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Patience is a virtue many Fantasy owners lack, especially when we become invested in a prospect who shows considerable upside. Occasionally, we’ll keep a roster spot warm a bit too long in fear of letting said prospect wander off to the waiver wire, where another owner picks him up the moment he begins to show signs of progress.
Such is the case with Nationals OF Michael Taylor, who is currently sitting on far too many waiver wires at a time when the rookie is beginning to look like he could be a difference-maker in the second half. Owned in just 12 percent of polled leagues, Taylor’s power-speed combination is the type that could catch fire for a few weeks while helping you in both the home run and steals category.
Taylor entered Wednesday batting .250 with five homers and eight steals. While his .388 slugging percentage and .690 OPS screams middle infield-like production, over the last month, Taylor has become more patient at the plate, notching a .283 average and a .703 OPS. Again, the numbers don’t appear earth-shattering, but considering the waiver wire pickings this time of year tend to get about as slim as a Ted Cruz/Lincoln Chafee showdown for the White House, an investment in Taylor isn’t as risky as one might think.
Injuries throughout the Nats’ outfield have given Taylor an extensive opportunity to play daily, which has resulted in his steady stretch of consistency. Tuesday’s 0 for 2 showing at the Braves snapped a nine-game hitting streak for Taylor, who had five multi-hit outings and six games in which he scored at least one run. He will remain the primary left fielder, as it appears Jayson Werth’s return remains an indefinite proposition.
What scares off owners is Taylor’s 30.5 percent strikeout rate, which is more glaring when paired to his seven percent walk rate (take note, kids: when you’re the one in 4 to 1, it may be time to either enhance your negotiation skills or embrace the phrase “fleet of foot”). It helps to buy into the hope that Taylor can continue to display his newfound love of this curious thing called “base on balls,” considering he had walk rates as high as 11.3 percent during his stint in the minors. The increased patience will improve his isolated power number, which stood at .138 entering Wednesday, helped by the five doubles Taylor tallied during his hitting streak.
Taylor is capable of finishing the season with 10-12 homers and 18-20 steals; you’re not looking at a future batting champion here, so if he can hit in the .260 range while upping his OBP closer to .330, Taylor can offer a useful jolt in at least two categories while also becoming a contributor in runs scored. The potential for a 20-homer, 30-steal season remains a strong possibility, one that could happen in the next several years, but for now, invest in the future while benefiting from a pretty good gain in the present. Those in daily money leagues will find Taylor ($4,000 at FantasyAces) a low-risk play that allows you to focus your finances on a bigger option. Enjoying Taylor at a bargain of sorts is a fad that may not be the case once one of the game’s best prospects puts it all together.
As we wonder how much Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson would cost if there were ever such a thing as a Fantasy draft of great Americans, let’s get into the Independence Day mood with one of our national treasures while we the people find ourselves a Fantasy bargain or two:
Wilin Rosario, 1B/C, Rockies: A 10 for 23 stretch (.435) over the last seven games gave him a .305 average entering Wednesday, yet Rosario has been stuck in a platoon with Ben Paulsen for much of the last two months in the wake of Justin Morneau’s concussion issues. Sure, he’s not going to walk (2.1 percent walk rate), yet Rosario makes steady contact while also adding a pair of steals no one expected. The power could show up if the Rockies gave him a place in the lineup on a daily basis, yet considering the lack of quality options behind the plate, Rosario (owned in 18 percent of polled leagues) makes for a pretty good second catcher with the potential to offer much more than what he has done. His stock would take a considerable climb if he were traded to an AL team in need of a DH, who once hit 49 homers in 2012-13.
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Rays: When it comes to getting bang for the buck, Kiermaier certainly provides that, as 39 percent of his 63 hits have gone for extra bases. He’s cooled off since an 8 for 15 spurt near the end of last month, yet Kiermaier (owned in 15 percent of polled leagues) also offers an opportunity to improve an owner’s stolen base totals, as he has eight swipes in nine attempts. A .291 OBP has limited his opportunity to play more, but he is a low-risk play in daily leagues when the Rays give Kiermaier the chance to hit against righties. He put together a .314/.337/.488 slash line last month, which could be a sign of bigger things after he sputtered to a .198 clip in May.
Robbie Ray, P, Diamondbacks: A fly ball pitcher living in a hitter’s park equals a bigger disaster than the movie Get Hard, yet Ray has defied the odds in his first six starts, producing a 1.98 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP while allowing just two homers in 36.1 innings. He hasn’t given up more than three runs in a start and while he’s not striking out batters at a frantic rate (6.94 K/9), Ray has seen increased velocity on all three of his pitches, including a fastball that has jumped from 91.5 mph last season (with the Tigers) to 93.5 mph thus far with the D’Backs. Another part of his success has stemmed from Ray shelving his curve in favor of a slider that has shown more movement while hitting 82.7 mph. There’s a chance that Ray (owned in 14 percent of polled leagues) can increase his K rate, which makes him intriguing in deeper leagues.
Andrew Heaney, P, Angels: Many were surprised when Heaney was sent to the minors rather than opening the season in the rotation, yet the move has proved wise thus far. Heaney has allowed just two earned runs in 13 innings while striking out 12, as the former ninth overall pick of the 2012 draft is making the Marlins look foolish for bailing out on him early (remember that thing about patience we talked about at the beginning of this column?). Owned in 13 percent of polled leagues, Heaney is not going to be under the radar for long. Like Ray, the time in the minors allowed Heaney to return to the bigs with improved velocity, as his fastball (91.7 mph) and changeup (83.7 mph) are more than one mph faster than they were in last season’s debut. There’s a reason he was regarded as a Top 30 prospect at the start of the season, which is more reason to grab him now.
Jon Singleton, 1B/DH, Astros: The Astros are beginning to see why Evan Gattis’ free-swinging ways wore the Braves thin, which is part of the reason why they brought up Singleton, who mashed 17 homers while slugging at a .553 clip. The time has come to see where Singleton fits in the franchise’s long-term plans, so expect to see him get frequent at-bats (at least until Gattis begins to make contact again). He’s owned in just four percent of polled leagues, which makes him a very deep sleeper as of now, yet Singleton’s progress is worth following, especially if he hits like he did in Triple-A. If that happens, either Gattis or Chris Carter should begin looking over their shoulder.
Danny Espinosa, 2B/3B, Nationals: Our round trip to the nation’s capital ends with Espinosa, who still has value despite not having homered since June 10. Owned in 12 percent of polled leagues, Espinosa had a .800 OPS in both April and May before a late June skid dropped his OBP to .304 and a .729 OPS for the month. The days of 2011-12 are far gone when it comes to his base running (37 steals), but his eight homers already equal the total he hit in 114 games last season. With Anthony Rendon sidelined, Espinosa will stay in the lineup, where his just above average OBP (.336) and power potential make him worthy of consideration in deeper leagues, where the likes of Stephen Drew and Yangervis Solarte make for some of the better options among middle infielders.