Andrew Benintendi: Over his first 123 at bats this season, Benintendi had one homer with a .721 OPS. He’s since hit .348 with 11 homers, seven steals and an 1.101 OPS over 141 at bats, and he’s suddenly ranked as the No. 12 fantasy player, giving the Red Sox three hitters inside the top-eight. Benintendi has about as massive splits as you’ll ever see (he currently sports a 197 wRC+ at home versus righties and a 6 wRC+ on the road versus lefties, where he’s also hit into more double plays than homers), but it all counts the same for owners. Benintendi is 23 years old, still getting better and in a fantastic situation batting atop a loaded Boston lineup in a terrific hitter’s park. He’s running far more than he ever did in the minors (he’s 12-for-13 on SB attempts this year) while also the rare help in batting average (league-wide BA is the lowest it’s been since 1972), so there’s every reason to believe he’ll be a top-15 type fantasy asset for years to come.
Anibal Sanchez: Sanchez had recorded ERAs of 4.99, 5.87 and 6.41 over the previous three seasons before this one, so it’s understandable fantasy owners remain skeptical (he’s still just 23 percent owned). But Sanchez looks dramatically better now back in the National League, as he’s sporting a 1.93 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP with 32 strikeouts over 37.1 innings with Atlanta. He’s been quite fortunate (.206 BABIP, 90.3 LOB%) but that can be said for all pitchers with an ERA so low. And he deserves some credit with an 83.6 mph average exit velocity and a 21.6 Hard Hit% that are both well below league average (87.0 mph and 33.2%). Sanchez is back on the fantasy radar, and it helps pitching for a team with a top-10 defense (in UZR) and offense (in wRC+).
Jason Heyward: He was batting .227/.315/.340 over 97 at bats before landing on the disabled list with a concussion but has hit .307/.347/.489 over 88 at bats since returning. Add it together, and you get a league average hitter (101 wRC+) this season, which is certainly big progress for Heyward since joining Chicago. He no longer runs, and we’ve seen hot stretches from him in the past before quickly slumping again (Heyward also sports the biggest discrepancy in MLB between OPS with runners on (1.054) versus empty (.495)), but his launch angle, xwOBA (.364) and Hard Hit% (43.2) are all easily career highs, so there are some encouraging signs Heyward can go back to being a useful fantasy commodity, especially while batting second in a strong Cubs lineup. He’s still available in more than 90 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Brandon Nimmo: He hit two more homers with a steal over a weekend series in Chase Field, giving him 10 long balls and seven swipes over 168 at bats on the year (with a strong .402 OBP). Nimmo’s increased his launch angle from 9.6 degrees last season to 15.4 this year, so the jump in homers from his minor league numbers should be taken seriously. He’s especially valuable in daily transaction leagues, as he’s recorded a 1.093 OPS with nine homers over 122 ABs against right-handers. Nimmo remains available in half of leagues and starts a four-game trip in Coors Field on Monday.
Luis Severino: After another dominant performance over the weekend, Severino hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of his past five starts or more than three runs in any of his past 12 outings. Despite pitching in the AL East and a home park that’s boosted home runs by an MLB-high 31 percent over the past three seasons, Severino sports a 2.09 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP with a 118:25 K:BB ratio and has twice as many wins (10) as homers allowed. You don’t need me to tell you Severino is really good, but with only a handful of aces these days, he’s emerged as a true first round fantasy asset.
Madison Bumgarner: A slow start could be expected given Bumgarner missed the first nine weeks of the season with a broken finger, and his velocity has historically been down in the early parts of seasons (like most pitchers), but owners have to be concerned after he’s posted a 4.67 ERA with a 9:5 K:BB ratio over his first three starts back from the DL. Bumgarner hasn’t been happy with his strike zone in a couple of the games, but he’s yet to record more than three punchouts in any of the outings, and two of those opponents rank in the top-half in K% this season. His average fastball velocity (90.5 mph) is a career-low, and he’s barely producing any swings and misses. Hopefully it’s just a blip, but Bumgarner did have a pretty crazy heavy workload from 2011-2017. Still, if you want to buy low and chalk up the slow start to his version of spring training, make offers now before his next start, which comes at home against the Padres.
Ken Giles: He’s pitched 3.2 scoreless innings over his last three appearances and actually has a 24:2 K:BB ratio on the season, but Hector Rondon recorded Houston’s save Sunday, giving him five over the past 11 days. Giles, who worked the eighth inning Sunday in front of Rondon, has one save in all of June, so his job as the team’s clear closer appears finished.
Jesus Aguilar: He homered two more times over the weekend and has been a revelation at the plate this season, owning a .917 OPS. But Eric Thames is back from his thumb injury, and he too homered twice over the weekend and has been even better this season (.973 OPS) and is likely the favorite for platoon at bats against right-handers at the moment. It’s a situation that will likely work itself out eventually (the Brewers also have an outfielder on their bench right now who hit 30 homers with 15 stolen bases last year), and if Aguilar keeps hitting like he has Milwaukee will find a way to get his bat in the lineup, but right now his value takes a hit with Thames’ return.
Jonathan Schoop: He’s followed up a career-best season by batting .212 with a 67 wRC+ that ranks No. 150 among hitters. Schoop’s strikeouts and walks are about the same as usual, but he’s hit the ball with far less authority. He did homer and take four walks over the weekend, but he has a long way to go. Schoop was drafted as a borderline top-five fantasy second baseman, yet he’s hitting .188/.224/.361 against righties this season.