Scott Kingery (Yahoo: 45 percent rostered) is enjoying that post-hype life. Coming off a rookie season where he was one of the least productive hitters in the majors while playing out of position at shortstop, Kingery was barely on the map as a fantasy option this spring. Beyond the poor numbers, there just wasn’t a clear path to playing time. Still, he began the year hot before going down with a hamstring injury and now finds himself in a great situation with the second-place Phillies.
While Kingery went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts on Wednesday against Arizona, he’s batting .315/.356/.613 with 18 extra-base hits (including seven home runs), 18 RBI, two steals, and 18 runs scored through 36 games. Taking over center field duties with Odubel Herrera under investigation following an arrest for domestic violence, Kingery is already just one off the pace from his home run total from all of last season.
A few things stick out in regard to what Kingery has done in a small sample this season. He’s still striking out and walking right around where he was last year, but he’s done a much better job laying off bad pitches and attacking pitches in the strike zone. As a result, he’s seen sizable jumps in the areas of average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and barrel percentage. Sounds logical, right?
Kingery is sporting a .378 BABIP, so combine that with the strikeout rate and we can expect the batting average to come down somewhat. But it’s worth remembering the sort of numbers Kingery posted in the minors and the excitement many fantasy owners felt when he began last season in the majors following his extension. He might just be the latest example of a player who needed a little bit of time to mature at the major league level.
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(Players rostered in under 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Note: Percentages are from the morning of Thursday, June 13
Pablo Lopez SP, Marlins (Yahoo: 26 percent rostered)
Lopez’s peripherals have indicated that he’s deserved better and we’re finally seeing the results to go along with that. The 23-year-old owns a 1.88 ERA and 27/6 KBB ratio in 28 2/3 innings over five starts since his nightmare outing against the Mets back on May 10. He hasn’t walked more than two batters in a start since April 28. With this recent string of strong starts, he’s top-10 in the National League with a 1.12 WHIP. Sure, the run support isn’t likely to be there on a consistent basis, but keep running with him for now. He gets the Pirates this weekend.
Ramon Laureano OF, Athletics (Yahoo: 26 percent rostered)
I featured Laureano in the very first Waiver Wired of the season. That didn’t look so good early on, but Laser Ramon has redeemed himself recently. After hitting a grand slam and stealing two bags Wednesday against the Rays, the 24-year-old is now hitting .299/.339/.504 with five homers, 11 RBI, and 18 runs scored over his last 32 games. The approach remains flawed and he’s still in the bottom-third of the A’s lineup, but this is a lot closer to what many were hoping for after his strong debut last year. He should continue to be a useful compiler of counting stats, with a 20/20 year within reach.
Trevor Richards SP, Marlins (Yahoo: 36 percent rostered)
Richards also lines up against the Pirates this weekend as he hopes to continue his recent turnaround. After looking like a safe drop in most fantasy leagues in mid-May, Richards owns a stingy 1.09 ERA and 24/7 K/BB ratio in 24 2/3 innings over his last four starts. He’s completed seven innings in two of them and most importantly he’s done a much better job limiting the walks and keeping the ball in the ballpark. He leaned into his strength by throwing a ton of changeups in his most recent start, so it will be interesting to see how he continues to evolve. I’m in for now.
Chris Taylor 2B/SS/OF, Dodgers (Yahoo: 20 percent rostered)
Corey Seager was finally getting it together at the plate in recent days before going down with a Grade 2 hamstring strain this week. The expectation is that he’ll be sidelined for 4-6 weeks, which opens the door for Taylor to see regular playing time at shortstop in the interim. There’s no way to sugarcoat things here; Taylor hasn’t been good this year. He’s hitting just .218 with a .674 OPS and has earned his standing with notable decreases in average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage. We’re not talking about a bad luck situation here. Still, he offers some pop and speed and qualifies at three different positions, so he’s a decent plug-and-play option in deeper formats.
