“You want to have a catch?”
Are you even human if you don’t tear up just a little bit watching that scene? This weekend is all about celebrating the bond between father and son or daughter and everything that it means to be a dad.
Ours was a baseball household from the time I was born. For most of my childhood, we didn’t have cable but had satellite TV instead, which meant that we didn’t get Home Team Sports, the Orioles’ broadcast network back in the early 90’s. But most of the nights that the Orioles played on HTS, we would head over to my grandparents’ house and watch the game, or at least the first few innings so that I could be home at a decent hour to go to bed. I don’t remember my first trip to Camden Yards, I was probably a little too young to recall, but I remember how much I loved it every time Dad took us down to Baltimore to watch the Orioles play.
My dad probably didn’t mean to do it, he probably didn’t even know it was happening, but he instilled in me a love for fantasy baseball at a very young age. When I was old enough to understand the rules, my father and I would play one of those antique baseball dice games — whether it was Strat-o-matic or APBA or some other knock-off variant, I was too young to remember — and I loved it.
We had a set that included the Jim Palmer-era Orioles and the Reggie Jackson-led Yankees, from sometime in the mid-to-late 70’s. We would roll the dice and play a few innings at a time and then pick up where we left off the next time we got it out. I loved it… and that was my gateway to fantasy baseball. Dad doesn’t always understand every time I talk about fantasy baseball, but he still asks about how my teams are doing, how my writing gig is going, how my podcasts went. He asks and he listens.
These past few months have been a massive transition period for me and my family. Since January, my wife and I had our third child, left our jobs, completed a relatively long-distance move, and have been working hard to re-make our lives in a brand new setting. Sparing the details, it has not been as smooth a transition as we would like. We took the family to visit my parents recently, and I was venting to my father about all the things that have not gone to plan over the past few months. He quietly listened as I talked through my laundry list of problems and issues and inconveniences. After I had finished all my venting, the old man looked over to me from his seat and said something that I’ve known throughout my whole life but hadn’t really thought about all that much.
“Well for what it’s worth, I’m proud of you.”
It’s worth a whole hell of a lot.
This weekend make sure to reach out to your dad, grandfather, or mentor and let them know how grateful you are. And if you can, go have a catch.
Nine teams will take the field every day this week as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, Minnesota Twins, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, and Washington Nationals each play seven games while the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the St. Louis Cardinals each play just five times.
The Orioles, Dodgers and Angels each have off days on Monday and Thursday while the Cubs and Cardinals have the awkward double-off day on Thursday and Friday as the two teams travel across the pond for the MLB London Series on Saturday and Sunday.
SEVEN GAMES: ARZ, BOS, HOU, MIA, MIN, PIT, SD, SF, WAS
FIVE GAMES: BAL, CHC, LAD, STL, LAA
Investment Rating System
Joc Pederson ($$$$): Joc is back, baby!
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Pederson has been making some of the highest-quality, most consistent hard contact in the game while also showing elite plate discipline. Batting in the heart of the Giants’ order, he’ll sit against lefties but he’ll mash against righties. With seven home runs in just 35 games played, he’s an elite power option and all the numbers appear sustainable. Saddle up, partner. It’s going to be a long, fun summer!
Jack Suwinski ($$$): He’s heating up. Suwinski has shown off a ton of pure power, including four home runs in his last seven games entering the weekend. Suwinski has proved his worth batting in the heart of the Pirates’ order, especially in OBP leagues where his 15.3% walk rate reigns supreme. Suwinski has played 174 career games, and has homered 33 times in his last 162 contests. The power plays.
Mike Tauchman ($$): As long as Tauchman is batting leadoff for the Cubs, he is fantasy viable. He’s starting against all right-handed pitchers, the strong side of a platoon. Though he has not hit any home runs with the Cubs this season, he’s shown a little bit of pop in the past and has the capability to steal a few bases as well.
