It is easy to have your Fantasy Baseball team on cruise control at this point in the season. You want to see how things shake out with struggling players before making any drastic moves, but you also need to get better production out of your lineup to keep pace. Jose Berrios is an excellent example of a top prospect who struggled in his initial major league experience, but has since become a potential impact player. (Pick him up immediately if he’s available in your league). Matt Adams is another player who should now be hot on the street, as he’ll get a new opportunity to play everyday in Atlanta for the next three months. Who else should you be looking at?
- Josh Bell (1B, Pirates) – Bell has been on fire lately, with four homers in his last seven games, bringing his season total to nine. He is also now hitting cleanup for the Pirates, increasing his appeal further. Bell entered the season as a former prospect without too much hype or fanfare, which is odd given that he is only 24 and held his own during a cup of joe last season. He projects to be a solid, but not elite 1B with above average power potential. Despite the nine long balls, Bell has just 19 Runs and RBIs thus far. We could see 25 HRs this season and if he continues to hit in the middle of the order, 80 RBIs are within reach. He may kick in a few stolen bases and should finish with an average between .250 – .275, certainly not a drain given the cheap power he offers. He’s been picked up in many leagues because of his recent power surge, so you better make your move now if you want him.
- Justin Smoak (1B, Blue Jays) – Smoak is 30 years old, so this is post-post hype at a minimum. I don’t believe (just yet anyway) he has all of a sudden turned a corner, but in a league where he is available, I am willing to ride the hot streak. He has never hit above .238 at the major league level (currently at .279) and strikeouts have held him back from tapping into his ceiling. He’s in a great spot with the Blue Jays and as long as he is in the lineup, he is a threat to go deep and drive in runs. Expect his average to seek its level, but 20 jacks and 75 RBIs are realistic expectations. Plus, if his improved contact rate is here to stay, you might have a true difference maker on your hands.
- Alex Cobb (SP, Rays) – Depending on the depth of your free agent pool, quality pitching definitely could be scarce. Cobb is not going to be a league winner for you, but he is a nice plug and play option in deeper formats. After missing all of 2015 and most of last year, Cobb has a 3.67 ERA and 38 punchouts in nine starts. He is not going to blow you away with dominant stuff and would be lucky to deliver more than 7 K/9 IP over the course of the year, but he’s proven that he can get major league hitters out consistently. A healthy Cobb has a chance to set a career-high for innings pitched and be a solid SP4 for your Fantasy squad.
- Tommy Joseph (1B, Phillies) – If you miss out on Bell or Smoak, Joseph is not a bad consolation prize for free power. Joseph hit 21 HRs in just 315 at-bats last season, landing him on many a sleeper list with a projected season of regular playing time. He had a brutal April that saw him hit mostly just waiver wires. If you haven’t checked back in on him, you might want to because he is crushing May to the tune of a .380 average, five homers and 12 RBIs in 16 games. As a CI or UTILITY player, I am very interested in Joseph’s power stroke.
- Zack Wheeler (SP, Mets) – Wheeler is working his way back after missing the last two years due to arm issues and surgery. The issue with Wheeler has always been the same; he gives up too many free passes. That prevents him from working deep into games, as his pitch count is typically run up into at least the 80s by the fifth inning. He has pitched seven or more innings just six times in 57 career starts. Only one of those times was actually past seven innings, when he had a complete game shutout back in 2014. At 26 years old, there is still time for his control to improve and if it does, he will become a more reliable Fantasy asset. As it is, he is going to have up and down performances that lead to an ERA in the high threes along with a strikeout rate hovering around one per inning. Depending on what type of arms are on your waiver wire, Wheeler’s strikeout upside could be worth the risk for your staff.