A.J. Minter RP, Braves (Yahoo: 19 percent rostered)
The Braves ended up with Dallas Keuchel while Craig Kimbrel landed with the Cubs, which means that there’s still plenty of questions in the back-end of Atlanta’s bullpen. Maybe we’re still looking at a possible trade in July, but Minter is worth paying attention to again now that he’s back in the majors. Luke Jackson was on a nice roll for a little while, but he owns a 5.59 ERA over his last eight appearances while blowing three saves. Minter has scuffled during his time in the majors this year, but he put up a 2.53 ERA with 15 strikeouts and just two walks in 10 2/3 innings during his stint in Triple-A. He could easily pitch himself into a prominent role, so feel free to speculate on this situation.
Justin Smoak 1B, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 47 percent rostered)
Smoak was included as a “buy” in this week’s Buy-Sell-Hold video for hitters simply because he’s trending in a nice direction across the board. You might not know it by his batting average or even his home run total, but he’s showing an improved approach and an increase in all of the trendy hitting metrics. Hard-hit percentage, average exit velocity, barrel percentage, it’s all good. Meanwhile, his fly ball rate sits at 44.1 percent, up slightly from last year and a positive number in general in terms of power potential. I don’t know if we’ll ever see him match his 2017 production against lefties, but he’s pretty much a must-start whenever there’s a right-hander on the hill, even with his slow start to June.
Anibal Sanchez SP, Nationals (Yahoo: 27 percent rostered)
Sanchez was a popular two-start pitcher this week — I even mentioned him as part of our weekly two-start video last Friday — and so far, so good. The veteran right-hander tossed six innings of one-run ball against the White Sox on Monday. Granted, it was only with one strikeout, but it was impressive nonetheless considering that he also faced the White Sox in his previous outing. Coming off a resurgent season with the Braves, Sanchez was off to a disappointing start with the Nationals this year before going with a hamstring strain, but he now owns a 1.04 ERA and 15/3 K/BB ratio in 17 1/3 innings since returning. Keep rolling with him against the Diamondbacks this weekend, though you were probably already planning to do that. It’s worth noting that he has some tentative favorable matchups against the Marlins coming up in late-June/early-July, as well.
Adam Eaton OF, Nationals (Yahoo: 48 percent rostered)
Hey, boring veteran players deserve some love too. In truth, I don’t understand why Eaton isn’t over the 50 percent mark. Sure, he owns a .753 OPS (that’s an OPS+ of 95, which is under the league average), but he’s still getting on base and scoring runs while chipping in with some pop and speed. He’s hitting second in the Nationals’ lineup these days, which is still a nice place to be. If he can stay healthy, we’re likely looking at 90-plus runs scored. Sometimes players of his profile can go under appreciated, so I’m just pointing that out here. He’s a nice alternative in shallow formats, depending on roster need.
Ken Giles has proved to be an excellent value for fantasy owners this season, piling up 11 saves with a stingy 1.08 ERA and 42/7 K/BB ratio over 25 innings, but he landed on the 10-day injured list this week due to right elbow inflammation. He’s confident he’ll be ready as soon as he’s eligible and it’s very possible that will turn out to be the case, but players aren’t always the best source when it comes to these things. Don’t drop anyone important in this situation, but feel free to speculate if you really need saves. Biagini was the assumed favorite and entered Wednesday’s game against the Orioles with two on and one out and the Blue Jays up by six. He ended up being changed with two runs on one hit and two walks while recording just one out. While it wasn’t without drama, Hudson secured the final four outs for his first save since 2016. Do what you have to do.
Corey Dickerson OF, Pirates (Yahoo: 25 percent rostered)
Dickerson finally returned from the injured list last weekend after missing most of the first two months of the season due to a right posterior shoulder strain. The Pirates’ outfield became crowded during his absence, as Gregory Polanco has returned from shoulder surgery while Melky Cabrera has swung the bat well and Bryan Reynolds has impressed as a call-up. With that sort of logjam, it makes sense that Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Dickerson is a possible trade candidate, but the playing time should remain fairly steady for now. He’s a quality defender and put up some useful numbers (.300, 13 HR, eight steals in 135 games) last season. He’s also hit second in each of his last two starts. There’s deep league relevancy here, at minimum.