Welcome to the fantasy baseball Stock Ticker, SI.com’s weekly surveying of the fantasy baseball landscape. This column isn’t a weathervane. It won’t respond to the natural vagaries of baseball that force even the likes of Alex Bregman into an occasional slump or D.J. LeMahieu to look like an MVP candidate for a week or two. If a player appears on the Ticker, it means that we believe his rest-of-season outlook must be recalibrated.
This also isn’t a waiver wire column. While some players with low ownership rates will appear in the Risers section from time to time, the Ticker will generally consist of players widely owned in fantasy leagues.
Mallex Smith, OF, Mariners
Smith’s .234/.306/.365 line doesn’t jump off the page, and his 83 OPS+ and .292 wOBA indicate that he is a below-average hitter. In this space, however, we aren’t overly concerned with how good he is in real life though. We care about what he can do in a fantasy context, and his speed makes him wildly valuable in all leagues. Smith has 21 steals in 271 plate appearances this year, carrying him to his No. 48 ranking among outfielders in standard 5x5 leagues. And the full season slash rate belies the fact that he has been a much better hitter in June, hitting .291/.354/.466 in 113 trips to the plate. Combine his speed with a .354 OBP, and you get a significant fantasy asset.
Yordan Alvarez, OF, Astros
Alvarez has taken to the majors with aplomb and alacrity, hitting .327/.417/.788 with seven homers and 17 RBI in his first 60 plate appearances. And to think, he wasn’t even Houston’s No. 1 outfield prospect coming into this season, with that honor belonging to Kyle Tucker. The embarrassment of riches in Houston rolls on unabated, and Alvarez is both creating and reaping the rewards.
Yasiel Puig, OF, Reds
Matt Martell listed Puig as a trade target in his Trade Winds column earlier this week, so I’ll follow that up by bumping up the outfielder’s rest-of-season stock. Puig has been on fire over the last two weeks, hitting .375/.423/.813 with five homers, four doubles and 11 RBI in 52 plate appearances. Before his hot run, he was hitting .207/.252/.378. He’ll take a .237/.283/.456 slash line into play on Wednesday.
Cavan Biggio, 2B/OF, Blue Jays
This tweet on Monday from must-follow Alec Dopp caught my eye.
We’ve been talking up Biggio’s counting-stat upside and walk rate for weeks, telling you to ignore the ugly batting average. This just adds gasoline to that fire. He heads into play Wednesday with a .352 OBP, .113 OPS+, 17% walk rate, five homers and three steals in 106 plate appearances.
Ross Stripling, SP, Dodgers
Stripling made his first start in two months on Tuesday, allowing one earned run on four hits in three innings, striking out four and waking one. He's back in the rotation by virtue of Rich Hill's forearm injury, which could mean that he sticks in the rotation for the rest of the season. Stripling made six starts earlier this year, pitching to a 2.65 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with 32 strikeouts against 10 walks in 34 innings.
Jordan Yamamoto, SP, Marlins
Yamamoto has been excellent in three trips to the mound this season, pitching to a 0.95 ERA and 0.79 WHIP with 19 strikeouts against eight walks in 19 innings. His starts have come against the Cardinals (twice) and Phillies, two teams that rank just below league-average in runs per game. Still, that’s no reason to detract from what he has done across the first three starts of his career. He may not have gotten a chance without injuries to Caleb Smith, Pablo Lopez and Jose Ureña, but he’s forcing a tough decision on Don Mattingly. Smith will certainly rejoin the rotation, and Ureña is on the 60-day IL. The bet here is that Yamamoto sticks in the rotation for the long haul.
Carlos Martinez, RP, Cardinals
Jordan Hicks will miss the rest of the season with a torn UCL that will require Tommy John surgery. Martinez will take over as the closer in St. Louis, with John Gant sticking in his multi-inning role that is, frankly, more valuble from a real-life standpoint. Still, it's Martinez who's rising in fantasy leagues by virtue of those too-precious save opportunities.
Vlad Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays
This is not a commentary on Guerrero’s long-term future, but rather a realization that it’s taking him a bit longer to adjust to MLB pitching than expected. In 212 plate appearances, the almost-guaranteed future superstar is hitting .255/.317/.421 with seven homers, 10 doubles and 22 RBI. No right-thinking person would say he has been bad, but it would be disingenuous to say he has lived up to admittedly lofty, and possibly unrealistic, expectations. Guerrero is almost certainly going to be among the best players in baseball over the next decade, but he has not been the immediate MVP candidate so many expected him to be.
J.T. Realmuto, C, Phillies
This is less about Realmuto and more about the “best catcher” denotation in fantasy drafts. Realmuto is having a fine season, hitting .259/.317/.432 with 10 homers and 36 RBI in 293 plate appearances. That makes him the No. 102 hitter and No. 188 overall player in standard 5x5 fantasy leagues. If you remember back to March, the myth of extra value created by positional scarcity helped Realmuto to an average draft position inside the top 60. It was obvious to some then, and all now, that he was never going to live up to that price tag.
Rich Hill, SP, Dodgers
We typically try to avoid downgrading players based on injury, but Hill’s situation is a special case. Forearm injuries always require a more than a minimum IL stint, and indeed Hill will be out for at least a month. Quite often, they’re the first sign of a more serious elbow injury. A forearm injury is troubling for any pitcher, and even more so for 39-year-old with a significant, lengthy injury history. There’s a realistic chance we won’t see Hill on the mound again during the regular season.