Last week we discussed AL Midweek targets, and as it turned out, at least in my home leagues that had Thursday bidding, that’s where the action was. This week we’ll focus more on the NL, and as it turns out there’s more inventory to discuss.
Jon Duplantier – I’m going to list Duplantier as a starter, even though he’s been pitching in relief, including Thursday night in a winning effort against the Braves. But he’s ultimately going to be a starter, even if it doesn’t happen right away. I’m a little apprehensive about Duplantier’s short-term value, as I don’t like the walk-rate he had at Triple-A Reno, or even the 3.76 BB/9 at Double-A last year. He’s also had some durability issues in previous years, including suffering a biceps injury. But there’s legit talent here, and a fantasy friendly role isn’t far behind.
Mike Montgomery – While he’s not officially in that role, Montgomery operated as a tandem starter Thursday with Yu Darvish, pitching the final five innings to get the win over the Marlins. It was his first appearance since going on the IL in early April, following a few difficult outings to begin the season. He was also stretched out as a starter during his rehab assignment at Triple-A Iowa, so he’s capable of stepping back into the rotation if Darvish continues to walk the world or Jon Lester decides he’s a baserunner again.
Zac Gallen – It seems as if it’s just a matter of when and not if Gallen gets a call from the Marlins, and whether he replaces Jose Urena or Sandy Alcantara in the rotation. For more on Gallen, read James Anderson’s excellent Farm Futures article from a week ago.
Wilmer Font – Both Steven Matz and Jason Vargas are on the IL for the Mets right now, opening the door for Font to pick up a few spot starts. Font was able to go four innings while allowing two runs against the Padres, a credible enough effort for someone being limited to 60 pitches. He is expected to go up to 75 pitches during his next start, but his strikeout ceiling as a starter could be pretty low.
Steven Brault / Nick Kingham – Jameson Taillon is out for at least five-to-six weeks, possibly longer, and Chris Archer is also out. The Pirates don’t seem to be interested in going after Dallas Keuchel, and Keuchel doesn’t seem to be interested in lowering his price. Mitch Keller has 42 strikeouts in 34 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis, but also has 17 walks and a 1.62 WHIP. Thus, Brault and Kingham could keep getting turns in the rotation, though at this point I might just throw Keller to the wolves and see what happens.
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Steve Cishek / Brad Brach / Carl Edwards Jr. – Pedro Strop is on the IL with a hamstring injury that he had been trying to pitch through for a couple of weeks, so the job is open, with Cishek the most likely reliever to fill the role. He was unavailable to pitch Thursday against the Marlins, having pitched the last two days and four of the last five. As it turns out, nobody got the save despite the team protecting a three-run lead, thanks to Mike Montgomery finishing out the game by pitching the final five innings.
Luke Jackson / Jacob Webb / Dan Winkler – A.J. Minter continues to struggle and is on his way to Triple-A Gwinnett to get back on track and have the spring training he essentially missed due to his shoulder injury. Jackson is getting save chances, but he blew one on Thursday night, giving up a game-tying homer to David Peralta. Webb is a wild card – he has good numbers and got one save in extra innings, but he strikes as a small sample wonder and not someone to build on. Still, I like him better than Winkler as a speculation play.
Junior Guerra – Guerra appears to have leapfrogged Jeremy Jeffress as the first option when Josh Hader is unavailable. Moving to full-time relief work has helped Guerra add 1.5 mph to his fastball, and he now has 19 strikeouts in 21.1 innings, including 12 in his last five outings spanning 7.1 innings.
Reyes Moronta – Will Smith has to be among the top-five most likely players to get dealt before the trade deadline, and if/when that happens, Moronta has a pretty good chance of stepping in as the closer. He has 30 strikeouts in 16 innings so far, having added a changeup to better combat lefties.
Addison Russell – Ben Zobrist is away from the team on personal leave, and Daniel Descalso is banged up so the Cubs’ hand was sort of forced to call up Russell early than they had intended – though not by much, from what I’ve recently read. I don’t intend to pick up Russell anywhere, as I think his playing time will be sporadic and he’ll be a low-average hitter. I think you could also object on moral grounds to having him on your team, though I don’t think you should feel obligated to do so, as our game is a construct of real life – we’re not the actual employers of him like the Cubs are.
Wilmer Difo – Difo is back as the regular shortstop until Trea Turner returns from his finger injury, but there’s not much value to find. He’s yet to steal a base this year and has minimal power to go with his .233 batting average. Last year he stole 10 bases, however, so there’s your path to some token value. He should get traded to the Mets so that they can stash another Wilmer.
Adrian Sanchez – Sanchez strikes me as the very definition of a replacement level player, up now because both Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Adams are on the IL. As soon as one returns, he’ll go back to Triple-A.
Josh VanMeter – After a nondescript 2018 campaign, VanMeter was tearing the cover off the ball at Triple-A Louisville this spring, hitting .336/.431/.736 in 131 plate appearances, hitting a whopping 13 homers while stealing five bases. It’s been asserted that he’s been one of the primary beneficiaries of the new ball at the Triple-A level, which is the same as the major league ball this year after being different in previous years. That’s probably true, and it’s also likely that VanMeter retooled his swing to match the batted ball environment. Sometimes a player can maintain that at the major league level, but chances are more likely that Van Meter is going to struggle at the big leagues. He’ll have a hard time getting regular playing time, unless Jesse Winker’s calf injury puts him on the IL. Even if Jose Peraza continues to lose playing time, Derek Dietrich is on fire and will get dibs more often at second base.
Austin Riley – When the Braves signed Josh Donaldson, it blocked the most obvious path to playing time for Riley, one of the top prospects on the team and in baseball. Riley stalled a little bit last year due to injury, and that he was one of the youngest players for his level. He’s pounding on the door now – it’s just a question of when the Braves answer and how they can fit him into the lineup. Riley is hitting .305/.378/.664 with 12 homers for Triple-A Gwinnett, and he’s cut his K% from 29.3% to 21.0% this year, while raising his BB% and his ISO. The problem remains finding a spot – both corner outfield spots are spoken for in addition to third base. Unless the Braves move Ronald Acuña Jr. to center field and bench Ender Inciarte, it’s going to be a little frustrating in the short term. Still, Riley is a worthy stash if you can find an open reserve slot.
Mac Williamson – Williamson gets another opportunity after once again tearing apart the PCL. He’s been a bit star-crossed lately, suffering a bad concussion after his call-up last season and a hand injury that set him behind in spring training. The Giants risked that some team might try to claim him when they DFA’d him in spring training, but he passed through successfully. After such luminaries as Michael Reed, Connor Joe and Michael Gerber failed to produce out of a corner outfield spot, they finally gave him another chance and he homered in his first game up. The only bummer for us is that we have already missed out on the Giants’ first Coors Field series before we can pick him up.
Harold Ramirez – Like the Giants, the Marlins are starved for offense and could turn to a minor league veteran in Ramirez for help from a corner outfield spot. Ramirez has spent time in the Pirates and Blue Jays’ system before signing with the Marlins, and he showed signs last year that he had picked up a new skill. There’s a “Double-A repeater” risk with him however, and his ceiling isn’t as high as Williamson in terms of power. What we’re hoping for here is a decent hit tool with the capability of stealing 5-to-10 bases.