Hard to imagine we’re one week away from the All-Star break, but alas, time flies when you’re having fun. As we continue our never-ending search for upside guys on the fantasy scrap heap, we turn our attention to two players who can help owners, one a multi-position infield tool, the other a sleeper outfielder at season’s outset who, halfway into the season, might just be making good on his preseason promise.
Marwin Gonzalez / SS / Houston Astros
3 percent Yahoo / 1.6 percent ESPN / 5 percent CBS ownership
Jonathan Villar and his .597 OPS have been banished to Triple-A for the time being, leaving a slot open for Gonzalez and his fantasy versatility to grab everyday at-bats. You may remember the 25-year-old as Houston’s starting shortstop out of the gate last spring, at least until he went all Didi Gregorius on fantasy owners after May and was eventually demoted by the end of June. One year later, Gonzalez is back on the fantasy radar, thanks to a recent hot streak (.364/.417/.636 with two dingers since June 28).
We’ll cut right to the chase: you ain’t hiring Gonzalez for his pop, his steals or his ability to score runs hitting at the bottom of a woeful Astros lineup. The play with Gonzalez is to utilize his impressive fantasy eligibility and hope that he won’t hurt you too much with his average. Position-wise, he likely offers second base (nine games thus far), third base (nine) and outfield (five) eligibility in most formats in addition to his shortstop badge, making him the closest thing to a Swiss army knife in AL-only leagues now that Yangervis Solarte has been sent down to the minors. Gonzalez’s respectable .276 average entering Monday’s play was supported by a not-crazy .315 BABIP, but a low line drive rate suggests that’s on its way south, even given Gonzalez’s steady output of ground balls. The good news, such as it is, is that Gonzalez showed an ability to put the bat on the ball throughout his minor league career, and has improved his SwStr% and contact rate from last year.
Anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves beyond calling Gonzalez what he is: a hot hand who can be plugged in at some typically tough-to-fill spots in deep AL-only leagues. His value might be slight, but he still has some value nonetheless.
Justin Ruggiano / OF / Chicago Cubs
5 percent Yahoo / 2.7 percent ESPN / 10 percent CBS ownership
OK, so Ruggiano is neither an unknown entity or a super-deep option, but hey, lizard-eater Miles Mikolas got devoured by the Astros on Monday night, putting the chill on him as a deep league upside guy for the time being. So as a substitute, here’s Ruggiano, who has tantalized fantasy owners in the past with the upside of a .300 average and 20-20 capability. Unfortunately, much of the allure the 32-year-old had at the season’s outset evaporated when he put up a .651 OPS before blowing out his hamstring at the end of April.
But since then, hoo boy. Ruggiano has smoked the ball to the tune of a .308/.385/.527 slash line entering Monday’s action, and has been on fire in July, compiling five straight multi-hit games. Granted, the hamstring injury is likely responsible for why he’s only attempted two steals since returning, the bulk of his stats have been compiled in the first week of July and he’s shown a sharp home/away split this year, with his road OPS nearly 250 points higher than his performance at the Friendly Confines, despite Wrigley’s reputation for slightly favoring hitters. But why carp? A hot hand is a hot hand, and Ruggiano had plenty of fans who tabbed him as a potential sleeper candidate heading into this year. Owners are starting to remember Ruggiano’s name, especially in CBS leagues, but he’s still widely available, including deeper mixed formats where his power upside makes him a credible option.
Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.