Sometimes the best way to get ahead is to stay two steps ahead of the pack. Depending on your league rules, stashing players that can make a difference in the second half is one way to accomplish this. What follows is a list of some names that could help decide NL-only and Mixed leagues, depending on the depth of the player pool.
Andrew Lambo, 1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: Lambo almost broke camp with the Bucs but was sent back to Triple-A Indianapolis in April. He played 26 games, slashing .344/.430/.570 (1.000 OPS) before having surgery on the ulnar-collateral ligament of his right thumb. He’s due back sometime in late July/early August which could give him about six weeks of MLB time if he shows any sort of pop when he returns. His spot will have to be first base, where Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez are currently splitting time. If Pittsburgh falls out of the wild card race, they may look to see what they have in Lambo down the stretch.
Darin Ruf, 1B/OF Philadelphia Phillies: Ruf is also presently on the shelf but should be back in a couple of weeks. He’s got a hairline fracture in his left wrist and a banged up knee, both suffered from trying to run through a wall earlier this month. If the Phillies are sellers, a corner outfield spot may open up. As Ruf exhibited after the All-Star break last season, he’s got some pop (14 HR in 293 PA) and can take a walk (11.3 percent BB%) but struggled with contact (31.3 percent K%). He did it once, why can’t he do it again?
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs: Kris Bryant is deservedly capturing all the attention as Baez is struggling to make consistent contact at Triple-A Iowa, but 11 HR and 14 SB reminds us just how much of a fantasy monster Baez will be when he does mature (he’s only 21). The Cubs would have to use him at second as Starlin Castro is having a nice comeback campaign. Baez has fanned 91 times while drawing only 18 walks, so there’s work to do. But if he can show any sort of improved discipline on the farm, a second-half promotion is not that much of a stretch.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies: Yeah, yeah I need to let this go but Franco is the future at third in Philly, not Cody Asche. Though, @cody_smasche is one of my favorite Twitter handles. It’s not as good as @BringerofRain (Josh Donaldson), @El_Coffee (Gregory Polanco) or @FlavaFraz21 (Todd Frazier) but it’s cute. Back to Franco, his decimals at Triple-A Lehigh are just .212/.268/.326 for a paltry .594 OPS, but he’ll be playing in the Future’s Game, which is a reflection of his still top-prospect status. While his 48:21 whiff to walk ratio isn’t great, it isn’t completely horrible. If Franco can get hot early on in the second half, there’s still time to do some damage in the Senior Circuit.
A.J. Pollock, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: Pollock isn’t a stranger to NL followers, but if your league has limited reserve and/or DL spots, he could be available since he’s going to be out until at least mid-August, maybe longer. Ender Inciarte has had his moments filling in, but Pollock’s combination of hitting and defense is sorely missed in the desert.
Marco Scutaro, 2B, San Francisco Giants: Okay, we’re stretching here, but Scutaro is a veteran and if Joe Panik slumps, the Giants may prefer Scutaro for their playoff push. The best that can be said about the veteran is he may not hurt you in average and could score a few tallies. Hey, it’s better than nothing.
Joe Kelly, SP, St. Louis Cardinals: The Redbirds can seemingly pluck an able arm right off the Arch but they’ll soon have an old friend return as Kelly is slated to start a rehab assignment soon. Assuming there’s no setbacks with his hamstring, the recent loss of Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia clears a path for a big league return. Don’t be concerned that Kelly was recently put on the 60-day DL; it was simply procedural to open up a spot on the 40-man roster.
Robbie Erlin, SP, San Diego Padres: While the cause of Erlin’s sore throwing elbow is still a bit sketchy, he’s pain-free and the MRI’s are clean, so he’s throwing again with the hopes of returning a bit after the All-Star break. But with Odrisamer Despaigne holding down the fort, Jesse Hahn looking good but still raw, Andrew Cashner a health risk and Eric Stults being, you know, Eric Stults, the fire-balling southpaw will have a spot waiting for him when he’s ready.
Burch Smith, SP, San Diego Padres: Speaking of the depleted Padres staff, Smith still looms as a second-half savior. He’s been out since early April with a sore forearm, but if he can make it back and show any modicum of control, he’s a strikeout machine.
Taylor Jordan, SP Washington Nationals: Tanner Roark has laid claim to the fifth rotation spot in Washington and is doing all he can to keep it, so it will take an injury for Jordan to get retribution for his April shortcomings before being sent to Triple-A Syracuse. Jordan isn’t exactly lighting it up on the farm, but his 28:8 strikeout to walk ratio in 31 frames is encouraging.