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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.
Yadiel Hernandez, OF, Nationals
You might not recognize many names in the Nationals’ lineup these days after they dismantled their club at the trade deadline. The rebuild does offer opportunity to some new faces, and one of the players who will try to take advantage is Hernandez. Hernandez was already beyond prospect age when the Nats signed him out of Cuba, but all the 33-year-old has done is hit since entering pro ball. He put up a blistering .323/.406/.604 batting line with 33 home runs in his first full Triple-A season in 2019, and he posted a .920 OPS with five homers there this year. Hernandez has hit when give a shot with the big club, too, with a .303/.358/.465 line over 109 plate appearances. He clubbed a pair of long balls Sunday, including a walk-off shot. Hernandez looks like Washington’s left fielder and cleanup hitter for the final two months.
Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Brewers
With an excellent showing in 2020 both from a production and Statcast perspective, Tellez came into the 2021 campaign with some helium. He fell flat with the Blue Jays, though, putting up a lowly .610 OPS with four home runs over 50 games. Tellez got a new lease on life when he was traded to the Brewers last month, and he’s responded of late with a 1.263 OPS, four long balls and 10 RBI in his last nine games. American Family Field is a very favorable environment for left-handed power hitters, and this week sets up well for Tellez with six home games against right-handed pitchers on the docket.
Sam Hilliard, OF, Rockies
Hilliard has drawn plenty of buzz in the fantasy community in the past. That tends to happen when a guy has power and speed and plays at Coors Field, and Hilliard fits the bill, having hit 42 homers and stolen 24 bases in 2019 between Triple-A and the majors. Strikeouts have been a problem, though, and the Rockies haven’t seemed terribly committed to giving him playing time. He’s seen regular duty of late, though, and has hit three homers and added a steal over his last 10 contests. The Rockies have six games at home this week, so if you’re going to play Hilliard, now is the time.
Edward Olivares, OF, Royals
Olivares is another guy who has intrigued fantasy managers with his power/speed combo but who has yet to see consistent playing time at the major league level. Just this season, he’s already been back-and-forth between Triple-A Omaha and the majors five times. Is he up for good this time? One would hope so, as the only guy seemingly in Olivares’ way with Jorge Soler no longer around is Jarrod Dyson. Olivares got the start in right field for the Royals on Sunday and homered. At Omaha, he’s put up a .967 OPS with 13 dingers and 12 steals.
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Rafael Ortega, OF, Cubs
Re-read what I wrote above about the Nationals overhauling their roster and re-apply it to the Cubs. In truth, Ortega had actually already been seeing regular at-bats even before the Cubs’ teardown began, as the club was even leaning on him over Ian Happ. The journeyman outfielder has seized the leadoff spot for Chicago and since the beginning of July is sporting a healthy .410/.455/.721 batting line with four home runs, 11 RBI, two stolen bases and 11 runs scored. All four of those long balls have come in his last two tilts, as Ortega followed a home run Saturday with a three-homer game Sunday. The lineup behind him isn’t anything to write home about, but Ortega should still touch home plate plenty so long as he’s at the top of the batting order.
Vladimir Gutierrez, SP, Reds
The Reds are, well, red-hot, having won five of their last six games and seven of their last 10. Their last victory came on Sunday in a game started by Gutierrez, who held the Mets to just one run on three hits and two walks over seven strong innings. That came after the right-hander limited the Cubs to two tallies across 6 1/3 frames in his outing before that. Next on the docket for Gutierrez will be the Pirates, a club that’s sitting at 25 games under .500. It certainly sets up to be a favorable streaming spot and one which could easily garner Gutierrez his third win in as many starts.
Luis Patino, SP, Rays
Acquired from the Padres in the Blake Snell trade, Patino was used as an opener and bulk reliever earlier this season by the Rays, but he’s functioned as more of a typical starter of late. The 21-year-old put together a gem last week against the Yankees, striking out eight while allowing just three hits and two walks over six shutout innings. Patino has a fastball which can touch triple digits, but it’s his slider which the Rays worked with him to change the shape of that’s been a difference-maker. The young righty is throwing the pitch almost twice as much as he did last year, and so far he’s gotten a 43.8 percent whiff rate on it while holding the opposition to a .109 average. Patino’s next start is a favorable one against the Mariners.
Josh Fleming, SP, Rays
With a fastball that barely cracks 90 mph, Fleming won’t light up the radar gun like his teammate, the aforementioned Patino. However, that doesn’t mean he’s not also effective. Fleming does it mostly by keeping the ball on the ground (his 56.3 percent groundball rate ranks 10th among pitchers with at least 50 innings) and not walking anyone (he has a 2.3 BB/9 rate in the majors and a 1.6 BB/9 rate in the minors). The elite control is a major reason why Fleming has always been a great bet from a WHIP perspective.
Josiah Gray, SP, Nationals
Gray landed with the Nationals along with Keibert Ruiz in the stunning trade which sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers. The Nats are immediately inserting the young right-hander into their rotation, as he will make his debut for his new club on Monday with a start against the Phillies. Gray has missed bats with aplomb at every level, having fanned 228 over 198 innings in the minors and 13 over eight frames during his two starts with the Dodgers last month. Workload is a legitimate question, as a shoulder ailment has limited Gray to only 23 2/3 innings between the majors and minors in 2021. However, the Nats figure to want to set the 23-year-old up for a spot in next year’s rotation, and in order to best do that they’re going to have to stretch him out.
Kyle Finnegan, RP, Nationals
With Brad Hand in Toronto, Daniel Hudson in San Diego and Tanner Rainey at Triple-A Rochester, Finnegan has emerged as the clear favorite for saves in the Nationals’ bullpen. He picked up back-to-back saves last Thursday and Friday before getting a win following a scoreless top of the ninth inning Sunday after the Nats walked it off in the bottom of the frame. Finnegan walks too many batters, but in 67 2/3 relief innings in the majors he’s struck out 73 while holding a 3.06 ERA. The 29-year-old is unscored upon in 13 of his last 14 appearances.