Let’s take a tour of the Senior Circuit with an eye on what we can expect fantasy-wise after the break.
Arizona Diamondbacks: With the return of Mark Trumbo, something has to flesh out in the outfield. Early indications are Ender Inciarte and Cody Ross will lose the most playing time while David Peralta will continue to play, mostly in centerfield. Trevor Cahill is back but he’s still a risk as he walked 20 hitters in 28.1 innings at Triple-A Reno.
Atlanta Braves: The prognosis for Evan Gattis improved over the break as he’s taking batting practice with the hope of returning the last week of July. Backs can be tricky, so counting on any more than 150 AB the rest of the way is optimistic.
Chicago Cubs: The next 10 weeks could be very interesting in Wrigley Field. Playing time is not guaranteed for Arismendy Alcantara but it’s certainly there for the taking. There’s a good chance Javier Baez and Kris Bryant get a cup of joe before season’s end. What’s really scary is with all the focus on the infield prospects, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora are ignored. From a fantasy sense, so long as you don’t need to chase wins, Tsuyoshi Wada and Kyle Hendricks are intriguing arms to monitor. The strikeout potential can certainly help an NL-only team and they could even be streaming options in mixed leagues.
Cincinnati Reds: The news Joey Votto will only be out a couple weeks means the Reds can use Brayan Pena (again) to cover and focus on a replacement for Brandon Phillips. At least short term, Zack Cozart gets a little boost hitting second. As an Aroldis Chapman owner in multiple leagues, I’m a bit concerned how he left the field after his All-Star stint. Supposedly he tweaked a previous injury and should be OK, but until I see him blaze a 100 mph heater over the weekend, I reserve the right to be concerned.
Colorado Rockies: We’ll know in another week if Michael Cuddyer has a chance to return this season (probably late-August if it happens). In the interim, Carlos Gonzalez will man right field, which may help keep him healthy. Who am I kidding – it’s CarGo, nothing can help keep him healthy.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Carl Crawford is back, which makes a crowded outfield a little more crowded. The problem is no one can really play centerfield as well as a playoff-bound team typically runs out there. Matt Kemp wants to play every day, which could push him back to center. Heck, the Lakers once won with Magic Johnson playing center, so who knows.
Miami Marlins: I’m not sure if the pheromones are obvious, but I’m developing a pretty serious mancrush on Christian Yelich. Last year, it was Kole Calhoun, this season it’s Yelich. Not only has Giancarlo Stanton stayed healthy, he’s piggybacking with the improved Marlin attack, as his RBI and runs total may both tip triple digits.
Milwaukee Brewers: The tragically sad death of Jean Segura’s infant son has Elian Herrera with the team while Segura is with his family. Obviously, there are more important considerations than when he’ll be back with the team, but the most recent news is the club is attempting to get in touch with their shortstop and will support whatever he decides.
New York Mets: Don’t look now but Curtis Granderson is heating up. The rest of the outfield is still transient but a healthy Juan Lagares is the closest they have to a regular. Daisuke Matsuzaka is heading back to the bullpen as Dillon Gee has returned and Jon Niese will soon follow.
Philadelphia Phillies: Cliff Lee will be back next week but for how long? The game “Who will close if Jonathan Papelbon is traded?” is sweeping the nation. Antonio Bastardo is possible but he’s also on the block. Jake Diekman and my choice Ken Giles are also possibilities.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Bucs are a solid starting pitcher away from hanging in the wild-card race for the duration. It will be interesting to see if they take the plunge. The intriguing fantasy question will be how the Pirates continue to find playing time for Josh Harrison as when everyone is healthy, he’s the odd man out. His flexibility should keep his bat in the lineup fairly frequently.
San Diego Padres: Hopefully, not many of you followed my lead expecting a strong season from Everth Cabrera, but if you did, I’m sorry. The usual Huston Street/Joaquin Benoit rumors are running rampant again with Kevin Quackenbush as an intriguing speculative stash. Quackenbush has 27 whiffs to only eight walks in 26.3 frames, allowing just one homer.
San Francisco Giants: Angel Pagan’s return is about a week away. Marco Scutaro is back but expect Joe Panik to keep getting some decent playing time. In his last three outings, Sergio Romo has fanned seven with no walks and just one hit, covering 3.1 stanzas. Let’s just say I don’t think he’ll end the season with the same number of saves he has now.
St. Louis Cardinals: A white-hot Kolten Wong (.321 with five homers and three steals since July 6) has likely earned regular run at second. Oscar Taveras has pushed Allen Craig to the bench. Craig hasn’t forgotten how to hit; it’s just one of those years. A Lawr Michaels fave George Kottaras could supply some pop in Yadier Molina’s stead.
Washington Nationals: Adam LaRoche’s continued success is making it really hard for the Nats to move Ryan Zimmerman to first and Anthony Rendon to third. A decision on Jordan Zimmermann and his biceps strain should be made before Friday’s games begin. Blake Treinen and Taylor Jordan are possible replacements if the need arises. I know they still have to get there, but if they do I really like the way Washington sets up for a playoff run.