I was happy with Seth Lugo, fantasy reliever, over the first three weeks. We’ll see how things go with a rotation shift. The club has decided to make him a starter, with the first assignment Thursday at Miami.
Lugo’s 10.1 relief innings were tidy enough — 8 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 11 K. He picked up a win and three saves, saw regular work in high-leverage situations. But if the Mets think he can get any traction as a starter, I understand the move. They’ve had all sorts of injuries in the rotation, and Steven Matz hasn’t been reliable.
With Lugo out of the bullpen, Edwin Diaz stands as the undisputed closer. Diaz wasn’t sharp when the season opened, but he’s rebounded nicely over his last eight appearances — only one run allowed, two walks, 19 strikeouts over 8.1 innings. The league has a paltry .219/.265/.281 slash against Diaz over that period.
Don’t be fooled by Diaz’s blown save Wednesday — he was brought into a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning, with no wiggle room. One of the inherited runners scored, costing Diaz the save, but he cruised in the ninth and picked up a win. He’s approved for fantasy use going forward.
Mize and Dunning impress in dueling debuts
If you’re a pitcher in 2020, the Central Divisions are the place to be, home of the weakest collective offenses. So it wasn’t all that surprising when Casey Mize and Dane Dunning made their respect MLB debuts Wednesday and quickly began piling up strikeouts.
Alas, neither pitcher got out of the fifth inning, both allowing three runs. But you see promise for the future — Mize had seven strikeouts without a walk, while Dunning had one walk and seven whiffs. They both threw 73 pitches.
Dunning goes back into bubble wrap, immediately sent back to Chicago’s alternate site. We’re not sure when we’ll see him again. Mize, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, is expected to start against the Cubs on Monday and, barring any catastrophes, the Twins later in the week. On pedigree alone, let’s kick the tires and see what the Auburn Tiger can do.
Keller’s bagel parade improbably continues
Kansas City right-hander Brad Keller is another pitcher enjoying that Central life. He picked up his third straight win Wednesday, checking the Reds over 6.2 innings (3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K). He’s yet to allow a run over 17.2 innings this year.
The story is less interesting under the hood. Keller’s K/9 rests at an ordinary 7.6, and he’s also had a walk problem — his K/BB ratio is less than 2. This is the type of story that could pumpkin at any time. And obviously his home-run rate sits at the cozy zero; if you normalized his homer rate, we’d be looking at an ERA (per xFIP) of 4.20.
Keller gets two turns next week, at St. Louis and at the White Sox. Fearful of the second cleat dropping, I’m going to sit these out.
Grichuk on a home-run tear
Whatever Randal Grichuk is having for breakfast, pour us a bowl of it, too. The surging Toronto outfielder has six home runs over his last 26 at-bats, including two at Baltimore on Wednesday.
Maybe the Grichuk answer is geographical. The AL East looks like a hitter’s delight this summer. Everyone knows how friendly Camden Yards can play, and Yankee Stadium offers a home-run slant. Fenway Park is more of a scoring park than a home-run park, but it’s good for offense — and Boston’s sorry pitching staff is a welcome bonus. And the temporary Blue Jays home stadium — Buffalo’s Sahlen Field — has been a launching pad, too.
In this truncated fantasy season, there’s no reason to wait for proof. Plausible upside shows, we point and we click. Grickuk remains unrostered in about 57 percent of Yahoo leagues. Tampa Bay will test him on the weekend, but the next bandbox assignment isn’t far off.
Looking for answers at catcher
It hasn’t been a fun summer for several big-name catchers. Yasmani Grandal and Mitch Garver are currently day-to-day, and each is off to horrendous starts. Will Smith is on the injured list. Jorge Alfaro and Yadier Molina are both on the Covid-19 list, though Molina is closing in on a return. Gary Sanchez is scuffling at .132, though his power stroke has retuned over the last week.
If you got in early on Pedro Severino, good for you, though he’s chased up to 70-percent rostered in Yahoo. That ship is likely sailed. With that in mind, maybe Austin Nola can help out. He qualifies at three positions (catcher, first, second), and the Mariners view him as a regular. A tidy .279 average with three homers and 13 RBIs, that will play in most formats.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa could be a grab in shallower leagues, as that lovely “catcher-eligible who isn’t asked to catch.” He’s yet to hit a homer, but a .254 average is playable and he’s stolen five bases. In a world where stolen bases are hard to find, you take what you can get.
La Stella marks his territory
I would have written about Tommy La Stella earlier this week, had I realized he was a mere 22-percent rostered.
La Stella has a solid .289 average and three homers, and has locked up the No. 2 slot in the Angels lineup, right in front of Mike Trout. La Stella’s breakout last year caught the world by surprise, but so far he’s validated what we saw (the batted-ball profile is ordinary, but he’s walking twice as much as he’s striking out, which is divine). La Stella also versatile (qualifying at three infield positions), and that’s a gift from the fantasy gods in this crazy 2020 season. There’s plenty of available seating on this bandwagon.