Articles by Josh Rudd

Josh is a Member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He's Rotowire's Senior Beat Writer for the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays. Josh was a contributor to our 2017 Preseason Fantasy Baseball magazine, and his work was also published in several of of our "Friday Fantasy Pickup" blogs in 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JRotoRudd for MLB fantasy news, notes and advice.

Friday Fantasy Pickup: Dee Gordon, 2B, Marlins

Gordon was suspended 80 games in late April after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. He is still four weeks away from returning, but his ownership levels will rapidly increase as we close in on his return date of July 28. The rare opportunity to pick up a player of his caliber is one that, regardless of your roster situation, is too good to pass up.

There’s little doubt that, upon his activation, he will immediately jump back into the top tier of second baseman. The 28-year-old speedster will return with 61 games remaining on the Marlins’ schedule. Throughout his five-year career, Gordon has averaged one stolen base every 2.5 games — which puts him among the all-time best baserunners in that regard. Using these numbers, last season’s stolen-base champion is good for nearly 25 swipes between his return date and the end of the regular season. He’s got the green light practically every time he’s on base, and Gordon will be plenty motivated to try and surpass even this high projection.

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Friday Fantasy Pickup: Cody Reed, P, Reds

Reed was part of the Reds’ haul in the Johnny Cueto deal last July, and made his debut with the organization at Double-A Pensacola. In eight starts for the Blue Wahoos, Reed went 6-2 with a 2.17 ERA and 1.12 WHIP while racking up 60 strikeouts in just 49.2 innings. Promoted to Triple-A Louisville to begin 2016, he posted a 3.20 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 64.2 innings while whiffing 63 batters before his recent call to the bigs.

The left-hander was selected in the second round of the 2013 draft by the Royals. He’s a top-three prospect in the Reds organization and a consensus top-100 prospect in all of baseball. He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs in at a solid 225 pounds, and the 23-year-old uses that frame to pump his fastball in near the mid-90s on average. Reed also has a downright filthy slider that can dominate hitters on both sides of the plate. Impressive for such a young gun, there’s a refined third weapon in Reed’s arsenal as well. Option three is a changeup that comes in at close to the same speed as his slider.

Cincinnati’s hope for the future put his repertoire on display in his MLB debut June 18 against the Astros. Of Reed’s nine punchouts, the slider went for the final strike on six of them. His secondary pitches induced a ridiculous number of swings and misses — a whiff rate of 32.4 percent. The rookie will likely deal with hiccups along the way, but Reed is already a polished pitcher and will only get better with time.

Other Recent Recommendations: Tyler Naquin, A.J. Pollock, Devon Travis, Matt Moore, Justin Turner, Willson Contreras

Friday Fantasy Pickup: Rajai Davis, OF, Indians

When Davis signed as a free agent with the Indians in the offseason, he wasn’t expected to be much more than a platoon player. However, the 35-year-old journeyman has become the staple of the team’s outfield as an everyday starter. Now in his 11th season, Davis is on pace to bypass 500 at-bats for just the second time in his career.

From 2009-2014, Davis averaged 54 steals per 162 games. But last year, he swiped only 18 bags while getting caught eight times in 112 games — giving owners plenty of reason to believe that the tread had finally worn off the veteran’s tires. The stolen bases are what drove Davis’ fantasy value and without them, he regressed back to a run-of-the-mill option.

Well, Davis must have hit up the local tire shop when he arrived in Cleveland, because he’s running rampant on the basepaths once again. He’s been successful at stealing bases 85 percent of the time this season (17-for-20), which is the second best rate of his career. Davis ranks fifth among active base stealers, and he is on pace to take 40-plus bags for the first time since 2013 when he was a Blue Jay.

Davis has undoubtedly shown decay in some aspects of his game, but he’s doing plenty of things to make up for a career-high strikeout rate and his worst batting average since 2011. Davis is drawing walks at an 8.7 percent clip, well above his career rate of 5.8 percent, and he’s well on his way to breaking personal records in home runs, RBI and runs during the 2016 campaign.

Other Recent Recommendations: Ryan Rua, Alex Bregman, Zach Davies, Chris Young (BOS)

Friday Fantasy Pickup: Jayson Werth, OF, Nationals

It’s understandable why many prospective owners are uninterested in a 37-year-old outfielder who is coming off the worst season of his career, one that was marred by poor play and injuries. So far this season, he’s hitting a measly .236 with a career-low .290 OBP through 54 games. Werth has lost the little plate discipline he once had, and his contact rate dwells at its lowest point since his first year with the Nationals in 2011. And, yes – I am about to recommend that you pick him up promptly. Here’s why:

First, this is not a recommendation for a player that will contribute throughout the campaign, but rather an endorsement for a guy that can give you an immediate boost. Over his last nine games, Werth is hitting .314 (11-for-35) with four home runs, 11 RBI and seven runs while raising his average to its highest mark since September of 2014. He’s proven throughout his 13-year career that he can string together power numbers in bunches (see September of last season), which gives reason to believe that this surge can last long enough for owners to capitalize on it.

Known more nowadays for his beard than his bat, Werth has a couple of advantageous matchups on the horizon that can benefit those in season-long, weekly or daily formats. On Friday and Saturday, he will see Phillies starters Jeremy Hellickson and Aaron Nola, respectively. Against the duo in his career, the former All-Star is 7-for-28 (.250) with three homers, two doubles and 11 RBI. He’ll draw the Cubs’ John Lackey and Jason Hammel early next week. Werth has tagged them for a combined 10 hits in 32 at-bats (.313) with six extra-base hits, including two round-trippers. And finally, he’ll travel to San Diego to end the week with a four-game series against one of MLB’s worst pitching staffs.

The veteran is entrenched in the Nationals’ above-average lineup, and lately he has been hitting from the two-hole. He’s protected in the order by the NL’s reigning MVP, Bryce Harper, which gives Werth an opportunity to see good pitches and score many runs. And, although picking him up can be approached with the short-term in mind, it’s worth noting that he is on pace to hit 25-plus home runs, notch 80-plus RBI and score 75-plus runs in 2016.

Other Recent Recommendations: Robbie Grossman, Trayce Thompson, Jurickson Profar, Evan Gattis, Archie Bradley, Hyun Soo Kim

Friday Fantasy Pickup: Matt Wisler, P, Braves

Wisler remains a relative unknown among more casual baseball fans because he pitches for MLB’s worst team. However, his numbers would suggest that he is well undervalued in most formats. Through 10 starts, the 23-year-old has stats comparable to some of the biggest names in the game.

The right-hander’s 1.01 WHIP is better than many well-known aces such as Jose Quintana, Max Scherzer, Jose Fernandez and Madison Bumgarner. Wisler’s efficiency (14.09 pitches per inning) this season is second only to three-time Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw (13.37). His six quality starts in May were tied for most in baseball, and in his last 17 starts dating back to August of last year, the sophomore has produced a quality outing in over 75 percent of them.

Wisler is no hidden gem to baseball connoisseurs, and his success in the minors would also indicate that he’ll be more than just a flash in the pan. Atlanta’s No. 2 pitcher, who was given praise by Hall of Famer Tom Glavine during spring training, was drafted out of high school in 2011 by the San Diego Padres and acquired by the Braves in the Craig Kimbrel/Melvin Upton Jr. trade in April 2015. Wisler has been a top-50 prospect on a number of lists since 2014 and there’s not much reason to believe that he’s not for real.

Other Recent Recommendations: Whit Merrifield, Matt Adams, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Fulmer

Friday Fantasy Pickup: Steve Pearce, 2B, Rays

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.