We’re nearing the midpoint of the season, and a trio of players standout as potential difference makers for the stretch run. Included in that trio is a second baseman coming off a scorching hot stint at the Triple-A level. An outfielder I thoroughly pounded the drum for in the preseason remains intriguing to me despite the fact he’ll almost certainly fail to live up to the hype I bestowed upon him. Finally, a southpaw on the mend should be back soon to bolster his club’s rotation, and he could be a fantasy asset if he doesn’t suffer any setbacks in his continued recovery from Tommy John surgey.
Rougned Odor – 2B – Texas Rangers (CBS: 33%, ESPN: 12.4%, Yahoo!: 23%)
It’s hard to imagine a slower start than the one Odor endured before his demotion. He hit under .150 with just one homer and 25 strikeouts through his first 103 plate appearances. The Rangers justifiably optioned him to Triple-A, and he raked in 30 games and 124 plate appearances. Yes, the Pacific Coast League is a hitter friendly environment, but what he did there was remarkable. The 21-year-old second baseman hit .352/.426/.639 with five homers, three steals, a 9.7% BB and 8.1% K and a .459 wOBA and 183 wRC+ that put his work in better perspective.
Upon his promotion, the Rangers immediately inserted him sixth in the lineup, a notable improvement over his pre-demotion lineup spots. Odor’s hot stick has joined him on his return to Texas as he’s rattled off four hits in his first seven plate appearances back with the parent club and added a stolen base for good measure. One of his hits was off Clayton Kershaw, and in a game where Kershaw tallied 10 strikeouts, it’s worth mentioning Odor wasn’t a victim of any of those punch outs.
His slow start is understandable. He’s very young and had tallied fewer than 300 plate appearances in the upper minors prior to this year. Odor posted a respectable .259/.297/.402 line with nine homers and four stolen bases after getting fast tracked last year, and ZiPS projects a slightly improved line of .260/.306/.416 with eight homers and eight stolen bases for the rest of the year. I’m more bullish about his outlook, but even his ZiPS projection would make Odor ownable in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers using a middle infielder. The ceiling exceeds that line, and unless you’re playing in a 10-teamer, Odor needs to be owned.
Travis Snider – OF – Baltimore Orioles (CBS: 12%, ESPN: 2.3%, Yahoo!: 2%)
Snider has hit two homers through 167 plate appearances this year. Barring an absurd heater, he’s not going to hit the 30 homers I projected back in April. It seems fitting that he’d rock the Golden Sombrero the day before I tout him, but I’m unwilling to completely give up on Snider’s prospects for a useful season in large leagues. Even with his four strikeouts Thursday, his 23.4% K this season is down a bit from his 25.0% mark entering this year while his 10.2% BB is an improvement over his 8.3% BB prior to this year.
The biggest problem with Snider has been his lack of power. The left-handed hitting outfielder who was lauded for his raw power has a .107 ISO this year. That might be acceptable for an all glove, no hit middle infielder, but it’s not acceptable for a corner outfielder whose bat is supposed to be his carrying tool. Last year, Snider posted the ninth highest home run and fly ball average distance (301.68 feet), per Baseball Heat Maps. This year, he’s plummeted to 144th out of 234 hitters with an average distance of 275.28 feet. That’s a huge drop in average distance, and coupled with his continued tendency to hit too many ground balls (52.7% GB this year), the result is just a pair of dingers.
Snider is just 27-years old, so I’m of the belief the raw power that resulted in a top-10 mark in average home run and fly ball distance last year is possessed by him. The suddenly crowded outfield in Baltimore reduces the leash for Snider to demonstrate it before riding the pine, however, manager Buck Showalter has been hitting him second routinely of late and Snider has started in five straight contests. If you’re going to gamble on Snider, take solace in the fact he’s playing in a great home park for left-handed power. Last year, Camden Yards had a 114 park factor for homers for left-handed batters, the third highest mark in the league. Double-digit homers for the rest of the year are a reasonable expectation, and Steamer has him pegged for 10 in 300 plate appearances. If you’re hurting for power in large mixed leagues or AL-only formats, give Snider a whirl.
Matt Moore – SP – Tampa Bay Rays (CBS: 56%, ESPN: 22.3%, Yahoo!: 18%)
Once a clear cut return date is set — and it’s nearing — Moore’s ownership will skyrocket. He’s already owned in more than half of CBS leagues, but gamers at ESPN and Yahoo! are still snoozing. The lefty has made three rehab starts at the High-A level progressing to 4.2 innings and 78 pitches in a turn on Tuesday. He’s totaled 11.0 innings allowing nine hits, two earned runs and issuing four walks with nine strikeouts. Three of his four walks were in his first start, and he issued zero in his most recent start. The real test should come on Sunday, as Marc Topkin tweeted that he’s expected to make his next start then for the Triple-A Durham Bulls.
The southpaw is approaching the 100-pitch threshold, and he should be back with the Rays by the beginning of next month. Moore owns a career 22.8% K and could provide a big lift in the strikeout department to needy fantasy gamers. He has struggled with his control in the majors totaling an 11.1% BB. His lackluster control resulted in uneven performance before, and it’s likely to do the same as he shakes off the rust of a lengthy layoff. That said, Moore shook his control issues in his last year in the upper minors (2011) walking just 7% of the Double-A batters he faced and 8.8% of the Triple-A hitters who stood in the box against him. Control may never be his strength, but at least there is precedent for him making improvements in the professional ball.
In his first full season starting in the majors, 2012, Moore’s fourseam fastball averaged 95.07 mph and his sinker checked in at 94.99 mph, per Brooks Baseball. His average velocity dipped in 2013 and bottomed out at 92.79 mph on the fourseamer and 92.74 mph on the sinker in 2014 before he underwent Tommy John surgery. Armed with a healthy ulnar collateral ligament, I’ll be keeping tabs on where his velocity resides in his return. Even at his 2014 velocity marks he’ll have the goods to attack big league hitters, but if he returns to 2012 velo levels, look out.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.