With Memorial Day right around the corner, this is the time of year when Major League Baseball teams really start to pay attention to the standings. It’s time to do the same in fantasy leagues as well. With a quarter of the season in the books, where does your team stand? What are its weaknesses and strengths? Here are four players — two hitters and two pitchers — to help bolster your roster.
Clay Holmes, RP, New York Yankees
It wasn’t a great weekend for the Yankees’ bullpen; Chad Green was lost for 12-15 months as he learned he will need Tommy John surgery, and closer Aroldis Chapman allowed a run for the sixth consecutive appearance in a loss Sunday. Holmes, however, has been incredibly consistent and dominant in the ‘pen. The sinker artist has limited batters to a .172 average with a .190 slugging percentage on his bread-and-butter pitch this year.
On the season, he has a microscopic 0.42 ERA through 21.1 innings. And now, he’s getting some save opportunities; he shut the door on the Orioles and White Sox with relative ease last week, going beyond one inning in each appearance. With Chapman struggling with his command and not getting the K’s like he usually does, Holmes could get some more ninth-inning opportunities moving forward.
Regardless, he should be added by anyone whose pitching staff needs some ratios help. He’s been one of the very best relievers in the game this year and is available in more than half of all ESPN leagues.
Josh Naylor, 1B/OF, Cleveland Guardians
Naylor is finally tapping into the power that scouts have known for years that he possesses. After hitting 16 homers in nearly 600 career at-bats entering this year, Naylor has six HRs in 74 ABs this year. He’s always been a high-contact guy, but he’s now making contact with more authority (career-high 50% hard-hit rate) and getting the ball into the air more often. His play has been especially impressive considering how his season was ended last year by a major, ugly ankle injury. He’s come back from that stronger than ever and now ranks in the 97 percentile in expected batting average (.326) and expected slugging percentage (.638). He’s also available in more than half of ESPN leagues.
Nick Pivetta, SP, Boston Red Sox
Pivetta looked like a hands-off commodity for fantasy purposes through his first five starts as he had a 7.84 ERA with 21 strikeouts and 13 walks through 20.2 innings. But over his past three starts, he has become a must-grab guy. In those three starts, Pivetta allowed two runs over 22 innings and recorded a 20-to-1 K-to-BB ratio. That included a complete game win over the Astros at Fenway Park last week. Pivetta is getting a lot of batters to chase his slider out of the zone for strikes and has produced a .119 opponents’ batting average off of his fastball this month. He should be a two-start pitcher this week, with matchups against the White Sox and Orioles. Pivetta is available in about 65 percent of ESPN leagues.
Brendan Donovan, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
You know about Nolan Gorman, but Donovan is another Cardinals rookie who is finding himself in the lineup every day. He’s listed here as a third baseman because that’s where he currently qualifies on ESPN, but Donovan has already played at first base, second base, shortstop, third base and right field through his first 22 games, so he will offer lineup flexibility. St. Louis is doing whatever it can to get Donovan into its lineup because he owns a strange but robust .387/.558/.548 slash line over his past 11 games.
The German product doesn’t have much homer pop, but as that slash line shows, he gets on base with regularity. He had a .386 OBP through more than 1,000 plate appearances in the Minor Leagues and doesn’t whiff much. Donovan’s fantasy appeal is heightened by where the Cardinals have been placing him in their lineup recently; he’s batted first, second or fifth most often over the past week. That makes Donovan a good source of runs as well as batting average and OBP. He’s free in just about every ESPN league.