June 17, 2024

Surging Hitters: Flores on fire, Berti speed incoming

Sometimes players aren’t on your fantasy team for a long time, but they are on your team for a good time. And that’s OK. I’m sure you have more than enough commitments in your life that you can embrace the fleeting nature of a few roster sports on your teams.

In fact, this time of year, having a few spots to churn is crucial as you identify which categories you need to focus on in order to make your way up the standings. You’re unlikely to find rest-of-season diamonds in the rough in July and August, but you can find a player who gives you two solid weeks of production in a category you need before turning into a pumpkin.

In this article, we’re going to try and find those short-term values each and every week. These are players who may see a boost in playing time due to an injury, may have a strong schedule ahead of them, or may just be seeing the ball well at the moment. Whatever the case may be, all of them will be UNDER 50% rostered in Yahoo! leagues and all of them will be players I think can help you over the next week or two.

Last week, we covered Triston Casas
, Kerry Carpenter
, and Edouard Julien
, who continue to swing hot bats and should certainly be added if they weren’t already. All of them remain below 50% rostered on Yahoo, so there is a good chance you can still find them in a decent amount of leagues.

With that said, here are five hitters who are riding high in July who I think are worth an add right now.

Wilmer Flores
– 1B/2B/3B, San Francisco
Rostered in 37% of Yahoo! leagues

We’ll start with one of the hottest hitters in baseball. Over the last two weeks, Flores is hitting .406/.444/1.000 with five home runs, eight runs scored, and eight RBI over 10 games with just a 11.1% strikeout rate. On the season, he’s hitting .295 with a strong 15.8% strikeout rate, a career-high 71.% barrel rate, and a career-high flyball rate, which has led to his best ISO ever if we ignore the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign.

While Flores continues to play predominantly versus left-handed pitching, he has been in the lineup versus right-handed pitching a few times during his recent hot streak and is almost always inserted to pinch hit when an opponent brings in a left-handed reliever.

Working in Flores’ favor is also that he has played 1B, 2B, and 3B over the last 10 games, so Gabe Kapler
can choose to use Flores to give any of LaMonte Wade Jr., J.D. Davis
, Joc Pederson
, or Brett Wisely
a day off. That gives him more lineup security than your typical short-side platoon hitter.

Another thing working in Flores’ favor is that three of the Giants’ next seven starts are against lefties with two coming against particularly hittable ones in Hogan Harris
and Tommy Henry
. If you expect Flores’ hot bat to afford him at least one or two extra starts over the next week, he could be looking at five starts over the next eight games, which makes him useful in most leagues; although, he will always be more valuable in daily lineup leagues where you can bench him if he is out of the lineup.

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Alex Kirilloff
– 1B/OF, Minnesota Twins

Rostered in 47% of Yahoo! leagues.

We covered Julien last week and now we turn our attention to a Twins hitter who has been just as impactful of late. Over the last two weeks Kirilloff is hitting .317/.370/.756 with four home runs, seven runs scored, and 14 RBI over 10 games. We’ve always known that Kirilloff, a former top-50 prospect, had this level of ability, but injuries have sapped him of opportunity and power while limiting him to 104 MLB games combined over the last two seasons.

Kirilloff missed the start of this season with wrist issues again but has had a solid year overall since returning, hitting .282/.371/.465 with eight home runs and 32 RBI in 66 games. While June was a down month for him, he has found his groove again in July, hitting 10% more fly balls and raising his ISO to .311 from a .098 mark in June.

The added power is nice to see a shouldn’t be a surprise from a hitter who Fangraphs gave a 60 grade to for Raw Power. At just 25 years old, Kirilloff is finally making good on his prospect pedigree and while his body could certainly break down on him again, he may be the best bet of any of the hitters on this list to be a rest-of-season add.

Kirilloff’s teammate Max Kepler
(rostered in 5% of Yahoo! leagues) also deserves a little love and attention. He’s hitting .341 over his last 11 games with two home runs, seven runs scored, and seven RBI. With the Twins’ lineup getting healthier, he could be in the midst of a strong stretch.

Randal Grichuk
– OF, Colorado Rockies

Rostered in 8% of Yahoo! leagues

Despite being just 31 years old and just two years removed from a stretch that saw him hit at least 22 home runs in five straight non-COVID seasons, Grichuk appears to be a forgotten man in fantasy circles.