Victor Robles ($$): Back from an injury, Robles was an opportunist on the basepaths before his IL stint, swiping eight bags in 31 games. Though his contact numbers are not that great, he should be a staple in center field for the Nationals as long as he’s healthy. Hopefully, he runs just as much or more now that he’s back and healthy.
Jordan Walker ($$): Since being recalled to the majors, Walker has batted nearly .300 (15-for-51) over 13 games, including a pair of home runs. Though the Cardinals play just five games this week, Walker would be a valuable add to any roster if he is available. One would think he’s here to stay this time.
Luis Matos ($$): He was a stud in Sacramento, but that was the infamous Pacific Coast League. What can he do at the major league level? Well, through his first two games, he had a pair of base hits and has not yet struck out. If he lives up to the hype, Matos could be a difference-maker for fantasy managers for the second half of the season.
Billy McKinney ($): McKinney has started all eight games since joining the Yankees, and has recorded at least one hit in each of those games as well. He’s not much for counting stats, but in deep leagues, he could be a decent spot starter in the outfield.
Edouard Julien ($$): What is it going to take for Julien to stay in the major leagues? He looked like a solid major-league-level bat in his first few appearances earlier in the season but the Twins sent him back to AAA anyway. Since being recalled, Julien has batted 8-for-23 with a stolen base. Does it matter how well he plays or will he be sent down regardless (again) when Jorge Polanco returns from injury? Tough to tell.
Chris Taylor ($$): Taylor is the ultimate professional, starting at third base for four consecutive games for the Dodgers, but suffered a minor injury and missed Saturday’s contest. Monitor the injury and if he’s healthy scoop him up – he’s bound for some playing time with Muncy on the shelf.
Nick Senzel ($): Thank goodness my dad isn’t into fantasy baseball or he might take the “proud of you” comment back if he saw I included Senzel… but I’m going back to the well one more time. Senzel returned from the IL on Friday and started both games for the Reds this weekend, one at third base and the second in left field. If he can find a way to stay on the field for an extended stretch of play, he has a chance to potentially contribute in all the counting stats.
He’s hit four home runs and stolen four bases in 188 plate appearances this season. The prospect pedigree is wearing off, if it hasn’t lost its sheen already, but consistent playing time in Great American Ball Park might be worth a single-digit bid.
Mark Vientos ($): An injury replacement for the Mets who have a Polar Bear sized hole in their infield. I’m not sure Vientos has the bat to fill that void, but his exit velocity has been impressive so far.
Michael Busch ($): Called up to the Dodgers after a Max Muncy injury, Busch got the start against a left-handed pitcher on Saturday. He may get playing time by default.
Michael Stefanic ($): An Angels infielder that could bat low enough in the lineup to be on base when Trout and Ohtani come around at the top of the order? Sure, why not. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run in his first career start on Saturday. You could do worse.
Ryan O’Hearn ($): O’Hearn may be playing the best baseball of his life this past week, with a .500 (10-for-20) batting average, two home runs, four RBI, and seven runs scored over his past five starts. If he can sustain it, he’s certainly worth an add. The Orioles play just five times this coming week, so perhaps managers should wait and see another week.
Carson Kelly ($$): Welcome back, Carson! Kelly has assumed the role as the Diamondbacks’ top catcher since returning from injury. He has single-handedly broken the spirits of Gabriel Moreno managers as he’s forced the rookie catcher to the bench for four of the past six games. Maybe it’s the Diamondbacks giving Moreno a break. Maybe it’s Kelly taking back the lion’s share of playing time. It’s worth a shot for managers in need of at-bats at the catcher position.
Jorge Alfaro ($): Alfaro was promoted to the Rockies’ major league club this week and started his first three games on the roster. Though he’s yet to record a hit in 11 at-bats, he plays for Colorado. If he sticks with the big-league club, he’s worth a shot as a streaming second catcher.
Mike Ford ($): This guy again? Four home runs in just 28 plate appearances will earn you a spot on the FAAB list no matter who you are. Even if you’re a journeyman that featured with four different MLB teams in 2022. Ford is back with the Mariners and looks like a legit power option against right-handed pitching. He’s everything we wanted Darick Hall to be, and will likely go for single-digit bids on Sunday night.
