park should be able to score some runs even if he doesn’t exactly have Murderers’ Row hitting behind him.
Alec Mills, SP, Cubs
It was a bit of a surprise when Mills didn’t win a spot in the Cubs’ rotation at the outset of the season, and he struggled to gain footing in a long relief role. However, since joining the team’s rotation in mid-June he’s been rock-solid, posting a 3.55 ERA and 35/12 K/BB ratio over 45 2/3 innings covering nine starts. Mills has crossed the 90-pitch mark and put up his first two quality starts of the season in his last two outings, and they weren’t easy matchups with one being against the Reds and the other at Coors Field. Now fully stretched back out, Mills is set up for two starts this week versus the Brewers and Marlins.
Nestor Cortes, RP/SP, Yankees
Cortes has been an unexpected savior for the Yankees this season. The mustachioed left-hander has made four starts and eight relief appearances for the Bronx Bombers, putting up a 2.15 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 41/13 K/BB ratio over 37 2/3 innings. Cortes’ fastball barely cracks 90 mph, but hitters don’t seem to pick it up well, managing just a .109 average and .164 slugging percentage against the pitch this season. The southpaw also keeps the opposition on their toes with a variety of arm angles, helping him to produce weak contact. Cortes is probably headed back to the bullpen when/if the Yanks are at full strength, but they need him in the rotation for now and he is lined up for a favorable start this week against the Royals.
Marco Gonzales, SP, Mariners
There’s no getting around the fact that this season has been a disappointment for Gonzales. He’s missed time with a forearm ailment and, when healthy, has failed to produce desired results. The left-hander has done his best to turn his campaign around since the All-Star break, though, posting a 1.93 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 16/7 K/BB ratio over 23 1/3 frames covering four starts. He tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings against the Yankees in his last trip to the hill, and before that he spun six frames of one-run ball versus the Rangers. It’s the Rangers who Gonzales will face this week. Gonzales held a 0.95 WHIP last season thanks in large part to a microscopic 2.5 percent walk rate which led baseball. His control hasn’t been as pristine in 2021, but perhaps it will start inching its way back there now that he’s found his groove.
Carlos Hernandez, RP/SP, Royals
Hernandez is one of the game’s hardest throwers with a 97.6 mph average velocity from his four-seamer which ranks in the 98th percentile. He’s mostly maintained that velocity since moving into the Royals’ rotation, and the right-hander has really impressed the last two times out in back-to-back matchup against a tough White Sox lineup, yielding just one run on six hits and three walks while striking out 10 over 11 innings. Hernandez isn’t a finished product and can get wild at times, but he’s shown he can miss bats. This week he’s slated to face a Yankees lineup which has the seventh-highest strikeout rate in baseball versus righties.
Jonathan Loaisiga, RP, Yankees
Aroldis Chapman had been dominant since the All-Star break but over the weekend landed on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching elbow. It’s possible his absence will be relatively short since he’s not dealing with any structural damage, but it’s too soon to know for sure. Either way, the Yankees will need someone else to close games for a while, and the first save chance since he went down was given to Loaisiga, who tossed a perfect ninth inning to close out a win against the Mariners on Saturday. Worth noting is that Chad Green and Zack Britton were both unavailable, and it’s possible one or both of them will also be in the mix for saves while Chapman is out. Loaisiga, though, has pitched the best out of the three of late.