Now, part of that is understandable since he’s not getting every day at bats in Colorado, but over the last two weeks, Grichuk is hitting .474/.474/.789 with two home runs, six runs scored, and four RBI over five games since re-entering the starting lineup with both Kris Bryant
and C.J. Cron
banged up. Granted, it’s only been 19 plate appearances, but this is more about opportunity and schedule than it is about believing that Grichuk is making the adjustments to be a long-term add.

With that being said it’s not like Grichuk has been bad. In fact, he’s been pretty good.

Through 59 games, he’s slashing .309/.368/.482 with the lowest strikeout rate of his career and the highest walk rate of his career. His hard-hit rate is the highest it’s been since 2016 and while the barrels haven’t been there, a lot of that has to do with bad luck and Grichuk hitting too many groundballs early in the season. With his highest average exit velocity since 2018 and a maxEV that is in line with his recent averages, Grichuk should see a jump from his current 9.5% HR/FB ration, which is well under his career 15.9% HR/FB mark.

The Rockies have one more game this week against a vulnerable Washington Nationals
pitching staff before heading home for six straight games, including three at the end of this week against the Oakland A’s. That gives us eight games of Grichuk currently swinging a hot bat and getting to hit in a plus hitting environment. You may be dropping him by the middle of next week, but you could also have three or four home runs added to your team total by that time as well.

Keibert Ruiz
– C, Washington Nationals

Rostered in 41% of Yahoo! leagues.

If you need a catcher in a single catcher league, there are few hitting as well as Ruiz of late. Over the last two weeks, the Nationals catcher is hitting .464/.531/.786 and has just a 9.4% strikeout rate.

Part of this is just natural regression to the mean, as Ruiz is still sporting a .244 BABIP and .248 average despite a .280 xBA. The switch-hitter has elite feel for the strike zone and has made a clear adjustment in July, pulling the ball 53.5% of the time in 14 games, as opposed to just a 37.3% mark in 20 games in June and a 39.5% rate in 24 games in May.

Getting out in front to his pull side more as also led to Ruiz posting his highest OPS month of the season, and while he may never be a true power asset, getting two or three home runs a month from your catcher who also has the ability to hit .270 is a pretty useful profile.

For now, the Nationals get another game against the Rockies before getting four against a Mets team who could be trading away assets and then three games against the Brewers. It’s not an easy schedule, but it’s not one we want to avoid, so I’d be willing to ride Ruiz’s hot bat for the time being.

Jon Berti
– 2B/3B/SS/OF, Miami Marlins

Rostered in 17% of Yahoo! leagues

It’s Jon Berti
season again! Berti is starting to play regularly and get on base often for Miami, and we’ve seen how quickly that can lead to massive fantasy outputs in the past. Just last year, Berti led baseball with 41 steals and went through a stretch where he stole 16 bases in one month.

Berti has started five of the last six games for Miami, playing SS, 3B, and LF. It looks like he’ll be the regular shortstop against left-handed pitchers with Joey Wendle
coming off the bench in those games, and Berti figures to also grab spot starts for Jean Segura
, Dane Myers
, or Bryan De La Cruz
in other games during the week.

Over the last two weeks, Berti is hitting .556/.579/.722 with four runs scored, two steals, and doesn’t have a single strikeout in 19 plate appearances. Now, granted 19 plate appearances is a small sample size, but we know who Berti is at this point in his career, and we know that when he’s seeing the ball well and getting on base often, Miami will find ways to get him into the lineup, and he’ll find ways to get your fantasy team some steals.

If you need an even deeper league speed target, now could be the time to add Dylan Moore
– 2B/SS/OF, Seattle Mariners
(rostered in 1% of Yahoo! leagues). Moore
seems to be the immediate beneficiary of the Jarred Kelenic
injury, starting four of the last five games, each at a different position and entered the fifth game as a pinch hitters. Over those five games, he’s gone 4-for-16 with a home run, four RBI, and a stolen base.

While those numbers won’t wow you, we know that Moore
, like Berti, is capable of stringing together a stretch of speed production for your fantasy team, with 21 steals in each of the last two seasons. If he’s getting regular starts, then he’s worth scooping in deep leagues to see if he can make enough contact to make use of his wheels.

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