Paul Blackburn ($$$): In just four starts so far this season, Blackburn has posted a career-high 25.6% strikeout rate and been masterful in limiting hard contact. He just posted nine strikeouts over 5.1 innings against the mighty Rays offense and now lines up against the Guardians in Cleveland on Wednesday and then consecutive home starts against the Yankees and White Sox. With just a 39.3% ground ball rate, he’ll benefit greatly from the pitcher’s park environment of Oakland Coliseum. Pick and choose when to start him moving forward.
Ronel Blanco ($$$): As long as Blanco is in the Astros’ rotation, he is a startable pitching asset. Astros pitchers this season have been outstanding in general, with a league-low 3.30 ERA across the entire staff. Over his past two starts, Blanco has posted 11.1 innings pitched with four earned runs on 10 hits with 10 strikeouts. The concern is the control — Blanco has walked seven batters over those 11.1 innings as well. If he can reduce the walk rate and maintain the 17.5% swinging strike rate, he could be just another outstanding Astros starter.
Reese Olson ($$): Olson is a two-start pitcher this coming week with scheduled outings against Kansas City and then Minnesota. Olson was shelled his last time out opposite Atlanta, but posted a pair of very good starts in his first two starts. The Royals have batted just .228 as a team against right-handed pitching so far this season, so Olson is immediately viable for that start alone… and then will face the Twins later in the week who are batting just .233 against right-handed pitching.
Michael Lorenzen ($$): Copy and paste… The Royals have batted just .228 as a team against right-handed pitching so far this season. Lorenzen has allowed six earned runs in each of his last six starts but neither of those were against paltry offenses like Kansas City. Despite being blown up in each of his past two outings, Lorenzen still owns a 1.09 WHIP and a 28.2% CSW. He can make an impact in the second half if he can reduce the hard contact, which has ballooned to 31.6%.
Matt Krook ($): Krook tossed 38 pitches on Friday in relief, and with the rest of the Yankees’ rotation scheduled for starts on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Krook could get the call to start in Seattle on Thursday. Managers would almost prefer if he was used as a long reliever since he’s likely not to make it five full innings if he does get a starting nod. His debut was rocky, but with the Yankees’ offense backing him, he deserves a second chance.
José Alvarado ($$$): Back from injury finally, Alvarado has not quite looked as dominant as he did before his IL stint. He also hasn’t been used in the ninth-inning role since returning. He did get one save, but it came in the 10th inning after Craig Kimbrel was used to preserve a tie game in the ninth. If Alvarado gets back to the form that he was in pre-injury, he should overtake Kimbrel in the closer role. Enough to speculate on.
Kendall Graveman ($$): With Liam Hendriks back on the injured list with forearm issues, Graveman is back to being the de facto closer in Chicago. The skills are not exciting, but the opportunity for saves is enough to garner a bid.
Griffin Jax ($$): Jax has been rock solid in the Twins’ bullpen and earned a save on Wednesday opposite the Brewers as Jhoan Duran faced the top of the Brewers’ order in the eighth. Even if Jax doesn’t get any more save chances, his 3.07 xERA and .317 BABIP indicate that he’s been unlucky so far this season and could be due for some positive regression. The 3.72 ERA is bound to come down here over the next few weeks.
Trevor Stephan ($): The Guardians are never going away from Emmanuel Clase in the ninth. But Stephan could still make an impact for fantasy managers with a 14.4% swinging strike rate and a relatively low 21.6% hard contact rate allowed. He’s a solid setup man and could poach some saves if Clase gets knocked with an injury or fatigue.
Joe Barlow ($): Barlow returned to the Rangers’ bullpen after spending some time on the IL. Even though Will Smith has appeared to separate himself as the closer, we’ve seen him struggle before. Barlow has ninth-inning experience and could potentially garner some high-leverage innings in the near future.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)