With the Major League Baseball All-Star break approaching, it’s time for a little break for Fantasy Baseball players, too. As much as I love baseball, watching an average of seven or eight hours of baseball each night can be tiring. While I’ll enjoy not setting my lineup for a few days, I’ll be strategizing carefully for the second half of the season for that championship run.
Here are four players that you should look to acquire for the second half of the season to put your team in position to take home Fantasy gold.
Matt Shoemaker – I still don’t understand how Shoemaker is only 49 percent owned in ESPN leagues and 58 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues. Actually, I guess I kind of do. A quick look at his 5×5 stats show three wins, 90 strikeouts (!), 4.12 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. So one category that is helpful on the surface, right?
See, that’s where you capitalize. Shoemaker is officially breaking out. Owners see his ERA and get scared off. However, since his dreadful April when he allowed at least six earned runs in three of his five starts, Shoemaker has allowed more than three earned runs just twice since in 10 starts. His 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings are a career high.
Over the past 28 days, Shoemaker has a 2.06 ERA with a 1.00 WHIP. While he will struggle to rack up the wins on what is a pretty bad Angels team, in a season where starting pitching is pretty bad, Shoemaker can be a viable No. 3 starter for your Fantasy team in leagues of all sizes. He’s being viewed as a No. 5 or streaming option, so acquire him off the waiver wire or from the Shoemaker owner in your league for a second-half run.
Dee Gordon – Hey, remember him? The preseason consensus No. 2 second baseman appeared in just 21 games before getting suspended for performance enhancing drugs. Very quietly, the 2015 National League hitting champ is a month away from returning to action.
Before his suspension, Gordon posted a .266/.289/.340 slash in 94 at-bats, with 13 runs, five RBIs and six stolen bases. While your Fantasy team may have missed him, the Marlins’ offense hasn’t, as they find themselves in second place in the National League East thanks to Jose Fernandez, the underachieving Mets and an offense that has been rolling without Gordon and really Giancarlo Stanton this year.
A big part of the reason has been the breakout of Derek Dietrich, who has been more than viable since replacing Gordon in the lineup with a .394 OBP and a .447 SLG in 206 at-bats. Is Gordon at risk of losing playing time when he comes back?
No, come on. It’s the Marlins we’re talking about, still. He signed a five year, $50-million deal with the team, so we know he’s going to play. Dietrich can easily slide over to third base, even with Martin Prado’s empty average.
I’m avoiding Gordon in most keeper leagues and dynasty leagues, as I don’t want him anywhere around my team if he gets popped again. However, if you’re in need of speed down the stretch and a solid on-base guy, grab Gordon if he was dropped or make an offer to the Gordon owner who may have lost his or her patience.
Yulieski Gourriel – What a unique case this year. No, not a Cuban player being eligible to be signed, or the fact that he’s 32 years old already, or even that he has a younger brother who has even more potential than he does. It’s unique because you can’t pick him up if you tried in ESPN or Yahoo! leagues. No, he isn’t 100 percent owned, he isn’t in the player pool on either site.
In Yahoo!, when you go to type “Gour” in the search bar, only one player comes up – Ewokoniad Sigournet Juniorstein. Yes, a character from Key and Peele.
Unlike the other players on the list, you can’t stash Gourriel right now, but whenever he is added, he’s worth a grab. He’s posted photos to Instagram with his workout with the New York Mets (depending on the price, it could work at third base) and the Houston Astros (#FreeAlexBregman). With the Astros, he could either be on the weak side of the platoon with Luis Valbuena at third base, or if A.J. Reed struggles, a spot at first could open up.
In 2015, in 49 games in the Cuban National Series, Gourriel posted a .500/.589/.874 slash with 15 home runs, 51 RBIs and 38 walks to just three strikeouts in 224 plate appearances.
As we’ve seen on many occasions lately, the stars from Cuba aren’t always transferring over to the majors. For every Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Abreu and Aroldis Chapman, you have Alex Guerrero, Rusney Castillo, Hector Olivera and Dayan Viciedo.
But depending on where Gourriel lands, he’s worth a stash on your bench as a second-half difference maker for your team in 12-team leagues and higher.
Daniel Mengden – In a year when so many pitching prospects have failed to live up to the expectations, Daniel Mengden is just slaying so far in his first four starts in the majors. So, why no attention on him? Is it because his last name isn’t Taillon, Glasnow, Berrios, Urias or Snell? He deserves plenty of attention, even if it’s just for that badass Rollie Fingers-like mustache.
In four starts, Mengden has a 1-3 record with a 2.81 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 3.73 xFIP, 9.12 strikeouts per nine innings and a 10.3 swinging strike percentage.
While Mengden’s minor league numbers back up what he’s doing, too, as Mengden has a 1.19 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP in 11 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season. Mengden isn’t going to be an ace for your team, as he’s hurt by the Athletics’ lack of offensive talent and the porous defense behind him. However, playing half of his games in Oakland helps him even more as a groundball pitcher. Mengden is worth picking up and starting most times out in 12-team mixed leagues and larger. Even when he experiences a rough patch, give him a few bad starts in a row before cutting bait with him.