Week 12 Lineup Tools: Hitting Streaming Options
There are risks Associated with streaming hitters but there can also be great rewards. The art of streaming hitters, much like with pitchers, is all about opportunity and maximizing the skill set of the players you have available to you. In order to find the best waiver wire sleepers, you'll have to take risks, because after all if you were looking at sure things, the players probably wouldn't be available to you as free agents. Last week I recommended none other than B.J. Upton to readers of this series. Despite his very real struggles over the past year and a half what I saw was a hitter with:
1) A skill set featuring both speed and power
2) A secure spot batting 2nd in a good Braves lineup
3) Recent success suggesting a possible hot streak
4) An incredibly good road trip ahead of him (Coors Field)
Picking up Upton was of course a risk as he could have easily hit an empty .150 with nothing else to show for it. Instead, making the most of his circumstances, B. J. Upton has so far hit .200 with a home run, a stolen base, three runs scored, and four RBI. Not bad for 5 days of work from a player you picked up for nothing off of the free agency stockpile. If Upton strings together a couple of multi-hit games over the weekend you might even end up walking away with a decent batting average in the bargain, gravy if you took the chance on him.
These are the kind of players I'll be featuring in this article. Flawed players in some way, either because of bad years, incomplete skill sets, or inexperience, but who are in the right circumstances to be effective players in the coming week. If you approach streaming hitters with this mindset you'd be surprised at how many hidden gems you can uncover each week.
1) Tommy La Stella (ATL, 2B)
2014 Stats: .378 BA, 4 Runs, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 1 SB
Scheduled Games: 7
Since being called up by the Braves, Tommy La Stella has been nothing but impressive. His time in the big leagues has been very brief, so there's always the risk of a rookie slump, but so far he's given us nothing but reasons to believe.
His skill set is remarkably similar to hitters like Casey McGehee and Marco Scutaro, viable fantasy players who lack impressive speed or power stats, but make up for it in batting average, runs, and RBI. I think La Stella has the potential to carve out a role for himself in the same way as these players, and given the opportunity of playing in seven games next week and his recent hot streak, he's the guy I'd trust with second base duties if you're looking for help.
2) Dexter Fowler (HOU, OF)
2014 Stats: .287 BA, 38 Runs, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 6 SB
Schedule: (at) Nationals, (at) Rays
Scheduled Games: 6
Dexter Fowler's been a common name on this list and for good reason: with the average major league batting average hovering around .250, his .287 line (with an almost .400 OBP) at the top of the Astro lineup is a big help to owners in need of making up ground in the category. Recent call-ups of George Springer and Jonathan Singleton add the kind of punch to the Astro lineup that could give a big boost to Fowler's R/RBI potential next week. Add in moderate power and speed potential and you have a very useful player, and my number one recommendation for outfield help next week.
3) Kendrys Morales (MIN, 1B / DH)
2014 Stats: .462 BA, 2 Runs, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB
Games Scheduled: 7
My main concern regarding Kendrys Morales this season was how he would transition to big league caliber competition after so much time off during his extended off season. I've seen enough in the handful of games since his return however to think that it's worth taking a risk on him while he's still widely available. He's a career .281 hitter, who's slugged at least 20 home runs in 3 of the last 4 years (it would have been four of four if he had been able to play more than 51 games in 2010). As a real power threat who's come out of the gate white hot, you could do a lot worse than Morales at first base.
4) Seth Smith (SD, OF)
2014 Stats: .294 BA, 25 Runs, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 1 SB
Games Scheduled: 7
Seth Smith does one thing really, really well and that thing is mash righties. Smith has hit an incredible .305/.395/.543 against right handed pitching this season. He's rarely played against lefties however, which can be a problem for weekly leagues since he's little good if he spends half his time on the bench.
Next week however should be a good week for Seth Smith, as five of the seven pitchers he's currently projected to face are right handed. Moreover, the Padres will be fortunate to miss playing against both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in their series, leaving Smith to face the weaker half of the Dodger rotation. For the Mariner's part, King Felix is always a terrifying match up of course, but he's really the only pitcher they'll send at him that I'd be afraid to start Smith against. This coming week is an excellent opportunity for Seth Smith to showcase what an incredibly valuable Average/Power combination he can be with the right match ups.
5) Billy Butler (KC, 1B / DH)
2014 Stats: .254 BA, 23 Runs, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 0 SB
Schedule: (at) Tigers, Mariners
Games Scheduled: 7
The last player on this list is someone who I never expected to fall beneath 50% ownership at the start of the season. Before 2014 Billy Butler was one of the most reliable fantasy producers in baseball. He hit for a high average, always delivered 15-20 home runs, and consistently drove in 80-90 runs, while never seeming to get hurt in the process. This year though the wheels seem to have fallen off the bus completely, and up until this point Billy Butler hasn't really been worthy of a roster spot outside of a deep league.
There are however some early signs that the Billy Butler of old is working his way back. Over the last seven days Butler has hit a very good .333 and while he's yet to kick start his home run production the fact that his June fly ball rate of 37.9% is dramatically higher than the 22.7% he was hitting in the previous two months of the season suggests that things are definitely trending in the right direction. Simply put, Butler is making better contact and hitting more fly balls than all season, two things that generally tend to lead to high averages and home runs. He'll have seven games to play in next week, and with a guy of Butler's track record I'd take a chance on him if you're in need of a big time boost and have a utility spot to play with.