• Nationals' outfielder Michael Taylor is taking full advantage of his opportunity with Adam Eaton on the mend and should be picked up on your fantasy roster.
By Michael Beller
July 01, 2017

No one with a functioning brain thinks the Nationals are a better team without Adam Eaton. He was their big acquisition of the offseason and was delivering exactly what the team expected before tearing his ACL in late April. The Nationals are a better team with a healthy Eaton. They’re nearly as good, however, with Michael Taylor. And, unlike Eaton before his injury, Taylor is widely available to fantasy owners.

Taylor’s story is familiar to fantasy owners. A highly regarded prospect before shedding his rookie status in 2015, he failed to force his way into the regular starting lineup in Washington over the previous two years. That, in part, necessitated the trade for Eaton. Given another chance after Eaton’s injury, Taylor is taking full advantage.

The 26-year-old Taylor is hitting .280/.317/.516 with 11 homers and nine steals in 240 plate appearances. Add his 33 RBI and 36 runs, and fantasy owners are looking at a 162-game average of 26 homers, 21 steals, 79 RBI and 87 runs. Even with a lagging OBP, he’s has the look of a strong four-category player, and could trend toward being a five-category contributor in batting average leagues. Taylor has been even better recently.

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The one downside is that Dusty Baker has regularly slotted Taylor toward the bottom of the order. He has hit seventh or eighth in 48 of his 57 starts this season, and his hot streak hasn’t changed that. The last time he hit anywhere other than one of those two spots was on June 10, when he hit sixth. That could change, however, in the short term. Baker seems to like Anthony Rendon, who seems a natural fit for the 2-hole, in the heart of the order after Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy. With Jayson Werth on the DL, Baker has favored players like Brian Goodwin and Ryan Raburn hitting second. Neither has the ceiling, nor the recent performance, to match Taylor.

Chances are Werth will slot back into the second spot in Washington’s lineup when he returns, but that’s likely to be after the All-Star break. Should Taylor get a brief audition in the 2-hole, he’ll be more valuable in a fantasy setting. Even without that, however, he’s well worth a look in all formats.

Sean Newcomb, SP, Braves

Newcomb has been a breath of fresh air in the Atlanta rotation, looking like every bit the top prospect he was expected to be over his first four starts. After mowing down the Padres earlier this week, striking out eight in six shutout innings with six hits and one walk allowed, Newcomb owns a 1.48 ERA, 2.93 FIP and 1.07 WHIP in 24 1/3 innings. He has fanned 21 

batters while walking eight, and has surrendered just one home run. It’s time for the fantasy community to believe in Newcomb.

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Shin-soo Choo, OF, Rangers

First, it was Logan Morrison. Then, it was Steven Souza. Now that both of those players are over the 50%-ownership hump, we’re going to beat the drum every week for Choo. One of fantasy’s most underrated players takes a .374 OBP, 12 homers, 41 RBI, 45 runs and six steals into July. As we write about him every week in this space, it’s nearly impossible to find a true five-category contributor on the waiver wire this late in the season. But there’s Choo, staring back at owners in about seven out of every 10 leagues. For the record, he’s the 25th-ranked outfielder in standard 5x5 formats.

Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers

After a brutal two months to start the season, Pederson turned it on in June. He hit .304/.435/.714 for the month, raising his season-long slash line to .236/.354/.453. He also increased his home run total by 300%, blasting six homers in June after hitting just two in April and May combined. Pederson is playing mostly every day, and while he typically hits in the bottom half of the lineup, he has spent a good-deal of time in the 6-hole, which isn’t a death knell for a hitter. He’s worthy of another spin in all formats.

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Aaron Altherr, OF, Phillies

The fantasy community has cooled on Altherr since his monster start to the season, but he’s still hitting for good power, evidenced by a .480 slugging percentage in June. He was bound for a bit of a downturn eventually, but he has found a way to provide plenty of value even while hitting .250 with a .286 OBP. Even after the down month, compared with what he did in April and May, he’s slashing .279/.348/.520 with 13 homers and 41 RBI. The pendulum swung too far against him for a June that wasn’t nearly as bad as many fantasy owners perceived. If one of those owners was in your league, take advantage of that mistake.

Ian Happ, 2B/OF, Cubs

Happ continues to hit for power, play mostly every day, and hit in the top half of the lineup. Add his dual-position eligibility to the mix, and it’s hard to understand why he’s still so widely available in fantasy leagues. He’s not going to help out your rate categories, but he’s already 14th among second baseman in homers despite the fact that he has yet to reach 200 plate appearances. Happ is on a 162-game pace for 37 homers, 86 RBI