Here we are at another Memorial Day, and aside from being a great holiday, loaded with baseball, family, food, and ideally great weather, this issue of the Hotpage completes my 19th year of writing the same column under the same title at the same URL. So I will try to conjure something special next week for our 20th anniversary edition (which is kind of exciting).
Memorial Day is indeed considered that first big milepost of the baseball season, and the one where fantasy owners have to decide whether their team has the parts to contend, or to rebuild for 2017. Memorial Day also leads into arguably the toughest stretch for managing a team, for the run from June 1 to essentially August--when the stretch run starts--is long and slow and often seems tedious. And, that can breed complacency, and that is the worst thing that can happen to an owner with a team on the hunt. But, the weather, busy schedules, vacations, and just everyday tasks can easily distract (sometimes appropriately). So, do stay on top of the transaction line and try to be vigilant making roster moves that keep the at-bats and innings coming as the season rolls on.
As for today, as has been our place for so long, here is our weekly list of players maybe worth a look, and sometimes not, that struck my eye over the past week.
Sometimes it is tough to see a ballplayer who is so good seem to fall off the face of the earth, but in a way that is what has happened to the Twins' Joe Mauer. A three-time batting leader and former MVP, Mauer has not led the league in much of anything save OBP in 2012 (.416) since 2009, almost seven years ago. Since then, injuries and age have slowed the former catcher with his OPS dropping to a career low .718 last year, making Mauer a sort of afterthought to a lot of owners and within a lot of formats. At age 33, it is not realistic to think Mauer would ever regain the prowess that produced the .365-28-96 MVP season, but despite the falling numbers, no question Mauer can still hit and get on base.
Now mostly a first baseman (and DH when not), Mauer has shown some signs that there is indeed life still in his bat, hitting .417-3-6 last week, raising his season numbers to .287-5-17 with a .394 OBP. In an AL-only league, those totals are beyond wonderful. Even in a mixed format, they are pretty good. But, Mauer, showing he still has the eye, makes a good mid-priced DFS gamble on a regular basis not so much for the power, but the default that he stands a good chance of getting on base (much like Ben Zobrist). And, of course, every once in a while, like last week, the stick goes wild. Anyway, if you had dismissed thoughts about Mauer as useful, reconsider, depending upon the situation.
Among the best part of baseball is how each season brings us surprises, and one of the best of 2016 thus far is the Phillies. Projected for the dumpster, the Phils are retooling with some really good youngsters like Tyler Goeddel. A first-round selection of the Rays in 2011, Goeddel assembled a .262-31-244 line over five season in the Tampa organization, moving as high as Double-A where he hit .279-12-72 for Montgomery last year. But, unprotected, Goeddel, still just 23, became what seems to be a slick Rule 5 selection of the Phils, for whom he has hit .270-1-7 over 32 games thus far. In an NL-only league, those are fine contributions for a fifth outfielder, especially spelling Aaron Altherr (wrist injury), who is due back to the team maybe by the break. In the mean time, Goeddel is playing every day and as a Rule 5 guy, he will likely stay with the big club the remainder of the season.
The Dodgers promoted their top pitching prospect, Julio Urias, for what turned out to be a disappointing debut (2.6 innings, five hits, four walks, three runs), but we must remember Urias is still just 19 and was 4-1, 1.10 at Oklahoma City this year over 41 innings, with 44 whiffs and a stellar 0.780 WHIP before the call-up. Give him a little time, and if your league rules allow to grab and stash a player once he has appeared in a big league game, do this with Urias right now.
Toronto got some Bowie-esque "chchchcanges" this week with the return of Devon Travis, and then the loss of Troy Tulowitzki. Toronto stocked up well with subs, and right now, Darwin Barney is hitting .316-2-6, logging a solid .350 OBP. Barney does have just three walks to 15 strikeouts, which suggests a correction. But for now, he should get to play every day, and qualifies at third (six games), second (20 games), and now short (two games), depending upon your league and rules.
Similarly, Cliff Pennington (.217-1-5) is back from the DL and will probably get the starting time at short in the absence of Andrelton Simmons. Again, as we plod into the hot months, keeping as many players as you can active is the only path to victory, and Pennington offers at-bats and some speed potential (80 career swipes). Plus, playing daily often fuels a player's numbers for a spell. Pennington is of use only in the deepest of leagues, but those are indeed the ones where the at-bats are toughest to scrounge, so don't write the Angel off.
Don't look now, but former hottest prospect on earth Jurickson Profar is back! Profar, still just 23, has had the ups-and-downs to make owners--fantasy and those in Texas--crazy with promise and injuries and struggles. But with a solid .277-40-201 minor league line with 57 swipes and 198 walks to 249 whiffs (.364 OBP), maybe the infielder has been down and away just long enough to have become a sleeper? Watch out!
Let's finish with another middle infielder in the Giants' Kelby Tomlinson, a 12th round pick of the Giants in 2011. Tomlinson made his mark with the team last year, supplying a .303-2-20 line spelling the injured Joe Panik. So, Tomlinson made the club this year as a utility player, and that he has been, hitting .339 with four steals over 28 games. But, with the injury to Angel Pagan, Tomlinson has played some outfield--and even earned an assist the other night--meaning he has spent time at second, third, short, and the outfield this season. He makes a great addition, again in a deep format.
Feel free to comment below and don't forget you can hit me up @lawrmichaels.