There’s been a ton of Tampa Bay Rays love over the past few days, with recommendations from two of my colleagues, Josh Rudd and Juan Blanco, who respectively and wisely suggested Steve Pearce and Taylor Motter as viable additions to your clubs. Let me join the party and give ya’ll another Ray to snag in your seasonal leagues; Logan Morrison.
Remember when Morrison was just 6-for-April this season? It’s hard to believe the guy could only muster six hits for the entire month, leading to this April 30 forgettable slash line: .100/.133/.156. As we all know though, baseball is a funny game. All it takes is a few excellent weeks of play to put a player back on the map with coaches, teammates and fantasy owners alike. In fact, as of May 16, Morrison has been shredding the ball, raising his numbers from .119/.143/.221 to today’s line of .228/.325/.317. Sure, those numbers in general don’t pop out to the average owner scanning free agent lists, but the sly and investigative owner will dig deeper (or read RotoWire’s Fantasy Sports Blog) and realize that Morrison is 18-for-39 (.462) with 3 HR, 9 R and 11 RBI since May 16. What’s even more impressive is that Morrison only has 11 strikeouts during the month of May, compared to his 25 whiffs in April. His May contact rate, .388 BABIP and 23 LD% really grabs you, although I’d like to see Morrison add more extra-base hits (only 4 XBH for the entire month). That means the average owner might ignore Morrison if they’re only looking at his May .159 ISO. But you won’t do that, will you?
And what about Morrison for today’s DFS needs? He’s quite affordable on both DraftKings ($3,300) and FanDuel ($3,100); plus, I sort of dig today’s lefty/right matchup for him facing the Yankees’ Nathan Eovaldi. Morrison may be overlooked with Eovaldi pitching well in 2016, so he’s more of a GPP play for your lineups. I’m expecting low ownership even with his affordable salary. With the way Morrison is swinging the bat of late and with Eovaldi on the road in Tampa Bay where he’s had minimal success, I’m building him into my GPP lineups. Morrison is a sneaky play today for a home run, and even more.
Other Recent Recommendations: Peter O’Brien, Steve Pearce, Taylor Motter, Leonys Martin
Looking for a less heralded prospect outside of the Top 100? O’Brien could make for an interesting choice after being recalled by the Diamondbacks on Friday. Obtained by Arizona from the Yankees for Martin Prado at the 2014 deadline, O’Brien smacked 34 home runs in 2014 and 26 home runs at Triple-A in 2015. He has carried the momentum forward this season, slashing .306/.330/.601 at Triple-A with 12 home runs, nine doubles and three triples. O’Brien’s raw power could play at the MLB level, although strikeouts could be a problem. He struck out 54 times in 173 at-bats at Triple-A and has a 28.2 percent K% for his minor league career.
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There was plenty of hype surrounding Pearce not long ago after a career-year in 2014 with Baltimore in which he slashed .293/.373/.556. However, he seemingly fell apart in a poor 2015 campaign that ended in a part-time gig. Now with his fifth team in six years, the 33-year-old is on pace to outperform the numbers that thrust him into the spotlight two seasons ago. Pearce has jumped around the Rays’ batting order a bit in the early going, but has found a home in the cleanup spot, hitting .328/.430/.657 over 67 at-bats there.
Now in his 10th season, the journeyman has shown great improvement in areas that had plagued him in the past. For example, in his three full seasons with the Orioles (2013-2015), he hit just .260 against left-handers, with his weakest output coming last year, when he averaged a pathetic .196 against them with just four homers in 112 at-bats. So far in his 2016 campaign, Pearce has crushed southpaws to the tune of .415/.489/.854 with five homers in 41 at-bats. His strikeout and contact rates are both better than ever before — 13.6 percent and 84 percent, respectively. Maybe the most appealing part of Pearce’s game is his positional eligibility. He’s already eligible at first, second and outfield in many leagues, and could become third-base eligible before this season is over.
The Tampa offense has picked it up as of late, too — this month, they are in the top five in the AL in runs, on-base and slugging percentage — and Pearce has locked himself in as a prime contributor and will continue to see an abundance of opportunities.
Here we are on the eighth Friday of the RotoWire/FanDuel Fantasy Baseball Championship, and… well, I didn’t do as well last week as I did the week before. Hey, that’s fine; sometimes you have that good-but-not-great week where some of your guys do well, but you don’t get those lineup-wide contributions that really make the bacon. Hard to complain about the recommendations, though, right?
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Motter has proven to be a true jack-of-all-trades, and his diverse skill set could keep him entrenched on the major league club for an extended period, if not the duration of the season. The 26-year-old manned six different positions for the Rays during spring training, and he’s equipped to capitalize on the multiple-month absence of Kevin Kiermaier. At present, Motter is in a platoon with struggling offseason acquisition Brad Miller at shortstop, and with Tim Beckham’s recent demotion to Triple-A Durham, he slots in as Steve Pearce’s immediate backup at second base as well.
Motter was struggling himself at the Triple-A level this season before his call-up, but the combination of decent power, speed, plate skills and shortstop eligibility make him intriguing. His line was an admittedly ugly .190/.228/.303 over 149 plate appearances, but he also was the victim of an abnormally low .209 BABIP. His prior seasons are more representative of what he can bring to the table, as Motter posted wOBA figures of .414, .338, .360, .343 and .381, respectively, over all of the minor league campaigns in which he tallied at least 195 plate appearances.
He’s already started to show glimpses in his short time with the big league team, slashing .267/.421/.733 with two homers and five RBI in five games entering Thursday. Motter posted double-digit homer seasons in 2014 and 2015 with Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, respectively. What we’ll likely also see soon is some thievery on the basepaths — he swiped 116 bags over 491 minor league contests, including four seasons where he reached the 20-steal threshold.
Other Recent Recommendations: Leonys Martin, SEA (look out for a new recommended pickup every day moving forward!)
Just a few things that caught my eye:
- #SharkWeek starts Sunday, June 26. Will the promos on the Discovery Channel include a tribute to Lord Stanley?
- Vladimir Tarasenko. Too little, too late. Joel Ward, on the other hand — BAM!
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One of the most amazing things about this year’s version of Leonys Martin is how far under the radar he’s flown for how well he’s played. Remember, the Cuban outfielder was once a top-80 prospect who hit .359/.42/.610 over 55 gmes in Triple-A at age 24; there was a lot to love here. Martin never developed into anything more than a one-dimensional speedster in the Rangers organization, but his time in Texas isn’t the end of his story. Indeed, he’s found new life in Seattle, of all places, perhaps taking his cues from the powerful Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano to become a much more authoritative hitter. After homering yet again Tuesday, Martin already owns a new career high in that category (nine), and he’s currently on an eight-game hitting streak in which he’s hitting a cool .500 (14-for-28) with four homers. The speed’s still there, too — he’s swiped seven bags.
Of course, savvy fantasy owners look at that 21.4 percent HR/FB rate and rightly ask, “Hey, is that sustainable?” Well, perhaps not entirely, but Martin has elevated his fly-ball rate and his hard-hit rate dramatically this year — as in, more than 10 percent each compared to his career norms — and the best plate discipline of his career is just icing on the cake. Buy the breakout.
Other Recent Recommendations: None yet, but look out for a new recommended pickup every day moving forward!