Some organizations have a knack for polishing off an unheralded player and discovering something productive. Tampa Bay’s been good at this. The Cardinals have had some surprising hits through the years.
Tony Kemp, come on down. You’re the next contestant in this game.
Kemp is getting regular time at second base and left field, and he’s batted leadoff or second for most of the past two weeks. To be fair, Kemp occasionally sits against left-handed pitching, and at times you’ll see him in the lower part of the order. But the production has been good, and it’s made him viable in medium-sized mixed leagues.
Looking at that .289/.404/.459 slash line, I think back to the golden days of Tony Phillips. Kemp has four homers and four steals over his 135 at-bats, and for the last month of play, he has more walks than strikeouts (along with a .320 average). This is a player controlling his at-bats.
Kemp is a better fantasy play for the first week of July, when Oakland faces a steady diet of right-handed opponents. A lefty-favoring schedule for the next few days could dull some of the Kemp enthusiasm. That said, his slash line is actually better against the southpaws this year, for whatever a small sample means to you. There’s no mandate that Kemp can’t be a full-time player.
If you’re looking for a middle infielder (or even an outfielder), Kemp is rostered in a modest 11 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Trevor Story checks out
Trevor Story grabbed some headlines with a two-homer game at Seattle. but his fantasy profile has never been in danger. Even with his average lower than expected, he’s still walking plenty and stealing bases liberally (13 on the year, four in the last week). And remember, he’s only a few weeks removed from an elbow injury; perhaps Wednesday’s power surge is a good sign that Story is back to full health and ready for a dynamic second half.
I’m not worried about trade rumors, either. Sure, it would be a kick in the stomach to leave Coors Field, but Colorado batters traditionally have to worry about the Coors Hangover for road games — since pitches don’t spin as much in the thin air, often a hitter’s timing will be messed up when he leaves Coors for a road trip. And if the Rockies do shop Story, it’s going to be to a contender, and any contender will have a better lineup — perhaps a much better lineup — than Colorado.
Matt Holliday thrived in his post-Colorado career. D.J. LeMahieu has been a star in New York. There are other examples. Coors Field will not be where the Story ends.
C.J. Cron hale again
Sticking in Colorado for a second, let’s give a nod to C.J. Cron. He’s finally healthy again and he’s crushing too, with five homers in his last nine games. Cron was a trendy middle-round semi-sleeper in draft season, the idea being that he could conk 30 homers in Coors Field. Cron still might have a shot at that, despite missing time with a lower back strain.
The Rockies didn’t consider Cron a full-time regular when he first returned, but the switch has been made now. The power-hitting corner is still unclaimed in about 57 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Michael Fulmer, Detroit chairman
I know the Tigers aren’t going anywhere, but I still think Michael Fulmer can be something special. We discussed this about six weeks ago, then Fulmer missed time with a shoulder issue. He’s been excellent in three of his four appearances since the IL stint, and he’s picked up saves in two of those games. Detroit is obviously one of the non-contenders in the American League, but when they have a ninth-inning need, I expect Fulmer to be the first priority.
Fulmer’s velocity has ticked upward, what you might expect as a former starter gets used to the different shape of relief work. His slider has been especially tight of late, and he’s also getting some mileage out of an improved change. Although it’s possible Detroit could dangle Fulmer in trade talks, he’s still just 28 — this is someone they might want to consider building around.
He’s still gettable in 70 percent of Yahoo leagues.